Sorry Mom

Do you ever do anything and think “Sorry Mom”?

Know what I mean? Something you know is probably not the smartest thing, but you want to do it anyway. You can hear your mom yelling your name upon hearing about it. Yeah, it happens to us all.

“ASHLEY!!!”

I do it a lot when traveling. A few months ago, in March, when I traveled to northern China, I thought it would be a good idea to walk on a frozen river. Hey, Chinese people do it too. Sure, a grown Chinese woman probably weighs 100 pounds less than me, but I still had a try. I didn’t fall through. My mom didn’t yell at me. It was frozen through 10 feet deep anyway.

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I may or may not have hitched a ride on the back of some guy’s motorcycle in Cambodia instead of taking a taxi. Also, there may or may not have been 3 of us on the motorcycle. Just use the phrase “may or may not” when telling your mom these stories. It softens the blow.

ImageThis obviously isn’t me, but it’s the same type of triple-person riding. However, this is nothing! I’ve seen 5 people on a motorcycle at once. No big deal.

Moving to China to teach English for 2 years was probably the biggest thing I had to say “sorry mom” about. And, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It changed my life.

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But, you have to do what’s best for YOU- what you feel like you need to do. Sometimes it’s hard to  make a decision, especially a big one, that you know your friends and family, and, yes, even your mom, may not agree with or support. But I strongly believe that you know yourself the best. Of course you take into consideration the opinions and advice of those close to you, but ultimately, you need to make the decision. This is on little things and on big things. I know some people who don’t make a move without asking others what to do. You’re a big girl. You don’t have to say “sorry mom” .

P.S.- Don’t tell my mom I wrote this  :]

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Backpacking 101

A bunch of students at my school are getting ready to go on a study abroad trip to Europe. They’re going to visit England, France, and Italy. They know I’m a traveler, so several of them have been asking me a ton of questions. What should I pack? Should I take my laptop? What shoes should I wear? Well, here’s my guide to backpacking.

1) Pack light. This is kinda “duh”, but you need to be able to easily lift your bag, because, let me tell you, you’re going to be lifting, carrying, dragging, throwing it around A LOT! Only take a few mix and match items. You can wash clothes often while traveling; buy some laundry detergent once you get there. And remember you’ll probably buy a t-shirt or 2 or a piece of traditional clothing from the place you’re visiting as a souvenir, so you’ll have those to wear as well. And, of course, take comfortable shoes. When I am travelling where it’s warm, I hate taking sneakers. I’d rather take some type of comfy walking sandal, like a Teva. You can wash them and they dry quickly, or if you get them wet you don’t have that wet sneaker feeling.

2) Pack your own towel. Some hotels/hostels don’t provide them if you’re budget travelling. Have you ever tried to completely drip dry? It’s really not as easy as it may seem.

Also, don’t take your own pillow. I was asked about that specifically. It’s too annoying to cart around. If it’s a must to you, take a small travel pillow that can fit easily in a bag. But I still recommend no pillow. Your own pillow case is a good idea though. It will help things feel a little homier, and you’ll know what you’re laying your face on is clean.

3) Don’t take your laptop. In the US, we often leave valuables in our hotel rooms, and they are fine. But when travelling abroad, I never leave anything in my hotel room that is valuable. Too many people I know have had money, cameras, laptops, and so much more taken. So, don’t take so many gadgets that you can’t carry them on your person. Keep your camera with you. Keep your passport with you. I know a lot of people want to take their laptops for 2 reasons. The first reason is to stay in touch with people at home. There are SO many internet cafes that are dirt cheap. Make use of those. The second reason is to upload their photos. My suggestion is to buy a large enough memory card that you don’t have to do that. 8 GB should work for most people.

4) Take a messenger bag, something that you can sling across your shoulder. I prefer this over a backpack, because you can keep your eyes on it better. (Watch out for thieves!) I know guys don’t like to carry bags. We’ve all made fun of someone for their man bag before, right? But, you end up with a lot of stuff! You’re carrying your valuables, and you wanna throw a bottle of water in there, you get a ticket you need to keep safe. Everyone needs a purse! :]

5) Take a notebook and a few pens. Every night when I finish a day of adventure I write down where I went and what I did that day. After going to place after place, it is too difficult to just remember it all. I love looking back on the notebooks from my travels. I include what I did, what I ate, interesting people I met, and something funny or crazy that happened. Don’t assume you’ll always be able to e-mail or blog about it everyday. And also don’t think you have to write pages and pages. Usually by the end of the day you’ll be too tired. I usually just do bullets.

6) Remember, people in foreign countries do many of the same things we do- wash their hair, take showers, get mosquito bites. :] You don’t need to take a month’s supply of shampoo, soap, and itch cream. You can take a bit to start you off and then buy some once there. I also suggest leaving whatever toiletries you have left at the end of the trip there, so you have more room for souvenirs!

I’m sure I could come up with a list of 30, but I’ll stop for now. Most of these tips were learned by trial and error. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” Feel free to ask questions you might have.

And I’ll leave you with a few pictures of my experience backpacking through SE Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and China).

Me with my travelin’ gear in Vietnam

I loved this sign at my hostel in Cambodia!

Wearing my souvenir Angkor Wat shirt at Angkor Wat

Eyebrow Blessing?

   Travel writing attempt number 2….this time in Cambodia! Enjoy!

      I learned a great lesson while in Cambodia-you just never know when your eyebrows need a good blessing or two.

     Danny and I arrived in Phonm Phen, Cambodia and decided we wanted to roam around and explore the city. We stumbled on this place that looked like a temple, so we started wandering around. We saw some statues and some small buildings, but we didn’t really know what anything was.

     Then we noticed an ancient gentleman who looked like he was guarding a door. We thought that he might be able to tell us a thing or two, but, as it turns out, this guy didn’t speak a lick of English. He motioned us through the door into a shadowy room with an altar at the front decorated with flowers, tiny bowls of liquid, incense, and other small relics. He told us in Khmer to sit down (I think?) as he gestured towards the floor and took a seat beside us on the stone ground. He began sweeping his arms in front of the altar in apparent attempt to make his explanation of this room understandable as he babbled away in a language that was completely incomprehensible to both me and Danny. We just nodded and giggled under our breath.

     The next thing we know, our guy turns into a priest! He picks up some incense sticks and dips them in the water and starts muttering some incantations. Danny and I look at each other in confusion. The man starts tapping the incense on our hands and then directs us to touch our hands to our foreheads. We do as we’re told. He begins muttering again, “dadadadadadadada eyebrow dadadadadadadada”. Really? Did he just say eyebrow? The one word I can catch out of all of that is eyebrow? He runs his finger across his eyebrow. Yep. That’s what he said. “Dadaddada eyebrow dadadadada” he chants again. He slaps our hands with the sticks yet again then nudges us to touch the water to our eyebrows. Are eyebrows sacred and revered in Cambodia and someone forgot to tell me? Is this the Eyebrow Temple, and we didn’t see the sign on the way in? I decide that my eyebrows must be being blessed by Buddha at this very moment!

     Soon, the ceremony ends as our makeshift blesser stands up and we leave the dark room and go back out into the sunshine with confused looks on our faces. Am I supposed to pay this guy? Leave him a tip? I walk away with no idea of what just happened, but I leave with my eyebrows feeling especially lush and gorgeous. 

Sleeping Asians

Well, if I learned one thing while living overseas, it was that Asians can sleep almost anywhere! I myself don’t feel comfortable falling asleep in front of people, but I saw so many people in China and some Southeast Asian countries that were asleep in the strangest places! And I always ended up taking a picture of it! 

Hey, uh, can I have a ride? No? Hmm...Ok. Enjoy your nap!



Excuse me. I'd like to buy a painting. *snore*

I hope that one day I am talented enough to pull this one off! My absolute favorite.

Neck crink c/o sleeping on the bus.