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I spent 3 months finding the perfect engagement ring, and it was terrifying — but worth it

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dave smith engagement 2

Business Insider deputy editor Dave Smith proposed to his girlfriend of two years in December. She said yes! Below, Smith walks us through a traditional, but anguishing, part of the process: buying an engagement ring.

As told to Libby Kane.

I knew I wanted to get engaged about a year ago.

We were in Toronto visiting friends for New Year's Eve. We were at a party earlier, but we left the party so we could just be together as the ball dropped. We were talking and I just felt like I was so connected to her. In that moment, I thought, "This time next year I want us be to engaged. I'm ready for that, I think she's ready for that, we're at that point."

I started thinking about a ring around September, and did some basic research on Yelp and Google about where to go: just "best places to buy an engagement ring New York City."

I found one store that was family-owned. It had been around for 40 years, which I really did like, and it didn't seem like a franchise or a chain. It's one store that's been in New York City, handed down from generation to generation, and has a master jeweler on site. As a non-jewelry person, that made me feel more comfortable. It's called Greenwich St. Jewelers. I checked out their website and saw they could do custom stuff, and I was thinking I would go down that route. I could have gotten a really nice traditional ring, but she doesn't really like traditional styles.

My girlfriend — fiancée! — has a Pinterest page and one of her boards is jewelry, and a lot of it is rings. I saved a lot of those images to my phone, just to give the jewelers an idea.

Throughout the entire relationship, we've done everything together: saying I love you, moving in together, all those decisions we made together. This part was something I had to do myself. I did see some people shopping for rings together, but it's not what I wanted to do. I wanted the element of surprise. I didn't even want to ask, "So what's your ring size?" and I didn't know what ring to even take from her if I were to take one, so I didn't. This jeweler, and I think most jewelers, was like, 'If it doesn't fit, you can come back. We'll do it right on site, it takes no time.'

I have no experience jewelry shopping at all. I've never bought myself jewelry, even. As a teenager I got a Fossil watch as like a Bar Mitzvah gift or something. I had no taste in jewelry. No idea what to do.

engagement ring.JPGI worked with this one woman, Amanda, who was really great. She knew everything about jewelry. I explained to her, "I'm a noob at this, I don't know anything — here are some pictures I got for us to work with." The shape that we settled on is different from most other rings. It's called a Marquise diamond.

Since it was custom, there was stuff like getting the right diamond itself. Some are shaped a little differently, some are a little wider, some a little narrower, some have different clarity and qualities I needed to go through. We had to figure out the color, the band, the shape. When you're looking at diamonds on a tweezer, and you don't know much about clarity and stuff like that, you're just trying to go for something that looks good. If you're paying thousands of dollars for it, which you are, you want something that doesn't feel cheap, but it's so hard to tell.

You want the ring to match her. Do you think she would be really pissed if you spent this much money? Do you think she'd be happy with this ring color or size or whatever? Is she the kind that would care a lot about the authenticity of the ring? Would she need the certificates? Because you can go cheaper if you get some elements that aren't certified. You can go for more unique styles or go for a slightly more expensive diamond, which is what I did in this case.

I went back about five or six times over a couple of months. It took a lot longer than I thought. That was the one thing I was surprised with. My fiancée was taking French classes on Wednesday nights, so every Wednesday I would tell her, "Oh I'm playing video games." But I was at the jeweler.

I went above and beyond my budget. I'd asked Amanda, the jeweler who helped me throughout this process: "What's normal here? I'd heard something like a few months' salary? A few paychecks? Do you have any advice with that?" I just didn't know, and I didn't want to seem cheap, but I also wanted to give her something that she deserved because I really do love her.

Amanda said that whole few months' salary thing is total bull. It's whatever you feel comfortable with. That's the bottom line. I had some savings. We've both watched movies and TV shows where people get married and you see the ring, and how much the guy is spending, and my fiancée had said to me on so many occasions, "If you spent that much money I would kill you." Because in the future it's going to be our money. So I do want to spend because she's worth it, but I don't want to piss her off.

I was just going with what I felt comfortable with. I felt comfortable at the store, I felt comfortable with this jeweler. I felt like she was leading me in the right direction, not like I was being taken advantage of. So if it ended up costing an extra few thousand dollars, it's just money. We all live once.

As a guy, you can be as macho as you want, but it's freaky to go shopping for a ring. It really is. It's symbolizing the end of your single life and the beginning of your life with this person. You don't want to f--k it up. It's scary.

You pay for half of it when you fully design the ring and put in the order, then you pay for the other half when it's ready and you come pick it up. I guess this would have showed up in two different bank statements. I only show her the statements when we're going through bills for the month and I tell her what she owes, because I get the bills for rent and utilities and everything like that, and she just Venmos me. But how would you hide it? I don't know.

dave smith engagement ringIf I didn't trust Amanda, I would have just gone somewhere else. There are a million bajillion jewelry stores. Even though it's not totally comfortable taking out your wallet and paying for these things, you can be more comfortable if you feel like you did everything you can to make sure it's the ring you wanted.

I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable, because if I felt like I was off the rails here, even though it's for her, I would have felt weird about giving it to her. I would have felt weird about doing the whole engagement. You want to start it off on the right foot. Being engaged — as my brother, my parents, and everyone says — is a party, but for you. You want everything to be as right as possible.

The jeweler told me to come back after the proposal and we'd have champagne, and then do the insurance stuff, which covers a lifetime in case any of the diamonds fall off or anything. I don't wear anything that costs thousands of dollars, so it's very scary prospect.

They called me in early December to pick it up. I ran home and was trying to find a hiding place. The surprise is really hard, because you know she could go anywhere in the apartment. I hid it in the very back of my sock drawer inside of a hat. When she wasn't there, I practiced putting the ring box in and out of my jacket.

I put a lot of thought into the actual surprise of it. She was totally surprised, and it was totally worth it, just watching her gears work as I stopped her in the street right in front of the place where we met. Just watching that reaction was totally worth the surprise, and the angst and everything that I had been through by myself, keeping the secret from her, doing all this planning to get the ring, to find the right one, to buy it, to hide it from her, to plan the restaurant visit and then walk past the place where we met.

She's ecstatic about it. She loves the ring.

Have you purchased an engagement ring? We want to hear your story. Email yourmoney@businessinsider.com. Anonymity can be considered.

SEE ALSO: 8 money conversations every couple should have before getting engaged

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Here's what makes L.L.Bean's '100% satisfaction guarantee' the best return policy of any retailer

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L.L.Bean offers a '100% satisfaction guarantee' on all of its products meaning they will accept all returns with or without the receipt however long ago you purchased the item. We spoke with Business Insider reporters about why this return policy is easily the best there is.

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This crib automatically calms crying babies back to sleep in minutes

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New parents rejoice. An innovative baby sleeper aims to teach parents more about their infants and become a "member of the family." SNOO is billed as the world's smartest and safest baby bed. It was created by pediatrician Harvey Karp, engineered by MIT Media Lab trained engineers, and designed by Silicon Valley's own Yves Behar. SNOO creates white noise and motion to recreate the womb environment for newborns.

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13 common fashion mistakes men make — and how to avoid them

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On every man's road to dressing better, he learns quite a few things about style and inevitably makes some mistakes along the way.

In a thread on Reddit's male fashion subreddit, /r/malefashionadvice, men shared the worst misconceptions they had about fashion and style before they knew better.

Keep reading to make sure you don't make the same mistakes — and learn how to fix them if you do.

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1. "Skinny guys should wear boot cut [pants] to make their legs look wider." -macadocious

This could not be further from the truth. Boot cut is the most unflattering of all pant cuts for skinnier dudes. It won't make your legs look any bigger, but the flare in the bottom of the leg will make you look sloppier than a straight or skinny cut pant.

 



2. "Shirts were supposed to be baggy in the shoulders and chest." -utilitym0nster

Shirts aren't supposed to be baggy. They're supposed to fit! A good rule of thumb is to find a shirt that fits as close to your body as possible while still retaining free range of movement in your arms.



3. "I thought that wearing the right clothes would automatically mean that I'd dress better." - Poizar

A common misconception is that dressing up is the equivalent to dressing better. In fact, the two are completely unrelated, and a man in sharp casual wear will look better than a man in a sloppy suit every time.

Additionally, you should always be mindful to dress appropriately for the situation at hand.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Here's how to split the restaurant bill in any situation

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Ordering at a restaurant, menus

Whether you're taking a client to dinner, grabbing lunch with a new friend, or sharing a meal with your in-laws, awkwardness can immediately settle in when the bill comes and everyone stares, silently wondering, "Who pays?"

Several potential scenarios can play out: Should you split the check evenly? Should everyone pay for their own meal? Is it expected that your father-in-law will pick up the check?

Every dining situation, from a birthday dinner to a double date, commands its own nuances when it comes to handling the check. We spoke with three experts — Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, David Weliver, founder of financial advice website Money Under 30, and Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and president of The Etiquette School of New York— to definitively decide how to handle the bill in 10 common situations.

"Other than business meals, there are no hard and fast rules for splitting the check," Napier-Fitzpatrick told Business Insider. "In business, it's protocol for the person extending the invitation to pay. In terms of all other different scenarios, I would say there are certain guidelines, things one would do to make sure they didn't feel taken advantage of and that they're being considerate when it comes to paying for meals."

Read on to check out who's turn it is to pick up the bill when, and avoid those awkward "How do you wanna do this?" conversations for good.

SEE ALSO: 13 smart 10-minute money decisions our coworkers wish they'd made sooner

DON'T MISS: A financial planner reveals the best money habit for 30-somethings







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The 20 most expensive homes sold in America in 2016

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delray beach

As another year comes to a close, it's the perfect time to look back at some of the hottest real estate deals to go down in the last 12 months.

Though there has been some softening in the luxury market across the US, there were still plenty of blockbuster deals worth highlighting in 2016. 

With that in mind, we asked our friends at Trulia to help us round up the biggest publicly recorded sales this year. From New York City penthouses to sprawling Palm Beach mansions, here are the most expensive homes to trade hands in 2016.

SEE ALSO: Design experts say these will be the biggest trends in American homes in 2017

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20. A duplex atop New York's Walker Tower sold for $24 million earlier this year. It has four bedrooms and 4,871 square feet of space.

Sale price: $24 million



19. In October, Elon Musk reportedly purchased this under-construction mansion in Bel Air, his fifth in the neighborhood.

Sale price: $24.25 million

Source: Variety



18. This recently remodeled home in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood changed hands for more than $25 million. It has five bedrooms and is across the street from the Presidio.

Sale price: $25.668 million



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

I tried earplugs designed for motorsports at one of the longest and loudest races in the world — here's what I thought

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Ferrari-Race-9

For the past few years, I've been rather frequently attending car races, and I've discovered that an indispensable piece of equipment is a set of earplugs.

With the 2017 motorsports season about to kick off with some races in Florida, now is a good time to start thinking about upgrading your gear.

As a member of the media, I usually have some sort of access to the pit stops, where the race cars pull in to get tire changes and to be refueled. The noise they make, up close, it literally eardrum-obliterating. 

But even if you don't get down close to the action, the type of intense racket that race cars generate can be very bad for your hearing.

In the past, I've usually made do with disposable foam earplugs, which dampen the wail of screaming engines, but also muffle everything else.

Then a company called Etymotic, which makes a range of earphones and hearing-protection devices, offered to let me sample a pair of ER-20 XS high-definition earplugs designed specifically for motorsports. 

I had a great test in mind for the product: the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race, held every June southwest of Paris in the French countryside.

How'd they do? Read on to find out:

SEE ALSO: Ford just did something amazing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Over the past two and half years or so, I've been attending sports-car races fairly often. This one took place in Upstate New York and featured only screaming Ferrari 458s.



Noise levels in the pits can be ear-shattering. Seriously, you don't want to be down there without earplugs when the race cars pull in — and especially when they pull away!



Normally, I use disposable foam earplugs, such as these. That cord allows you to keep them around your neck so you don't lose them when you take them out.



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Hugh Hefner's son reveals what it was like growing up in the Playboy Mansion

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While most people associate the Playboy Mansion with scantily clad playmates and sex-fueled debauchery, it served as the childhood home for Hugh Hefner's sons. 

Now 25, Hefner's youngest son, Cooper, recounts his childhood spent in what many consider to be a sort of adult fantasyland. For Cooper, it was quite the opposite: a child's wonderland fueled by Indiana Jones-inspired adventures in the Grotto, a zoo full of exotic animals, and epic games of hide-and-seek played in the mansion's private forest of redwood trees.

Cooper shared his experiences growing up inside the mansion, and invited Business Insider along on a private tour of the grounds.

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The 21 largest US cities ranked by ease of building wealth

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san francisco

The best way to build wealth is to prioritize assets over income. But ensuring that your assets outweigh your liabilities can be impacted greatly by the city you call home.

This week, online personal finance consultant Bankrate.com released a report ranking America's best and worst metro areas for building wealth.

To create the list, Bankrate.com ranked the 21 largest metro areas in five categories that contribute directly to an individual's ability to build their wealth:

  • Savable income: average income after taxes and expenditures
  • Human capital: unemployment rate, educational opportunities, and productivity
  • Debt burden: non-mortgage debt per capita and average credit score
  • Homeownership: average annual change in home prices, foreclosure actions, and homeownership rate
  • Access to financial services: Percentage of workers with access to retirement plans

San Francisco came out on top as the best place to build wealth, followed by Minneapolis and Washington, DC.

“In some metro areas, like San Francisco, homeownership can be prohibitively expensive, but higher-than-average salaries can help residents stash more money away in tax-advantaged retirement accounts," wrote Claes Bell, a Bankrate.com analyst and the author of the study. "On the other hand, Minneapolis-area residents don't earn as much, but the area's affordable housing and recovering real estate market provide opportunities to build wealth over the long term through home equity."

Read on to see how the 21 largest US cities stack up for building wealth, as well as the average savable income, homeownership rate, and non-mortgage debt per capita for each city. 

SEE ALSO: 10 of the best American cities to live comfortably on $40,000 a year

SEE ALSO: The most expensive housing market in every state

21. Riverside-San Bernardino, California

Savable income: $9,790

Homeownership rate: 62.6%

Debt burden: $27,682



20. Miami

Savable income: -$3,613*

Homeownership rate: 58%

Debt burden: $25,645

*Analysis showed a negative average savable income for the Miami metro area. This may be attributable to the high population of retirees in the area who are spending more of their savings than they're earning.




19. Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida

Savable income: $3,437

Homeownership rate: 62.7%

Debt burden: $27,015



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Here's how a sneaker collector made 6 figures buying and reselling rare and limited release kicks

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According to sneakerhead data website StockX, the secondary market for rare and limited-release sneakers is estimated to be worth over $1 billion.  

Jason Hart buys and resells sneakers to consignment stores like Flight Club in New York City. It's a skill to find the hottest shoes on the market, and one that made him somewhere in the six figures.

Produced by Josh Wolff and Sam RegaAdditional camera by Andrew Stern.

Watch the full video and more from Business Insider on Prime Video

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The 36 best ways to burn the most calories in an hour

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SoulCycle spinning cycling

What's the best way to burn the most calories?

There's a lot that goes into developing an exercise regimen — meeting your body's needs, finding something you enjoy, and figuring out what will have enough impact to make a difference to your health.

If you're crunched for time, one of the ways to measure that is to figure out how much energy a particular exercise expends in the time you actually do it. In other words, how many calories does it burn?

The big, important caveats here are that exercising on its own actually doesn't do much to make you lose weight. If you want to slim down, we suggest talking to a doctor about what a healthy weight is for you and working on cutting sugar and large portions out of your diet.

Still, calories burned per hour is a good measure of how intense a particular exercise is. The Mayo Clinic, drawing on research published by the National Institutes of Health, lists 36 popular forms of exercise by their caloric impacts. We've ordered them from least to most intense, with approximate calories burned per hour for a 200-pound person listed for each activity. (An average adult American weighs just under 200 pounds.) Of course exact figures will vary across body types, gender, age, and other factors.

Keep in mind that the numbers here are approximate. Also, just because an exercise burns calories faster doesn't mean it's necessarily the best option. The most important exercise is the one you enjoy enough to get up and do regularly.

SEE ALSO: 9 science-backed ways to be a happier person

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36. Hatha yoga | 228 calories/hour

Hatha yoga, a version of the exercise practice centered on holding specific poses, sits at the bottom of this list, burning an average of about 228 calories per hour in a 200-pound person.



35. A slow walk | 255 calories/hour

Next up: going for a stroll. For every hour walked at 2 mph, a 200-pound person burns 255 calories.



32. Bowling | 273 calories/hour

Bowling, along with the next two items on this list, ballroom dancing and Tai Chi, burns 273 calories per active hour.



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How to care for your dress shoes in the winter

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jack erwin showroom

Whether it's rain, snow, or ice, winter weather can really wreak havoc on your dress shoes. 

Jack Erwin is a startup that makes a high-quality, classic shoe that it says won't go out of style or break the bank. The shoes are all made out of Italian leather and priced between $115 and $220.

We asked the Jack Erwin team to share their tips for protecting your shoes during the bleak winter months.

Here's what they had to say.

How do I save wet leather shoes?

Though it may be tempting to stick the soaked shoes in front of a direct heat source, like a radiator or fireplace, cofounders Ariel Nelson and Lane Gerson advise against doing so.

"Stuff your shoes with newspaper to absorb the moisture, then replace with cedar shoe trees," they said. "If you have leather soles, let them dry too." 

What if my shoes start to smell bad?

Funky-smelling shoes are usually caused by bacterial or fungal build-up. 

"There are a variety of fixes, including applying antibacterial sprays or a light layer of baking soda," they said.

You could also try inserting an odor-controlling insole or even dryer sheets.

Salt stained my shoes — now what?

First, Nelson and Gerson recommend using saddle soap or a specialty salt stain remover to get rid of the stain itself. Then stuff the shoes with newspaper and leave them out to dry, away from a direct heat source. 

"Last, apply leather conditioner or natural oils to replenish the leather and return it to its original luster," they said.

What are the best kinds of shoes to wear in bad weather?

"Synthetic materials created specifically for inclement weather such as Gore Tex and rubber are fitting materials for the worst of the winter," they said. "When cared for and treated properly, full-grain leather is a naturally resilient material that can also withstand the elements." 

They recommend using natural oils, like mink oil, to make leather even stronger in the winter. 

What products are best for regular shoe maintenance?

"Shoe horns are always recommended as they help to preserve the back counter and overall structure of your shoe," they said. 

You should also be conditioning and polishing your shoes on a regular basis, which will keep the leather supple and moisturized. 

What styles of boots are fashionable this winter? 

chester jack erwinBertrand Guillaume, Jack Erwin's head of product, said that the brand's Ellis and Chester boots are among its most popular this season.

"Each represents a cleaned up, modern approach to a boot style with traditionally humble origins that our customers seem to really connect with," he said.

"Our customers have also found that, because of their rubber soles, these boots are durable enough to handle life on the city streets, but elevated enough in their design to carry them straight from the daily grind to a night out."

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This high-powered CEO has an intense workout regimen that fuels his success

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Strauss Zelnick is a father, husband and media mogul who, at 59, somehow finds the time to stay in incredible shape. That's because he treats fitness with the same sense of priority that he gives business meetings and time with his family. 

Zelnick founded the private equity firm Zelnick Media Capital and also serves as CEO of ZMC's largest asset: video game developer Take-Two Interactive, which is responsible for such blockbuster hits as the "Grand Theft Auto" series, "Max Payne," and "WWE 2K."

In 2015, Zelnick founded a group fitness club called #TheProgram, which meets four times a week for a variety of intense, early morning workouts. Zelnick invited Business Insider for a look into just a small part of the weekly fitness regimen that keeps the media mogul in top physical condition.

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We just figured out how to get super-toned calves without weights or implants

A 31-year-old who's been abroad for 5 years explains what everyone gets wrong about long-term travel

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nina el nido philippines

A month before her 26th birthday, Nina Ragusa landed in Bangkok, Thailand.

About five years later, Ragusa has only been back to the US twice.

"It's funny, the live-abroad lifestyle looks so easy when you're on the outside. You just see the bikini with a karst mountain background picture or the perfectly timed sunset photo," Ragusa told Business Insider.

But the realities of living and traveling abroad for an extended period of time are a little different.

When asked what people get wrong about long-term travel, she wrote in an email, people tend to think "you have to be rich, you have to know the language, you have to be with someone else, you can only take short vacations, not live there ..."

However, she's managed to sustain herself for five years without being a fluent speaker of multiple languages, without a trust fund, and mostly by herself.

When she's traveling, she said, in a typical day, "I attempt to get around in another language, I buy my food from the markets, get around on interesting modes of transportation, meet new people, experience the culture, see something breathtaking, amazing, and/or incredible, have a beer, and wake up to do the same the next day."

However, to support this lifestyle, "work is inevitable, despite what story the photo might portray. This life isn't always easy to maintain. It's a constant flow of challenges that you have to overcome, but it's worth every drop of sweat, tears, and beers."

 

 on

 

In Rishikesh, India.

Ragusa arrived in Bangkok in May 2011 with $6,000 in her pocket — thanks to two years of saving — and with a newly minted TEFL certification she'd gotten in the US, certifying her to teach English. She was able to get a teaching job north of the city within days, and ended up teaching for two semesters.

In 2012, she picked up two unexpected jobs: teaching English online, and freelance writing. "Because I fell into those two jobs accidentally, I learned that even if you're not sure how something is going to go down, if you keep searching, take risks on what you go for, and make a solid effort, you can really make something happen," she said.

Now, Ragusa is based in Australia, where she's working as a bartender and in a surf shop to save up more cash for a camper van trip across the continent.

"Everyone wants to know how I'm able to do this, but ironically, I never had a clue myself how to live this life," she said. "Through my initial travels, I met people and inquired, I researched endlessly, I took risks, I leaped before looking a few times, and I've failed miserably along the way."

SEE ALSO: A 31-year-old who's been traveling the world for 5 years explains how she affords it

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