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!

May Reflections

I hate to copy everyone else and say that this month flew by so quickly.. but I really don’t have anything better to say… (I’ll try again next month). First of all, sorry for the MIA, everyone. This month has been unbelievably hectic! Between visiting my family (16 hours away) and moving to a new city (7 hours away), I have so much to do and so much to think about.

Time has gone, what have I done?

  • Made a trip to my home in the mountains and helped my family with a seemingly never-ending list of errands and chores (mostly things to do with electronics and calls to customer service centers). I don’t mind, it’s not often that I get to help out around the house, so I happily did it. Being the only really fluent English speaker (until the kids- my siblings- get older), I get to do most the bank/electronic/phone/internet calls while I’m home. I also helped the kids (my siblings) with their end-of-year tests- I remember a time where I had to take those. So, yeah, my trip was really 90% work and 10% play.
    • All the boring stuff aside, I celebrated mother’s day and my mom’s birthday that weekend! It’s all worth it to see her happy and have all four of her children by her side. Spent quality time with my brother and sisters. Took them (my younger siblings) to Six Flags Roller Coaster Park for a day out. We watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2. We made home cooked popcorn, buttered noodles, boba smoothies, and my very own Chi’s Special (vegetable-lasagne-4 cheese-spaghetti-eggplant-seaweed). We played Minecraft and manyyy board games.
    • My parents rode a roller coaster ride for the first time (we made them). They were genuinely terrified- I don’t think I’ve ever felt sorrier in my life. It’s funny how we always think our parents are invincible. When we look at the big picture, they’re really just humans. They have feelings and uncertaintain. Still, it’s very scary to see them lose control. Not doing that again.
  • Wandered around New York
    • Taking nostalgic walks through Central Park, East Harlem, Wall Street, and 14th Street.
  • Won Broadway Show Tickets
    • War Paint – A thrilling musical, showing how makeup and women played a role in history.
    • Wicked – Possibly my favorite Broadway show in awhile. I won my first in-person lottery tickets, it was so exhilarating. The vocals of Elphaba gave me chills and put me on the edge of my seat.
    • Miss Saigon – This show portrays the extensive amounts of hardships of Vietnamese women during the Vietnam War. I find it mind-blowing, that these events happen during the time of my parents’ generation, and that my parents and their loved ones undergo the terror of war.
    • Julius Caesar – We won tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. I’ve always had a hard time understanding Old English. This time is no different. I loved that they made it contemporary, and the Trump comparison is hilarious.
  • Learned how to use Instagram (I know, I know, what century are we in? Noob!).  I learned how to properly use the hashtag “#”. I’ve never cared too much for social media. I generally use Facebook to keep in touch with people, see what their up to, and share my adventures. That’s about it. Now, I have Instagram! Which is awesome, because I now have a place to dump all my travel photos! I’m still very bad at it, but if you want to check out my photos, my ID is winta_wanderland. I would love advice/tips to improve on it!
  • Shows/Movies/Books ~ I am so pleased to tell you that my partner and I have been keeping our TV watching to a minimum (at most 1-2 TV episodes a day). Back in the day, we would binge watch shows we like until we finish! In addition, I’m trying a couple of new genres of movies/books. So far, so good!
    • The Gunslinger by Stephen King – Though this isn’t typically the type of book I read, I finished within three days. I highly admire his smooth writing skills, and look forward to reading more of his works.
    • Brooklyn Nine Nine – Season finale already? Ugh. Another year, here we go. This show was very cool to watch, especially during our stay in New York City. We would to relate to this and that, try to identify the subway station, the food stand, and also understand all the references. 😉
    • Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – Drax is the absolute best. I recommend watching this movie just for Drax. <3
    • Malibu’s Most Wanted – a hilarious movie about a rich, white boy who is a gansta at heart.
    • Sausage Party – very crass humor, but surprisingly thought provoking, and brings up many controversial issues.

Our stay in NYC is coming to an end as we search for a new place in the wonderful city of Richmond, Virginia. It’s a relatively big decision for us because we have decided to get our first one year lease! No longer as nomadic as we used to be. Thankfully, The rent in Virginia is half the price for twice the size. We will even have our own balcony! And maaaybe a pool. I’m rooting for it.

My blog highlights:

Things I’m Thankful For:

  • My supportive parents. I’m reaching the stage where I am beginning to understand my parents and how many difficult decisions they have to face to raise four children. I personally think that’s too much responsibility for me. One. Maybe two. But not four. And bills. I have been drowning in bills, bills, bills since coming to New York. It’s amazing how carefree I was back in the day. I’m proud of my parents for being ultra sucessful – a house, three cars, four kids, a small business, and they get all their bills paid. Respect.
  • My loving partner and best friend. I can’t imagine why anybody would put up with me through my worst moods, laziest days, angriest rants, etc. for so long, but I’m so thankful I have him by my side.
  • My three fun and unique siblings. I can always count on them to make my day brighter.
  • Mom’s food. Because no one cooks like her.
  • This city, and all that it has to offer. I’m going to miss the vibrant people, the efficient and ever so frustrating subway system, the foods, the streets, the constant buzz of activity, and of course, the Broadway shows. 
  • Unlimited resources to learn and improve. How do I do life? How do I make friends? Where’s the next anime convention? How do I create a rocking cosplay from home?
  • Cars/subways/bikes/transportation in general.
  • Access to a roof over my head/cheap rent. I’m looking forward to having some walking room, a full kitchen, and a parking space for half the price.
  • People on the Internet/readers of my blog/awesome, supportive friends: You all make me glow.

Goals for June

Finding an apartment, moving in, adapting to a new city. I am, again, moving without a definite plan in my destination. There’s always that unsettling fear of whether or not I’ll find a job there. I’ve been fine so far, and thriving in New York City, so I doubt Virginia is going to be a challenge. I loooove the idea of being between the mountains and the ocean. I’m always excited for a prospect of living and exploring a new city. Here’s my chance to document the process on my travel blog. <3

My 3rd year anniversary with my partner is coming up. Gah! How have we gotten so far already? On the other hand, has it only been three years? After spending almost one collective year of long distance, we really learned to communicate better- I’m so proud of us. We’re both very stubborn and self-righteous, fought countless of battles, but at the end of the day, we still have each other on our highest pedestal. We’ve traveled to countless of places together and experienced a world of new adventures.

The kids are off school for the summer. And they have a summer goals list. I really need to rethink my own goals. It’s funny how kids have summer to be free and do nothing all year, and adults don’t have a “summer break.” Still, it shouldn’t stop me from making productive goals. 

Pick up some old hobbies: 

  • Learn some new tunes on my ukulele.
  • Create an Etsy account and make nerdy crocheted dolls to sell. I have some pictures of them here.
  • Finish up some video games on Steam and Playstation.

Blogging goals:

  • Weekly challenges! – I am hoping to participate in a weekly challenge with a couple of my blogging friends, let me know if you’re interested in joining!
  • Create my own award! With all the awards and love going around, I want to create a couple of my own awards to start a pay-it-forward chain!
  • Create my own blogging challenge for myself and others. Stay tuned for my upcoming travel/lifestyle/photo blog challenge!
  • More guest posts!


Thanks for reading! How is May looking for you? Have any awesome upcoming goals? Please share!!

Practical Things to Know About Moving from a Small Town to New York City

This is a message to those who wish to move to the city, but are scared of the dreaded unknown. This is a message to parents or friends who have loved ones wanting to move to city and are afraid for them.

Everything will be okay. 

When I decided to move to New York City, I have been discouraged extensively by my family. It’s expensive, I couldn’t make it. It’s dangerous. People are cunning and untrustworthy. It’s too far from home and family. The list goes on. I have lived in small mountain towns for most of my life. For the past 10 years, I dreamt of seeing the world and living the city life. I wanted to try new things and make a change on my own. Family duties and education had tied me to these mountains for longer than I would have liked. I moved to New York without friends or family there. I moved without a job paved out or plans. My biggest fear is that if I don’t do it now, then I would never do it. 


Now, living in the Big Apple for almost a year, I can say a few things about the city- things I learned, things I wish I knew, and things I want to say to encourage people to make the big step.

Yes, it is expensive, but there are ways to cut the costs. This is perhaps the biggest obstacle for most people who choose not to move to NYC. To be honest, I was quite scared myself. With a few lifestyle changes, we learned to live well in this expensive city. Between my boyfriend and I, we spend about $1000-$1500 a month on everything. We lived in Manhattan and Staten Island in our time in New York.

We don’t buy furniture. All of our furniture have been given to us for free. We have brought home 50″ TVs, mirrors, beds (with bedbug covering), tables, chairs, shelves, printers, you name it. Free stuff are given every hour of every day. People in New York live lavishly and constantly move; we are always able to find people who want to make sure their things are going to good use. Our top three resources are Craigslist, Freecycle, and the curb. 😉 

Check out my posts on free things to do in NYC: Food and Music Festival in Brooklyn and Medieval Festival in NYC

Check out how I supplement income by working from home: Earn $18-30/Hour Working from Home & On the Road

Prepare for culture shock. Coming from a small mountain town in North Carolina, I have always been a minority. The two most exotic cuisines are Mexican foods and Chinese foods. New York City is a wonderfully cultured city. Here, in just one short subway ride, I see people from all walks of life.

Your apartment will be twice the price for half the size. For about $1000/month, we share an apartment with three other people. Our apartment had one small kitchen, living room, and bathroom. We had a 12×12 room with a narrow hallway. Luckily, there are ways to minimize furniture space through wonderful inventions.

Check out cool compact bunk beds storage furniture here!

It was much more expensive than our apartment in North Carolina, but we loved the area. Walking around the area, we can find food from all around the world. People were friendly and positive energy was in the air. Of course, the further from the city, the cheaper the apartment gets. You can easily find $500-600 apartments in the Bronx, Morningside Heights (north Manhattan), Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

Public transportation is the best transportation. This is a huge change from where I lived. Instead of relying on a car to get me places, I learned to use the intricate subway system of the city. I love it. I can walk, bike, ride the subway/bus/ferry anywhere I choose. We purchased a CitiBike annual membership for $160, and it became one of our favorite free things to do together.

It’s fast and people are motivated. Either move fast or get out of my way. New York is truly the place to go to get things done. People here have places to be and things to do. It doesn’t mean that they’re rude, it’s just the lifestyle and culture of the place. I have never felt so alive and pumping with productivity as being in the city. While apartment searching, most of the roommates requirement listed “must have a job, cannot be a couch potato.” 

I have never gone negative with my finances while living here. The atmosphere and constant get things done attitude had inspired me to try so many different things. At one point, I had started to work three jobs at a time, not because I needed to, but because I wanted to try all these new things at once.

It’s a hub of constant activity and diversity. From the food, to the streets, to the clothes, to the people, New York has it all. The city is the ultimate place to experience new things. There are so many things to do. So many things to look at. Christmastime is a sight to behold. Halls decked with beautiful light and music shows. Fifth avenue bustles with shoppers and tourists. People laughing and smiling. Ice skating (please don’t go to Rockefeller) is amazingly romantic.

There are a million ways to meet people. Meetup, Couchsurfing, and Eventbrite are great resources for meeting and networking with people. From nerdy game nights to exercise groups to a party night out, they have it all.

Convenience, convenience, convenience! 

Dirt cheap international flights are a subway ride away. I subscribe to the The Flight Deal newsletter, which features daily dirt cheap flights from the biggest cities in the United States to all locations around the world. I have seen tickets to Europe as cheap as $100 dollars round trip! New York is the home to extensive interstate bus systems. For travels 5-20 hours away, I like to take an overnight bus as it is much cheaper than a plane ticket. For a five day getaway, we took a bus to Montreal, Canada for only $50!

Internet speeds are superior than the mountains. With little to nonexistent internet in the mountains, New York City is a wonderful heaven of free WiFi. All over New York are LinkNYC network that provides free google maps access, internet browsing, phone calls, and a phone/tablet charging station.

East Harlem has a wonderful network of stores nearby that made our stay heavenly. Just a few blocks walking offers parks, cheap grocery stores, laundromat, subway station, CitiBike racks, Indian cuisine buffets, karaoke bars, and more.

All things nature are man-made. With an area of about 460 square miles, New York City is home to over 30 parks, and of course, the famous Central Park. However, unless you go to upstate NYC, don’t expect to find any beautiful national parks and nature preserves. New Yorkers love to wind down at local parks after work by taking their pets out for runs, spend family time, or sit and read outside.

In contrast, NYC is home to the most impressive architectures. Some of my favorites places to admire beautiful architecture are:

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Brooklyn Promenade View of Manhattan
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Brooklyn Promenade Sunset View
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Brooklyn Bridge
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Times Square
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High Line

It was a combination of all these things that made me fall in love with the city during our first visit. There is nowhere quite like the energy of New York.


It was never our plan to stay in New York City permanently. Though there is a heartache to think that we will not be biking the beautiful Hudson River Greenway a month or a year from now, we both know that New York is not where we will will grow old. There is always a charm in the small town where I grew up. Each sunset over the Appalachian mountains, each beautiful autumn changing color, the fact that everyone knows everyone else, the hospitality and true friendships are endearing to me.

So, what’s next?

New York will always be a special place to me. It is here that I had truly become independent, and I had come out a better person. I’ve learned so much from the city. I’ve learned to speak better, to work efficiently, to think on my feet, to opened my mind and eyes, to get lost and explore. I have gained the experience I had set out to find. I can feel that it is time to set on to another adventure. We’re hoping to go to a few more Broadway shows and museums, then return home for some time to visit family. In the next year, we hope to pick up and start backpacking Asia.


Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment and some love. <3

Guest Post: An Open Letter to Chicago

Dear Chicago,

Don’t tell Atlanta, but you’re “home” to me right now.

I was never able to explore the inner workings of that city like I have for Chicago. The past three years have been shaped by weekend outings, long L rides and some unforgettable memories. From Lollapalooza to the 606 to Portillo’s, my Chicago adventures have made me a huge fan of the city.

Sure, I don’t actually live downtown, but I’m a college student living next to a huge city. I consider myself very lucky to be able to balance a traditional university experience with the exciting, fast-paced nature of Chicago.

I remember three summers ago when I visited for the first time, the way the metallic curved metal strips of Pritzker Pavilion jutted out, unlike anything I’d seen before.

Just from walking through the streets, I can see Chicago’s industrial history reflected in many building architectures – the dark, heavy iron metals, the sturdy brown bricks…

And sure, every city has its own unique take on food, but Chicago is something else. Who says you need to leave the country to try international cuisine? So many neighborhoods each with its own specialty: Ukrainian, Mexican, Vietnamese.

Over the years, I’ve come to get to know Chicago’s different neighborhoods through the food, the shops and events that take place. Argyle, for semi-regular bowls of pho and cheap groceries, Belmont for wacky consignment stores and eccentric fusion food, and Avondale for standout high quality meals and eye-catching architecture. And of course, seeing the sunshine reflect off the Chicago River as it cuts through the city still catches my breath every time, as though to give me a visual break for when the grey and tan concrete buildings start to blend together.

I’ve loved getting to know your nooks and crannies through concerts, comedy shows and restaurants – the intersections marred with construction work and the L stop stations that I’ve come to recognize from afar. You’ve given me a greater appreciation of public transit and made me a strong advocate for the L – even riding downtown feels like a visual adventure, watching the scenery morph from suburb to city. I can sense the different Red Line stops even before the train begins to slow down.

When Evanston starts to feel monotonous and the people start to look homogenous, you’ve given me an escape, a place to go when all of the purple starts to bleed together.

I don’t know where I’ll end up after I graduate, but Chicago you set the bar really high.

Catherine


Thanks for reading!! See more of Cat at her awesome blog here.

I’m always looking for travel stories to feature. Please shoot an email or leave a message if you have a tale to tell!