Koh Lipe & Thai Islands Packing List

18015712_10155074277711217_653301825_o Happy Monday fools! I’m back with yet another packing list post. What can I say? I know how to fill a bag. Packing for a trip to a Thai island is pretty simple, you don’t need too much since you’ll likely be lounging in your bathing suit most of the time.

Most recently I visited Koh Lipe, Thailand’s southern most island. Wow. Koh Lipe is pure magic. I’ve been to a number of Thai islands during my time as an English teacher, but there is something really special about this particular island. It’s really tiny and therefore easy to explore by foot and that’s what I did most days when I wasn’t lounging on one of the pristine beaches.  If you’re visiting Koh Lipe, here’s a short list of what you’ll need. I linked to the exact products I use – enjoy 🙂

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Travel Bug: Bangkok, Thailand

I’ve doubled my days in Bangkok this past year – enjoy our updated BKK guide.

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If you have never ventured to Bangkok, you probably have a few ideas of what it is like from movies like The Hangover Part II, Dangerous Bangkok, and Into The Sun (plus a trillion other action movies); if you have been fortunate enough to miss those thrillers, picture bright lights, speedy taxis, street food and lots and lots of people.  Bangkok is one of those cities that takes you in, spins you around and spits you out.  Thankfully there are lovely Thai beaches just a bus ride away and after a week in BKK one needs a nap, a really long nap.

As a traveler, cities aren’t high on my list.  I try to stick to small towns and natural attractions; I tend to search for those hidden gems and slices of everyday living, but because I spent the better part of a year in Thailand, I learned to love and embrace Bangkok, a city with more than 7 million inhabitants.  I had the opportunity to explore Bangkok multiple times for various reasons like typical tourism, friends’ birthdays, English teaching orientation, family visits and weekend-long shopping sprees.  Each time I ventured into the city, I felt more and more comfortable and willing to explore new places and enjoy old hangouts.  Bangkok was no longer an enormous scary city (ok, it’s still pretty huge), but rather a transit hub and pit stop that I visited every month while living in Thailand.  I began to recognize neighborhoods, streets, parks, particular statues, elevated walkways, and even specific vendors and food carts, it became a city of smaller neighborhoods and much more manageable to wrap my head around. 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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Plane vs. Bus

liveseasoned fall15 kathmandu pokhara nepal6 There are plenty of ways to travel abroad: trains, planes and buses are some of my favorite. In Nepal there are typically two viable options: a loooong bus ride or an often delayed flight.  Today we’re going to look at the positives and negatives of both options that way when you come visit you’ll know exactly how you want to travel. Continue reading

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Tips For Visiting Temples

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Visiting ancient temples and beautiful mosques abroad is quite popular and enjoyable.  It surprised me a little bit since I’m not religious at all, but it’s more of a cultural experience than a religious one.  If you’re new to traveling or have never visited a temple abroad there are a few things you should know before you go.  I’ve learned some tips and tricks along the way and thought it could be helpful to share them here.  I feel so lucky to have visited dozens of religious sites in Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Kathmandu, India and beyond.  Read on to discover all the things I’ve learned along the way.

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How To: Survive an International Flight

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Some folks really dread flying.  Usually it’s because of the jet lag and awful airplane food and while those things do stink you can still survive a fourteen hour flight with a smile.  I know because I’ve experienced three extremely long flights to Asia all coming in at different levels on the comfort scale.  If you’re prepping for a holiday overseas, here are a few tips that should make your time in the air a bit more enjoyable. Although, even I couldn’t prepare for the time I woke up with a baby sleeping on my tray table. Even so, here’s how to best survive an international flight and walk away with a smile.

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Gardens of Nepal

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Namaste from Nepal!  I arrived in busy Kathmandu on Tuesday afternoon at which point I found a cozy little guesthouse in thamel and promptly went to sleep.  I was so worn out from thirty-six hours of travel that I needed a long nap.  I ended up sleeping from 6p.m. on Tuesday until 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning.  When I woke up, I decided to go up to the rooftop garden to read until the sun came up.  Later in the afternoon, I ended up wandering into another lovely garden that I enjoyed so much I spent four hours there.

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The rooftop garden at my guesthouse is so quaint and beautiful that I had to share it here today.  It is the perfect representation of so many small rooftop gardens all over the city of Kathmandu.  While there is currently a broader initiative to promote vegetable rooftop gardening in Kathmandu, it is already widely popular to cover roofs with potted plants of all varieties.  I most often see jade, spider, and coleus plants with a bunch of other beauties sprinkled in.  I admire the simplicity of the rooftop garden.  Nothing too fancy just a whole lot of potted plants.  I love how my guesthouse rooftop garden was arranged by type of plant.  That is something I probably would not have done.  I’m always mixing and matching plant types on shelves and windowsills, but now I think I’m doing it all wrong. What do you think?

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The view looking down from the roof at the courtyard isn’t too bad either, right?  I couldn’t have been more lucky with my choice of guesthouse this time around.  If you’re staying in Kathmandu, I highly recommend Pilgrims. Don’t be afraid to haggle on the price either, I shaved a few bucks off of each night.

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After watching the sunrise and having breakfast, I took yet another nap.  I woke up around lunchtime ready to explore Kathmandu by foot.  I decided not to take a map since I giggle at tourists squinting at their paper maps in the sun and the last thing I want to be is a hypocrite, but really, Kathmandu is a fast paced city and there is no time or space on the sidewalk to be looking at fine print.  Instead of relying on a map, I made sure to be extra observant about where I was going, when I was turning or crossing streets, and any major landmarks or buildings that seemed unique and memorable.  After a couple hours of wandering around, I conveniently ended up near the border of thamel again.  Just as I heard my belly growling and felt my feet aching, I passed a small sign that said, Garden of Dreams.  There was no other hint at what might be beyond the ten foot wall so I figured what’s there to lose and I wandered through the small gate and into an oasis.

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After paying a small entrance fee of 200 rupees ($2), I was granted access to a beautiful neo-classical garden that spans over 74,000 square feet.  The Garden of Dreams was also known as The Garden of Six Seasons, but I must admit, if it was named Kathmandu Botanical Gardens or something similar I would have passed right by.  There is something enchanting about a mysterious high-walled garden sitting right in the middle of crazy Kathmandu, with a name like Garden of Dreams, that encourages the passerby to stop and explore.

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The Garden of Dreams sits across the street from the former Royal Palace and was originally thought up by Field Marshall Kaiser Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana in the 1920s.  (Imagine trying to remember that name at a cocktail party.)  Apparently upon completion, the Garden of Six Seasons (as it was known then) was considered one of the most sophisticated private gardens of that time, which surprises me none at all.  Traditionally Nepal has six seasons: spring, early summer, late summer monsoon season, early autumn, late autumn and winter.  The garden was designed by Kishore Narshingh, a prominent architect who designed and constructed Singha Durbar (a massive palace) in 1907.  In the 1920s, the Garden of Six Seasons had six pavilions, numerous fountains and sunken pools, verandas, pergolas, urns and birdhouses. He erected six impressive pavilions, each dedicated to one of the six seasons of Nepal.  Today, only half of the original garden and three pavilions are in existence, but the renovations pay homage to the beautiful garden of the past.

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It was interesting to learn that the Garden of Dreams was restored in cooperation with Austrian Government in the early 21st century.  Inside one of the buildings, there is a photo gallery with images of the garden in complete ruins during the nineties and what it looks like today.  It was really neat to see the comparison of what looks like an overgrown jungle to the beautifully manicured lawns of the present.  Several changes have also been made that lend well to transforming the private Garden of Six Seasons into a space that can be utilized by the public for events and leisure.

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While the Garden of Dreams boasts itself as a tourist destination, I must admit not one person recommended I visit or even mentioned the gardens to me.  I hadn’t read about it in a guidebook or seen flashy photos of the garden on any brochures or signs and a selfish part of me is glad.  When I first arrived at the garden around 2 p.m. there were only five other people on the grounds.  I loved wandering around taking photos uninhibited by crowds.  As the hours moved on dozens and dozens more people arrived and it overjoyed me to see that all but a couple were native Nepalese.  The Garden of Dreams is their garden and knowing it is affordable, accessible, and actually used by Nepali people made me really happy.  Seeing all the couples and throngs of friends gathered in the gardens that afternoon had me feeling like I was in on a local secret.  I just had to share it with you in hopes that you’ll make it to the Garden of Dreams one day.

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State College, Pennsylvania

We love traveling. Check out some other travel spotlights or watch our four favorite travel documentaries on Netflix.

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It’s Wednesday! It’s time to procrastinate and daydream about traveling and visiting spaces you’ve never seen before.  I must admit, I wasn’t always in love with State College, Pennsylvania.  Growing up, I thought of it as a drinkers’ paradise where sports fans would flock on the weekends to watch Penn State football.  I was absolutely right about those things, but State College is so much more than that.  It’s Happy Valley, an adorable little city nestled between mountains in the middle of beautiful central Pennsylvania.  As an adult, I was reintroduced to State College when Katie and her husband bought a home there.  They both worked at Penn State University and I had just returned from Thailand when they convinced me (it wasn’t too hard) to move away from Philadelphia and move in with them.  I spent the next eight months working as a delivery driver, walking their dog. readjusting to life in America and learning my way around town.

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After a couple weeks, I knew the streets better than Katie, but she introduced me to a lot of the goodness on this State College city guide list.  State College is a completely different space depending on what time of year you are visiting.  During the summer, it is usually calm because many of the students are gone. The city actually halves in population!  It goes without saying that summer is my absolute favorite time to visit.  In the Fall, during football season, downtown is crazy crowded with students and fans that flock from across the state and nation to watch Penn State football.  If you’re a female delivery driver that means stacks of cash and lots of traffic.  In the dead of winter, State College is cloudy, icy and cold. I try to avoid winter in State College at all costs, but really, I try to avoid winter everywhere at all costs.

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