Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tips for moving to another city

Moving to an unfamiliar city with no family and friends is tough.  I'm not going to lie.  Here's a few tips to meet people:

  • Live with roommates will help expand your social network fast.
  • Join a few sport league is one of the best ways to meet people.
  • Why not volunteer?
  • Find a book club to join
  • Talk to random people at coffee shop
  • Try
  • Crash parties
  • Plenty of fish might be my last resort

Why backpacking?

Time to think and meet a vast mix of people you will never meet at home.  Backpacking usually is longer in duration.  Depending on what time of backpacker you are, usually you will have more time to stay in a city, to interact with people, and to explore the city yourself.

After every trip, I learned something different.  During your normal day-to-day life at home, there's just no time and space for me to think about important but not urgent matters.  Being in a totally unfamiliar environment, having the luxry of time, and hearing thoughts and stories from other backpackers with different background and history breed the perfect environment to think.  The feeling is like someone open up the box that I was in.  All of a sudden, I have a lot more space and options.  
Stereotypically, my first trip was in 2005 when I was in my third year going to Europe.  It was a threesome girlfriends trip.  The trip opened my eyes up that there's so much more out there than I realized.  I learned there're different ways people can live their lives and that I have choice to choose what suit me most.

My second trip was in 2006.  It was a girlfriend-boyfriend trip to Thailand and China.  I realized and finally admit what works for me in a relationship was not what I was getting.  I learned to let go when you tried and things didn't work out.

Solo to Eastern Australia in 2007 was my third trip. I met so many solo backpackers from all over the world.  Solo backpacking is one of the most amazing thing I discovered.  You don't have anyone to social with so you are forced to meet and talk to people.  From this trip, I learned that everyone has a story behind them.  All of us are trying hard to live our lives to the fullest.  There's always a reaons behind people's action that make perfect sense to them.  Be open and listen.  There's more than one way of living and thinking.  Yours might not necessary be the best way.

My recent trip to South America was by far the best ever.  Life just keep getting better and more adventurous.  It was a threesome co-ed trip with 2 other a friend of a friend of a friend friends.  Random, exciting and totally AWESOME.  Backpacking gives me a strong feeling of "I'm alive".  This trip helped me put my life into perspective.  I learned to live in the moment - not the past or the future.  Life is to be enjoyed and should be filled with passion.  There's always a trade off - what will you get and what are you willing to give up.  My priority became a lot clearer after this amazing trip.

That's why I love backpacking....

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What are my Fav Advertisements?!

What commercials do people still talk about it after.....20+ years?

  • Apple 1984 - One and only one time aired & people still talk about it. Who beats that?
Cool Stuff
  • Tourism Queensland Australia Best Job in the World - Pretty damn good when you get loads of free PR, 19,900 YouTube about it, 35,000 applicants, 400,000 new visitors to your website and worldwide people are talking about it. Best value tourism campaign perhaps, agreed? Viral campaign hitting the right spot.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Can Women Have It All?

"It is so much harder to achieve what you want once you have kids." Sounds familiar?  I hear that a lot at work.  It is inevitable as a young women to wonder how difficult it is to start a family while still want to achieve something big in their career.  It was horrifying to hear your mentor telling you, "you can't have it all kiddo."  Does it mean that you can't have a family if you want to climb up that corporate ladder?  Even when I do have a family, does it make me a bad mother when I choose to put more focus in my career?  How would being away for 9-months to have my baby impact my caeer?  Do I have to find a partner who is willing to be a stay-at-home dad?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Planning is not just for work

Coming out of school and have been working for 2 years now.  I no longer have cirriculum to follow.  It is no longer the case that if you do X, you get an A.  In life, I can't seperate my career/working goal with my personal life as easily as when I was in school.  

All of a sudden, I realize it is all about what I want.  The first step to be successful can be as easy as deciding that you want to be successful.  Then, make a feasible plan with lots of help.  Coincidentally as I am thinking about this, a good friend at work send me info on developing personal life time goal -

I do agree with Ben Franklin (1706 - 1790): "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

Can I do it?

Climbing taught me a lot of non-physical lessons.  Sounds a bit odd? 

One thing I learned is fear can be people’s biggest enemy.  Most of the time, people have the capabilities to achieve whatever the thing is that they want.  However, it is the fear of failure, fear of XYZ that holds a lot of people back.  Knowing to manage your fear can be the key to success.   Wining the mind battle can be 50% of winning the game.  

Climbing is awesome because……

What I love rock climbing so much is it is not just a physical exercise.  You work on your mind as well.  

Physically, I learn so much more about talking and listening to my body.  I didn’t know I can use my body the way I’m after I got into climbing.  You don’t just use your limbs; you engage other parts of your body as a team to achieve a movement you want.   For example, when I was really fit, I can hang my whole body weight with my one finger.  It sounds crazy but I don’t just use my finger.  I use my abs, my back, a bunch of other muscle to positioning my body to minimize work on my finger.

Psychologically, you’re consistently playing with your mind.  What I found is, most of the time, whether you are able to complete a route/climb is determined by your mind.  When I first started climbing, my friend, Dave, always told me (which I didn’t understand at that time), “Jo, you have to be committed to do the climb.  You are physically capable.”   There’re lots of psyching up involve.  Then, just go for it.  After a while, you become strong in your mind and know how to manage the fear.  It is all in your head.

Climbing, unlike a lot of other sports, it is a competition to you, not others.  Every climb, you are stretching your own limit.  You don’t need to compare/compete with others.

Climbing involves consistent decision making and problem solving, especially outdoor climbing – it could be a decision of your life.  Every move you need to plan, and you need to make a best decision for yourself at that time regardless of whether it is not to kill yourself, to complete the route or to try things out.  There’s also no one right way of tackling a problem.  It is not like it is the only way to finish a problem/climb this way.  Depending on the problem, your body shape, how fit you are and what you like, there could be hundreds of ways to solve a climbing problem.  I love it.

Why people grew to like Red Wine?

In a documentary I’ve watched, I’ve heard the first time that human taste buds get less sensitive as time pass.  My taste changes multiple time over the years.  This got me in thinking.  From my conversations with friends around my age, most of them prefer white wine over red wine.  Only in the pst year that I start drinking red wine that is not full body, such as Malbec.  I notice that more mature people prefer red wine over white wine.  Age seems to be a factor to people’s wine preference.  This information makes this observatioin in perfect sense.


Younger taste buds are more sensitive.  Mild taste of white wine is already enough to stimulate the sesenses.  As the taste buds got dull and less sensitive, we need stronger and fuller wine to have the equivalent stimulation.  Hence, as we mature, we grew to appreciate red wine.

Keep your day-to-day life as your travelling days

During one of my hours on a 36 hours bus ride to El Calafate in Argentina, my travelling buddies and me discuss how do we get back to our “routine” day-to-day life.  After a long backpacking trip like this with action packed activities day-after-day, going back home would be a big adjustment I’m definitely not looking forward to.   


Being used to be on the road for a few months in combination of temporarily moving to Toronto and this out-of-the-blue backpacking trip to South America, I’m not so sure whether this “on-the-road” life is my normal life.  It would be pretty sweet to have this exciting and ever changing life style.  Does normal life has to be routine and boring as I used to believe?  Can my life be action packed, fill with passion and overflow with surprises?  Why not?  I wish I could travel 365 days a year but, realistically, I can’t.  Then, how do I keep my every life like my travelling days? 


Side note.  One of he reasons I think that most people, including me, think “normal’ or day-to-day life is boring.  I believe everything is possible.  Don’t let other’s “that’s not going to work” or “your can’t have it all” to stop you from chasing after what you truly want and believe in is one big lesson I’ve learned.  People are generally afraid of things that are different from what they are familiar with as feeling that they are belong and blend in make them feel secure.  When someone tries to do something different, they will tend to discourage them because they are uncomfortable of difference but not that whatever your idea is does not work.  Most of the time!


Explore your city as you will travelling to a foreign one

The first thing is to figure what you want.  Then, believe that you can make it happen.  There are so much to do and so much to see in your own city.   Most people just don’t explore their own city.  Foreign cities always trigger higher curiosity out of people.  I don’ know how many times I got commented or I commented other that “I can’t believe you haven’t been to XYZ place after you’ve living here for X years!”. 


  1. Check out the tourism site of your city.  Plan to visit these places on your weekends. 
  2. Stop going to the same restaurant week after week.  Pick up a magazine on the hottest restaurants in your city.  Try them out.
  3. ask your co-worker what do they do and try them out.  Shake up your routine life.  Live someone’s else for a weekend might be interesting.
  4. What outdoor stuff do your tourism office promote about your city or cities around you.  Do them.  You might be surprise what your city has o offer.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ability to Be Curious and Ask Questions.

It is great to have young people and have fresh ideas. I heard that a lot when I just started working everytime I join a new team. Then it would cross my mind, "Well, I am a fresh grad. I don't know much and am here to learn. I'm sure you have a lot more capable people with experience working here. I certainly hope you do as that's the reason why I'm here."

As I worked a bit longer, I soon realize that as you work in the same place for a while, it is hard to maintain your ability to question things. You will start taking things for granted and accept the way things are.

It is such a simple skill but so important. Asking questions allows you to uncover new ideas, make improvements, and better your planning. However, isn't it sad that a lot of people loose their ability to ask questions as they grew older.

After learning about this, I, then, started to observe people around me in their ability to ask questions. I found that people who are successful at the place where I work all hard questions. They can absorb information on the spot, analyze them critically, and ask critical questions. That's why they are being paid the big bucks. If it is true, everyone of us has the ability to do so as we learned how to ask questions when we were in grade school.

Wouldn't it be so boring if you lose your curiosity, ability to ask question, and accept the world the way it is? But, what's the best way to preserve your ability to ask question?

What do you get out of your backpacking trip?

It is the second most commonly asked question from friends, co-workers and family following "How was your trip? Was it fun?". Backpacking is so great for me because I get exposure to new things at a down-to-earth level, unlike traveling with arranged tours. I got interaction with locals, learn about their lives, their day-to-day personal challenges, and their culture. Seeing how others live their life, and how their culture, attitude, and thoughts are differed from mine keeps me from being content blindly to a life I am comfortable with. It also exposes me to options how I can choose to live my life more fully and happily.

A lot of people I observed are so busy living their life through different life stage that they don't take the time to ask themselves important questions. During different life stage, we will have different needs and wants. What make us happy when we were 16 might not do it when we are 25. At least that's what I found. I found it is awfully important to keep asking yourself questions.

After I finished school and started to work, no one tells you what you need to do anymore. I can do and accomplish anything I want as long as I want it. At first, it felt great to have this sense of freedom and confident. However, I soon found out that I don't know what I want. Some people in their 20s or even 30s never ask themselves what do they want. They set their goals base on what the society or the "Norm" consider successful or the right thing to do. This going with the flow approach to live life is not my thing. I think not asking yourself what you want and spend time to reflect early in your life ( should ask your self every now and then as what you are looking will likely change over time) would eventually get you lost your direction. You will eventually search your purpose of living. If your base of doing what ever you are doing is on what the Norm of the society does and is not our of your own need, your fundamental drive is flawed. You do all these to accomplish "your goals" because this is what other people think is the right thing to do may not satisfy your needs that you never take the time to uncover.

Backpacking gives me the space and time to reflect and explore myself. I remove myself from my comfort zone, all the distractions and excuses that hinder me from seeing what's truly important. By being in a unfamiliar environment, you will be more observant; you will notice things that you missed out in your familiar environment; you will see and listen to things you don't have time to be aware of. Truly questions that are important to you and answers from your heart will come to you. That's what I like about backpacking. Everytime, I grew.

The effect of my backpacking trip don't usually come until after I come back home. Sometimes I come home with answers. Other times, I come home with questions. No matter what, backpacking brings me closer to myself. It is a weird statement but there are so much I don't know about myself. it is funny how we can suppress ourselves from talking and we got so used to it that who we think we are are not we who truly are but it is the self that we think we should be.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Argentina: Steak and Wine Indulgence

Argentina is heaven if you LOVE meat, specifically beef. From the quality, and variety of meat, the knowledge of local Argentinian in selecting and cooking their piece of meat to perfection, to the variety of compliments for their steak and Argentinian BBQ sauce that supplement the steak and enhance its taste.

Restaurants I've been and recommend.

La Cabrera (Palermo)

Fantastic restaurant if you want to treat yourself with a delicious meal and have a fantastic time with your friends/travel mates. The service was great and you won't believe the variety of supplements that comes with the piece of steak you order. To be honest, I have better steak but the experience was worth every penny.
Avg spending: $100 p include wine

On Defensa - I'm trying to remember the name (San Telmo)
Great value. ONLY for Asado. The other steak were not cook with skill. Service wasn't great. It is a popular and busy place.
Avg spending: $20 p include beer

Know your meat:

Asado de Tira - BBQ beef ribs (so good.....)
Bife De Chorizo - If you are looking for the best steak on the menu, go for this. There's another version with fat but I can't remember what they call it in Spanish.
Ojo De Bife
Bife De Pobre (?) - Poor Man's Beef.

I don't know why Argentinian love to cut their meat to very thin piece in the super market and in most of the resturant. Unlike the big thick piece of beef we are accustom to in North America. We have to go through so much trouble to tell them to cut us bigger piece when we cook on our own in hostels (which is often the case...we rather spent moreo on the beef). On avg., for 3 piece of reg 10 oz T-bone steak, it cost $20 p in total.

Buenos Aires

Option Beside Hostels

2/3 Stars Hotels
When I want to travel cheap, logically hostels would be the option that pop up to mind. However, when traveling with 3 or more people, 2-3 stars hotels might work out to be cheaper.

Vacation Rental
The price was RIDICULOUS! During Carnival, when we checked 4 months before we planned to arrive at Rio, a lot of the Hostels with cheaper rate were all booked up. The cheapest rate I found was $75 US per person per night. In South America, $75 US per person per night!!!!! Outrageous.

I started looking alternate options. I checked craiglist, vacation home websites etc. I was a bit skeptical in the beginning when I email to inquire. Plus, I heard a lot of scams renting from these sources. We found a few great rentals with reasonable prices on Vaction Rental website

I rented from Carlos (owner of Property #30705). He and his family was fantastic. Beside the place was comfortable (with clean bathroom, furnished kitchen, and fridge) and as described, he provided us with a free cell phone to use (which was gave us so much convenience), his family gave us recommendation where to go and offer 24/7 help whenever we need, and his sister even took us to a concert.

The place was $800 US for 8 days during Carnaval without a/c and you need to pay $200 US deposit and get it back when you check out.

  • Don't pay cash/debit/check -If you are considering finding accomodation online, make sure you don't pay them cash/check/debit. Carlos has PayPal set up. Since credit card usually protect you from fraud if you pay with credit cards, I paid with my credit card through PayPal.
  • Ask for a receipt
  • Search online to see if there are fraud report with the website and the owner you are renting from online
  • Ask for reference
  • Call their contact to see if it exist

Though there weren't young traveller to hang out or chat with nor in-house crazy party.
It turned out to be FANTASTIC.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Where to Shop in South America: Argentina vs. Brazil Leathers

Ladies. DO NOT miss out on the Brazilian leather products. They have some HOT shoes and great purses for very economical price. I so regret that I didn't buy more pairs.

I've heard that both Argentian and Brazilian leather products are famous. From my experience, Brazilian leather products have higher quality and economical price. The purse and shoes I bought in Argentina was OK but relatively much more expensive. So, my advice is, go crazy shopping for those pumps in Brazil.

  • Dumond in Rio and Brasilia, Brazil. They got some crazy pumps. Love that shop.
  • Mr. Cat has some pretty affordable purses
Rio Shopping locations:
  • Leblon Shopping Center and around that area
  • Barra Shopping Center
Buenos Aires:
  • Pulmero District around the Soreno Plaza: funky and trendy shops

How many Sun Set did I see in South America?

Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 23, 2009

Buying South America Climbing Gear

It is very hard to find climbing gears in South America but here are a few spots. Be prepare to pay more than at home.

1) La Paz, Bolivia

2) Santiago, Chile

Rock Climbing @ South America

I regret everyday that I did not bring a climbing buddy AND my climbing shoes with me in South America. There are quite a few sweet spot for sport climbing here. Man. Buying climbing gears is NOT easy here in South America. Bring your gear my friends!

Here are a few spots I've heard so far that has pretty decent climbing.
1) Around La Paz, Bolivia
South of La Paz @ area call Mallasa (Valley Del Luna) or Madre De Dios. Local goes there. Only spot climbing. You can take the minibus there. If you don't have gear, you can pay 300 B to hire a guide with gears.

Rolando Tarqui - is the guide I went for from Elma Tour on Illampu Street North of Plaza San Francisco.

2) Around salar de atacama Area, Chile
Toconao, Chile
Socaire, Chile
Some basic bouldering and 5.9 to 5.13 spot climbing. You can find a tour from San Pedro De Antacama for 45,000 pesos.

3) Chile
The staff at Eros, where I finally bought a pair of Madrock (YEAH!!!!!!!!!!), gave me this website with lots of info on where to climb in Chile.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

South America Hostels

Cuzco, Peru

The Point
  • Party house. Lots of young folks. Friendly environment. Great for parties but not for you if you want a good rest.
La Paz, Bolivia
Hostel Austria
  • Basic lodge with kitchen and common area. Internet with decent speed for 2.5 B per hour
Potosi, Bolivia
Casona Postosi Hostel
  • Decent dorm rooms with kitchen
  • Include breakfast and with mind tour service
  • Staff aren't that nice servicing breakfast (fixed portion of breakfast and no refill coffee!!)
  • Bring oil, salt and pepper if you were to cook.
Uyuni, Bolivia

Hostel Avenida
  • 50 B per night - cheapest we can find in the area
  • Basic lodge like a motel with friendly staffs

Santiago, Chile

La Casa Roja

  • 7000 P per night
  • Great facilities (kitchen, pool, tour office, cheap and COLD beer and wine) and finally all day hot water!!!!

Altitude sickness?! :-O [Cuzco, Peru]

It was a long night at Lima Airport (5 hours overlay in the middle of the night) waiting for my flight to Cuzco. I´ve totally forgot to take the altitude sickness pills I´ve got from the Travel Clinic util I boarded my flight from Lima to Cuzco. Crossed my finger I won´t get terribly sick from the altitude jump from sea level to 3,300 m at Cuzco. It would not be pretty if I got sick and start the Inca Trail on Jan 2nd.

Thank God that the pill worked. Beside slight light-headedness and minor obstacle in breathing upon my arrival at the Cuzco Airport. I did not feel too much of a difference.

I definitely felt the effects of the elevated altitude when I climbed the stairs up to the Sacsayhuaman, Cusco. I definitely breath more rapidly to get more oxygen. Normally with this kind of "exercise", it definitely wouldn´t cause me to breath like this.
I found one good way to avoid getting sick while treking or any form of exercise in elevated areas is to make sure you make deep breath everytime you breath until your lung can´t inhale more air.

Inca Trail, Peru

Safe Drinking Water

Handheld UV Water Treatment Equipment (

A friend I met on the trip recommend this handy equipment to supply safe drinking water no matter where you go. Beside the old school iodine tablets and micro-filter, this is one of the safest and most handy piece of water treatment eqiupment that will be worth your investment if you are going to somewhere known to cause you stomach problems. Haven´t use it myself in person but these folks highly recommended it.

Peru - Inca Trail Company

Peru Trek (

There´re a lot of companies offering the traditional Inca Trail tour at Cuzco, Peru. Me and my friends went with Peru Trek. I recommend this company as oppose to others beside the smoothness of the trip because:

1) Fair porters treatment
  • All the porters were given proper gears to trek the Inca Trail that I witnessed is not standardized across all companies offering Inca Trail Tour. All porters on my tour were given proper sneakers, branded jackets, water proof tents, and other equipments. You will be surprised to find these basic needs are not being offered across the board among all of the companies offering the Inca Trail. I saw one porter even have back support equipment, which is over and above what I expected.
  • All of the porters were unionized and have life insurance (again not a standardized requirement).
2) An extra mile to keep the folks on the team healthy
  • A few folks on my tour got sick. The guide provided proper care (i.e. special made tea to help nausea and stomach problems, medicinces) to ensure the folks are healthy.
3) What´s promised was what I got.
  • There were no surprises nor extra hidden fees
When you shop around for your Inca Trail, I hope you will keep the wellfare of the porters in your mind.