Then I slowed down (way down, one book in two weeks down) and acted much more like a normal person; seeing friends, running errands and cleaning my house. Part of the reason I read so much, so quickly, is because I rented several library books all at once, and then realized I needed to read them all within two weeks. The thing about rented eBooks is that they return themselves when the time is up… both great and terrible. Needless to say, I learned my lesson, I will only be renting one eBook at a time from here on out. (Okay, maybe two. But never again four!)
November was full of nonfiction, but the reading was far from dry. I learned a lot about a huge variety of subjects (as I like to do), so I’m pretty happy with this month’s mental exercise. If I had to pick a favorite for November, then I’d choose Woman: An Intimate Geography. It’s a book that I can feel will stay with me for a while.
The topic is a fiery one: political corruption. The author does an excellent job of using both Republican and Democratic examples of corruption. I think we all know there are shady dealings at the top, but he spells out exactly how they happen, how they’re legal and why it’s not okay. At times, reading this made me sick to my stomach.
There were tears, smiles and vigorous page turns while I read this book. It’s fascinating because of its descriptions of Africa and it’s captivating in the way good fiction should be. Oh, and profound, quotable life lessons galore.
Lovely Quote: “In all things, especially when it cost little and did no harm to others, Ghosh was his own man.”
This was one of those rare books that really made a noticeable impact on my soul, I just feel different having read it. On my required reading list for every human on the planet, especially women, this book would be front and center. A top Amazon reviewer described the book perfectly: “scientific poetry”. Indeed.
Amazon says this book was over 300 pages, but it felt like a lot less. The memoir was interesting, emotional and a much-needed window into Afghanistan’s humanity and culture. And if you wanted someone to convince you of the benefits of yoga and meditation, I think you’ve found your book.
Kennan recounts two years spent exploring Siberian Russia, living in tents, traveling on dog sleighs and spending time with indigenous populations. It’s an adventure book, with tidbits of fascinating information about what he saw, written in the late 1800s. I’m neutral on recommending it, just because adventure books aren’t really up my alley and I didn’t love it, but if you like this genre, then you’ll enjoy this book.
Shopping for a traveler, let alone a perpetual traveler can be tough. Those who spend a lot of time on the road usually tend to reject the notion of “stuff” and try to be as minimalist as possible. If the traveler you know has sold their home, then it’s even harder to shop; if your gift isn’t well-received, it will probably be left behind somewhere, maybe re-gifted to someone you don’t know or left at the local Goodwill donation center. So what should you buy someone who is easily burdened by the unnecessary? What should you give a traveler for Christmas?
Being a traveler myself, a person without a house to keep things in and someone who is constantly shedding their belongings to fit them in a suitcase, I thought I’d offer some tips. But I, just one person, can’t speak for everyone. Each traveler is different, but hopefully this list at least sparks an idea for you. Christmas shopping is hard, I know, and my mom can vouch that it’s especially hard when you’re shopping for a moving target.
So here are my suggestions.
Provided your traveler enjoys reading and has an eReader (many of us do!), then eBooks are always a hit. Not only can you buy and deliver this gift from the comfort of your chair, but the traveler doesn’t have to jump through any post office/redemption hoops. They just need to find WiFi. And within minutes, they’ll be reading.
The tricky part is which book to get them. As this is a highly personal choice, I’d recommend getting a third-party to ask if they have a wish list somewhere and shopping from there. If you have to shoot blindly, then a wanderlust-inciting story is usually a safe bet.
Note: if your traveler doesn’t have an eReader, then you may need to help them. I’d recommend the Kindle Paperwhite; I’ve had mine for two months and it’s revolutionized my (literary) life.
Thin, Versatile Clothing
Folks on the road are constantly wearing their clothes out. While it’s easy to buy clothes abroad, it’s also nice to be gifted quality threads. Traveling clothes usually need to be lightweight, frill-free and easy to wear in a variety of situations. Think t-shirts, thin sweaters and undershirts, neutral colors or classic patterns, like stripes. For most jet-setters, trends fall to the wayside while comfort and usability become paramount.
A Custom Map Key Chain/Necklace
A nomad’s life is place-independent and yet, completely fixated on location; a strange mix. Getting a traveler a small token of a special place they’ve been, where they are from or where their loved ones are is a sure way to put a smile on your wanderer’s face. And the gift is small, which is a must.
You can find several shops on Etsy that will put any map into a necklace/key chain/tie fastener/etc and for not too much money. This shop, Brass and Chain, has a nice mix of items and won’t break the bank.
Situations pop up all the time when traveling where the vagabond in question needs to write something of importance down for later. Scraps of paper are easily lost and memory can be faulty; sometimes language barriers require a drawing of some kind. A small, portable notebook is always a big help on the road and serves as a principle place to put down directions, phone numbers, the address of that night’s hostel or anything else of importance.
You know when you were younger and opened up a present, then hid your disappointment with a big exaggerated thank you, because Aunt Susan gave you socks, again? Well this is the opposite reaction of those always on the road; socks are destroyed and smelly in short order and constantly need replaced. If you give socks to your favorite traveler, the thank you and accompanying smile will be genuine. Their feet will thank you, as well.
An Unlocked Smart Phone
This gift is only for the rich among us, as buying smart phones out of contract is tremendously expensive. Any traveler can tell you that their smart phone is their life and not because it can make phone calls. Essentially a smart phone can be used simply as a mini computer, when it has access to WiFi, and in-country SIM cards can be purchased just about everywhere, so wandering foreigners can call their hostel if they’re in a jam. If your traveling friend has an old or broken smart phone, no phone or even worse, a Blackberry (!!!), then they would likely be very appreciative of an iPhone 5, for instance. The obvious downside is this gift is pricey.
A Wide Scarf
Travelers all know of the usefulness of a good scarf; not only can it keep your neck warm, but it can cover your head in conservative places, double as a towel when in need, cover legs in the middle of doing laundry, keep breakables from breaking… the uses go on. Just make sure you buy a scarf wide enough to be versatile and lightweight enough to bring everywhere.
While I haven’t purchased from FashionABLE myself, I’ve heard tons of positive things not only about the scarves themselves, but also the business. Ethiopian women make these scarves by hand and get the opportunity to leave poverty behind at the same time.
Chances are your vagabond wants to document what they’re seeing either for themselves, for you, or possibly a wider audience. While I don’t have one myself, every traveler and their mother mentions GoPro cameras as a must-have. It’s essentially an ultra-durable and waterproof camera with excellent video capabilities. If your traveler already has one, they may be lusting over the GoPro head-strap for situations where they need both hands. If your vagabond is more of a DSLR kind of guy/gal when it comes to photography, they may want a GorillaPod when extra hands are unavailable. Camera gear can become heavy and burdensome, though, so proceed with caution and understanding; this gift is a hit or miss.
Buy What They’re Selling
If your wandering friend is on the road long-term, chances are they are offering some kind of service to make money while mobile. Lots of travelers have written and sell eBooks, some people offer web design services, yet others offer prints of their photographs (like me!) or the chance to buy a postcard from them. Whatever it is that your friend is offering, consider sending them a big order. You could even buy from your favorite vagabond as a Christmas gift, and then give that product to someone else who’d appreciate it more than you. Two birds with one stone, my friend, you’ve just double Christmas shopped.
A Gift Receipt
Aside from straight cash, this may be the best gift you could give a traveler. Whatever it is you decide to buy, always remember to include either a gift receipt or contact information for doing a return/getting a refund. No wanderlusting friend wants to leave your gift behind because they couldn’t figure out how to return it and pick up something more useful. And you wouldn’t want them to: always give the option of returning/exchanging your present.
Plane tickets are getting more expensive, but your friend’s desire to see the world is probably still on the rise. There’s nothing better than receiving money, and if you want to make sure the money is put to good use, write a little note about what you’d like your friend to put it towards. Flights always need paid, hostels booked, and buses paid for. If your vagabond is young, chances are they have a loan or two that is keeping them from total freedom. If they blog, then they may have yearly web hosting costs. Sending them $50 to help them on their way, even just a little bit, is a gesture that every traveler appreciates.
Travelers, what’s on your Christmas list this year? What’s the best vagabond-related gift that you’ve ever received?
Everyone dreams, some of us of fancy cars and others of simply a day off. I dreamed of pizza last night, but that’s not the kind of dream I’m talking about. I mean the dreams of the heart, the mental bucket list. My fantasies are actually filled with solitary retreats and books or alternatively, spectacular jaunts abroad in fascinating locations. That probably comes as no surprise to readers, considering my recent Reading Roundup Series and the topic of this blog.
So, while thinking about all the places I’d like to visit, I decided to put them together in a definitive list. Why not? I found it too hard to rank them, though, so I’ve put them in alphabetical order. Enjoy this little trip across the world, though only in thought this time. One day.
Note: I’ve not included any photographs, since I didn’t want to steal and I don’t have of my own. I’d recommend doing a Google image search, if you’re curious about what these countries look like.
This first one needs a provision: I want to visit Egypt, but as a man. I’m really put off by the sheer number of stories of sexual harassment coming out of such a gorgeous country. So if I could be a man for a month or so, I’d love to spend that month traveling around Egypt and seeing all the beautiful, super super old sights. The Pyramids, the Red Sea, desert landscapes and access to an ocean; the sheer variety sends my head reeling. And the food, oh the food! Legumes and vegetables? Right up my alley. An image search of “Egyptian Food” sets my saliva production into overdrive. As much as I’d love to do all of these things, I’m fairly sure that dealing with sexual harassment for the entirety of my trip would kind of ruin it. So I’d like to be a man, or I’ll just have to wait 10 years for the social climate to improve. Shame.
These days, the only things we see in the news about Iran are things like “nuclear weapons!”, “negotiations”, and “WWIII?” But the Iranian government is a far cry from representative of the people, fortunately (and unfortunately). I took a semester of Farsi, the language in Iran, and it sparked my interest in the country. My teacher was a strong, fierce woman with a palatable love for her culture and people; it must have rubbed off on me. I want to see the landscape, the rock sculptures and old ruins, but I more than anything want to try the food. Once again, that image search just blows my taste buds away. Warning, don’t look if you’ve not eaten lunch/dinner/breakfast yet, you’re only asking for it.
I’m not sure why, but I’m really fascinated with extreme northern climates, particularly the Arctic circle, these days. Norway seems like such a beautiful country, with Oslo down “south” and then extreme, gorgeous landscapes farther north. I may or may not have spent at least an hour or two recently pulling that little figure on Google Maps around and looking at the street views all over northern Norway. I’m also fascinated by the concept of 24 hour nights in the winter and the opposite, constant sunlight in the summer. Though in reality, I’m pretty horrible at enduring cold weather, so I fantasize about testing myself and getting through an Arctic Circle winter. Maybe I need to stop reading books about Siberia…
There are a lot of random reasons why I’d love to spend some time in Tunisia. First is the landscape; it straddles desert regions and the Mediterranean Sea, which means extreme land transitions. Rad. It’s also in Northern Africa, which means a fascinating coming together of Middle Eastern and African influences. That’s a culture I’d be ecstatic to learn more about. Then, the official language, Arabic, is one I’d like to tackle one day. And the cherry on top, the food looks pretty lip-smacking. If I had to rank these five places, I’d be tempted to put Tunisia right at the top of that list.
I had never heard of Vanuatu until this week, when I was reading about seven volcanic eruptions that happened at the same time. It’s a tiny island, east of Australia, formed by several volcanoes, some that are still active. One of my life-list items is to see lava, so I was immediately interested in this tiny country. It also has a lot of cool indigenous cultures, which are known to be friendly and picture-happy, and it’s an island. Beaches! And one more big plus, one of the official languages is English, which means travel there is infinitely easier. Lastly, a quick Google search of the food there reveals some dishes that look straight up crazy; I’m in. Send me!
I could go on for several pages with places I want to visit, but these five are absolutely at the tippy top of my wanderlist. And now that I’ve written myself into a hunger and wanderlust frenzy, I’m going to try and deal with the half of that problem I can remedy at the moment: feeding myself. If only it was delicious Persian food!
Have you been to any of these countries? What places are on your wanderlist? Did you also dream about pizza last night?
I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I don’t use that word lightly. As a child, I’d stay up way past bedtime with a book and flashlight under the covers, so I could finish whatever Boxcar Children story I was reading. In middle school, my dad bribed me and my siblings (yes, with real money!) to read the Lord of the Rings series before watching the movies, and I breezed through it in less than a month while my brothers never did finish the books. Slackers.
During my time living abroad in Argentina, Austria or now South Korea, I looked for used books, English book stores or other means for getting physical books. When my stints were just half a year and I wasn’t particularly successful, it wasn’t as much of a big deal. I’d get home, go on a reading binge and all was well again. Living, really living in South Korea for over a year now has been a bit harder. I took books from a local book exchange that a friend maintains, but little of it was really my style. I bought some books from the English bookstore in Seoul, but to do that regularly? My wallet says ouch. I did manage to finish an epic 15 book series, reading it all on my iPhone, but that’s just eyeball suicide in the long run. I needed a better solution.
So this October, I finally “caved” and got an e-reader. I put caved in quotations, because what I really mean is I stopped being a nostalgic-for-paper-for-no-good-reason idiot. Yeah, I said it, people! If you’re living or traveling abroad, you love to read and you don’t have an e-reader… you’re just shooting yourself in the foot.Go buy one. Combined with my not-so-local-anymore library back home and a library card number, I’ve been able to access books I’ve been wanting to read for months on end, finally, and for free. Success.
So, I’ve decided to begin a series. This is both to share my literary endeavors with you and hopefully inspire you to pick up one of these books, as well as a way to keep myself reading consistently. If you’re not into books, first I begyou to reconsider, and if you’re still not interested in what I have to say about books, then ignore this post and its sequels. On the other hand, if you love you some words and books and stories, then boy, do I have some good content for you! Let’s go!
This book isn’t life changing by any means, but it was well written, interesting and based off a cool story concept. If you like fiction and want to breeze through something that will make you smile at the end, then you’ll enjoy this one.
If you’re pro-life (no exceptions) or staunchly Christian, then I’m going to be upfront and tell you that you’re not going to like this book. But regardless of your beliefs, if you have an open mind and want to take a dive into some feminism, then this is a good, interesting book about the concept of virginity and its negative effect on young women.
I’m going to save you the trouble of reading this mini-book. (Yes, it’s a mini book and it’s not even worth the read.) Summary: successful people consistently get up very early in the morning (6am and earlier), and most of them exercise. You’re welcome!
The story is original, captivating and interesting, and it will make you cry big, ugly tears right before you’re supposed to go on a date. I didn’t get any memorable life lessons out of this book, but after some of my nonfiction pursuits, that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, either.
Have recommendations for me? I would love to hear them. Pass them on!
I recently met up with twobloggers on a world trip who’d just arrived in Korea and hadn’t jumped into seeing everything yet. I was bubbling with suggestions of things to do. I then saw another Internet friend tweet that she wanted suggestions for her Korea bucket list. That’s when I decided this had to be a post. Then I sat down and made the list and it turned out to be 50% food suggestions. That’s when I decided this had to be two posts. Here’s the second list: What to Eat in Korea.
Keep in mind two things. First, I live in the countryside and don’t know Seoul as well as some. There are probably some other cool attractions in Seoul that I’m missing, so forgive me and comment with your own suggestions. Secondly, I don’t know much about clubbing or nightlife, so this list doesn’t include any specifics in that area. Once again, if you are an expert, then comment please!
Suggestions are in groups of five, the top groups more essential than the bottom groups. However, there is nothing in this list that I wouldn’t recommend doing. If my family would ever visit me (hurry up, Mom!), I would drag them on every single one of these endeavors, provided I had the time.
Without further ado, here is my list! Enjoy South Korea!
After a few people came to Korea for the first time and I was bubbling with things for them to do and especially eat, I knew that this post needed to be written. I’m obsessed with food and I love eating. I’ll try almost anything at least once. This list is definitely not an exhaustive list of everything delicious in Korea; that’s just impossible to do. This is just a list of what kinds of food I would definitely force my family members to eat if they came to visit. That means what I find especially delicious will easily find itself at the top, it’s just the nature of the game. Soju & makgoelli are also on this list, despite being drinks.
I’ve grouped them into fives, the ones at the top are more important than the groups at the bottom. Meatless items have an asterisk (*) and full-blown, no fish and no meat vegetarian items are doubly starred (**). I’ve linked each item either to my own post, a Wikipedia entry or occasionally elsewhere to clarify what exactly it is.
Are you ready to eat? You’ll need a very, very empty stomach and perhaps a solid week to even manage all of these items. Here they are!
Patbingsu**: Ice, condensed milk, sweet red bean, rice cake, maybe nuts or other additives and you have one addictingly delicious dessert. That link leads to a guest post in which I raved for several paragraphs, in detail, about the food I’ll miss the most from Korea.
Hwae*, or sashimi (Wikipedia has such a weird spelling for this word, please disregard) is basically sushi, just without all of those unnecessary extras like rice or avocado. Raw fish, dip in spicy sauce, and eat.
Samgyeopsal or Korean barbeque is meat-tastic and delicious; technically samgyeopsal refers to thick pieces of bacon that you grill at your table, but the same shops will also sell several other cuts of meat like rib or beef. Eat with lettuce, spicy sauce, garlic and other additives for a mouth-flavor explosion.
Bibimbap(**) is a very typical cheap lunch with a rice base and several different kinds of vegetables that you mix together and maybe add spicy pepper paste to. You can ask for no meat, if you’re a veggie, and some versions already replace the meat with a kind of vegetable.
Hoddeok** is the sweet dessert of my dreams during the winter. It’s fried rice cake, filled with cinnamon and other nutty flavors on the inside.
Ddeokbokki* is a street food that’s especially good at night, after a few glasses of alcohol, with fried foods to dip in the sauce. Think hot rice cake and little bits of fish cakes covered in liquid spiciness.
Soju** tastes terrible but it’s a rite of passage, however don’t underestimate the alcohol content in it. It’s like vodka’s weak and grosser cousin that for some reason grows on you.
Makgeolli** is amazing when done right and an unfortunate decision when done wrong. Kind of like rice water with sugar and alcohol.
Sweet filled rice cakes**, preferably purchased from an elderly Grandma on the street are usually filled with things like honey, sesame seeds, or red bean. It’s always a surprise when you bite into one!
Mandu, or Korea’s version of dumplings, are addicting. Three typical kinds: kimchi (spicy!), pork and vegetables, or seafood.
Grilled eel* is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s yummy.
Raw beef and I promise you won’t die. Really. Mix with raw egg for the most tasty results.
Cold noodles(**), but proceed with caution because there is a large variety of tastes and some are quite strange, for best results, get a solid description in English (some noodles are in a beef broth, some are not).
Kimbab(*)(**), it looks like sushi but can have meat, tuna or simply vegetables inside instead of raw fish. It’s perfect for being on the go.
Dakgalbi is chicken, grilled at your table with spicy sauce, cabbage and rice cake. For some strange reason it’s really good.
Pork bone soup sounds terrifying, but it’s absolutely delicious. See the link for a more complete description: number 4, “Haejang Guk”.
Coagulated blood soup also sounds terrifying, but tastes so yummy if you can get over the fact that you’re eating blood jello. Don’t worry, there are noodles and vegetables too!
Squiggling, moving octopus* that you should chew very well before swallowing. This isn’t on the list for the taste, no it’s here because of the experience.
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about a year ago, around this time, I was just settling into life abroad: but in Argentina. I’d moved to the big city, Buenos Aires, and was beginning to see what it meant to learn a language and start over, all from scratch. now, a year later, I’m at it again but with a twist: Korea, small town.
that’s right: one year ago I was living in a city of well over a million residents. I now live and teach in a town of just over 2,000. talk about change! Continue reading livin’ in the sticks
having a schedule, small moments to look forward to and a job to do will really steal time away, and right from under your nose. I spent a few minutes this morning staring at today’s date in disbelief. August? really?
technically, I’ve been in Korea for 5 weeks… but we’ll call it a month for the sake of nothing really, and because I feel like it. deal. already I’ve done so much, more than I could have ever predicted. time has gone both extremely slow and at hyper-speeds. it’s time to reflect a little bit, so here’s a short list of accomplishments, events and happenings that have taken place since I arrived in the glorious nation of Korea: Continue reading when a month flies by and you don’t even realize it