September 2017


An Alternative East Asian Checklist

East Asia is definitely the corner of the world we’ve explored the most.

During our time here, we’ve discovered some amazing places and amazing things to do – we especially love activities that you wouldn’t necessarily think of doing straight away. We’re glad we did them and here are some we would recommend:

Monkey Beach, Penang, Malaysia

Here’s a bold statement: This is the best beach I’ve ever been to in my life.

And I have been to a lot of beautiful, tropical beaches.

It’s also known as Teluk Duyung, and it can be found in Penang National Park in the northwest corner of Penang Island. It’s about an hour’s trek from the entrance, but it’s well worth the journey.

The stunning white sands and epic clear blue waters will blow you away. We went on a quiet day during the week, so nobody else was there apart from us and a lot of monkeys.

A little advice: don’t leave belongings on the beach or a monkey may steal your sun cream, run up a tree, and then squirt it all over you from above.

A Scooter Adventure in Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan is probably the most popular place on this list, but we couldn’t overlook it.

This place is absolutely stunning! It’s an ancient temple town with many different temples to explore. The area is perfect for an adventure, which was its greatest appeal.

You can see it from a variety of unique hot air balloon, or a designated horse and carriage tour. However, we would recommend the freedom of touring it yourself with rented scooter.

Renting a Villa in Thailand

If you’re with a group of friends, skip the hotel and rent out a villa instead.

This option is discussed enough in Thailand travel resources, but it’s cheap, private, and way more fun.

Luxury villas are located everywhere on the coast of Thailand. A few might be uneasy renting to foreigners, or they might say you can’t drink or play music too loudly. Plenty won’t have any of these annoying restrictions, so just keep looking.

Zhangjiajie, China

This breathtaking natural landscape was the inspiration for the Avatar movie.

It’s hidden away in a small town in mainland China, and it will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. We could have spent all day walking around and taking pictures. It’s also crawling with wild monkeys who will pose nicely for the camera if you offer the, some food in return.

Sliding Down the Great Wall of China

Of course, the Great Wall of China is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in Asia, if not the world.

But did you know that when you’re finished walking the wall you can slide down it in a toboggan? It’s loads of fun and way better than the cable carts most people are using.

Thap Ba Spa, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Our journey from the top of Vietnam to the bottom was long. We saw and did so many amazing things, but we also needed a bit of a break before it was over.

Thap Ba Spa was the perfect resting point in the middle of our trip. It offered luxurious spa treatments, swimming pools and hot springs. More impressively, it was a mud bath spa. This was such a unique (and kind of weird) experience, and it’s definitely one I would heavily recommend.

The Killing Fields Museum, Phnom Penh

It does feel strange to recommend something so increbally sad.

While we don’t really visit museums, this one was truly eye-opening and really made us think.  An audio tour will guide you through, and please listen to every word. It’s something I would encourage you to do because it makes you realize how lucky you are. It really made me appreciate my life and all the opportunities I’ve had around the world.

Koh Rong Island, Cambodia

Just a short boat trip away from Sihanoukville, this place has beautiful clean beaches, perfectly white sands, and stunning waters.

You couldn’t imagine a better setting for an oceanside stroll – but make sure you learn from Simon’s mistakes. He forgot sun cream, enjoyed a two hour walk, and returned looking like a lobster.

Drinking by Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

Hong Kong has one of the most breathtaking skylines we’ve ever seen, so why not enjoy it up close and personal? The local bars are unbelievably expensive, and none of them can beat the view from the river. Buy some beers, a bottle of wine, or whatever you want at a convenience store for half the cost. Head to the side of the water where they show the light shows. Enjoy the atmosphere and stunning views. That’s the best bar there is in Hong Kong.

There are so many recommendations for Asia travelers scattered around the internet, but we’ve found that many of our favorites don’t get enough credit. These places are either amazing, fun or just truly stunning. We hope we’ve given you a few more ideas.

And we’re sure there are plenty more underrated places around here! What have we missed? Let us know below.





Minimalism & Travel Life

After living abroad for a few years now, my life seems pretty normal to me. I have a steady job, a consistent social life, bills to pay, and a favorite coffee shop that I visit regularly.

But sometimes it really hits me that my life today couldn’t be more different than it was 3 years ago.

And I don’t just mean the obvious, outward differences – like how everyone around me is speaking Thai, driving motorbikes, and eating really spicy food.

Sometimes it feels like I created a whole new world for myself when I became an expat.

When I think about my American life, I remember feeling so immobile and weighed down by all my responsibilities and possessions. I read a couple blogs about minimalism and location independence. The thought of getting rid of most of my stuff and being able to easily move where I wanted, when I wanted, was so attractive to me. But it also seemed impossible.

I had shelves and shelves of things – how could I move freely around the world?

Years later, when I was preparing to move to China, I loved the feeling of dropping off all my stuff at charity shops. I loved getting all my stuff down to just three bags.

When I moved to Thailand, I only needed two bags – both carry-ons.

One of my favorite feelings: being at the airport with a one-way ticket and only a couple bags.

Being abroad has reshaped my perspective in many ways – one of the most important ways is showing me how to fully embrace a minimalist lifestyle.

Why Minimalism?

So why is this such a big deal to me?

First, it has made life a lot more peaceful. The less things I have, the less I have to worry about. I don’t need a big apartment to fit all my stuff. I have less to organize and clean.

When it’s time to move, which happens often as an expat, it takes less than hour to pack. It still shocks me how little I really need, and I love it.

It’s also cheaper because I rarely shop for anything I don’t need. I now believe that spending money can easily become an addiction. I used to get a strange pleasure from buying something, even if I knew it wouldn’t have much use in my life.

Today, my money mostly pays for experiences and memories, not little knick-knacks. These expenses are more meaningful and worthwhile 100 times over, and they’ll never be lost, broken, or taken from me.

I’d much rather spend my money on creating these memories.

Minimalist Travel

I have also learned to pack very lightly when I travel. I don’t think I’ll ever go on another short-term trip with more than a backpack. Simon and I even share one backpack on trips that are 4 days or fewer.

Giving up giant rolling luggage has brought me so much freedom as a traveler. My stuff is easy to carry while staying handsfree. I can quickly throw everything in my bag and change locations every couple days without a worry.

Minimalist Tips

If you want to travel (or live) with fewer things, here’s the best advice I’ve received: Get rid of anything that you don’t find useful or meaningful. If you’re struggling to give something up, put it in a box and write the date on it. If you haven’t taken it out in 6 months, give it away. If you have a lot of nostalgic, sentimental items, take pictures of them instead.

Giving Up Souvenirs

For many travelers, souvenir shopping is a huge part of their trips. I used to be the same way, but I noticed that most of my souvenirs didn’t have that foreign spark when I got home with them. Again, these became meaningless trinkets that took up space in my bag (and later my apartment).

Here are some things I find way more valuable than a typical souvenir:

– Photos
– Videos
– Journal entries
– Screenshots of my social media posts or messages to friends during the trip
– A copy of the playlist I was listening to
– Contact information of new friends I’ve met

Has traveling made you less attached to stuff and more interested in life experiences? I’d love to hear your thoughts.






Expats: When Is It Time to Move On?

If there is any word that describes us, it would probably have to be restless. While many of our closest friends and family back home seem to find great satisfaction in settling down, creating a home, and growing roots, we are always craving something new, something adventurous, and something foreign.

This is the main reason we have chosen life as expats. We can’t imagine ourselves ever staying in one place too long.

We’re always on the go!

But time does seem to speed up sometimes, and many fellow expats talk about waking up one day to realize they’ve been in the same place for years – even though that wasn’t their intention.

We have so many places we want to live and experience as expats, not just travelers. So we know we have to guard ourselves from accidentally settling down.

When do we think it’s time to move on? These telltale signs are red flags for us:

Life starts to become routine.
We are living abroad because we want an exciting life. When our home base loses its luster and routines become the norm, it’s time to shake things up. Some questions to ask yourself: Are you eating the same meals from the same restaurants every day? Is every road familiar to you now? Has it been months since you’ve tried something new?

You aren’t as excited to return “home” after a holiday anymore.
One of the best parts about living as an expat is that you don’t experience the end-of-holiday blues anymore – you love your travels, AND you love being “home” in your new country. But when your return to day-to-day life is getting you down, it might be time to consider moving on.

How are you feeling on your return flight?

You’re getting annoyed easily.
You might find yourself becoming irritable at the most trivial things and start blaming it on the country. Traffic, slow service, even the weather – is it getting under your skin and affecting your moods?

You are no longer surprised by cultural differences.
When you first arrived, there was a surprise around every corner. People and life were unpredictable. Everything felt so random, and it was easy to romanticize the weirdest things – even crapping on squatter toilets or the crazy Asian way of driving. But eventually that surprise fades, and you start knowing what to expect. It’s time for a new challenge!

Bangkok’s traffic is beyond words.

A lot of your friends have already moved on.
One of the best parts of being an expat is finding friends who also love to travel. But your social circle will constantly be evolving because people are coming and going all the time. If your original group of friends has dwindled, it probably means you’ve been settled in for awhile. Are you ready to try something new, too?

You’ve explored most of the country and its surroundings.
Seeing an entire country or region is impossible, but if you live somewhere long enough it might feel like you have. If you’re planning your next long weekend, and you’re feeling like you’ve already done it all, it’s probably time to set up home in a new part of the world.

Your reasons for staying are mostly about finances.
There are plenty of countries where you can get a good paycheck compared to the low cost of living. If you’ve been somewhere too long, you might start to think you’ll never get it this good anywhere else. There are actually opportunities all around the world. Relocating might take a little extra coin, but finances definitely don’t need to hold you back.

Your reasons for staying are about comfort and ease.
Maybe you’re enjoying the comfortable life you’ve made. If you are truly happy, that is great! But think back to the day you first left your home country. Were you looking for comfort? Did you want an easy life? Or were you expecting something more? Have those desires changed?

You aren’t feeling inspired at work anymore.
If your expat life is tied to your career, staying fresh and motivated at your job is essential. As teachers, we can fall in a rut if we stay put too long. New schools and new students give us a boost of energy and inspiration, especially when we are switching to a new age group, subject, or educational approach.

You need a lot of energy and creativity to teach!

Leave while it’s still good.
Actually, our best advice is to leave before any of the above happens. In fact, we think it’s best to leave when things are still really exciting and fun. Why? Because you are preserving your memories and leaving on a high note. If you wait until life is getting a bit stale, that might be what you remember when thinking back to that city. It’s a brave decision to make your exit during happier times, but wouldn’t it be horrible to resent a place that’s give you some of the best memories of your life?

We’d love to hear from other expats! When do you decide to move on? Have you ever stayed somewhere too long? Share your experiences below.





A Traveler’s Bucketlist – Beyond Sightseeing

When it comes to traveling, there are countless preferences, styles, and activities. Every traveler has their own pace, their own favorites, and their own frustrations.

While we will never deny we love a good tourist hotspot, we’ve also discovered that most of our memorable moments and fun days do not come from sightseeing.

Instead, we get the most excited about new experiences we have while exploring the world. So while many of our pictures may feature us at the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, or the Great Wall of China, our best stories take place in an entirely different setting.

If you can relate, this travel bucket list is for you. It won’t send you to any famous landmarks, but we think you’ll definitely have a worthwhile and adventurous trip if you can check off all or some of this list.

Camel Riding – While it wasn’t always the most comfortable experience, seeing the desert by camel was an unforgettable experience. I never realized how tall a camel is, and it took a lot of balance and core strength to keep from slipping off. The tour guide who took us out also provided two home-cooked meals and time to lie outside under the stars.

Boat Parties – If you’re by the coast and have a decent group of friends to split the cost, you can rent a boat and crew for a party on the water. We did this in Oman, and it was beautiful, fun, and relaxing.

Hot Springs – One of our favorite things to do in China was visit a Hot Springs park. Small pools are scattered throughout a flower garden, and the idea is to soak in each one by one. Despite being called “hot” springs, they range in temperature from practically boiling to ice cold. They also have a variety of aromas and medicinal properties, relieving stress, arthritis, acne, or inflammation.

Cliff Diving – Simon loves these high-adrenaline activities, whereas Kristin is much more nervous about heights. Whichever side you fall on, you should try it at least once. You’ll feel unbelievably free and come up laughing afterward, we promise.

Festivals – One of the best ways to get to know a new culture is to celebrate one of their holidays alongside them. We definitely recommend Songkran in Thailand, and there are several others we hope to experience one day (Mardi Gras, Holi, and more).

Cooking Classes – Loving the local food? In many countries, you can find one-time cooking classes designed for travelers. We signed up for one in India and had a great evening trying something new (and stuffing our faces).

Safaris – It’s always surreal to watch certain wild animals in their natural habitat, especially when you have only seen them in zoos before.

Motorbike Trips – If you had asked me five years ago if I’d ever get on a motorbike, I would have laughed. Now it’s one of my favorite ways to explore an island, mountain town, or small village.

Exploring by Water – You can get an entirely new perspective on some cities if you go by boat, kayak, canoe, or even paddle board. If you’re ever in my hometown, Anna Maria, I definitely recommend getting up and down all our canals. You’ll be right in our backyards and eventually find yourself at the beach.

Old Forts and Castles (with a twist) – Okay, so this one is creeping into sightseeing territory. But we did have a blast one day when we explored an old Omani fort that was basically empty except for us. Instead of browsing the fort slowly, reading everything, we decided to play hide and seek. It was really funny, way more entertaining, and we still were able to see everything.

This list is just based on our own experiences – there is plenty more to do out there! Share your best travel experiences with us, and maybe we’ll also give it a try.





Getting Off Khao San Road: Other Places to Party in Bangkok

Bangkok is one of the biggest cities in the world. It’s well known for its crazy hustle and bustle and its brilliant nightlife.

That’s why it’s a shame when tourists get stuck spending their whole trip on Khao San Road. Many even leave thinking this one backpacker bar street is what the city is all about.

They couldn’t be more wrong! Below we’ve listed a number of other bars/areas for you to get your party on.

Sukhumvit 22

Sukhumvit Road Soi 22

We probably end up here on a Friday more than any other area. Sukhumvit 22 is certainly rough around the edges, but it’s full of small random bars that allow you to control the music via YouTube. The vibe is casual, the drinks are cheap, and the party can last into the wee hours of the morning. There is also a venue with live music and ice bar upstairs, along with several hotel lobbies – you wouldn’t think they’d be top party destinations, but they have welcomed drunk groups looking for a good time in past. Even when Simon crawled up on a counter to dance, the hotel staff just laughed and cheered him on.

Ce La Vi (Formerly Ku De Ta)

Sathorn Square Tower 39FL, 98 Sathorn Square Building, North Sathorn Road Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500

This sophisticated club is situated on the 39th floor of the huge Sathorn One Building and overlooks most of Bangkok. It’s perfect for a dress-to-impress night with a group of friends. Share a bottle of spirits and enjoy the different music. Genres ranges from hip hop to house to commercial pop, depending on what night you go. The layout is a mixture between a lounge and a club with popular local and international DJs taking to the booth most nights. Enjoy this classy establishment and don’t forget it’s a smart and pricey club.

Sukumvit Soi 4 (Nana)

Sukhumvit Road Soi 4

Soi 4 is so much more than just Nana Plaza. There are lots of bars all down the street that offer a range of different partying experiences. There are also some amazing dance spots. Most bars will shut around 2 or 3 am, but you can stumble to EQ’s late night club for an extended party. As for Nana Plaza itself, the sheltered circle offers a range of go-go bars.

There’s more than just Nana Plaza on this street! 


ซอย พัฒน์พงศ์ 2 Khwaeng Suriya Wong, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500

Patpong is another area that’s branded as just being a sex tourist destination, but it’s more than that. Yes, of course those bars exist, but so do many others that aren’t as seedy – there is even a night market running alongside all the different venues.

JJ Green

Address: เลขที่ 1 ถนนกำแพงเพชร 3, แขวงจตุจักร, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900

Speaking of night markets, JJ Green is one of the most popular ones. Along with shopping, you can enjoy a casual beer, watch some live music, and wander around the outdoor stands.

JJ Green is perfect for a chilled evening.

W District

Sukhumvit Rd, Khwaeng Phra Khanong Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110

Another chill area for drinking is the popular W district. You’ll find a central outdoor circle surrounded by bars and many food stalls. It’s the perfect place to start your evening.

W district is evergrowing in popularity. 

3 Days 2 Nights

Lad Prao Wanghin Rd – Soi Lat Phrao Wang Hin 71, Khwaeng Lat Phrao, Khet Lat Phrao, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10230

Looking for something a little out of the ordinary? This place is themed like an old farm, complete with a fenced in field with rabbits, sheep, and other animals. There is a ton of casual seating surrounding the animals, and a nightclub on site for later once you’ve enjoyed a few drinks. Another plus? This bar is a relatively unknown destination to tourists.

Ratchada 4 Complex

Ratchadaphisek Rd, Khwaeng Huai Khwang, Khet Huai Khwang, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10320

Ratchada 4 is perfect if you want to party with the locals and escape the tourist crowd. This places if often overlooked, but luckily we stumbled upon it. You’ll find a series of loud clubs that all have free entry. There are often live bands and a series of shows across the complex every night of the week starting at 9pm.

When you see this sign, stop and party!

Shrimp Bar

Soi Chaeng Wattana 1

Okay, so we don’t actually know its name, but there’s a huge, bright pink shrimp on the sign, so that’s what we call it. What a find this place was! Here’s another venue where you’ll probably be the only foreigner in sight. It’s very Thai, with live bands, big bottles of whiskey (although we get the brandy) and loud buzzing dance moves. If you head to the outskirts of Chaeng Wattana Soi 1, it’s pretty much the only thing that resembles nightlife on that street.

Shock 39 and other taxi driver choices.

39 Phetchaburi Rd, Thanon Phaya Thai, Khet Ratchathewi, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10400

Recently many areas of Bangkok have been enforcing a rule that everything must shut at 2am. But don’t worry, there’s always somewhere staying open until sunrise if you know where to look – or who to ask. One person who will always get you somewhere is your taxi driver. Just say “disco” and they will take you to a number of destinations. One of the most common stops is Shock on Petchaburi 39. This club stays open very late and has a dance stage and floor, pool tables, and a more chilled area to suit all needs. It’s a little bit seedy and rough, but it’s a cracker.

Grab a taxi, say ‘disco’ and see where you end the night.

RCA (Route 66)

Address – 66 Rama IX Soi 8, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, จังหวัด กรุงเทพมหานคร 10310

Route 66 is one of the most popular clubs in Bangkok. It’s found on the popular club street known as RCA. Famous for its crazy parties, it’s popular with tourists and locals who are dressed to impress. RCA is free for locals but 300 baht for tourists. However that 300 baht can go straight toward drinks as exchangeable coupons. This mazy club has 3 main rooms. One features the latest Thai and Western hits, another is all hip hop, and the last one usually has a live local band playing. There is also a massive seating space outside for people to gather around with a bottle of liquor. The club is open pretty much every night and is very popular with university students.

Soi Cowboy

Soi Cowboy, Khwaeng Khlong Toei Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110

Soi Cowboy is a small, 150-meter street that has a over 30 different go-go bars. It’s one of Bangkok’s most popular areas for tourists and expats. Most bars will have a waitress service while customers sit around the outside of a stage and watch various performances from girls in bikinis – or completely nude. This colorful street has been transformed into a popular tourist attraction as it’s known as one of Bangkok’s main red light districts.

SukHumvit Bar Crawl


Another idea is just to go to any soi off Sukhumvit and start wandering from there. There are so many different bars in Sukhumvit, you’renever too far away from the next one. Start a random bar crawl and you won’t be disappointed.

Black Wolf Bar

12/17, 12/17 Lat Phrao Rd, Chom Phon, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900

Finally, here’s a little shout out to a local of ours. This bar is situated right next to Phahonyothin MRT exit 2. It’s a small starter bar that’s actually a revamped hair salon. Drop by and give it the business it deserves.

Find the many party places Bangkok has to offer.

Khao San road is an amazing party but don’t limit yourself to just that! Bangkok is full of fun, diverse, random area. Experience them all.

Any we’ve missed? Where have you had a great night?Anywhere you hate? We’d love to know!

For more information on the best bars and clubs to visit in Bangkok, click here.





Tips for Traveling Vegetarians

When traveling, many people discover that they actually need fewer things than they once thought. If you want it to be, life can surprisingly simple.

I’m happy with a bed to sleep in, a few changes of clothes, and my phone to help out with local maps, translation, keeping in touch, and entertainment.

And a few meals a day, of course. Sound easy? It is! But many think finding these meals would be a challenge for me while traveling since I am a vegetarian.

My favorite pasta dish in Italy

It’s true that many cultures around the world eat very meat-heavy diets, and the concept of vegetarianism isn’t too popular.

But I have never gone hungry anywhere. I’ve eaten a few strange meals, usually on my first day somewhere, but in the end vegetarian food is always accessible without any worries.

Spring rolls and egg coffee in Vietnam

If you are also vegetarian and you’re worried about an upcoming trip, here are my best tips:

Learn a little about the food before you go. No matter where you’re heading, it only takes a quick google search to discover the most popular dishes. Find out if any of the common local cuisine is suited for your diet. Then keep a look out for these items on menus.

Learn how to say “vegetarian” or “I don’t want meat” in the local language. When I lived in China, I would just say “bu yao rou” (don’t want meat) if I couldn’t figure out the menu. A few minutes later, I’d be handed something vegetarian. Thailand has been a little trickier as not all food vendors will make something vegetarian for me, but if I say “mungsawirat” (vegetarian) I will usually at least be pointed to a place that can serve me.

My first couple meals in China

Combine sides to make a meal. I have actually done this my whole vegetarian life, even prior to my time abroad. It’s why I constantly reassure my friends that I can figure out something to eat no matter what restaurant they choose. I don’t need any of my food to be labeled a “main course.” Give me a salad, potatoes, and some beans. Altogether it fills me up just fine.

Look for western restaurants. We’ve yet to visit any city that didn’t have a least a couple western restaurants. Even if the traditional local meals always include meat, you’ll likely find some familiar vegetarian food on a more international menu.

Talk to other travelers or expats. Meeting fellow vegetarian or vegan travelers has been very common for me. I’ve probably met more abroad than I did back home. Ask them where they have been eating and share tips.

Pastries, crepes, cheese, and chocolate in France – maybe not the healthiest, but it’s all vegetarian 🙂

Go to the grocery store. If you’re really stuck (which, again, has honestly never happened to me) then you are guaranteed to find vegetarian food at the grocery store. There isn’t a country in the world that isn’t selling rice, beans, potatoes, fruit, and veggies at the market.

Cooking in India

Pack your own. This is completely unnecessary, but it can give you some peace of mind if you are still worried. The first time I left the country I was heading to Tanzania and I had no idea what to expect. I stuck several jars of peanut butter in my bag for safety.

I’d love to hear from other vegetarian travelers! How do you usually find the best food abroad? What country was best for meat-free diets? And where was it more of a challenge?