-February 26, 2015- 

It's about 11 pm local time when I land in Hong Kong. I'm tired from nearly 20 hours of transit and lost a day due to time zones. My original plan was to sleep in the airport but my couch surfing host (who kindly offered to host me last minute because my initial host fell through!) insisted that he wouldn't let me do that.

So here I am in a foreign country where I barely speak the language (I studied Mandarin Chinese but they speak Cantonese in Hong Kong) at night with a huge backpack and I get in a taxi and realize I have no idea where my host lives.

Rookie mistake. Luckily I had enough sense to write down my host's phone number and I hand it to my super sweet cab driver who calls and is able to sort out where to take me. I tip my driver nicely and get out on an empty street somewhere on Hong Kong island. It's now around midnight.

I'm surprised when I hear a guy call my name. Surprised for two reasons: one, he looks nothing like his profile picture and two, because he has an Australian accent. We shake hands and walk to his place while getting to know each other. He quickly explains that he has an accent from living in Australia in his 20's but he was born and raised in Hong Kong. When we get to his place I'm immediately blown away by how awesome his bachelor pad/office is. At this point I ask him what he does for a living which he doesn't directly answer.

"A little bit of everything" is the response I get.


The next morning I am amped up with excitement and wake early. I have a quick breakfast of ramen and milk tea then catch the subway over to Kowloon peninsula. The subway is fast (and surprisingly cheap) and has me in the thick of the city in minutes.

With it being early morning I decide to start with a couple markets including the flower market and goldfish market. They're beautiful but of course I have no need for fish or flowers so I continue walking south on the peninsula.


While walking I accidentally stumbled across one of the things I was told to avoid in Hong Kong: the protests. This main boulevard is blocked with barriers and on the other side are campsites set up right in the street. At the borders are police and several news teams in case anything happens.

The street is still accessible to the public so I enter. Throughout there are signs demanding peace and democracy. People are in the streets having passionate but civil discussion. This is nothing like any American protest I've seen (I'm looking at you Westboro Baptist Church).


Midst the tall buildings I come to a tiny temple dedicated to Tin Hua, the goddess of seafarers. I didn't foresee any sea travel coming up in my life so I didn't pray but it was still a beautiful temple. The garden outside also provided for a perfect place to nap in the afternoon sun.


Continuing south I finally come to the end of the peninsula which features the Avenue of Stars, a boardwalk akin to Hollywood boulevard featuring famous Chinese actors. I snap a picture of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan's stars then chill along Victoria Harbour. This is the perfect place to watch the sunset and then enjoy a light show in the evening.


Once the show is over I catch the ferry back to Hong Kong island and meet up with my host for dinner. He takes me to a small restaurant near his apartment and immediately the owner comes out and starts speaking to him excitedly. We're ushered to a table which is quickly covered with bottles of wine, whiskey, and sake.

"What's going on right now?" I inquire, confused why our table is being filled with alcohol for free.

My host smiles sheepishly. "I'm kind of a local celebrity."

"Oh, so like you come here often?"

"No, I'm a celebrity as in I'm on tv."

I don't even have time to react when the owner begins chatting up my host more. My Mandarin is useless in this situation as I have no idea what they're saying. When the owner finally steps away I ask what they were talking about.

Shyer than ever he responds, "He asked if you were my girlfriend."

"And what did you tell him?"

"I told him 'not yet.'"

We laugh and get totally toasted while enjoying my favorite Chinese meal (hotpot!!) and become fast friends. It's the perfect beginning to my trip.

- February 24, 2015 -

Macau is definitely one of those places I would have never heard of had I not had to take a Geography of East Asia course for my degree requirements. A small peninsula in southern China that would have been otherwise unremarkable had it not been for some Portuguese intervention. In the 1550's the Portuguese explorers landed here making for an amazing blend of Eastern and Western architecture, food, and life.

Plus, it's a way to experience China without getting an expensive visa! That alone was enough to make me want to dedicate a day of my time in Hong Kong to catching the 40-minute ferry over to Macau.


When you first get of the ferry you will be smacked in the face for what Macau is most known for on mainland China: casinos. Here's one of the few places in Asia where gambling is allowed and tourists flock in for this activity alone. 

This first impression of Macau may drive you off but continue just past the hotels for the beginning of a beautiful walking tour. Here are some of my favorite highlights of the city:

Chapel of St Michael

The ferry port is on the eastern side of the peninsula so walk due west and you'll come to my favorite little church, the Chapel of St Michael. This mint green facade looks like an adorable little cake and marks the beginning of Macau's historical city center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).


The Ruins of Saint Paul

The most iconic site in Macau is the ruins of this church. The only thing that remains after a fire is the stoic facade that sits atop a hill over a strikingly European plaza. Here's a good place to try some Portuguese egg tarts (delicious!) and get free samples of food all along the main street.


Pretend you're in Europe

The Portuguese left a profound mark on this city. Several times while walking down the streets I could have sworn I was back in Europe. Enjoy a leisurely lunch in one of the plazas (my favorite being Largo do Lilau) and check out the architecture of historical government buildings.

But remember you're in China

Right next to the markedly Western Ruins of Saint Paul is the tiny Na Tcha Temple, a traditional folk temple dedicated to the god of war. As you continue the tourist circuit you'll come to a preserved Chinese neighborhood just to the south with tiny alleyways.

At the end of the  peninsula you can light some incense and pray at the taoist A Ma Temple.




Step into a Traditional Home

The Mandarin House just next to Lago do Lilau is a great opportunity to tour a traditional Chinese home. This complex was built in the 1800's by a wealthy Chinese family and still has so many ornate details preserved. I loved walking the shadowy halls and imagining the decadent lifestyle the inhabitants must have lived.


What would you do with a day in Macau?

- December 30, 2014 - 

"You got tired of Hawaii after living there for only one year?"

Well, technically it was only 11 months but one year sounds much better so I say that instead.

But this question has come up again and again as I meet new people in Portland and mention that I just moved here from Hawaii.

"There were a lot of factors" is my go-to response. Usually they don't press on but some people do ask for details. A couple of the reasons I feel comfortable sharing in casual conversation, others I don't.


I'm not an island girl

Yes, Hawaii is literally heaven on earth; my walk to work involved strolling under palms and plumeria trees, on my lunch break I could go for a swim with sea turtles, and then on the way home enjoy a rainbow and an epic sunset.

But I'm an Ohio girl at heart. I crave weather that changes through the year and gives a sense of time. I like going on long road trips and not being stuck on one rock in the middle of an ocean. I like being able to wear layers of clothing, drink tea, and take a hot shower with out feeling like a sweaty mess.

While Hawaii is an excellent place to vacation, it just didn't resonate with who I am as a person and what I need in my life.

My career had no future

I may be young but I'm definitely looking to build a career and I thought I had found the right company to do that with. The company I worked for had plenty of business coming in and was making millions of dollars but our internal team was small which meant it was easy for me to get noticed.

And I did get noticed.

After a couple months I had become close to the founder/owner of our company and he would personally tell me what a great worker I was. I worked my ass off to impress my superiors and started doing things beyond my job responsibilities. At one point I was working from 6 am to 11 pm everyday between running our companies social media, collaborating with our sales department, and even doing construction work in addition to my actual office job. Mind you, this was all while being paid what is basically minimum wage when you consider the cost of living in Hawaii.

So one day I finally went to my manager and directly told her I wanted a raise.

"You are the perfect candidate for a raise. We will definitely consider it!" She replied.

Months passed. I continued to work tirelessly and my pay never changed.

This time I went directly to the owner of the company.

He instantly promised he'd put me on a salary that would double my pay as well as several other bonus checks for my hard work.

Months passed. I still was getting the same paycheck. I became disheartened and jaded. First I stopped doing any thing that wasn't a part of my job description and eventually I started slacking at even the most basic requirements of my job.

I realized that this company had no intention of allowing any employees to grow and make their way up the cooperate ladder. They simply wanted me to stay at the bottom and maybe pick up some extra work while I was at it.

I was so fed up that I quit. Not only quit, I wanted to show how angry I was by leaving the entire fucking island.

I had developed an eating disorder

I actually haven't shared this with anyone until now. In fact, I didn't even realize I had an issue until I started my trip to Asia.

If you've never been to Hawaii you might not be aware that the cost of living is quite high, especially when it comes to food. I got two paychecks a month and the first one would go entirely to my rent. That didn't leave much for eating.

So it began slowly. I started skipping breakfast and only eating lunch and dinner. No treats, just the basics to survive. Soon I became obsessed with money and how I spent it on food. I started equating feeling full with being irresponsible and feeling hungry with being financially sensible.

Eventually I was turning down food, even when it was offered to me for free, and just eating a bowl of rice a day. I didn't realize it but subconsciously I was patting myself on the back every time my stomach growled because it meant I wasn't spending money.


My five weeks in Asia

I'm not going to go so far to say my trip was a life-changing, spiritual adventure but it was definitely fun and eye opening.

Firstly, I got to cross a shit ton of things of my bucket list. My college major was East Asian Studies so it was awesome to go to all these places I had been reading about for years. And I got to use my language skills again which is always fun for a language nerd like me!

Also, I finally recognized that I had an eating disorder and worked to correct this bad habit. I developed a mantra which I would repeat to myself throughout the day: "Feeling full is good! Spending money on food is ok!" I'm happy to say that I have now overcome my eating disorder!

Lastly, I learned that I'm not as much an introvert as I thought. While traveling I began craving human interaction and friendship like I had never before in the past. This trip helped me develop new social skills which allowed me to make friends everywhere I traveled.

A proper write up on my Asia trip will be coming soon!


Life in Portland

The first week of my new life in Oregon was hard. I didn't know anyone here other than one college friend and it was unbelievably cold (for someone coming from Hawaii, anyways). Since adjusting to the weather and the timezone, though, I've been having fun slowly exploring the city.

I'm in a really trendy district which provides plenty of coffee shops and bars to explore and I'm meeting some really fun people. One sunny day I even made a trip out to the coast which was beautiful and was an awesome excuse to eat lots of delicious seafood.

Currently I am still looking for employment but hopeful that it will be happening soon now that the holidays are over. 

If you have any tips for what I should see/eat/do now that I'm in the Pacific North West, please leave your recommendations!


Lately I've been all about living life in the moment. As such, I have horribly neglected my blog so that I could simply enjoy travel without feeling like it was work. Here are some quick shots from my recent travels, starting with Hong Kong.

 

I'd like for it to be known that my time in Hawaii hasn't been completely spent lying on the beach watching sunsets and rainbows. In fact, I good portion of my time was in an office, working as a reservations specialist for a tour company. My time here has opened up doors to so many opportunities in the travel industry and taught me a lot about travel in general. Moreover, it helped me reflect on myself and learn about my own travel goals.

1//I want to travel while I'm young
Time and time again I was contacted at work with the question "I have a cane/walker/wheel chair, will I be able to do this tour?" or "I get tired easily, are there lots of rest breaks on this tour?"

First of all, congrats to these troopers for getting out there and seeing the world despite their age!

I, however, do not want to be that person.

I want to take advantage of the time in my life when I have nothing physically holding me back. The time in my life when living off of fast food and getting hardly any sleep is fine as long as it means I can save up for a plane ticket. The time in my life when I can jump off a 40-foot cliff. The time in my life when my body can handle trying sketchy street food. The time in my life when I have the energy to go to a museum during the day and party at night.

I could save my money for that day some time in the future but unfortunately that will be a time when I will not fully experience travel as much as I can right now.

2//I want to travel before I have kids
Don't get me wrong, if I ever have kids I intend to make sure they are worldly. I'll raise them with both English and French spoken in the home, their palettes will know foreign tastes from a young age, and, when they're old enough, I want them to see the world too.

However, another question I encountered daily at work was "I have kids, will this tour keep them interested? Do you think they could last on a tour this long?" This was usually followed by exasperated sighs and one woman even admitted "Once you have kids, everything gets more complicated, ya know?"

I'm sure one day it will be great to have children but right now I am not ashamed to admit that I just want to be selfish. At this stage of my life I want to focus my time, energy, and money on cultivating myself before I have to worry about supporting another person.


3//I want to travel when I can afford it
Allow me to rant for a hot second but why the fuck does everyone think they deserve a discount? By far the email/call I receive most often is "Hey I'm booking two/three tours can I get a discount?"

First of all, on a business level that makes no sense. You just admitted to me you're going to buy them anyways so why would I give you a cheaper price? Secondly, if you truly need a lower price, you shouldn't be buying it in the first place.

As one of my favorite quotes by Oscar Wilde so eloquently puts it: “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”

Do you really need to buy that expensive tour or can you accomplish that same agenda on your own for a cheaper price? If you like the convenience of a tour then that's what you pay for.

I, however, being a Cheapy McCheapskates know that if I want to make travel a priority in my life then I must be willing to make the sacrifices to afford it which can sometimes take some creativity.

4//My gut has the best instinct
This isn't something I noticed right away. It took months of working a phone line before I understood the pattern. Day after day of people calling in, not to book a reservation but just to chat.

"Hey I kind of have this itinerary idea (5 minutes of explaining their travel plans later) What do you think?"

I couldn't understand this need for people to call for reassurance for a plan they had already quite well created when I realized, how many times have I myself done this very behavior? How many times have I gone on to travel forums, written out my entire travel plan that was already fully fleshed out and researched just to get that encouragement from someone else? At what point did I stop trusting my own judgement?

From now on, I intend to listen to my own intuition more and stop looking for reinforcement from others.

What's something you've recently learned about your travel goals?

When it comes to travel quotes, I tend to see the same ones over and over again. No offense, St Augustine's “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” quote is lovely but there's really no call to action. It's more of a statement than a prompt. 

What I want out of a quote is something that actually inspires me to make a change. That's why the words I find most motivational aren't necessarily about travel and how wonderful it is. They're the ones that make me question societal norms and challenge how I look at life.

Copenhagen, Denmark
Around twenty-five, most people are set on their path and it's not necessarily one they love. They get comfortable and focus on constantly working for the future and not living in the present. Next thing  you know you're grown and missed out on a lot of great opportunities.

Rome, Italy
A reminder not to settle for mediocrity. I could be good at my desk job but will that lead to the best memories when I'm older? Probably not. I'd rather take the chance on doing what truly makes me happy.

Prague, Czech Republic
I think we all know the conventional plan: school, college, marry, buy house, have kids. This is the pre-designed life plan which, while great for some, is absolutely boring to me. 

Have the courage to create your own goals and not just live by everyone else's standards. Most people will think you're crazy for wanting to travel constantly but what does it matter if it makes you happy?

Berlin, Germany
Would you be satisfied with your life if you put off traveling for a year? And what happens when that year passes and you come up with more excuses for why you can't travel? If you truly love traveling, do it today. There's no reason to wait.

Beijing, China
Strongly related to quote number three, let go of the belief that you have to do what everyone around you is doing. Don't compare yourself to others. Just pursue your own life.

Mont Saint Michel, France
This has been my life motto since I came across it. I have a tendency to get stuck in ruts and get conformable. Lately I've been pushing myself to do things that are terrifying. Things that will be a little bit more challenging then just relaxing at home and surfing the internet. Travel is one of those choices that can be terrifying and amazing. I intend to be doing more soon!

What quotes inspire you to travel?

Tomorrow officially marks the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere. I'm trying my best to feel festive about my favorite season but it's not quite the same living on a tropical island. Everyday is the same; sunshine, blue skies, temperature in the 80's, and a little drizzle at night. Even drinking a pumpkin spice latte doesn't help when you live in an eternal summer.

I miss the fall colors, the smell of leaves, the feeling of being cold, and the excitement in the air that Halloween and Thanksgiving are coming. I'm an Ohio girl and I've gone over 20 years with a clear and defined autumn. Now September has nearly crept away and I never even realized it.

Colorado, I ache for your beautiful, aspen-lined paths.

Kepler Pass, Colorado
Notre Dame, Paris
Red Rocks, Colorado
Road trip through Utah
Graveyard in Le Havre, France
Salt Lake City, Utah
The plains of Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

What's your favorite things about autumn?

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