Travel Planning and Stress

Ask anybody, I’m one of those people who enjoys travel planning, and end up packing each day with things to do.

I would want to sight-see, eat lunch at a place I checked out on Yelp, then go see a live music performances in a consecutive four hours of activity. I would constantly check my watch to see what’s next on my itinerary.

If this sounds familiar, raise your hand.

I mean, I try not to plan every single second of the trip, but I just get so excited that I want to do everything with every second of travel.

But if you’re anything like me, then doing activity one day after another can get overwhelming very quickly. This is especially true in the case of me planning several outings in the same day.

You do things up to the point where it doesn’t feel like vacation any more.

… Not only that…

When you travel with other people (like my boyfriend), things are not going to be on schedule all the time.

The bus is late. There is traffic. The event is longer than expected. Someone has a sudden emergency. The weather is doing its own thing. It goes on.

I’ve planned and planned trips around the world, and we have missed so many of those heavily planned days because it simply doesn’t always work out

How to Save Yourself

In situations like these, it is important to realize that everything will be okay. There’s nothing that needs to be done while your on vacation.

First. Don’t be like me. Don’t pack everything you want to do in all seven days of vacation. Leave a day or two free to just do anything that catches your fancy, spontaneity is half the fun. If you’re not a spontaneous person, then at least leave several of your mornings or nights free to kick back and relax.

Second. Realize that you stressing out makes it less enjoyable for everyone else. Nobody likes being rushed. Plan with plenty of time to spare in between to get ready. If you can’t relax and chill, group travel probably not for you.

Third. Always be ready for your plan to fail. Have one or two thing that you have to do (like going to a Queen + Adam Lambert concert), and plan for that.

Fourth. Wander around. You’ll definitely find something worthy of spending time to do.

Isn’t it the plan to spend time relaxing and pampering yourself anyway?


Thanks for reading, here are some posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge you might like!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Japan (for Beginners)

Whether you’re an avid manga reader, or lover of Japanese culture, or just fascinated about Japanese technology, there is always something mystifying and beautiful about Japan that draws millions of tourists in the past decade.

Today, I’m thrilled to share one of my three favorite cultures encountered while traveling: Japan. This is a three part series response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge, so please check out the rest of my responses!

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Japan for Beginners

Who is this Guide For? 

This guide is for anyone and everyone to peruse. Though, I am writing it specifically for:

  • People who have general knowledge of Japan and want to catch a glimpse of the magnificent country in 3 weeks.
  • People who like cool technology and want to see it in person.
  • People who like anime, but want to know what real life Japanese culture is like.
  • People who like adventures, because really is one big adventure.

When to Go

The timing of going to Japan is very important as it could change your itinerary completely. Japan is a very versatile country. On top of a million reasons to visit the country, here some highlights of seasonal activities in Japan.

  • Winter for the hot springs and skiing/snowboarding.
  • Spring for the famous and beautiful Cherry Blossoms.
  • Summer for the fireworks and climbing Mt. Fuji.
  • Autumn for the beautiful foliage amidst Japanese culture.

Japanese Festivals (Matsuri) occur year round, entailing large parades, floats, food, traditional clothing, and costumes. Each shrine has its own local festival, so you will encounter one unique to the location you are visit.

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Transportation

Japan is mostly accessible by plane, where tickets are typically quite expensive to buy, unless you could find the cheap off season ticket deal. Throughout the year, there are various Japan flight deals from theflightdeal.com, as little as $600 for a roundtrip ticket!

Once you’re in the country, there are railway systems everywhere. Tokyo Metro is the subway system of Tokyo, taking you anywhere you need with in 30 minutes. Be mindful of the time though, because unlike NYC subways, this one is not open 24/7. These are much more economical than taking a taxi, as those could run you a hundred dollars. We had to take the taxi on hour first night in Japan because our flight had arrived too late and the metro had closed.wp-image-1577289470

If you want to catch a good glimpse of Japan in a short amount of time, I highly recommend purchasing the Japan Rail (JR) Pass, which was by far the most expensive thing we bought (about $200/pass). However, it is entirely worth it to ride a bullet train (on my bucket list) and cruise through the country within hours. They also have an option for regional passes, which are more economical. 

Luckily, through Couchsurfing, we met our good friend Keisuke, who had a car and showed us around Yokohama for a couple of days.

Biking is a great way to explore the streets of Japan, especially while exploring architecture in the rural areas. Imagine riding around Kyoto on a beautiful afternoon by beautiful temples in the Autumn. /sigh

Useful Things to Bring

If you’re traveling with backpack, check out my comprehensive guide to what to pack! However, I just want to reiterate the importance of bringing:

  • Smartphone, with pre-installed:
    • Google Translate
    • Google Maps

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Walking down the streets of Tokyo, there are minimal amounts of English in writing or speaking. We heavily relied on our translation apps, including when we interacted with our Couchsurf friend.

Accommodations

Generally, accommodations in Japan are cheaper than the United States, but only by a smidge.

Airbnbs

For those who aren’t familiar with this site, it is a fantastic accommodation option for travelers to stay with hosts (though still like a hotel, because all bedding and linen are provided). We used Airbnb throughout our travel in Japan. Without knowing language or pricing in Japan, Airbnb provided us an authentic, cheap, and no nonsense stay with our hosts. Do get $40 off your first stay with Airbnb through our referral link here!

Capsule Hotel

Sleeping in a Japanese Capsule Hotel is exactly as it sounds, and has always been on my bucket list. I finally had my chance! Surprisingly, it not as cheap as you would expect, pricing around $30 to $50 per capsule. It features exciting amenities of a tiny door with blinds, a tiny TV, and a tiny desk to eat on!

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Manga Kissa

Have you slept in a manga book store before? It’s actually quite common in Japan! The pads in our private cubby makes a great bed for tired souls. This was our chance to take a break from wandering, and sit, read manga, cruise the internet, and sleep.

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Where to Go

Tokyo

Tokyo is the capital of Japan. One of the the most populated urban areas in the world, and a giant hub for technology, business, travel, culture, foods, weirdness, and much more. Tokyo is made up of several large districts with its own character.

  • Akihabara– electronic, anime, video games center.
  • Shibuya– temples, culture, foods. Don’t forget to check out the Shibuya Crossing (just a really busy pedestrian crossing that looks like a giant ant colony collision from above)
Kyoto-Osaka-Nara

Do visit the Kyoto-Osaka-Nara for the rich, authentic culture and traditions. The temples are beautiful and palaces magnanimous.

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Hiroshima

We were touched by the remnants of the Hiroshima bombing during World War II. Such a sad history for such a beautiful city. We were taken through a heart throbbing journey of recovery. History class lecture is nothing like being in the city itself.

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Things to Do

  • Check out the Tokyo Tower! It’s essentially a version of the Eiffel Tower, except it’s 13 meter taller!
Explore Culture and Temples

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  • Asakusa Temples – this area features a variety of beautiful temples. Traditional foods and souvenir items are bountiful here as well!

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Explore strange, but cool things in Japan
  • Cup Noodle Museum – We made our own cup noodles!!! I’ve been a huge fan of Ramen since my youth. Now, I finally made my own unique label and packaging (and eating it!), standing in front of the wall of ramen– feels amazing.

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  • Robot Restaurant – possibly the craziest dinner show I’ve ever been to. Our tickets were $40/person (includes dinner and drinks). No regrets, because this gave me just the experience of Japan that I expected. See my post on our adventures at the Robot Restaurant here!

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  • Vending Machines – Ramen vending machine? Yes, please!

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  • Who wants a black burger?

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  • Using the Toilet is an adventure in itself. No English to indicate whether or not there’s going to be water splashed up my butt. Awesome.
Feed your nerdy interests:
  • Ghibli Museum (anime fan) – Upon going to Japan, I knew I had to visit Studio Ghibli. I’m a huge fan of the animated films and their soundtracks. The studio is as amazing as I imagined!! Don’t forget to order your tickets early, as they are booked out veryyyy far back. <3 Let me know when you go!

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  • Manga Kissa – Rows on rows on rows of manga! *drools*

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  • Pokemon Center – My favorite starter Pokemon, Torchick!

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  • Hop on the Hogwarts Express at Harry Potter World!!!

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Feed your love for cute things:
  • Hello, Kitty!

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  • Maid Cafe

What to Eat

Great Tea Kit Kats – 258 yens ($2.30 dollars), whereas in the US could run up to $6/bag. If you’ve never heard of this, it may sound a little weird to you, but they are so delicious.

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Sushi – What’s Japan without Sushi? Even though we’re vegetarian, there were awesome options for us on the Sushi belt! 

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Soba Noodles, Ramen, and Tempura

Dango (Sweet Japanese Dumplings)- if you’ve seen Clannad, you’ll know what I’m talking about. wp-image-86198478

Onigiri (Rice balls) – sold across all 7/11, possibly one of  my favorite Japanese foods, it is so delicious. A perfect snack with all the ingredients I love.

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Fun Culture Facts

  • Walking and eating is frowned upon. We ate our home-cooked meal out of a grocery bag on the sidewalk.
  • Tokyo Metro rush hour in Japan is BAD, even comparable to NYC rush hour subway. The trains are so cramped! The best way to step into the cart is by facing the other direction and stepping in, so that no awkward looks pass as you shove yourself into the crowd. Very professional.

While there is an endless amount of things I could write about Japan, I would love to hear any questions, stories, and comments you all have! I would happy to write more or clarify, and especially to hear your thoughts! 

Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

These awesome people are also doing the challenge!!! Click to see their stories!

 

One Lovely Blog Award!

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I would like to give the biggest, warmest hug to Avid Observer for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award. If you don’t know the Avid Observer, go check ’em out! Their blog features thought provoking life lessons, that are both humorous and inspiring! 

A Giant Thank You to you all. These bloggers posses their own unique styles of representing their thoughts. Do make sure to visit their Lovely blogs.

Rules:

  • Each nominee must thank the person who nominated them and link their blog in their post.
  • They must include the rules and add the blog award badge as an image.
  • Must add 7 facts about themselves.
  • Nominate 15 people to do the award!

7 Fun / interesting facts about me:

  • I believe that success in life is defined by: Experiences, Pursuing your Passions, Family and Friends, Learning/Improving/Evolving, Food, Travel, Music. PS: money is not part of the equation.
  • My current hobbies: Blogging, Cooking, Photography, Broadway Shows, TV Shows (Series of Unfortunate Events)
  • My favorite websites to peruse when I’m bored are: Quora, Daily Flight Deals, educational and self-improvement sites and articles. I believe social media is a huge time-drainer- I unfortunately use them more than I’d like. /sigh.

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  • I am Vietnamese, born in the Philippines, and live in the United States. My parents were refugees from the war and I am forever thankful of the life they gave me. I’m hoping to write a book called The Refugees’ Daughter (or The Refugee’s Child – which title is better??)
  • I have been vegetarian/vegan all my life. My mom is best chef in the world, and I’m still learning.
  • Though I’m not a great writer, I love to write. I organize my thoughts through writing, and would be lost without my journal. Most of my thoughts come out as a page full of hectic, gibberish writing, but it makes me productive. I was freaking out on the bus to NYC when I had forgotten my notebook at home (18 hours by bus away). PS: electronic journalism will never replace my physical notebooks. 

My Nominees:

Shout out to all my nominees! You guys are awesome, let’s have some fun!! <3

 

Spread the LOVE 🙂

 

An Open Letter to Worried Parents

This is a bilingual blog post. Please scroll down to read in English!


Thưa ba mẹ,

Ba mẹ mới nghe cái quyết định cuộc sống mới nhất của con, va không hài lòng.

Trước khi ba mẹ nghĩ đây la ngu xuẫn và ngừng đọc, xin hãy nghe con nối xong. Con hiểu sụ lo láng của ba mẹ.

Tư khi con con nhỏ, ba mẹ luôn ỏ ben cạnh con. Ba mẹ đả nui lón con suốt 23 năm nay. Ba mẹ ỏ ben cạnh con trong lúc con mới biết đi và té, lúc con thành cong va thất bại. Ba mẹ lầm quá giò đễ cung cấp cho su khỏe mạnh, học hành, va co hội không giới hạn cua con.

Bỏi vi vạy, ba mẹ muốn con đi cái con đường an toàn nhất trong cuộc đời.

Từ lúc nhỏ, ba me lúc nào cung phải đóng vai trò người xấu, cực liệt phản đối nhửng gì con muốn làm. Chỉ là muốn con đi con đường đúng. Ba mẹ sợ những gì không chác chắn. Không biết con có một kế hoạch hay không. Không biết con có an toàn không. Không biết ba mẹ có nên ngan cảng con ve những “quyết định nguy hiểm đó không”.

Ba mẹ còn có thể làm gì? Ngoại trừ nói “Không!” đến những gì con muốn?

Bây giờ, con đã nói với ba mẹ, ba mẹ nghe nhu con đi trên một cái roller coaster mà không có đeo dây an toàn. Điều mà một người ngu xuẩn cũng thấy được đó là một cái ý ngu ngốc. Vì vậy, ba mẹ lập tức không cho.

Nhưng đợi một chút.

Nếu con có thể có một chút thời gian để cho ba mẹ xem… để giúp ba mẹ nhìn từ quan điểm của con

Con đã trưởng thành.

Mặc du con đã đủ tuổi để tự quyết định, nhưng con vẫn cồn muốn nói với ba mẹ mọi thứ.

Đó là vì con tôn trọng ba mẹ và muốn hỏi ý kiến ​​của ba mẹ. Con rất vui khi chia sẻ tin tức mới  với ba mẹ. Con muốn ba mẹ là một phần của cuộc đời con.

Nếu con theo một con đường an toàn không trở ngại trong cuộc đời, thì con sẽ học được gì? Con sẽ hiểu và cảm kích được gì? Mặt khác, nếu con không nói với ba mẹ? Điều gì sẽ xảy ra nếu thay vì con nối với ba mẹ, con làm những điều con muốn trong bí mật?

Bởi vì con đã chọn con đường của con, con đã trưởng thành, trở nên hợp lý hơn, cảm kích cược song hơn, thể hiện sự đánh giá cao trong bạn bè, trải qua những khó khăn thực sự mà con sẽ không có nếu con đã theo con đường mà ba mẹ đã chọn cho con.

Con đã tiến bộ về sự giao tiếp và sự quyết định của con.

Hay nhất là, con đã trở nên khôn ngoan hơn và sáng suốt. Con đã phát triển vượt ra ngoài cái, “kiếm được nhiều tiền.” Con luôn nghĩ đến cách làm tốt một cách đọc đáo. Để tạo ra một thế giới tốt đẹp hơn và cuộc sống tốt đẹp hơn. Đây không phải là những gì ba mẹ muốn cho con hây sao?

Người ta nối, không ai có thể biết làm ba mẹ là thế nào trước khi họ có con. Và đó là lý do con rất cảm ơn ba mẹ ỏ bên cạnh con. Ba mẹ đã làm rất tốt!

Con cũng biết là những ai theo nhửng đâm mê của họ thì sẽ hạnh phúc.

Ba mẹ đã cho con cuộc sống này, bây giờ ba mẹ có thể cho phép con sống nó được không?

sunset

 


Dear Parents,

You just heard about my latest big life decision, and are displeased.

Before you think this is stupid and stop reading, please hear me out. I understand where you’re coming from.

Ever since I was little, you were there. You’ve raised me all these years. You’ve been there through all my toddles and tumbles, my successes and failures. You have worked overtime to make sure I am healthy, finish my education, and have unlimited opportunities.  

Because of that, you want me to take the safest, smartest route in life as possible.

You’ve had to always play the bad guy, always strongly opposing the things I want to do. Just to make sure I’m taking the right path. You’re terrified of uncertainty. Not knowing if I have a plan or if I am going places with my life. Not knowing if I am safe. Not knowing if you should be stopping me from these “reckless decisions.”

What else can you do? Except to consistently say “No!” to my endless list of desires?

Now, I’ve just told you, what seems to you like going on a roller coaster without a seatbelt. What a no-brainer could see that it is a stupid idea. So you instantly say no.

But wait.

If I can have a moment to show you… to help you see from my perspective…

I am mature.

I am old enough to make my own decision, but I choose to tell you everything.

It’s because I respect you and ask for your opinions. I’m excited to share my news with you. I want you to be a part of my life.  

If I follow a safe unchallenged path in my life, what will I learn? What will I understand and appreciate? On the flip side, what if I didn’t tell you? What if instead of communicating, I choose to do all these in secret?

Because I have chosen my path, I have grown, become more reasonable, more appreciative, shown great judgement in friends, undergone real hardships that I would not have had if I had followed a life you chose for me.

I have developed great communication skills and decision making skills.

Best of all, I have become wiser. I have developed far beyond “making lots of money.” I’m constantly thinking of ways to be outside the box. To make a better world and a better life. Isn’t that what you’ve been waiting for?

They say you don’t know what it’s like to be a parent until you have kids. I admit that it’s true. I cannot truly know, and that’s why I am so thankful to have you by my side. You’ve done a great job!

What I do know, is that those who follow their hearts are happier.

You gave me this life, now will you give me blessing to live it?

sunset


Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

These awesome people are also doing the challenge!!! Click to see their stories!

 

Impressive Structures Around the World

While I haven’t seen nearly enough, I am always thankful to visit someplace new. Here are some of my highlights of noteworthy structures around the world. 

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Piazza San Marco, Venice
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Museum in Paris
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Thai temples
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Parisian streets
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Cambodian Temples

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Thanks for passing by my page! Here are some other posts you might like!

Via Photo Challenge: Structure

3-Month Backpacking Trip: What’s in my bag?

Welcome back, my travel enthusiast fellows!

Packing for a backpacking trip overseas can be a gruesome task. In my experience, my biggest problem has always been over-packing. I remember, because when I studied abroad in Singapore, I brought two large suitcases full of things with me. I didn’t use most of them. When I decided to travel in Japan, I had to lug around my two giant suitcases, which became a huge pain.

Nowadays, over-packing would be detrimental in the long run as I carry all my possessions on my back. Over time, I’ve cut down the stuff I take from 2 luggages to 1 backpacking bag and 1 day bag. Like so: IMG_0454Without further ado….

What’s in my bag?

Previously in my post on Ways to Budget Travel, I’ve mentioned my love for my Osprey 48 liter bag + waterproof cover. Here, I just want to emphasize how important proper gear is to traveling.

I specifically chose this size because it easily fits into all airline carry on cabins. Especially with budget flights, I can just pack it up and just bring it in as a carry on without having to pay for a luggage. The state-of-the-art suspension system made all my material possessions in my bag feel weightless, and is a lot easier on my back.

Best price of $130 at Amazon!

I am a minimalist in the things I pack when traveling. I also like to under pack to buy some clothes in the country I’m traveling as souvenir. 😉 Because I carry everything in my bags, I like to keep all my clothes and accessories as lightweight as possible.

  • 1x stuff sack
  • 5x shirts (3 tank tops for comfort/going out, 2 formal)
  • 1x water resistant jacket
  • 1x stuffable dawn jacket (I highly recommend getting these for ultra lightweight and warmth)
  • 2x pants (1 comfort, 1 going out) 
  • 3x shorts
  • 3x dresses
  • 4x socks (sporty and comfortable)
  • 1x scarf/shawl
  • Underwear (lots)
  • 1x shoes
  • 1x flip flops
  • Waterproof bag set (for water activities)
  • Safety pins/needle and thread
  • Multi-tool knife
  • Duct tape
  • Ropes
  • Headlamp
  • Ao dai – since I’m planning on celebrating Vietnamese New Year, Tet, in Vietnam, I’m bringing my custom made ao dai. I don’t typically bring this on my trips! Here’s a picture for reference!

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First Aid Kit – whatever brand or name you use, here is the gist of medications you want to take with you.

  • Anti-diarrhea
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Band-aid
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Allergy
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Pain reliever
  • Anti-mosquito/anti-itch cream (tropical countries)

Paperwork – I like to keep all of my paperwork in zip lock bag to protect them from water damage

  • Printout/screenshots of plane tickets 
  • Passport book/card (+2 photocopies to bring on day/night trips)
  • Vaccination records (depending on country)
  • Visas (Vietnam, for example)
  • Copy of TEFL certificate (If I plan to teach while abroad)

Travel cards

  • Capital One Quicksilver – 1.5% cashback on all purchases, no foreign transaction fees, no annual fees
  • Charles Schwab – no ATM fees, no foreign transaction fees worldwide. With this card, you can withdraw from anywhere at any ATM!

Day Bag

ADDITIONAL GEAR: IF YOU PLAN ON HARDCORE BACKPACKING + CAMPING

  • Camping tent and poles (poles can go on side straps, tent can go on bottom straps); I loved our Marmot tent because of lightweight and the air flow system. We had taken it on our trip to the freezing top of a volcano and survived thanks to it. The high price is worth the durability. 
Best Price at Amazon for $189.90

Final thoughts

Whether you’re traveling short term or long term, I hope that my list has helped you. Thanks so much for reading! I’d also like to know what you have in your bag. Let me know in comments below- Cheers!

Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

These awesome people are also doing the challenge!!! Click to see their stories!

 

Pensacola vs Destin, FL: A Rogue Guide and Comparison

My parents are workaholics. They are constantly busy and doing something, remodeling our business, upgrading our house, working, etc. When I over dramatize our family situation, I tend to say that they neglect us kids. Our last full family vacation was over 3 years ago, when we took a trip to Myrtle Beach, SC. For those who don’t know, Myrtle Beach is an okay beach that everyone in my area likes to go to because it’s the best we have around my small town. Isn’t that what life kind of is though?

As I mentioned in my latest reflection, this year, I had my way in planning a trip to Pensacola and Destin, FL! I’m beyond psyched because I loooove trip planning. The prospect of being away from the stress at home, seeing someplace new (a white-sand, clear-water beach on the Gulf of Mexico no less), and staying at a hotel or condo (we get really excited when we get to sleep somewhere new) was overwhelming. Even if it was a 7 hour drive, it was worth it to spend some relaxing time with the family.

Now, also keep in mind that planning at family trip is very different from a solo backpacker trip. My usual travel style in my other post isn’t applied to these vacation as my family’s tolerance for discomfort and inconvenience is very low.

Trip Highlights

The Beach: What Everybody Comes For

The two most popular Pensacola beaches are: the Casino Beach and the Quietwater Beach. Both beaches are full of tourists (like us) in the water. Beach umbrellas costs $40 to use until 6pm. Being adventurous that we are, as soon as we took a break from swimming, we explored the island strip. One end of the island is the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which charges a small $6 entry fee for a day. The other end of the island is littered with large hotels and bountiful amounts of condos. About 10 minutes in driving on eastwards of the island, we start to see pull-offs where people park for beach access. Yes! We finally found the empty beaches where we could have it (almost) to ourselves! There were never more than 10 people in our sight!

 

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Our beach access in Destin was a short 10 minute walk from the condo. There was enough distance between us and our neighbor swimmers that we had plenty of room to swim. In the afternoon, it gets pretty crowded, but not nearly as much as Pensacola’s 2 main beaches. The fish were smaller and more sparse than Pensacola. The waves were bigger than Pensacola’s, perfect for body surfing.

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Result: Admittedly, the water condition depends on the day that you’re going. Both beaches are beautiful and full of sea life. If I had to choose, I would go with Pensacola beaches. The sea life is plentiful, pretty water, nice private beaches. However, I want to strongly reiterate that Destin waves were excellent for body surfing!

Things to Do Around Here???

To get to the beaches in Pensacola, we have to cross two bridges. The first bridge gives us access to a part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, which we didn’t get a chance to visit because we were more interested in seeing the Pensacola beaches. This strip does have plenty of great restaurant options to try! At the end of the second beach is the entrance to Pensacola. Each car pays a small toll of $1 to enter Pensacola. Things to do in Pensacola are sparse, it has a lot of interesting restaurants, but for the real things to do, we would have to go to the mainland.

From the north, there are two ways to enter Destin, one with about a $10 toll and another is free. We entered through the $10 toll road, and left through the free route. Both took the same time, so it was annoying that we didn’t plan our route well enough to avoid tolls. Luckily, there are much more things to do in Destin. So many shopping malls, restaurants, and also a very nice boardwalk!

Result: With way more things to do and an option for no toll entrance, Destin wins this round!

Our Lodging: Hotel vs. Condo

We traveled to Pensacola right after Independence Day and on a weekend. The rooms were expensive at $99-$120/night. We stayed at an Econolodge, with was the cheapest option nearby with free breakfast available. It took about 25 minutes to drive to beach, which isn’t bad. Again, we haven’t taken a vacation in years, so anything is better than nothing. 😉

We rented our first condo ever in Destin! We booked it through VRBO, which turned out to be cheaper than most of the hotel options available! It came up to $500 for our short 3 day stay for six of us. It was quite expensive (for me), but I would say it was entirely worth it for the 10-minute walk to the beach. We had washer/dryer, kitchen, a full bathroom, and TVs. It was a wonderful experience and would not trade it for anything. My mom was so happy about the kitchen that she gets to cook in for all of us.

Result: Since we did not have a constant variable here, I will just say that if you have a chance to book a condo- do it!!! The amenities are worth it!

Overall

Thanks for reading my little blurb! I hope you enjoyed it and hope that I have somewhat helped your vacation out, too. I value every trip I take with my family, as we don’t spend all that much time together. I loved seeing my brother and sisters freak out at the beach. Any amount of time and money at this paradise would be worth it. If I had to choose, Destin would be my choice for us. With condo options, we had all the amenities we needed.

 

The Most Unforgettable Adventures!

Welcome back, fellow travel enthusiasts!

This week, I’d like to share some of my best adventures while traveling! I have always considered myself lucky and forever thankful that I have had so many opportunities to see someplace new.

When people ask me where I get all the money to travel… well, I don’t. I really don’t have much money. In my post on how I travel cheaply, I talked more about ways I save.

Still, I have never regretted a single dollar spent on traveling. Here are some priceless memories I’ve had from my adventures.

Studying Abroad in Singapore

I know this may seem cheesy and a cliché, but studying abroad in Singapore was one of my favorite adventures.

It was where I lived overseas for the first time. I was scared, homesick, and constantly active with all the planned school activities. I made some very close friends there, where I bonded with other international students.

We shared our immersive cultural experience and struggles at the university. We explored fun night adventures, and always looked out for each other. If you get an opportunity to study abroad, I would 5000% recommend it!

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Best of all, in the convenient location of my university, I was able to take trips around Southeast Asia during school breaks. While I was in Singapore, I had the opportunity to visit Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia! Afterwards, I took the opportunity to backpack around Southeast Asia. I guess you could say that Singapore had started my travel bug.

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Full Moon Party in Thailand

Have you ever been to the Full Moon Party in Thailand?

We’ve all heard of it. Every month, tens of thousands of people flock to Koh Phangan to celebrate the full moon party. I have always loved dancing, and that night, I truly danced the night away. I danced the entire coastline and back. People standing in each other’s space, filling up the beach, sharing food and drinks.

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It’s a night for a spontaneity and fun.

National Parks in the USA

I always feel ashamed when people ask me whether I’ve been here or there in the United States. I have neglected traveling my own country until most recently, my boyfriend and I took a trip around the United States. We had a National Parks pass and had visited every single National Park on our way in the US. I’ve never realized how beautiful our country was! Here are some of my favorite hike photos.

Working for Stay While Abroad

Have you ever worked while abroad? We primarily use HelpX. But there are other great resources for work! In our work, we exchange work for our stay. While in Mexico, we lived in cabins by the sea and received guests coming in via cruise ships every week! We met other work for stay travelers as well as partied with locals. Unforgettable memories indeed!

Wandering Around New York City

I’m sure I’ve worn you guys with my endless stories of New York, but it is honestly one of my best adventures yet. We had just returned from our backpacking trip in Central America and decided to move to NYC. In New York, I had my first corporate job on Wall Street, I found my first apartment, paid my first utility bills. I had to figure out how to adult very, very quickly because it is a very expensive city to mess up in. 

I have very fond memories of figure out how to use the subway, walking and biking around the city, going to job interviews, eating cheap food, seeing Broadway shows, and many, many more.

Korea has my Seoul

Second only to NYC, Seoul has the coolest energy I’ve ever felt. The culture is so authentic and unique. The people so colorful, bright, and happy. Everyone is dressed super cute. And street food! Tons of loooovely street foods!! 

The country was beautiful, the food exotic, and energy out of this world. I want to revisit sooo bad.

You might also like some of my other adventure posts:


Thanks for visiting my little corner of the blogging world! What are your favorite adventures?

As I’ve shared in my latest reflection, I have started my journey with my 2nd remote job. The past weeks, I have been training and getting in the groove of work, so I haven’t adventured (or write) as much, but I really appreciate all the support from my lovely travel blogging friends and readers!

Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

These awesome people are also doing the challenge!!! Click to see their stories!

 

Gross/Disgusting Travel Stories

Welcome back, my fellow travel enthusiasts!


This week, I’d like to share some of the grossest and most disgusting things that has happened to me while traveling. (I apologize in advance if I grossed you out with this post)

This one’s a difficult one to write, because it takes a lot to gross me out. I’m a very laid-back traveler, could eat from a (clean) floor and sleep in a hole if I needed to.

So what in my travels has given me the irks?

My first thoughts came back to the time I had almost died on my motorbike. I thought of the image of how my wounds had infected, pussed, healed, infected- and repeat- for about a week because of my constant activity. Then I thought of how I had witnessed a ping pong show in Thailand, in a “when in Bangkok” night out with my friends. Which after a lot of contemplation, I decided that I did not want to write about because it did not contribute informatively or positively to my blog.

Generally, the easiest way to gross people out is through dirtiness, unfortunate gory events, and food.

Finally, I decided with my specialty. Food.

You see, Southeast Asians are very creative when it comes to food. As a food enthusiast, let me introduce you to some of the grosses foods I’ve encountered while living in Southeast Asia.

I should give a full disclosure that I am vegetarian, and have been vegetarian all my life! I have been exposed to these foods through culture, friends, family, and travel. Take my input with a grain of salt.

Number 1: Balut (Fermented Embryo)

Hailing from the country I was born in, Philippines. Balut, hột vịt lộn, fertilized duck embryo is EGGxactly as it sounds, HA!

You may have heard of this one, or may have even encountered and tried it! Fertilized egg, boiled, and served is one of the most famous strange delicacies in the Philippines and Vietnam.

You can even hear and feel the crunch and slither of the baby duck in your mouth. Ooh!

Image result for balutAs you can see from the photo, there is plenty of juice in the egg to have a sip of it to get the full experience. This gem is typically enjoyed with beer. Check out an this guy eating his first balut with locals’ guidance!

Number 2: Tarantula

Tarantula is a famous street delicacy in Cambodia (and I’ve also seen these on Thailand’s streets). They’re usually deep fried, but I’ve also seen them eaten alive before! Spiders were eaten dating back to the Khmer Rouge days, where food were in short supply. Image result for fried tarantulaOften times, you can still their little tarantula hairs sticking out! I’ve never eaten these (being vegetarian), but they have been described by my friends as “tasting like chicken.”

Number 3: Deep fried insects & grub

One step up (or down?) from tarantulas are all the other critters. Scorpions, crickets, cockroaches, larvae, you name it. I saw hundreds of these vendors on the streets of Bangkok. Often times, with signs saying “pay to take picture.”

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Number 4: Libido boosting foods

  • Snake Wine
    • It turns out that using snakes as medicine can help clear a lot of illnesses. In the case of snake wine, snakes are stuffed and fermented in rice wine until its poison seeps throughout the jar.
    • Sounds cruel right? Well, fun fact: in 2013, a snake that has been fermented for 3 months jumped out and bit a woman who had wanted to take a swig of the medicinal wine.
    • In all seriousness, stuffing/drowning snakes in a jar is inhumane and illegal- one of the few souvenirs to avoid while on vacation.

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  • Penises and testicles of deer, snake, bull are believed to provide plenty of energy. There are restaurants upon restaurants dedicated to this wonder of a treatment. Gross. Image result for penis restaurant

Number 4: Grass juice

  • I first encountered grass juice in Thailand, where everybody was drinking it like it was the elixir of life.
  • Only upon research did I find out that there were health benefits to drinking wheat grass.

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You may have heard of the telltale infamous/famous Durian.

Personally, I love durian. It’s one of those foods that you just have to get accustomed to! But it’s smell is possibly one of the most pungent in this entire world. It is also very suitable as a weapon (average cause of fatality per year: 1). If you get your hands on it, do try!

Did you try any of these foods? Would you?

I’ve always loved watching Bizzare Foods. These foods makes a great story and challenge. Very mind opening to know there are those who eat like that across the world. It’s not to say that other countries don’t have any crazy cuisines, but Southeast Asia certainly trumps it for me.


That’s all folks!! What did you think? What are some gross travel stories you have?

Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

 

These awesome people are also doing the challenge!!! Click to see their stories!

Summer Reflections!!!

Hi everyone!!! ~~~

I’d like to thank all my readers and travel blogging companions for all the wonderful interactions through the summer. This community has been so helpful in shaping my goals, interests, and writing. I’m incredibly happy to have kick-started my blogging project over the year, and writing has been a constant source of stress relief and support.

I like to write reflections from time to time to remind myself what goals I have and where I’m at in my life. During these time in my moods, I tend to get existential, and rant about all the things I could do better. Let’s see then, shall we?

Some mini-milestones I’ve passed this summer!

Took a family vacation (We haven’t had one in years! Post to come…) to Florida, gulf side. Wow, are the beaches there beautiful.

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Started my 2nd remote job. My office is set up right in my bedroom. I was so surprised when I received my equipment set: laptop, backdrop, camera, etc. I am so thrilled to be part of this work-from-home team. Honestly, before I got my 1st remote job as an English instructor, I never knew these things existed.

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Saw Queen in New York! Who knew that I would get to be in the same breathing space as the rocking legends? Adam Lambert was fantastic. They threw a spectacular show unlike any other concert. I was up and dancing pretty much the whole way. While we’re there, we also saw some awesome shows: Regina Spektor, Dear Evan Hansen, Great Comet, Waitress

 

Went on a 3-day timeshare vacation. We’ve all heard of the horror stories and how people get stuck in these presentation for 4+ hours! We got out more than alive, loved it, and will be coming back. Aaaaand, we didn’t buy any timeshares. 😉

Hope you enjoyed my shiny new adventures! Don’t forget to let me know what you think.



Fun travels aside, these few months, I’ve been struggling with some thoughts and issues that I’d like to share. Maybe I’ll have some input from all of you.

I’ve pondering whether or not I could be doing more, career-wise. Should I give in to one of those boring 9-5 office jobs, but pays more and is more professional?

Doing something to make a difference should be today’s form of currency.

Graduate school? I’ve been constantly asked whether or not I want to go. It’s not that I don’t want to go, but the risk of spending $100K on getting a piece of paper when I could be learning from all these available online resources doesn’t make sense to me. I was fortunate enough to graduate college without debt, and I love that. I’m able to use all my hard-earned money for things I love to do. But then, there’s always that pressure from people to get an advanced degree. What’s the right answer?

I could improve….

I’m so sorry, everyone! I’ve been so off my game with keeping up with blog posts. Honestly, doing a weekly post is harder to keep up with than I could ever imagine. I admire my fellow blog challenge friends who schedule their posts. To make up for it, I’ll share this picture

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Another thing I need to keep in mind: languages and learning! I’m constantly trying to remind myself to practice my Spanish and Chinese, the languages I learned in high school and college. There are so many free online resources, yet I’m so lazy and complacent, that I’ve been slowly forgetting all these awesome lessons.

Also, music! I keep forgetting in my moments of most stress, I could be learning some new tunes on my uke, guitar, keyboards.


What are some of your goals and reflections the last few months? Cheers!

My Five Favorite Travel Blogs- Travel Blogging Challenge- Week 8

Welcome back, travel enthusiasts! 

This week’s challenge highlights some bloggers you might not know who may have some awesome tips for traveling.

First of all, I want to highlight my fellow blogging mates: Julie, Vicky, Aly, Emily, and Ben (see their links on the bottom of this post). They have been amazing, unique, and especially timely with their challenge prompts. I’m ashamed to say that they are waaaayyyy better than me in keeping up with their blogs. They have awesome travel stories to tell, and I always enjoy reading their blogs. Please check them out!! IMAG5939-EFFECTS

I enjoy reading a lot of budget, authentic, solo, female, unique/strange traveling writing. There are so many different writers. So many different writing styles.. a different… texture. So much to learn. The more I read, the more I learn and apply different techniques on my blog. The more I write, the better I get at writing. I’m going to list a few of my favorite traveling blogs for you all to peruse. 😉

  • Two Brown Feet – This couple is currently residing in South Korea (one of my favorite countries), with tons of useful tips of the country. They write humorous anecdotes of their misadventures with meaningful lessons learned. Excellent blog to relax and read. Awesome photos too!
  • Drew Binsky – I want to be more like Drew! His blog is well organized, has a clear mission of helping other travelers like him. His posts are very informative, with no filter. When I read his blog, I just continue clicking links and keep reading. He doesn’t hold anything back, which is awesome!
  • This is Youth – Daniel’s “About” page says it all. He seems like a very laid-back, chill guy. Traveler, blogger, reader/reviewer, and enjoys hiking. He has numerous useful tips and stories.
  • Halfhazard Wanderer – Not your typical travel blogger as she writes other stuff too, but her blog is definitely worth checking out as it’s very kawaii (cute!) and thought provoking. She has several travel posts and aspirations to travel and write – with plans to go on a Canadian trip really soon (have fun!).
  • Bespoke Traveler – Possibly one of my favorite bloggers. Bespoke Traveler writes their travel stories in an immersive narration, making me feel as if I’m right there, traveling in the moment. Blah, please check them out!!! <3

One of my biggest goals in this post is to connect my readers and each travel bloggers to one another, if you haven’t met each other yet. I’m super excited to finally come up with a list. I would love to connect with each and every one of you to do a blog exchange post. 😉

Do you know any amazing bloggers? Pleeaaaase share!!


Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

These awesome people are also doing the challenge!!! Click to see their stories!

 

Travel Blogging Challenge- Week 7 (Inspiration for Traveling)

There are three types of people: those who travel, those who want to travel, and those who don’t, can’t, and never will.

At 23, I’m not quite a kid and not old. People around me are getting jobs, making families, buying houses, etc. I often think to myself… what have I done with my life? What brings me satisfaction?

I would like to share my philosophy and story on why I started traveling and what nudges me to keep doing so.

Life’s too short. Optimistically, I estimate I will live another 80 years (haha, bear with me). That’s not a lot of time. My family always tells me that that’s a weird outlook on life. I grew up in a small, majority-whites town where people go to retire. People are born, raised, and live their lives there. Unfortunately, a static life not a life for me. I left. Moved to Asia, traveled the United States, backpacked Central America, moved to New York. I feel that being stationary wastes what little time I have left, which leads me to my next point.

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I want to see and  do something new everyday. Like many other parents of travelers, my parents want a stable, happy, safe life. They were 110% against my traveling. They were refugees from Vietnam, fleeing the country from oppression and seeking a better place. I understand that they would want me to go to school, get a stable job, and live my life happily. I am forever thankful for what they’ve done and proud of how far they’ve come since leaving Vietnam. I can’t say how much I respect them for their decisions. If I had lived in my small town forever, I would know nothing. There’s a million and infinity things I don’t know out there, and I want to change that.  

Beneficial to my mind and body. Travel relieves my stress. It tells me my troubles aren’t that significant in the grand scheme of things. It shows me different sides to myself that I never knew, food that I never thought I’d like, people I’d meet, ordeals I’d surpass. I pushed my body to do crazy, amazing things while traveling more than I ever did while I was at home. It’s amazing.

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What am I saving money for? Nobody knows when they’re going to lose it all. When I lost phone and wallet on a rickety bus in Guatemala, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I realized that no matter how much I save, it would still be for naught if life takes it away in a whirl of wind. I save more money, pay more bills, save more, spend more, pay more bills. The cycle is never-ending! In my life, the only thing I’ve been happy to give my money for is to travel. I never regret spending anything on a trip out of town. Now, I save my money for travel and cultural foods around the world. 😉

If I don’t do it now, I might never do it! Goals change all the time. Today, I might love traveling, tomorrow, I might not. I might lose motivation, get lazy, change directions unexpectedly, die, etc. A few years ago, my bucket list had included going to the Amazon Forest. Today, I want to go on a cruise. I changed, because I don’t want to risk getting eaten by a giant snake, a fear I didn’t have a few years back. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just a small missed opportunity. I just hope what I replace it with is a bigger jump for great adventures.

Share my travels. I’ve always loved traveling, even if alone. When I met my boyfriend, I experienced what it felt like to travel together. My horizons expanded. When I see/eat/go/read something great, I want to share it with my loved ones, and traveling is on the top of my things to share. It’s amazing to come home after a travel and cook the crazy dishes from around the world for my family to experience. I want so much to take my siblings to New York and show them how big the world can be.

My list of inspirations are endless. But that’s all for today, what are your inspirations in life and travel??? 

Hope to connect with you soon! Peace!

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Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

These awesome people are also doing the challenge!!! Click to see their stories!

 

Travel Blogging Challenge – Week  6 (Unusual Travel Activities/Photos)

Welcome back to Travel Blogging Challenge Week 6!

So many unusual travel photos and stories, where do I start?

I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to share some random pictures that I couldn’t put in any of my other posts!

When people ask me what I like to do, I would be at a lost to explain. I like to do a variety of things, especially while traveling. It’s hard because each country has it’s own personality. The activities I like to do vary from place to place. I guess that’s why I like to blog to show the different aspects that I enjoy out of my travels. I hope you enjoy it!

Number 1: Born in a refugee camp and raised in a foreign country all my life, I was not able to explore my mother land until I was 21. For the first time, I celebrated Vietnamese New Year, Tet, in the traditional dress, ao dai, and holding my red packet (of money) li xi.

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Number 2: One of my proudest travel accomplishment is the time I hiked up a 13,000 ft volcano in Guatemala, and seeing it erupt, feeling  the rumble, and being able watch the lava flow through the night.

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Beautiful views above the clouds with Acatenango

Number 3: Have you ever seen giant robots fighting as you have dinner? Only Japan would have it. Check out the time I ate at Robot Restaurant in Japan!

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Number 4: Here is me, chilling with Buddy the Bison at Yellowstone National Park.

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Number 5: Had to take this photo with these gorgeous lady-boys in Thailand! Would you have guessed that they’re men? You go, girls!

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Number 7: Scuba diving was definitely one of the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Considering it was a sketchy establishment in a developing country, and with 5 minutes of training. Much crazier than that is trying not to freak out with a giant whale shark floating just 6 feet from me. After getting a hang of not drowning, I was amazed with the coral reef below as well as the whale sharks swimming in the background!

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What are your unusual experiences? Any on your wish list?


Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

Who else is doing the challenge?

 

 

Travel Blogging Challenge – Week 5 (Top Three Cultural Foods) The Time I Ate Too Much

Food, food, food, food, food! Is what most people hear when they travel with me. In all of my travels, food plays a crucial role to my enjoyment.

As a vegetarian since birth, I’m always wary of eating out at restaurants. Luckily, I am blessed with a wonderful mother, who is the best chef in the world. However, when I hit the road, I am always excited to try other cultural foods!

As you can imagine, being a vegetarian abroad can be quite complicated. Some countries think fish and chicken are not meat, therefore, it is okay for it to be in a vegetarian meal. I have to learn some key phrases with every foreign country I visit, to convey the entirety of my vegetarian-ess. With every mistake I make, I learn a lot to have a better experience the next time.

Because of my continuously adventurous vegetarian taste buds, I have gotten to try amazing vegetarian dishes from around the world. Here are top three favorite countries’ dishes, in collage form.

  1. Korea for its crazy food inventions. I am in love with korean-style ramen. I love their desserts, bibimbap (rice and vegetable mixture with excellent presentation and sauce), and japchae (clear noodles). Ever heard of cold noodles in ice? Not my cup of noodles, but I tried it anyway! Thanks Korea. 🙂
  2. Nicaragua – Choosing a country from the many favorite foods I had in Central America was quite difficult. I chose Nicaragua purely because I had an amazing street food experience there. Shave ice desserts called granizado were all over the streets. Central American foods sometimes overlapped each other, so I was happy to find some of my favorite foods in neighboring countries. Some of my favorites are elotes (corn), traditional rice and beans con queso (with cheese) dishes, platanos (plantains), and pan (bread).
  3. Thailand – How do you beat $1 phad thai? Love the diversity of street foods in Bangkok. Also a great place for noodles and spicy food, which is right down my alley.

Note: I left out some of my favorite foods (because I think I am biased towards them). For your interest, I will list them below:

Vietnamese foods. Being Vietnamese by blood, I’m always partial to my native country’s cuisines. I am immensely proud of the variety of Vietnamese foods. It’s colorful, tasty, and full of culture.

Japanese foods. As one of the most amazing cultures out there, they have so many creative dishes. 🙂 Home to sushi, green tea Kit Kat, soba noodles, and tempura, it’s possibly some of my favorite foods. Unfortunately, most their foods are not vegetarian friendly.

 

Filipino foods. Raised in the Philippines, I came to love eating mangoes, bananacues (caramelized, roasted plantains), and various different vegetarian snack options.2174887938_28dc5b40d0_z

Thanks for reading!! What are your favorite foods???


Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Read more of my posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge:

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

Who else is doing the challenge?

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

 

Travel Blogging Challenge – Week  4 (Travel Misadventures) The Time I Almost Died on a Motorbike

Getting into a motor accident in Asia is no joke. I’ve heard so many horror stories of the ugly traffic, terrible drivers, no road etiquette, no care for street signs. Countless of accidents result in deaths. If the local government happens to be corrupt, the guilty party can even get away unscathed.

This week’s travel blogging theme is travel misadventures.  I want to write this post to tell my story, in hopes of showing future travelers ways to avoid the same misfortune.

I was traveling through Thailand during my trip around Southeast Asia when I decided to take a trip from Chiang Mai to Pai (about 6 hours drive) by motorbike. The way up the mountain was curvy and narrow. As I was going up the blind curve, a car sped down the mountain in the middle of the road. Seeing that it was on my lane, I swerved out of its way.

The sequence of events that followed felt like a dream.

With not enough time or room to move out of the car’s way, I fell hard. My bike scraping all the way to the other side, closing the cliff side. The car that caused my fall stopped.. then kept driving on. Several cars passed by, and kept driving.

I saw everything happen in slow motion. I didn’t quite register what happened. I started to panic. I was too surprised to cry. I just started to scream, “Help!” Even though I didn’t know exactly what I wanted help for. A guy with a truck stopped and asked if I needed help. With several people’s help, I was able to be carried to a local hospital on a back of a truck.

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Today, looking back, this event had affect my life in several ways. Several thoughts come to mind as my motorbike spiraled out of control, and I rolled several feet, scarring my knees and hand for life.

Death. Is traveling the world worth dying for? Flashes of regret as I hit the ground. I think of my family. I think of my partner. How if I had died that moment, that some things are still left undone. Picking my life back up, I remind myself everyday that I have to live it to the fullest!

Scars. I typically never regret any adventures I take. With this one, I have two giant scars on my knees to remind me of that moment. I have learned a lot of things, and experienced a lot of things. I have become smarter from it. And hopefully, so will have you.

Determined to not let my accident destroy my trip. I continued to hike, bike, climb, swim. Which had caused it to infect for a week, but no regrets!

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That’s all folks!

Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Read more of my posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge:

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

This challenge showcases your experience through travel stories, cultures, foods, advise, lessons, and more. You don’t need to be a world traveler to join. I encourage everyone to write and share your cool experiences, near and far! You can check out the entire challenge in the original post here! Please also visit JulieVikkilawman, and Kailin as they will be with me in this blogging journey!

Travel Blogging Challenge – Week 3 (Funny Travel Story) Pandas!

How do I beat the story where I almost fell off a coconut tree? Or the time I saw a buffalo trip three feet in front of me?

I guess I will have to tell you the panda story.

Panda?

How often in my life do I get to see a panda? Only once. And it was awesome. 

I was studying abroad in Singapore for a semester. There, I met my awesome Irish friend Doireann. Among so many other awesome and unique things, she is a zoologist. The first one I’ve ever met in my life. We quickly became good friends and even traveled, motorbiked, and scuba-dived together!

One of my top places to visit was the Singapore Zoo, which features  a 26-hectare wildlife park. Who better to go with than a to-be zoologist? We planned a date, and made it happen. We also had a few other friends joining our little group.

Anyway, she had a long-term obsession with pandas. Dozens of things she owns have panda-related themes to them. She has interned and worked with baby pandas (cubs?), actually getting to hold and cuddle with them, which is awesome!

After about 2 hours of walking though the zoo, we finally reached the exhibit that Doireann was waiting for: the pandas.

Unfortunately…

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They really don’t do much…

We watched and waited.

For over two hours…

I mean, they’re pretty cool. Black and white, you know? But how long can it possibly lay there?

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A long time apparently.

After watching it for so long, we decided to walk around past the panda exhibit. When we came back, the panda had sat up into a furball!

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And then something truly amazing happened!

Are you ready for this?

 

Whoaaaa! I was so impressed. After hours of watching the panda do nothing, in just a few minutes, it sat up, and stood up. For food! Nom nom nom. Like Po in Kung Fu Panda, haha!

Just when I thought we have seen it all….

It started scaling the tree! Watching the magnificent 200+ pound fluff ball body climb up the tree was so amazing, yet hilarious. Lazy panda turns productive and athletic for food. Such is the life.

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What an epic end of a day at the zoo. This panda deserves a trophy! I doubt most visitors at the zoo were able to see this miracle. Maybe it reveals itself to those with patience?


That’s all folks!

Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Read more of my posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge:

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

This challenge showcases your experience through travel stories, cultures, foods, advise, lessons, and more. You don’t need to be a world traveler to join. I encourage everyone to write and share your cool experiences, near and far! You can check out the entire challenge in the original post here! Please also visit Julie, Vikkilawman, and Kailin as they will be with me in this blogging journey!

Backpacker Life

Whoa! This week’s photo challenge is Transient, which is right up my (and any other travel bloggers’) alley! Here are some of my favorite snapshots throughout my backpacking trip in various countries around the world.

Are you a travel enthusiast too? I’ve recently launched a Travel Blogging Challenge, that anyone can join! It’s a great opportunity for me to consolidate my travel photos and showcase your experience through travel stories, cultures, foods, advise, lessons, and more!

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New York City, the center of transience!
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Hiking up and down Grand Canyon in a day!
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Strolling through the ancient ruins of Tikal, Guatemala
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Hostel living
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Siem Riem, Cambodia
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So true, thanks Beatles!
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Colonial town, Antigua

Thanks for visiting! Cheers!! <3

Photo Challenge: Transient

Everything Else is a Distraction

There’s only one thing I need in life… everything else is a distraction. 

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(I’ve picked up bracelet weaving lately. I’ve always loved crafting, and I’ve been told to try selling online. Do you, or any young kids in your house, like nerdy plush toys? Please, please, please check out my recently opened Etsy store!)

Photo Challenge: Focus