Did we stop traveling because of the Corona Virus?

Sorcha and Matt in front of our friends castle on Christmas Day
Christmas in a Castle… it was pretty great!

As many of you knew we planned to go to Asia this spring and explore the east. As you also know that didn’t end up happening. We returned to the bay area at the end of January after over 6 months on the road. I’ll be honest I’ve been struggling on the return. 

You see I was diagnosed with Panic and Anxiety Disorder a little before we left Portland but due to the US health system being not fantastic I was literally prescribed 6 months worth of pills, told to take them, and sent on my way.  It took me awhile to start taking the pills because I had it in my head that they would hurt me somehow? When I ran out of medication I should have followed up with a doctor… but we were on the road so I didn’t. I noticed my anxiety started to return somewhere in the last two months of our travels. The crippling paranoia, the heart palpitations. It wasn’t good for someone living a nomadic lifestyle of hectic changes. On top of that Matthew was getting burnt out. We had been to over 12 countries in 6 months…that’s two countries a month on average yall… that’s like a LOT of flights. A lot of strange beds, hostels, house sitting, and changing environments which I loved (for the most part) but for my sweet introverted husband, it was a constant stretch. Basically he came to me and said he wanted to go home but he’d keep going if it’s what I wanted and between that, my declining mental state, and just being overall tired we decided to end our travels on a high note after spending a month staying with our friends at their castle in Ireland… yes a literal castle. Also, the fact that my sister was pregnant with our first Niece was a big pull as well! I have been grappling with our return, it’s a combination of sadness for not being on the road, I really really love Europe, I really really love traveling so not doing it, it’s sad. But I have so much to be grateful for, and I am focusing on that. 

That said, we had no idea that two weeks after getting home the Corona Virus outbreak would hit Asia.  I don’t really believe in divine providence but, I am starting to think that all things happen for a reason. So to all the folks wondering if the Virus sent us home? No, it didn’t but I can say I am relieved we are in Sonoma County and not Hong Kong right now (which is where we would have been). 

So what’s next?

Well as many of you know we immediately bought and started renovating a 1986 Fleetwood Bounder within days of returning to the US while simultaneously changing our approach and marketing plan for our business ecommerceassist.com. We’ve still got to do some electrical on the RV and finish painting her, order a bed, put up curtains, clean the interior of the cabinets, figure out how to get the propane powered fridge working annnnnnd put in floors in the RV but we’ve been crazy busy with the new work we’re getting from our new marketing plan that we’ve barely had the time! That said, we also realize that if we don’t set some goals and share them with people we probably will continue to push off things that are important. So here’s our plan for March/ April. 

1. We will be completing the painting of the RV interior by 3/7! That’s my this week goal! 

2. We will be sharing more updates with you online, I know it’s been radio silence from us. That’s partly because I’ve not made blogging a priority due to trying to address and get my mental health under control and due to the increased workload we’ve had with new clients. BUT we are going to be dedicating more time to sharing our journey with you, because you’ve been asking for it and you guys have been SO supportive. 

3.   We will be spending most of the month of March in Colorado with family. As many of you      know my (Sorcha’s) Grandparents have relocated from California to Colorado and my parents, two of my 3 sisters, my aunt and uncle and two cousins all live there. So we’re going to spend time with them! If you’re a client reading this don’t worry, everything will be the same. We’re going to be working during the day as we usually do. Nothing will change there. 

4. In April we will make a big push with the RV, getting solar installed, installing the floors, getting our decor in, organizing it etc. We would like to be on the road by end of April in our fully self contained RV. THATS THE DREAM…. we will see if we can hit that goal!  

5. We will start filming more for our Youtube channel. Our channel is real neglected. A lot of you loved our few videos, and honestly we did too, the big thing about video is it is really really time consuming and at this point it produces 0 income for us ( maybe down the line it will be a revenue stream). So we will be filming a series and likely releasing it at some point during the summer. 

6. We will be creating some more technical resources! We’re really excited about our fledgeling ecommerce business! So if you’re someone who wants to learn how to make money online you’ll want to stay up to date on those! 

And for now, I think that’s enough plans and goals. 

I gotta be real with you, I sometimes wonder if you guys want to know about these things? I just feel like I am not that exciting of a person.  It never ceases to blow my mind with how supportive y’all are with our endeavors. We are just a couple of normal dorks who decided to blow up our lives and do something different. I initially set out to create an online diary and it’s started to form this little community of loyal followers who are so genuine and encouraging… idk y’all are making me emotional. Thank you so much for your support. And let me know if these are the kinds of updates you want to hear about. I want to be sharing information that makes you excited. 

Now that’s our plan through APRIL but we do have dreams/ plans for the rest of the year too that I want to touch on briefly. Partially because I want it to be a surprise and partially because I am not exactly sure how this is all going to happen yet.   Our goal this year is to see our own country and probably Canada, to get a sense for where/ if we want to set down roots.  We will be traveling around in our RV staying places for a month or two at a time, which is why we’re working on making the RV totally self contained, composting toilet, solar, the works. . .  We want to do more slow travel this year as we found we did best in Europe when we had extended stays places. We’re currently looking at Louisville Kentucky, Indianapolis Indiana, and some parts of Main/ Vermont too. We are looking mainly at two types of cities, large metropolitan cities with low costs of living when compared to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, and small towns with vibrant communities, like Petaluma, Sebastopol, Waco etc. We may end up going back to one of those places in the end but we’d like to see if we can find somewhere to land that’s more cost effective. (With real estate prices under 100K for a single family home). 

But that’s all the news that’s fit to print today guys! I look forward to updating your more on our RV life, digital nomad life, and travels! 

First Timer’s Guide to Marrakech Morocco

Matthew in garden in Morocco

When we embarked on this mad mad journey that is now our life I (Sorcha) had a few major bucket list items to check. One of them was visiting Morocco. I was also really nervous about coming to Morocco, even though I was the one who wanted to take us in the first place. I had heard horror stories. That it was dangerous, that it could be unsafe for women, and of course growing up in a Jewish/ Christian household I hadn’t had a lot of positive/ any real education around Islam. I was also worried as a business owner that it would be difficult to work because many people had told me that Wifi in the Medina (where we stayed) is spotty. Now that we’ve been here, and have experienced the Medina and city I thought I would put together a Digital Nomad Guide to Marrakech.

sorcha standing in front of a multicolored tile wall with ornate marble carvings her hair is in a bun, the photo is shot from the waist up and she's smiling at the camera wearing a black and white striped shawl.
The colorful walls of Dar El Bacha
  1. How to get to the Medina from the Airport.
  2. How to get Wifi.
  3. How to Navigate the Medina.
  4. Battery pack, why it’s important, why every nomad needs one.
  5. What to wear.
  6. Shopping tips.

How to get to the Medina from the Airport.

The easiest way to get to the Medina from the Airport is to contact your Airbnb, riad or hotel and have them arrange a transfer. It is VERY IMPORTANT. You do not want to try and hail a taxi at the airport, as that can easily lead to you being brought to the wrong place. Many Taxi drivers have relationships with Riads where they get a cut if you stay at the Riad they bring you to. So they may try to bring you to the wrong place. Additionally, you should only pay around $15 for a cab. There is a fixed rate for all cabs from the airport. You should ask the Riad to make sure your Taxi driver will have the name of your Riad or yourself on their sign (don’t just ask the drivers there if they are supposed to take you, they will just say yes and then you’re off to god knows where!). Additionally, if your Riad is in the Medina you should ask the Riad/ host to have someone meet your taxi at a drop off point so that you can be guided to your Riad. There are NO CARS allowed in the Medina, so you cannot get dropped off in front of your hotel/ Riad if you stay there. I do recommend staying in the Medina if you are in Marrakech for a short time (less than a month) as it’s walkable and has easy access to everything you want to see in Morocco- tours, food, shopping etc.

How to get Wifi.

I wish we could be those people who disappear for weeks at a time not looking at the internet and taking in the beauty of the world around us without the interruptions of technology but we run a software development company… and that’s just not our life. We NEED the Internet and having access to it is imperative for success. So we carry a Skyroam around. Skyroam is basically a mobile hotspot. The device costs between $100-150 (depending on the time of year, and sales going on) and then you can buy data on a monthly/ daily basis. We have a European sim card so we always have data in Europe and while we could have purchased a sim here in Morocco we decided it would just be easier to use our SkyRoam. We pay about $50 every couple of months and use it in areas where our data poops out or doesn’t work. It’s got a really great range and can connect to all of our devices at once. It gives us peace of mind while traveling in remote areas knowing we’ve always got access to google maps or WhatsApp in an emergency. AND it works brilliantly in the Medina (where many phones don’t work).

Matthew in front of an ornate wood carved doorway with rounded arched entrance and trees around. Matt is smiling, wearing a blue shirt and hat and looking off into the distance.
Matthew in our neighborhood in the Medina

How to Navigate the Medina

The Medina is a Maze and unless you’re some sort of savant there is no way you could possibly navigate the Medina by memory at first. I recommend that when you get to your Riad you mark it on Google Maps as well as the nearest Medina Gate to you. I also like to mark the nearest cross street or landmark. For example, we are around the corner from a Bakery and the Kings Palace Gate. So I have those marked as well as our Riad. This way if you get lost in the Medina you can just start walking towards the direction of the dot on your map (many of the streets in the Medina are not marked) If all else fails, you can stop and ask a shop owner where your gate is. DO NOT follow anyone that offers to show you how to get back to your Riad. They will 9/10 times expect you to pay them or they may try to take you to their family/friend/employer shop.

Bring a Battery Pack

There is nothing worse than having your phone die when you need it. Oh, wait, yes there is, having your phone die, when you need it, in the middle of a maze in a foreign country… yah, that’d be worse. We have a Pocket Juice battery pack that we picked up for $40 before leaving the states. It charges our phones and laptops and lasts for like 10+ hours and can charge multiple devices at once. It isn’t the cheapest battery pack you can buy but it was a great investment and has come in particularly handy on this trip. Since we use our phones for photos, video, translation, and mapping we burn through battery pretty quickly. This thing is a lifesaver. There were a few times where I don’t know how we would have found our way back to our Airbnb without it.

What to Wear.

We are part of a lot of travel groups and whenever someone goes to Morocco I see people asking what they should wear. It’s true, Morocco is a Muslim country, but when it comes to what you should wear the answer is, what you are comfortable in. Keep in mind that most people dress modestly but I have friends who are American and live there full time and when I asked they said they just wear what they want. We were there in winter so we dressed as we would in southern CA in the winter. At night it got very cold, so lots of light layers were what we did most. I wore this (below) almost every day.

Moroccan outfit inspo.

Shopping Tips.

Most prices are negotiable in the Medina. Almost all shop owners will barter. And if you’re a strong negotiator you can get a great deal. I had a couple items I really wanted from Morocco. A large wool scarf. a leather carpet duffle bag, slippers, things I’d seen in shops on Instagram. I got all of these things, for under $200.

Avoid using guides/ drivers for shopping. Guides and drivers are good for sightseeing but if you want to shop, you should definitely hoof it and find your own stuff. Guides and drivers often have a relationship with shops that they take you to. And while some may be genuine and will actually negotiate a fair price for you, many are just splitting the profits with the shop owners. I met someone while here who was also from the US and who used a guide. I bought this duffel bag in a shop in the Medina and negotiated a price of about 600 Dirhams for it. Frankly, I think I could have negotiated it lower but I felt $60 was still a very good deal and don’t necessarily believe in bartering people out of their livelihood for the sake of a good deal. I had the shop owner throw a small backpack in for free, so really I paid about $50 for the duffle. The other American I met used a driver/ guide who took them to the “best leather shop in Morocco” and told them that 1600 Dirhams for the bag was a very good price, and he “negotiated” for them. She bought 6 bags for $1300 …. I could have gotten the same amount and quality bags for probably less than $300.

The deeper in the Medina you go, the cheaper/ more competitive the prices get. Like any shopping experience or market the goods near the entrances tend to be more expensive than those in the center. The shopkeepers know that you’ve not had the chance to compare prices and they will try to take you for all your worth. Don’t let them. Take the first day and just walk the Medina, get a sense of the different prices, the different options. Be prepared to say NO as once you start asking about price they will start the haggling process. It’s very easy to get sucked in. But don’t let them, just keep moving and learning about what things cost. Then the next day go back to the stores with the best prices/ goods and haggle for your stuff. Don’t settle for anything more than exactly what you want to pay.

Inspect items for quality. It’s important to take a look at the quality of the items you’re wanting to buy. I bought a large wool blanket scarf for $20 US (200 dirham) and while I could likely have gotten the same looking scarf for less I saw a large difference in quality of the scarf. Be sure to examine the stitching and thickness of bags, the quality of the weave on an outfit and the construction of the goods you want to purchase. Don’t get hung up on what is cheapest, look for the best value for money, not the one that costs the least.

Don’t be afraid to walk away. If you aren’t happy with the price, don’t be scared to walk. A lot of times, the shop owner will come after you and give you the price you were asking for.

3 Lessons I’ve Learned as a Digital Nomad

picture of Angela at the watchtower in Blarney Castle Gardens, a stone cylinder surrounted by green grass and maple trees

Hey, hey! My name is Angela, I’m a digital-nomad-in-training (currently in Spain, after being in Paris and Ireland, and heading to Africa next). I’m also the owner of an awesome branding and web + graphic design agency (Hot Mess Consulting), which allows me the opportunity to work remotely from anywhere. 

Ok, you got me, I’m already lying! There’s no such thing as a digital-nomad-in-training. Because being a digital nomad, kind of like being a business owner in general, came with no guide book. And that’s the first thing I want to share about my journey thus far: there are no rules, there is no one right path, and good gravy: if I can do it – you can too! 

Working in my CA Apartment

Let me back up a little bit though. Just a year ago, I had not a single clue that I would soon be embarking on such an epic adventure. In fact, I didn’t even have my passport yet! The idea of world travel was just something I would slap on my latest vision board and think, yeah one day! I also had just hired my first two employees for Hot Mess and they worked with me right in my apartment (I was able to squeeze three desks into my living room/kitchen area) because I wasn’t ready to handle the unique challenges of training and managing remote employees (quite yet, anyway). I was also still running my other business (Thongin’ It Boutique), an online + mobile women’s clothing boutique, out of the garage underneath my apartment (with my huge pink converted fed-ex truck parked in the driveway when one of my girls wasn’t out selling from it at a show or local market).

The truth is that as I type this out, I realize how crazy it all may sound. But I never really had time to stop and think or worry about that, all I had time for was to keep on going full speed ahead. And if there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that if I decide I’m going to do something, there’s very little that can stop me (even my own fears and insecurities, which there is no lack of, believe me).

Switching my business responsibilities from needing to have a physical presence to be able to lead a fully remote team, was not originally about travel. It was just more about freedom. I was burnt out, and I knew what I was doing wasn’t sustainable for me. So ever so slowly, I transitioned my employees to remote (we are now a team of 5), and eventually put my boutique on hold altogether. 

As I was emailing a new friend of mine, Sorcha (yes the Sorcha of Sorcha and Matt’s Grand Adventure) about how burnt out I (still) was, she mentioned that I should meet up with her in Champagne France late November and make a couple of weeks out of it. Suddenly, something just clicked for me. NOW is one day, the one day I said I’d travel! And, instantly, I knew two weeks in Champagne just wasn’t going to cut it. I was really ready to do this, to go all in. And less than 5 weeks later, I was headed to my first stop (Ireland). 

So that’s my story, in a nutshell! I’m still only about 5 weeks into my digital nomad adventure, but I’ve already learned so much. Here are some tips if you have even an inkling of doing this yourself one day or have just started planning for your adventure:

1. Get real about what is getting in your way.

It’s easy to think it’s money – but most of the time, that’s just not the truth. Through pet-sitting or even just AirBnB rentals, it’s actually quite affordable to live abroad. And even the travel itself doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. I got to Ireland for $333 by choosing the lowest cost day/time to travel that I could. And hopping from one country to the next by plane, now that I’m here, has only been around $150-190. It will be a little more costly to get to my next destination (Africa), but I will also be staying with one of my Hot Mess gals while I’m there (whom I’ve never met, but I am so excited to meet, by the way)! 

Blarney Castle Gardens

And while having money saved up would be a great idea, really the main thing you need is just a solid source of income (that you can earn remotely). This doesn’t mean you have to own your own business either, you just need to find a remote position (and listen, if you think it will be impossible to find a job like this then you are right, but more and more companies are building remote teams these days, so it’s really not that far-fetched)!

2. Know that it isn’t always as glamorous as it may seem.

If you are going to be making a lot of sacrifices, and big decisions, in order to make this digital nomad dream come true, then there is something else you need to know. And that is this: whatever your internal struggles are, they will be coming with you; whatever your physical struggles are, they will also be coming with you. In other words, you are still going to be living this crazy thing called life, you will just be living it abroad. And I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a picture-perfect vision of mental or physical health myself, so if you are – maybe this won’t apply to you. But personally, I deal with anxiety and depression at times, and I’m pretty darn overweight too (so walking, in general, is honestly a challenge). 

Anyway, my point is that every day is not an amazing adventurous walk in the park (and even if it were, I’d run out of breath or my feet would start hurting real quick, so there goes that lol). Ok jokes aside, I still have to wake up and decide that today is a new day and it’s going to be a great one (even if I couldn’t even get out of bed at all the day prior). And if I could turn this all into a lesson for you? It would be: don’t wait just because you don’t have everything else all figured out (or you could be waiting forever). And be kind and patient with yourself. This is all about YOU. It’s your life. It’s your journey. You can go at whatever pace you want. You can carry whatever baggage you’re not yet able to let go of. You can cut the day short if your heart or feet are throbbing. You’re allowed to be human. Even on your glamorous journey abroad. 

Eiffel tower photo taken from below while tower is lit up at night.
Photo of the Eiffel Tower

3. On that note, again, it’s all about YOU. There are no right or wrong answers to anything.

Ok if you’ve made it this far, you probably have already figured this out. But just in case you need another reminder. There is much to be learned from those ahead of you, but at the end of the day, the decisions are yours to make and there are no wrong ones. From where to travel, or what to pack in your bag with the precious space you have, to what sort of accommodations you will be staying at, what to do each day, how long to stay at each location, whether to cook most of year meals instead of going out to eat, whether to spend time learning some of the language of the countries you are in or not, whether to use Uber or take advantage of the affordable modes of public transportation, whether to swipe right or left on that cute Spanish boy with the amazing eyes and then whether or not to actually meet up with him, and everything else in between. The important thing is for you to learn how to listen to yourself (and trust yourself) above all else. What do YOU want? Ok! Go there, do that! 

Picture of me with Horse in Ireland

I’m sure in another few months, I’ll have a whole new list of tips for you. But until then, I’ll be walking in that amazing park (MY amazing park) and I hope you are walking in yours too!


Angela, Hot Mess Consulting

Follow my business and travel adventures on Facebook: www.facebook.com/hotmessconsulting

5 Gluten-Free Restaurants in Budapest.

As a fulltime traveler with Celiac disease finding food in foreign countries is always an adventure. Sometimes it leads us to amazing places… sometimes it leads to Sorcha eating Nutella out of the jar with a spoon for dinner. We found Budapest to be one of the easiest places to find Gluten-Free food and as a result, we got to eat out a lot. So we thought we’d share our top 5 Gluten-Free Restaurants in Budapest! Some of these are dedicated GF, and some are just very good as preparing GF foods.

1. Mazel Tov.

heaping pile of assorted spiced Mediterranean meats with colorful sauces of red pepper, and garlic cream, and a pile of diced pickled purple beets with cilantro garnish.
The Mixed Meat Platter, ask for it without

Ruin Bars are ALLLL the rage in Budapest and Mazel Tov is a great option for those who want to experience a ruin bar with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Offering middle eastern/ Mediterranean menu nearly everything except the pita bread is naturally GF! We went twice while in Budapest. They also have SUUUUPER tasty cocktails if you fancy a cheeky drink.

2. Drop.

bowl of paprika enriched goulash. With crusty GF bread and dotted with fresh parsley.

Drop is a 100% dedicated GF restaurant in the heart of Budapest. I had the BEST goulash of my whole life here. Also the only goulash of my life, but it was DELICIOUS. Offering indoor and covered outdoor seating a casual atmosphere and lots of great GF options we cannot recommend Drop enough. My husband who does not have Celiac said the drop burger was one of the best he’s ever had!

3. Free- a Gluténmentes Pékség

White plate with croissants and a vanilla and chocolate bundt cake.
The croissants were small but so delicious.

Who doesn’t love a good croissant? As someone with Celiac Disease gluten-free croissants are as elusive as they are grainy and dense. But this place makes the BEST GF croissants I’ve ever had! Light, fluffy and buttery, and CHEESY. I highly recommend stopping in here and grabbing a bag of them to keep at your hotel for morning snacks. This place is 100% dedicated gluten-free so you can relax and enjoy yourself without fear of cross-contamination!

4. KönyvBár & Restaurant

Grilled cod fish on a bed of octopus ink risotto, garnished with fennel and grapefruit pearls and a hollandaise sauce. On the plate in red edible ink is the words "I must not tell lies"
I must not tell lies.

If you’re looking for a singular food experience in Budapest you HAVE to go to KönyvBár & Restaurant. The food is book-themed and they offer rotating tasting menus where they “Cook the Book.” The book we ate was “Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix.” While the set menu contains gluten the chef was more than happy to modify all of the dishes that contained gluten (and we didn’t notice a difference)!! It was a bit of a spendy-er evening but the experience and food were WELL worth it!

5. GLUTEN FREE Bekery & Coffi

4 white plates on a wooden table with a green flowerpot containing daisies. The two farthest plates contain black tea. the two closest have chocolate rolls and 3 multi-seed buns stuffed with assorted colorful veggies and cheese!
omg nom nom.

If you decide to head up to Buda Castle this is a great place to stop before or after for a bite to eat. Offering 100% GF pastries and a vegan menu we found this GLUTEN FREE Bekery & Coffi a surprising delight. We highly recommend their tiny veggie sandwiches!

Honestly, there were SOOO many GF food options in Budapest. We were SHOCKED. It was really nice to have the option of going out every night if we wanted to because we knew we could find safe delicious food. There were another 4-5 places we didn’t have time to get to but we know we will go back to Budapest one day!

What do you think? Do you feel like you need to visit Budapest now?!

If you found this article helpful you should definitely check out our other Gluten-Free travel tips here, also sign up for our newsletter to get the latest Gluten-Free travel advice and adventure tips!

A Guide to Budapest Thermal Spas/ Baths.

Sorcha and Matt in the outdoor pool at Szechyi Spa in Budapest, the yellow palace juxtaposes the teal tiled heated pool with steam rising around them. Sorcha is wearing a green one piece swim suit and Matt is wearing grey trunks

When we decided to go to Budapest the first thing that came to my mind was “We MUST go to the Budapest Thermal Spas!!!” I was so excited having seen so many photos and Pinterest posts about them. But other than general imagery about what to expect we found it difficult to locate practical information about them. Like do you need to wear shoes? How much will it cost? Will there be food there? Should I bring my own towel? What is the best Spa to go to if I can only go to one? Where do I put my stuff while I am in the pools? So now that we have experienced the baths in all their glory we thought we’d write a guide to Budapest Thermal Spa’s and Baths.

Which Baths should you go to?!

Sorcha smiling with the Gellert Spas sky blue pool behind. Lined with columns decorated with stone etched vines and green plants draping over the balcony above.
Isn’t the backdrop amazing!

First thing’s first you have to decide WHERE you want to go! Budapest has LOTS of thermal spas and baths all over the city. We did a bit of research, got recommendations from friends and family, and did a bit of Pinterest-ing and decided we really wanted to visit the Gellert and Szechenyi Baths. There are far more options than just these two. The Ruda’s and Thermal Beer Spas ALSO looked really exciting but we didn’t have enough time for all four! If you can only go to one spa, then we recommend that you go to Szechenyi. The reason being is it was (in our opinion) the most beautiful. Having been a lot of places in Europe the Szechenyi spas gave us the most Eastern European vibes. The building that it is in is constructed to look like a palace. It has a yellow and cream-colored exterior with traditional arches and ornate marble statues. It is visually stunning. While we also thought the Gellert Spas were gorgeous we both agreed if we came back and could only go to one it would be Szechenyi. Additionally, Szechenyi has 3 outdoor pools, (they have several indoor pools) all of which were in working order when we went. Whereas Gellert only had 1 outdoor pool and its large wave pool was closed for winter.

What should you bring to the spa?

While it does have some information on the spa websites about what to bring/ dress code these things aren’t suuuuper obvious or easy to find. Therefore we got to the spa and were slightly underprepared. Most of the spas require slippers or sandals in the communal areas. We didn’t anticipate this, and they wouldn’t allow us to wear our Allbirds sneakers, but you can purchase sandals there. What we didn’t realize (because the front desk guy, conveniently forgot to mention this) was that you could also rent slippers. We ended up buying slippers for about $20 for two pairs. Had we known renting was an option we would have rented, however now we do have some slippers that we can use on the road and that also double as a souvenir so we’re not too mad about it.

Picture of the flip flops Sorcha and Matt bought at the spa. One red pair and one Blue pair. Sitting on white countertop.

No idea what the cost to rent slippers is but the cost to rent robes is around 2000-3000 HUF (which equates to around $6-8) so I imagine the cost of the slipper rental would be less. You can also rent towels and even swimwear at the spa, which we didn’t know, so we did bring our own. It all costs more than bringing your own items but rest assured if you are in Budapest and didn’t bring something you can likely rent or buy one at the spa.

How much does it cost to go to the Spas?

The average price of all the spas we went to/ looked at cost between 5000-7000 HUF which equates to around $15-20 per person. The prices are higher on the weekend, additionally, it’s more crowded on the weekends, so we recommend going during the week.

Where do I put my stuff when I am in the pools?

As content creators who carry a lot of expensive cameras and tech gear around with us basically everywhere we were super concerned about what to do with our stuff while at the spas. Thankfully the price of admission includes either a locker or a private cabin. If you get a Cabin it provides a lockable room for you to place your belongings in and to change in. If you get a locker you get a locker which codes to your wrist band and opens and closes only to your band. Cabin tickets are more expensive than lockers so we only purchased locker tickets. Lockers do not include private changing areas. Though the way the lockers worked at each spa was slightly different. The Szechnyi Spa had a men’s, and women’s locker room, whereas Gellert had a shared locker room. Since at Szechnyi it was a gendered locker area Matt and I felt totally comfortable changing in the Szechnyi spas. At Gellert, they had all the lockers in the same area with changing rooms, reminiscent of a fitting room at a department store, scattered throughout. The changing rooms had doors that locked from the inside but there was only a handful of these and men and women both used them. So there was a bit of a queue to get into one. Again, we were totally comfortable changing in the Gellert Spas but if you are reading this and aren’t comfortable with changing in front of others or with other genders close by you may want to consider a cabin ticket.

Is there food at the spas?

Sorcha and Matt at the Szechenyi Spas, surrounded by steaming warm water, the golden palace in the backdrop.
Super sick views from the Szechenyi Spas

YES! There is totally food at the spas. Both spas have bars, and restaurants, actually I believe they had a couple at each! That said they were not cheap. We spent about 3-5 hours at each spa and just timed it so we ate before and after.

Other Spa tips!

How to get there: Both spa’s we went to are easily accessed by public transit lines. We found Budapest to be a very walkable city and that Gellert and Szechenyi were about a block away from the nearest tram/ metro stop. The cost of a 24 hr metro ticket is about 1500 HUF, which is just shy of $5. It works for busses, trams, and metro.

Drink LOTS of water and take breaks: The spas have a way of sucking you in and the warm water makes you never want to get out of the pool. But be wary, you can get super dehydrated and overheated sitting in warm waters for too long. We’d get out every 20-30 minutes and walk to another pool, or sit on a lounge chair for a minute! Matt even dunked himself in an ice bath! (It’s a real thing.) All the spas have pools that are cooler, (like 75 degrees instead of 100) so if you want to cool off but aren’t ready to get out of the water go from the hot to the cold pool and let your body temperature go down. Also, bring a water bottle and be sure to drink every time you change pools.

You can buy tickets online or in-person: We purchased one set of tickets online and one in person. We didn’t have issues with either but we were there in the offseason. The websites for all of the spas recommend purchasing ahead so you can skip the line at the ticket counter.

There is no real dress code and no one cares what you look like!: This was probably our favorite part of the spas. I find in the US that people can be really judgy about what body type belongs in what swimming suit etc. At the spa’s (and in Europe in general) no, one gives a shit. There is no real dress code and everyone just wears what they are comfortable in, there were no rude teenage girls laughing at full-figured women, or obnoxious college bro’s harassing people. I saw women in swimming suits that looked like dresses, and men in teenie weenie speedos and everyone had a great time. As long as you are comfortable and have some form of swimwear on you’re A-OK.

We ABSOLUTELY recommend going to a thermal spa if you visit Budapest and would go so far as to say its a MUST do.

For more tips and tricks about Budapest be sure to click here and sign up for our newsletter! We send out monthly updates and special offers just to our subscribers so don’t miss out!

Also if you enjoyed this check out our other travel tips!

Top Ten Tips We’ve Learned From Being Digital Nomads!

Jen and Hen in front of a cute castle in Italy

By: Hoopla Adventures

There is often a quite visceral reaction to describing yourself as a ‘digital nomad’. People sell it as a quit your job and make millions of lifestyle, but it’s not all glamour and luxury travel.

Maybe for a lucky few this is the case, but for most people working online is limited to your skillset and experience. We can teach and write online which means we can take it on the road, but even that took years of training and working in different fields to achieve. 

Our own personal goal is to experience the world, learn from different communities and start an eco-home and sustainable business at home one day. After volunteering and living in remote places, this is what we have a passion for, but everyone has different motivations in life and that’s what makes this world so interesting. Wouldn’t it be terribly dull if everyone wanted the same out of life?! 

No matter your goals, if being a digital nomad works for you then absolutely go for it but go in prepared and manage those pesky expectations. 

1. Slow travel with full cultural immersion is our style of travel!

The one certainty that either of us had, even before meeting, was travel. Working in other countries has allowed us to be immersed in other cultures in a way we couldn’t have if we had only passed through. That realization combined with a want to learn about the world and to help communities along the way lead us to a peculiar combination of jobs to achieve this lifestyle. 

We volunteer to live in a local’s house and look after pets, gardens and take this as an opportunity to learn new skills related to permaculture, self-sustainable living, exploring a new place and learning from locals about the culture and history of where they live. We also love animals and looking after someone’s pet is helping them to not worry that their fur babies! 

Slow travel also allows for a more sustainable travel experience, which is something we write about professionally to try and endorse. Longer stays have also resulted in volunteering with local community projects and in between house sits we can volunteer too while keeping on top of online work – teaching languages, writing commissions and our own blog.

Jenn, who has peachy blonde hair, left, wearing denim jacket with Hen right, wearing grey collared shirt, arm around Jenn with beard and fedora, both smiling in front of stone castle in Bratislava.
Jen and Hen being adorable.

2. Staying motivated is achievable

With so much going on it can be a hard job staying motivated. When we’re tucked away in the countryside with a few animals to keep us company, it suddenly becomes easier to say we’re going to use this time to work hard on our various online jobs. 

Motivation is often fleeting, and if like us you suffer from anxiety or other mental health issues it can be that much harder. In our pre-travel lives, we worked jobs that sometimes meant we did 50-60 or more hours a week. This really wasn’t helping and it’s only since making the transition that we’ve both had a clearer idea of the life we want. 

We are big believers in writing down your thoughts, ideas and keeping logs. A to-do list is simple but effective and taking a break when needed is just as important. Without sounding preachy, another thing that’s helped is mindfulness meditation and keeping healthy by walking, yoga, eating well and being outside are all things that keep our brains active too. 

3. If we need a day off that’s totally acceptable.

When you’re in between sits or city-based there are distractions, people, enticing coffee shops and exploration to be done. What we say is don’t deny yourselves these experiences. This is what travel and living on the road is all about! It’s important to work to make money, but if you have a schedule and finish projects then for your own sanity, get out and enjoy your surroundings! 

There are days where getting out of bed is impossible, and these are the times we need support. This happens at home, and on the road, unfortunately, you can’t escape your own thoughts and sometimes you get sick. We’ve had bouts of flu or food poisoning and it’s at these times you have to listen to your body and recover. As common sense as all this sounds, if this happened at home, we were much more likely to still go to work and not deal with what was happening to us. 

Just being able to say, this a day for nothing whether it’s Sunday or Wednesday has been a revelation. There are times when work is all-consuming and deadlines mean you work more than you would in a 9-5 job, but there are other periods where there’s less work and it’s acceptable to have some more ‘me time’. 

4. We can enjoy each other’s company without killing each other.

Being in a relationship, however you frame and shape what you have together, is much more than curated moments on Instagram. It’s big fights, petty arguments and giving one another the silent treatment. Sometimes we spend whole days doing our own thing, which we think is healthy! 

What we have found is that we are a fantastic team, who make each other see things from different perspectives and encourage and support each other when needed. Whoever says they don’t argue, even just a little bit while living 24/7 with someone must be a miracle worker! 

We love finding time for one another, date nights and planning together and when we make something together like an article or a trip, we’ve both dreamed about happening it’s the best feeling in the world. Yes, we throw insults at times, but in all honesty, we couldn’t imagine a life without each other. 

5. We are constantly learning and smashing stereotypes.

Traveling is really all about smashing stereotypes and gaining a more in-depth understanding of cultures and communities. As we live for a month or a year in various countries, we have had our own preconceived ideas of other cultures challenged and had to re-think and explain our culture to others. 

No matter your upbringing, you are susceptible to certain stereotypes and while at times there are elements of truth, it’s often not right. You begin to learn a new worldview, it becomes less scary or alien, you see the power of human kindness and notice similarities between different cultures and common problems within society. 

We have been able to write about sustainable travel and living in our time as digital nomads and it’s always exciting to see what communities are achieving and how they preserve their culture or become more open to outside influences as we seek to understand the world a bit better. 

6. Wi-Fi does dictate where we can settle for prolonged periods but it’s manageable.

A frequent problem digital nomads face is that wi-fi dictates where you can go and where you can work from. Often if you’re accommodation is ill-equipped then you need a café to work from. While this seems limiting, as house sitters we have found we can plan sits for longer periods in houses who have strong internet connections. 

It means sometimes we turn down dream sits, but we have still secured house sits in remote places in eco-friendly homes with good connections, usually because the homeowner works from home themselves. 

Our plan is to save in places with a good connection and take time to travel to countries where it’s harder to work online. Living this lifestyle allows for chunks of travel and we can plan accordingly as we go. Yes, it is a nuisance, but this is where planning becomes a more useful tool! 

Red and black alpaca eats hay out of Jens hand in rustic barn.
Jen feeding an Alpaca

7. Money is vital to travel, but we keep finding ways to make travel happen.

When we initially left home we had no money, we just left and worked music festivals as bar managers and builders for three months. Then took on remote seasonal jobs and got into management positions at a hotel in the French Alps, before working on a farm in Italy and teaching in Slovakia. 

While we worked these jobs, we worked on our blog and got the incentive to switch to house sitting and working online as digital nomads using the skills we had accumulated over the years. This wasn’t a quick process. We didn’t just quit our jobs and go for it. This was a long, thought out process that took time and perseverance to achieve because you need money and security to continue with this lifestyle. 

We have been so close to giving up, but we seem to always find little jobs or volunteer projects to bridge gaps and this has led to a more consistent online career we can both do. By having time to work online we can spread ourselves around a bit more! 

8. Combining our skills makes for a formidable team!

This brings us to the skills section of the article. Being late twenties and mid-thirties, it won’t be a surprise that we have had various careers and jobs. Combined we have worked in journalism, accounting, hospitality, management, support work, communications and even a local market job!

We both had a similar work ethic drummed into us from an early age, and we’ve always been taught to be self-sufficient and open to anything to keep ourselves afloat. We’ve taken this ethos and our combined skills to provide us with the tools to make this digital nomad life viable. 

We have teaching qualifications so we teach, we have hotel management experience so we can look after estates and houses, one of us is a published journalist so we write and one of us loves photography so they take the photos for our blog, even support work lends itself to having first aid skills which puts homeowners at ease! 

9. Budgeting and planning are essential.

We’ve talked about making schedules, to-do lists and allowing time to recover or have a day off but being able to budget and plan are two essential things to stay on top of. A digital nomad will most likely be freelance and have to think about tax returns and while you travel you need enough money to buy that bus ticket or your accommodation.

With house sitting we have to match dates and places, for example, we know next year we are in the German Alps but our next sit is three weeks later in Norway so our goal is to travel and find a week or two house sit in north Germany or Denmark. 

There are all kinds of things we use to make this easier. Spreadsheets and invoices for our taxes, apps for car sharing and cheap travel comparison alerts, we are signed up to volunteer work websites, house and pet sitting websites with our sits on a calendar and you can make a budgeting plan too with your weekly allowance or what you want to save. 

There are so many tools for travelers and digital nomads, that are all there to make it easier to navigate or provide stop gaps and cheaper travel options. Travel isn’t an easy lifestyle, but it allows us to do the things that make us happy even if not everyone agrees. It would be tragic if we didn’t allow ourselves to at least try even if sometimes that means adulting is required. 

10. Living out of our rucksacks is liberating!

The adage of ‘less is more’ applies to the digital nomad lifestyle. We can be incredibly happy without 40 pairs of shoes and a walk-in wardrobe. We sold our stuff and stored sentimental things at Jen’s mum’s house. We have two big rucksacks, two small rucksacks and a small cabin bag that is mostly for the tech we need to carry (laptop, headphones etc). 

Carrying your life on your back or in a conventional suitcase, whatever your jam, is liberating! We pre-warn homeowners on house sits though, as the sight of two people with their whole life in toll can seem strange at first. This isn’t a conventional lifestyle and you will have times where people will be taken aback or maybe have pre-conceived notions of what a “backpacker” is like. 

Last year Jen worked at an English immersion camp and was told her backpack meant she would be a troublemaker! While we would love to live up to that preconception, the truth is we’re not that exciting nowadays, and we are somewhat responsible people.

One day we’ll find a place we love and settle down into a new adventure of hopefully building an eco-home, but right now we love our minimalistic life and the opportunities it gives us. 

Jen whispering top 10 digital nomad secrets to Hen in same outfit as previous photo. Hen has his fedora over his face so you can't see what he's saying.

A little Bit About Us.

We are Jenni and Henry, after leaving our home in Edinburgh we have spent the last three years working various jobs on the road from festival bar managers, hotel managers to teachers! 

Recently we decided to start house and pet sitting full time, working online as teachers and writers to travel a bit more freely and to expand our own website. 

Traveling in a sustainable way is something we explore in our writing, and we are big believers in real talk, and sharing our alternative lifestyle to hopefully inspire others to do things a wee bit differently! 

Check them out at: https://hooplaadventures.com/

How To Get Your First House Sit With An EPIC Application Letter!

So if you’ve been reading for a while here, or following us on Instagram or Facebook then you know that we travel full-time while developing software and that we use Trusted House Sitters to cut down on overhead costs. If you’re not familiar with Trusted House Sitters you can read more about it, and how it works in these other blog posts here, and here! Or on our friends “Hoopla Adventures” travel blog. They both use Trusted House Sitters to travel. Since our last posts about using house sitting to get free places to stay in Europe went over so well we thought we would share some tips about not just where to go to find house sits but how to get your first house to sit with an EPIC application letter! The first one is often the hardest but I’ve developed a strategy for snagging sits and it’s worked super well so far.

But before we dive into all of that here’s some things you should know about Trusted House Sitters. It’s a very different way of traveling. Think of it as something similar to a study abroad program. When you study abroad you’re there to go to school and experience a different culture as a benefit of your location. When you house sit, you’re there to care for someone’s pet/ home and you get the benefits of their location. We have done house sits in places like London and Paris and have seen Kensington Palace, The Eiffel Tower, the Louver and Burrow Market as a result of our house sits. We’ve saved an estimated $18,000 in lodging through house sitting since starting our journey 4 months ago. So if you don’t mind cleaning a litter box in the morning, or going on a leisurely stroll through the Scottish Countryside with a Scottie Dog then house Sitting is probably a great option for you! But if you want to sleep in every day, and stay out until 2 AM partying it may not be the right fit for you. There’s nothing wrong if you like to live spontaneously while traveling! But house sitting is a means to travel more affordably by doing a form of light work exchange. It’s not a “free vacation.”

OK so, if you’re part of the category that says “I would love to snuggle with some kitties and see the Eiffel tower in the afternoons and or eat Tapas in Barcelona and walk a Pug in the mornings” Then you’re gonna want to read this.

I have found the key to being a successful at booking house sits is this; create a killer profile, write a killer application letter and applying early and often.

If you look at the available sits on Trusted House Sitters you’ll notice that there is a little “New” tag on the newly posted sits. For your first sit, I recommend you focus on these!

Screenshot of Trusted house sitter sit search page. In the bottom left hand corner of each sit image is a "NEW" tab in pink. That indicates the sit is new.

Notice pink “NEW”

Additionally when you open sits try to focus on house sits with 0-3 applications. Less competition is better. Some people on this site may have completed several sits and have many reviews. If you’re competing against a large number of sitters then you are less likely to be selected for a house sit as there is likely a larger pool of experienced sitters with existing reviews in the queue ahead of you. By applying to house sits with under 3 applicants you have higher chances of being seen and thus selected. The number of applicants is indicated under the sits listed dates as pictured below.

When you do apply for your sit you basically have two chances to “close the deal”. First with your application, and then with your profile (read more about that here). So that means you need to convince someone that you’re not a psycho and that you are capable of taking care of their home and pets.

Below I will walk you through the message I send most pet parents. Keep in mind it’s VERY important that you tailor each message to the sit you’re applying to, personalization is important in a presentation. But having a general template can save you time! You can feel free to take this one and tailor it to your needs/ story.

Hi (Insert name here),

I try to keep it friendly and casual in the greeting. People like hearing/ reading their name, and they prefer Hi/ Hey over Hello, Greetings etc.

My name is Sorcha and my husband Matthew and I would love to be considered as sitters for your December dates. A bit about us. We are software engineers/content creators from the San Francisco Bay area who decided to take our work and see the world. We’re on a year-ish long journey through Europe and Asia. We use Trusted House Sitters as a way to keep costs down while we travel. We love the unique travel opportunities it affords us as well as the ability to make furry friends along the way.

I very concisely tell them who we are, what we do for work, why we’re traveling and why we use Trusted House Sitters.

We are experienced house sitters and have a track record of trust and reliability amongst our furry charges and their humans (check out our reviews!).

You get to ask friends and family members to review you when you create your profile. I had two or three friends/ past house sitting/ babysitting customers review us when we launched our account. This encourages the reader to actually READ your profile where you’ve spent time telling your story more in-depth.

We have flexible schedules and are available for the entirety of your dates with no conflicts.

This is key, you may not have flexible schedules as we do, but letting the owner know you’re available for the whole time is important. As part of joining THS and applying to a sit you’re committing to being there for this person/family holiday, vacation, work trip, etc. You HAVE to make yourself available for the entire duration of the sit unless otherwise negotiated. Just as they have to make themselves scarce for the entire trip. You are entering a mutual agreement to go where you say you’ll go when you say you’ll go there. If you cancel for anything short of serious or extenuating circumstances you can be kicked off the site. Additionally by canceling you hurt other’s chances of sits. This system only works if we all make commitments and keep them… and we really like this site and house sitting so please don’t screw that up for us.

I am a photographer and would be glad to take photos of your pets for you should we be selected and my husband is a former builders apprentice (found he liked building software more) and would be happy to do any minor repairs or fixes around the house while we are sitting if selected.

Offer additional value. While oftentimes home/ pet owners don’t ask me to take professional photos of their pets or their home, and we have yet to have someone take us up on Matt’s offer to do maintenance work this little tidbit sets us apart. Maybe you’re a professional cleaner at home, or you’re a great organizer, or you can build birdhouses (I don’t know your life!) offer something a little extra! Show them you’re bringing more value to the table than others.

If we sound like a good fit for you please let me know and we can set up a time to video chat! (We try to do that with all house sits so you can get to know us a bit!) Regardless of your choice, we hope you have a great holiday and find the right sitters for your home and fur family.

Most people experienced with THS will want to video chat with you before committing. This is so they can get a feel for you and vice-versa. We also require anyone who wants us to sit for them to video chat. We do so so we can see their home, make sure they’re who they picture/ say they are, and ask more questions about the sit.

Finally, we let the reader know that we just want what’s best for them and their pets. Because at the end of the day, we all just want to have a nice vacation and make sure everyone stays alive.



two white cavishon dogs named echo and millie. Sitting on a beige couch under a green blanket.
Echo and Milli

Some other things to keep in mind are when applicable I try to address specifics about the sit between “We are experienced house sitters” section and “We have flexible schedules” section. So for example, if I am applying to house sit for someone with horses I will mention.

“I was a competitive horseback rider for 15 years and had 10 horses, so I am well versed in the necessities of their care and can recognize signs of colic and distress. I also know how to manage injuries and care for wounds in the event of an emergency.”

Or maybe you had a Husky growing up and could say.

“My childhood dog was a Husky so I am familiar with the breed and their need for exercise, their independent nature, and their prey drive.”

Anything that tells that pet parent that you know what you’re doing and can handle what comes your way.

Finally, end with a sincere greeting. I like to go with Sincerely, but “Best,” looking forward to hearing from you” etc. all work too.

The overarching key is to;

Let the pet owner know you’re a real human.

Let them know you’re safe and trustworthy by writing a great profile and sharing honest reviews.

Tell them about your real experience briefly and confidently.

Let them know you’re reliable.

Norman the pudgy dachsy sleeping belly up on grey couch cushions.

Assure them that they can relax while away by giving examples or directing them to information in your profile that gives examples.

That’s basically it! Do you feel like you’ve been equipped for getting your first house sit? Does house sitting seem like it is something that could help you become more