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One of my last days in Wellington. New Year’s Eve, 2017

Every January I lay out concrete, practical goals for the year. See resolutions from previous years here.

Soooo 2017 wasn’t great. 2017 was the dirt-flavored jelly bean, the collapsed soufflé; the disappointing taste of vodka in your martini when you definitely requested gin. Basically, the “how the hell did you happen??” of years. 

But to be fair, after nine years of living abroad I was due for one of them to be kind of crap. And in a way, I’m glad it was: when you crash into the ditch, you have a chance to reevaluate your life choices and priorities as you pick yourself back up.

So maybe it’s a reaction to everything that happened last year, or just a natural byproduct of living in New Zealand (aka Land of Lax), but for 2018 I have only three resolutions, and one word to live by: chill.

This year all I want is to be kinder to myself. To chill out with all the friends I have scattered around the world, reconnect with the cities and activities that bring joy — and not overextend myself in some search to find more. I already have plenty of good things in my life and I’m realizing that for now, it’s enough

I’m 28, I’ve been abroad a decade now; I know what makes me happy and don’t feel like chasing novelty for the sake of novelty. (Not this year, anyway.)

So onto the goals, which I’ve quite blatantly stolen from my friend Laura, who made this toast while we drank cheap Moa Lagers on a friend’s rooftop on Christmas Eve:

“To health, wealth, and minimal heartbreak”

My first stop after leaving New Zealand. 2018’s off to a flying start.

HEALTH

The hospo lifestyle proved to be a troublesome combination of hearty late-night staff meals, excessive (like, super excessive) alcohol consumption, and atrocious sleeping habits. Even going to the gym regularly couldn’t save me from putting on some weight (#thisis28) so this year I’d like to get back to my pre-New Zealand physique. Shouldn’t be too difficult now that I’ve removed myself from that environment, so come at me beach season. 

WEALTH

For various reasons, I left New Zealand with less money than when I started. (Including, but not limited to: low wages, high cost of living, and being owed thousands of dollars in backpay. Cough.)

So really when I say “wealth” what I mean is “being acceptably financially afloat for someone teetering this close to 30”. I have a certain number in my head that I’d like to see realized in my bank account by the end of the year…though as it stands I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to feed myself after my Olympics contract ends so better get cracking on this one. But! At least I now also have bartending as a job option.

AND MINIMAL HEARTBREAK 

Bit self-explanatory, innit? After a year of getting done over by Kiwi dating culture — on top of the already flighty nature of dating within hospo — I am more than happy to step back from romantic entanglements for a good, long while. My heart is out of office and it’s not taking calls.

Luckily, getting back on the road full-time pretty much guarantees I’ll be single all year. All the more love to share with you, my friends.

It’s going to be a good year, I can feel it. How did your 2017 go? What’s your top goal for 2018?

Lead photo by Amiekay, second photo by Jones

The post Realistic Resolutions for 2018 appeared first on Expat Edna.

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When I told friends and family (and blog readers, and bartenders, and strangers on the street) that I was moving to New Zealand, I was met with a number of politely bewildered looks.

“Oh! Are you a huge Lord of the Rings fan…?”

Nope.

“Right, so you must be into hiking? You should definitely check out –“

Noooope.

“Ummm….you like sheep?”

(Well yes, but I could’ve stayed in Ireland if I just wanted to be around sheep.)

Whatever a “New Zealand person” looks like, I clearly don’t fall into that category. So before I start writing about my experiences this year in Wellington, I thought I’d set the stage and answer the burning question:

Why New Zealand?

The reasons were two-fold.

EXPAT LIFE: CHAPTER 3

My first few years abroad, my elevator pitch was that I moved every year and a half; “as soon as I get comfortable, I leave.” I took so much pride in that statement, I may as well have had it tattooed on my chest, Memento-style.

And the thing is, it’s still true. 

But um, I got too comfortable in Europe in my mid-20s. And forgot.

Friends tell me that I light up when I talk about Paris; that it’s so evidently clear that Europe is home. And it is! Paris (or London) is where I hope to eventually return and settle down, one day.

But what I realized in my teens, and has always pushed me to continue moving since, is:

Cities will always be there. My 20s will not.

I’ve left good jobs, incredible friends, and solid relationships — the expat trifecta, right? — multiple times to ensure I never became too entrenched in comfort. To attack the unknown, even at the chance of losing everything and everyone I loved.

Because you can do that easily in your 20s: rebuild and reset and bounce back from trying a thousand different things. I had set aside a decade to live as many lives as I could. 

So I recognized that as content as I was in Europe, I was in a feedback loop and it was time to uproot everything again.

The timing would be perfect. 18-22 would be my Asia Years, 22-27 my (mostly) Europe Years. The third chapter of my 20s would be a totally new region: Oceania.

PURSUING A PASSION

There was also a far simpler reason I moved to New Zealand.

I wanted to become a bartender.

*cue bewildered looks again*

“But…you have your dream career…so…bartending?”

Some people go back to school for a masters, some take photography or pastry courses on the side. In the same vein, I wanted to pursue an outside interest: cocktails.

Since the summer of 2013 I’d become entrenched in bar scenes around Europe and Asia, becoming friends with world-class bartenders and developing my palate and knowledge of spirits and classic cocktails (ok fine: I became a booze snob).

I considered bars a second home, and had been industry-adjacent long enough that I wanted to dive in the deep end and learn what life was like on the other side of the bar.

“But…couldn’t you just learn under your friends in Paris or Shanghai?”

Yes, the booze game is strong in those cities — and that’s precisely why I wanted to avoid them.

For one, I wanted a small pond where I could actually learn behind the bar. Going into the big leagues like Paris or Shanghai with zero experience, I would’ve easily spent a year just polishing glassware as a barback — and I simply didn’t have that kind of time.

For another, you know how you should never teach loved ones how to drive a car or play the piano? Same deal. I wanted to come out of bartending with all my friendships intact.

“This still doesn’t explain New Zealand??”

Right. So practically, to accomplish this, I needed a working holiday visa (as I’m unaware of any country offering a Wannabe Bartender Visa). This left me with Australia or New Zealand, and the latter is only good until you’re 30.

With my 30th birthday only a couple of years away and 2017 being a non-sports dominant year, it was the perfect — and perhaps only — chance to take a sabbatical and fulfill my somewhat peculiar dream of being a bartender.

***

So now that the New Zealand experiment is nearly over, and hasn’t quite panned out as hoped, the question is: was it really a new chapter, or just a slight deviation in the book? Will this ultimately be just a footnote in the greater story of how I eventually end up back in Europe?

It’s hard to determine in the moment.

But if I had the chance to go back in time, knowing this year would be filled with heaps of uncertainty, drama, and not a small amount of unhappiness — would I still make the move?

Would I break my own heart again in the name of travel, exploration, and smashing out of my comfort zone?

Oh mate. Absolutely.

Do you have any questions about my time in New Zealand, or living in Wellington in general? Leave a comment and I’ll address them in an upcoming post!

Photos of me bartending by Ryan McKenna

The post Why I Left a Life I Loved to Move to New Zealand appeared first on Expat Edna.

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When I told friends and family (and blog readers, and bartenders, and strangers on the street) that I was moving to New Zealand, I was met with a number of politely bewildered looks.

“Oh! Are you a huge Lord of the Rings fan…?”

Nope.

“Right, so you must be into hiking? You should definitely check out –“

Noooope.

“Ummm…you like sheep?”

(Well yes, but I could’ve stayed in Ireland if I just wanted to be around sheep.)

Whatever a “New Zealand person” looks like, I clearly don’t fall into that category. So before I start writing about my experiences this year in Wellington, I thought I’d set the stage and answer the burning question:

Why New Zealand?

The reasons were two-fold.

EXPAT LIFE: CHAPTER 3

My first few years abroad, my elevator pitch was that I moved every year and a half; “as soon as I get comfortable, I leave.” I took so much pride in that statement, I may as well have had it tattooed on my chest, Memento-style.

And the thing is, it’s still true. 

But um, I got too comfortable in Europe in my mid-20s. And forgot.

Friends tell me that I light up when I talk about Paris; that it’s so evidently clear that Europe is home. And it is! Paris (or London) is where I hope to eventually return and settle down, one day.

But what I realized in my teens, and has always pushed me to continue moving since, is:

Cities will always be there. My 20s will not.

I’ve left good jobs, incredible friends, and solid relationships — the expat trifecta, right? — multiple times to ensure I never became too entrenched in comfort. To attack the unknown, even at the chance of losing everything and everyone I loved.

Because you can do that easily in your 20s: rebuild and reset and bounce back from trying a thousand different things. I had set aside a decade to live as many lives as I could. 

So I recognized that as content as I was in Europe, I was in a feedback loop and it was time to uproot everything again.

The timing would be perfect. 18-22 would be my Asia Years, 22-27 my (mostly) Europe Years. The third chapter of my 20s would be a new region altogether: Oceania.

PURSUING A PASSION

There was also a far simpler reason I moved to New Zealand.

I wanted to become a bartender.

*cue bewildered looks again*

“But…you have your dream career…so…bartending?”

Some people go back to school get a masters, some take photography or pastry courses on the side. In the same vein, I wanted to pursue an outside interest — namely, cocktails.

Since the summer of 2013 I’d become entrenched in bar scenes around Europe and Asia, becoming friends with world-class bartenders and developing my palate and knowledge of spirits and classic cocktails (or basically: becoming a booze snob).

I considered bars a second home, and had been industry-adjacent long enough that I wanted to dig deeper and learn what life was like on the other side of the bar.

“But…couldn’t you just learn under your friends in Paris or Shanghai?”

Yes, the booze game is strong in those cities — and that’s precisely why I wanted to avoid them.

For one, I wanted a small pond where I could actually learn behind the bar. Going into the big leagues like Paris or Shanghai with zero experience, I would’ve easily spent a year just polishing glassware as a barback — and I simply didn’t have that kind of time.

For another, you know how you should never teach loved ones how to drive a car or play the piano? Same deal. I wanted to come out of bartending with my friendships intact.

“This still doesn’t explain New Zealand??”

Right. So practically, to accomplish this, I needed a working holiday visa (as I’m unaware of any country offering a Wannabe Bartender Visa). This left me with Australia or New Zealand, and the latter’s is only good until you’re 30.

With my 30th birthday only a couple of years away and 2017 being a non-sports dominant year, it was the perfect — and perhaps only — chance to take a sabbatical and fulfill my somewhat peculiar dream of being a bartender.

***

So now that the New Zealand experiment is nearly over, and it hasn’t quite panned out as hoped, the question is: was it really a new chapter, or just a slight deviation in the book? Will this ultimately be just a footnote in the greater story of how I eventually end up back in Europe?

It’s hard to determine in the moment.

But if I had the chance to go back in time, knowing this year would be filled with heaps of uncertainty, drama, and not a small amount of unhappiness — would I still make the move?

Would I break my own heart again in the name of travel, exploration, and smashing out of my comfort zone?

Absolutely.

Do you have any questions about my time in New Zealand, or living in Wellington in general? Leave a comment and I’ll address them in an upcoming post!

Photos of me bartending by Ryan McKenna

The post Why I Left a Life I Loved to Move To New Zealand appeared first on Expat Edna.

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Exactly five weeks from today, my expat adventure in New Zealand comes to an end.

(Gone quick, hasn’t it?!)

I’ve given notice at work, found someone to take over the last of my lease, will throw a big ol’ leaving party then shove all my worldly possessions into a suitcase and return to life on the road.

When I arrived in Wellington in early January, I was fully burned out from nearly two years of full-time travel. The constant flying and packing and moving countries had taken its toll and I craved a smidge more stability — but more than anything, I craved community.

As I alluded to in my last post, I may have overcorrected. I’m ready to GTFO.

But! You live, you learn, and something I focused on while planning 2018 was how to strike a better balance between novelty and normalcy. This means more 4-8 week stints in one city at a time, between all the globe-hopping.

I’ve also realized that as lucky as I am to call so many places around the world home, I’ve slipped into a tendency to fall back on them a little too much (especially Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Venice — all of which I hit up 3-4 times last year). So moving forward I’ll actively try to spend less time in my Comfy Cities and explore more parts unknown, hopefully discovering even more new favorites.

***

JANUARY | New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea

I’m seeing out my New Zealand year by celebrating New Year’s with my friends and hospo family, then fly out of Wellington on January 3 — exactly a year to the day when I moved over.

I’ve managed to sneak in a nine-hour layover in Auckland, during which I’ll power through one last bar crawl with my Aucks-based friends, then hop a red-eye to Singapore.

After four days soaking up alllll the sun (and noodles and cocktails) with my mates there, it’s off I go to Seoul — followed quickly by Pyeongchang, where I’ll be based for seven weeks.

FEBRUARY | Pyeongchang

Time for another Winter Games! I’m currently in the process of applying for my Korean business visa in Wellington and then Olympics #5, here I come.

A typical lunch in my family home in Shanghai. Next year is forecasting a 7396% increase in Asian food consumption

MARCH | China & Vietnam

It’s become a personal tradition that after every Olympics, I take a little breather (after London I stuck around to sightsee; after Sochi I flew straight to Carnevale in Venice). Post-Rio I jumped directly into a filming gig in Asia, which, in retrospect, wasn’t the healthiest move.

After Pyeongchang I’ve decided to spend six weeks in Hanoi, with a six-day layover in Shanghai first to catch up with friends and family ( love that 144-hour Chinese transit visa).

Hanoi isn’t locked in, but short of getting called up for another assignment, I’ve my mind set on moving there for a wee while. It’s cheap, I’ve been wanting to revisit Vietnam since my first trip in 2011, two friends from Wellington are relocating there, and the idea of devouring bun bo and iced coffee every day is pretty close to heaven.

The sister’s last graduation. Please stop growing up so fast.

APRIL-MAY | USA, Canada, Portugal

Once I’m (hopefully) rested from some downtime in Hanoi, I’ll ramp things back up with a big US tour. Next year marks ten years since I first moved abroad, and I’ve now seen more of the rest of the world than I have my own country.

I’ll most likely fly into the West Coast, visiting my best friend in Portland before heading to San FranciscoNorth Carolina, (maybe New Orleans), New York City, and home to Pennsylvania for my sister’s college graduation.

While in the region, I’ll also finally head north and see Canada: Montreal is top of the list, as a good friend from Paris now lives there, but Toronto is a close second.

And in keeping with my tradition of spending each birthday in a different country, I’d like to celebrate the last one of my 20s in Portugal — a country that has eluded me for far too long.

JUNE-JULY | Western Europe

Here’s where y’all get to roll your eyes at me for negating everything I said in the introduction: June is dedicated to the European Friends Reunion Tour. By this point it’ll have been a year and a half since I’ve seen my favorite people and places, which everyone knows is an eternity in Mate Time.

Obviously, I’ll base myself in Paris and London — because, well, duh (though if you’ve only just started following my blog, those are the cities I feel at home more than anywhere else) — but also for their abundance of friends with couches and convenience as travel hubs.

Other stops on the tour: Belfast for Gin Fest, Paris for Fête de la Musique and Bastille DayGothenburg for Midsommar with my best-best friend; and of course VeniceAmsterdam, and possibly Edinburgh to see the rest of my loved ones.

I am the shrug emoji, the shrug emoji is me ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

AUGUST | Eastern Europe or South America

Here’s where I could use some guidance. When it comes to Europe I’ve still not traveled further east than Vienna, and I’d like to spend a month in a new country. However it is the height of tourist season, so I’m looking for a city that’s affordable, not too hot, and not too touristy in August (so probably no Prague or Budapest). I’ve heard great things about Bucharest….

Alternatively, depending on how certain job things pan out, I might head to South America early.

SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER | Argentina

All things going well, I’ll be in Buenos Aires for at least a month or two in the fall. Coincidentally, it’s one of the last cities on my “Want To Live There” list — so if I end up there for work, I’d love to arrive a couple weeks early and get a proper taste of local Argentinean life, or stay on for a bit after. Who knows? This could be the start of my South American chapter.

NOVEMBER-DECEMBER | ???

I only have my life planned out until next October. No point trying to guess my state of mind after: I may want to stay on in the Americas and finally visit friends who live in Chile, Peru, Colombia, and head to Rio for New Year’s; I might actually miss life Down Under(!) and use my last working holiday visa to move to Sydney.

Or I could be dying for a wintry Christmas by then and head back to Europe…or find myself somewhere completely random and unexpected altogether, like Dakar or Tel Aviv or Beirut.

In a life of constant flux, the only thing I know for sure is — wherever I end up, it’ll be a brilliantly fun surprise.

Where are you off to in 2018?

The post On the Road Again: Where I’m Traveling in 2018 appeared first on Expat Edna.

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“Can I ask you something?” the hazel-eyed Brit interrupted from across the hostel breakfast table.

“Let me get this right: you’re not a beach person. And you don’t dive or scuba or hike. What…exactly…are you hoping to get out of being here?”

It was a surprisingly personal and pointed question for someone I’d known for all of an hour. I could’ve been offended (“What’s it to you my trip has no purpose, guy??”) but he wasn’t far off: I had landed in Fiji for seven days, with absolutely zero plans, and was clearly a bit lost.

“I don’t know,” I responded slowly. “But I think being *anywhere but New Zealand* for a whole week may be enough. Just to get away.”

I’ve been quiet this year. Hideaway quiet. Living in New Zealand hasn’t been a bad experience, per se — but it hasn’t been my favorite either.

Let’s just say: Wellington hasn’t suited me.

I won’t get into all the reasons why, because that deserves its own post (and woooo boy what a post that’ll be, because it’s been a trip) — but also, this is about Fiji.

Fiji was my escape. After seven months on the North Island — the longest I’ve spent in one location without leaving in nearly a decade —  I was going mad. The walls were closing in, some personal situations weren’t going spectacularly, so in a major fit of Eff This Noise I decided to

– stop drinking

– quit Facebook

– book a solo flight to Fiji

all in one go.

But like the Brit noticed: I’m not the target demographic for beach tourism.

So why Fiji?


Because, like the sappy romantic I am, Fiji to me represented… the cheapest flight out of Wellington.

(Did I say romantic? I meant cash-poor pragmatic.)

Yes, short of going to Australia — which is culturally about as much of an escape from New Zealand as Canada is from the US — a $450 roundtrip to Fiji was the most affordable international flight option. (Yikes.)

So I forked out and off I went to this island paradise, by myself, with no plans to dive, no hiking gear, nada. Just myself, a backpack, and a whole lotta built up resentment at New Zealand and my life choices there.

Fiji brought me back.

If life in Wellington had deflated me like a mid-dance Pikachu, Fiji was the gust of air that resuscitated me back into one of those wacky-wavy-inflatable-arm-tube men.

And it was all thanks to a Fijian couple named Wais and Ele.

Through a last-minute Hail Mary browse on Airbnb (as in, I’d already arrived in Fiji and was miserably trying to fall asleep in a 16-dorm hostel at 3 am when I found it) I ended up spending the week in a homestay with their family in a remote island village, where I was forced to live waaaay outside my comfort zone.

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Confession: for years, I saw Taiwan as China’s Canada. That is to say: it was so close in proximity, why would I visit the neighbor when I could use my vacation time to go literally anywhere else? (Yep, this is also me admitting I’ve still never been to Canada.)

But then I began traveling full-time, and after hitting the road a little too hard, found myself needing a breather — so when my good friend Tom mentioned he had a spare room going, the idea of spending three months in a chilled-out city with tropical weather and cheap food became highly appealing.

I’m not a dog person but three months of living with these furballs changed my mind

Numerous travel bloggers and expats rave about Taipei, and for the most part I found it all to be true. Yes, it’s incredibly safe, crazy cheap, full of friendly locals and good food, and is a bicyclist enthusiast’s paradise. So instead of writing another post that echoes what everyone will tell you about what it’s like to live in Taipei, here are the quirks I did not expect from this island capital.

Taiwan's Musical Solution To Recycling - YouTube

A completely different garbage system: In Taiwan, you can’t just throw things out. You have to wait for the trash can to come to you.

Basically, you collect your garbage at home then wait until you hear The Song (usually either Für Elise, or the one in the video above) twice a day — at which point you panic-run outside and throw your bags in the truck as it drives past. If you miss it, you have to hold onto your rubbish until the next collection (which can become troublesome if your work hours clash with your garbageman’s hours).

As a side note, this also makes public trash cans hard to find, to deter people from throwing their household trash where they shouldn’t.

Apparently this system has done wonders for the country’s waste and recycling management, and building community among neighborhood residents — but hell if I can ever listen to Für Elise without twitching again.

Receipt lottery: The Taiwanese government runs a bi-monthly “invoice lottery” — aka essentially free money. For us, this meant keeping entire shoeboxes full of (mostly 7-11) receipts, which Tom would sift through every other month when the numbers were announced. If you move to Taiwan, embrace your inner hoarder: you never know when it’ll (literally) pay off.

Priority seat plague: The Taiwanese are known for being incredibly polite, and this was glaringly evident on the subway. I’d never seen so much available priority seating, even when the rest of the metro car was packed — don’t even think of sitting in one unless you’re actually elderly/disabled/pregnant (…then again, they’re so polite that probably no one would scold you for doing so, either).

Spanish business hours: In my neighborhood it was such a hanger struggle (#hanggle?) finding restaurants open between lunch and dinner. Taipei’s relentless sun was reminiscent of Spanish summers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone was siesta-ing in the afternoons. I quickly learned to go out at ‘normal’ meal times or be prepared to dine chez 7-11.

Japanese influences & relationship: Some parts of Taipei (both physical and cultural, such as the aforementioned politeness) seemed downright Japanese — which makes sense, as Taiwan was a Japanese colony between 1895 and 1945. However, the two islands have an impressively friendly relationship, which was a shocker after having lived in China, which is still quite vocally anti-Japanese.

Holy craft beer, Batman: Who knew there was such a market for craft beer in Taipei?! It was dangerously easy to spend long rainy afternoons at beer bars, and I’d often bring home hauls of local & foreign brews from the craft beer store around the corner. Imports from Mikkeller, Elysian, and Evil Twin Brewery especially were surprisingly abundant around the city.

Discount grocery hunting: Unfortunately, I wasn’t a huge fan of Taiwanese street food. Probably just a victim of too much hype — especially the night markets, which I found underwhelming — so I ate sushi or cooked for myself most days.

Luckily, both options were cheap, especially the latter: groceries discount fresh food about to expire, so for quite a while I lived almost exclusively on $1.60 salmon steaks and nearly-too-ripe pineapple and watermelon.

The food no one told me about: That said, Tom did introduce me to two hole-in-the-wall joints that we frequented on a near-daily basis and were absolute highlights of my time in Taipei. There was the neighborhood quick fry (above), which is where locals go for good food, served fast and cheap. Forget night markets, quick fry is the jewel of Taiwanese dining.

Our very last meal in Taipei (yes, those are mimosas with 7-11 orange juice). I miss Breakfast Lady.

And then there was Breakfast Lady, whose shop sat on our corner and was always reliable for early morning/late night plates of xiaolongbao, fried dumplings, and egg & pork pancakes. As Tom once said of her: Not all heroes wear capes.

Affordability: Finally, a note on cost. Taiwan is known for being cheap, but I had no idea how cheap: I paid $150 USD/month(!) for a room in a spacious three-bedroom apartment just outside the city center. To put that in perspective, prior to that I was paying $500/month for a room in Paris — so three months in Taipei cost me less than one in Paris.

I also tutored English on the side, and seeing just one student for 3-5 hours a week was enough to cover all my living costs. Factoring together cheap rent, cheap public transportation, and cheap food, I left Taipei after three months with a completely even bank account. I didn’t save any money, but I wasn’t down any either.

Looking back, even though my time in Taipei wasn’t very adventurous, I consider it an important part of my #27epicmoments. I grew to appreciate a city I may have otherwise overlooked as a tourist, and the calm of those three months helped me prepare for the whirlwind second year of travel that was to come. It was exactly the restful reboot I needed.

What quirks have you discovered about a city that tourists may not know about?

The post The Quirks of Taipei Living appeared first on Expat Edna.

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This month, I’m counting down my top 27 adventures at 27. Next up: Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is one of those cities I can never say no to, if even for a brief window of time.

So when we found a flight back from our week in Bali with a 12-hour layover in HK, we jumped on the chance to sneak in a cheeky mini food crawl. Dim sum was calling.

At the same time, Airbnb was looking to expand their Snapchat presence and asked if I would do a takeover from Hong Kong. I said yes, obviously, and from that trip a beautiful brand partnership was born (more to come on that later). Food + friends + career opportunities + a city I love = #epicmoments.

(Note: We landed at 6 am and flew out at 6 pm, so realistically only had eight hours in town. I wanted to be as light and mobile as possible during such a short layover, so I left my DSLR in airport storage and just shot photos on my iPhone SE.)

Morning: Grab breakfast at Lin Heung Tea House, one of my go-tos for dim sum in the city. It’s noisy and packed — even at 8 in the morning — but the food comes at you hot and fast and is so superb, it’ll instantly make your morning 137% better.

Top off with some caffeine (we stopped into a nearby cafe called Fineprint serving local Redback coffee) and mosey around Central and the Mid-Levels while watching students and businessmen and everyone in between rush around to start their day.

Mid-morning: Catch the famous Star Ferry from Central Pier 7 and take in Victoria Harbour — and that famous Hong Kong skyline! — from both land and sea. As of current writing, a one-way fare will cost about $0.44 USD (aka bargaaaain).

Early afternoon: For lunch head to Kau Kee, a Hong Kong institution renowned for their beef brisket noodles. There will definitely be a line, but don’t be deterred as it moves lightning fast and the noodles are so worth it.

We lunched with an old Shanghai colleague of mine, Charlie, who recommended finishing off with ice cream at Oddies nearby. The shop had so many intriguing flavor combos I could hardly choose — like Cuban cigar gelato with roasted almonds and whiskey ganache! (Cigar-flavored desserts: surprisingly sweet.)

Mid-afternoon: For a leisurely day, by all means stay around Central — but if you’re up for a bit of brisk walking and a jam-packed layover, jump on the MTR a few stops and explore another neighborhood for an hour or so.

My good friend and former Hong Kong expat Oneika recommended meeting up for milk tea in Kennedy Town, an up-and-coming neighborhood out west. Her local shop choice of Cheung Heung Yuen was spot on for a solid cup of, not-too-sweet, not-too-touristy milk tea. (Oneika even posted a vlog of our little excursion!)

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It’s May, which means it’s my birthday month!

27 was by far my most epic age yet: I traveled to 20 countries in the first seven months, before packing up everything to move to New Zealand in January…not to mention all the ridiculous jobs I took on around the world as a digital nomad.

Over the next month, I’ll be posting photos and stories from the past year on Instagram (#27EpicMoments), Facebook, and here on the blog. It’s been a hell of a year — including the highest of highs and some seriously low lows — so I hope you enjoy the tales to come as much as I’m enjoying sifting through the memories.

I’ll attempt to post in mostly chronological order. So like Julie Andrews says, let’s start at the very beginning: this is how I celebrated turning 27, with a week of mountain climbs, infinity pools, and unending gorgeousness in lush Bali.

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