Category Archives: Travels

More Days Like This

Today was a perfect day. I need more days like this.

A Perfect Day

Morning slicing
No rush
Sunny and breezy
The wind in my hair
Ninety minutes of stretching and kneading
Melting into a Thai massage induced coma
A short walk through the familiar neighborhood
My favorite Penang curry by the lake
A bit too spicy this time,
But still delicious
Quick stop for some Thai snacks
Before heading to the pool
Water the perfect temperature for lounging
And catching up with not one,
But two friends
Sunkissed, heading back as the sun set
Showered and in our pj’s
Pizza, laughs, and Netflix
The perfect end to
A perfect day

Five Stages of Grief: Bangkok Traffic Edition

After landing in Bangkok, I breezed through immigration, and having traveled with only a carry on, I was chuffed with myself that I wouldn’t have to waste precious time waiting on my luggage. Ready to get to Callie’s, I made my way down to the taxi queue. What in the world are all these people doing just sitting around? Maybe they’re waiting on people to come pick them up, I thought.

Making a bee line for the booth, I asked the attendant for a taxi, showing them Callie’s address in Thai. She gestured for my ticket indicating it was my turn in line. Thoroughly confused by this new system, I grabbed a ticket from the machine. Number 614. Ah crap! The number on the screen was 567. The realization hits me that this is why all these people are waiting around.

Surprisingly, the wait only took 20 minutes, after which I was loaded into a taxi on my way to Callie’s. Since it’s Bangkok, I know I’m in for about an hour’s worth of traffic. As anyone who’s lived in Bangkok or Jakarta can tell you, travel time has nothing to do with distance. ‘How far away are you?’ is never a question met with 5 km. It’s always explained in time. Being 5 km away could be anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours depending on traffic.

Cruising along the toll road, we were making good time. The sun was out, so I picked up my book, diving back into the stories of Jack and Libby. As the sun started to set, I switched my book for some tunes, happily lip syncing along while I smiled at the city passing by outside my window. We’re making good time. I should make it by 7:00, just in time to go to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the area.

No sooner had the thought passed through my mind, we came to a complete standstill. Red lights as far as the eye can see. Feeling myself getting frustrated, I tried to think happy thoughts, but the stop-go-stop-go wasn’t doing anything to calm me down. In fact, it only made it worse.

Well, maybe we just need to get past this one jam. We’ll pick up speed again, making up lost time. As the minutes ticked by, I kept making deals with myself, guessing what time we would arrive, adjusting the time frequently. Unsuccessful attempts to communicate with my taxi driver only fueled the frustration. How far away? “Close,” he said, whether he really believed it or not.

The maximum speed of 10 km per hour was taking its toll. I became antsy and resentful. Frustration built up in my chest. My jaw clenched. Looking at my watch only increased my anxiety. Staring at the red light we’d been stopped at for what felt like eternity, I willed it to change. Of course, it didn’t. Finally, I gave in.

I’ll get there when I get there. We’ll miss dinner. Callie’s probably wondering what happened to me. She’s probably starving and ready for a meal, too. Maybe she’ll have given up and eaten at home by the time I arrive.

After my driver missed the turn to Callie’s, I refused to let him make the u-turn and try again, knowing that would add even more time to the journey. Directing him with hand signals, I led him through the back streets and we eventually made it. Two hours after getting in the taxi, I was finally able to give Callie a hug! And, we made it for dinner.

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.

 

bike2

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˜›