23 Things

23 Things >> Life In Limbo

For the last couple of years on my birthday, I’ve been making lists of my favourite moments and things from the previous year. My birthday is in April and it is now September, but in my defence on my birthday I was swimming under a waterfall in Laos. Luckily I made the list of my favourite things from my 23rd year before I left Korea, but never finished the post or published it (obviously). Let me remedy that now!

Twenty-three was a wonderful year for me. I spent both my 23rd and 24th birthdays in new countries and in between had more adventures than I can count. I made some amazing friends, visited some incredible places, and lived in a completely different culture for a whole year. You can see my 23 favourite moments from that year right here.

And I fell in love with a bunch of things too: food, activities, and objects. Here they are below, in no particular order.

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23 Things >> Life In Limbo

Organic Cream of Earl Grey David’s Tea. A family friend gave me a few bags of this tea before I left for Korea and it lasted me through my whole year away (as much as I want to, I often forget to make tea for myself). It’s so delicious!

Gilmore GirlsI watched every episode of this show over the course of a few months and completely fell in love. It’s just so smart! There are so many hidden jokes and references! I was completely immersed in that world for a while and was so sad when it ended. Props to Katie for encouraging me to watch it.

Spotify (premium)For several months of the year I paid for Spotify premium and it was awesome. Now that I’m back in Canada I’m back on the free version, but I couldn’t access it in Korea or while I was travelling unless I paid for premium, so I did. Either way, Spotify is amazing.

23 Things >> Life In Limbo

iHerbThe perfect solution for all my health-nut needs while I was in a foreign country. You can’t get everything on iHerb, but you can get a lot of things. I ordered things like coconut oil, quinoa, natural peanut butter, chia seeds, chickpeas, and natural makeup. Not all of these things are impossible to find in Korea but most are rare or expensive. And shipping was free with KoreaPost, which is awesome. You can use this link to get up to $10 off your first order with them, if you’re interested.

Starbucks Busan Fireworks Festival mug.  This was a limited edition mug made for the 2014 Busan Fireworks Festival. I liked it so much that I bought two more as Christmas presents for my sisters and sent them home with my mom after her visit. It’s just such a nice size for a mug and has such a beautiful design. I don’t often like the Starbucks city mug designs, but this one is such a beautiful way to remember Busan and the gorgeous fireworks festival I loved so much.

Acro yoga. Last year I put yoga on my list, and this year it’s all about acro yoga. I tried acro for the first time in August of last year and have been obsessed with it ever since. If you ever meet me in person, beware lest I try to make you do it with me. It’s such a wonderful form of yoga: you have to be aware of your body and someone else’s, it’s a trust exercise, it makes you feel empowered, and plus you get to laugh a lot the whole time. It’s just such a fun, child-like thing to do and can be so therapeutic too. I would love to do more training in how to teach acro.

23 Things >> Life In Limbo

Kimchijeon. The grocery store on my corner would often make these and have them in the prepared food section at the end of the day, and if I was lucky I could grab a pack of 2 of them for about $2.00. The woman who worked there didn’t speak any English, and my Korean wasn’t great, but we were always laughing together about the kimchijeon, she seemed to think it was hilarious I was always stopping by to get it. Often my friend Katie (who got off work earlier than me) would stop by and buy them out, and since a lot of Koreans seemed to think Katie and I were one and the same, maybe that’s why she was always laughing. One of our favourite restaurants in Busan made kimchijeon with melted cheese on top. And I also learned how to make it, recipe here! Lots of memories associated with this one.

Book DepositoryHello, how did I not know about this website earlier? Free shipping on any book anywhere in the world? Reasonable prices? Come on. I sent friends books this way for Christmas – they didn’t come in fancy packaging, but it was a way to give something meaningful when I wasn’t there to deliver it myself.

Leek omelettes. I ate these almost every day that I was in Korea. It’s as easy as it sounds, just fry up some chopped leeks until golden and soft, and add in your beaten eggs. I’m not sure why this was my go-to breakfast when I was 23, but it was.

23 Things >> Life In Limbo

Mayari BirkenstocksI bought myself these while on my summer vacation in Kyoto, Japan and then wore them everywhere for the next several months.

Voice Memos. Korea has a very annoying time difference from Canada: usually 13 hours difference to Toronto, and I-don’t-even-know-what to Vancouver. Often arranging Skype calls was tricky because of that, and time would go by before we were both free. So a couple friends and I took to recording voice messages and sending them to each other whenever we could. It was sort of a strange thing to get used to, talking to yourself, but it meant we were up-to-date on the little things and communicated way more than we would have otherwise. Plus, as a person who loves podcasts, I loved having an individualized “podcast episode” about my friend’s life to listen to on my way to work.

Serial Podcast. This podcast was basically my life for a few months. I would actually get a little thrill on Thursday nights, when heard the intro music while walking home from work. We would talk about it constantly, it’s the first thing (maybe ever) to get me stuck on Reddit message boards, and I distinctly remember just sitting around with friends listening to the radio the night it came out. It’s just such a compelling story, and such excellent radio.

23 Things >> Life In Limbo

Keeping a gratitude journal. This is definitely my favourite new practice from when I was 23 (I can already tell my favourite of 24 will be flossing). If I skip a few days, I can actually notice a shift in my mood and perspective, and not for the better. I don’t often look back through the pages – just recording all the good things that happened in my day is usually enough to make me feel awesome – but when I do, it’s such an excellent reminder that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that I am so blessed. I used to think I could just commit to a mental gratitude practice, but writing it down has been so great for me, and I’m still going strong! You can read more about how I practice gratitude here.

Iced soy lattes. Ah yes, this was the year I got into coffee. It always surprises people when I say this, but I never drank coffee in university, except for maybe the occasional coffee for fun on the weekend. I’m still kind of like that, but now I appreciate it a lot more. When I was teaching young, loud children English as a second language, I drank coffee every day, if only to improve my mood and patience level. Iced soy lattes from Starbucks were my treat, usually on Fridays or on particularly tiring days. The rest of the time I bought convenience store coffees, something Korea is very good at providing.

23 Things >> Life In Limbo

Having nice nails. This was huge for me. My whole life, my nails have been short and ugly and I actually thought I was incapable of growing nice nails, even if I could stop biting them. But one of my 24 before 24 goals was to get a manicure because I thought that might motivate me to stop biting my nails. It did, and after I finally got that first manicure, something switched for me. I realized that cuticle care was a big part of why my nails never looked nice when I did grow them out, and the manicure helped with that. Ever since, I’ve had beautiful nails if I do say so myself, and even though I’ve never been much of a beauty or makeup person, it makes me feel good about myself to have nice nails.

Lululemon Vinyasa scarf. My mom bought me this for Christmas, and I wore almost every day after. It’s huge, big enough that it was used as a blanket on overnight bus rides through Asia, not to mention well made and very soft. I have it in the grey striped version which isn’t online anymore.

Rainbow Rowell. I read all of her novels the year I was 23, starting with Eleanor & Park, which is just wonderful. Actually all of her books are wonderful whether they’re classified as YA or adult (she has two of each). They’re all beautiful, poignant, and real.

23 Things >> Life In Limbo

Kimchi bokkeumbap. The second kimchi-related thing on the list! I did eat my weight in kimchi this year, it’s the best. Kimchi bokkeumbap is basically kimchi fried rice and you can get it at any “Korean diner” – restaurants with orange signs that look just like this and all have the same menu – for about $5 Canadian. It comes in a huge portion with an egg on top and is a delicious thing to eat for lunch.

Fitbit. At the time of this writing I have stopped using my Fitbit, but I was pretty consistent with it while I was 23. It’s basically a fancy pedometer, but it works well and is helpful especially if me you’re wildly inaccurate in your estimates of how much you move throughout the day. I have the Fitbit Flex which I used daily to make sure I got 10,000 or more steps per day. I didn’t hit it every day, but it was a great motivation to get me moving more and taking more walks than I normally would (that said, I would also occasionally run in place in front of a TV show if I still had a couple thousand steps to go but was too lazy to go outside).

Morning pages. This is an exercise I’d done before way back in early 2012 using the website 750words, and picked up again in September of last year. I wrote in detail about how I was doing my words every morning right here, and we recorded a podcast episode on morning pages here. I’ve been meaning to pick this habit back up since I got back home from travelling because it’s such a great way to clear out all the muck and worries and anxiety that build up in my head.

My seasonal videos. I am beyond happy I decided to make a video for each season of my year away in Korea. I can’t emphasize enough how happy they make me, and how beautifully they capture a very special year of my life. I never get every gorgeous moment, but having even any of the gorgeous moments preserved on film is really such a privilege. They just make me feel so blessed now, so I can’t imagine how I’ll feel about them in 5 years, or 20 or 50. You can watch all of them here.

LASIK eye surgery. Hallelujah. I have always had extremely poor vision and have worn glasses or contacts for as long as I can remember. Until one day I walked into a Korean eye clinic for a consult and walked out with perfect vision! I won’t lie, sometimes I take it for granted now that I have excellent vision (without contacts! what a miracle!) but every time I remember, I just feel so incredibly grateful. I personally think perfect vision is a privilege everyone should experience, but since it’s not I feel lucky I could take advantage of the lower prices and get it done in Korea. You can read more about my experience here.

“My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me. ” -Imam Al Shafi’i. I read this quote for the first time in Thrive, and proceeded to write it everywhere, including on this free wallpaper I made. It just resonated with me so strongly, even though (or especially?) because I’m not a person who has very strong faith most of the time. It’s really guided me and stayed with me throughout the year.

Honorable mentions: jimjilbangs and the ocean.

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I’ll be honest, when I first found the draft of this list of 23 things (like, a week ago), I thought it would be silly to type it all up and post it all these months later. Now that I’ve done it though, I’m reminded of why I write this blog: I write to pay attention to my life. I blog to document all the big and little things that make my life special, lovely, and all mine. And writing it out, even five months late, is such a wonderful exercise in noticing, appreciating and loving the experiences I’ve been blessed enough to have. (Note to self: notice more often and take more pictures of your everyday life!)

I’ve been doing this exercise for the last few years. Here are my 23 moments, 22 moments, 22 things, 21 moments, and 21 things.

Book Club: March, April & May

Book Club March, April and May >> Life In Limbo

This year, every few months I am choosing the books that inspired me or spoke to me the most, and sharing a little bit about them here on the blog. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile!

I’m playing a bit of catch-up, because I was travelling from March to late July of this year. You can see my favourite books from June and July here.

1. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I adored this book. I had liked Amy in a vague way before reading this (note: but I had never seen Parks & Recreation!), but afterwards I not only loved her, but I admired her and respected her for her wisdom and grace. She is a smart, down-to-earth, beautiful soul who has so much great advice to share with us. This advice includes the Mantra Of 2015 (“Good for her, not for me”), and this: “Ambivalence is key. You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.”

2. Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart by Mark Epstein

I read this after it was recommended in 10% Happier (a book about meditation). Going to Pieces is an introduction to zen Buddhism mixed with Western psychotherapy, so it talks a lot about the practice of non-attachment and letting go. All these months later I don’t remember many specifics from the book, but I remember really liking it (and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads!). I liked that it laid out Buddhist principles in a simple way and that the author was honest about experiences from his own life, including the ones at 10 day silent meditation retreats.

3. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I remember reading this on my phone from the Kindle app on a park bench in Bangkok’s Lumphini Park. I read it quickly, and enjoyed the basic premise: less but better. It’s geared more towards work situations (taking on fewer, better projects) than possessions, but the basic principles are pretty universal. I found it refreshing to read sentences like “I can’t have it all or do it all”, “Only a few things really matter”, and “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will”. I always like to be reminded of these kinds of important ideas so I can be more intentional in my life, so for that reason I liked the book a lot.

4. In The Woods by Tana French

I don’t usually read murder mysteries, but this book blew me away. I picked up my copy from a book exchange at a cute little restaurant on Koh Chang, brought it along with me to Koh Mak, and promptly devoured it in about a day. It’s relatively long, but is the very definition of a page turner and goes by so quickly. I found it to be creepy, compelling, and very readable. I loved watching the mystery get solved step by step, and the behind-the-scenes look at a police investigation. Based on this book, I am currently reading her Faithful Place and a couple weeks ago I tore through Broken Harbour.

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You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

Book Club: June & July

Book Club: June & July >> Life In Limbo

This year, every few months I am choosing the books that inspired me or spoke to me the most, and sharing a little bit about them here on the blog. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile!

These two months were pretty intense: I was doing my yoga teacher training in wild, wonderful, crazy India, and then I was home with my family again relaxing after a year and a half away. I didn’t do quite as much reading as I normally do but I read some excellent books.

1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This was an amazing book. It was recommended to me by my friend Dylan, who gushed about it and said it was one of the best books he’d read in a very long time. I’d have to agree with him: it is beautifully written, very evocative, and emotional. At its core it is a soaring story of love lost and found, but it also manages to be educational in a vivid way. The book’s protagonist is a young woman who grew up in Nigeria and later moved to the United States. It was fascinating to read about her perspective on the cultural similarities and differences between Africans and African-Americans, and learn more about each. I felt like I walked away more well-informed.

2. Self-Help by Lorrie Moore

To be perfectly honest, at the time of this writing I don’t remember many of the individual stories from this collection BUT I have a feeling they’re the kind of stories that will come back to me at (seemingly) random moments or occur to me as I’m working through some kind of personal problem. This was my first time reading Lorrie Moore – this book was recommended by the blog Cup of Jo – and I really enjoyed her writing. A lot of the stories are written in a “how-to” style (hence the title) that I found very poignant, they were about dark topics but very funny, and most of them were very relatable.

3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

At first I didn’t like this book (that I’ve been hearing amazing things about for years) because it was 700 pages long and it felt a little slow, but then I realized that I was incapable of putting it down. I liked the main character’s personality (read: irreverence, temper and sense of humour) and I liked the love story too. At times it felt a little predictable, in that it had every imaginable situation for that particular time period (witches being burnt at the stake! a prison break! recuperation at a French monastery!), but I ended up thoroughly enjoying myself the whole time. It went by quickly, and I think I’ll definitely read the next one in the series.

4. Present Moment, Wonderful Moment by Thich Nhat Hanh

This is a very short book whose subtitle is “mindfulness verses for everyday living”. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a collection of little verses (called “gathas”) to recite silently as you go through your day-to-day activities such as eating, washing dishes, driving. They each come with a little explanation of the purpose of the verse, and sprinkled throughout are tidbits about mindfulness and Buddhism, explained in an accessible and loving way. We found this book in a tiny bookstore in India and it came at exactly the right time. One of my favourites is the title gatha: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Breathing in, I am in the present moment. Breathing out, I know that it is a wonderful moment.”

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You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

Two Websites for Booking Cheap Flights

How to Book Cheap Flights >> Life In Limbo

With only a month and a half left in Korea, I’m currently in prime travel-planning mode! I am very inspired by gurus like Nomadic Matt and Chris Guillebeau for travel-hacking and am always trying to learn from them as much as I can, but I’m definitely not at their level yet. That being said, I have discovered these two great websites that are helping me book cheaper travel recently.

Cheapoair

How to Book Cheap Flights >> Life In Limbo

This website is awesome for a couple of reasons. My favourite feature is that they offer a “round-trip” search option that is actually a multi-city search. This means you can search for a one-way flight that stops somewhere else along the way, without paying more. Obviously this won’t be helpful for every kind of trip or travel plan, but if you’re looking at more long-term travel and one-way flights, this can be an awesome tool.

I’ll give you an example. When I booked my flight home from Asia to Toronto, I wound up booking a flight from Bangkok to New Delhi, with a “layover” for 6 weeks in New Delhi for my yoga teacher training, and then a flight from New Delhi to Toronto, all for the price of a flight from only New Delhi to Toronto on other search engines, or about $700 USD. Considering that a flight from Bangkok to New Delhi is about $150, I am saving at least that much overall.

I will say that in my experience there are a couple of downsides to this website. First, you sometimes have to do a lot of trial-and-error searches to find out which routes and airports will be cheapest for you. Second, I’ve had to make minor changes in my itinerary twice due to changes to my flights made by the airline, which is obviously not Cheapoair’s fault. Both times, Cheapoair let me know, sent me an email, and made it easy for me to switch to a different flight with only about an hour’s difference from my original itinerary.

Momondo

How to Book Cheap Flights >> Life In Limbo

I absolutely love this flight search engine. It is modern, well-designed, clear, and easy to use with a lot of awesome features.

The best feature is their rating system for flights, where they compare price vs. flight length (including the number of layovers) and give you an overall rating out of 10 for any particular flight path.

There are lots of other features that I love as well. They show great graphs of price fluctuations for different days of the week and times of the year so you can more easily choose a cheap flight. They source flights from almost every airline, even the small budget airlines that don’t always come up in engines like Kayak (a site I also love, by the way!). When I booked my flight out of Korea, Momondo showed me a flight on Jejuair, a tiny airline that surprisingly cheaply flies direct to Bangkok from Busan every night.

One thing I will say is that I have found that on their app (which is just as easy to use!), I am not always able to find the same flight prices as I can on the website using my computer. They seem to be higher in general on the app than they are on the website, I’m not sure why.

AirAsia ASEAN Pass

This is something I’m still looking into right now, but it looks incredibly promising for travel within Southeast Asia specifically. You can buy 10 flights for a period of 30 days for only about $167 USD total – yes, for all 10 flights, plus some airport taxes. These flights go between the major cities on Air Asia’s routes, including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Laos. It’s a really exciting idea and seems like a really affordable way to make the most of your travel time without spending a lot of money.

Are there any websites you use to book cheap flights? What’s your favourite website for booking travel in general?