This is why you should go to Basque Country in Spain

Basque Country is a province in Spain along the northern border.
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As such, there’s a beautiful coastline to see there! When I visited my friend there in April, we went on a cliffside walk from Gorliz to Plentzia. And I was not expecting these views.
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Not only was it gorgeous, but you could see and hear the waves rolling in.

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Which, sometimes, seemed to go on for miles on end.

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Best lunch spot ever.


Afterwards, we went to a nearby bar with outdoor seating to have a few beers. You could tell it was a chill spot where all the surfers would hang out.
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Please, I want to go back to Spain!

Being an auntie from abroad

I’m going to be an aunt times two! Whoa!

My sister is about 3 months along with baby number 2! She is due in March 2016. This means I’ll have to plan a trip to go home to New York around that time. But this also means another little person is going to be in the back of my mind, nagging me to go home more often.

This is a recent photo of me and my nephew in New York:


Me and L on a walk

I’m pretty terrible at being away from my family. I miss them a lot, but deal with it by making myself busy, or watching a lot of TV shows, and not calling home. If I don’t hear or see them, I can’t feel sad, right?

But I do get lonely, and I often am not aware of the reason why until it has already settled in. It’s not like my family would keep me on the phone for hours. The longest phone call would be probably half an hour, and if it’s video maybe 1 to 1.5 hours. It’s really not that much time in my week. But I still forget.

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I think he likes my beehive!

I don’t get to spend as much time with my nephew L as I would like, that’s for sure. But, I could honestly try harder to video chat with them or even just call them more often. I just need to stop selfishly avoiding these activities because they may trigger feelings of sadness or homesickness.

Sometimes I feel conflicted about being abroad for so long and missing a lot of my nephew’s life. I want to be there for him, and I want him to know me. But I also want to do the things I want to do in my life and go to the places in the world that I find interesting.

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I guess I will have to find the balance somehow. I don’t know where I’ll live after London, but that’s ok for now. I can always go home to New York, and I’ll always visit even if I’m living far away. It’s a work in progress, so I’m learning as I go.

Tips on how to be a long distance aunt or uncle

If you are an aunt or uncle and you live away from your family, there are some things you can do:
1. Call whenever you can. No one calls anymore, but you can. Kids will still like the excitement of receiving a phone call.
2. Video chat whenever you can. If your time difference is large, it helps to schedule this in regularly (like you would make a date with your supervisor or someone else you can’t bail on easily). Make it a thing and stick to it!
3. Send things by snail mail. Everyone loves getting mail, right? Even if they are too little to realize, it may still be a fun thing to do. I’ve started a postcard project. I’m going to send my nephew a postcard once every few weeks/months. This first batch were all of puffins that I got while on my trip to visit my friend in Yorkshire.
4. When you are with them in person, be present in the moment. Be all about the experiences you have together and not so much about the gifts that you bring. You don’t want to be remembered for a toy they didn’t end up liking, or worse that they didn’t remember you gave them. You want to be remembered for your awesome Mickey Mouse voice.
5. Keep their photo on your desk. Even if it is embarrassing (and people ask you if that is your kid, and this happened to me a few times), seeing them there will remind you to stay in touch and call them.


My dad and my nephew. #Dimsum #queensny #eatingnyc #babies #itsgoodtobehome

A photo posted by chewy travels (@chewbear62) on


Next week I’m going home for 10 days. Ten GLORIOUS days of being an auntie in person! Maybe not ten full days together with L, but at least I’ll see him several times on this trip.

To my family, I miss you and thank you for always being there for me!

Are you an aunt or uncle? How do you stay connected?

Goathland railway station

[Photo Journal] Adventures in Yorkshire, England

Yorkshire! Yeah! I went in May to visit a friend who was about to move to London, and we did a bunch of cool things. Among the highlights were seeing the train station where the students got out for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, kinda seeing some puffins (flying around along the cliffs), and generally having a blast with a good friend.

View of field from train window

I took the train up, where my friend picked me up. I got to see the yellow fields on the way there! Then we took a nice walk through some fields and forest.

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The next day, we headed out to the Bempton Cliffs to try to spot some puffins.

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We weren’t lucky enough, though, and were only able to see them as specks flying out over the water through binoculars.

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After that, we went to a seaside town at Robin Hood’s Bay. The town was gradually falling into the ocean until they built a sea wall in the 70s along where the last houses are to protect them from the waves, so the town comes right up against the waves. Pretty, but also a little precarious!

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Sheep! We saw lots of sheep in some fields in between towns. I bought some yarn while on this trip, but it wasn’t local. I found out that these little guys produce wool that is too harsh for human skin, so it’s just used for carpets and things like that. For softer yarn, I’ll have to go find sheep in another part of the country.

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We stopped in another seaside town called Whitby, hoping to dig up some fossils, but the tide was already up. Instead, we played some arcade games trying to win a little Lego set, but alas, we lost all of our 50 pence.

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Last stop of this second day was this train station in Goathland in the Scarborough area of North Yorkshire. The Hogwarts end of the train line was filmed at this station for the Harry Potter films! We missed the steam engine trains rolling in, but we did see one normal train come into the station.

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On my last day, we spent half a day in York, where we had some cream tea (at the famous Bettys!) and did some painting of pottery. I did a bowl, and my friend did a mug.

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Painted bowl and mug

Hooray for crafts! It felt surprisingly good to be a little artsy craftsy for once. On a side note, I didn’t realize until after the fact that I had been in the city that my hometown was named after, York! New York is definitely very different, but it’s still a cool historical connection.

This was a nice first visit to the English countryside for me. Although London is interesting, it isn’t representative of the whole country, so I’m glad that I got out for a bit! Have you been to the English countryside?

Favorite Instagrams August 2015

I really enjoy looking through photos on Instagram, because they can be so inspiring. Here is a short collection of the ones that I really like in the past few weeks.

#buongiorno dove ho messo la felpa?

A photo posted by gabriotomelleri (@gabriotomelleri) on

Swayambu says hello #bijouxpoupou

A photo posted by Bijoux & PouPou (@postmundial) on

Rainy Ottawa reflections. #myottawa #ottawa #discoveron #explorecanada #ottawacity

A photo posted by Jodi Ettenberg (@legalnomads) on

Growth through travel. 100th blog post!

my 100thblog post v2 credit to wyman H
This is my 100th post! The past few years have really flown by. I feel like I’ve changed as a person, and as a writer too. I’m already nearing the last year of my PhD, which is insane because I still have tons left to do. Here’s what I’ve learned and some lists.

How I’ve changed as a person

What I love about travel is that you challenge yourself. You can challenge your beliefs of what the world is like, what other people are like, and who you are. I’ve grown the most through traveling, and much of this has been because I’ve gotten to know myself better. Instead of floating through life living on a routine, travel has broken it up by giving me new experiences, exposing me to new cultures, and making new friends. It’s also forced me to think about what is important to me.

I’ve learned that I love being around different languages, and that I can be braver than I thought I could be.

What I’ve learned about myself:

  • I’m inside my own head way too much.
  • At times I like having plans, and others I wish to have none at all.
  • I feel like I lose touch with myself if I don’t take time to write for fun.

Things that I’m grateful for:

  • Being able to write for myself
  • Being able to cook for myself (feeling healthier than I have in a while!)
  • Being able to set my own schedule

How I’ve changed as a writer

Writing has always been an outlet for me. Either through journaling or writing for blogs, it’s been fun and I’ve learned a lot about myself this way. I feel like I’ve taken a real turn in the last month in my academic and my blog writing. A quote that my creative writing teacher in high school told us was that you have to be willing to “kill your darlings,” meaning cut whole paragraphs or sentences when they don’t work. I always understood what it meant, but now I feel like I’ve actually embraced it and can do it.

Goals for the next few months:

  • Finish up some parts of my research and write them up
  • Keep to a structure for posting on this blog

How I’ve changed physically

Part of growing older is becoming more aware of your body and how it is changing too. I don’t recover as quickly as I used to, and my body generally complains more loudly than it used to (or I’ve started listening more closely).

Things I’ve started doing since starting this blog:

  • Cooking and eating more vegetarian food (even more than I had before)
  • Meditating daily to deal with anxiety and stress
  • Lifting weights to build stability and strength for ultimate
  • Wearing glasses every day instead of contact lenses (post injury)
  • Bought and started using a menstrual cup (it’s really the best, ladies!)

Looking forward

I hope to continue to grow through traveling. I have some plans to travel for ultimate tournaments, to see friends, and to see family.

My goals for this blog haven’t really changed, although they have solidified in form. I don’t want to be a typical travel writer that lists top tens and must sees for every popular place. I want to share my growth through travel and how I’m learning about the world and myself.

This blog is a reminder to myself to stop waiting to live the life I’ve been wanting, and just build it for myself bit by bit.

That doesn’t mean that I want to travel full time, or never settle somewhere, but to me it means being aware of what my priorities are and how they might be changing over time. For more inspiration, check out these adventure quotes.

What are your goals when you travel? Do you feel like you’ve changed much in the last year?

Photo credit: wyman H, my sister, and my friend R

Spices in a small glass container This is how the Ikan Goreng spice mix looks up close!

Spice haul from Borough Market’s Spice Mountain

Spices! They are the spice in the spice of life! What would we do without spices? Like many foodies, this is a major weakness for me when I go food shopping, especially in specialty markets. I went to Borough Market for the first time and came away with 20+ GBP worth of spices. So many great food stalls, produce, cheese, olives, everything food related you could want.

We entered the market from the narrow staircase by the main road coming off the London Bridge. There is a tapas restaurant with lots of seating in this area, but if you go in further there are many more food stalls to choose from though without any seating.

It turns into a bit of a maze from there. The coolest part is that this is all underneath the railway, so you get a cool feeling from being under this big structure. Check out this map for an idea of the layout. The Green Market is where all the food stalls are. Three Crown Square has cheese, beer, wine, olives, dairy, produce, and, yes, spices!

When I happened upon Spice Mountain, I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk away empty handed. This is what I came away with: pink Himalayan sea salt, Spanish paprika, Ikan Goreng, and Dukkah. My sister got Nega chilli flakes and Korean chilli flakes. They were all in small plastic containers containing between 20-40 grams except for the salt which was a larger zipped package with 300 grams in it.


Nasi Goreng for fried rice and Ikan Goreng for spicy fish

Nasi Goreng for fried rice and Ikan Goreng for spicy fish

Spices in a small glass container

This is how the Ikan Goreng spice mix looks up close!

Which I used to make these:

The two chilli flakes are gifts my sister brought back to New York with her, but all the rest are mine now! The Nasi Goreng fried rice mix was a little of an indulgence because I think I could have put the dish together without buying the special packet of herbs and spices. The fish was good, though the flavors didn’t come out as well as I thought they would. I will try again and maybe it’ll look and taste a bit better. The Himalayan salt is quite nice. The grains aren’t too large that they feel bulky, but they are larger than normal table salt so you do get a bit of texture from it.

Future plans? I’m going to make some paella with the Spanish paprika.

I would live inside Borough Market if I could! I think I might make it a goal to eat my way through the whole market this year. Have you been to Borough Market? What was your favorite?

Grandstands at World U23

Volunteering at a huge week long sporting event #volunteerlife

What is it like to be an insider at a big sporting event? I had my first taste of that last month when I was a volunteer for the World U23 Ultimate Championships. Need an excuse to travel? This could be it!

Ultimate is a great sport, full of people ranging from your stereotypical hippie to your nearly semi-pro elite athlete. You can find leagues, pickup, and tournaments for all levels of players and seriousness. That’s what I love about this sport, everyone just loves to play and meet other people who also love to play.

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The arena field, the day before the action started!

This tournament was for players under 23, meaning all the team members on the roster had to be under 23 years old. There were 40 teams there, from around 20 different countries. There were three divisions: Mixed, Open, and Women. All in all, there were a few thousand athletes and spectators during the week. Though not the biggest tournament I’ve been to, it was still a pretty big operation to be a part of. It was pretty cool to see that ultimate has gotten so big that all these different countries were able to send teams for this championship!

There was one team from India which was pretty inspiring to see. I happened to meet one of the coaches who was also from New York and knew some people I know. He told me about how they had a tryout process in 8 cities, and that they had issues with visas to get into the UK but eventually made it. By chance, there was a guy coaching the team who was also from New York and knew a lot of people I knew. There were teams from other parts of Asia too: Chinese Taipei, Japan, and the Philippines. I was glad to see that there were some teams from Asia there. Hopefully this means that they’ll send teams to the World Ultimate and Guts Championship next year, also to be held in the UK at these same fields.


All the Mixed teams from Asia

So how was it like to be a volunteer for a full week? It was at times really awesome, but also at times annoying.

Most of the volunteers camped on site, so that meant we were literally 1 minute away from the playing fields. This was great because we often had shifts starting as early as 6 AM. I had my first shift starting at 7:30 AM on most days. We also got to bond with other volunteers after hours at the campsite and in a big marquee tent just for us. A few volunteers did have to stay off-site to help out with the athlete dorms, but the majority were camping at the fields in our little village. The fairy lights that outlined the rows of tents at night made it feel like we were entering another land. It was super cute!

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I had a great time helping people while at the reception desk. Many of my shifts were there, but sometimes I had other shifts like manning the recycling and trash bins in the catering tent and stewarding the grandstand area. The volunteers in general did a really great job, partly because of the foresight of the lead volunteers to make sure that we all had a diversity of job types to do during the week. It did take a long time for the schedule of our shifts to come out for the next day, but they really put effort into it. I think I had really boring shifts twice during the week, but it really made it tolerable to have more interesting jobs the same day or the following day.

We did sometimes get some insider info, and we got to interact with some really important people in the Ultimate scene. There were a few moments of crisis and drama, but overall nothing that crazy. There were some conflicts between one of the coaches and one of the volunteers, so at least I got to hear it straight from the person involved rather than through the grapevine. Overall, it was a great experience for me because I really don’t know anyone or anything about the Ultimate scene in Europe at all. I’m sure I’ll see these people around and I hope to get more involved in general!

The week ended with USA winning 2 of the finals, Japan winning in the Women’s Division. I felt sad to come to the end of a great week and have to go back to my normal routine. Although I was one of the oldest volunteers, I still could say that I connected with the other volunteers and I would do it again. The WUGC is here again next year, and since I live so near I think I’ll sign up to be a volunteer again. The ultimate will be even better, there will be tons more teams to meet, and hopefully a lot more spectators!

Reasons I’d do this again:

  1. It could be a great reason to travel in the future. World and European championships are held in a different country each time, so I would have every excuse to travel somewhere to help out in the future!
  2. Meeting new people in the ultimate community
  3. Feeling like an insider at a big event for a sport that I really care about (and spreading the love)
  4. Last but not least, free swag! We also got a discount on all the merchandise at the VC tent.

I’m a volunteer this week for Worlds! #worldu23 #wfdf #ultimate

A photo posted by chewy travels (@chewbear62) on

I’m taking some of these home… Please let me stick to my budget… #vcultimate #ultimate #wu23uc #volunteerlife A photo posted by chewy travels (@chewbear62) on

AND, now the International Olympic Committee has officially recognized ultimate as a sport!! Though it may not be all it’s cracked up to be, I’ll still celebrate this as me getting a little closer to achieving my dream of being an Olympic athlete or at least attending to watch a sport I care about.

If you love a sport, why not try to find out if you can be a volunteer for the next big event? If I could, I would travel the world playing or volunteering in tournaments.

Cantabria coast

[Photo Journal] Adventures in Cantabria, Spain (Cantábria, España)

Back in April this year (I know, this is way late!), I was in Cantabria, Spain, and it was a gorgeous time to be there! Being in the north, it was green and lush and wonderful.

I spent about 2 weeks in Spain, mostly in Cantábria and Basque Country. We did a multitude of things, ranging from playing in the snow in the mountaintops, to basking in the sun next to a river, to hanging out by the ocean.

Sitges in the Spring

I was in Spain for a conference in Sitges, which is a beach town near Barcelona. The conference itself was a great experience, but I also had my first real experience with pinchos aka tapas. Then I was off to Cantabria!

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I met up with two friends to go to a friend’s family cottage in Cantabria. In the span of about 3 or 4 days, I played in the snow in the mountaintops, soaked in the sun to the sounds of rushing river nearly overflowing with melted snow from the mountains, and basked on a beach on a warm day. If someone had told me that I would be doing all of these things in such a short span of time, I would have asked them how and where is this possible.

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Running around in the snow, I felt like a kid again. The views were truly amazing. I wish we could have done the short hike from the teleferic (cable car) point to a hotel where there was supposedly a nice cafe with a killer view, but the snow was a bit too deep and none of us had the right footgear.

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The same day, we went down into a nearby town and basked in the warm sun next to the stream.

Though it was the end of winter there, we did get a few days of great sunshine. It was even too warm for a jacket on our walk along the river.

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We later went to a nearby cafe to have some of these pastries called corbatas because they look like ties, with large cups of hot chocolate. This version looks like a bow tie! The chocolate was so thick that it was nearly pure melted chocolate. I couldn’t finish the entire mug and I think my limit is two of the pastries in one sitting.

Food on this trip was delicious and more scrumptious than I had anticipated. There was not one thing that I ate that I regretted eating. It also helped that I could see the tapas and know what was in it before choosing it. Anyhow, I think I ate more bread in those 2 weeks than in the whole year prior (which was also kind of a bad thing). But the tapas were wonderful! But pretty much anything will taste great when you can eat with friends with a view like this:

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I also found it interesting to stay with a Spanish family, who often had friends or other family to visit. Growing up, our immediate family unit was the main family that we spent our time with. We did do occasional gatherings for holidays, but those lessened as we got older. It was different to be around people who are constantly visiting and hanging out with other family members. Coming from a family that doesn’t talk that much, just being a spectator of the lively home life of this family felt new and different to me.

Part of why I loved Spain so much was because I was able to spend time with friends. I was lucky enough to be a guest in my friend’s family home in a small village and then with another friend in a beach town near Bilbao (I’ll post about that soon hopefully), so it doesn’t get more authentic than that. Maybe this trip was bound to be amazing because I got to spend most of it with some good friends. I didn’t have to deal with planning all that much, and I didn’t have to feel like a tourist. All I know is, I need to go back to Spain to eat more of their food and see more of its wonders!

I hope to go back to Spain again some time, and this time with my Spanish phrasebooks. I have two, and forgot both of them on this trip! I didn’t have to speak much Spanish, but I want to learn to speak it better because I feel it’ll be useful. Strangely, I feel that it has similarities to Japanese, and so I had the urge to say something in Japanese a few times while on this trip.

I truly feel like it was a once in a lifetime trip! Have you been to Spain? What would you recommend to check out on my next trip?

Ocean with large rock formation

One year post operation: Tiny scar and a numb face

A year ago last month, I had surgery for some facial fractures that included some nerve damage on the right side of my face. I wrote about when it had just happened, and in the last year have had to change some of my expectations for recovery.

The downsides (which were mostly pretty manageable, though some were a little more scary than others)
  • For one, I thought that my nerve damage would heal more quickly. The doctors couldn’t say that it would heal completely for sure, only that it should heal properly. Much of my upper gums, lip, nose and part of the cheek are numb or have limited sensory reception. The muscles that I use to smile feel strange and stiff on the right side as well. When I run my finger across the skin, it feels somewhat tingly rather than just the normal feeling of touching the skin. The strangest thing is that I can’t really feel when I have food stuck between my gums and my cheek on the right side, so I have to check with my tongue to know just how much food is stuck there.
  • Second, I thought that the double vision would be completely gone by now. I still have slight double vision to the extreme right, but it is mostly better now. This was something that resulted directly from the surgery, whereas the nerve damage was there before the surgery although maybe not to this extent.
  • Third, my right eye still doesn’t move completely normally, and I sometimes feel that it can’t open as widely as the left one. I also feel that the right half of my upper lip had gotten much thinner within 2-3 months the surgery, although I haven’t checked old photos if this is true.
Closed eyelid with small scar
The upside
  • On the positive side, one thing that I think I’ve taken for granted was that I was able to play ultimate as soon as I was off of medication and was feeling normal again. I couldn’t see well for several weeks and had to wear my glasses while playing, but that was better than not being able to play at all or having to rehab for months before getting back on the field. Yes, it was annoying to not have been at my best for Worlds, but I think I’m over it now.
  • I also took for granted the amazing work by the surgeons. I had hoped that the scar would be smaller than it is, but I really should be happy that it isn’t bigger. They did everything they needed to do with one tiny cut on the eyelid, and a small cut on the inside of my mouth along the gums. The scans show the titanium plate under the eye, and it is actually pretty long. It goes the length of the underside from the front of the eyeball to the back. I’ll try to post some stills from the CT scan, but they are on a DVD back home in New York.
Me one year after my operation

I don’t take selfies often, so bear with me, but at least my face isn’t puffy anymore! It felt a little bloated for the few months after the surgery. I do feel like my jaw on my left side feels bigger because I’ve been chewing on that side more, but it doesn’t seem noticeable. I don’t mind having the scar anymore. The nerve damage is hopefully still on the mend, though it is hard to note progress in this area.

There isn’t much I can do about it, and it’s a part of my history now. Even though it was caused by a silly accident, it is what it is. At least now my 3 metal plates are a point of conversation with strangers and potential dates!

Photo credit: Featured image above by Andrew Phillips

Blue coffee mug Coffee at Rocket cafe in Bangkok

Bangkok in contrasts

Bangkok is changing very rapidly, just like any other major city in Asia. The interesting thing about Bangkok is that you’ll find areas that have become something entirely cosmopolitan overnight next to others that aren’t changing at the same rate (or at all).

Two sides of a lightrail train station in central Bangkok
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Indoor eating
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Outdoor eating
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New school transportation
BTS Sky Train in Bangkok, Thailand
Old school transportation
Bus in Bangkok, Thailand

The new BTS trains ran really smoothly and were very convenient to get around. I never ventured to take a bus, and was honestly a little intimidated by them. You have to know what you’re doing to take those, and generally only locals took the buses. Taxis are pretty cheap, but if you get stuck in traffic, you’ll be there for ages!

Low rise living / High rise living
Apartments near the BTS station in Bangkok, Thailand
Park in Bangkok

I hope to understand more about Thailand, but from what I’ve seen in Bangkok it is not so simple as what can be seen as a short term visitor!