Tag Archives: travels

How we traveled Malaysia on a budget…and still had an amazing time!

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Wow!

It’s been quite the week as all of my kiddos returned to school for the second semester. I have been running around like a mad woman trying to get used to my busy busy schedule of teaching again. The kids will go from September to December before they take 2 1/2 months off, and start a new school year in March. I really wanted to blog this week, but it got pushed back as lesson planning took the front seat. Have I mentioned before that time flies here?!? The weeks turn into days and then months. It’s crazy to think we have been here 5 months already.

I wanted to share a bit more on our trip to Malaysia and how we kept it relatively low cost while still doing everything we wanted to do while there (Kuala Lumpur, Climbing Mt. Kinabalu, River safaris, orangutan sanctuary, and kota kinabalu island exploration!)

1. The biggest cost of savings for our trip was simply (or not so simply): AVOIDING tour companies like the plague.

Tom and I soon discovered the things we wanted to do were about 3x the price if we went with a tour company rather then doing it ourselves. I strongly feel as if the money would not stay in the local economy if we had booked with a large tour group (although that is not always the case!) Yes, the convenience is there if you want to have your trips all planned out. There were more downsides for us to go with a tour company such as: being on a time crunch & a bit over priced. We found that we could see sights ourselves while being much more cost effective. There are (I am sure) tour groups that are awesome. My point is that this trip they weren’t right for us. For example: A trip to the pouring hot springs was MUCH cheaper if we found a way to the place, and paid a small fee to get in. Ok, yeah. So we had to hitch a few rides (don’t tell our moms! hehe) which brings me to my next point.

2. Hitchhiking!

We had NO idea if it was common in Malaysia. BUT when the bus dropped us off 15km from where we needed to be with not a taxi, car, or phone in sight -hitch hiking was our only option. We met two awesome Malaysian fellas who picked us up and took us the almost 9 miles we needed to go. They wouldn’t take our money, but offered up some great conversation, and tips on how to get back to our lodge for cheap. Let’s just say it ended with more hitch hiking where an awesome Chinese family and a retired American couple picked us up and took us where we needed to be. I don’t recommend always hitch hiking, and I sure wouldn’t do it in the USA, but man it was pretty awesome AND we met some crazy cool people along the way.

Just a hitch hikin' ;)

Just a hitch hikin’ 😉

and lots of this...

and lots of this…

and more walkin... :)

and more walkin… 🙂

3. Unique places to stay.

We stayed in some incredible places. I wish I could tell you that it was my awesome planning that lead us to these incredible places we stayed at BUT that is not  the case. We used hostelworld.com quite a bit to book cheap/safe places that we could get our own room, borrowed a lonely planet book from a guy on a bus, and sometimes just searching around online . Another way we cut cost even further when it came to lodging was booking private rooms with a shared bathroom.

Lavender Lodge in Kota Kinabalu. We used the hostel world app to find this gem! AND only a 15 min walk to the ocean :)

Lavender Lodge in Kota Kinabalu. We used the hostel world app to find this gem! AND only a 15 min walk to the ocean 🙂

Eco friendly and 20 min walk from Mt. Kinabalu's headquarters- Mt. Kinabalu Lodge!

Eco friendly and 20 min walk from Mt. Kinabalu’s headquarters- Mt. Kinabalu Lodge!

My favorite place we stayed at- Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort. (found this gem in the lonely planet book we borrowed from a random guy on a bus!)

My favorite place we stayed at- Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort. (found this gem in the lonely planet book we borrowed from a random guy on a bus.) Made from recycled materials. We learned if they don’t have available rooms (during busy season) you can camp here for FREE!

Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort

Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort

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Enjoying our morning tea.

Enjoying our morning tea. Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort.

Hangin in the main lodge area. Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort,

Hangin in the main lodge area. Paganakan Dii Tropical Resort,

Sukau Greenview B&B- our last night in the rainforest!

Sukau Greenview B&B- our last night in the rainforest!

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Sukau Greenview B&B

Morning breakfast view! Sukau Greenview B&B

Morning breakfast view! Sukau Greenview B&B

4. Eating as the locals. Enough said!

Chinese for lunch! Porridge with chicken :)

Chinese for lunch! Porridge with chicken 🙂

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5. Keepin’ it local.

We shopped at markets and when we DID do a “safari tour” we decided to go with a local guy where we knew the money would go right into the local economy.

Exploring Central market in Kuala Lumpur and the market in Kota Kinabalu

Exploring Central market in Kuala Lumpur and the market in Kota Kinabalu

Do you have any tips on how to keep a budget while still doing all the things you want to see/do while traveling?

Walking Tour of Kuala Lumpur- Malaysia’s Capital City!

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After so much time in the Malaysian jungle I wasn’t sure what I thought about heading to a big “city.” I’m typically not a fan of exploring big cities at all. If you have been following along you know that Yeosu (our Korean home base) contains 300,000 people which feels HUGE to me. The beach is 2 miles away, and there is a mountain in our backyard. Literally. That’s all I need to be one happy gal.

So, I was hesitant to spend time in Kuala Lumpur. Which in my mind you can’t compare AT ALL to East Malaysia (where we spent the majority of our trip.) We had our layover in Kuala Lumpur back to Korea so we decided (well Tom convinced me) that we should spend 2 nights, and 1 full day exploring the city. So we did. I live to tell you it was much more interesting than I had expected, but that I am glad we only stayed one day. We walked for 14 hours around the city (with stops to enjoy, relax, and eat) and I felt like we saw EVERYTHING I possibly wanted to see. From the Muslim Mosques, to the Indian temples, all of the cool architecture, the food, the mix of culture, the crazy demented city monkeys, all of the amazing markets (we went to three), to the gorgeous garden park. I am happy to say we DID it!

Tom and I both had an extremely hard time leaving Malaysia. We love living in Korea, but it was such an absolutely incredible trip that it was hard to say goodbye. Kuala Lumpur concluded our time in Malaysia, but I know we will be back. I loved the diversity of the people living in Malaysia: Chinese, Native Malaysians, and Indian. The diversity of people brought diversity of food which I hadn’t even mentioned yet. We ate real Italian food from an Italian expat living in Malaysia, Chinese food, Indian food, and everything in between. I was humbled by all of the travelers we met there and I am inspired to continue to discover more of this big beautiful world.

China Town Market

China Town Market

This guy ;)

This guy 😉

In the morning we headed to the famous Batu Caves. Caves made of limestone, a place of worship for hindu people, and home to one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India.

In the morning we headed to the famous Batu Caves. Caves made of limestone, a place of worship for Hindu’s, and home to one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India.

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The crazy demon monkeys around the Batu Caves. Stealing people's food and drinks. Not going to lie I was scared of them not like the monkeys we seen in the wild. The may look cute...don't let them fool you.

The crazy demon monkeys around the Batu Caves. Stealing people’s food and drinks. Not like the monkeys we seen in the wild. The may look cute…don’t let them fool you.

Sippin on some delicious and fresh coconut juice.

Sippin’ on some delicious fresh coconut juice.

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Heading up, up, up the stairs into the caves.

Heading up, up, up the stairs into the caves.

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They were waiting watching the humans until they found their victims.

They were waiting watching the humans until they found their victims.

Headed to explore the city!

Headed to explore the city!

Kuala Lumpur Garden Park

Kuala Lumpur Garden Park

Checkin out the sites at the National Monument.

Checkin out the sites at the National Monument.

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National Mosque

National Mosque

love this architecture.

love this architecture.

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Checking out Central Market.

Checking out Central Market.

Chinese for lunch! Porridge with chicken :)

Chinese for lunch! Porridge with chicken 🙂

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Night Market findings. New watch from a guy who uniquely made each one (besides the watch face hehe)

Night Market findings. New watch from a guy who uniquely made each one (besides the watch face hehe)

Petronas Towers at night!

Petronas Towers at night!

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So there ya have it. 3 blog posts in 3 days!!

I am so excited that I have successfully documented our entire trip to Malaysia all before second semester starts back up for teaching on Monday! First, we are saying goodbye to our good friend Alyssa as she has completed 2 years of teaching in Korea, and is embarking on many months of traveling. Sunday is our 1/2 marathon! We are so excited to do a race in KOREA.

I’ll be back next week with more stories on how we had an amazing trip on a budget, things we learned that we won’t travel East Malaysia without, and  our travel plans coming up in just 3 weeks!

Happy Friday to you all. I just have to leave you with 4 more photos that sum up the diversity we experienced in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia- so perfectly. 🙂 photo

Kinabatangan River Safari Tours

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We were sitting in the main “tree house” lodge having our breakfast when we began to browse through some of the “tours” of the Kinabatangan River that we could take from our resort. Tom and I had mostly stayed away from the big-tour-bus-fanny-pack type of tours during our trip in Malaysia as we were trying to get the most authentic experience out of our time there. We wanted to eat as the locals, do as the locals, and just enjoy Malaysia’s rainforests, and all of it’s extreme beauty. There were so many companies to choose from when trying to do a jungle safari by river. How could we decide which would be the best? I asked the lodge worker (a native malay) which one she thought would be “the most fun” and she recommended going on a tour with a fellow by the name of Osman- with Kinabatangan Discovery.

We decided to make the trek to the river (about two hours from our lodge near where we spent time with the orangutans!) to do the river safari. Tom asked me if I wanted to do more than one “river tour” instead of making the two hour trek for just one boat ride. Of COURSE I DID! Our lodging was right on the river where we stayed one night at Sukau Greenview lodge before catching a flight to Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur. Everything was arranged from the lodge we had been staying at Paganakan Dii including transportation to and from the river for us. We ended up deciding on a sunset tour, after dark river tour, and lastly the sunrise river tour. I had told myself that I didn’t expect to see any wildlife at all so that I wouldn’t be disappointed…but our three river safaris ended up being so much more than just a simple boat ride (It probably helps to have a husband with an incredible eye to spot wildlife!) All of our cruises were uniquely AMAZING, but our favorite was the sunset tour- when we saw the most wildlife, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

Let me back up for one second. Palm oil plantations are a big deal in East Malaysia. It’s a pretty big industry as Malaysia is the world’s second largest producer of palm oil, and is the world’s largest exporter of the oil. With this industry, sadly, comes the destruction, and clearing of land for the plantations. So while, the plantations have disrupted the ecology of the upper section of the Kinabatangan River… the mangrove swamps as well as parts of the lowland river have survived, remain in tact, and are now protected. The river is said to contain a huge part of the wildlife in Borneo. Home to all sorts of crazy cool looking birds, monkeys, crocodiles, snakes, orangutans and even Pygmy Elephants. So three river tours, hundreds of pictures, and one awesome (non commercial) tour guide later. I present you with one of most gorgeous places on Earth. The Kinabatangan River in East Malaysia:

The start of our trip...

The start of our trip…

Gorgeous rainbow.

Gorgeous rainbow.

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Egret birds

Egret birds

Grey Eagle

Gray Eagle

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Probiscus Monkeys- aka "Dutch man"

Probiscus Monkeys- aka “Dutch man”

I couldn't get over how it was sitting like a HUMAN!

I couldn’t get over how it was sitting like a HUMAN!

Macaque Moneky- saw tons of these guys!

Macaque Monkey- saw tons of these guys!

Little blurry, but I love this shot. They were jumpin/ swinging on the vines.

Little blurry, but I love this shot. They were jumpin/ swinging on the vines.

Little alien baby Macaque

Little alien baby Macaque

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Crocodile. Bit hard to see, but he was big!

Crocodile. Bit hard to see, but he was big!

Silver leaf monkey :)

Silver leaf monkey 🙂

Yellow ring mangrove snake

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Pretty sunset pictures

Pretty sunset pictures

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Our digs for the night

Our digs for the night

Peaceful breakfast on the river before our last river cruise...

Peaceful breakfast on the river before our last river cruise…

Tom spotted this guy up in the tree with his momma (who was hiding behind the branches)

Tom spotted this guy up in the tree with his momma (who was hiding behind the branches)

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Can't get enough of these guys...

Can’t get enough of these guys…

Kota Kinabalu- The Gateway to Malaysia’s Rainforests.

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Kota Kinabalu- The Gateway to Malaysia’s Rainforests.

We arrived after a day of travel from South Korea to the quaint little city of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Admittedly we had no idea that Malaysia is separated into two regions (two islands) BUT the part we mainly visited is known to tourists as “Sabah” or “Borneo” and to locals as “East Malaysia” and to Midwestern U.S folk: the boonies, the sticks, or middle of no where. We found ourselves loving the Malaysian rainforest!

Our last two days were spent in Peninsular Malaysia at the country’s capital: Kuala Lumpur. First things first though.

There is so much to say and so much to share, but I thought I would try to first keep it simple, and secondly keep it short. (Both extremely difficult after so many incredible adventures.) To say we had the trip of the life time is definitely an understatement. From the people we met from all around the world who had incredible travel stories where they are making travel a way of life, to the food, and the beautiful islands, wild life, and rain forests… I can’t tell you how many times I would just sit back in awe of where we were, what we were doing, and how we got to the place (path) that led us to cross paths with Malaysia. The trip just kept getting better and better.   Kota Kinabalu was where we spent two days and two nights eating REAL Italian food with a table for two in the bay, getting in 3 AWESOME scuba dives in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park with a cool little company called Scuba Junkie, taking a boat with locals over to Manukan island for a day at the beach,  and visiting Kota Kinabalu’s famous Gaya Street market where you could buy everything from an animal to souvenirs! Kota Kinabalu was where our journey in Malaysia all began. You’ll also see pictures of the places we stayed at…where almost all of the places were either eco friendly, or had amazingly helpful staff, and most of the time they had both. Tom has been quite inspired by a man named Rob Greenfield who’s blog he has been following, and reading. Rob’s blog has begun to in small ways positively affect the way we travel, and live life.

We always tried to do two things:

1. Keep it affordable!

2. Seek adventure.

I’d say we achieved them both, but maybe pictures will tell it better than I can. Most of the photo credit certainly goes to my awesome husband Tom…and now without further ado I bring you my very favorite photos of our first two days before we climbed Mt. Kinabalu, and the explored the rainforests! I give you Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia through our eyes…

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We devoured our meal so quickly that we forgot to take pics! It had been so long since we had Italian food. Eating at Gusto on the bay.

We devoured our meal so quickly that we forgot to take pics! It had been so long since we had Italian food. Eating at Gusto on the bay.

Our digs for 2 nights in KK. We loved staying here because of the incredible staff!

Our digs for 2 nights in KK. We loved staying here because of the incredible staff and the bang for our buck! We had our own cozy little room.

Getting ready to scuba dive off the boat!

Getting ready to scuba dive off the boat!

Tunku abdul rahman marine park for some diving.

Tunku abdul rahman marine park for some diving.

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Stop between dives on Sapi island!

Stop between dives on Sapi island!

This guy wanted to hang with us for lunch!!!

This guy wanted to hang with us for lunch!!!

Heading out for more diving.

Heading out for more diving.

Gaya Street Market

Gaya Street Market

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Rambutan- SO amazingly delicious once the skin is peeled off. Inside tastes and sort of looks like a grape 🙂

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We bought a big bag of Durian- known in Southeast Asia as the “King of Fruits.” It has a thorny outside and is known to smell like onions (we didn’t smell it) but it tasted like custard and almonds to me. Pretty delicious! Tom loved this one.

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Dragon fruit or Pitaya was pretty delicious as well. We had a great time buying fruit and tasting it. All of which we had never had before in the States. It was really this bright neon pink!! It didn’t stain the hands/ mouth as much as I thought it might.

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This cutie was working the market stall all by herself! She was tiny!

Island exploration to Manukan Island

Island exploration to Manukan Island

Saw another one of these guys... looked like a dragon!

Saw another one of these guys… looked like a dragon!

Beach bummin for the day.

Beach bummin for the day.

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A storms a brewin' just as we caught our little boat back to the mainland.

A storms a brewin’ just as we caught our little boat back to the mainland.

Up next more pictures of  exploring Gaya Street Market as well as the night market in Kota Kinabalu, and the continued journey through Malaysia as we headed East to climb a mountain, hang with the orangutans, and even manage to get in 3 river safaris to check out the rainforest wildlife.

In the meantime I’ll just be here pretending we are still travelin’ and trekkin’ through Malaysia 😉

Malaysia bound!

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So, the day is here!!!

Photo credit- Lonely Planet.

Photo credit- Lonely Planet.

The one where the backpacks are packed, and we are Malaysia BOUND. We will be gone for 10 days. If you missed the post on our Malaysia Plans go ahead and give that page a little click if you wanna know what we “plan” to be up to! You’ll see where I organized our “plans” into a nice little post… I say “plans” because I’ve learned our ideas/plans don’t always work out BUT that makes for some sweet travel stories.

In all honesty…we only have one place booked out of the many we will stay at in Malaysia (to sleep.) Why? WELL. This vacation kinda sprung up on us…and FAST! With wrapping up our first semester of teaching, teaching two weeks of English Summer Camp, a NEW car to travel Korea in, and the weekends we have spent at the beach/ visiting friends…we honestly haven’t booked places to stay, planned out the trip to a “T” and I honestly have no idea what food we will eat, where the best beaches are, or where we will sleep. Thanks to the iphones though…Tom discovered an app called- Hostel World where we can enter our location, and it brings up cheap places for us to stay in the area. Perfect, right? So here we go! Off to explore. It’s so fun to check things off on bucket list that I made back in March! There are quite a few I still need to tackle over the next few months, but we have winter break for that! ;)AND actually we have already started to plan winter vacation when we have a month off to travel in January. I can’t wait to tell you where we are headed!

First things first though.

What I do know…is that those trips (the ones where there is a rough sketch of ideas/things we want to see) are the BEST ones. I have no doubt there will not be a shortage of backpacker places for us to stay, people for us to meet, and things for us to do. Tom and I actually both prefer the road less traveled vs. the resort stays (and so does our wallet), the backpacker resorts, and also maybe even sleeping on the beach where we have done plenty of that here, here, and here! WHO KNOWS where this trip will take us, but the unknown is pretty darn exciting.

…and I sure can’t wait to discover this next adventure that is unfolding…

The blog will remain not-so-up-to date for 10+ days..where I will be hanging with the orangutans, climbing the tallest point between the Himalayas and New Guinea at 13,436 feet above sea level, and scuba diving the beautiful reefs of Malaysia, visiting night markets, maybe a river safari, and OF COURSE looking for adventure! Like I have said before…this life does NOT seem real. Still pinching myself that we are livin this dream.

Don’t worry though! (I knew you were worried) 😉

I will be back SOON. With plenty of travel stories to knock your socks off!

Until then…

Stay cool blog readers.

Lots’o’love,

-elicia

Next stop: Borneo, Malaysia.

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Next stop: Borneo, Malaysia.

Malaysia.

A country I had heard of, but knew absolutely nothing about. A place where when I began to research I found has the  highest point between the Himalayas and New Guinea (Mt. Kinabalu-13,436 feet above sea level.)

A country full of culture, delicious food, rain forest trekking, river safari tours teaming with wildlife, stunning scuba diving, and magnificent night markets.

How could we choose anywhere else?

I am beyond excited.

This is what I know:

1. We decided on East Malaysia also known as Borneo, Malaysia because of our desire to hike, explore the rain forest, and scuba dive. First: We fly into Kuala Lumpur- Malaysia’s capital. Then we’ll catch another flight to East Malaysia.

2.We will be doing 2 or 3 scuba dives here (not sure which islands yet!  There are 5 in Tunku Marine Park):

photo from etawau.com

3. We will be attempting to climb Kota Kinabalu in ONE day- the tallest point between the Himalayas and New Guinea at 13,436 feet above sea level. We found the inspiration to hike in one day here. If you are a new reader you can track our hiking treks on Tom’s blog.

photo from the theplanetd.com

4. We will visit the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary- Where orangutans are rehabilitated back to independent wildlife living. Can’t wait to see these amazing animals 🙂

photo from sabahtourism.com

5. We will be taking a river safari down the Kinabatangan River- to hopefully spy some Pygmy Elephants ( we would have to be really lucky!), crocodiles, birds, and maybe even a proboscis monkey.

photo from insabah.com

6. Visit the night markets! In both Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.

photo from junesapartment.com

–This much I know.

I know we are so excited to head to Malaysia in just 5 short weeks!  We are going into the trip with an outline of a plan. Hoping for the best…expecting the worst. We will have a some what flexible schedule, but embarking on this adventure with the idea that the BEST adventures are the ones that aren’t planned, and the understanding that ANYTHING can change in a second.

Here is to an incredible adventure ahead with my husband… Off of the beaten path!

Our Secrets to Successful Exploration!

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Our Secrets to Successful Exploration!

Our secrets to successful exploration- in a nutshell. 

 1.     Make a list, but be flexible.

We made a general list of things we wanted to do while in Jeju Island, South Korea.  With a last minute trip to Jeju we didn’t really have time to make a solid “plan” or create an agenda…but because of this spontaneous trip… I am a TRUE believer in not making concrete plans. Ok, so I get it. You are a planner. Sometimes you just need to plan, but there are certainly plenty of opportunities for trips without solid plans or in the very least ways to make your travel plans less “rigid.” The unexpected trips, the unplanned-spontaneous-flybytheseatofyourpants trips are (I believe) the ones that turn out to be the best adventures and let me tell you why:

       You don’t get disappointed- If you don’t have a set plan and agenda how can you miss a train, plane, or a bus? That’s right. You can’t.

       Freedom- Freedom to do as you please and when you please. Your schedule is wide open. If you feel like a relaxing day at the beach then grab your shades n’ sunscreen. If you feel like climbing a mountain…ONWARD! Freedom in your schedule, freedom in your days.

       Flexibility- Rain or Shine baby- Seize that day! ? What’s that? It’s storming? Perfect. It doesn’t matter because you don’t have plans anyway. You are more willing to seize the day regardless of the weather, because disappointment doesn’t exist when you don’t have a set schedule or a place to be.

It's raining...but NOT on this parade! Completely in the moment of windy gusts  and lovely rain! One of my favorite all time pictures.

It’s raining…but NOT on this parade! Completely in the moment of windy gusts and lovely rain! One of my favorite all time pictures.- Jusangjeolli Lava Cliffs.

:)

🙂

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We DID IT!

We DID IT! It’s a mountain climbin’ kinda day!

peak fever

Peak Fever

Puddles- Along Olle trail  Jeju coast.

Puddles- Along Olle trail Jeju coast.

Lava cliffs along the coast

Lava cliffs along the coast-Jusangjeolli Cliffs.

Manjuggal Caves

Manjuggal Caves- Lava Tubes

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2.     Take the road less traveled.

First off… I really dislike big chain resorts. Matter of fact…I really dislike big chain anything. I am a firm believer in supporting locally owned “ma and pa” stores if you will. By taking the less traveled path you have the opportunity to stumble upon the most amazing gems. We have discovered some of the most amazing beaches, guesthouses, and breathtaking sights from wandering off the “path.” I always make it a point to be a traveler…not a tourist. Big difference. Experiencing the culture, meeting new people, and discovery are all things that keep me choosing the road less traveled, and choosing it every single time.

 

Discovered this gem of a guesthouse at Hwasun beach.

Discovered this gem of a guesthouse at Hwasun beach.

Hwasun beach guesthouse. Little slice-a-heaven!

Hwasun beach guesthouse. Little slice-a-heaven!

Hwasun Beach. Secluded. Quiet. PERFECT!

Hwasun Beach. Secluded. Quiet. PERFECT!

Beautiful Shinyang beach- Jeju.

Beautiful Shinyang beach- Jeju.

Along the coast of Jeju. discovering gems along the walk.

Along the coast of Jeju. Discovering gems along the walk.

How can you decide to take a bus when you have miles and miles of gorgeous coastline?

How can you decide to take a bus when you have miles and miles of gorgeous coastline?

Stumbled upon the gorgeous falls.

Stumbled upon the gorgeous falls.

3.     Do something outside of your comfort zone.

Trying new food, hiking a mountain, or a trail for miles and miles knowing full well your know your legs will hurt for days after, wakin up at 4am for a sunrise hike-all things I did with my partner in crime this past weekend where I was outside of the comfort. Without getting outside of my comfort zone I would have never had the incredible weekend that I did. Cliché as it sounds…seriously believe that comfort is not always the place to be. Just when it seems like the road is all uphill…push through. I promise it’s worth it. I’ve got memories to prove it.

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summit of Mt. Halla

Summit of Mt. Halla- beautiful little lake

Olle trail- 20+ miles of walkin the coast of Jeju after the 9 hour day of hiking= SORE legs. Totally worth it? You bet.

Olle trail- 20+ miles of walkin the coast of Jeju after the 9 hour day of hiking= SORE legs. Totally worth it? You bet.

Authentic Korean BBQ-Hwasun guesthouse cooked for us.

Authentic Korean BBQ-Hwasun guesthouse cooked for us.

Just a walkin along the coast

Just a walkin along the coast-One side greens the other side ocean.

Sunrise Peak 4am

Sunrise Peak 4am

–I challenge you to get outside of what makes you comfortable. Take the risk.

Belleville, Wisconsin ——> Yeosu, South Korea. 6,580 miles

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Last week, Tom and I received confirmation of our city and our teaching placements.

Here is where we will be living:Image

It is a city called Yeosu, South Korea. Yeosu has a population of about 300,000 people and consists of the Yeosu peninsula as well as 317 islands (many of which are uninhabited) ,but some that you can catch a ferry to and experience rural South Korea. It is located about midway along the southern coast of Korea. We are excited for fresh seafood, longer spring and autumn seasons then what we are used to, and mild winters. (MUCH more mild than these darn midwest winters!)…just to name a few!!

You can read more about Yeosu here – in an article I found from the New York Times that I really enjoyed reading!

Tom will be teaching middle schoolers. I will be teaching elementary students. Our schools are 700 meters away from each other. So we will be able to walk/bus/ or take the train together each morning to work!!!

One way tickets are purchased. Our journey will be (from what I have found) about 6,500 miles. We first plan to visit our friend Amy (who was in our wedding!) and is living in South Korea teaching until August before our 10 day orientation (and before we begin teaching!!) 3 weeks and 1 day until departure!!!

My bucket list for the next year:

Learn to eat and ONLY eat with chopsticks- okay fine. AND a spoon for soups.

Climb a mountain (lots of them)

Climb to base camp of Mount Everest with my husband!

Volunteer at an orphanage

Make friends who are locals

Get involved in the community

Immerse myself as fully as I can into the culture- detox and clense of all social media as much as possible (besides blogging when time allows)

Visit coffee shops when working on lesson planning

Travel to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Vietnam

Visit Jeju island in South Korea on a weekend

Try every new food at LEAST once and hopefully much more than just once

Laugh off awkward situations I am positive I will find myself in!

Keep a journal- not just a blog

Drink wine.

Learn how to use the bus system and use it efficiently!!!

Be confident in who I am as a teacher and the person I have become

Keep an open mind. At all times.

Research countries before I visit them to know what is appropriate and what is not before I get there.

Workout consistently- run in races if possible

Eliminate visiting “touristy” places as much as possible- take the road less traveled.

Be a traveler. Not a tourist.

Give credit to others where credit is due

Keep my faith strong- pray and be in the word as much as possible. Find an English speaking church if possible.

Become detached from any earthly thing (ok, besides my computer so I can stay in contact with family) and learn to give away or donate things I own.

Come home with less than what I came with. This means if I brought a lot of clothing- get rid of clothes I had to make room for gifts or things I have acquired.

Try as much as I can to use the Korean Language (even though I don’t know much!)

Breathe in then breathe out-  Remember teaching will have its toughest of days.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Blog- as much as time allows, but never so much that I miss out on experiences.

Continue to be the best wife I possibly can to my husband!

Show others that I care.

Establish relationships that matter.

Don’t view Korea as just a “one year and done” opportunity- Take each day for what it is worth and know that this opportunity is a huge blessing and a dream.

Be a dedicated teacher.

Make lesson plans with purpose.

Remind myself I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to.

Take the time to stop and appreciate the Korean culture and the people.

Celebrate differences in culture.

Explore- and do it often

Visit Elephants in a sanctuary instead of riding them where I can rest assured that they are treated fairly. Be informed of what “riding elephants” entails. Read more about this here

Live…life. Every single day.

Trust God.

As always-Love all. No exceptions.

Why did it take us moving abroad to create this type of bucket list? IF you read this far I encourage you to create your own bucket list wherever you are. Your journey is an important one, and you don’t need to be moving abroad to- make each day count!

lessons learned abroad

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4 years ago… This exact time… I was packing my suitcase to move to a country I knew virtually nothing about. While so much has changed since then… That time in my life was one that will forever remain a part of who I am. Fiji was exactly what I needed at that time. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people. Every year around this time I am reminded of where I am today, but thankful for my experiences in a country I loved.

 

Ok, So I learned a lot of things, but I have narrowed it down to four and four only. I will do my very best to stick to four, because I couldn’t just do three. I have to preface this first with the fact that I studied abroad in the Fijian Islands 4 years ago almost exactly. I lived there for about 6 months. I left knowing that I needed to do this. I had a deep desire to be completely out of my comfort zone, seek adventure, meet amazing new people, and be challenged/pushed to know what it feels like to be a minority. I blame my parents for my wanderlust and desire to see the world. My dad was in the air force so from about middle school on I have lived in MN, England, California, and back to WI. Seeing and traveling Europe really opened my eyes. Moving around doesn’t really scare me and actually just the opposite…being in one place forever freaks me out. I love change.  So, 4 years ago upon my return people would ask “How was living in Fiji” and I could literally never answer it. How do you explain living abroad in 1 sentence? I found myself frustrated and I began journaling and so these four points are taken from my journal.

1.How can we live next door to neighbors here in America and NEVER even know them?

As I was sitting on the village floor eating lunch with an entire village I couldn’t help, but think…”WOW this is amazing!” This community…this ENTIRE community eats meals together every single day. Each meal. They do life together, they raise children together, they do chores together, take care of each other’s homes/ fields /and gardens TOGETHER. Everything is done as a unit. A whole village. Open door policy… you walk in hang out with each other. Yes, they each have their own homes, but the sayings “It takes a village to raise a child” and “Mi casa es tu casa” are literally true in smaller villages in Fiji. Why in America and how can we live next door to people and never even know them? I learned in Fiji the importance of loving each other and cherishing others. The importance of creating and establishing relationships with others. Even living on campus at the University of the South Pacific- you still see pieces of village life. Communal studying, eating, and hanging- always.

 

 2.       Each of us has a story to tell.

I have talked a lot about this here. I really learned that in Fiji. My study abroad group which consisted of about 10 other Americans who were all completely different from all over the U.S were just about as different as you can get. We all had a lot in common though and throughout living abroad we began to discover that there was a reason we were all in Fiji. I learned that students who came to University of the South Pacific came from many many surrounding islands including Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and many more…but yet we each had a story to tell. I found it fascinating when I was required to interview locals for one of my classes and I got to sit down and learn about different people’s lives and cultures. It all came down to this: We each have a unique and fascinating story to tell. We each have a heart, and we all feel pain. We are loved more than we will ever understand by a forgiving and amazing God

3.       God has you exactly where you should be. Trust the Plan.

Living abroad didn’t come without some hardships. Being the only white person really puts things into perspective to what other cultures may feel like here in the States. Living in a country where Christianity is becoming more common, but where ancestors often times believed in witch craft/magic/and many gods always made for interesting conversations on God. I remember talking about God to another student and she made a comment about believing in God, but still incorporating her ancestor’s beliefs. Tough situation. Coming home was actually much harder than getting adjusted to life in Fiji. I struggled for almost 2 years with feeling “trapped” here and finding it hard to share my journey and how I had changed living abroad alone. I remember hearing that “God has you there right now Elicia (meaning back in the states) to finish your teaching degree and use you there.” Making the best of it was hard sometimes, but finally FINALLY four years later I feel like he was right. God has you wherever and whatever stage in life you are at- exactly where you should be. Trust his plan!

4. Island time means ISLAND TIME-

No person is in a hurry. 30 min late is the normal. Everything is on island time and in no rush. At first you love it- no place to be nothing to do. Then you hate it (because you are trying to “get things done”) Then you learn to love it. You don’t realize how fast paced America is until you are gone for a long time. Island time grew frustrating once I was living at the University of the South Pacific because I wanted things done and I wanted it ASAP. NOPE. Not gonna happen in Fiji.  When I wanted a research paper printed it was literally (no joke people) a 1/2 a day process. You had to go across campus and get a print card. Then go to another office to get the print card activated. Then wait in line at a computer lab varying from 30 min to an hour… Which then no joke took 40 min to long in because they were computers from like 1980. Then you realize after you log in that the card code doesn’t work. HA! Joke is on you…you silly American. So back to the office to receive a new card and start all over. This happens a lot. At first it is frustrating until you learn that deadlines can be pushed back (and usually are) and literally no one is in a hurry. So why should you be?  Later, I learned to LOVE and seriously adore Island life.I learned quickly how sometimes American life is based on the individual and getting ahead. It took a long time for me to stop waving and smiling to strangers on the sidewalk with no response (once back in the states.) In Fiji, every person n’ every place you go will greet you with a massive smile and hug. They will even shout across streets, over buildings, and around corners to greet you. Then when they do greet you (because they are on island time) they will stop and have a conversation with you because they are in no hurry. It is awesome. You are never in trouble when you show up 30 min late or even 45 min into a lecture or even important business meetings, because it is usually starting then anyway. It is simply fabulous. Island time means slowing down, appreciating life, and spending time with those around you.

…So.Many things have happened since those 4 years. I married my absolute best friend and the coolest man that I know in the Dominican Republic. Still though, Fiji remains a part of who I am and how I look at life. I still seek adventure and have the past few years just in other ways. I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I am proud to say that I DID stick around the states long enough to earn my  teaching degree.

So, if you have read this far…you may be thinking “why is she talking about Fiji now?” I promise you it relates to my next post. In. so many. BIG. ways.

Stay tuned 🙂

boat and trees celebration night dinner

fiji family and me fiji me and kids Fijian kids Indian festival looking down at village story telling sunrise sunset village again

One of the villages I stayed in (view from hike up) ^^

ovillage celebration group shot village men village spokesman

Village spokesman telling us history after dinner this talking and hanging/ drinking kava (traditional root drink) can go on all night.

The Journey.

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Sometimes we get so anxious about our future we forget to just enjoy the journey. This week I have started to stop and appreciate the here and the now…and that the journey is the part that makes life interesting…

I love this quote though and it describes quite closely exactly how I feel about traveling.

” I beg young people to travel. If you don’t have a passport, get one. Take a summer, get a backpack and go to Delhi, go to Saigon, go to Bangkok, go to Kenya. Have your mind blown, eat interesting food, dig some interesting people, have an adventure, be careful. Come back and you’re going to see your country differently, you’re going to see your president differently, no matter who it is. Music, culture, food, water. Your showers will become shorter. You’re going to get a sense of what globalization looks like. It’s not what Tom Friedman writes about, I’m sorry. You’re going to see that global climate change is very real. And that for some people, their day consists of walking 12 miles for four buckets of water. And there are lessons you can’t get out of a book that are waiting for you at the other end of that flight. A lot of people- Americans and Europeans- come back and go, “oohhhhh.” And the lightbulb goes on.—Henry Rollins

Traveling is never far from my heart. I adore this quote, but mostly there is a big reason why it has been on my heart more and more lately…

and I can’t wait to share with you where we are traveling to next!!!

🙂