Here is a lonnng ramble of my reverse culture shock thoughts when I was in America.
Why does no one take apple pay, I hate taking my wallet everywhere with me. It’s so easy to just have my phone with all my info. No debit cards, no swiping or inserting cards. Just simple. Even the tiniest hole in the wall takes wechat.
Why is everyone talking to me? I need people to leave me alone to my thoughts. Just people we are in the midwest it doesn’t mean we are FRIENDS. I don’t care what you think of the weather. My lyft drivers are talking to me. I cannot DEAL. And I’m not an introverted person, I just want my space.
I can’t walk everywhere and there are almost no bike lanes???? No public transportation????????? We just expect everyone to have a car? That’s insanity. Driving is tiring. I can’t believe people do that as a job.
I was in a car the other day, and the car next to me was playing their music loudly out their windows. And I just had to sit there and listen to it. I was shook. Also all the cars are staying in one lane, which I totally forgot was a thing. Motorcycles don’t just go around cars!
Health. In China, do I eat noodles? Yes. I also eat mainly vegetables, fruit, soups, locally grown EVERYTHING, and I am incredibly active. I walk or bike to work everyday, I often go on walks after work too just so I can get out of the apartment. I walk or bike to dinner. This is the norm for most people there. In America, people sit in their car, sit at their desk, sit at home and watch tv. So much sitting. I worked at Starbucks before moving to China so I had around six to eight hours of time being on my feet. Not all people have the luxury of an active job!
Now that I check the pollution everyday, I realize that America is a lot more polluted than we think! Currently Shanghai and Lexington Kentucky have the same AQI (AirQualityIndex), and yet everyone asks me about the pollution. We tend to think if we can’t see it then it’s not there.
There are going to be friends who understand that you’re a little bit of a different person now, and there are going to be people who don’t. I know I am a different person, I have a confidence and independence that I didn’t have before moving. I have different value, different tolerance for spicy foods, I understand why Chinese tourists take pictures of everything. My move to China has totally changed me for the better, and specifically being in a big city. There are more brunch places in this city than I have Sunday mornings. When moving back to America it would be hard to live somewhere that felt so small and boring.
Didn’t I just do an April Photo dump? I know it was mainly about Seoul, but still. I’m actually leaving for Seoul AGAIN in less than five days. Time Flies.
May started with a weekend trip to Tianjin. Wandering streets that were vaguely European and staying in an expensive hotel, Tianjin became a city I want to visit again solely for feeling luxe.
Giant malls are still everywhere I go in China, but here they seemed to be even more of a date night or night life spot than the ones I have frequented in Beijing. Clothing store with dirt cheap tshirts, the same design on twenty different colors, and sizes that intimidate me enough to just stick to H&M for now.
My apartment is on the bottom floor, and the windows are basically pointing toward other walls. My friends however, have a great view that reminds me that we live in a city. Maybe my bedroom in on the bottom floor, but it’s the bottom floor of a 25 floor building. While driving at night from one location to another I can’t help to do anything but look at the lights, the characters, the signs for things I can’t understand and feel happy.
The Beijing summer is starting, which means I want to be outside all the time in the warmth of the sun, but not the smog. I have started running outside when I have a mask on and there is a low pollution count. The park near my home is amazing, and I’m so thankful I have seen Beijing grow from a dirty cold winter landscape to a blossomed, lush, green landscape. I can’t wait to return to the big tourist spots now that everything is GREEN.
May was the only month I didn’t take a trip in. I have trips planned until NOVEMBER. Places in Asia, eastern Europe, a trip back home for a bit. So I hope I’ll be able to keep up with everything. As much as I love just travel blogging, I hope to just regular blog. Like maybe I’ll write about how the Beijing water ruined my hair and how I saved. Maybe something about how I had to adjust my cooking style in China and that I FINALLY can eat spicy food.
My last cities on my radar post was not accomplished at all. I mean, I got distracted. I moved to China. So now that I am in eastern Asia, I have a whole new list of places I want to see. These are mainly cities that I wouldn’t have thought about before being in such close proximity to them! Now that I am traveling with a bit more frequency, I hope to keep up this series more.
Busan, South Korea After visiting Seoul, I really feel connected to South Korea. This city has beaches, mountains, temples, and probably a good bike rental system which really gets me going. Some friends tell me to go to Busan, get a beer on the beach and drop some soju in it. Which sounds really fun and wild, but I’m a bit more interested in the mountain views, winding roads, and tiny historic towns. Either way, we know Busan has a lot to offer.
Hong Kong I will soon be checking this one off my list. A more tropical city, a little more expensive than China, but still very interesting. It will be cool to see how different it really is from mainland China. I have heard that it’s really boring, but also that is has some of the best juice anyone can ask for. And who doesn’t love juice?
Osaka, Japan I have not been to Japan yet, but I am extremely excited to go soon. Osaka seems like a great place to start. The seafood, the history of the temples, and then there are the cool dotonbori and and namba areas. Neon lights, street food, and hip shopping.
Cambodia Before moving to China my knowledge about the history of Southeast Asia was slim. I had watched the Ken Burns documentaries about the Vietnam war this past fall. Of course, I had taken history classes in high school about world history but in college I mainly studied west civ. Being in China though, you kind of have to face the facts that you walk by people who have had a harder life than you and lived through things you only heard about from a text book.
So I want to visit every country I can to meet the people, learn about the stories. Cambodia was where I wanted to start because the ruins of Angkor Wat are fascinating and huge, the people there are working so hard to rebuild their country. I will not go there until I read the book First They Killed My Father.
Manazita, Oregon Yeah, super random because I’m currently in China but this place is on my mind. I met someone who took a van trip down the pacific coast and it just made my desire for the west coast even stronger. I have never been! After living in a city like Beijing the smallness of Manazita might be perfect for a trip.
So let’s see if I actually make it to any of these places this time! I hope I can cross off at least a few of them, I mean why live in Asia if you aren’t going to see Asia?
I made a super chatty post about Seoul and my feelings about traveling and moving for my photo dump this month. That made me want to give you a bit more of a “just facts” post about my seoul trip. Maybe you hate it, maybe you like the chatty versions! Either way this should help fill in the gaps if you felt like you missed all the information.
Arrive at airbnb by 3:30
Address: South Korea, Seoul, Jongno-gu, 통의동 35-1 대림미술관
Directions from Airbnb
Walk to Namsan Gymnasium and take Bus 402
Take it ten stops to Sejong Center
Walk around ten minutes north to the Museum.
Address: 24 Jahamun-ro 24-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Directions from Museum
Walk toward Jahamun-ro, the main street.
Walk North, then turn right on Jahamun-ro 24-gil and then follow the road
Arrive at Bear Cafe.
Must order: soy sauce ddeokbokki, with two additional dishes.
We totally did not find this dinner place. Instead we went to a Thai restaurant in the same area. It was right next to a sushi place, but man we made the BEST choice. It was delicious, the owner was wonderful. I felt really treated.
We DID find this one, it was amazing. You head down some stairs into a dimly lit room. the music alternated from Santana to Drake but the vibe still worked. A hand written menu, a sketchy portrait of Volstead on the wall, and some antique wall hangings made this bar feel less dive-y and more cozy.
Thursday was the only day I really planned. The other days I just picked out options for us to see what worked best. I didn’t know how easy it was to get around the city or how expensive it would be. It turned out to be very easy. When you arrive to Seoul, head to a 7eleven and ask for t-money cards. We put around 15000 on them, and they cost 4000. They lasted us the whole weekend, it was super convenient.
So next you will find a list of some places I found that I wanted to go, some I managed to get to but some I didn’t.
Opens: 10:00 am
Very close to airbnb, great reviews on brunch.
We went here because it was RIGHT across the street from our airbnb and MAN it was DELISH. I miss yogurt a ton so I had a granola yogurt bowl, and Johnny had this intense egg, bacon, arugula crepe situation. Obsessed.
Opens: 10:00 am
Fresh food, breakfast, lunch, and dinner options highly rated! Small location.
Opens: 11:00 am
Vegan cafe, great reviews. Good for a meatless option.
Opens: 8:00 am
Great lattes and coffee, finishes latte at table!
Opens: 9:00 am
Kimbap location recommended by caricakes, good location to walk around.
We did eat at OTTO Kimbap and the area was amazing. We walked around, saw a few vintage stores, a record store. A lot of the stores opened later but it was still pretty cool. Caricakes, who is a youtuber, recommended this place once while walking around Itaewon.
Main Ingredient is AVOCADO. Health focused meals.
Opens: 10:00 am
Health focused food, lacks taste or reviews often say small portion for the price.
The Veggie Eating Bear
Vegetarian bibimbap! Located in Hong-dae so you know it’s cool.
Opens: 12:00 pm
Um, it has a meerkat and a fox??
Thanks Nature Cafe
Opens: 11:00 am
We went to this cafe, it was in Hongdae where we were doing some window shopping (turned into real shopping, oops). It was really cute. The cafe was a little busy so the sheep seemed really tired and overwhelmed but CUTE CUTE CUTE.
This month was one of the most interesting in my life. It has been so fun having each day be different, but also slightly exhausting. I’m excited to finally understand the routine of life here so I can figure out how to have real energy. I think in April I’m going to try to do some sort of phone detox. I’ll let you know how that goes, but I will try to not let it effect my photos.
I turned 24 this month, which sometimes feels crazy old. At dinner with my boyfriend, I sat and thought about how I want to set goals and achieve them. So I’ll be posting a goal list here later in April.
Have you ever heard a song and within the first few seconds, you know it was going to be one of your favs? That’s how I felt when I saw the adorable store front of Never Bored. Bright, silly yellow doodles, a giant giraffe, and plants hanging all over the place. This store screamed JOYFUL to me, and so I dragged Johnny in. The owner was so kind and helped us order in Chinese, I got milk tea and he bought a latte, “Wǒ yào nǎichá hé ná tiě.”
So some quick and practical reason why I will be returning here even though it’s not close to where I live: the tables are high enough that I can cross my legs under them comfortably, the drinks are so good and, honestly, affordable. Going out to coffee can be as expensive as going out to dinner here, so if I am going to spend 60 yuan on two coffees it is going to be GOOD. (By the way 60 yuan is like ten dollars.) The atmosphere is so cute, too. It’s definitely a cafe for chatting and hanging out. Some cafes seem like a quick bite and then leave type of place, and some are places you can sit on a laptop and never look anyone in the eye. This is the perfect middle. I can sit and work, but also not feel weird for talking out loud. This cafe is pretty close to a hoppin street, which is fun for when you come to Beijing and want something hip. So go to Gulou street (a post about this will be coming soon), walk around and eat some street foods in the big crowds, then head over to Never Bored. I recommend the milk tea, it’s so good. The espresso there is also GREAT QUALITY. Third wave coffee seems like it is growing here, so hopefully we will find more and more cafes with great espresso. I know, here I am in one of the countries that know tea best, and I’m going to coffee shops. But guys, I can’t STOP! I love it. I have a list of other ones to go to, but Never Bored just fell into my lap. I had to write about it right away. If you have any recs, PLEASE let me know. I always love hearing from you!
Okay, so my first week in Beijing is almost complete. I have a million thoughts going around my head, so we are going to start with a bit of a word vomit and move into a photo dump.
We arrived super late at night and went straight to the hostel. We are staying at The Red Lantern House, which is not only flipping adorable, but also in a great location. We are staying in a room with just the two of us, and for three nights it is 700 RMB which translates to about 104 USD. That is expensive for a hostel, BUT we are staying in like a private room. The other dorm rooms are a lot cheaper and just as nice.
Here is the hostel:
The next day, we ate a ton of great food, and also did some boring stuff. Let’s talk food first. So it’s true that in Asian cultures you get like a big plate of food and everyone shares it’s like (INSERT AMERICAN RESTAURANT THAT HAS SHARING PORTIONS HERE). In one breakfast, we had: dumplings, red bean oatmeal, noodles, cucumbers, and soy milk. Then for lunch we had this plate of chicken, some spinach, peanuts, a pepper dish, and a soup.
By the way, I’m not leaving these names out because I want to. I have no idea what this is called. But man it was SO GOOD. Then for dinner we had some other chicken thing, another soup, and more cucumbers. I am living my best food life. It actually just occurred to me yesterday that I have no idea when I last used a fork?
Anyway HERE IS THE FOOD:
This second day we did mainly boring things like phones stuff and bank stuff. Which took foreverrrrrr, but it’s kind of like if I worked at a bank and someone with a Chinese name, address, passport, etc needed a bank account, I would have no clue how to do that, or put that into the English system we use! So it was a lot of patience on both ends. See above photo for some snacks we bought for our three hour stint at the bank.
The day after that we went on a few tours of the big places and they kind of speak for themselves. Like, these places are older than America. It’s pretty amazing learning about Chinese culture/history by being right next to it. So we went to The Forbidden City, the old Summer Palace, Beihai Park. For the Forbidden City we had a tour guide, and I really was happy to have him. If you don’t have a guide of some sort it’s kind of hard to understand WHY each detail is so important.
The thing we have done the most of while being here is walk. We have walked so dang much. There is no question about it. My calves, my feet, my thighs, they feel it. That’s probably why I’m googling baiduing massage places right now.
Some non-typical things we have done are go to a local brewery, eat jiānbǐng, take the metro confidently, go to a few coffee shops, and stroll through Gulou street. I’m really excited to experience the art district eventually, but that is near where we will be staying next, so we didn’t want to trek all the way over there to see something we will live by.
I’m going to include a vlog of our travel later and the first week here because I feel like that might help you guys see things better? I don’t know how to explain how interesting China is, and sometimes videos do more than photos, so that’s basically it. Let me know if you like the vlog, pleaseeee. I have no idea how to do one and this week was a really weird one so I tried to make it the best it could be!
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I took a TEFL class while working this past winter, which is the main reason why my blog went silent. Writing lesson plans, picking a country, working on visa’s and getting a job abroad all while working the holiday rush at Starbucks left me a little tired. One thing that I really was searching for while all this was going on was an easy to read blog with too many photos and grammar errors to reassure me that I was on the right path. I could find that information in the shape of Facebook groups or feed back from my student advisors, but I wanted a genuine feeling blog.
So I wanted to write it down and make it happen even if it meant I was writing in early December, and publishing it in February March. I want to remember for me and for you. So here we go.
(From January) I am taking classes at International Tefl Academy (ITA), which I do really enjoy. There are definitely easier ones, harder ones, ones on location of where you want to teach, and ones like mine, which are online. My course is 170 hours online with an additional 20 hours of practicum. I suggest you really call around and talk to the different programs. I ALSO suggest you check out ITA because it was great.
So after completing the courses I started look for jobs. I found tons, I mean so many I could afford to be picky. I applied to quite a few found on Dave’s ESL Cafe, made sure to browse Reddit to see if there are any blacklisted schools that are known scams, and also checked in with the ITA contract review. I landed on a great kindergarten in Beijing.
(FromFebruary) SO YEAH. Beijing. That is where I am headed. Right now all my furniture is in my boyfriend’s family basement and I have a giant suitcase, a little suitcase, a gym bag, and a backpack to lug around before I leave for the next step in the journey, which is to go to NYC and get my visa! It’s possible to use a visa service to take your passport and get the Chinese visa for you, but since my dad lives right by the City, I figured I could skip the 300 dollar express fee and get it done myself.
I hope you as excited, and I hope you will excuse my absence. I look forward to writing about all the new experiences!
A few months ago I mentioned going to Canada, and I actually did not think it would happen. Until my friend Corynne texted me with some dates, I asked off work, and now I’m sitting in an amazing airbnb, packing from a very wonderful weekend. While Corynne and I were planning the trip, we had general ideas of what we wanted to see in this city. Instead of having a strict itinerary, we just floated around knowing we had three full days to experience this.
We arrived late Thursday night after driving 18 hours from Northern Kentucky to Quebec City. Our airbnb was incredibly welcoming and allowed us to rest up so we could walk around for hours the next day.
Friday Morning: We walked toward Brugels, both of us are serious breakfast lovers so trying somewhere that offered Montreal style bagels was a must. We sat and talked about our life goals and growing up, while also really enjoying the amazing homemade jam and bagels. Guys, they really are different that the United States! This is located in Montcalm, a lifestyle and art focused neighborhood.
After breakfast, we headed to the Plains d’Abraham. This a super beautiful garden thats peppered with museums, beautiful vistas and a lot of history. While enter this area Corynne and I kept exchanging looks like, “Oh yeah. This is why people love this city.”
This expansive park can lead you straight down to Rue Saint- Jean. It’s kind of like where you really notice Vieux Quebec is starting. This area is full of artists on the street, historic buildings and churches, horses with carriages, and occasionally many tourists.
Still following the flow of both the streets and the people walking along them, you can find yourself near the charming streets of Petit Champion. It was incredibly quaint. When we weren’t taking pictures of the village-esqe houses, we were stopping on terraces for tea and coffee so we could people watch. If I had forgotten that we were in a french city, this area would have reminded me.
Friday Afternoon: After seeing all the classic charm that Vieux Quebec could offer us, we steered toward Saint-Roch. Guys, this neighborhood!! It has this wonderful grungy, but also very fresh vibe to it. We ate lunch at Le Projet, it was a beautiful bar full of natural light and reaaaally good beer. I asked the waitress for a beer recommendation and she brought me one of their twenty four beers.
After lunch we walked along Rue Saint-Jean, which is the main street of the Saint-Roch area. This street has everything you could want, including a clothing boutique/taco bar. We spent some more time here later this weekend.
Friday Night: Since Corynne and I had such an incredible airbnb, we decided to cook dinner and sit in our temporary home. The Canadian grocery store that I went to was not nearly as complicated as some of the french grocery stores I have experienced.
Saturday Morning: Today we headed out early to go to the Chutes des Montmoncy. We drove to the big waterfall, I would recommend going and seeing it but definitely in the morning. Then you’ll skip the massive crowds and get better majestic photos. Another place close by is the National Park, they have a ton of trails online ranked by difficulty so you can plan accordingly. We stuck with just the waterfall though. After the waterfall, we headed to the Ile d’orleans, a beautiful island full of fruit stands, friendly restaurants, and vistas for dayssss. We actually returned here later this weekend.
Saturday Night: Since we knew someone in Montreal, we decided to head there for the evening. Man oh man, I had done research. I had plans, but nothing could have prepared me to how much bigger of a city Montreal is! In the one night that we were there: the metro was free for an event, there were fireworks competitions, a $40 tattoo and $3 succulent sale (yes, that was one event), the Just For Laughs comedy festival, and we also saw a few art installations across the city. IN ONE NIGHT. I will tell you about this night in a later post, but that is just a taste of the city.
Sunday Morning: Quebec City has a heavily Catholic background and it’s filled with many beautiful churches. Corynne headed off to mass this morning, while I went off to Saint Roch. I honestly didn’t know what to expect on a Sunday. In Switzerland, this usually meant the hours were very different. In Quebec it seemed that everyone was still out and bustling. I stopped by Maelstrom, a cool coffee bar, then strolled while looking at all the incredible buildings. I cannot stress enough how much you guys need to schedule time for strolling. It’s so important!!
I also picked up lunch and a sweater at Deux 22, a taco bar and boutique. The clothes here were super adorable, but I did have to stick to the sales rack when picking out a sweater. It was a pretty penny, but worth it to say “oh I got this at a taco/bar/clothing boutique in Canada!”
Sunday Night: When it was getting closer to sunset, Corynne and I headed to Ile d’Orleans again. We had dinner while looking out at the water, imagining what it would be like to live here permanently and if the beauty would wear off. Before we drove off the island, we stopped one last time to get out and take photos. It was the perfect lighting, the perfect weather, and the perfect end to a wonderful trip.
Guys, I cannot wait to head back to this city! Next week we have a Quebec Coffee guide coming, ya know I love my coffee. Have you been in Quebec City? Let me know what you loved about it!
Away hostel is one of the best places to stay ever in Lyon.
One day in Lyon, I was feeling like a total grump because my boyfriend was placed in a higher level french class than I was, so I went on a little exploration with out him. I found this amazing hostel and I cannot stop recommending it. I was going through major coffee withdrawals so my instant reaction to see an espresso machine through a window was to run inside. Oh. My gosh.
The cafe area was super calming, I felt welcome even though I wasn’t a guest. Once I realized it was a hostel not just a spacious AF cafe, I asked for a tour. They have really adorably designed rooms. Um, hi I just was looking at an airbnb in lyon that I thought was a steal. UH NAH. I love the fact that you can have a private room in the coolest part of the city or share a room with other travelers, neither options putting you wildly out of money.
Now, I am an Airbnb girl. I love the system, I have a ton of experience with staying in peoples homes. Which seems kind of weird, but the idea of a ‘hostel’ just totally scared me. I don’t know why, it’s probably something that was instilled in me by being told I looked like the girl in Taken. You know, the one where the girl travels and gets TAKEN. So I steered clear of hostels until I saw how incredible they could be.
This place has planned activities every week, live music events and even gives you the option of adding on a delicious looking breakfast. Even though I currently live in America, I still follow them on Instagram (you should too) just to see the drool worthy brunch that they serve up. Currently on their up coming events (besides making us actually excited to get out of bed): live concerts and an aeropress championship. How random, but also great that they can host events that draw in not just the average traveler.
You guys know how much I love Lyon, so when I head back there I will definitely stay in this hostel. Maybe I’ll see one of you there! You can check out their website with all the deets here.