Motorbiking the Mae Hong Son Loop in Northern Thailand (A Backpacker's Travel Guide) --- The Borderless Project

4 Easy Apps for Making Money to Travel

 4 Easy Apps to Make Money for Travel


Things like the Instagram post below really started to drive home the message I had been hearing for a while: you can backpack through Asia very, very (very, very) cheaply:



Considering when I would be living in ThaiIand I could order incredible chicken pad thai or curry for $1, and I was going to be looking at monthly rent for $100, the worth of a dollar took on a whole new meaning. It began to seem really worth it to skip the latte, or walk instead of Uber. On top of saving, I found some easy ways to make a little extra money, too.


Read more: 9 Ways to Enjoy Coffee in Southeast Asia


Here are some apps that helped me make extra money to travel with, because when it comes to cheap travel (and living) in Southeast Asia, a little can go a looooong way!



If Ebay was the first to cash in on “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, Poshmark has honed in on it for millennial girls with plenty in their closets (okay, not the trash part). There are a few similar sites (see another suggestions below), but I recommend Poshmark for its sell success rate and for its ease of use. It was so simple - I signed up, created a profile, and right away started taking pictures and setting prices for everything in my closet that I would have gotten rid of anyways. Better yet, it helped me to part ways with pieces in my wardrobe that I wasn’t using but had been a bit pricier, because I didn’t feel as bad for letting them go if I was selling them. This user-friendly app is one I’ll keep using for sure.


The Fine Print

Poshmark - “For all sales under $15, Poshmark takes a flat commission of $2.95. You keep the rest. For sales of $15 or more, you keep 80% of your sale and Poshmark's commission is 20%”. For me this was still better because not all my pieces were designer, and I still was able to sell some basics (and they added up in the end).


Tradesy - This site is great for your higher-end pieces. They take only 11.9% commission and send free shipping materials straight to your door, which is extremely convenient when you realize (like me) that you somehow don’t have a a bunch of perfect-sized shipping boxes always laying around.,,

If you’re anything like me, you currently are the proud owner of more than one gift card that you’ve had every intention of using, but 3 Christmases later, you still haven’t remembered to take it with you shopping. Don’t worry, there’s something out there for people like us! On,, and, users are able to sell their gift cards for close to their value. I used all three websites because some let me sell gift cards worth less than $10, others gave me a higher percentage of the sale, and because some have restrictions concerning what gift cards they accept. Good earning percentages are 80%-90%, although I took less for one or two because it was more worth it to me to be able to splurge on that extra Thai iced tea in Thailand than use the money at Starbucks at home.


NiceTalk Tutor

Does tutoring new English speakers by having a conversation with them for $10/hour sound good to you? What if I told you all you need is your phone and some good wifi? Thanks to NiceTalk Tutor, practicing English speakers in China are able to call native English speakers anywhere in the world and chat for up to an hour at a time. It’s extremely easy to use, which was one of the biggest draws for me. I submitted a profile and a short video about myself (with my name, where I’m from, what I’m doing, and why I’d be a good tutor), and after 2 days I was approved and ready to chat!


Though I was skeptical at first, I’ve had a really great experience with the students - anywhere between 10 and 50 years old - and I get to learn a lot about their lives and Chinese culture along the way. Peak times for usage are, as you would guess, the hours after school and work during the week, and all day during the weekend (though there’s never any harm in logging on at any time of the day when it works best for you). Payment is deposited to your PayPal account at the end of the week (balances below $20 will roll over to the next week’s payment).



This one’s not for everyone, but for those of you who have a way with words, consider putting them to use - and get paid for it! will pay you for your articles per view. Topics can range from anything, there’s really only a small set of guidelines (and they include obvious things like being accurate if you’re going to use facts). Even pieces you’ve posted on your own blog before are accepted, and they’ll even edit to help you reach maximum viewership. It’s not a huge money maker (you can expect to make a little over $3 per 1,000 views - their reported readership averages 4M per month), but it might kill two birds with one stone if you’re already writing.


Update: As of early April, Slant is on hiatus for a few weeks while it adjusts their funding system. Stay tuned...


There you have it - 4 easy apps for making money to travel! Happy earning (and spending)!




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9 Ways to Enjoy Coffee in Southeast Asia


9 Ways to Enjoy Coffee in Southeast Asia by Lauren Riley


My relationship with coffee is (brewed) strong. I’ve been drinking it nearly every morning since I was a freshman in college, and for me it’s become as much about the ritual of starting my morning off on the right foot as it is about the obvious caffeine rush I crave.


More from Lauren: What Happens When You Quit Your Job to Travel


As a black coffee drinker who enjoys the occasional latte, cappuccino, or americano (no sugar, please), all the sweet coffee of Southeast Asia wasn’t my first choice - in the beginning. But here there is no shortage of condensed milk and instant coffee, so rather than kick my coffee habit (with $1 coffee pretty much everywhere, that wasn’t going to happen), I was forced to put my pinky down and take a sip.


Yup, I discovered what Starbucks lovers have known for years: caffeine and sugar in any form might just be the best combination since backpackers and bar crawls. Hostels and free breakfasts. Ryan Gosling and feminism. Political campaigns and SNL. Drinks on a plane. Steph Curry and three-pointers. In short, it was always meant to be, and Asia knows it.


Here are some of my findings from 2 months on a backpacker’s budget and an unstoppable coffee addiction in SEA (and some things I missed that you shouldn’t)!


Vietnamese Egg Coffee

I have not a clue where the coffee itself is in the Vietnamese egg coffee, all I know is that I don’t know what I’ve been doing all my life without it. Espresso and egg yolk are whipped with condensed milk into a thick froth in this mind-blowing indulgent drink. Entirely a hazelnut and cream flavored dessert with a little bitter taste of espresso at the end, it’s basically tiramisu in a cup. The recipe was created in the 1940s to compensate for a shortage of milk for coffee. I had to watch the Vietnamese woman next to me to make sure I drank it correctly, and she spent a lot of time stirring the espresso at the bottom in before she went ahead the spoon to scoop the froth.


In my caffeinated sugar rush I can only sum up: Must. Try. Must. Bring. Recipe. Home.


9 Ways to Enjoy Coffee in Southeast Asia
Photo by Lauren Riley


Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Apparently, Vietnam doesn’t stop there with their interesting coffee combinations. Yogurt coffee is another staple, thanks again to the milk shortage and introduction of yogurt during the French colonization. It’s definitely another way to take cream with your coffee, and I’m dying to try this match next time around (though I might not wait and instead try at home!?)


Vietnamese Black Coffee

If it’s done right, it’s just the best thing ever. The grounds are packed in a tin with hot water poured over the top for the (very) slow drip. It’s usually served strong in small amounts, like an espresso, over (you guessed it) condensed milk. You might want to embrace the sweet, because even black coffee is served with sugar (though you can always ask for less).


However, not all ca phe is created equal. Be careful, because the dark black color does not always identify strength of coffee. On the contrary, cheaper beans are harvested prematurely and lack the shiny black color of ripe beans. As a result, it’s rumored (and apparently also in Cambodia) that the grounds are “dyed” by being roasted with - wait for it - fish sauce to recreate the color and luster of better beans. I experienced both really rich cups and some overpowered by saltiness, which confirmed the hearsay for me. As a backpacker, you win some, you lose some - and when you’re paying 25,000 dong (about $1) for your morning wake up call, you still win in one way.


9 Ways to Enjoy Coffee in Southeast Asia
Photo by Lauren Riley


By the Way…

The northern city of Hanoi is full of urban-industrial style cafes and sidewalks lined with mini tables and chairs. Here, v v trendy Hanoians sit outside in all black outfits and dyed hair to sip egg coffees and people watch. Coffee seekers can’t miss out on the cafe culture here. The streets around Olive Hanoi Hostel are perfect to wander, or check out Trieu Viet Vuong (“Coffee Street”) in the Hai Ba Trung District. Peacoats and platform shoes optional, but preferred.


Laotian Coffee Smoothie

It’s exactly what it sounds like, if it sounds like heaven to you. You can find them at fruit stands in Luang Prabang and the riverside town of Vang Vieng in Laos. You’ll be able to blend with chocolate, Oreo, and fruits, but blended with banana was a personal favorite. The only downside might be that they aren’t super caffeinated, so if you’re looking for a jolt, stick with black coffee. It’ll be strong and unsweetened if you order without milk!


Balinese Coffee

And the award goes to…ground beans on Bali. You can’t really go wrong with them, and I enjoyed cheap cups for $0.35-$0.75 almost every morning because of it. Sweetened or black, the wet climate and high altitude plantations where the beans are grown produce coffee that won’t disappoint.


I know, I know, how could I have missed…

Poop coffee (kopi luwak) is the most expensive coffee in the world. It’s well known that the coffee made from the beans found in the poop of civets (cat-like weasels) is a highly-recommended novelty in Bali. Blame it on not feeling well on our day in Ubud, I wasn’t able to try it myself, but I’ve heard nothing but amazing reviews from fellow coffee lovers. You could find a cup anywhere between $3-$12 in Bali, whereas you might be paying closer to $25 in western countries. You can enjoy it at the recommended Munduk Moding Coffee Plantation, an ethical coffee plantation in North Bali. I’ll be here, pretending I’m not envious.


Thai Iced Coffee

Don’t even think about worrying where you’re going to get your coffee fix in Thailand! By now you can guess, Thai iced coffee consists of great coffee sweetened with condensed milk that you can conveniently find throughout The Land of Smiles (the nickname must have something to do with all the caffeine). Pai is the up-and-coming spot for coffee growers and lovers alike.


9 Ways to Enjoy Coffee in Southeast Asia
Photo by Lauren Riley


More than that, the coffee experience here is about the cafes themselves. Chiang Mai alone is home to countless re-purposed, hipster-haven, industrial cafes whose ambiance alone makes you want to quit your job, put gages in your ears, and commit your life to that of a bAriStA (pinky back up). There’s not much I can say that hasn’t been said (in words or pictures) in comprehensive posts like this one. Food porn lovers, feast your eyes.


9 Ways to Enjoy Coffee in Southeast Asia
Photo by Lauren Riley


When in SEA…

You’ll also see White Koffee advertised though much of Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia and the Philippines. Powered, sweet, artificially creamed, it’s comparable to hot chocolate with coffee, or a Southeast Asian Starbucks Vanilla Latte, if you will. When it comes to choosing instant coffee at coffee stands, it’s a popular choice I’d recommend.


What should I bring home?

There’s plenty of tea and coffee blends that you can opt to take with you — but is it worth it? As my friend, who’s recently been to Indonesia, puts it, “I purchased regular coffee, poop coffee, and lemongrass tea and haven't had any in the last 9 months (since) I’ve been home. It's not the same having it here. I think it may ruin what I remember it was like in Bali.”


For those of you who are afraid of purchase fomo - it’s best to enjoy it abroad while you can. Get it while it’s hot (or iced, of course)!


9 Ways to Enjoy Coffee in Southeast Asia
Truer words have never been spoken... - Photo by Lauren Riley
9 Ways to Enjoy Coffee in Southeast Asia --- The Borderless Project
Local Cafe near Maya Mall – Photo by Lauren Riley


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Local School Girls near Inle Lake, Myanmar (Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile Trekking, Myanmar)--- The Borderless Project

Same Same, But Different

Same Same but Different Gender Inequality in Southeast Asia by Lauren Riley


“Same same, but different” is an expression in Southeast Asia that I became familiar with my first week in Thailand. It covers all kinds of distinctions that don’t really matter here…

“Wait, I’m eating what?

“Chicken chicken! Same, same...but different.”

This expression can also describe a set of realizations I’ve had while backpacking Southeast Asia: the cultural differences between how men and women are treated, and how backpacking safety is different for girls than it is for boys.

Same, same, but different.


"Same Same, But Different: The Gender Gap in Southeast Asia" --- The Borderless Project
Bogor, Indonesia - Photo by The Borderless Project


The Culture

One of the first things we (my friends Megan, Henry, Jonathan, and I) noticed pretty quickly was that women were seen in public much less than men. We first realized this in Vietnam and then realized we were seeing it all throughout our trip: groups of men gathered everywhere - to drink, play card games, gamble, talk - but not women. Where were they all?, we wondered.

When we stepped out with our cameras in our next country, Indonesia, the men shouted for our attention and struck bold poses for their photos to be taken. They were so excited to see foreigners visiting their cities and couldn’t resist the allure of our cameras. Beside them, beautiful women of all ages smiled at us from underneath colorful hijabs, but when we asked if we might be able to take their photos, we received waving hands and heads shaking; no, no. Henry and Megan told me the same happened when they visited a school in Myanmar, where the boys squealed and fought for attention in front of the camera lens and the girls sat demurely behind, never asking for a photo but simply taking a back seat, watching the boys.


"Same Same, But Different: The Gender Gap in Southeast Asia" --- The Borderless Project
Inle Lake, Myanmar --- Photo by The Borderless Project


As we continued on the backpacker route, we saw plenty of old gender roles still in play. In Bali, we got into discussions with local men who told us that they were trying have more children: everyone wanted a boy. One of the employees at our hostel had just had a daughter two days earlier. We went to congratulate him, but the owner gave us the side eye: they’re going to have to keep trying. Maybe unsurprisingly, girls were valued for other things. One Indonesian man summed it up eloquently: “No woman, no rice”.


Bogor, Indonesia - Photo by The Borderless Project


Megan and I were asked if we were married often, which the boys obviously were never asked. The conversations we had with local men far and wide outnumber those we had with local women. These little moments and others painted a picture for us.


Backpacking as a Girl

Before embarking on this 6-month adventure, Megan and I had been told, mostly by our loved ones and the news, that we as girls had to “be careful”. But because these situations girls are warned about are vague and across the board, small moments would become stressful. For parts of the trip when Megan and I traveled without the boys, we had to straddle the line between wanting to adventure off-the-beaten-path while still being smart and safe. When we were with the boys, we could take risks, knowing we could make decisions based on logistics rather than worrying about safety.

Once on a night van to Jepara, Indonesia, we were told we would be dropped off at 6 am and were instead woken in our sleep at 2 am. We were left on the side of the road with no hostel booked. I realized in that moment how lucky Megan and I were to be with two boys, considering what my feelings would have been had it only been the two of us to wander the city in the middle of the night. It was lucky that this only happened when we were with them.

In Jepara I noticed again, inexplicably, not ONE woman could be found on the streets of the fairly deserted looking town. That night, we were followed by a young guy on his motorbike for a bit. He was asking us where we were going and where we were staying, kept imploring when we didn’t answer, and moved closer. I took the stance of not wanting to take another step until he drove off, so I slowed down to look him in the eye in my best attempt at being intimidating (ha). Megan was also nervous and instead began walking faster, ignoring him and keeping her head down to avoid eye contact. He eventually drove off, and we both picked up the pace to get back to our hostel. Though nothing happened, I realized that nobody can be prepared for every situation, and not knowing exactly how to react in the moment can be the worst part.

But then, as we do, we kept moving on. Our group continued on through beautiful Bali and the Philippines (ranked #7 in the Global Gender Gap Index for 2015, which is so cool), and finally back to what felt like our home base in Thailand. And with all the friendly people and smiling faces we encountered as we went on, it was easy to forget the stress.

But I don’t want to.

I want to share and remember these stories, because I want to acknowledge the perspective they gave me. Otherwise, I’ll go back home, and I’ll worry about what it means to be woman there - will I be paid the same for doing the same job? Will policies created by politicians affect my reproductive rights? Will I be more vulnerable as a woman in certain situations? Those kinds of issues will probably be the extent of it.

What I don’t want to forget is that my fears for safety while I was traveling were based on real victims who have been shamed and used as reasons why "women shouldn't travel”. I also don’t want to forget the nearly 40% of women in Southeast Asia for whom home is not a safe place. The hyper-awareness and extra precautions we took were based on the fact that the world today is not as safe a place for women. I want to remember that the loss of power for one women is a loss of power for us all. I don’t have the answers or solutions, just observations about what it’s like to feel less than in these small moments. I realize that for some women in some parts of the world, maybe they aren’t just small moments, but a lifetime of them.

In the end, the thing I love most about travel is gaining perspective, seeing firsthand how people from other parts of the globe are living, and seeing with my own eyes rather than take the media’s word for it. It opens my mind to all the ways we can do better, and I believe that we can and will do better. As Gloria Steinem put so perfectly, “when people ask me why I still have hope…after all these years, I always say: because I travel. (My travels) left me amazed by what is, angered by what isn’t, and hooked on what could be”. Me, too, Gloria.


"Same Same, But Different: The Gender Gap in Southeast Asia" --- The Borderless Project
Java, Indonesia --- Photo by Lauren Riley




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What Happens When You Quit Your Job to Travel

What happens when you quit your job to travel


I’m sitting outside at a hotel restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The seats and tables are positioned facing outward toward the street, which tonight is blocked off for the enormous Sunday Market. Hoards of people swim past each other; couples, singles, old, young, mostly foreigners but some Thai. The two man band at the bar is playing anything from “traditional Thai song about beautiful women” to, lucky us, Hotel California, very, very loudly.

The set finishes and my attention returns to the questions that have been on my mind for the past few days: how did I get here, by myself, with little to no plan and nothing but time. Of course, you may be thinking “that sounds incredible!” And it is! Once you get past the alone…in a new (to you) foreign country…with no-concrete-life-plan part.


Read more: 9 Ways to Enjoy Coffee in Southeast Asia


You see, I believed the headlines and skimmed the articles, like we all do. You know the ones, the exciting evangelical proclamations about how traveling long term can be done. I found myself infinitely inspired, enough to quit my own 9 to 5 in search of adventure and a chance to pursue my dream career in writing. And with only that, the plan was formed: I would travel slowly and cheaply, write about my experience, and work on getting published to get my foot in the door.

It’s been 2 unforgettable months since I sat in that restaurant questioning everything, and though I still don’t have all the answers, I did learn a lot from that first week on my own. So if you’re on the fence or have already taken the plunge and quit your job in the pursuit of your dream, I’d like to offer you something here: reassurance, advice, and hopefully the same kind of inspiration I’ve gotten from other traveling writers before me. Here are the insights I can share from my first week on the road:


1. You will be afraid. Of everything.

I know that’s not what you want to hear. But in the months leading up to buying my ticket, a wave of fears descended on me. I would find myself having thoughts like “this is it. This is where I go to die”. I would imagine I was at the part in the movie where the audience is thinking “poor dear, she has no idea what’s coming”. Once I seemed to get over one fear another might pop up expectedly at a different point in the process. I thought it could be a motorbike accident, a bomb, a mosquito, a bad batch of Pad Thai, a snake bite (no idea where the snake is coming from), and I would surely contract a disease the doctors had never seen before. My tombstone would read “well, she tried”. Even though my fears were irrational, the media (especially broadcast news) had done an excellent job of making the world outside my own country seem pretty scary. I’m going to repeat the same thing that I had heard from backpackers over and over before I came here, which is: using my common sense, I feel very safe, enough that I would have no problem continuing traveling alone in Southeast Asia. Even the lesser terrors about feeling lonely or about not being around what you are used to will be replaced with the exhilaration of newness and the friends you will undoubtedly make along the way.


What happens when you quit your job to travel
Photo by Lauren Riley


2. You will wonder if you made the right decision, a lot.

I’m surprised how much this one has come up for me, even mixed in with sheer bouts of joy and even though I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else. My Western mind seems programmed to “that temple was awe-inspiring, but do I know where I am in my life plan?” But I discovered over the best (and I do mean BEST) won-ton soup at dinner with my new friend, a 33-year-old woman from Germany, that I wasn’t alone in that. She told me, without me asking, that she had the same kinds of worries and fears about what she would do when she returned from her 4-month solo journey through Southeast Asia. Ten weeks in, though, she was smiling and tossing her head back to show how silly that was: “now, I know I am okay for sure.” It occurred to me that it’s good to be realistic when it comes to your future (and your next paycheck), but when you’re on the road you realize that the experience you gain can still work in your favor. A four-month trek, for example, would be a great way to say “I’ve just come back from a great trip refreshed and now I’m ready to work”. Six months abroad in which you produce freelance work and leave with a portfolio to show potential employers when you return is a fantastic investment in yourself. You’ll make it work and realize that your decision to travel long term is a lot more common than you might initially think.


What happens when you quit your job to travel
Photo by Lauren Riley


3. There is a learning curve and you will overcome it.

I have lofty ideals as far as being able to balance travel and my work goals, but I forgot that to start, just figuring out how to navigate street signs written in Thai would be enough to handle (“droopy ‘b’…upside-down umbrella…backwards ‘e’…I think this is it!”). Just sitting in public alone was an experience, realizing I could just take up space somewhere and that apparently people do it all the time (who knew?). Learning how you like to make friends as you travel, how you will budget your money, what resources are best to use when you’re planning, and learning how to make decisions by yourself, for yourself, are all a part of the process that will continue throughout your time abroad. Don’t panic if you don’t have all the answers yet. You don’t have to have it all figured out beforehand, because it’s also part of the adventure.


What happens when you quit your job to travel
Photo by Lauren Riley


So if you’re looking for inspiration, a life outside the parameters of your current situation, a chance to see a part of the world you haven’t before, or a new beginning, my advice is this: be scared and do it anyways. Be unsure of your plans and, if you’re anything like me, realize that your plans don’t work out very well anyways. Know the “what” you want and let the “how” fall into place. Most importantly, and here’s the big one, seriously…go and book that flight!


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