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

Welcome back, my travel enthusiast fellows!

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

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

What’s in my bag?

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

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

Best price of $130 at Amazon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel cards

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

Day Bag

ADDITIONAL GEAR: IF YOU PLAN ON HARDCORE BACKPACKING + CAMPING

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

Final thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Most Unforgettable Adventures!

Welcome back, fellow travel enthusiasts!

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

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

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

Studying Abroad in Singapore

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

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

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

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

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Full Moon Party in Thailand

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

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

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It’s a night for a spontaneity and fun.

National Parks in the USA

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

Working for Stay While Abroad

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

Wandering Around New York City

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

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

Korea has my Seoul

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

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

You might also like some of my other adventure posts:


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gross/Disgusting Travel Stories

Welcome back, my fellow travel enthusiasts!


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

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

So what in my travels has given me the irks?

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

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

Finally, I decided with my specialty. Food.

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

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

Number 1: Balut (Fermented Embryo)

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

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

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

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

Number 2: Tarantula

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

Number 3: Deep fried insects & grub

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

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Number 4: Libido boosting foods

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

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

Number 4: Grass juice

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

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

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

Did you try any of these foods? Would you?

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


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Welcome back, travel enthusiasts! 

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know any amazing bloggers? Pleeaaaase share!!


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

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

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

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

 

Travel Blogging Challenge- Week 7 (Inspiration for Traveling)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to connect with you soon! Peace!

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

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

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

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

 

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

Welcome back to Travel Blogging Challenge Week 6!

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

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

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

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

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

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Beautiful views above the clouds with Acatenango

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Who else is doing the challenge?

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

Read more of my posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge:

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

Who else is doing the challenge?

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

 

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

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

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

Panda?

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately…

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They really don’t do much…

We watched and waited.

For over two hours…

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

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A long time apparently.

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

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And then something truly amazing happened!

Are you ready for this?

 

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

Just when I thought we have seen it all….

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

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


That’s all folks!

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

Read more of my posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge:

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

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

Backpacker Life

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

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

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

Thanks for visiting! Cheers!! <3

Photo Challenge: Transient

Travel Blogging Challenge – Week 2 (Little Known Travel Tips)

Over the years, I’ve learned so many things from trial and error. I’ve slept on the border, I’ve fallen from a motorbike, I’ve almost drowned while scuba diving, I’ve lost some of my most prized possessions, I’ve almost fallen from a coconut tree, and many more which I can tell you about in Travel Challenge Week 4 (Misadventures). This week, I want to tell you what mistakes I’ve seen people make (including myself).


Little Known Travel Tips, by order of importance

For an authentic experience, skip the tourist destinations, do what the locals do. … I know right? Easier said than done. But from my experience, touristy landmarks are always crowded, commercialized, and expensive. They are almost always full of street sellers, all up in your face.

On the other hand, I’ve done some really cool things and met awesome locals through Couchsurfing, an excellent resource for meeting locals and have a free place to stay. Talking to other travelers also help in my decision for the next destination! Here are some awesome experiences I’ve had, off the beaten track.

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Semana Santa (Easter) floral carpet on the streets

To get the most authentic things to do, I turn on my creep mode, and start watching the locals. I steer clear of tourists, and follow the locals to the best spots in town. For example…

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Found this wonderful indoor market while wandering around the village.

Food is a big part of my travels. I always seek local foods while walking about. Here are some platos tipicos from Couchsurf hosts and local markets! Delicious~~ <3

Don’t plan everything. I know it’s really hard to do when you only have a week of vacation. I’ve met people who visit New York City with their every hour scheduled out. It becomes more of a chore than a vacation. You’ll start stressing out when things don’t work out as planned… and altogether unpleasant.

I like to put in an extra free day or week so that I can just wander around serendipitously. My partner and I always travel slower than we planned out. When we moved to New York, we had only intended to stay for 3 months. We ended up staying for almost a year!

Don’t be too stingy. I am so guilty of this. Spending, especially in a foreign country where the money value is lower than the United States, can be tricky sometimes. I have once slept in a tent outside someone’s house (with permission) in the rain instead of paying $15 to get a motel room. Yeah, I know. It’s crazy that I didn’t do it. But $15 was considered a lot of money in Honduras!! Another time, I rode on a rickety bus for $1 instead of paying $20 for a shared private van. There, I got my brand new cellphone stolen.

Phew! So be it whether I missed out on experience or end up losing things, I have made it a goal to learn when to spend and when to save. Being too thrifty can hurt.

It’s okay to travel alone. I’ve felt the most freedom and met some of the coolest people while traveling solo. I loved it because I was free to do anything I wanted. I traveled on my own on some days, but more than often, I met dozens of people at random hostels and traveled together.  Spontaneity is 80% of the fun. After I met my partner, I experienced the joy of sharing my experiences with a significant other. I appreciate and love both travel styles. Don’t be the one who is scared of traveling alone!

Working while traveling is a wonderful substitution for a 9-5 job. In today’s digital age, people can now work with flexibility. I teach English as a Second Language, earning $22+ an hour. Learn more about my post on it here!

Invest a little bit in the right gear. For a year, I lived out of my backpack. That means a few things. All the clothes I wear needs to be hand picked carefully. I’ll admit, most my clothes are cheap, mostly from thrift stores. However, I want to stress the importance of travel gear.

Because I carry so much stuff on my back, I decided to buy a backpack with a suspension system. This was my best decision ever. I chose a 40L bag to easily fit the bag as a carry on on a plane. It fit everything, including my tent, tent poles, and clothes. On my back, with straps on correctly, I hardly felt any weight!

Check out prices on Amazon!

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Hiked 13,000 feet up a volcano with my awesome backpack!

I would say my backpack was the most expensive thing I owned. I would also invest in down feather jackets for its warmth and light weight, a lightweight backpacker tent, and an ultra light inflatable sleeping pad. Clothes were cheap where we traveled, and I knew I would be shopping, so I didn’t bring that many. My shoes were just from Walmart. So take my advice with a grain of salt. 😉

Immerse in the travels, get off your phone. When I lost my phone (pick-pocketed in Guatemala), I thought my world had ended. Then I began to realize how much my phone had controlled me. I began to see independently, outside of my selfies. The freedom was eye-opening. I suggest everyone try it. Instagram can wait!


That’s all folks!

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

Read more of my posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge:

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

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

 

Travel Blogging Challenge- Week 1 (Favorite Travel Photo and Intro)

I’m so excited to start off my 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge (you don’t have to be a world traveler to join this challenge)! This challenge showcases your experience through travel stories, cultures, foods, advise, lessons, and more. I encourage everyone to join and share your cool experiences, near and far! You can check out the entire challenge in the original post here! Please also visit Julie and Vikkilawman as they will be with me in this blogging journey!


Week 1: Your favorite travel photo of you and intro

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Yellowstone National Park

This is a photo of Buddy the Bison as he was about to walk across the bridge (about 3 feet from me) like a boss. This moment was phenomenal for me, because I had a fear that he was going to attack us (you never know, those horns are menacing). He ended up just walking right onto the bridge! It was the coolest thing in the world. Then, as all three of his hooves were on the bridge, he slipped! The poor thing! I was in between laughing and feeling sorry for him. It was so bizzare because the bison looked super cool and composed, with big, all-knowing wisdom eyes, I never expected that to happen. It took him about 30 seconds to regain composure and then crossed to the other side. We hung out with him for another hour, then moved on to view the geysers.


Intro

I’m one of those people people who never really knows what their doing. In life, I let my heart and impulses guide me, and trust that my wandering will lead me to happiness. One thing I never regret, is traveling.

I started my first trip by myself to Europe when I graduated high school, visiting my uncle in Norway. I’ve dreamt of traveling the world ever since.

Travel motto: Don’t count the countries that you’ve been to, but rather the experiences you’ve had in that country. 

Speaking of travel experiences, I was lucky enough to study abroad in Singapore, trek through jungles, climb volcanoes, explore colonial towns, climb a coconut tree, go back in time in a Medieval Festival, danced though the night at a full moon party, had dinner at a Robot Restaurant, motorbiked through Thailand, watch Broadway shows in NYC, and more! I’m so excited to share these stories with you.

I searched for remote work and now teach ESL online for $21+/hour. To save money, meet locals, and stay with them for free, I couchsurfed through 5+ countries.

When I graduated college, I met my partner, whom I now travel with. I’m so happy to be able to share all these beautiful moments with him. We’re both vegetarians, so you can imagine the struggle.

I think that’s it about me for now. I hope you find my posts interesting enough to follow my journey. Thanks for reading!! Welcome to my blog, and until next time! <3

 


Know any travel bloggers? Tag them here and join me!!! Let me know when you’re in, so that I can read your responses!

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

Read more of my posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge:

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

 

21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge

Travel Heals the Mind and Body

Fulfilling one of my first goals of this month, I have created my very own weekly blogging challenge. This challenge showcases your experience through travel stories, cultures, foods, advise, lessons, and more. You don’t have to be a world traveler to join this challenge, I encourage everyone to join and share your cool experiences, near and far!

I’ve been on the road since I was born, but in a different sense. My parents were refugees and frequently move from place to place. Growing up, I want to take every opportunity to see the world, instead of sitting at a desk.  This challenge explores all my tips and tricks as well as things I’ve learned.

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

This post is meant to be fun and explores a wide range of your history and story-telling. Of course, I don’t plan to follow it to exactly every week. I’m so happy to have my blogging friends, as they made my journey through my first few months of blogging very fun and fulfilling!


Please also visit these amazing folks as they will be joining me on this blogging journey!

Know any travel bloggers? Tag them here and join me!!! Let me know when you’re in, so that I can read your responses!


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

Vietnamese Heritage

Celebrating my first Vietnamese New Year Tet in my motherland and experiencing traditions passed on for thousands of years. Wearing the traditional Ao Dai, holding red packets (with money inside), red and gold peace and prosperity decorations, and vibrant flowers of all colors for the best luck of the year.

A Blog Response to Photo Challenge

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

Sunrise at the Wat

The sunrise view of Angkor Wat and it’s reflection on the water is an experience of a lifetime. 

But I was not told of the thousands of other people who were also trying to see that view every morning. Although the loud chattering and cramped standing space had destroyed the serene picture that I had expected, the history and architecture were impressive and made it worthwhile.

A response to Photo Challenge: Reflecting

Guest Post: An Open Letter to Chicago

Dear Chicago,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catherine


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

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