Packing for the Annapurna Circuit Trek

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Namaste, I’m leading a trek on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal this November. If you’re coming with me, here’s a quick list of what you should bring and why. If you’re headed down up the trail alone, stay tuned for a more comprehensive Annapurna Circuit trekking guide to be released here this summer. You’d have more fun with me though, check out the details of my Meditation and Trekking in Nepal trip here.

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Bangkok Airport Transfer

DMK —> BKK ? NP!

Need to transfer from Don Mueang Airport to Suvarnabhumi? No worries. The transfer is painless and free. There’s no need to make arrangements before hand, just show up at the ticket desk and you’ll be directed onto the next shuttle bus. While the transfer is reliable and easy, there isn’t a single sign to point you in the right direction. Let me do that for you.

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If you’re picking up baggage :: get your stuff from the carousel, head out the main doors (there is only one set) and turn right.

If you didn’t check luggage :: take the escalators down into the baggage claim area and walk straight through the main doors (there is only one set) to leave the baggage area and turn right.

As you head down the corridor, you’ll see escalators heading up, walk to the right of them and keep going.  Then you’ll pass a bunch of counters for cell SIM cards and you’ll see no signage for the bus. At this point, you’ll think you’re going in the wrong direction down a deserted hallway.

You’ll come to a wall and the only way is left. Once you turn the corner you may be overwhelmed by the amount of people. They’re all waiting for taxis, keep going, veer to the right and head out either door 7 (right by the bottom of the escalators ) or the next one to the right, door 6.

Once outside you’ll see a small bright blue counter and a long row of chairs. The counter says AOT (Airports of Thailand). You must get a stamp from this counter or you won’t be allowed on the shuttle. Show the worker your boarding pass or some confirmation number for your upcoming flight and he’ll give you a stamp. Since you probably won’t have a physical boarding pass or access to a printer, simply screenshot the flight and confirmation number from your email or airline app. I do this every time.

 Shuttle buses leave from directly in front of the counter. If there isn’t one waiting already, you’ll know when it arrives as everyone with a stamped hand will board. Buses leave every 15 minutes or so.  If you want a good seat and you have time to spare, wait for the next one.

Just so ya know :

Seats in the back row have an attractive amount of legroom, but do not sit there. Machinery under the rear of the bus makes those four seats overwhelmingly hot. You’ve been warned.

Beware that Bangkok traffic is insane and it could take you up to two hours to reach the airport as it’s quite far away. Think about rush hour, timing, days of the week and holiday madness while concocting your plan. That being said, most times it’s a quick 40 minutes.

You Should Definitely Take the Shuttle Because :

It’s free

It’s reliable

It’s convenient with about four buses leaving every hour

It’s free 🙂

Good luck & safe travels!

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Five Reasons to Eat Bugs

Already love bugs? Take a peep at our bug-themed Easter basket and our popular bug soap.

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Does the thought of eating bugs creep you out? It still does for me, even though I just ate several varieties as recently as last night. I’m not sure what it is, maybe their creepy crawly ways or knowing insects themselves are usually found in dirty spaces eating icky things or maybe the way they’re portrayed on shows like Fear Factor and Survivor, but bugs tend to creep me out. Continue reading

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10 Tips for Learning to Ride a Motorbike

liveseasoned motorbike thailand-3Learning to ride a motorbike abroad will open up a world of possibilities. You are able to travel at any time of day or night, explore secret corners of each city as well as deep interiors of islands without much planning. Once you’re confident on a motorbike, a newfound freedom will have you scooting the days away in search of adventure that is available to only those with the skills to get them there.

Personally, I had a horrible first day. I was confused, anxious, scared, and feeling quite incapable. I ended up letting my best friend drive me around for the next year and while I was quite happy with the situation, I had no idea what I was missing until five years later when I was forced to try again. Cut to five days after that and I was zipping through rush hour traffic in Chiang Mai like a little pro. Force yourself out of your comfort zone and the world will expand in front of you. Learning to confidently ride a motorbike was quite possibly my biggest accomplishment of 2016, and something I can only improve upon for the rest of my life. Here’s how to start:

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Thailand : 30 day packing list

Happy Monday! Last night I slept in my bed for the first time since mid-January. Wow. What an amazing feeling. I love traveling, but who can beat snoozing in their own bed, hogged by their own huge dog? I didn’t think so. I wanted to republish this post today since I’ll be stuffing all this goodness into my own bag this evening. On Wednesday, I’m embarking on my first official travel guiding trip. Five first-time travelers (to Asia) will be in my hands – better wish us luck 😉

Katie here : Sarah’s in Thailand! What a lucky bum! But really, I’m so excited for her and can’t wait to hear about the adventures as she travels. During her first stint in Thailand, she kept a lengthy journal on her Tumblr account and it was amazing – all of our friends and family were anxious waiting for each new post. If you’re interested in that experience, those posts are still accessible – just scroll down to November 2011 through April 2012 in her archive. Today she’s checking in with a timely post on packing and staying calm when your luggage takes a different plane ;-). 

Once upon a time, packing was a completely daunting task. I remember I would call my friend Kandy and we would pack together, which really meant wandering around our respective rooms talking about random things and placing an item or two in a bag every twenty minutes or so. Fast forward ten years and packing is a breeze. I have an easy foolproof method that I stick to and my packing gets completed in no time. Today I wanted to share a sample packing list for spending one month in Thailand and how I go about packing in general. Continue reading

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Cultivate a Life of Travel

Live seasoned live a life of travel designTraveling extensively really comes down to a few factors: time, money, and willingness.  If you’re willing, you are capable of creating the time and funds to take a trip.  If I, the least motivated money maker on the planet, can scrape together enough cash to travel to 15+ countries, you can too.  I absolutely despise money and trading my precious time for work (some people read this as being lazy, but I assure you I’m not), but travel motivates me to make paper.  Traveling is a drug and I am in the throws of addiction.  Life feels dull if I’m not exploring. Here’s how I motivate myself to maintain a life revolving around travel.

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Snapshots of the Whole and Happy Retreat in Thailand

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It’s been nearly a month and a half since the first Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand and yet my mind wanders back to that magical time almost every single day. I wanted to share a few film images and a general feel for the beautiful retreat week I spent at FaaSai Resort and Spa.

The Whole & Happy Retreat is the perfect laid back mix of travel, adventure, yoga and self exploration. Each day the retreat group met for yoga and meditation and each day a new technique, style, or focus was presented to us to play around with. As if the yoga and meditation wasn’t enough, the Whole & Happy Retreat involved so much more. We rode our bikes up steep hills, plunged into the Thai gulf waters, drank beer at sunset and toured the farm where our organic meals originated all the while still having ample time to laze about by the pool, sip papaya smoothies and trade book recommendations while devouring our current reads. breakfast-1 first-round-12

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The Whole & Happy Retreat seemed to rest in this perfect cosmos of flowed planning instead of precise scheduling. Each night there would be a new agenda and theme on the message board and every morning our group would work our way happily through the day. From farm tours to beachside bike rides, we would move through the hours crossing joyous adventures off our list and yet somehow barely checking the clock, instead checking in with each other and our energy levels.

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first-round-18As an experienced yoga practitioner, I was delighted at the variety of classes presented and how approachable and attainable the instructors made the content for the beginners in the group and yet I never once felt bored or that the classes were predictable. Beyond the yoga and meditation, it’s such a treat to enjoy new experiences with complete strangers, it’s almost like being transported back to the first day of school on the playground. You feel shy at first until a few minutes later you realize you’re having an insane amount of fun and you look around to realize the people you once thought were strangers are now your favorite playmates.

The Whole and Happy Retreat felt like an adult summer camp aimed at elevating the travel experience while incorporating yoga and introspection. As a seasoned traveler, I cannot recommend this experience enough to individuals who are a bit apprehensive about a trip abroad or solo travelers who would find comfort among company. It’s also the perfect break for someone looking to get away in order to recharge and reinvigorate themselves for a happier reintegration back into normal life.first-round-14first-round-41first-round-61

Come read books, sip smoothies poolside, bike through fishing villages, make new Thai friends and gaze up at the stars with me. I’ll be joining the Whole & Happy crew at the next retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand from March 17-23 and I hope you’ll come. I’d love to flow with you! From now until January 15th, book with a friend and receive $50 off of the retreat cost for a total of $550 for seven days of retreat at Faasai Eco Resort and Spa. If you need help finding a flight (they’re less than $600RT from NYC right now) or help creating a budget, I would love to help, just reach out in the comments.

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Sticky Waterfall – Bua Tong

During my adventures, I’m often captivated by the natural beauty I witness. I’ve felt the sudden and overwhelming need to hug trees, lay down in the dirt, and literally salute the sun, but every once in a while there is a place that leaves me in complete aw. A place so magical that I know I will visit again because I must show someone else the wonder. Bua Tong is that place. All afternoon I felt dumbstruck. How is it possible that this type of beauty exists in nature? I felt like I was transported to Neverland, there was just no way that what I was seeing and experiencing was real. Was I asleep? Did someone slip me acid? Am I in a storybook? Nope, the earth is really this amazing and I had the opportunity to experience it.  Let me attempt at explaining what I experienced at Bua Tong although surely no words or images will come close.

What is Bua Tong, the sticky waterfall? As unbelievable as it sounds, it’s just that. It’s sticky not slick, so one is able to walk quite easily up and down the slope of it even with water rushing by. What makes it this way? An abundance of calcium carbonate runoff.  Calcium carbonate is commonly found in Limestone, which is what lies under the thick deposits that you see covering the falls. Even though I briefly researched the waterfall (I didn’t look at any photos) before visiting, it didn’t prepare me for the experience.


Walking up a waterfall. How absurd. That’s what I thought while reading about Bua Tong. Once I arrived, I stripped down and slathered on sunscreen all the while keeping my eyes on the handful of people walking up the falls. They were making it look so easy, but they looked athletic and young, surely it was harder than it appeared. Then it was time to try it for myself, I braced myself, felt my core tighten and prepared to face plant as I took my first step. Complete shock and amazement washed over me as I took one step and then another upwards through the rushing water. With my mouth hanging open and my eyes wide, I looked around at my friends, ‘are you seeing this!?,’ is what I’m sure my expression read. Pure bliss and bewilderment followed me around the rest of the afternoon and I climbed up and down, up and down, all around  Bua Tong. The mineral deposits look like white, cloud-like  sponges and actually feel similar though a little bit harder and slightly pricky, the surface even gives slightly under a firm touch.  There were a few patches that were slick, but it is because the calcium carbonate was covered with a mossy slime. These spots are easy to see and avoid.


In the company of only about two dozen other travelers, Bua Tong had truly felt like one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever visited. Usually while traveling you’re forced to share the magic, but here it was all our own. As I looked around, I saw that most people had carved out a little space on the waterfall’s slope to sit in the sun and marvel at where their life had brought them. It was only a few minutes later that I joined my best friend, Natasha, on a sunny log in the middle of the rushing current to simply be. As I lay meditating, tiny tickles of what I thought were mosquitoes kept dragging me back to the outer world. It was in the midst of one of these tickling sensations that I opened my eyes and realized, it wasn’t mosquitos at all, but dozens of colorful butterflies. I closed my eyes again, determined to be at peace with each coming sensation. As I reflected on my weeks in Thailand, the friends in my company, my path in general, I had the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that materialized as a single teardrop from each eye. Life is beautiful. There is magic everywhere and I have so much to be grateful for, sometimes it takes a trip to never never land to remind you that every single day is a gift to be cherished and spent wisely, whether you’re climbing a sticky waterfall or navigating your work week.


Are you ready for a spiritual awakening? Kidding, but here are more details on how to reach Bua Tong and what to experience while you’re there.

What to pack:

  • Money for gas and snacks
  • Bathing suit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Book
  • Camera
  • Dry bag/waterproof bag if you have one
  • Long sleeve or sweatshirt (the ride home will be a little chilly)

How to get there:

Located over an hour outside of Chiang Mai, Bua Tong isn’t on the beaten tourist track, but still worth a visit. We rented motorbikes for the duration of our stay in Chiang Mai, which costs roughly 200-300b per day. I personally enjoy driving and navigating through crazy Thai traffic, but to some this may seem dangerous or unappealing. If you are in the latter group, you can ask your guesthouse or a tour operator for a songtaue to Bua Tong, but because it’s so far outside the city, it will be kinda pricy for Thai travel standards. I would find a cool crew the day before and convince them that they need to join you on this quest, that will surely reduce the price of the songtaue. If you’re in the former and you’re down to drive a motorbike, download either the app maps.me or google maps and download the northern Thailand map, while you have wifi that way you’ll have to problem navigating to Bua Tong. It really isn’t too tough and once you are about twenty minutes outside Chiang Mai, the traffic really slows down. I think driving the motorbikes to and from Bua Tong really added to the adventure and it was nice exploring the falls at our own pace instead of knowing a songtaue driver was waiting around for us.
What to explore :

Obviously you came for the sticky waterfall. If I were you, I’d take the stairs all the way to the bottom, stash your bag on a log (most people left their bags near the bottom of the falls unattended, I did the same and didn’t worry about my $3,000+ camera once, but do what feels comfortable to you) and start the climb up. Find a nice space to sun yourself midway or hike all the way to the top in one go. Now it’s time to hike down. Slightly scary, but equally easy. There are several ropes along the way to offer support in tricky areas  and ensure your decent is safe. Don’t you dare chicken out and take the stairs back down. You only live once. Once back at the bottom, continue a little further than the bag drop area where the stairs end. You’ll find another smaller waterfall with a shallow plunge pool at the bottom. Submerge yourself and dig your toes down into the soft, glittery sand, you did it.


After you’ve had your fill of the waterfall, hike back up to the tip and explore the natural seven colored fountain. Even if you’re famished and tired (we were both) you can make it to the fountain. It’s less than a five minute walk and it’s a wooden boardwalk the entire way. You’ll be amazed at how insanely clear the water is and you’ll enjoy leafy jungle views on the way to and from.

There’s also another short hike depicted on a large wooden sign near the entrance to the fountain trail, we decided against it only because we were sure to die of hunger (or morph into hangry demons) at any moment. We contemplated buying a snack from the small restaurant on site and then completing the hike, but we wanted to have time to stop on the road for a late lunch and return to Chiang Mai before dark.


Where to eat & stay:

On the way back to Chiang Mai, we stopped at the loveliest little guesthouse and restaurant. If we had more time, we certainly would have stayed the night. The guest house is called Howiman or Horwiman. You pull off the road across from Lhongkhoa Resort and head straight down the dirt hill, you’ll immediately see a grouping of dark wooden buildings on the left and you’ll probably hear a yapping little dog, and you’ll know you’re in the right place. If we could have stayed and drank our Chiangs in frosty mugs all evening we totally would have. Next time I visit Bua Tong I will.  


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Happy Mountain Day!

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Sup mountaineers! Did you know that yesterday was International Mountain Day? In 2003, the United Nations designated 12/11 as International Mountain Day. A day meant to encourage the international community to organize events at all levels in order to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development. Of course, with all the crazy going on this month, we missed it. We missed national letter writing day too, but I’ll fill you in on that another day. Anyway, this year’s theme is Mountain Cultures: Celebrating diversity and strengthening identity. From hiking the Blue Mountains in Jamaica, to climbing Mt. Agung under the stars, to trekking the Annapurna Circuit, I’ve experienced enough mountain magic to be hook. Mountain spaces are sacred, enchanting and come with an immense feeling of satisfying insignificance like I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

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If you’ve ever wandered high up into the mountains, you will have noticed that remote mountain villages are home to ancient cultures and traditions. These traditional lifestyles are largely determined and linked to sustaining a living in harsh and remote mountain landscapes. Isolation helped to create and maintain immense diversity between villages and allowed these cultures to stay intact. Of course, as decades pass, mountain populations experience change and culture loss through migration and urbanization.

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Whenever I experience remote mountain life, I’m captivated by the use of land, for farming, raising animals and capturing fresh water. Mountain people are so in tune with their unique environment and how to properly respect it while gaining what they need to prosper. Mountain people’s deep respect and attachment to the land quite often has religious ties. Mountains have commonly been revered as the home of deities throughout history because of their fresh water sources and their seemingly close proximity to the sun. It’s no coincidence that you often see crosses, pilgrimage sites and places of worship high on mountain tops.

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Obviously I’m quite conscious of my place while visiting mountains. I’m always a guest, a traveler, an ambassador of society at large and therefore I take my role very seriously. As much as possible, I strive to find community-based tourism that I can support. Tourism that will help maintain the culture, not parade it around and inevitably degrade it. I also distribute my dollars broadly to local people. Spending a little bit here and there, not a bunch in one place. Lastly, I ensure everything I hike in with also comes back out and of course I respect the ecosystem by not wandering off trail. As a visitor to these spaces, I have a big responsibility in ensuring these ancient cultures continue for future generations to experience. Hiking into mountain villages is like stepping back in time. It’s absolutely breathtaking and there’s no way I can aptly describe it, but maybe these images from the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal will help a bit.  10-14-15-web-muktinah-3310-09-15-web-upper-pissang-77 10-09-15-web-upper-pissang-88 10-09-15-web-upper-pissang-10110-11-15-web-manang-57 10-11-15-web-manang-62 10-11-15-web-manang-8010-13-15-web-new-phedi-82

I’m planning a trip to Nepal for October & November of 2017. Want to join me on a trek?

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