Category Archives: Travels

Around the World in a Summer

Scribbling, researching, erasing, scribbling, researching some more, narrowing down the choices, matching up the dates, looking for the best deals, working into the night, a weight lifted as I finalized my summer plans.

My adventures will take me on a trip around the world this summer. Like, literally around the world. I’ll visit 6 countries, take 10 flights, traverse 29,803 miles, and spend 73 hours traveling on planes and in airports plus many more to and from said airports, all in just under 6 weeks. It’s insane when I think about it, but it’s also going to be a lot of fun!

My Summer 2019 Plans:

2 June- Jakarta to Hong Kong

I’ll spend two nights in Hong Kong visiting friends and eating at my favorite restaurants.

4 June- Hong Kong to London (arrive 5 June)

London stopover for 36 hours, during which I’ll stay in Piccadilly Circus and watch ‘The Book of Mormon’ at the Prince of Wales Theatre, a show I’ve been dying to see.

6 June- London to Tirana, Albania

I’ll spend 5 nights/4 days in Tirana with a friend, where I’ll visit old friends and wander around the city I called home back in 2015-2016, visiting old haunts and taking note of all the changes. I’m really looking forward to going back to a place that I left on such a sour note, now that I’ve moved on and can look back on the fond memories I had there.

11 June- Tirana to Paris

Ahhhh, Paris! I’m so excited to go back to this city that I love, only this time with my cousin Katy. She flies in the day after me, and we will spend a week sightseeing, walking, and eating our way through Paris. We’ll take in my favorite sights, such as the Lourve, D’Orsay, Montemarte, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower, plus a day trip to Versailles. I can’t wait!

19 June- Paris to Calgary, Canada

Katy and I head out together from Paris, but part ways at JFK, when I head to Calgary as she goes back to Texas. I’m so looking forward to spending time with Shaggers, Jeezy, and Marlowe in their new-ish home in Okotoks, near Calgary. I haven’t seen them since 2016, unless you count the many FaceTime calls, so this is going to be a special trip!

24 June- Calgary to Texas

My trip wouldn’t be complete without some quality time with my family in Texas. In addition to my dates with Randi and Logan (a tradition started years ago), movies with my dad, mani/pedis with my mom, dinners with old friends, and the Kesler Family Reunion on the 4th of July, I’m ready for some of my favorite foods that I can only get in Texas- chips and queso, Shipley’s donuts, and Tex Mex food.

11 July- Dallas to Hong Kong

Fifteen hours being trapped in a metal tin can. Oh joy! πŸ˜‰

12 July- Hong Kong to Jakarta

What I’ll look forward to most when I come back home after nearly six weeks away is my own bed and a bit of routine after a wild, crazy summer!

With my summer plans completed, I’m now looking forward to planning the smaller details, such as where we will stay in Paris, who I’ll see in Tirana, and where I’ll eat in all of my destinations! More to come, I’m sure.

I Love Surprises!

Those of you who know me or who have read my slices in the past know I love surprises. When someone goes out of their way to surprise me, it lights up my day. But you know what I love even more than getting surprises? Being the one to surprise someone else!

I’ve been planning a surprise for my cousin Katy for about a year now. The surprise was going to be for our fortieth birthdays (we are three days apart, y’all!), but since I’m not sure what will be going on in my life 2+ years from now and because I’m impatient, I figured why not, let’s make it a 38th birthday surprise. Not exactly the same ring to it, but what the heck, a surprise is a surprise, right?

Last summer, Katy and I were texting as I wandered the streets of Mandalay on my solo trip to Myanmar. I snuck in an question that would have normally raised suspicion, but since I was traveling and we were talking about “travely” stuff, it seemed innocent enough. I asked her where she would go if she could go anywhere in the world. Her top five places were Italy, New Zealand, France, Brazil, and the Maldives. This information stayed tucked away in my mind.

Seeing as I went to both New Zealand and Italy last year, the Maldives are more of a romantic getaway, and Brazil is just too far away (for now), that left France. Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world, and as they say, Paris is always a good idea. So, after talking to my aunt (Katy’s mom) about whether she could help watch Katy’s kids this summer (she will!), I called Katy up this morning.

After catching up for a bit since we hadn’t talked in a while, I hit her with the surprise.

“Remember when I asked you last summer about where you’d like to go if you could go anywhere?”

“Yeah…”

“Well, I was gonna wait to do this for our fortieth, but I figured it’s a good idea to do it now. How would you like to go to Paris with me?”

“What?!?”

“I’d like to take you on a trip to Paris this summer. Would you like to go?”

With tears in her eyes, she excitedly said, “Yes! I’d have to be crazy to say no to that! Are you sure?”

Laughing, “Yes, I’m sure.”

Since she was so shocked, it took a little more convincing to make her understand I was actually serious.

At the end of the conversation, she said, “You’re the coolest cousin ever!”

Right back atcha Katy! Love you so much and can’t wait to explore one of the most dynamic and beautiful cities in the world with you. Paris, we’re coming for ya! πŸ™‚

Photo credit: travelandleisure Instagram post

Looking Forward to a Break

Quality time with friends. Delicious food, so much delicious food. Beach bum status. Familiarity mixed with newness. These are what I can expect to experience in just a couple of weeks.

After a long stretch without a holiday, a break is needed. Short-tempered, exhausted and run down, with less and less energy at the end of the day. Stretched thin, the cracks are beginning to show.

What once seemed impossibly far away is now within reach. Eleven more school days. Fifteen actual days. Spring Break is on the horizon. With a plan to spend time in some of my favorite places with some of my favorite people, I’m beyond excited.

I’ll be heading to Bangkok for the first part of the week, where I get to reunite with Callie, eat all the Penang curry, Kao Soi, and mango sticky rice I can, and visit my old students. Being surrounded by familiar people and foods is comforting, and Bangkok is a place that brings me joy.

After my short visit in Bangkok, I’ll be meeting up with Linner in Bali, one of those places you just can’t help but love. Linner and I always have lots of fun together, and I force her to take an insane amount of selfies. It’s a wonder she still loves me! While I’ve been to Bali several times, it won’t be the same since we’ve decided to try out a new city, where we can both experience new things.

In Sanur, we’ll be near the beach, where I’m sure we’ll spend loads of time. Balinese food is so fresh and delicious! I hope we are able to try out all of the restaurants I’ve found. What I’m most excited about is finding the perfect place to stay! We decided to splurge a bit on the hotel to treat ourselves, but since we’re splitting it, it’s worth it (even though we’re splurging, it’s only 130 USD total per night). Karmagali Boutique Suites is a five-star hotel and the #1 place to stay in Sanur according to Trip Advisor, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to be spectacular!

Here are a few pictures of our hotel:

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Look at that pool! I’m confident this is going to be my new happy place. πŸ™‚

 

I just realized…this is my 300th blog post! 😍

Year in Photos 2018

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. In some ways, I agree. When you snap a picture, you freeze a moment in time. You capture the essence of the experience so that when you look back at them days, months, years later, the details conjure up the feelings of that moment. As much as I love writing my stories, I also challenge myself to tell a story through the photos I take. The angle and framing of the shot, what you include and what you don’t, and the focal point all contribute to the story. To my story.

I love reflecting on the past year through photos (you can click here to see my year in photos from 2017,Β 2016,Β 2015, andΒ 2014). The process of looking back over the photos from the past year takes me on a reflective journey and I smile, remembering the memories once again. 2018 was full of family, friends, food, and travels- all of my favorite things. Without further delay, here’s my year in photos, in chronological order.

Traveling is My Life

Ever since I was little, I’ve dreamt of a life where I get to travel the world, seeing far off places and taking in new experiences. I honestly don’t know where this idea came from. I mean, I grew up in a smallish town in Texas and other than road trips (mostly in Texas), my family didn’t travel much. It’s crazy, but I didn’t go on my first plane ride until I was 16…and that was only to Tennessee! But for whatever reason, I felt this constant pull to just go.

After a couple of international trips in college (to England and Germany), I fulfilled a lifelong dream when I picked up and moved to Australia- Sydney to be exact- right after graduating from college. Australia has and will always hold a special place in my heart, and Sydney is such a beautiful, magical place that you can’t help but fall in love with it. I ended up moving back to Texas after my half-a-year adventure living abroad, where I gained a ton of life experience and independence. It was, after all, the first time I lived anywhere but my childhood home.

Teaching in a suburb of Houston was exciting and I had many positive experiences during my time there, yet I always felt like something was missing. It wasn’t a constant feeling, but it came often enough that after 6 years, I finally listened. That pull to just go was back. I answered it by applying to a little school nestled in the Shanghai Zoo, and knowing nothing whatsoever about China, I picked up and moved halfway across the world.

That was in 2010, and here I am in 2019 still living abroad, just in a different country now. While that first year in China was one of the hardest of my life (the culture shock I experienced was no joke), I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This life has afforded me so many opportunities to travel to places I wouldn’t have even imagined as a child, allowed me to meet some of the most interesting and influential people who’ve become my tribe, and stretched me beyond my comfort zone in more ways than I can count.

I tell anyone who will listen that traveling is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. By travel, I don’t mean take a cruise or go to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. I mean really travel. Experience how other people live, talk to locals, get lost, feel the heartbeat of a city, try new foods you’ve never seen before, and travel alone at least once in your life. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to 5 continents, live on 4, and experience 39 countries and counting. Take it from me, you owe it to yourself. I’ll say it until the day I die, life isn’t meant to be lived in one place.

 

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This is ‘2010 Jen’ showing off my fancy new bike in front of my little school in the zoo in Shanghai…man, those were some good times. But those bootleg jeans…yeah, no! πŸ˜›

Little India #sol18

Craving a taste of Indian food, I headed toward Little India. The bright, in-your-face colors, vibrant aromas, exploding flavors, and make-you-wanna-dance songs drew me in.

After stopping for lunch, I hit the streets, following my whims. Pulled this way and that, distracted by the Indian music blasting from every other shop and the sights, colors, and smells grabbing for my attention, I meandered through the streets, in and out of shops.

The midday sun beat down on me, forcing me to retreat to the shade whenever possible. Passing a small shop, a man outside chopping coconuts caught my eye. As I stopped to watch him artfully maneuver his knife with quick, successive movements, I noticed the sign claiming “the best coconut milkshake in Malaysia” was sold there. Hot and dripping with sweat, I gave it a try. Watching the lady mix fresh coconut water, fresh coconut meat, ice, and vanilla ice cream together, I just knew it was going to be tasty. It was indeed! I was so busy drinking it, that I forgot to take a picture. Guess I’ll have to go back tomorrow to get a pic!

As I wandered through the streets, I happened upon some of Penang’s famous street art. The whimsical paintings mixed with real objects drew a small crowd of tourists all vying for their turn to snap a photo. I was no different.

As I sit here, alternating between writing this slice and sopping up my Paneer Butter Masala with naan, I am wondering what tomorrow’s adventures will bring. While there’s no plan, I know for sure it’ll include some delicious food!

Hawker Stalls #sol18

Walking into the open air food court, a myriad of smells hits you all at once. Clusters of people from all walks of life sit on stools, laughing, sharing a variety of food. Wandering through the stalls, you’re not quite sure what you should try. Japanese ramen? Thai curry? Indian naan and curry? Chinese stir fry? There’s something for everyone.

Unable to find decent Indian in Jakarta, I opt for a vegetarian Indian platter with a pile of basmati rice, three different curries, dum aloo (dry cooked potatoes), and the butteriest, flakiest naan I’ve ever tasted. Diving in with my hands, I quickly devour most of my plate. Delicious!

After tonight, I’m looking forward to my next hawker stall meal in Singapore! What will I try next?