Asian Women’s Empowerment: Why I’m Honored to be a Speaker

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By age six, the world’s mysteries open up and offer this pearl.

I’m a girl.

Sometimes I wear a dress that floats above my knees and lifts when a gust blows in. Or at times I play with dolls. Or god forbid, mommy combs my hair vigorously, then tightens two clumps of hair on either side of my head to create pigtails. And the ribbons, she never forgets those. I’m told to never talk to strange people. It’s unclear how that word translates into the crosswalk patrol near my elementary school, or my first grade teacher who smells of stale cheese and wears coke bottle glasses. I chalk up “strange” to mean people with goitres, maybe some other unspeakable deformity that will terrify me.

More rules follow when I’m twelve. Don’t wear such a tiny shirt. Cover up. Ooh, those jeans are all wrong. We have to fit you for a bra or everyone will notice. I peer down at my chest. Notice what? That I breathe? Exist? I begin slouching, caving my torso in on itself. It seems to work, people notice me less.

At fourteen, things turn surreal. You know, you and your people. I snap my head around to see who else is with me. Nobody.  “My people” begins to form shape: dark hair, flat nose, almond shape eyes and full lips. I seethe at my reflection, wish my face could spontaneously combust into sparkling blue eyes, regrow hair that’s golden and shiny. Boys rarely look my way. My mother nags me to stop slouching, even pressing my shoulders back with her palms. My chest disobeys.

Traveling Alone on a Budget

Guest writer Alice Flynn gives some advice to the solo female traveler on a tight budget. I ain’t gonna pull punches, as a single minus one, we get royally screwed. We always have to buy the whole chicken or fork over for double occupancy, when it’s just one bloody person. Time to balance the scales of unfair.

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Many people from all around the world decide every day to give up their day job, pack up their belongings, take only what they need and start exploring the world. Some people might spend years saving for this time so that they can experience absolutely everything at whatever cost it might be. But others set off with very little in their pockets, and many enjoy the challenge of living and travelling on very little. Here are some tips on how to travel by yourself on a budget but still have fun while doing so.

There are plenty of cheap hotels out there, but the most expensive cost you usually get as a solo traveler is the price of lodging. The price tends to dramatically drop when you have more than one person because of rates for double occupancy. It might sound a bit cheeky, but this is a common occurrence worldwide: bargain for your room or ask for a discount. Let them know that since you’re the only person staying there you’ll be using less water and less electricity, so it’ll be cheaper for them. There’s no harm in asking.

By |July 26th, 2013 |Categories: Travel Tips |3 Comments

Yunnan Road: Local Flavors Meet in Shanghai

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Brick and mortar buildings brushed with an early 20th century flair were crowded together with reflective glass facades. The sidewalk by the metro was grossly uneven, probably laid down in a rush and worn down by urban life over the years.

A long stretch of road left me feeling dwarfed, yet intrigued. Weighted down with bags, my gait was slow, a balancing act of viewing and receiving. Not a western face to be seen, but a flurry of native Chinese waiting in nonsensical lines for that day’s duck or chuànr (lamb kebabs). Steaming metal pots of huǒ guō (hot pot), cafeteria style or hearty street food became my first introduction to Yunnan Road.  With each step or turn of my head, a new sight grabbed me, until another overtook that one. This smelled like adventure.

A Shanghai excursion tends to focus on the cosmopolitan aspects of the city, like the European flair of Xintiandi or trendy Jing’an, but Yunnan Road thrusts you in the pulse of this city. The BBC describes Yunnan Road as a “mecca of delicious and authentic local food.” [1] I wholeheartedly agree, yet it’s more than that. I am completely the foreigner as I walk down a narrow street and observe a child at play, or a housewife hanging laundry from a fire escape. Even the darkened shops where purveyors sell fruit, tobacco or tools borders on the forbidden. In a perverse way, it’s being granted special access to a world that I shouldn’t be allowed to see.

What also draws me to this area is a hostel, the Shanghai Phoenix. I’ve become a creature of habit and stay there every time I visit. I’m the Norm Peterson of the Phoenix, I walk in and the staff recognizes me, accepting my clumsy Chinese and tendency to ask too many questions. It’s the only hostel on this street and that gives an advantage to the traveler, a window to that special access I just mentioned.

By |July 23rd, 2013 |Categories: Shanghai |16 Comments

Origins Story: Leaving Everything to Travel

Every person on this planet has an origins story,  reasons why things happened as they did. On my lengthy to-do list for a long time was to tell this story. If  you’re new to this website, my story might give some clue to the fabric of my being. Also on that to-do list was to finally become a member of BlogHer. This story was first published there: www.blogher.com/leaving-everything-travel. I’m proud to be part of a community that encourages women to express themselves creatively and professionally. If you’re a member of BlogHer, I’d love to engage with you there. Here’s my profile: www.blogher.com/member/nomadic-chick. Meanwhile, my origins began here…

young woman with map and backpack

When life is on course, there’s no reason to tinker with it. Not one grain of logic should shift your priorities to ruin what you’ve toiled so hard to create. There’s certainly no need to trade all your possessions for a backpack and a one-way ticket to anywhere. It wasn’t rationality that steered me to do this – but my mirror.

The day I turned thirty-eight, my hands gripped the washbasin and I studied my face. Nothing out of the ordinary, some fresh lines puckering around the eyes, a few grey hairs on my head. Yet, a reckoning had been welling in me for some time. This looking glass ceased to be a projection of my physical self, turning into a powerful oracle, splintering my facade to reveal the stinging reality. I had to admit something to myself — I was an outright failure. As a woman.

Looking back, I wish Kate Bolick had knocked on my door. Pretended to be my new neighbor, poured me a shot of Bushmill’s (for some reason, I picture us drinking single malt Irish whiskey) and clued me into the truth of an unmarried woman considered past her prime.

It’s Been 3 Years, Now What?

I’ve been so buried in my own dramas that an important date passed by me – June 6th.

Three years ago on June 6th, I closed my eyes and without a harness to pull me back, I left Canada — where I had called home for 20+ years.

I navigated blindly at first, encountering prickly problems, caressing soft, inviting places, often stumbling, yet magically ending somewhere with my feet firmly planted.

Wind-swept change. It became welded to my exoskeleton, the kind of comfortable seat one could slid onto, not feeling the sting of it.

Change can be difficult, but on June 6th, 2010, I hugged the idea that I was ready for anything — held it tightly to me and didn’t let it go.

Sure, I’ve made errors. At times sinking into dark pits of loneliness or questioning all that I gave up to live as I do.

I’ve been to 25 countries (not nearly enough!), with more on the horizon. Eaten 3,276 exotic meals. Flown on over 50 airplanes. And lived full-time in one country.

Like a survivor after a plane crash, the lucky one to thrive and continue, I stand in the wake of the last three years and ponder what’s next.

By |July 10th, 2013 |Categories: Life |41 Comments