Three Day, Three Quotes Challenge: Day 3

On the last day of my quotes challenge, I decided to choose another song. Here is one of my all time favorite songs.

It’s a lot of pressure to find a perfect quote to end this challenge.

Since my first two responses have been lyrics from songs, I feel a strong desire to do one for today as well.

What a Wonderful World

I see trees of green, red roses too 
I see them bloom for me and you 
And I think to myself 
What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white 
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night 
And I think to myself 
What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky 
Are also on the faces of people goin’ by 
I see friends shakin’ hands, sayin’ 
“How do you do?” 
They’re really sayin’, 
“I love you.”

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow 
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know 
And I think to myself 
What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself 
What a wonderful world

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow 
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know 
And I think to myself 
What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself 
What a wonderful world
What a wonderful world

I hope you enjoyed the song! This song has been my go-to cheer up song, each line encapsulates a beautiful feeling. Some things in life are just beautiful in its simple ways. Ending the day with jazz and a sip of wine is my way to go.

The ability to do something isn’t so much a problem as keeping it consistent. Hope to be back for good now. I may be joining a blogging challenge again pretty soon. I just need to build up a solid discipline foundation. See you in the next post!


I am nominating:

Three Day, Three Quotes Challenge: Day 2

Every birth year, I look back and reflect on what life lessons in that year resonated with me most. I have been 24 years old for 4 months now, and I have experienced by far the most internal struggle I’ve ever been through. I’ve met and dealt with situations beyond my comfort zones.

For my 2nd Day’s Quote Challenge Response, I am choosing another song that I have come to appreciate more and more over the years. This song outlines the goals in my life.

“My Way”

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way
Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way

Yes, it was my way


I am nominating:

Thoughts on Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I’ve never been a huge fan of self-help books.

My siblings and I come from a small town, population: 3,500. We only recently opened a super-Walmart (which is still kind of small).

We don’t get to see the big city often, but when we do, our favorite thing to do is go to Barnes & Noble.

No, really. We love it there.

It’s crazy how excited we get come the day we get to go. It is, in fact, the only thing we do in Atlanta. And we go there just to read all day long! We would yearn for the weekend to come just so that we can spend an entire day sitting under the store’s tree nook and read.

This time, I chose to read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I’ve heard of  this title through various lists of books one should read during their life, and it seemed short, so why not?

The book captivated me.

It was a perfect dose of fantasy and reality. It asked questions that I’ve been asking myself, such as: What was I meant to do with life? What if I just wanted to enjoy life versus working the life expected of me? 

But it didn’t write the book in the typical tell-you-facts kind of book. There were adventures, adversities, and realizations.

Published in 1988, in Brazil, The Alchemist started out modestly. Copies of the books were sold through word of mouth, but exponentially grew as Coelho had appealed to an American publisher to translate and sell it in the United States. Then, everybody was reading it. 

The Alchemist tells a fictional story of an Arab “boy” (as he is referred as throughout the whole book) who has a recurring dream and the tug of fate to pursue it. He is discouraged by many obstacles, but always has guidance “omens” to pursue what his legacy is. Along the way, he learns to read the signs of the world, understanding how everything in the world is connected. As he reaches the “X” where his treasure is supposed to be located, he finds out that it was buried alllll the way back where he started.

It wasn’t a life changer like The Four Agreements, but I was hooked and finished it within 3 days. The short 200 page book (100 if you read on the phone) had given me a lot of thinking on my current life phase.

The book highlights his resilience, quick wit, weakness, bravery, compassion, logic, ambition, sorrows, and regrets. The boy is so human. 

Yet, there were magical elements, which reminds me of all the fantasy books I used to obsess over.

Time and again, I found myself rooting for the boy, wondering what happens next, as if it were happening to me. I want him to reach his treasure, as I yearn to reach mine- whatever that may be.

I related to the book on a personal level, because I felt it throughout my life.

There is an impression that seems like the book has an overdone cheesy, silly, time-wasting story of you-can-do-anything-you-put-your-heart-to kind of attitude. I don’t believe that the book is meant to be taken seriously by any means.

There were many important lessons I enjoyed through the book, such as:

The book highlights the boy’s resilience, quick wit, weakness, bravery, compassion, logic, ambition, sorrows, and regrets. The boy is so human. Yet, there were magical elements, which reminds me of all the fantasy book I used to obsess over.

If you want something bad enough, the universe will conspire to help you

If one wants something to happen, they have to go after it like crazy. I find that when I search for things, there are always ways to make it happen. Sometimes it comes from a different place than expected, but the signs are all there.

Awareness of the disconnect between people and the surroundings

People don’t listen to the signs in nature. The book also teaches us that all things are connected. The life and energy of every living being can affect all others around it.

Nothing is insignificant, knowledge and sincere, hard work will pay off on the long run

In this part of the book, the boy had gotten all of his life savings taken by a thief. He is left with nothing in a strange land where he begins working at a jewelry store. Slowly he helped the shop-owner expand his business over the months. The business amazingly takes off.

The book spoke out to my naive self, that dreams will eventually come true, if you keep pursuing it and not lose sight of your treasure.


Thanks for stopping by! Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Do you know of similar books that is similar to this and can recommend? Thanks!IMG_0281

Escaping the Patriarchial World

As with the rise of feminism and women rights around the world, I am also hoping for improvement of the fate of women in my own country. I come from a culture where men are the head of the household. Even in my long line of family history shows a bias towards the men in our household.

In traditional Vietnamese culture, women are expected to do all household work, take care of children, and manage the ins and outs of the family activities and financials. Men are expected to bring home the money to support the family.

Ideally, if everything is fair in the amount of labor, then it works out.

I’ve been personally acquainted many families where the husbands abuse their wives. They come home drunk after a long night out with friends, treat their wives like dirt, abuse them at every mistake they make. Women who only give birth to girls are shunned by society, since they are not able to carry on the “family name.” Women then have to accept that their husbands will find another wife to carry a son.

It is forgivable when a husband goes out and finds a mistress, but for a wife to do so would be abominable. In youth, she must listen to her father, in adulthood, she must obey her husband, and in old age, she must listen to her grandson. Heritage is distributed first to the sons of the family, no matter how young they may be.

For a long time, I had a deep resentment for male dominance and female submissive character traits. I’ve struggled with the same question in my head. Why would anyone stay with someone who abuses them? Mentally or physically, abuse is abuse, right?

This is not to say that it is the case for all families. I’ve met some very respectable Vietnamese men as well. Despite the conservative mindset that is ingrained from culture and history, they treat their wives with love and respect to be admired. Like all human rights issues in the world, the people have to know there is an alternative possibility. An opportunity to live a better, more deserved life.

I’m fortunate enough that my parents had given me the support to rise up, get education, and fulfill my dreams. I’ve been raised to learn that women can do anything just as good and better.

I certainly won’t let anyone take that power away.

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

An Open Letter to Worried Parents

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


Thưa ba mẹ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nhưng đợi một chút.

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

Con đã trưởng thành.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sunset

 


Dear Parents,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But wait.

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

I am mature.

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

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

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

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

I have developed great communication skills and decision making skills.

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

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

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

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

sunset


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

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

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

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

 

Pensacola vs Destin, FL: A Rogue Guide and Comparison

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

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

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

Trip Highlights

The Beach: What Everybody Comes For

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

 

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

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

Things to Do Around Here???

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

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

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

Our Lodging: Hotel vs. Condo

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

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

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

Overall

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

 

Summer Reflections!!!

Hi everyone!!! ~~~

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

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

Some mini-milestones I’ve passed this summer!

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

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

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

 

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

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



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

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

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

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

I could improve….

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

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

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


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

Everything Else is a Distraction

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

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

Photo Challenge: Focus

May Reflections

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

Time has gone, what have I done?

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

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

My blog highlights:

Things I’m Thankful For:

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

Goals for June

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

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

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

Pick up some old hobbies: 

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

Blogging goals:

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

We did it, you can do it too.


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

Digital Lottery

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

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

General Rush/Student Rush Only/Last Minute Purchases

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

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

In Person Lottery

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

Standing Room Only (SRO)

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

Today Tix phone app

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

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

Cancellation Line 

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

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

General advice that will help you score tickets:

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

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

Excuse Me, Life Passing Through

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

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

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Statue of Liberty

Photo Challenge: Evanescent

Guest Post: Explore your city – Get lost in London

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regents canal panda

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

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

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

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


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

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

Letter to a Friend Who Has Drifted Away

Dear Nad,

When my partner and I moved to this strange new city into a small apartment of five people, you were the friendliest, most honest, and easy to get along with. We went out, saw theater productions, cooked, watched movies/TV shows, and even decorated our apartment for Christmas together! We bonded on how much we hated our roommates and landlord. We had introduced you to our friend, who is now your bride-to-be! Eventually, we decided to move into another apartment together. That was when things went downhill, wasn’t it?

Looking back on our almost 9-month friendship, I really wonder what had happened to make our relationship so short-lived. I guess it could only be explained by our fundamental differences. How could I not see it before? The 15+ years of age difference between us, perhaps? Or maybe because you’re a sales manager, making the six digits income, while I work from home (which you consider “unemployed”)? You’re able to afford fancy dinners and take-out meals, while I enjoy shopping for food, cook, and eat. You have fancy suits, while we’d rather spend money on travelings and experiences. We are in every ways the opposite. I didn’t think that any of these differences were a problem. Apparently, you did. I suppose living together is a whole different ball game from being roommates.

I am thoroughly shaken up by our last fight that had ended in angry, hurtful, and cold words. I can’t just be like you, and act like it doesn’t matter. I have always been the ones who reached out to you, to hang out, to talk about our issues, to ask you how everything is going… always the first one to put out. Even to the last minute, I had tried to reach out to you, tell you that I’m feeling hurt that you cared less about our friendship than we did, telling us that none of this mattered.

Friendships takes work, and if you’re the one has expectations, you probably won’t get very far. Still, I should thank you. In the end, I have learned a lot from our unfortunate relationship.

Good luck to you.
Winta

05/29/17


Dearest Nerual,

It’s not you, it’s me. I have a quick temper and a self-righteous mind. I rarely apologize or meet halfway when I think I have been wronged. I recognize that as my flaw, and am trying to repair it. I don’t connect with people as well as I’d like to- socially challenged you might say. You know that about me. We used to be best friends, making terrible jokes, sneaking off to check out another city, spending time at each others houses, watching movies together, talking about boys, and harmless gossip. I’ve learned so much from you. You taught me what “punch buggy,” meant and took advantage of my lack of knowledge to beat me at the game, which it incredibly unfair. I’ll have you know I’ve learned to get much better at it.

There are no years quite like the high school years. It was before I had the freedom to do anything, and you had showed me the joys in life. Your life was incredibly different from mine. We each had our own family problems. I loved your family like my own. I was upset when you were upset, and happy when you were happy.

I’m not exactly sure what went wrong, but if it’s what I think it is, then I can’t believe I let some small fight and bad temper get in between our years of friendship. Over the years, I’ve made several attempts to reconnect with you, but was gently shut down.  We have both moved on since. You’ve relocated and had made a career out of your dreams. I’m only sad that I am not in the picture. I miss you a lot. I just need to realize that some things need to be fixed right away, or you can’t turn back time. I wish you all the best.

Winta

A Blog Response to Daily Prompt: Bitter

Exposed: A Blog Response from Kids

What if children wrote blogs?

As a way to spend more time with my siblings, who live 15 hours away, I had come up with an idea to ask them to write a weekly post challenge response with me. They have been very enthusiastic and we had lots of laugh doing this together. It’s also a great opportunity to help them articulate their thoughts and writing better as well as document the process to look back upon in the future. We had so much fun writing their first blog response that we decided to continue doing it!

I gave them the word and definition:

Exposed:
To make (something or someone) visible, typically by uncovering/revealing it.
“At low tide the sands are exposed” , “She exposed Batman’s true identity”


My brother, 3rd grader, wrote:

When my sister explained Exposed, I was about to do three things: explode, die, and suffer. In my head, I was thinking about throwing something at her. *Ahem..* I WANT TO THROW SOMETHING AT HER!!! AAAHHHHH!!! I was thinking that won’t go too well. 

So all I did was hold it all in. Not like “hold it all in until I explode!!” Kinda thing. Chi Thanh and I thought that Chi and Chi Tam said, “EXPO” So don’t think we think about that now. The title is in capital letters and underlined in bold letters so don’t even think about it. 

My thoughts on his response: I was at a loss when I read his answer, and how he associated “exposed” with explode, die, and suffer. When I called them to ask how he came up with his response, I learned that my sister Tam (sitting to my right in the picture above) had tried to explain in more detail what expose meant. In the process, my brother had felt like he was going to explode from suffering. His response has nothing to do with the definition of exposed, but it showed that what Tam has said affected how he felt about the word prompt. Since I told him to write whatever he felt, he just did what I asked.   


My sister, 5th grader, wrote:

When my big sister chi told me the word expose, I thought she said expo- you know, the marker. After she corrected me, the first thing I think about when I hear the word “expose” is radiation. Like when you’re in a nuclear war. You are expoed with radiation *Ahem* “AHH!!!! I’M EXPOSED TO TOO MUCH RADIATION. AAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!” Heh. So funny.

Anyway, the second thing that comes into my mind when I hear “expose is showing something like “Oh no, I exposed my secret” or “I will expose the new medal of honor to you.” Wait or “Don’t EXPOSE your skin to the sun!” Wait, wait or “Don’t EXPOSE your answer to that person! Do You Get the idea? Come on, I just underlined and talked about it. Come on!!!!

My thoughts on her response: I never would have thought of EXPO markers when talking about “exposed.” It showed up in both their responses. For kids who don’t know more difficult words, they probably associate it with words that they know that is closest to it- work with what they know (which in this case is completely wrong). Props to them for trying though. My sister’s answer was definitely on the target with her radiation example. It’s hilarious that she used all caps to present the urgency of being exposed to something. She then proceeded to list several other examples with tons of caps and exclamation marks.


Overview:

Both my brother and my sister had used all caps and ended by making sure I knew that they knew they were responding to “exposed.” This led me to believe that they had collaborated on their response, maybe because unsure of what their writing about. My brother, who was distracted by Tam’s definitions, had gone off track with his response. To have their answers authentic, we will make sure not to affect the kid’s answers with our own definition. There is never a wrong answer with word prompts. Each of their responses had led me to understanding them a little more. In the end, the only important thing is for them to learn a little, spend some time together, and to had fun. <3


Thanks for reading!!! What are your thoughts on their response? On an end note, I will be visiting the kids in a few days. Yep, overnight bus for me. We’ve come up with a list of things to do at home, and I’m really excited!

A Blog Response to Daily Prompt: Exposed – Want to read more? Check out their blog response on “yarn” here!

10 Things to Know About Norway

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

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

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

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

Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Korleis har du det? Kjekt å treffe deg! 

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

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Our backyard view of the lake

Geiranger Fjord

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

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

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

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

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View atop Geiranger.

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

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We rented a beautiful log cabin for the night.

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

Vigelands Parken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Looking forward to my next trip to Norway. 🙂

07/12


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