WL Reflections: May and June 2018

How much can you change in a year? It’s been more than a year after my reflection in May 2017. I have my journal and blog to thank for keeping track of my reflections and goals of in the past, present and future.

As with a lot of things in life, less is more. Here are some things I did the past couple of months!

Highlights:

I moved to Atlanta!

Since last May’s reflections, I have moved out of NYC and onto Atlanta. I have also taken a lot of time to travel and worked remotely in between. I spent 3 months in Vietnam in 2018, and recovered a little bit at home before launching my new adventures in Atlanta.

So I feel like my life is a bit of a mess right now, but at least it’s my mess. I’m doing the things I like to do, and following my guts to get me there. So far, so good. Except for initial panic of being alone.

For the first time in a long time, I was by myself. 

Having no pre-aquainted friends or family in the city, the strange new city was intimidating to me. I was afraid of the crazy traffic, and the notoriously highway I-85 with a horrible accident rate of at least 1x/day. The summer heat of high 90 degrees also didn’t help. I wanted to give up and run away, back to the safe haven of my small mountain town.

Thankfully, with plenty of encouragement from loved ones, I calmed down. I spent the 1 month rent money; if worse comes to worse, I will just pack up my car and drive home. I stayed.

Things I learned in my solitude:

The importance of making connections

I was elated to find out that my classmate, from studying abroad in Singapore, happens to live 20 minutes away from my apartment. I also have relatives going back generations, also living 20 minutes from me. Great news! They want me to move in with them until I can find a job that can support me!

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A time to self-reflect

Being alone allows time to reflect on the things I want to do and my goals in life. I started pursuing my hobbies again- something I haven’t done since HIGH SCHOOL. There’s a good 8 years washing along the waves of life. These days, I have been spending a lot time reading, writing, up-keeping photography, listening/playing music, and exploring the city.

greenisthenewblackOn a Hedonic Treadmill

At this point in life, I’m finding many things I do or want to do quite confusing. Chasing after things will get boring after awhile, as happiness comes down to equilibrium. It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. I’m struggling with what I want to do.

A Proud Sister and Daughter!

While I enjoy living on my own, I also learned to appreciate my time with family a lot more. I particularly appreciate my parents for their support.

My 12 year old sister and 10 year old brother are animators on Youtube now! I’m so, so proud of them!

Please check it out and I would love to know what you think!

Winthanh, my 12-year-old sister is borderline obsessive with her artwork. Her DeviantArt contains amazing digital art, so proud of how far she’s come!

10-year-old brother takes after his artistic sister, creating his own style of animation. I don’t get the music they’re into these days, but the talent is real!

My parents are taking more time to relax and travel, which I’m very proud for. They have been working too hard in life, and it’s time they let loose a bit and relax.

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Trying New Things

  • Volunteered at a refugee assistance program, something that I’ve wanted to do since coming to the United States.
  • Made artichoke for the first time. It’s so delicious, my favorite method is roasting them! This is the recipe I used for roasting.
  • Gardened for the first time, which is a big deal, because I have a deep-rooted fear of earthworms. I’m now thinking of starting my own hot compost pile!
  • I now have a fitness tracker! At first, I resisted, for fear of becoming too reliant on having fancy technology attached to me at all times. After 2 months of use, I disabled most of my notifications, and now loving the sleep tracking, step tracking, calling/messaging, and waterproof feature!
  • Audiobook of the MonthDante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an amazing audiobook read by Lin Manuel Miranda, and talks about philosophies of life in the eyes of a teenager.

Inspirational Thoughts:

Studies show people who their deathbeds’ 5 top regrets in life

  1. I wish I’d the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life that others expect of me. 
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings. 
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 
  5. I wish I let myself be happier. 

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Habits Retained:

  • Writing my thanks every night.
  • Writing my goals every morning.
  • Reading every day (books, audiobooks, Quora).

Some useful resources:

  • Blinkist (read/listen) – a great site/app for book summaries
  • Quora– general curiosity
  • Medium– my new Quora, coming up with thoughtful articles on life, personal development

Best Quote;

By fighting you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected. – from this amazing book by Dale Carnegie

Thoughtful question for YOU:

What do you want to be remembered for in your Eulogy?


Recent Blog Posts:


Next month’s goals:

  • Find work that I’m passionate about
  • Write 2 blog posts/week
  • Work on 2 more chapters of my book
  • Passive Income Projects

 

A Blogging Post to Get the Ball Rolling

What is the definition of procrastination? 

I’ll tell you later… 

Ha, get it?

I saw that joke in a video on the internet, and related to it too much. Which reminded me of the blog posts I have not been writing and the endless list of things I want to put on there. It’s been awhile since my last post and I have not updated on my Vietnam trip.

It really is a lot easier said than done, while everything is a work in progress. The more things I do while traveling, the less time I have to write about it.

But as I am too familiar with it, all it takes is to get the first post out to get the ball rolling. I hope my readers will forgive me for my absence and understand that I also owe it to myself to have a good time on vacation. This post will be one that will hopefully kickstart my routine, so it’s really for me, not you.

As I get back into the groove of being in the United States again, blogging is not the only thing on my priorities (though it is, because I did decide to buy a hosting plan that costs plenty of monies). I’m once again making money by working from home.

A short version: Vietnam was awesome. We had absorbed so much during this 2.5 month trip with family. I’m in much more control and aware of myself and my surroundings.

Though I did not come up with as many posts as I’d like, here are some that I had written on Nha Trang. Please peruse and enjoy our photo adventures of Vietnam.

Sunset in Hoi An, Vietnam

 

Vietnam: Layover Fiasco, Conquering Jetlag, and Meeting Our Pet Pig!

I’ve never used an airport intercom before.

After 15+ hours of our first leg of the flight and suffering from heavy jetlag, we landed in Incheon Airport, South Korea. We have two hours to transfer to to the flight we were on next. The line at security was long enough to worry whether we’d get to our gate on time. Fortunately, we made it through with 20 minutes to get to run to our gate.

With only minutes before doors close, my dad and uncle had wandered off for a quick smoke for awhile already. Why is it so necessary to go right now? I frantically came up and ask the representative to call for their names. I have heard people being called from the intercom many times from being at the airport, but never had that happen to me. The representative was very kind and helpful as she handed me the microphone for the intercom.

I have to say it’s pretty cool that I was able to grab the intercom mic and use it. The of scene from Home Alone popped into my head, except this time the adults are the ones left behind (the irony). I heard my voice on the intercom, which wasn’t as composed as most of the announcements I hear, but I hoped it did the job.

Seeing no point in six people losing their seats, we decided that we’re taking the flight with the kids, and that mom will wait for them to catch the next flight.

Fortunately, they had held the plane and was able to board the flight at the last minute. I don’t remember too much about the flight, except that my ear felt as if it was about to explode. This usually happens to me with smaller flights, though I don’t know the exact reasons. The food was better the other flight. And, ice cream!

Vietnam is exactly as I remembered.

Very hot, humid, and loud. Even in the cooler seasons, the heat is real.

We were stuck in a two hour long standstill traffic at 3AM. Cars drove 1 inch away from each other to squeeze their way through narrow sidewalks and get past each other. Truck drivers falling asleep while waiting in traffic is apparently a normal occurrence here.

Saigon is about 10 hours away from Nha Trang by car. We traveled through the night, which is great, because it saves time and money while we sleep anyway. I woke up sporadically through the ride and caught wonderful glimpses of the changes from city to county, scenes of acres of plantations, and cool side shops of people doing their routines.

Vietnam offers sleeping buses, where we could travel through the night on a bus with bunk beds for comfort. Pretty fancy and convenient. Our transport is a rented van and driver to take us straight to Nha Trang, which is best for the number of people and luggages we have.

We took many breaks, as much for our driver as it is for us. Stopping by one of the many side road hammock cafes that serve food and refreshments. Meals are as cheap as 20,000 VND, which is a little less than $1!

Jetlags usually don’t bother me too much. Recovering from jetlag is pretty rough. I’m constantly taking naps. Not the typical 15-30 minute naps, but one of those legit 2-5 hours blackout naps. The naps help me not get too sleepy before bed, but still have enough energy to sleep before it gets too late.

Home, sweet home.

The past few days have been a blur in travel, crash sleeping, eating, and sitting, which is surprisingly very exhausting. After bringing all of our stuff in, we were startled by the giant pig standing in our driveway. This is Mọi, our pet pig. She’s over 2 years old and weights many, many pounds.

She may seem a bit intimidating at first, but is actually quite tame. We give her most of our leftovers, which is great for not wasting food! Her hair is prickly, what I would imagine a porcupine to be like, but overall, quite cute! She typically lazes around and usually moves when we give her a good rub on her side.

Overall, not many super exciting things happening the first few days, but I’m grateful that we made it safely. It definitely feels good to be home. 

 

Day 0: Handling a 20+ Hour Flight to Vietnam

People often dread long flights, I love it.

I love being at airports.

From the process of checking in, finding our flight terminal to watching hundreds of people anticipating their next adventure, I’m in love with the energy.

To save time, we checked in online and spent the night before at La Quinta Inn and Suites. It was great for us as we had a nice breakfast and a free shuttle to the airport early next morning.

The day before is always stressful with all the last minute packing for the trip. Not to mention, I have an innate fear of missing the flight and end up with a Home Alone situation.

We’re fairly used to traveling, but traveling with family is new.

Everyone, kids and adults alike, are excited for the flight. The difference this trip and our typical backpacking trip is evident. We have 8 people on this trip, and we have whopping 13 luggages, most weighting over 45 pounds!

Fortunately, it’s not because we each over pack to have tons of clothes. See, when Vietnamese immigrants (Việt kiều) return to Vietnam, it is customary to bring back gifts. Ours, prepared by my parents for the last few months), contain new clothes, USA branded shampoo/conditioners, chocolate bars, and various medications.

We were at our gate 3 hours early, which gave us time to explore the airport and relax a before the long haul flight.

Korean Air, well known for its good customer service and professionalism, makes us feel instantly at ease. Our vegetarian meals and seat changes were dealt with in a very friendly manner.

If there’s anything I’m sure of about an international flight, is that it’s bound to have a ton of in-flight services. I watched some brand new released movie titles such as Birth of the Dragon, Wonder Woman, and Megan Leavey. This gives me a chance to get my thoughts together and ready myself for Vietnamese food.

Looking out the window while flying over the arctic regions of Canada is one of the coolest sights. There were miles on miles of uninhabited ice. If we look really hard, there would be specks of towns in the distance. This is something we would never see otherwise. The sun in the sky is so beautiful and the treacherous icy slopes.

Do you have any quirks while traveling long haul flights?

Last Post: Travel Blogging Challenge Highlights and What I’ve Learned

I made it!!!!!!!

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For those who have never heard of this challenge, here is your opportunity to read it all the way ’til the end: 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge (feel free to do a challenge of yourself!).

After over three months of blogging, there are a few posts that I’m quite proud of for writing myself. Here are some of the best:

Challenge Highlights

As I approached this last post, I feel nervous and excited. Nervous because I feel as if I have exhausted my writing topics. What else is there to share aside from all the experiences I’ve had?

With the end in sight, I’m excited because I’ve stuck to this challenge through the end. There were definitely weeks where I did not feel like writing, but this challenge had motivated me to get back into my blogging grind. Furthermore, this challenge was born from one of my monthly goals list, and I’m quite happy about being able to finish it.

I’ve learned a lot from this blogging challenge. I have practiced determination by pursuing a hobby and passion of mine through long, lazy days. I have learned to flow my writing better. Best of all, I’ve made great fun blogging friends along the way.

Again, do check out my 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge, where you will find the rest of the challenge prompts!


What’s next?

Well, now that I’m out of a 3+ month long blogging commitment, I want to take a break from challenge prompts for a little bit.

I’m hoping to get an actual blog domain for myself in the next few months. This would be a great way to explore uncharted waters and take a dive in the deep blogging pool. Adventures ahead!

What are some of your goals and proud accomplishments?


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

Here are some other posts you might like:

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

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

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

Five Perfect Photo Opportunities in Mexico and Central America

As a travel blogger and a social media enthusiast, I would like to list some of the best photo ops in Central America that will get your toes wiggling for an adventure!

5. Bacalar, Mexico

Where better to have a relaxing few weeks on the crystal blue waters and laid back town of Bacalar?

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The little town of Bacalar on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is home to one of the most beautiful open, calming, clear blue waters I’ve ever seen. Walk along the streets and you can find lovely huts that take you right up to the water, rendering it a stunning spot to take photos.

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While you’re there, don’t forget to take a dive in the famous Cenotes Azul, going as deep as 200 feet! Let the large and deep body of water excite and scare you as you take a leap from the tree branch!

We made a wonderful community of friends from Couchsurfing, who showed us the best secret spots to eat and play in town! Bacalar became a sweet place for us to remember our great friends and the adventures we took.

#4. Carnival, Caye Ambergris, Belize

We had the wonderful opportunity to witness Carnival in several cities in Central America. However, Caye Ambergris (Belize) was my favorite.

The colors, the music, the energy, the food, the people-  everything is wonderful about Carnival. The beautiful thing about it is that you are bound to encounter it anywhere in Central/South America! Make sure you check and mark your calendars!

I loved Caye Ambergris because we were right by the water as well as all the festivities. After an exhausting night out, we were able to stumble right up to our hostel for a rest.

For a more peaceful getaway, Caye Amberghis is a great island hop spot to a nearby island, Caye Caulker, where visitors explore on foot and golf carts!

The nice fun fact about Belize is that everyone speaks English and takes US Dollars! There are also a lot of Creole people in Belize, with a completely different set of fascinating foods and cultures. Not to mention is the island frequently referenced in Madonna’s song, “La Isla Bonita!”

#3. Colorful Mercados (Markets)

Ah, beautiful markets of Central America. It’s almost comparable to my markets in Southeast Asia. The haggling, the tropical fruits, the cheap clothing. What’s not to love?

The reason I picked markets as one of my favorite photo opportunities is because it’s the perfect place to capture locals in their element. I love finding cheap horcatas or strange stalls of food to try out. Of course, I will first have to ask if it has carne (meat). market

#2. Colonial Streets – Central America

With a heavy influence from the Spanish colonization era, colonial towns in Central America.

EditThere are not enough words to describe the glorious cobblestone streets of Central American colonial towns. Honorable mentions to Antigua, Guatemala and Granada, Nicaragua!

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#1. Twin peaks: Volcan Acatenango and Volcan Fuego in Guatemala

Camping on top of a volcano makes it to the top of my list. There is no other feeling as exhilarating as sensing the earth rumble and a burst of lava fill the air right in front of us.

10399594_10207428749890366_760704894419302331_nAnd be honest, aside from being on a plane, when was the last time your legs have taken you above the clouds before? 12592512_10207428749650360_1420307703996003216_n (1)


Have you been to great photo ops while traveling? Please leave your favorite spots on comments!!! 

I’ve been slowly improving on my eye for photography, showcased on Instagram. I would love some feedback!!

My Travel Bucket List

Ah, my never-ending list of things I want to do and places I want to go. Today, I’m going public with my to-travel list. 

Destinations

Visit castles and go to pubs in Ireland 

To be absolutely honest, my very first impression of Irish culture is the time I ate potato skins at an Irish pub. There weren’t many vegetarian options. I thought that was such a bizzare dish, but ended up crunchy delicious! I was hooked.

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Aside from that, I simply adore Irish music. I always find myself putting on an Irish/Celtic playlist while going on long drives or hikes. Not to mention I love everything about the animated film, Brave. 

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And seeing myself walking down a medieval castle’s winding staircase. /dreamy sigh/

To cruise through, literally, anywhere in Africa to dance, listen to music, and explore wildlife.

In 6th grade, I memorized all the countries in Africa to impress a teacher, and won an award for it. I know it sounds kind of crazy to brag about it now, almost a decade later, but it was my first exposure to the continent.

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I love beat and rhythm of Kenyan music, the culture and history of Egypt, the friendliness of Ghana citizens. I also adore the colorful African clothing!

Not to mention I love everything about the animated film, Lion King.

New Zealand

One of my biggest inspiration of visiting New Zealand is from listening to Flight of the Conchords. 

The country itself is gorgeous, and I’ve heard so many great things about it. Not to mention the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed there. Image result for lord of the rings New Zealand

Stroll around Paris, France (with my SO)

City of love, eh? I loved Paris the first time I visited. The architecture, the people, the food, the music, the energy. Can’t beat that. However, I want to go again with my SO- because I’m a romantic like that. I want to experience the city right.

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Alaska- To See the Glaciers

Need more be said? I’m a greedy girl. I want to see the great glaciers before they all melt away (at the rate we’re going). I’ve never been, but I imagine it’s similar to Colorado, but bigger and colder. Confirmation?

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Activities

Cruise

We’re budget travelers. Cruises are too luxurious for us. That might change in the next year or two, as I’m about ready to go on one finally! I should mention I’m a pessimist on open water, and am deathly afraid of sharks/whales/icebergs/storms/pirates running over my poor cruise ship.

… I blame Titanic. 

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See Northern Lights

I just really, really want to see pretty lights.

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Pack Bags and go to random destinations

Shame on me for taking pride of being spontaneous, but never actually set off on a blind. I’ve always had some sort of planning, even though a day ahead. The most I’ve ever done true spontaneous travel was while wandering around New York City.

Rock climbing

I’m always looking for something new to try. I want to do it in nature versus at a gym or something.

Fly First Class

Here’s to hoping some airline is going to have price mistake soon.

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

What’s on your bucket list?? As always, I would love to connect and exchange stories!

Here are some other posts you might like:

Read more of my posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge:

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known travel tips

Week 3: Funny travel story

Week 4: Travel Misadventures
Week 5: Top Three Cultural Foods
Week 6: Unusual Travel Activities/Photos
Week 7: Inspiration for Traveling
Week 8: My Five Favorite Travel Blogs
Week 9: Gross/Disgusting Travel Stories
Week 10: The Most Unforgettable Adventures!
Week 11: What’s in my bag?
Week 12: Happy and sad travel 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: My Travel Confessions and Regrets

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

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

Guest Post: Why Africa should be your next travel destination

So first, a bit about me. I’m Giles, a 26 year old travel blogger from the UK blogging on gilesmeetsworld.com. Last year was lucky enough fulfill my dream of traveling around the world, quitting my full time London job to visit 18 countries across 5 continents. The final leg of my trip was a camping group tour through Africa lasting 40 days, driving from Cape Town to Nairobi. We traveled through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania (including Zanzibar) and Kenya. It was without doubt one of my all time travel highlights so this post is just a taste of why you should make Africa your next travel destination.

The Experience

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Admittedly Africa probably isn’t on the top of most people’s travel lists. I went to Sub-Saharan Africa as I wanted to go somewhere different, go somewhere which wasn’t on your standard gap year route, experience new things, push myself out of my comfort zone, and most of all, travel in a way that felt like an adventure.

Africa certainly didn’t disappoint. From the moment I landed in Cape Town, looked out of my hostel window and saw Table Mountain in all it’s splendor, I was treated to so many incredible experiences you just wouldn’t find elsewhere in the world.

Africa has some of the most beautiful species of animals and wildlife in the world, some of the most stunning landscapes you may have not even heard of, and some of the most friendly and inspiring people you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting.

In 40 days I traveled over 10,000 miles, experiencing cities, desert, river deltas, lakes, canyons,white sandy beaches, not to forget the Serengeti (think Lion King) and so much more. I experienced the scorching heat of the Namib desert whilst climbing a 170 metre high sand dune, came face to face with lions mere feet away, and sat on the edge of the Victoria falls. This is just a taste of some of the once in a lifetime things you can experience here.

Wildlife

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Wildlife, wilderbeest migration

For many people, this is the most common reason to come to Africa, to go on safari and game drives and see some of the incredible wildlife it has to offer. We were lucky enough not only to just see it, but we were immersed in it through camping in national parks un-fenced off from wildlife.

We would have hippos and elephants make their way through the campsite at night, have hyenas calling out all around, and have buffalo casually strolling over to block our toilet facilities. We sat watching a water hole in Etosha national park, whilst Giraffes, wilderbeest, and rhino all came to take a drink.

I saw some of the world’s most beautiful and breathtaking animals in my 40 days, and saw them in their natural habitat right where they should be. There really is no substitute.

Landscapes

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Landscapes, Namib desert

I’ve briefly touched on a couple of landscapes in Africa but the amount of natural wonders you can see, and the sheer size of it all is something to behold. I’ve mentioned it above, but sitting in the ‘devils pool’ on the edge of the Victoria falls (see main pic) has always been on my travel bucket list, and it really didn’t disappoint.

The water is shallow enough and rock formations such that you can safely sit right on the edge of the falls poking your head right out.

On top of this: we visited Fish River Canyon, the second biggest canyon in the world behind only the Grand Canyon; stayed on Zanzibar in Tanzania with its sparkling white beaches and aquatic life; we climbed sand dunes and explored the Namib desert; stayed in the Okavango river delta traveling by traditional dug out canoe to make our way past hippos to camp on a small island; saw and did game drives in the Ngorongoro crater and Serengeti; and swam in Lake Malawi with some of the friendly locals. I could go on and on and on about how much there is to see and do here, most of which I never expected.

Summary

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So in summary, I don’t actually work for the Africa tourist board, I just saw and did SO much in such a short time that I can’t speak highly enough of my experience. Having been to other places in my travels that become overrun with tourists and have the local culture diluted somewhat, traveling through these seven countries you get a real experience that feels like an adventure. In my time in Africa I was pushed out of my comfort zone and learnt more about myself than anywhere else I’ve traveled, and for that Africa will always be a special place for me.

If you enjoyed this post, I’ve got lots more on the rest of my trip and other experiences here, and here is part 1 and part 2 of my Africa travel journal with plenty more on my time there. Thanks for reading and happy traveling!


As always, thanks for stopping by, folks! I hope you enjoyed reading my latest collaboration. See my post on published on Giles’ page, writing about “My Firsts in Central America!”

Have a safe night, and safe travels. Also, Happy Halloween!

 

Arches National Park

Arches National Park is possibly one of the most beautiful parks we’ve been to during our road trip. Seeing the large sandstone arch formations created by wind erosion in the red sunset lighting is quite a wonder. 

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The world famous Delicate Arch

Arches took a day out of our trip, starting and ending our day at the visitor’s center. The trails were easy enough to follow. We hiked to the Devil’s Garden, where we saw tall formations stacked side by side like dominoes!

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Looking through a window to a different universe

We went around December, where snow was still all the ground! We navigated slippery rocks, frozen rocky puddles, and steep trails.

With over 2000 arches, the hike was very scenic and beautiful! Coming from the luscious green mountains, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. Red, dry, and very magnificent.

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The best thing about going during the winter is that there weren’t many other visitors.

A little corner of the park just to ourselves. 🙂 

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Photo Challenge: Rounded


Thanks for stopping by for another travel post! Please do leave your thoughts.

If you enjoyed this post, here are some posts I think you might like!

My Travel Confessions and Regrets

Hi everyone! Welcome back to another week of my Travel Blogging Challenge. It feels like it was ages ago since I’ve written my first challenge response. So much has changed since then. Funny how time flies, yet can still be devastatingly slow, huh?

This week’s challenge theme: Confessions. Regrets.

I have many, many things to confess.

I have always tried to live my life as if it were my last days. I want to do things as soon as possible, but with these impulses comes dire consequences.

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I guess it must be something in my personality, I often look back. Wistfully replaying events in my life in nostalgia, wondering what would happen if I had done things differently, whether there are things in my life that I regret.

Time and time again, these are oversights I find myself making…

My Oversights

Not being in the moment

I always look ahead. It is my both strength and my weakness. I don’t wallow in my mistakes yesterday if I know there’s nothing I can do to change it. However, I always find myself eager and worried for tomorrow and whether everything will go smoothly.

To relate, studying abroad in Singapore was such a big and fun part of my life. Between all the tests, studying, presentations, the semester had passed by in a wink of an eye.

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Today, I look back and saw that I participated in many clubs/events, studied abroad, made lots of friends, but it passed by with all the fretting that I did over my curriculum.

You may have seen in my previous post, I am not a huge fan of the constant dead zombie glowed faces from browsing cell phones. I am also guilty of being reliant on technology. Though I am pretty good about self control with social media, because I work online and I keep track of my travel photos, it’s quite difficult to stop myself from using the net. Only when I got my phone and wallet stolen did I finally realize how dependent I was.

Impatience

This is perhaps one of my biggest flaw while traveling.

Once I have a thought planted in my head, I take immediate action– sometimes recklessly so. I am haunted by the fear of waiting- and then losing the opportunity.

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I don’t give enough time to people and places. I’m always anxious to move forward, failing to realize that the now is what makes me happy.

I fail to realize that not everything works out while traveling.

Cultural and Environmental Impact

Looking back, I am appalled at my own ignorance while traveling.

In my first years, I never took the time to research the cultural and environmental impact of the actions I’m taking. Animals are endangered because of ignorant tourists. Locals’ livelihood are affected by my actions. 

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Moreover, I’ve never taken ample time to research the history of places I visit. What struggles they’ve been through, what their culture is like.

Though I’m not doing anything to harm the citizens, I’m not taking enough measures to ensure I’m leaving a green footprint behind. Leaving it a better place.

Luckily,

I made it through and, as always, learned important lessons that help make me a better, more conscientious person. Though I’m not any more perfect today, I am much more aware of my actions and what I can do make myself a better traveler. 


Are there things in your life, decisions, choices, paths that you felt could have been done better?

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!

 

Guest Post: Five perfect European Weekend-Getaways

 

Let me start by introducing myself. I am Emma, a 20-something year-young girl from Belgium. I have my own blog, called Curlygirlabroad (which might change name soon). Winta was so kind to reach out to me, so I can share a post of mine on her blog. I have done quite some travelling in Europe and like to share five great cities for a weekend-getaway.

Antwerp

Being a proud Belgian, it might not seem to odd I am promoting this city in my country. Antwerp is very diverse, and not so well known for tourist. That’s why it is the perfect city to explore. The city center is filled with beautiful medieval architecture, and also has some beautiful baroque buildings. If that is not your cup of tea, you can talk a walk along the river, admire paintings from the Flemish Primitives, do some shopping, spot diamonds, or get multicultural in Chinatown and the Jewish Quarter. There is something for everyone in Antwerp!

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Almeria

I travelled to Almeria in January and absolutely fell in love with the city! It is located in the beautiful region Andalusia and might not be as known as other cities in that region like Sevilla, Granada and Cordoba. Yet it has so much potential! The city clearly shows the Moorish history and has a beautiful city center. You can easily fill your weekend in the city itself, but if you like some change there is much more to discover in the neighbourhood. The natural park of Cabo de Gata brings some lovely change with its beautiful volcanic rocks. Also nearby is the desert of Tabernas, and there is of course always the sea.

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Caernarfon

Besides the fact that I have no clue how to pronounce it, I do enjoy the small town of Caernarfon. Up in the North of Wales, the weather isn’t always that great but this town definitely makes up for it. Also here, it is perfectly possible to combine culture and nature within a weekend. Whether you like to walk along the coast path, climb Mount Snowdon, or visit another cute town in the neighbourhood, you’ll have a variety of things to do in and around Caernarfon.

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Carcassonne

I’ve been to Carcassonne twice now. Every time it “served” as a stopover destination towards Spain. I love to walk around in this medieval town. It can get pretty crowded though, but it is definitely worth it. Unlike other towns/cities where there are several medieval buildings, Carcassonne makes you dive back into history. A walk on the city walls is recommended!

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San Sebastian

The Spanish Basque country is way less touristic then other regions in Spain. While Bilbao seems to be the more known citytrip, I find that San Sebastian or Donostia has much more character. The town itself is absolutely beautiful and perfect for foodies! Hiking up the hill will give you a beautiful view over the bays as well as the town itself. The perfect spot to try some Pinxtos (or tapas) and enjoy the local culture.

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Hope you enjoyed the post! Let me know: what is your perfect weekend-getaway on Europe?

Emma from CurlyGirlAbroad

Also do check out my guest post on her blog! “How to Get Over a Bad Experience While Traveling” <3

The More I Know…

It’s true, what they say. You don’t truly appreciate what you have until it’s gone. Despite having travelled across the oceans, I have never fully explored my own back yard. Time to go back and walk the path I’ve never walked. 

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I’ve always wanted to leave the small towns.

I grew up in a small town, lived in one for most of my life. I never appreciated the autumn colors, the mild weather, the beautiful scape.

I’ve always wanted to move to a big city. When I had the chance, I left.

For a long time.

It’s been years since I’ve come home for more than 3 weeks. I guess it would be over five years now? I’ve looped around the world, and now I’m back.

I’m so thankful to have the time to come home, be with my family, have a productive time of my life where I can sit and think. I’m appreciating things I’ve never had before. We’ve been walking a section of the green way every day, seeing landscapes we’ve never seen before. It’s so beautiful. My mountains.

Stages of Making a Big Move

Moving to another apartment, city, country, or continent can be daunting. It is especially so when you’re moving along with someone else (like my boyfriend).

In my entire life, I’ve moved countless of times. From the Philippines (3 cities) to Iowa (2 cities) to Georgia (2 cities) to North Carolina (4 cities, 3 houses, 2 dorms, 1 apartment) to Singapore to New York City (2 boroughs)…

So I’m not a stranger to moving to a different city.

Now, preparing for a new adventure, we’re packing up to move again.

I typically undergo several stages of emotions as I undergo the process of moving such as bouts of denial, deep sense of suffering, frustrations, impatience at the inability to make it all poof into thin air.

Stage 1: I have this much stuff???

There’s always more stuff than I expected. I get so infuriated by the fact that I hold on to so many things. They always show up whenever I move. Dozens of small things that add up.

Even worse, my boyfriend and I have very different methods of packing and moving. I prefer to get everything packed up and ready to go as soon as possible. He prefers to do an all-nighter packing up all the stuff at the last minute. /sigh

Stage 2: Where does it all go??

I’m not sure where this goes. I don’t want to throw or give it away, because it’s a keepsake. I don’t use it enough to keep it in my main luggage.

This is where I get my feeling of helplessness, feeling entrapped by my own possessions.

Stage 3: The Specifics

  • Timing the cooking right so that all the food runs out on the day we have to leave. At the end of every move, our goal is to finish up all of our leftover perishables. Dairy, vegetables, frozen foods. We hate to have food go to waste so we would plan our meals accordingly to have food cooked and packed completely as we move to our new location. I know, serious issues, right?
  • One way car rentals are wicked expensive. Just like how one way flights are ridiculously expensive compared to round trip tickets, so are car rentals.

Stage 4: The long journey

Sleep deprivation, exhaustion, claustrophobic of all the stuff in the car but pulling through because it’s almost over. The car is heavily over-packed, weighted down by all the possessions we own.

Stage 5: In the End

A shower and a cup of coffee will fix everything. 

My insta-fix for a big move every week is a simple shower and a cup of coffee. What’s yours?


Do you also know the struggle? What are your ways to wind down after a stressful move? Do leave a comment and let’s connect!

Here are some posts I think 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

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!

 

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