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Drumroll please – introducing my shiny, new site!

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing….. ZoomGoes.com!

WordPress, you have been wonderful and I shall continue to use you on my own site…but we will no longer be needing your services as a subdomain.

To my readers:

I’ve decided to make the jump to my own domain because of your warm and loving support! If I didn’t feel my voice was being heard, I wouldn’t have made it this far. I want to be more empowered to bring you excellent content, learn how you are using my site and how I can become a better blogger.

Don’t worry, if you’ve subscribed to my site here, I have made sure that your subscription was moved to the new site – we’re still in this together!! All old posts and pictures have lovingly been moved as well.

Check out the shiny new site and let me know what you think!

See you on the flip-side!

xoxo ❤

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Why you should bathe baby elephants instead of riding adult ones.

Who would say no to the chance of a lifetime: playing with baby elephants.

There are many opportunities regarding elephants Thailand. You can do everything from simply looking at them to riding them. Elephants have been the national symbol for Thailand for ages. Holding great significance to the Thai people, elephants have long been used during battle, for various jobs (such as hauling logs), and as a type of tourism.

I opted to spend the day at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary for my elephant fix. There is no riding at this facility, only mud baths!

Why, you ask, did I not go somewhere where I could ride them?

Riding on the backs of Giants

When picturing elephants in Asia, the mind immediately goes to an image of people riding elephants through the jungle, the natural habitat of the Asian Elephant.

With tourism demands increasing, the need for more domesticated elephants grew and grew. To support the never ending need for Elfies (selfies with elephants), elephants quickly became a commodity. An elephants gestation period sitting around almost two years (21 months), breeding domesticated elephants was too slow going. Where else could one acquire elephants?

You guessed it – from the wild. You’re most likely familiar with the concept of poaching elephants for their ivory, with over 100,00 elephants being killed in just three years. A less known issue is the capturing of wild elephants to support the growing tourism industry. This has lead to a severe endangerment of wild Asian Elephants.

Elephants, like all wild animals, are not just going to be like “oh yeah, hey human, let me do whatever you want and just forget my eons of evolution and instincts!”. Elephants especially, never forget.

The most desired wild elephants are babies, having been taken from their mother as soon as possible and then confined to a cage or a hole in the ground to reduce movement.

The baby elephants are then starved, deprived of sleep, beaten with clubs, and pierced & tortured with bull-hooks (also known as ‘elephant-goads’) to break their spirit. This process is called Phajaan or “the crush”. If you’re feeling morbid, here is a video of the process. I could not finish it. However, I did look at a picture.

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What type of person could hurt this little guy? The kind I want to kill with my bare hands.
As the elephants grow older, they continue to live their lives in slavery and fear. Even if the organization you are looking at claims to be ethical and treat the elephants well now, the domestication process was still the same. Bull-hooks are often still used behind the scenes to assert dominance, and as a control mechanism throughout the day.

Additionally, and I know it’s hard to believe because of their size, but the elephant spine is not meant to support the weight of humans, much less a bench with multiple people seated on it. Same goes for Zebras – just because they look like horses doesn’t mean they are for riding.

EVEN IF elephants had evolved to be ridden, many organizations make the elephants work long hours without breaks so that they can make more money. Humans nor animals should ever be subject to this.

What makes Elephant Jungle Sanctuary different?

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is a family run business that prides themselves on acquiring elephants from organizations that previously used elephants for riding. Often times, the elephants have served decades as riding elephants (elephants can live to be 100+!), and are no longer able to work. This is usually the only way to free the elephants from their slavery. Every now and then though, a compassionate success story does shine through – but this is hardly a normal occurrence.

About an hour and a half from Chiang Mai, the sanctuary has 6 different camps with different groups of elephants. I was picked up from my hostel and driven out to our camp – camp number 6 (the best, obviously).

During my day at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, (which cost me 50 USD) I was educated about the history of the elephants, in addition to information about why the activities that we will be doing are different – they are not only ethical, but helpful to the elephants.

My day with the elephants included meeting the babies, feeding bananas to the adults, and giving everybody mud baths! Did you know that elephants can only sweat through their toes? This can make it very hard to cool off, which is where mud baths come in. The mud assists with wicking away excess moisture and provides a cooling element.

After bathing the elephants in mud, we moved to the rinsing pool where they are rinsed off with natural running water. This further aids the cooling process and makes sure that any remains of possible elephant feces have been washed off. Yes, the elephants sometimes poop in the mud pool. Everybody poops, guys.

I have to say, I had some concerns about the elephants being forced to take these baths and get in the mud, but the goofs were playing it in before the group ever got to that part of the itinerary. It is obvious that elephants have emotions, just like us.

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Bashful elephant.
I also had concerns about the same group being forced to bath multiple times a day.When I worked in the service industry, my hands would become chapped from washing them so much. It seems logical elephants would suffer from similar conditions. After speaking the the volunteers, I learned that each group only has one bath per day. Boasting a herd of over 50 elephants, there is plenty of dry skin to go around!

After the feeding, playing and rinsing we were served a delicious Thai lunch and the chance to talk to the volunteers. I asked them all kinds of questions about their time here, the elephants, what other industries are like in Thailand and how I can help. I’m considering coming back here for a week later in my trip to volunteer.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary supports a happy and healthy lifestyle for the elephants. Think of it as a retirement community. The elephants are gently guided, respected and loved. I had a wonderful experience here – and the photos were free!

Despite the upbeat and happy environment of the sanctuary, and the playful nature of the elephants, if you look into their eyes closely, you can see that they will never forget the previous pain and anguish they suffered.

How can I help?

Weighing in at multiple tons (around  200 lbs at birth), adult elephants can consume up to 300 lbs of food per day! That’s like one of me plus an average sized adult!

You know what I’m about to say don’t you? Money makes the world go round. Donations will make the highest impact.

I encourage you to donate to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary since I can personally vouch for their intentions. However, there are many other organizations that are just as legit that could use your dollars.

I want to help, but I can’t make a donation!

As someone who always seems to be on a budget, I totally understand! Don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways you can help these beautiful and intelligent animals. ❤

  • Share this post!!!! Please for the love of God, sharing is caring. You never know who might have a special place for elephants in their heart, or who might be feeling generous for the day.
  • Spread the word about elephant mistreatment. If you know someone who is going to travel to Thailand, mention your newfound knowledge. If you ever hear someone say “I’d love to ride an elephant!” gently try to educate them. Most of the time, they simply do not know much of the information I’ve shared with you today. Hell, I almost rode an elephant myself because I saw pictures of a friend doing it when he visited Vietnam. I admit, it looked fun!
  • Do not ride elephants if you ever have the opportunity. Back home in the states, this goes for the circus, festivals and various carnival attractions. I will try to have an open mind and not judge you if you do it everyone has their own ethics I guess.
  • Volunteer to help animals in your hometown. Elephants aren’t the only ones who need our help!

I know this was a bit of a bitter-sweet post folks. Before you go, I have one last note about animal tourism, specifically tigers because they are still very under represented.

Want to follow me on my travels and learn about being a responsible tourist?

Join me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebar or below – glad to have you behind me! 

xoxo ❤

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Pokemon Go, you hoodwinked us.

When it gets in released in Japan…I will be pissed too 😉

Pop Culture Uncovered

What the heck Niantic? We all had a good deal going on here!!! All of us would choose between 3 gaming consoles and we would live out our lives in relative shelter in our basements or gaming rooms. Who the heck are you to upset the natural order of things? You come out with this Pokemon Go app that anyone can get on their mobile device and…and…you give it away for free? Are you mad?

It started off cute, I downloaded it and within a few minutes I had my first Pokemon. It was really neato! But no, that wasn’t enough for you Niantic. In order for me to catch more, I had to move around. Why should I do this? Why couldn’t you just include some micro-transactions so that way I could just drop obscene amounts of money and buy a virtual MewTwo and be the envy of…

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Cooking classes at Zabb E Lee cooking school in Chiang Mai, Thailand 

Ahhhhh Thai food….I mean, that’s why we go to Thailand right? To eat the food?

No? You wanted to do other things too like see Bangkok and play with baby elephants? Ah, I see…well…today we’re talking about cooking!

No one can deny that the food in Thailand is one of the countries biggest “pros”. It is so fresh, colorful and often made by little mom and pop shops vs. large chains like in the states.

Personally, Thai food is one of my favorites. Back home in Chicago, I will eat the shit out of some pad thai! I was very excited to try the real thing here in Thailand!

Even more excited to learn how to make it myself so I can get my fix anytime!

After you arrive in Chiang Mai from the sleeper train, you will be absolutely bombarded with tourist things. ATV rides, zip lining, renting a motorcycle, seeing elephants and last but not least: cooking classes.

Due to the touristic nature of Chiang Mai, there are many companies to choose from! I poured over every last brochure I could get my hands on to make sure that I was spending my silver bullet on the best class.

After doing plenty of research using trip advisor, talking to other expats, and lots of comparison shopping (the best way to get bang for your buck), I decided to attend Zabb E Lee Thai Cooking school.

Why Zabb E Lee?


When researching cooking classes in Chiang Mai, you are typically presented with a menu where you can choose which items off it you would like to make. Popular menu items typically include various curries, noodle dishes, and appetizers.

All cooking companies offer pick-up from your hotel or hostel as long as you are near the city center, and they all include tours of the local market so you can learn about ingredients.

Zabb E Lee (which, in Thai, basically means “f*cking delicious“) immediately had a leg up on my list against other cooking schools in Chiang Mai for three reasons.

  1. It was the only school that offered Pad Thai as a menu option. Yeah yeah maybe Pad Thai is an American-Thai dish but shut up! It’s my favorite all the same and that’s what I wanted to be able to make when I got home. Don’t be hater!
  2. In addition to having Pad Thai on the menu, Zabb E Lee also boasted that all students would be learning to make mango and sticky rice along with their chosen menu items. As we all know, this is like THE dessert to have while in Thailand.
  3. The most affordable. With a half day class rolling in at 900 Baht, this was the cheapest price I saw. Gotta make those dollars work!

I contacted the owner and teacher of the school, Ann, via email and she responded almost immediately that I would be able to attend class that evening.

After being picked up from my hostel, we arrived at Zabb E Lee cooking school. The place was beautifully decorated and set up like a fancy restaurant. My classmates and I sat at the table and enjoyed water and tea before before Ann joined us. The only single person there, I was joined by three couples from Dublin, Toronto, and New York City.


Ann joined us and introduced herself. I could immediately tell that she was genuinely excited we were there. We went over the menu and she took down our ‘orders’ and learned our names. After a few minutes learning about the school and the different menu dishes, we hopped in her songathew and headed to the local market.


The market was a fascinating experience. I’d been to markets before – in Bangkok – but this was wonderful and unique because Ann was an excellent guide. She took us to various stalls and taught us not only about the ingredients we would be using in our class, but educated us with fun facts and history of other ingredients.

I also learned that while Thai food is not only delicious and incredibly fresh, presentation is just as important as taste. Many of the items we looked at revolved around changing the color of the food. Turmeric for example can be used to change the color of tofu, and as an anti-itch agent. Soy sauce can be used to dye noodles different shades of black. Certain flowers and fruits can create shades of pink, purple and orange – amazing!

Fun Fact: When the Thais eat mango it is green. It turns yellow with age on the long journey overseas to the United States. No wonder it’s so much better in Thailand – the mango basically just got picked!

When signing up for a cooking class in Thailand, I worried I might be wasting my money. I knew that I’d be getting delicious food, but there were bound to be ingredients I either couldn’t get back home or they would cost me an arm and a leg.


Ann was wonderful at addressing these concerns without me even asking. I suspect she must have lived in the states at some point because she was able to tell us “they don’t have this in your country, but you can use this instead” for many of the Thailand-specific ingredients.

At the end of the tour, we were given 10 minutes to explore the market. During this time I walked around and took pictures of things I had questions about and returned to Ann to ask her about them. Specifically some super weird appleish looking things and this weird spiky fruit. She kindly and patiently answered all my questions and even taught me how to eat the rambutan (spiky fruit) I had purchased.


After the market tour, we returned to the school and immediately jumped into action. Ann was exceptional at explaining everything to us in an enthusiastic, funny, witty, and well spoken manner. Her English is excellent.

My chosen menu included:

  • Pad Thai
  • Fried Spring rolls
  • Stuffed Cabbage soup
  • Panang Curry with chicken

Ann first showed us how to use the tools in class – the knife, the gas stove and the little measuring spoon I normally use to eat miso soup with back home. You know what I’m talking about.


She would go through and do a demonstration and then allow us to do it on our own. Of course she made everything look super easy and I’m over there twitching like “wait, what, how much again?! *pant pant pant*” but Ann did a killer job of keeping everyone on track and breaking down the course in such an understandable way that I never messed up.


Her attitude in class made all the difference. She even dropped the F-bomb at one point in a joke which was just beyond adorable. Okay, so maybe I have a little lady crush on Ann. She built this business herself and does everything on her own – that’s admirable dude! She’s crushing it! Strong women are inspiring to me. Keep up the good work, you go girl!


At the end of the class I was feeling fat and happy. This was the biggest meal I’d had in Thailand so far. All the food I made was just absolutely scrumptious. Despite that, I wasn’t feeling confident I would be able to recreate it at home…

UNTIL:

Ann gave us a full color, step-by-step-with-pictures recipe book. Not only was it in well-written english (again, with pictures zomg!) but she also included all the substitutions that had been mentioned at the market. WHEW! It even includes the recipes for the meals I chose not to make. 


Not saying that I’m excited to get home …but when [if] I do get home, I’m going to stink up my parent’s kitchen with fish sauce and Pad Thai. Maybe I’ll even be able to trick one of my family members into trying some amazing home cooked Thai food!

What’s your favorite Thai dish that you’d like Ann to teach you?

Want to see more company  reviews and adventure stories?

Join me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebar or below – let’s eat!!!

xoxo ❤

 

 

 

 

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A guide for the Bangkok to Chiang Mai sleeping train.

I’ve always wanted to take a train!

In the United States, we have the Amtrak. While renowned, it’s both expensive and a shit way to travel. Often delayed, the Amtrak also boasts prices that are almost equal to that of flying.

My aunt recently took the Amtrak out west for a tour with a friend of hers and brought up something I didn’t even think of. The rails in the United States – the actual infrastructure – is maintained by supply companies who allow Amtrak to ride on their tracks. They don’t care if the cargo is a bit bouncy. While riding Amtrak, you are the cargo! My aunt said that the whole ride was incredibly bouncy due to the imperfections in the track. Who would of thought!

Knowing I was going to have to take a train to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, my head was spinning with all the potential things that could go wrong. What if it was a terrible ride? What if it was hot? What about being crowded? What if they didn’t have enough tickets or if something was wrong with mine and I couldn’t take the train? Wish I had some weed right about then.

I figured it was better to play it safe, so I went to the ticket office at Hau Lamphong a few days before I wanted to leave. The station is huuuuge and very beautiful inside.


I wanted in line with the locals and finally made it to the ticket attendant, leaning close to the window so I could get some of that beautiful A/C, and tried to explain what I wanted to do. Turns out, I was in the wrong line and was redirected to the “Ticket office for Foreigners”, which is to the left of the main ticket sales area.


This makes me feel like I’m being charged more, but what can you do? The staff members in the air conditioned office were very friendly and helpful. They explained that I have a few choices as to how I want to ride the train.

Third class. No A/C, in a seat and the cheapest. I couldn’t sit for 13 hours in a seat, cooking. My thighs would start to stick to the seat…ya’ll know what I’m talking about.

Second Class. A/C, you get a seat that converts into a bed. You can choose either an upper or lower bed.

First class. Much like second class, except that you also get meals.

I opted for Second Class, lower bunk. The total ticket cost was about $25 USD/800 Baht. If you need to, they have a dining car where you can purchase meals. I ate dinner before boarding and was fine until breakfast in Chiang Mai.

PRO TIP: I was in a co-ed car. If you’re a woman and you would like to ride in a car only for Women and Children, you can request that! 


When you get your ticket, it will be a hard ticket – meaning that you do not get a digital copy. If you lose your paper ticket, you are totally f*cked. I was checking on the whereabouts of mine every half hour for two days LOL. When you get your ticket, they will tell you what platform you are boarding on – I was platform 5. 

There is no platform 9 3/4, I checked 😦

On the ticket, you will notice your assigned car and seat number. I didn’t notice this and just got on the first car I came across and they made me move. Derp.

Arriving at the station on the day of, you’ll pass through the general area where you picked up the ticket and continue to the platforms. Find your number (you can confirm on the digital sign board) and then find your car number and seat number. Take plenty of selfies in front of the train…I did not do this.


The seats are basic, and don’t worry, they become beds later in the evening. They will provide sheets, a blanket and a pillow that I’m pretty sure was just a bag of rice. Hey, that isn’t a racist comment you smut-thinker, I’ve just seen a looooot of bags of rice in the last few days and I feel pretty sure that’s what it was.


You’ll be offered orange juice (THE BEST I’VE EVER HAD) but be aware that it is not free…surprise! 120 Baht for two. Worth it!


Once your bed is made, you’re free to shut your curtain and do what you want. The lights on the train stay on all the time so if that bothers you, you’d want to bring a sleeping mask. It should go without saying you have headphones with you at all times.


I decided to watch Star Trek: Into Darkness and Jurassic Park before the rocking of the train lulled me to sleep.


Waking up, the sun was rising and what a beautiful, bloody sun it was.


I got to watch the scenery go by for a bit before the attendant came around and made our beds up back into seats. Shortly after, we arrived in Chiang Mai!

Getting off the train, I thought maybe there was a protest or a welcoming party happening. There was a huge line of people waiting for the passengers. It was a large line of taxi and tuk tuk drivers hoping to hawk a ride from us Farangs.

I managed to split a songathew with two couples – one from France and one from Holland. For 50 baht, I was dropped at my hostel, easy peasy.


I’m so glad that I was able to have an excellent experience on a train! America, we could take some lessons here so get your notepad out.

For those of you back home, I know travel can be intimidating, but conquering something like this is so empowering. If you’re willing to push through the fear, you can do it too!

For more helpful articles, find me on social media! I’d love to have you along!

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebar or below welcome to the crazy train!

xoxo ❤

 

 

How to get an American passport, even if they think you’re a terrorist.

About a year ago, I applied for a passport for the first time.


The process was intimidating to me. I had asked friends and family about the experience and about what I should expect. They told me it was relatively simple and straight forward. You get your little photos, your little paperwork, and your little checkbook all together and submit it. Voila – passport in 4-6 weeks.

No one mentioned any problems with theirs or issues receiving it. I, however, was requested to provide additional documentation in the form of proof of identity. Today we’ll be going over how to apply for a passport if it’s your first time and some tips about proving that you are indeed you. Unless of course you aren’t….in that case, you don’t know me.

Step 1: Fill out the passport application.

Click the link above to be directed to the application form. Note that this is not an online application – as in, you are not applying for a passport online. You’re simply filling out the paperwork in a digital format which you will print and bring with you to a passport office. The office is where you will apply in person with all of your paperwork.

The application itself is rather straight forward, though you will want to make sure you choose the right county of your birth – I had to ask my parents. Once you have it completed, print out a copy or two.

While filling out the application, you have the option to ask for extra visa pages – I highly recommend this. Why not? You’re applying for a passport for a reason – go big or go home! It doesn’t cost anything extra to get them.

Step 2: Get your picture taken.

Or take it yourself! Passport photos have a very particular set of requirements to keep in mind if you choose to do it yourself. I was lazy and went to Walgreens and had them take it. You can get your photo taken at most post offices, UPS/FedEx, Walgreens and CVS locations. There are also plenty of little mom and pop shops around that do them too.

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My mug shots. If you plan to travel, you will need additional “passport style” photos for Visas.

Note: You are not allowed to smile in the photo. At least all passport photos look equally like mugshots.

Step 3: Gather all your documents.

You’ll need:

  • Proof of American Citizenship – I recommend using your birth certificate. You’ll need to submit the original, a copy is not acceptable. I know it’s a little scary to ship it off, but it’ll be okay.
  • Your printed passport application from Step 1
  • Your passport photos from Step 2
  • Current Identification – State ID, driver’s license etc.
  • Photocopy of your current identification
  • Your checkbook for the passport fee of $135 for a book.

 

Step 4: Submit your application in person.

Once you have everything together in a nice little packet, find the nearest passport office to you. The office will give everything a look over and make sure it’s solid then take your payment and give you an application number. You can use this to track the status of your passport application which is pretty cool!

Step 5: If they request additional proof of identification.

For some reason, my application was flagged. Maybe I look stoned in the photo. Maybe it was the dreads. I blame it on the a-a-a-alcohol (pop culture song reference, aren’t you proud of me?!).

I received a letter from the passport office asking for 5 additional pieces of information from me, that were 5 years old or older.

Items that you could submit include: 

  • A news paper clipping
  • A nursing or pilots license
  • Recording of a news broadcast I was featured in
  • A marriage certificate
  • Military identification card
  • An old state ID (this cracks me up because THEY TAKE THEM when you get a new one!)

Who the hell has these things? Is it common to be in the news and I’m just not that special? Come on guys!

At that point I’m slightly freaking out “Can I not get a passport because I don’t have any of these super obscure things?!”. I called the passport office in a bit of a huff and was eventually directed to a super nice gentleman who told me a secret they don’t often advertise.

You can submit anything 5 years or older that includes your name and photo. That includes yearbook photos, college ID cards, HR records from previous jobs if they had your photo etc.

I went a little nuts then and gathered up over 15 additional proof of identification. I photocopied every yearbook photo I had. I printed all previous paystubs and enrollment info I could find. I went to my childhood doctor and got my medical records. I’m sure when they received the packet they were like “Okay, okay Ms. Hoffman, please stop producing proof of identification.”

I AM ZOOM! ROOOOARRRR!

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My first Visa! From Thailand.
Hopefully you won’t have to go through step 5, but if you do, you’re ready! I hope this post helps encourage you to get a passport so that you can leave the country and do some traveling! Flights to Mexico are super cheap…just sayin’.

For more helpful articles, find me on social media! I’d love to have you along!

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebar or below welcome to the crazy train!

xoxo ❤

 

 

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Product Review: The Rose Cup

While composing my packing list for the trip, I wondered how I was going to deal with being on my period while abroad. I assume other countries use tampons too but man that just sounds like so much of a hassle.

Burning Man is a leave no trace event. That means that you take all of your trash out with you – even your tampons. Sorry, I know it’s gross but we’re all adults here, right? Women’s bodies are awesome machines with vaginas being an amazing self-cleaning anatomical feat. I wanted to take as best care of mine as I could while not dealing with having to find a bathroom, buying tampons, and dealing with all the complications that come with them. As my sister would say “suuuuch an ordeal“! It really would be.

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I began looking into alternative options. Several friends of mine had previously recommended the famed Diva Cup. I hadn’t taken the jump on this yet because I just wasn’t a fan of the whole menstrual cup idea.

What if I didn’t put it in right? Could it ‘tip over’? Could it overflow? Ladies, you know it feels like we’re bleeding 18 gallons! How would I even get it out?

It wasn’t worth $40 and going to a Whole Foods to buy one.

As my trip got closer, I decided I wanted to try an alternative solution to tampons and pads and that this was the perfect excuse to take the jump. While surfing Amazon, I came across the Rose Cup. This had a lower price tag ($16.99), a nice little silk baggy for storage, and a bit longer of a ‘cord’ for removing the cup. A new company, I’m always down to support the underdog.

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I purchased my cup and it came in the mail a few days later. Reading the instructions, I realized that I bought the wrong size! I didn’t even know there were sizes, but it turns out there are!

Small: for women under 30 / have not had children.

Large: for women over 30 or if you’ve had kids. Does that mean my vagina is getting fat on my 30th birthday? Good thing being fat is a plus, right? 😉

Intimate Rose actually emailed me to follow up a few days later asking me if I had any questions. I told them about my mistake and asked if there was anything we could do. In fact there was! They sent me a brand new cup in my size (small) for free! I was so impressed with their service and was hoping I would be equally as impressed by the product.

Now that I’m on the road, I’ve had the chance to try this out – and impressed I am! The cup is easy to insert, easy to get out and even has notches on it like a measuring cup to tell you how much was in it when you emptied it. This was very eye opening for me. Like I said, when you’re on your period it feels like you’re losing half your blood supply! In actuality, it’s not much at all! Feels good to know I’m not dying.

Aside from my Workaway membership, this is the best investment I have made. LOVE LOVE LOVE! Not only is my Rose Cup going to save me money, it’s a relief to know it’s saving me the hassle of making sure I always have supplies on hand. I’m also no longer at risk from being in a ‘too remote’ area where I couldn’t get supplies.

If you haven’t already jumped on the menstrual cup bandwagon, I recommend giving the Rose Cup a try! The instructions are easy to follow and the service excellent! Also, the little carrying case is a nice touch – especially for traveling!

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Gentlemen, if you’ve made it this far: this would be a nice gift for your lady. You like the vagina…take care of the vagina. My former boss had quit his job and traveled for 8 months with his wife and he recommended this to me on her behalf – she loves her cup.

Hope you enjoyed the pilot episode of Product Reviews! If you have any questions about the Rose Cup, ask!

To keep up with future product reviews of travel gear, along with awesome stories, join me on social media! The more the merrier!

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebar or below welcome to the adventure!

xoxo ❤

 

 

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5 ways being fat helps me travel! 

Yep, I’m writing a post about this. I’ve got some curves and I’m owning it!


Some people (myself included) question my physical ability to do a trip like this. For example, in San Francisco, the hills and 4 flights of stairs to my apartment kicked my ass. But I did it, I showed them who was boss.

Yeah it’s a picture of a picture.
Whenever you look at pictures of people traveling, they’re always super thin, athletic, fit people – I am not those people. I am me, and me is out of shape and loves food! Despite that, my body is proving to be a great tool for me on this trip and I’d say that my curvy figure is even helping me!

How being “fat” is helping me in my travels:

1. I’m less likely to be kidnapped…I think…

I’ve always struggled with my weight. Let me rephrase that, I have always been above the ‘average’ weight and BMI of most Americans. When I was younger and chubby, my mom gave me a good tip: “If someone tries to kidnap you, just go limp”. When you struggle you’re still standing and it can be easier to move you. If I were to just dead-fish it..could you lift 230lbs? No, I think not. Good tip, Mom!

2. I get to represent curvy chicks (and dreads as a bonus).

Yeah, that fat chick just climbed those stairs. Yeah, that fat chick is going to one of the hottest places in the world. Yeah, that fat chick is ROCKIN’ her dreams. Suuuuck iiiit!

3. Keeping me warm and energized – lots of stored calories to burn over here!

Okay so the “warm” is counting against me on this particular trip LOL! However, if the plane goes down or if we get stranded, I’m going outlast all you bitches because my body is going to eat my [sweet] rolls! See what I did there? I’m also not one of those skinny chicks whose like “I’m so cold!” all the time. I don’t need the jacket of a man, I’ve got my own layers!

Also, body fat is all those extra calories that weren’t used. Calories = energy. I can use these up like wildfire when I’m out an about. I think I’ve sweat off 4 lbs already.

4. Everything is a workout. My higher starting point also makes it easier to lose weight.

This is an oldie but goodie. If I walk up 50 stairs with someone who weights half of what I do, I’ll burn more calories. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost 10 lbs already on this trip with the walking and the sweating!

5. I’m more immune to things! 

Not only because I love food and try all kinds (this helps with various tolerances), but I also have layers of fat covering my organs which makes them less susceptible to being penetrated by germs or bullets. Hey, science says so.

BONUS: I can ask for more food / dessert…because everyone expects it.

Yeah maybe it is shitty that they’re like “of courrrrrse the fat chick wants dessert” but you know what, I do. I’m going to use your expectations against you – BRING ME ALL YOUR CAKE.

noface
Sometimes I think No Face is my spirit animal..that’s why I have him as a tattoo!

Want to watch me eat my way through Asia and try weird foods like Durian? Find me on social media:

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What do you love about your body shape? Boys, you can answer too!

xoxo ❤

 

 

 

 

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Dear Bangkok,

Today was my first day with you, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I got off the plane, I could immediately feel the heat and humidity. I had heard that it would be hot as balls here, and coming from Chicago, I knew it would be a bit of an adjustment. I wasn’t prepared for drinking two huge bottles of water and still not peeing clear!


After landing, we went through customs, which was a breeze. They didn’t even charge me the $50 for my visa! I picked up my bag in your huuuuuge airport and immediately changed into shorts. Whew, such relief.

Coming from the airport, I took a metered Taxi cab. He had some trouble finding my hostel. We ended up asking two homeless guys in the area and they were incredibly nice and helpful to him and directed us to the proper area. I paid 300 Baht for the ride – so cheap! That’s about $7-9 USD for those of you back home in the states. In Chicago, I’ve never paid less than $30 to a cab driver for an airport run.

new road guest house
new road guest house

Arriving at the hostel, I was struck by it’s beauty. It was back off the road a ways (which is the way you seem to like it) in our own little alcove. I was happy to see that there was a local dog hanging around the area whom I sat and pet for a bit. He was dirty and boney.

My doggie friend
My doggie friend

 

I checked in and was kindly directed to my room on the 3rd floor. Apparently I just like to torture myself with rooms on higher floors.

My room is quaint, simple, and suits my needs perfectly. $18 for 4 nights, is a steal! Well played Bangkok. I immediately crashed from the 15 hours of flying and woke up at 6 am.

Coming back to the lobby, I charged my phone and had breakfast.

Breakfast buffet
Breakfast buffet

Then I went exploring.


My dog friend from the hostel followed me. I liked it – I thought maybe the love I’d given him meant we had a bond. We walked for a few miles and came across a street food vender selling some grilled chicken (it’s all chicken, right Bangkok?) and the dog started crying. Bless his soul he was hungry and wanted me to buy him food.

I didn’t. In fact, I immediately hailed a tuk tuk and zipped off with me crying a little because I felt like a horrible person. In my head I know I can’t save them all – or even one.


That’s a terrible feeling Bangkok. I don’t think it’s you, I think it’s a not-the-united-states thing. I’m going to have to toughen up that side of me.

I had the tuk tuk take me to the skytrain where I boarded to visit Chatachuk market. I met a Swedish lady who doesn’t like Chinese people while waiting for the train. I almost got on the wrong one until a Thai man grabbed me and said “this train doesn’t go to market!”. He had heard me talked to the Swedish lady. He was heading to Chatachuk as well where he owns a shop. We traveled together the whole way and then parted. We did a Wai together and I began my task of exploring the market.


Here I tried to avoid the “pet” section. I did come across it temporarily but had to leave when I saw dogs in cages that were no more than 2 ft hight. The dogs couldn’t even stand. No pictures of this because I want to forget it. I want to forget the caged animals and baby turtles locked alive in necklaces that will one day be their coffins. Bangkok, I heard that the market is sometimes used for selling illegally imported animals and cock fights, I wish I could convenience you there was a better way.


The market was an interesting experience for sure. It really was the biggest thing I’ve ever been to! So far, this is the only part of your city I think my mother would like. I was offered many 1 hour massages for 250 Baht ($8 USD) which I will be doing!


I had fun bartering with a shop owner for a pair of swishy pants I thought would fit me. They do around the waist…just not the thighs. Bangkok, do you have a butt? Apparently you, nor any of your citizens, do!

Oh your citizens. Bangkok, your people are so nice. You should be proud. All of the Thai women smile at me and then men wave respectfully. They are incredibly kind and helpful. I have asked many for directions and they all try to help me. One of them even helped teach me some basic Thai. I’m focusing on thank you – “Kop Khun Kai” and I try to say it often. Your citizens are so surprised and tickled when I say it.


In the US we are told as children to go to police officers if you need help. I got very lost earlier today and with the sun beating down on me, I asked a policeman for directions. He pointed me in the right direction but told me it was a very, very long walk from where we were.

I went to a nearby street and hailed a tuk tuk and showed him on the map where I wanted to go. The policeman saw me talking with the tuk tuk driver and came over and explained to the driver in Thai how to get where I wanted to go.

Bangkok, for having so many tuk tuks and taxis, they are surprisingly confused about navigating the city – Chicago cabbies shame them.

The policeman and the tuk tuk driver talked for a bit, and the policeman give me the thumbs up to get in the tuk tuk. Feeling confident, we zoomed back to the hostel (no, that’s not how I got my name)!

on the skytrain
on the skytrain
on the skytrain
on the skytrain

I learned yesterday that the Skytrain will sometimes stop to make sure it is not above the royal family if the King is traveling on the ground.

info board at the hostel
info board at the hostel

I admire and commend the pride that you take in your King. I have never felt prideful about my president. It’s cool we have an African-American president – that’s a big step for the United States as a whole, but that’s what I’m taking pride in…not Obama himself.

Bangkok, your city is beautiful. While the homes can sometimes look a..uh, bit…dilapidated, everyone seems very happy in them.

I love how much you love pink.

pink cabs
pink cabs

The monks here are also extremely kind. I ran into several while out and about today. I can tell that they are honored wherever they go. I think if I were in trouble, hungry, or homeless I would go to a temple and feel comfortable seeking help from the monks – even though I struggle sometimes asking for help.

After the market and some random exploring, I returned home to the hostel to take a nap. I woke up at midnight which is when I’m writing this post. I’m getting hungry! I’m going to go back to bed for a bit and get ready to take on another day. I’ll be having Durian today (on camera), along with some sushi. I can’t wait! Bangkok, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you smell of delicious food!


Thank you for welcoming me Bangkok, I look forward to getting to know you better.

xoxo ❤

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How to trick yourself into saving money.

Trying to save money can suck.

It’s hard, sometimes you just forget or get sidetracked, and sometimes it feels like you just literally don’t have anything extra to save. Believe me, I’ve been there man – it’s horrible.

 

a debateable example of a good deal
a debateable example of a good deal
 
Using a few unconventional tactics, I managed to trick myself into saving a lot of the time. Fake it till you make it, right? Think of it like a game.

1. Invest in yourself. Immediately.

If you’re going to spend $5 on coffee, take the $5 and spend it..on yourself. Put it in an envelope, transfer it to a special bank account – whatever – so that it’s “spent”, but set aside toward your goal. Same goes for $10 on pizza or $2 at the gas station for snacks. You might be surprised how quickly the money seems to pile up.

2. Pay attention to your pennies.

Okay not literally the pennies (though I do know someone who does that), but pay attention to how much you’re spending. It’s easy to just swipe your card and occasionally check your balance to see where you are-ish. When you go to the grocery store and normally spend around $50 for the week, try to make it $45, or $40…or whatever number you want to set as your goal. You can save whatever the difference in the average is.

I use Mint.com to track my money across multiple accounts. I admit, it can be a little slow to update and its kind of hard to manage cash. However, it does a good job of at least giving you a good idea of where you stand.

 

3a. Cut back your grocery bill:

  • Looking for coupons and compare different stores.
  • Only buy items that are on sale (this helps with variety too!).
  • Cook something that will last as a main course (a roast, lasagna, soup etc).
  • If something is super cheap, make it the star of the week (a banana a day can keep the doctor away too…apples get all the glory).
  • Only buy 1 serving – one handful of mushrooms, 1 grapefruit, two kiwis, 1 can of soup…you get the idea. This cuts down on waste and decreases your shopping total!
  • Sharing meals with friends and your roommate. Offer to make pasta and have them bring sides and/or booze. Another friend is in charge of dessert. Rule of Acquisition #110, “Exploitation Begins at Home“. 
  • Make affordable ingredients shine – like cauliflower (which can be cooked like 23 different ways), rice, beans, and eggs.
  • Drink water. You knew I was going to say this at some point on this list.

3b. Cut your entertainment and social bill:

  • Find joy in simpler things – like going to the park and people watching. Go on a scavenger hunt. Hang out and talk with friends – you could play “this or that”.
  • Share Netflix with your folks – can’t hurt to ask! I don’t mind having my mom’s hallmark movies all over my feed so it’s fine. I pretty much just watch Star Trek. At least I didn’t say “Get rid of Netflix”, right?
  • Invest in things that keep you at home – games are great for this. Board games, video games, card games … plus games are good for social interaction!
  • Spend some time alone – don’t go out every night. Take a night or two to yourself and read a book, play a game or do a hobby. This is also good practice for traveling solo!
  • Here it comes: cut back on the booze. If you must partake, do it during happy hour when it’s cheap. Never pay full price for a drink (take the difference and save it).
  • Find free things to do in your city. Lots of towns have free museum days for locals, park events when the weather is nice, and lots of live music at bars during the winter.

 
SanFrancisco Street Art
SanFrancisco Street Art
 

4. Save on travel costs too!

Just like losing weight, I think a cumulation of all the little things add up to big changes.

  • Switch to a bank that has no foreign transaction fees (I switched to Capital One 360), reimburses ATM fees (if you’re military check out USAA), or has a killer rewards program.
  • Sign up for the rewards program. When I first started flying with Southwest Airlines (my favorite, they are so nice!), I signed up for their points program not thinking it would ever lead to anything. When I get back to the states in August, the points I’ve been saving are flying me from Nevada to Ohio. That’s like $400 in savings!
  • Shop around! This is a  good rule in general, but make sure that when you’re booking things to check a few different sites – including booking directly through the company. Flights, hotels, rentals – all the things.
  • Ask for free things! I managed to get a better room while staying at the Extended Stay America while traveling last summer because they were slow and I asked. “Are there any free upgrades available?”
  • Kick it with the locals. This can be CouchSurfing, doing a workaway or simply making it a point to avoid the touristy areas. Tourist stuff is always overpriced. I’m a Chicagoan, I’ve seen it.

5. Look at your numbers.

When you face your numbers it can sometimes be a bit shocking. At one point in my life I realized I was spending over $200/week eating out. HOLY EFF. I was putting it on my credit card, paying it off, then racking it back up…not good guys, not good. I’ve worked crazy hard on my credit score over the last few years and was just shooting myself in the foot. I finally broke the cycle and started paying attention to my spending habits. I mentioned Mint.com earlier, but you could also look at You Need a Budget.

You’ll have a savings account before you know it!

I hope this lists has helped you! I’ll be updating it as I continue to learn tricks! If you have anything that you’d like to see added here, share with the class in the comments!

If you’d like to join me on the adventure,

 
Alcatraz audio tour selfie
Alcatraz audio tour selfie
 

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xoxo ❤