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

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!

 

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!

 

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

Watch Broadway Shows for Less than $40 in New York City

What are my plans tonight? Oh, nothing, just going to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

What are my plans tonight? Oh, nothing, just going to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.


… Sorry, everyone. I’m really not that stuck up, I promise. I assume this is why a lot of people hate Broadway, thinking it’s where rich people go to lavishly spend all their money away. Well, I’m not rich. Not even close.

Of all things I could be doing, I never thought I would become an avid Broadway-goer. I have always loved musicals like Grease, Phantom of the Opera,Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, all Disney movies, and most recently, La La Land, but I have never been much of a theater-goer. But really, if the system allows me to see world class Broadway shows for cheap, I can’t say no… Part of me doesn’t want to write about this as it only increases competition, but I feel like it would also ignite bad karma.

We’ve all heard of Broadway before on TV shows, movies, media, etc. Broadway is a famous street that runs down New York City, known for its theatrical performances. It is one of the top tourist attractions of all time. The Broadway theater district runs from around the 42nd to the 57th street, where the famous Times Square draws millions of visitors from all over the world every day.

While Broadway shows typically range around $100-$500, we buy them at $20-$40 per ticket.

  • In the past five months, we have gone to over fifteen Broadway show tickets consisting of several Tony Award-winning & nominee musicals and other fantastic plays and off-broadway productions:
    • Hamilton ($200- face value)
    • Dear Evan Hansen ($200- face value)
    • Lion King ($30)
    • The Book of Mormon ($50)
    • Phantom of the Opera ($28)
    • Chicago ($37)
    • Kinky Boots ($42)
    • Cats ($40)
    • Sunset Boulevard ($55)
    • School of Rock ($37)
    • Miss Saigon ($39)
    • Present Laughter ($42)
    • Aladdin ($30)
    • Six Degrees of Separation ($32)
    • Avenue Q
    • In Transit
    • Arthur Miller’s The Price
    • And counting…

We did it, you can do it too.


Scoring these cheap tickets takes strategy, patience, research, and here is the secret (by order of preference):

Digital Lottery

Enter daily on each Broadway show’s site for a chance to win tickets.

  • This method is the holy grail of winning lottery tickets.  Most Broadway shows offer the option on their home page to sign up for digital lottery. We use Broadway for Broke People for the list of all the shows, their sites, lottery time, show location, and cost. The site doesn’t have everything and some information may be delayed, but is the source of a majority of our lottery wins. Since we live in New York, there is literally nothing to lose. Our best times of winning are week nights and matinee shows.

General Rush/Student Rush Only/Last Minute Purchases

Come to the box office when they open (generally around 10AM), and buy their first 30 tickets at rush prices (usually around $30-$40).

  • With popular shows, people will line up 1-2 hours earlier than box office open time. With not-so-popular shows, they may still have rush tickets available throughout the day. Personally, I’m not an early riser and usually not motivated enough to come to the box office at their opening time, but I have walked up to the box office an hour before showtime to ask for general rush tickets before. We purchased awesome seats to Miss Saigon using this method.
  • Student Rush Tickets, as the name suggests, are rush tickets only available to students. I keep my student card in my backpack at all times in case I ever feel like doing it.
  • Last minute purchases are super badass. You stroll up to the window at the very last minute and tell them that you’re only willing to pay for the show at their rush prices (even if their rush tickets are all out). The representative at the window will try to sell you the ticket at face value price, but you will stand strong. If the curtains open in the next minute, sure enough, they would rather sell you the seat for $30 than leave it empty. We bought our awesome Chicago tickets with this method.

In Person Lottery

  • This was the lottery system before digital lotteries took over. There is a 30 minute window, 2 hours before showtime, where you can put in your name to enter for a chance to win cheap tickets. These tickets are a little bit cheaper than digital lottery and requires you to be present at the time of drawing (exactly 2 hours before showtime). Wicked does daily in person lotteries, to which hundreds of people enter in. We haven’t won one yet, but hopefully, will sometime soon. 😉
    • [UPDATE!] I wrote this post earlier today, and we won lottery tickets to Wicked! The experience of entering lottery in person is so exhilarating- a feeling not so evident in winning/losing digital lotteries. I anticipated the winning so much, I felt that I was on top of the world! I was the 2nd person chosen for the winners. We paid $30/ticket in cash and went with it. It was a fabulous show, and well worth the money.

Standing Room Only (SRO)

Exactly as it sounds, you will be standing for the entire show. I’m not much of a stander, so I wouldn’t ever do this. The only one we have tried to do this one for is the famous Hamilton (which can cost over $1000 for a good seat). We came really close to getting the tickets, but not good enough.

Today Tix phone app

Awonderful resource for buying cheap tickets as well. Their prices are only a smidge more expensive than lottery tickets, and guarantees you a seat immediately. Today Tix also offers lottery chances exclusive to their app.

  • Because Today Tix already gives you seat sections to choose from, the cheapest areas are usually rear mezzanine (alll the way back), I think that lottery and rush tickets gives you a better seating option.
  • You also have an option to sign up to popular digital lotteries on there, with and increased chance of winning if you share on your social media sites!

Cancellation Line 

Finally, we’ve done a total of two cancellation line tickets, for Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen- valued at $400 to $1000 per ticket. These shows are typically booked out for months in advance.

  • By sitting in line until the show starts, you get a chance of buying the ticket at face value (cheaper than they could be, but not that cheap). 
  • CONS: This is my least favorite method of securing tickets, because there is no security. You might be sitting 7+ hours for nothing. I’ve met people who have waited 12+ hours in the day to see it.
  • PROS: If you only have one day to see the show and can dedicate an entire day to see it, then go for it. These are amazing shows and completely worth seeing. 

General advice that will help you score tickets:

  • Enter for digital tickets every day. Rain or shine. I can’t stress this point enough. You can’t win if you don’t play!
  • We visit Broadway for Broke People religiously for an easy access to the list of all the shows that have digital lotteries, the cost, the location, and where they will be.
  • Keep weather in mind. The more miserable it is, the better your chances are to get tickets.
  • We’ve bought last minute cancellation tickets through Craigslist before. It’s super sketchy with all the cheap tickets going around, but if they’re offering to meet you at the theater and wait for you to go in, it’s probably legit

That’s all folks, thanks for reading!! Best of luck in your Broadway adventures (and please, please let me know if my post ever helped you)!!! 

Excuse Me, Life Passing Through

2017 has been a year of revelations for me. The year where I finally understand all the things my parents tell me when they say, “I’ll tell you when you’re older.” Things that had once been so clear to me aren’t what I had expected them to be. People have changed. My perspectives have changed. My desires and interests evolved. I don’t understand the world as much as I used to think, and now that I have scraped off the tip of the ice berg, there is still so much to learn. 

Because of these discoveries, my path in life has changed. It’s not a bad thing, because I am wiser. The light may be fading, but what I do see shines brighter with intensity. 

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Statue of Liberty

Photo Challenge: Evanescent

Guest Post: Explore your city – Get lost in London

Happy Friday, everyone! This week’s guest blogger is Josy from A Walk and A Lark. Her blog talks about all the beautiful walks she takes with her husband in the UK, Japan, Canada, and more! I’m a very inspired by the photos she takes while walking. We decided to do a blog exchange on walking in our respective cities (her in London and me in New York). See my post on Walking Around New York City on her blog site and join us in taking exploration walks!


Do you like to explore your own city? Or do you ever just get a little lost to try and wander around a new area? Or, even if you have lived in the same place for a while, have you thought of planning walks close to home so you can properly explore?

I love walking and exploring around London. Winta and I thought it would be cool to share three of my favorite places to walk. I haven’t given an exact routes for any of these as I honestly think the most fun way to explore is just to walk and even get a little lost. I’ve done variations of these walks so many times – so these photos are from all different seasons.

Hampstead Heath
Since I moved to North London I spend more time wandering around the Heath than anywhere! There are so many different parts of the Heath to explore. I’ve written about the gorgeous pergola and hill gardens previously. I love this Western half of the park (close to Golders Hill park and the Heath Extension.) The woods in this area are simply lovely, and normally quite quiet. It is hard to imagine you are so close to central London!

We live close(ish) to the South Eastern corner of the park, so sometimes we start there and head past the bathing ponds towards Kenwood House. You can pop inside the house to see some amazing artworks, or wander around the grounds by the lake and past the bluebells. If you go around to the North Eastern corner of the park there are amazing views down to central London as well as a quiet path along the edge of the park.

The most popular area is the parliament hill viewpoint. I have never been up there when there is not some kind of crowd! Occasionally my husband and I wake up early and take a detour to the Heath on the way to work. Even at 7am on a weekday they’ll be a few people (and doggos) admiring the view!

Regents Canal
Regents canal has a 14 km path alongside the canal that meanders across London from Paddington, through Camden and Hackney ending in Limehouse where it meets the Thames. It actually goes on even further West past Paddington, but most walkers seem to stop before that!! You really don’t need a map for this walk (just follow the canal!) but if you’d like to see the routes, you can find them here.

I like the area near Paddington, in the area called Little Venice, where you can see all the beautifully painted house boats. Then the section that runs around Regents park where you can see incredibly opulent houses with gardens backing onto the canal. The walk goes right past London zoos bird houses so you might see some cool birds as you wander past.

The section near Camden is incredibly busy at the weekend. But you can stop off for some yummy food in Camden market! Then as you head East (you have to take a minor detour away from the canal between Kings Cross and Angel.) Then the secenry becomes gradually grittier as you get further into East London. The graffiti increases, but most of it is beautiful! It is like a mini art tour of London! If you don’t want to walk to Limehouse, you can turn off towards the Olymic park and finish your walk over in Startford if you fancy shopping. I’ve tried all the options and they are all fun in their own way.

I don’t think you can find any other London walk that shows so much of the city’s diversity. You’ll walk through green areas, incredibly posh areas as well as some more arty hipster areas.

Regents canal panda

The Thames Path
This is probably the most famous of the three walks. I always recommend visitors to London to take a stroll along the Thames, but it’s great for locals as well. The Thames path is actually an amazing route covering 128km along the Thames. You can see the whole plan for the walks here. But as you are just following the river, you don’t need to plan it – just walk!

My husband and I have explored south past Greenwich to the Thames barrier (which is a gorgeous quiet walk.) We’ve also wandered West near Syon Park and Kew Gardens. However the most obvious part to explore is Central London. We used to start near Tower Bridge or London bridge, and then walk along the South Bank past the Globe and the Tate all the way to Westminster and Big Ben. This is a perfect sightseeing tour of London. If you like the sun, walk on the South side of the river. If you prefer to escape crowds, walk on the North side. Or keep swapping by crossing some of the beautiful bridges along the walk.

Tips for getting lost:
Download city mapper to your phone. Then wherever you end up at the end of your walk, you’ll be able to make it home!!

Lastly if you prefer a more structured walk, check out the amaaazing Capital Ring walk that loops the whole way around London. These routes always start and finish near public transport. And they go through parks and woodland, along canals, and through pretty residential areas.


Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check out Josy’s blog at A Walk and A Lark <3

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

10 Things to Know About Norway

Norway was recently declared the happiest country in the world, and rightly so. I love Norway for so many reasons. The country is gorgeous, and the people are free spirited and friendly. But my main reason was that it had ignited my love for traveling.

When I graduated high school, my uncle, who had immigrated to Norway over 20 years ago, insisted that I visited him in Norway.

Being born and raised in the Philippines, we’ve only talked to each other on the phones. I would talk to him for hours- about everything: my goals, school, culture, travels. When I expressed interest in Norway, he said that if I wanted to visit, he would fund my trip for me! Back then, I knew next to nothing about travel. Looking back, I realize that he must have spent a fortune for me to visit and do all the things we did.

I packed enough clothes for the month that I will be staying there. I chose them carefully, so as to not embarrass myself in front of people. I will be flying by myself to a foreign country, and will be meeting my uncle for the first time!

Culture

In the short amount of time I was there, I learned so many strange facts about the country. Here are some of my impressions:

Oslo airport smelled weird. That was literally the first thing I noticed about Norway, so I thought I’d write it down. If anyone else had been to Norway and experienced the same thing, please let me know so that I know I’m not crazy.

There were 20 hours of daylight. This is something I learned in books and school, but never expected to experience in real life. Depending on the time of the year, it never really gets dark in Norway. Mind blown. That aside, people really get up around the same time, and sleep relatively early. I had blinds in my room to keep the light from coming in.

Norway is expensive. Norway’s cost of living is almost twice the cost of living the United States. My uncle owns a repair shop in a mall, and I found out his shop was actually the size of a walk-in closet! He pays about $2000 per month to keep the shop, and only has the bare essentials for his tools and a small fridge and microwave.

Norway has very strict driving exams, and it is ridiculously expensive. There are four painstaking training stages to go through before he could even take the practice test. Each stage costs money. The entire process of training and test taking costs about $3000! If he fails any of the stages, he will need to repay and retake the training/test. To think I only spend $25 to get my driver’s license. My uncle had studied for years, and was very careful so that he doesn’t fail; while I was there, I hoped to help him study for the test. It was all in Norsk- bummer. We took the bus to get places. I didn’t mind that. I lived in a small town, I had to drive to get anywhere. Public transportation is a nice change of pace. I also noticed that instead of highway exits, Norway has roundabouts. Definitely different.

People are tall. Very, very tall. I come from a small town in the United States, so I don’t get exposed to that many tall people (or people, really), but I know when people are extraordinarily tall. The average height for a Norwegian male is almost 6 feet!

Norsk is unbearingly difficult to learn.  While I was there, I picked up on a few phrases, destination names, etc. I was very impressed that my uncle could speak it so well. Luckily, Norwegians also spoke English. Here is how to say, “How are you? Nice to meet you!”

Korleis har du det? Kjekt å treffe deg! 

People are overly generous. When I arrived in Oslo, my uncle and his friend had come to pick me up at the airport. Since my uncle didn’t have a car, his friend agreed to help drive us around on our road trips, while also taking a vacation himself. My uncle’s friends went out of their way to make me feel welcom. They took me out to restaurants, cooked me food, bought me clothes, and (my favorite) complimented me often! They showed me so many places; I felt incredibly spoiled. I went to my first IKEA there (again, I lived in a very small town). At the time, I thought it was a Norwegian mall- turns out it’s Swedish. It’s less cool, now that I’ve been to several IKEAs in the United States.

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Our backyard view of the lake

Geiranger Fjord

In 2005, Geiranger Fjord was listed as an UNESCO’s World Heritage Site for its beautiful fjord, carved in by glaciers. It is the host of several impressive waterfalls, including the Seven Sisters Falls.

Eight hours drive northwest of Oslo, Geiranger is surrounded by snow-covered peak, cliffs, wild waterfalls, and deep, green vegetation Geirangerfjord is a sight not to be missed.

The fjord was absolutely stunning. We had magnificent views of waterfalls, birds, mountain goats, and the valley. Here are some of my photo highlights of the trip:

The images speak for themselves. I felt as if I was in a lost paradise, a sort of part of heaven that I never knew about. We hiked, climbed, and trekked through places where we were completely in nature.

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View atop Geiranger.

We cozied up in this wonderful cabin for our stay there. Cooked ourselves a hearty meal as we spent time together.

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We rented a beautiful log cabin for the night.

Animals in the mountains seem to have no regard for tourists. While we were driving, a goat came by and stuck his head in our passenger window! Can we keep him please?

Vigelands Parken

Home to over 200 sculptures by Vigeland is Vigelands Parken, accomplished over a 10 year period. Vigeland Parken is also known to locals as the Sexy Park or red light district. When my uncle said that he was taking me to a red light district, I was both surprised and distressed. He told me that this park is just full of people, hanging around, naked. He refused to tell me any more.

It turned out it was just a park full of sculptures. /exhale/

Why was it called the red light district? All his sculptures are nude. Not many parks showcase nude sculptures, but this in this park, it’s the main attraction.

The park covers the Circle of Life- birth, childhood, young adult and finally old adult. It tells stories of betrayal, passion, hate, jealousy, mother’s love, regrets, death, and so many other emotions. Each sculpture seemed to tell a story.

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Together, we stand? (and make a good frame for a photo)
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The pondering twins.

There were so many fountains and gardens in the park. Walking through the entire park could take up an entire day!

Over the years, I’ve been to countless of parks, but I can honestly say there are none quite like this one. Impressive and unique. Worth the time to visit!


What made Norway a truly happy country to me is this: Despite the expensive cost of living, people have are carefree and don’t get stuck up on money. They spend on what they want, they are generous, friendly. My uncle, who owns a small repair shop in a mall, was so generous as to buy me a plane ticket to give me this amazing experience. His friends, who are perfect strangers to me, brought me shopping and bought me clothes, took me out to restaurants, made me food, and let me stay in their houses. It shows me people here just thought and lived differently from home. They care more about the other joys in life. So I ask myself this? Why can’t we all do that?

Looking forward to my next trip to Norway. 🙂

07/12


Thanks for reading!!! Questions? Comments? Let’s chat below! <3

Mobile Income: Earn $18-30/Hour Working from Home & On the Road

Want to work from home or while traveling? Tired of your hourly commute every morning? Have passion (and patience) for teaching English?

People often wonder how travelers make their money on the go. Today, I’d like to share my experiences with VIPKID and ITutorGroup and how that made it possible for me to do all these things. Both are online education platforms, designed to teach English as Second Language to folks in Asia. It’s real and it pays. I have worked as many as 30 hours a week, but I’ve known people who have quit their full time jobs and made a career out of teaching online full time. Without further ado, let’s jump right to it!


VIPKid

VIPKid is basically an online education platform that allows you to teach children, aged 5 to 12, one-on-one classes through a teaching portal, sort of like Skype. The children can speak as little as no English, so you will rely on repetition and total physical response to teach. Goofy props are recommended ;).

See what it’s like to teach with VIPKid here.

The hiring process consisted of an interview and 2 demos. You must demonstrate your ability to communicate grammar concepts to kids. The process takes about two weeks, requiring personal documents and banking information for direct deposits.

Pay Structure:

  • Based on how well you do in your interview and demos, VIPKID will give you a base pay range of $7-9 per class (25 minutes). Already, you have an opportunity to earn $14-16 per hour from home.
  • In addition, there are up to $2 bonus/class for attendance and quantity of classes you teach. That is potential earning of $18-22 per hour.
  • Wait, there’s more. VIPKid often gives incentives during the spring and summer seasons with bonus potential of up to $5 per class. That is an earning potential of up to $23-27!

What I like:

  • There are no minimum hours required, yay! Flexible schedules weekly. <3
  • The children are sweet and funny. It is less of teaching and more of hanging out with them.
  • There’s an excellent community of teachers right beside you, experiencing your joys and frustrations of teaching together.
  • Powerpoints of 25-35 slides are provided for you. No lesson planning!
  • VIPKID has a high demand of teachers. I got scheduled from the first day of hire. Having a fun profile picture and an impressive introduction helps booking rates a lot.

Not so fond of: 

  • Teachers get six allotted amounts of no-shows before termination of contract. VIPKID shows no regard to family emergency, traffic, or health conditions. Once you hit 6 no-shows, they will terminate your contract.
  • The peak hours of teaching at VIPKID are based on Beijing time. That means very early work hours in North America. I typically set my hours from 7AM-9:30AM, which gives me room to do other things.

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in any field OR Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education
  • I highly recommend obtaining a TEFL Certification. It is really the only thing you need to be able to teach. Certification typically costs about $12 these days for an online course on Groupon. 

If you think you might be interested in applying, click here for my referral link! Please make sure you’ve researched the program before you commit to the hours!


ITutorGroup

ITutorGroup is also an online education platform. Unlike VIPKid, ITutorGroup caters to adults as well as children. Unlike VIPKid, you will be teaching as many as six students at once, so be prepared.

See what it’s like to teach at ITutorGroup here.

The hiring process was very quick and easy. My interview only lasted 5 minutes; I was hired immediately. Because the interview was so informal, it seems that their biggest concern was determining your fluency and teaching experience. I never sent a proof of diploma for my BA degree, so I guess they took my word for it.

Pay Structure

  • Their base pay is $7.5 per class (45 minutes), which is very low.
  • However, their bonus system is what’s bringing in the money. Teachers get an additional $2-4 per student if they give a 10 star rating. So, if the class has five students, the teacher can earn as much as $27.5/hour!

Requirements:

  • TEFL Certification (or willingness to obtain it) – Certification typically costs about $12 for an online course on Groupon. I highly recommend getting one. 
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher in any field
  • Minimum of 1 year teaching experience

What I like: 

  • Teaching adults is a great experience and often has fun culture-exchange conversations.
  • Unlike VIPKID, ITutorGroup is more lenient with their no-show policies.
  • There is a high potential earning, with positive feedback.

Not so fond of:

  • Their bonus system is based on ratings, and makes me feel like I have to sell myself, for maybe a feedback.
  • Students who have IT problems with rate you negatively. There is a way to contest unfair feedback, however, so don’t worry.
  • ITutorGroup’s teaching platform is not as well done as VIPKID’s. The platform seems to be made by an amateur. Navigation is complicated, and buttons are confusing.

So there it is. There are pros and cons to both sides. I use ITutorGroup for a bonding experience and conversations with other adults. I use VIPKID for its more stable source income. I think they both are excellent sources of income supplement. It’s up to you to decide what’s best.

Questions? Comments? Let’s chat below!

Couchsurfing: Stay with Locals and Meet Travelers for Free!

People often ask me how I can afford traveling to so many places. Truth is, traveling doesn’t need to be expensive. In my recent post, I wrote about ways to travel cheaply. In this post, I would like to elaborate on Couchsurfing, and how it changed my life.

Couchsurfing a worldwide cultural exchange program that brings together millions of hosts and travelers. It is popular with budget travelers and backpackers, and the best way to connect with locals and experience culture. Best of all, it’s a free service for all! Especially in expensive cities where hotels costs over $100/night, Couchsurfing is a lifesaver.

I have been using Couchsurfing since 2014. My first host was an expat living in Hong Kong. He lived right by the beach, where he took us on a walk to see the sunset. We had long conversations about everything. He also gave us very helpful advice while exploring Hong Kong. I felt very safe and welcomed in his home, my only regret being that I wish we could have spent more time with him! Since then I have couchsurfed in Washington, DC, Chicago, Asheville, Honduras, Guatemala, New York, Mexico, Nicaragua, Belize, El Salvador, and more!

My Awesome Experiences with Couchsurfing: 

Authentic Culture and Traditions. Living with locals is the most immersive way to experience culture. We share a house with the host, sometimes with their family and pet, too! Once we’re in the house, we’re practically family.

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Here’s a photo of my Couchsurfing family in Bacalar, Mexico

Depending on the host, we sometimes also get an opportunity to meet other couchsurfers, too! Hosts often take surfers to local hangout spots (which are especially fun on national holidays) that we would never have found on our own.

Couchsurf hosts live a very interesting lifestyles. Some have traveled all over the world, some choose to live off-the-grid, and some who love meet and talk to people from all over the world. They love sharing their local culture, history, and traditions. There is always so much to learn.

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Staying at a Couchsurfing off-the-grid cabin powered by solar panels in the Big Island, Hawaii.

In Hawaii, we had the opportunity to stay with a wonderful host at an off-the-grid log cabin in a tropical jungle. We were surrounded by fruit trees on all sides. We were able to walk around and pick passion fruits, jackfruits, coconuts, and other fruits to eat (for free)! We did not have access to the internet, which gave us an opportunity to write on our journals.

Food. I’ve eaten the most authentic foods while Couchsurfing. They are usually foods that locals would eat every day, and are incredibly tasty. In return, we would share our own traditional Vietnamese/American foods!

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An El Salvadorian dish prepared for us by our host’s mom.

Contributing. Unlike hotels and Airbnbs, Couchsurfing is a community. Once you stay with them, you’re like family. That means you do dishes, chores, and cooking. One important principle of being a surfer that a host once taught me, “Carry your own weight.” Contribute and don’t be a free loader!

Things to Know:

  • Read the hosts’ profile. Do not copy and paste your request to all hosts. Most host will ignore your request if your message is not personalized. They will usually include something in their description page saying, “Please include ___ in your request or I will ignore it.” It is their way of telling whether or not you’ve visited their page.
  • Be careful when sending Couchsurf requests to stay. It is important to check the hosts’ previous references and description page. Not all hosts are good people. We’ve met a host with strange behaviors and opted to leave the same night. That said, 99.9% of hosts are fantastic people. I like to see a full profile, complete with photos and hobbies so that I know more about the host before staying.
  • Each hosts’ preference is different. I’ve seen hosts who only host single travelers. I’ve seen hosts who live the nudist lifestyle (and will be walking around naked in the house). These information are written in their host profile upfront.
  • You may be sleeping on the couch, floor, bed, or tent. Over the years, I’ve met hosts who literally just have a space to set up on the floor.
  • Hosts may not spend time with you. Hosts have busy lives. They might not be there during work hours. In these cases, I like to spare my nights to spend time with hosts and get to know them.

Planning a trip and want to try Couchsurfing? Check out this article on 16 Places to Couchsurf in 2017.

What’s on your travel list this year? Please leave questions/comments below and let’s exchange!

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8 Ways to Travel the United States Cheaply and Comfortably

As with any long-term traveler, the biggest goal is to make the amount of money we have to last as long as possible. If we must spend money, the goal is to spend it as efficiently as possible. To prepare for our big road trip around the United States, Cuong and I gave away all our possessions, save a few boxes of mementos. We chose the things to bring with us very carefully, with two things in mind: practicality and comfort. Travelling the US is expensive, but it there are ways to lessen the burden. We had to decide on what we needed to take that makes sense in the long run. Through our experience, we have learned a few things.

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Took a picture of my partner taking a picture of me on one of our side trips.

car is the most versatile method of transportation;

R1: Interstate buses can only takes you from point A to point B, usually between two big cities like Manhattan and Atlanta. What if you wanted to stop by a nearby state park for a day out? A car can take you anywhere we want to on the map. We frequently took side trips to national parks and Six Flags. Unlike most buses, we could charge our phones in the car!

R2: What we spent on gas, we saved on rent and hotel cost. With the right setup, enough blankets and pillows, my car transformed into a comfortable bed. We usually chose brightly lit gas stations, fast food restaurants, or rest areas to spend the night. We have not had a problem with any of them.

R3: It functioned as our storage; it was a luxury that we don’t have to carry everything on our backs. When we get hungry, we just post up, grab some food from the trunk and go.

One thing I would change: I wish that I had bought a new set of tires. On the mountain back roads of Colorado, my car did a 180 degrees spin that made my heart drop to my stomach. Luckily, there were no cars around and I made it without a single scratch mark.

One thing to know: There will be lots of driving. Yeah, duh. But it is really important to ensure that you don’t get fatigued by driving too long. Cuong and I scheduled our driving time. We made it work  by driving in five hour intervals and taking turns sleeping. Planning and spacing it out made our trip as efficient and relaxing as possible.

2. Our Tiger rice cooker functioned as our portable kitchen. Eating out costs. Our solution for long term food source is using a rice cooker. For newbie cooks and veteran chefs alike, it is so simple to cook up a bag of ramen or a quick vegetable stir fry in a rice cooker. We take advantage of chain fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Wendy’s, with their abundant amount of power outlets to cook up a meal.

3. Pack for Rain and Shine. In just Hawaii, we experienced seven different climate changes; that is just one island. Through our trip, we’ve been through blizzard conditions, tropical rainstorms, as well as humid summer weather. I found these packable dawn jackets to be lifesavers as they’re light and incredibly. The more prepared you are for diverse sets of climates, the less likely you will be spending on new clothes.

4. Couchsurf and Airbnb to save on hotels costs. With every destination, we like to find Couchsurf or Airbnb host in the area who can show us around. It gives us an opportunity to meet people, refresh from sleeping in the car for so long, and take care of our hygiene. To learn more about this awesome community, see my short guide to Couchsurfing.

5. Shop at the right places. In highly populated cities like DC, New York, and Los Angeles, prices for food can be much more expensive. To save on grocery costs, we typically stock up when we find a budget friendly store. On the east coast, we shopped at Dollar Tree and Aldi for all our snacky needs. If you’re a fan of Waffle House, take it all in before you go over to the west side. On the west coast, keep an eye out for 99 Cent stores for your one-stop shop needs.

6. Knowledge of budget airline flight deals. We flew Allegiant Air from Los Angeles to Hawaii at half the going price. Beware, budget airlines typically have very strict carry-on rules, and they will charge you for every extra thing. You get what you pay for.

7. Get the best travel cards.

Charles Schwab is an excellent checking accounts card that has no ATM fees whatsoever. 

Capital One Quicksilver and BankAmericard Travel rewards card gives you 1.5% cashback on every purchase. 

8. Make long Term Investments. We don’t nickel and dime everything. We did spend on a few things that we considered an excellent use of money.

  • Six Flags Season Pass- $70/year; Roller coasters throughout the country!
  • National Parks Pass- $80/year; We hiked at Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Yosemite, and more!
  • Miscellaneous passes such as NYC CitiBike pass, metro cards, etc- biking around NYC can seem scary with all the crazy traffic and people, but it is an experience that made us want to come back.

I would love to hear from you! If  you have any budget travel tips, please share. 🙂 

Stop for a Moment: Get Off Your Phone

Ever since returning from Central America, I stepped out of a world where no one needed technology to a world where everyone is dependent on it. I want to share a couple of stories.

Story of my Life 1: As a backpacker, I loved my phone. I took all my photos on it. Ancient ruins, traditional clothing and cultures, foods, landscape- you name it. I used it to keep in touch with my family and friends. One day, on our way to a new destination in Guatemala, I reached for my phone in my backpack strap- it was gone. Time stood still. It felt like one of those horror movies, the moment where you realize going down the cellar was a huge mistake. I thought back to the last few hours. I racked my brain until I remembered that earlier the same morning, a friendly Guatemalan man had helped me lift my backpack to the overhead compartment on the bus. He must have felt through the pockets and grabbed my phone, along with all my money in it. How typical of a tourist can I get, letting a stranger handle my bag? I went through the rest of the trip without my brand new iPhone 6 and credit cards. In the chaos of my panic, I suddenly felt a strange calmness. I was jolted out of that world and the need to be constantly connected. No more distractions. I was not going to be that one person checking my Facebook every second, because I didn’t have the ability to. I can immerse myself in the beauty that I was surrounded by. I can actually listen to people who are talking to me. In the end, the only truly important items that I missed were my travel photos.

Story of my Life 2: After two years of not seeing each other, I have finally reunited with my close friend from college. We’ve known each other for 5+ years, sharing countless of memories with each other. We had so much in common: parents, interests, personalities, cultures, etc. I was really excited to see her. After weeks of planning our reunion and $200 spent for an entire weekend in a Hyatt hotel in downtown Atlanta. When it was finally time for us to hang out and catch up, it became glaringly apparent that she wouldn’t stop using her phone. I’m not being over-dramatic. She literally checked her phone every other minute, responding to her boyfriend or chatting up her hometown friend, who both have seen her a few days ago. I tried to engage her with questions about her life, enticed her with all the different things we could do with our night out, etc. She would talk to me absentmindedly and half heartedly, then checked her phone every so often. I suddenly realized that I was interrupting her time with her phone. I brought my concern to her attention, told her that I was upset. She insisted that she didn’t think it was a big deal, that I should have told her earlier, that I was over-reacting. I was heartbroken; it was so unfair. It has now been almost a year since I have spoken to her. I took it to heart never to get carried away with my nose stuck in a device that I don’t see the people around me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my phone. Without it, I would be very lost- literally and figuratively. Luckily, my body has a very natural way of preventing me from getting too technology dependent.  I get a headache from staring at an electronic screen for too long. I think that everything should be enjoyed in moderation. When you can’t control your urge to check your phone every 2 minutes, it becomes a problem.

  1. You become rude to people around you. Are you really even spending time together at that point?
  2. You become reliant. When used excessively, the devil’s box ensnares the mind. Just like the moment I realized I lost my phone. People don’t know how to cope without it. Technology, used excessively, dulls the mind, making it inept. How can you learn or remember anything when a quick Google search answers the question? It kills the curiosity that drives people.
  3. You become constantly unmotivated and distracted. When was the last time you read a book without being interrupted by the buzz of your phone and a quick Facebook check-in? Are you playing video games through the night and neglecting your dinner? Do you binge-watch TV shows on Netflix?

What am I going to do now that I get off my phone? Surprisingly, not all people in NYC glue their faces to their phones in the subway. They do a variety of things- listen to music, read, or just sit and relax before/after a day of work. In a fast-paced, high efficiency environment, I figured they learned that it is a good balance in life.

  1. Spend time with people. They’re much more interesting in person than on your chat box, I promise.
  2. Read. It might be cliched, but reading is awesome in many ways: improves focus, jogs memory, expands imagination, relaxes the mind, and takes you on an adventure! You then can talk to people about it.
  3. Play an instrument. Whenever I’m overwhelmed with work, TV, life, I like to switch gears and play some music. I play the same chords on the ukulele with every song. It’s not hard to learn. It’s just nice to hear something real once in awhile. I also like to sing. 
  4. Take a walk. I’m not a very active person on a daily basis (though I should be), but I love taking a refreshing walk once in awhile.
  5. Board games. We have an entire shelf stacked up to the ceiling of board games hoarded from over the years. Play them!

I recently bought my little brother a Minecraft Book Series Boxset for his birthday. If you have any kids in your family, you’ll know that they are obsessed with Minecraft. At the time, the box set competed with Pokemon plush toys, cool gadgets, and new clothes. As months passed by, all his toys became boring and he began to read the books. Through them, his imagination was able to expand. He still reads and re-reads them because he loves the world so much. It was not video games, but his imagination had taken place of his other senses. Imagination is the most powerful thing you have and it must be nurtured. 

I’m still trying to teach my little brother and sisters to take enjoyment in doing other things than technology. Learning to balance relationships, self, and technology is very important in happiness. Don’t let your phone take control of you. You take control of it.

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