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travel

Fasten Your Seatbelt for Take Off: China Edition

Am I the only one who gets super stressed out before traveling? Others in my position would probably get super excited, but I get overwhelmed with packing, getting transportation to the airport, and thinking about what’s to come, that I actually get really wrapped up in my head. With that being said, when I get to my seat on the airplane, the anxiety flushes my body; I can’t help myself but smile when I hear, “Flight crew, please prepare for take off…” It’s now time for you to fasten YOUR seatbelt because I’m about to take you through my China adventures!

For my China trip, I was more excited than ever when I heard the pilot ask his flight crew to prepare for take off. If you’ve ever flown out of John F. Kennedy International Airport, you know how busy it can be. My flight taxied on the runway for about 2 hours before taking off. Although this time felt like forever, it built my excitement for the journey awaiting. Nothing was stopping my mind from wandering the realm of possibilities the next 10 days had to offer me… well… except for the BABY CRYING FOR A MAJORITY OF THE FLIGHT!

Anyways, after 16-hours on the plane, I made it to Beijing International Airport on my final straw of patience. I, along with my fellow chaperones (a.k.ak my travel family), gathered the our group of students and headed towards passport control and baggage claim. I stood in line skimming through my passport, reminiscing on my experiences around the world, and getting excited for what was to come. The whole group made it successfully to baggage claim, although not all of our luggage did. After figuring out the missing suitcase problem, it was time to get on with the adventure!

We made our way towards the coach (bus) and met up with our ACIS Educational Tour Tour Guide, Jack. He is native to China and his excitement to show us his beloved country instantly dispelled my crackiness from the 16-hour restless sleep with the baby wailing in front of me. I was finally in China.

So, I can’t really complain too much about the restless flight. On previous trips I’ve been on, our flights got in rather early in the day. This basically means we were getting off a long flight to start a 10-hour day of touring and exploring. On this trip, however, we got there pretty late, so it was straight to the hotel for some well-deserved sleep in a bed.

8-hours of restless sleep later…

GOOD MORNING, CHINA! I’m literally not even going to try to explain the feeling after waking up the first day in a new country. It’s the first time I’m feeling stress-free and ecstatic for this trip. I pack up my backpack of things I need for the whole day and head to breakfast with one of my travel family members, Alicia. After catching up, we made sure all of the students were ready to go and got on the coach to our first stop… Tai Chi!

Me and Dylan doing Tai Chi in Beijing, China

Okay, so if you haven’t watched the video at the top, you should totally do so to get a better sense of my experience doing Tai Chi. A local taught us some moves, but my favorite part of this was watching him demonstrate the moves on people within our group. I tell you to watch the video mainly to hear my crack up literally everytime he showed a move.

The Summer Palace in Beijing, China.

After the giggling simmered down and we did some grounding meditation exercises, we got up-close-and-personal with the Summer Palace. The details were immaculate! After spending some time admiring the Palace, we headed towards Tiananment Square to take a walk through the Forbidden City. How cool does that sound?!

The entrance to The Forbidden City in Beijing, China.

The Forbidden City was the imperial palace in China for 492 years. After finishing construction in 1420, during the Ming Dynasty, 24 emporers resided in the palace. In fact, it is the largest imperial palace in the world containing 980 building and over 8,700 rooms. The whole palace is surrounded by a moat which makes The Forbidden City feel like you’re in a whole different world. If you ever get the chance to go to Beijing, definitely make your way to view this insane palace!

A statue inside of The Forbidden City.

To finish our day off, we had a pecking duck dinner. One of my favorite things about traveling is trying new foods and immersing myself in the culture through cuisine. So pecking duck is a traditional Chinese dish that has been prepared since the imperial era. Part of the dining experience involves the chef slicing the cooked duck in front of the diners. This wasn’t the only entertainment we got for the evening – we also received a private Bian lian performance.

Me getting a picture with the Bian lian performer.

The dancer in me was stoked about this! Bian lian is a dramatic Chinese dance performed with ornate and colorful costumes. Throughout the performance, the dancer switches through 10-20+ masks at the blink of an eye. The secret to changing masks has been passed down from performer-to-performer since it originated, therefore, the secret is still unknown to anyone who hasn’t trained to perform it. It’s like one of the longest running secrets ever. Take a look at the end of the video above to see what I’m talking about!

After dinner, we returned back to the hotel to rest up for another day of adventure in China!


If you made it to this point of my post, thank you so much for taking the time to read about my first day exploring China! Be sure to follow me on social media by clicking on the buttons below to take a deeper look into my life and experiences.

If you enjoyed reading this, please leave a comment! Have you ever thought about visiting China? Have you been to China, and if so, what was your favorite adventure? I look forward to reading your experiences.

Categories
travel

Isolating Myself | A Meditation Practice I Do Often

As I travel the world, or simply take leaps of faith with my career, I like to take the time to isolate myself from the world. I find a quiet place and I try to be as in-the-moment as possible. This includes asking myself:

Where am I right this second?

How am I feeling right now?

What am I doing with my life currently?

What are my plans for the next couple of days?

What are my plans for the next couple of months?

Where do I want to be in a year from now?

I do this alone so I don’t feel pressured to answer these questions with someone or something else in mind. I try to isolate myself so I can make some pretty overwhelming realizations and begin planning my next steps to a brighter future.


While I was pushing myself to climb up the Great Wall of China, I found a little window where I could sit and just think about my life. While doing so, I took the moment to talk to myself (well technically my GoPro) about why I isolate myself often, especially when traveling, and what it does for me. Check out the short video below of this little talk I had with myself:

(It’s a bit hard to hear with the wind overpowering my voice, so I have transcribed it. Click on the CC button to turn on the subtitles, or follow along below)

“Everytime I travel I like to take time alone and just like think, and breathe, and be in the moment. I try to like appreciate what I am doing and where I am at. So right now I am sitting on the Great Wall of China and just looking out. Appreciating everything I’ve done so far and it about to happen. And appreciating this opportunity that I get (to travel annually). So, yeah, I like that alone time when I travel just because it gives me that inner perspective and spiritual cleanse, I guess I’d say. So that’s what I’m doing right now. Yeah, I think it’s important to take that time and everything to do what you want or take that time alone. Some days I take that time alone to sit and just talk and be by yourself and everything. I feel like we’re caught up in this world where we’re constantly surrounded by people, even if we’re not physically not with them, but because of our phones, everything where we get to be connected to everyone. I like these opportunities to kind of disconnect from everything and just be with the world and with myself and clear some things up in my head.”


Do you meditate at all? If so, how do you do it? I’d love to hear how most of you take time out of your day to live in the moment.


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travel

South Africa (Day 1)

Typically, 5:45 am is not my favorite time to wake up.  I’m just completing three hours of sleep when my iPhone alarm goes off and I force my eyes open.  I stretch for a second and turn to see my packed suitcase just a few feet from the door.  This only means one thing… it’s travel day.

As I’m driving to my parent’s house, my boyfriend, Brandon, and I are pretty quiet.  First of all, it is 6:15 am.  Secondly, I don’t even know what to say.  There are so many thoughts going through my head.  What is Cape Town like?  How close am I going to get to a lion?  Ugh, a 14 hour flight followed by another two hour flight.  My mind rambles as much as it can for having only three hours of rest.

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“Have the bestest time ever!” my mom yells in my ear as I’m getting set to board the bus to depart for John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.  I hug and kiss her goodbye and tell her, “I love you.”  I do the same to Brandon and step on the bus to begin my adventure.

The hustle of JFK Airport starts to fuel my excitement.  Everyone is scattering to find where they have to check-in.  Everyone is rummaging through their bags for their boarding passes and passports.  Everyone is going somewhere different in this gigantic world.

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I double check that my ACIS Educational Tours luggage tag is fastened to my suitcase before putting it on the scale to be weighed.  Yes!  It’s not overweight!  I scurry over to Wendy Way, my travel guru and tour leader, after I’ve completely checked-in.  She tells me that the flight is delayed two hours.  Oh well, South Africa isn’t going anywhere.

The whole group successfully makes it through security and to the gate.  We have some time, so we disperse to find a snack before we embark on 17 hour expedition to Cape Town, South Africa.  As time creeps closer to boarding time, I feel the grip of excitement around my heart getting tighter and tighter.  It isn’t until the flight attendant says, “thank you, enjoy your flight,” after I hand her my boarding pass that I feel the relief in my chest – I’m on my way to South Africa!

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With two flights down, one connection complete, and 17 hours since we took off from John F. Kennedy Airport, we have finally made it to Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa.

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A huge weight is lifted from my shoulder as I see my suitcase turn the corner of the carousel.  I use all of the energy I have remaining after the long travel to pick it up and wheel it away from the crowd.  I open it, grab a change of clothes along with my contacts, and run to the bathroom.  After the change, I feel refreshed and recharged.  I’m ready to start exploring Cape Town, South Africa.

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Our first stop, Table Top Aerial cableway to the top of Table Top Mountain (one of the new seven wonders of the world).  Our whole group crowds into one car (34 people plus other adventurers trying to get to the top of Table Top Mountain).  The five minute journey embarks.  To my surprise, about 30 seconds into the trip, the floor begins to rotate!  As we climb up the 1,089 meter mountain, the car makes a 360 degree rotation.  My breathe is sucked out of me as we reach the top and I can see various mountains and waters surrounding the beautiful town of Cape Town.

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I wish I could put the feeling of exploring Table Top Mountain into words better.  After breathing recycled air in the airplane for so many hours, my lungs open widely when I inhale as I looked out into the Atlantic Ocean.  My chest became lighter and I felt so small.

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After the ride to the bottom of the mountain and a short bus ride, we were finally at Meloncino.  YES!  A meal that wasn’t airplane food… finally.  My friend and I (we’re both 21 years old) shared a bottle of Pinotage with our incredible dinner.  I had Yellow Tail fish over rice.  Amazing.

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As dinner came to a close, I found my mind beginning to fog.  At this point, it had been many hours of restless flying and exploring.  I was beat.  We all piled back onto the bus and fought to stay awake until we arrived at the Sunsquare Cape Town Hotel.  We got our keys after a slight speed bump in rooming assignments and off to bed I went.  Until tomorrow, Cape Town, South Africa.

 


 

To see the highlight video of the day, click here!

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