How to Balance Blogging with a Full-time Job: Advice From the Pros (Part Two!)

How to Balance Blogging with a Full-time Job: Advice From the Pros (Part Two!)

Hey guys! So this week we have another installment of Balancing Blogging. When I initially asked for contributors I had too many for just one post- s0 here we are with part two!

As we discussed last time, balancing blogging with a full-time job is no easy feat. If you guys ever see me not post for a few weeks it’s because I’m stressed at work- sometimes I just don’t have energy for two jobs!

BALANCING-BLOGGING Image Courtesy of Sateless Suitcase


Have you always blogged and worked, or at one point did you have more time for your blog?

My blog started several years ago as a creative outlet where I really only posted every few months, and really turned into something when I spent two weeks in Israel and Palestine last Spring. I blogged while I was abroad for everyone at home, and wanted to continue writing and sharing my experiences. Since deciding to commit to my blog I have always been working full-time, and just went back to school this past fall as well.

What’s your advice on balancing blogging and a full-time job?

MAKE A SCHEDULE. I cannot emphasize this enough! When I don’t have a plan for the month I end up forgetting about it or not feeling a creative impulse and nothing is posted. It’s easy when you’ve taken a trip and have something to write about, but in between adventures can be difficult. I also joined a monthly blogger mail exchange that forces me to post at least once a month, and introduces me to new bloggers around the world! Seeing what others are posting and talking to other bloggers about their experience definitely helps.



Have you always blogged and worked, or at one point did you have more time for your blog?

I’m a workaholic. I’ve always had a full-time job and usually one or two part-time jobs on the side. For two years I worked full-time, had a part-time job, trained on average 12 hours a week for triathlons, and attended grad school full-time for my masters degree while maintaining a blog. I started my first blog a couple of years ago as a triathlon blog, which is now my website for my coaching and personal training business ( My focus over the past year has been my travel and personal finance blog. Like most people, I wish I had more time in my days to do everything on my “to-do” list, but I’m human. I’ve learned the art of time management and picking my daily priorities.

What’s your advice on balancing blogging and a full-time job?

If someone tells you it will be easy is lying to you. It’s hard. Writing quality content and editing photos takes a long time. Each post I write takes me between 1-3 hours to research, draft, and edit. That doesn’t even include the time it takes to edit photos either. I’ve become very good at time management. I’m a wee bit Type A so I’m good at organizing my life into color-coded and alphabetized calendars and “to-do” lists. My advice for bloggers with full-time jobs is to organize and plan time for your blog. I tell my personal training clients that they need to schedule their workout times and treat them as appointments. You would never miss a doctor or dentist appointment, right? Schedule time on your calendar or phone for writing and working on your blog. You don’t need to blog 5x a time. Maybe you can only post once a week. That’s cool too. Do what works for you.



Have you always blogged and worked, or at one point did you have more time for your blog?

I have had my blog for nearly 4.5 years now, so it has seen me through a lot. I have blogged while working full-time in India, while being in graduate school in the US full-time, while completing research projects in Nepal and India, and while being unemployed and desperately searching for work. Through all of that my bog has been my outlet and my constant companion, and because of that, I always make sure to give it a little time each day. I am in the process of overhauling it a bit and adding some extra features, but I’m still learning and trying to work full-time, so it’s a work in process!

What’s your advice on balancing blogging and a full-time job?

My main piece of advice would be this: Your blog has the ability to be whatever you want it to be, but it is up to you to get it there. Find the balance that suits your schedule best, and always make sure blogging is fun, not work. If you can find that balance and always keep that joy, your blog will end up being the best extension of yourself that it can be.


Have you always blogged and worked, or at one point did you have more time for your blog?

Yes, I’ve always blogged and worked. My blog is just over a year old, and from the very beginning, I thought carefully about how I was going to combine living a full life and committing whole-heartedly to a blog. I’m also married, hoping to do a Phd, and have a pre-teenager!

What’s your advice on balancing blogging and a full-time job?

  • Think carefully about how much time you can sensibly commit: I knew that I wanted to put out regular posts no matter the situation. I’m quite a busy woman and have a lot of things going on in my life and so when I write, I write once a week and I make it count. I write between 2,000 – 3,000 words. As such, I don’t need to write every day!
  • I also spread things out in reference to the season, topics, or events and my posts always come out on the same day: In my case, on Monday morning which is my peak time.
  • Be  creative with how you travel: Although I have a 30 hour a week corporate teaching job, I still managed to travel to 10 counties last year without rushing through them!
  • Use your vacation time. You’ve worked hard and you’ve earned it: I live in Europe and holiday time is generous so I use all that vacation time (6 weeks). I also use public holidays (9 days), and utilize the weekends (which are numerous).
  • Write ahead if you can: Last year, we spent a month in Asia. It was a family holiday so of course, I didn’t use family time to blog. I wrote all my posts before we went and released them on a weekly basis.
  • Focus on your present location if you can’t or are unable to travel at that time: As an expat, I get a lot of invitations based right here in my city of Berlin. There’s a lot to blog about LOL!
  • Don’t forget that it’s your blog and you can do as little or as much as you want.
  • Have fun and enjoy the ride!



Have you always blogged and worked, or at one point did you have more time for your blog?

I’ve always blogged and worked. First as a teaching assistant at a college in Japan, then as an assistant in broadcasting and now as a Public Relation professional.Advice on balancing blogging and a full-time job: Have an editorial calendar/plan, but give yourself grace when work/life gets too busy. Having a full-time job is stressful enough, don’t let your blog add to that because you’ll grow to resent it.

Thank you to all the ladies who contributed to this post! 

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Have you ever balanced blogging with au pairing, school or teaching English abroad? Email me through my contact page and we’ll talk!

A Quick but Wonderful Trip to NYC + My Favorite Boutique Hotel Ever

A Quick but Wonderful Trip to NYC + My Favorite Boutique Hotel Ever

I don’t know about you guys, but for me a comfy bed is a must after a long international flight.

Which is why I was so glad that when Amanda, Jessica and I landed in New York, we had a bed at The Library Hotel waiting for us.

I had read about The Library Hotel a while back on Young Adventuress, and flagged it for a later stay in NYC. As an avid reader, I loved the idea of a hotel made for bookworms.

The Library Hotel is quite literally a library- each floor represents one of the ten categories of the Dewey Decimal System, and each room represents a different subsect of that category. Just look at the lobby!

Library Hotel NYC

We stayed on the Math and Science floor in the Astronomy suite. Astronomy was present in every detail of the room: from the tiny statue of Galileo to the shelves full of books about journeys into space.


Astronomy aside, the room was absolutely dreamy- a spacious corner suite with a huge bathroom and softest bed ever.


Another perk at the Library Hotel is you can rent DVDs for free. So when we checked in we grabbed Lawrence of Arabia and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, inspired of course by our trip to Jordan.

Despite our best intentions, we could barely get through ten minutes of Indiana Jones before falling fast asleep.

When we finally awoke, we enjoyed a complimentary breakfast of pain au chocolat and lattes- a welcomed change from the hummus and labneh we’d eaten every morning in Jordan.

Lattes in had, we went upstairs to the rooftop to enjoy early morning in NYC and snap some photos.

Courtesy of Curiosity Travels

Courtesy of Curiosity Travels

Next, we headed to nearby Ess-a-Bagel for bagels. I go to Ess-a-Bagel every time I’m in New York because it’s SO. GOOD. We waited in line for 45 minutes (no joke), and by the time I received my bagel my hands were shaking.

But the wait was well worth it- I loved my a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese, onions, capers, cucumbers and piles of smoked salmon. Bliss.


Bellies full, we then walked over to Grand Central Station, where I attempted (and failed) to make a time-lapse video. Mainly we just stared up at the gilded ceiling.


Then it was time to say goodbye to my favorite travel buddies- so sad! They headed off to Brooklyn but I returned to my king-sized bed at the Library Hotel before flying back to Denver.

Although our stay in NYC was short it was also wonderful. And you can guess which boutique hotel I’ll be staying at upon my return.

Are you a bookworm too? Would you like to stay at the Library Hotel?

I received a complimentary stay at the Library Hotel as part of their Writers-in-Residence program. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Life at 25

Life at 25

Hey guys! So today’s my birthday- I’m 25!


As I said last year, I don’t dread getting older because I’m happy with how I’ve spent my time, and for that matter, my birthdays.

I rang in my 22nd birthday while solo-traveling in Ireland, my 23rd hosting a dinner party in Paris and my 24th at my cottage in Michigan, surrounded by family and strawberry cake.

And for my 25th, I went to Vegas for the first time- I just got home last night in fact! It turns out Vegas really is Disneyland for adults and I not-so-secretly loved it.

Looking back I’m glad I spent time building this blog; not only do I have detailed record of my early 20’s, I’ve been able to share my experiences with you guys. And you guys have been so great, providing life advice, encouragement and overall good vibes. I wouldn’t still be blogging after almost three years without you.

While I often miss the carefree backpacker lifestyle of my early 20’s, I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to carve out a settled life that feels like me: a life of wine parties, good friends and frequent camping and whitewater rafting trips.

. . . . . . . . . .

And as I do every year, I wanted to recap on the goals I set last year. Sadly I didn’t do very well.


1. Make a conscious effort to be happy and make friends wherever I move this year.

YES! I did do this. I have a great group of friends in Denver. And despite some downs and what-am-I-doing-with-my-life anxiety attacks, I’ve overall been very happy.

2. Post at least one recipe a month on this blog. I miss cooking, especially cooking French food!

Ha, no. Honestly my recipe posts received such low engagement I kind of gave up on them. But I need to cook more, even if I don’t post the recipes.

3. Stay in shape. I’d love to run my first 5K and get into pilates.

I did run a 5K last fall and tried pilates. Though honestly I didn’t stay in great shape- balancing a 9-5 and exercise is challenging. Though I have hiked and skied all year and I just joined a gym!

4. Keep up my French and Spanish. Y’all know how much I love languages.

I did okay on this. I recently started French classes at the Alliance Française which makes my language-obsessed heart so happy, but my Spanish is rusty.

5. Write handwritten thank you cards. It’s just classy.

I think I wrote like… three thank you cards? Need to work on this.

6. Get better at dancing. Perhaps belly-dancing or salsa?

Nope. Still suck at dancing.

7. Try a wreck dive. Now that I’m an Advanced Open Water diver I’d love to do this.

I unfortunately have not done a wreck dive. But I did go diving in the Red Sea in Jordan- so that’s something!


Here’s hoping I do much better with my goals at 25:

1. Visit three new American cities. I’m thinking Seattle, Portland and Austin so far.

2. Go to a big music festival like Coachella or Bonnaroo.

3. Blog once a week at MINIMUM.

4. Go on a big trip abroad!

. . . . . . . . . .

But I do have one favor to ask- let’s call it a birthday present, k? I would LOVE if you could fill out this survey to tell me how I’m doing with Ashley Abroad. I’m trying to figure out the right direction going forward and your feedback would be so helpful.

Here is the link to the Ashley Abroad reader survey– constructive feedback appreciated but please be kind!

. . . . . . . . . .

What did you guys do for your 25th birthdays? (Or your last birthday if you’re younger!)

The Ultimate Paris Packing List

The Ultimate Paris Packing List

I don’t often publish guest posts, but this one was so charming and useful I just had to share it with you guys. Here Alex from Bon Voyage Mon Chéri breaks down her Paris packing list for all those who want to look stylish in the City of Lights. Vas-y, Alex ! 

Swishing skirts, clicking heels, and chic Parisian ensembles may clash with the typical image of childcare. I would know; I changed quite a few diapers in Paris.

Paris Packing List

After living in la ville lumière for a year, I understand the irresistible urge to replicate the Parisian look. I still remember the sinking realization that every child around me had more fashionable outfits than I did. Granted, I’ve always had a “you do you” attitude. If you’d like to strut around Paris in flippers and a rainbow poncho, I commend you.

But either way, deciding on what exactly to pack for Paris can send anyone into a tailspin.

While I maintain that you should feel comfortable looking as Parisian, or as touristy, as you desire, I hope my personal mistakes and regrets help you in your packing endeavors.

So without further ado, I give you: Paris Packing Tips.


Never underestimate the power of une écharpe.

Paris Packing List

Besides being fashionable, a scarf is the most practical item you could possibly bring. With eight colorful scarves, I thought I had ever so slightly surpassed a healthy scarf limit. A little secret? Such a limit does not exist. With an array of colorful scarves, you could create brand new outfits using the same black pants and sweater.

Besides, many buildings in Paris are quite drafty. The central heating system may or may not work, and you’ll be grateful for your neck sweater.


There’s a reason why the French wear black.

My au pair mother embodied the typical Parisian when it came to her fashion sense. While I dripped in sweaty, dull sweaters from running after her adorable children all day, she appeared as an impeccable vision in black, complete with perfectly painted nails.

Very few people can replicate her effortless fashion sense, but I did pick up on some habits, including her affinity for black dresses.

Black is flattering, simple, elegant, and matches everything. My black skirts and sweaters transitioned seamlessly from work to after-work glasses of wine. Parfait.


Bring machine-washable clothes.

Paris Packing List

Machine-washable items are your friends. You may even fall in love with a dress you previously hated. [Author’s note- YES. I brought a lot of dry-clean only clothes and it was a nightmare- dry-cleaning in France costs a fortune and is a hassle. Just no.]

For example, sophomore year of high school my mother convinced me to buy a black dress I swore I’d never wear. The “boring” cotton garment hung in my closet for years, untouched and neglected. I think I once managed to spill toothpaste all over it and even then, I couldn’t care less.

Then I planned to move to Paris. The dress that had been abandoned for so long looked nearly pristine due to lack of wear. It was simple. Black. Comfortable. It matched all my scarves.

This little black dress I had once shunned became the single most important element of clothing in my Parisian wardrobe. Why? Along with its versatility, it was also machine washable. A true gift.

Regardless of what you bring, make sure you can easily store and wash your clothes. Anything else is a waste of valuable packing space.


Bring outfits, not pieces.

Before you fold and roll every last item of clothing into your bag, lay everything out, and determine which pieces work with multiple outfits. How many outfits can you make out of your bright skirt? Which sweater is comfortable enough to wear with kids? Would it also work on a date?

I’d recommend leaving behind any piece that simply doesn’t work with multiple items. My general rule is that the article (shirt, skirt, pair of pants) must work with at least three outfits, or I don’t bring it.


But bring your favorite piece.


With that said, bring that one item of clothing you know is entirely impractical, but you love nonetheless. I own this completely wild South African print, v-cut romper. It is the least work appropriate item in my closet, and certainly not black, subtle, or Parisian. But I love it. With some black tights and ankle boots, I had the perfect “going out” ensemble, and I never regretted my last minute decision to stuff it in my bag.

Some of my friends packed nothing but jeans, leggings, and sweaters, and regretted their overly practical ways.

No, don’t go overboard, but allow yourself at least something that’s undeniably “you.”


Something from home.


I suppose this tip just boils down to knowing yourself well. Some people sell everything they own to move abroad, and are happy to pack an entire life into a suitcase. Unfortunately, I was not blessed with such minimalist genes. If living in a homey space matters to you, allow yourself one tiny piece of your life.


You don’t need more than five pairs of shoes.

Actually, I’m sure some travel bloggers would balk at five, but considering I brought nine pairs of shoes to Paris (excuse me while I hide in shame), I believe five is quite an improvement.


This is what works for me:

  1. Comfortable walking boots
  2. Sneakers (mostly for exercising)
  3. Flats/walking shoes
  4. One pair of cute shoes for going out
  5. Sandals (if you’re planning on staying through the summer)

*Some people bring flip-flops for hostel showers, but they’re generally cheap, so I’d suggest buying a pair once you’re set up in your new home.


Don’t forget your bathrobe.

My petite chambre de bonne barely fit my bed, let alone a shower. Instead, I shared une douche with a couple of neighbors. The shower lacked sufficient space to store clothes, so I would scurry back and forth from my room to the shower in just my towel. Most mornings, people didn’t notice.

Unfortunately, I’d have the occasional run-in with That One Guy I Dated Three Months Ago, or an awkward 70-year-old who never spoke. In those instances, I felt desperate for a bathrobe.

Then construction season began. Every morning, strange men wandered the halls, hammering and painting, and gawking as I scuffled towards the shower. At that point, the bathrobe became a necessity.

Yes, you could buy a bathrobe, but prices are steep in Paris; I would suggest at least researching your living situation ahead of time.


To be Parisian is to be nonchalant.


If you envision yourself blending in with the Parisians, remember that less is always more. They wear neutral colors with occasional standout pieces and minimal jewelry. With tousled hair, liquid eyeliner, a bright scarf, skinny black pants, and a grey sweater, nobody could mistake you for a tourist.

[Editor’s note- nobody does black liquid eyeliner quite like a French girl. They’re masters.]


You don’t need more than one suitcase.

Paris Packing List

Simple piece of advice? Don’t bring more than one checked bag. During my high school foreign exchange semester abroad, I packed two checked bags, plus a backpack, and a carry-on. I resembled a cartoon character, to be honest.

Some people need five pairs of pants and one dress; some people need six dresses but two pairs of pants. The numbers are up to you. But know that if you need more than one checked bag, you’ve gone too far.


You’re you, no matter where you are.

At the end of the day, this is by far my most important rule. I adore dresses and skirts. While some of my friends shook their heads in disbelief as I ran after a toddler in my dress, I never blinked twice. I neglected to wear the clothes I brought to be “practical” because I didn’t feel comfortable in them.

Conversely, you may despise tights and skirts, or the Parisian fondness for black. Maybe you’d simply rather wear a sweatshirt all day. No matter what, you’re you; don’t change your whole wardrobe in preparation for a trip if you don’t feel like yourself in your new clothes.

Of course, try new styles, step outside your comfort zone, and maybe you’ll fall in love with and entirely different look. But that’s why we shop.

Fellow francophiles- what would you guys recommend packing for Paris?

Paris Packing List Alex is a traveling writer, ardent reader, and perpetual expat who studied abroad in Bordeaux, taught English in Paris, and is currently preparing to move to London for grad school, where she will write her first book. To follow this book-lover’s adventures, check out her blog, Bon Voyage Mon Chéri, Facebook, or follow along on her Instagram at BonVoyageAlex.

From Maqluba to Mansaf: My Top Eats in Jordan

From Maqluba to Mansaf: My Top Eats in Jordan

I don’t think I’ve ever over-eaten as much as I did while in Jordan. But looking back, I’m not even upset with myself- Jordanian food was absolutely delicious.

At one point the girls and I were so sick of over-eating we asked our guides if there was any way we could order less food at dinner.

They replied, “Uh no, not really.”

Anyway, thank god we packed loose clothing because otherwise I’m not sure if our skinny jeans would have survived.

Jordanian food is very similar to Lebanese, and uses lots of Mediterranean ingredients like olive oil, garlic and lemon. Meals begin with mezze, or small-plate appetizers. Next is the main course of grilled lamb, beef chicken or kofte. Finally, you finish the meal with cardamom coffee and dessert. The style of eating is very communal and the food is healthy and light, both of which aspects I loved.

Here are the best things I ate while in Jordan. Needless to say, there was a lot of competition.

1. A Traditional Jordanian Feast on our First Day in Jordan

For our first big meal in Jordan we headed to Sufra Restaurant in downtown Amman.

Like every Jordanian meal, we started with mezze: tabbouleh, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, pickled vegetables, olives, hummus, fattoush, labneh and pita.

As I would continue to do in Jordan, I wildly over-stuffed myself on mezze. With homemade hummus and tabbouleh, how could you not?

The Best of Jordanian Food

Clockwise from upper right: tabbouleh, falafel, chicken liver with garlic, grape leaves. Michigander readers- the mezze was identical to the Lebanese food in metro Detroit, who knew?

Then we moved on to the main course of piles and piles of grilled meat. But more specifically, shish taouk, chicken marinated in yogurt and lemon juice and grilled on a spit, and kofta, ground meat formed into a cylindrical shape and grilled.

As you can see here, the meat was charred and juicy and oh-so-delicious.


Jordanian Food

Also tasty was this vegetarian dish that Julika ordered, which was like Middle Eastern nachos covered in yogurt. Way tastier than it sounds. Jordanian Food

2. Fatet Djaj

Speaking of yogurt-covered, I fell in love with Fatet Jaj. Fatet Jaj is a chicken casserole filled with rice, poached chicken and fried bread, and topped with yogurt and toasted almonds.

What I loved most about this dish was the texture; namely the juxtaposition between the fried bread and creamy yogurt. As a huge yogurt fan, this dish was one of my absolute favorites.

The Best of Jordanian Food


3. Mansaf

Almost every Jordanian we met would ask us, “Have you tried mansaf yet?” Which makes sense- mansaf is the national dish of Jordan.

Mansaf is a platter of tender lamb on the bone, yellow rice and marcona almonds, which is then drenched in hot yogurt sauce.

Jordanian food is always communal, but mansaf even more so, as you share mansaf as a table and eat it entirely with your hands.

The Best of Jordanian Food

Our guides asked us, “Do you want to eat it the real way or with a fork and knife?” Obviously, we wanted to eat it the real way.

To eat mansaf you take rice with your right hand and form it into an oval-shaped ball, which you then pop into your mouth. 

As a lefty, eating with my right hand was impossible and I probably looked like a one-year-old in a highchair. But seriously, try eating with your non-dominant hand sometime- it’s trippy. It almost feels like someone else is feeding you.

But in the end, mansaf was worth looking like a total fool for. So. Good.

4. Maqluba

Maqluba, which means upside down, is a Jordanian casserole of meat, rice, vegetables and potatoes cooked in a black cast-iron pot and flipped over on a plate. The Best of Jordanian Food

I loved the dramatic table-side service as well as the steaming pile of carbohydrates in front of me. Maqluba felt like Middle Eastern comfort food- warm, homey and simple; the kind of dinner you’d want on a cold day.

The Best of Jordanian Food

5. Labneh

Out of all the mezze we tried in Jordan, the only dish I didn’t know was labneh. And what a shame that was.

Labneh is salty yogurt that is served at breakfast and in mezze. It often comes topped with olive oil and walnuts, and is especially good with za’atar and pita. I need to find labneh in the states because I would totally have it for breakfast every day.

Jordanian Food

6. Veal with Tahini Sauce ???

Sadly, I never found out the name of one of the best dishes I had in Jordan. But whatever it was, it was GOOD.

This mystery dish seemed to be made of pounded veal and tahini sauce, and topped with green peppers and potatoes. It was creamy and lemony and tangy- and it breaks my heart I don’t know the name. Any experts in Jordanian food who’d like to give me a hand?

[NOTE- After this post was published, a reader let me know that this dish is called kufta with tahini sauce or kufta bel taheenyeh. In case you’re interested in trying it!]


Courtesy of Sateless Suitcase

7. Homemade Pita with a Bedouin Family

While in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, we met a Bedouin family who taught us how to make pita.

The Best of Jordanian Food

First you mix together flour and water, and knead it into dough. Then you bury the dough under charcoal and let it cook. Once it’s done, you dust off the charcoal and eat it. The Best of Jordanian Food

The bread was so earthy and nuanced in flavor- I loved the charcoal taste that remained as well. It was especially good with piping hot sweet tea. The Best of Jordanian Food


While I’m not a huge fan of sweets, I really enjoyed osmaliyeh. Osmaliyeh is shredded phylo dough filled with rosewater cream and topped with crushed pistachio.

I loved how light and airy it was, with a touch of sweetness. And while I enjoy baklava, it so heavy and cloyingly sweet; honestly I’d prefer osmaliyeh any day.

Jordanian_Food_ Osmaliyeh

Have you tried Jordanian food before? Which of these dishes sounds best to you?

I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Blogger Spotlight: Meet Michelle from Lights Camera Travel

Blogger Spotlight: Meet Michelle from Lights Camera Travel

Hey guys, happy Friday! So today we are hearing from Michelle, an Australian blogger and hotel manager who blogs at Lights Camera Travel. Since she left her job in 2013, she has backpacked Southeast Asia, lived in Tokyo and is now back (temporarily) in her hometown of Cairns, Australia.

What I envy most about Michelle is that while she travels a ton, she still has a home base- which seems pretty ideal to me!

While researching this interview I spent hours in Michelle’s archives: between Japanese food and the story of becoming a missing person in Typhoon Hainan, how could I not?


Name: Maiko Michelle Reimann

Age: 29

Occupation: Hotel Manager / Travel Blogger

Hometown: Cairns, Australia

Residence: Cairns, Australia (for 2015)

Website: Lights Camera Travel

Country count: Um… I honestly have no idea as I haven’t kept track… 20ish?

Favorite city: Tokyo, Melbourne and San Francisco

Favorite beach: Boracay, Philippines… and the beaches in Australia.

Favorite food (I know this one’s hard!): Sushi… but I also love a great brunch with smashed avocado and an almond milk latte

Favorite blog(s): World of Wanderlust, Alex in Wanderland, The Tig, Ashley Abroad, Be My Travel Muse, Young Adventuress, The Blonde Abroad… So many!


Welcome, Michelle! So first-off your blog is amazing- I read soo many of your posts when thinking of questions for this interview. So to get things started, tell us a bit about your story and lifestyle. When did you leave home?


Thank you :) This is such a layered question! I don’t remember a time in my life I wasn’t traveling. I was born in Tokyo, and was hopping about overseas with my parents since I was a baby (my mother was a flight attendant). At age six my family migrated to Australia, but even after that I was in Tokyo once or twice a year, plus some other exotic destination my parents thought it would be fun to go to.

After High School I travelled with friends as well as solo, but just on holiday – maybe two weeks at a time. It wasn’t until I was 27 that I called it quits on my job in Melbourne and left with nothing but a backpack to explore Asia indefinitely.


It seems you hop around a bit but still having a home base. How do you manage that?

I do now. I’m based in Cairns this year, which is my hometown. I’m very lucky – I work in the family business running a hotel, but also juggle a couple of other jobs as well. You have to hustle to afford the travel! It is very worth it, though.

The jobs are all flexible and I give plenty of notice as to my movements so I’m not negatively impacting anyone’s life. It means I have to plan my travels well in advance and leaves little room for spontaneity, but it’s a fine price to pay for such a great balance. When I’m working I’m running on all engines, when I play I play HARD!


So you’re from Cairns, Australia. Tell us a bit about growing up in Queensland. 


I recently spent eight days exploring Cairns and Sydney with one of my best friends since childhood, and it certainly brought to light how lucky I was to grow up in such a naturally beautiful part of the world. Growing up I hated the sweltering heat and being so far away from a real “city” which is where I imagined all the magic happened. There’s nothing like growing up to realise how good you had it all along!

Queensland largely shaped who I became. It’s a laid back place with a lot of emphasis on nature and adventure. People are friendly; they love the sun, backyard barbecues and a sundowner. Cairns is fairly cosmopolitan while still maintaining a small country town vibe. It has everything you need without the consumer distractions you might find in a larger city.


What was your year in Japan like? Was it super helpful having Japanese family there?

It was because of my family that I decided to live in Japan. I am very close with my Japanese (maternal) side of the family and it has always been hard for me, knowing that the people I am closest to will never all live in the same country. When I am in Australia I want to be in Japan, and vice versa.

Tokyo is a city of extremes, and working and living there was an incredibly valuable experience. It was great to expand my Japanese and truly live there as a local to soak up the everyday life.


How has being biracial (half-Japanese, half-German) affected your travels, both positively and negatively?

There are rare moments when I think of myself as “biracial” and for the most part, I identify myself as “Australian” when I get asked the age old “Where are you from?” question. I have the accent to back it up, so most people seem satisfied with that response!

Being bi-racial in Japan, however, is an interesting topic, of which I wrote an entire blog post about. The article was featured on Thought Catalog, and consequently picked up by a producer at BBC Tokyo. I was interviewed on air to talk about my opinion on the subject.

Some men date me with a misguided sense of finding me “exotic” which I find hilarious. My racial makeup is a big part of who I am, as I have inherited both Japanese and German qualities as part of my personality. I’m hardly exotic – just a woman raised to be a global citizen. It’s all part of who I am. I don’t know how to be anyone else.


You have a pretty extensive bucket list! Which of your bucket list goals are most important to you?


I’m more about a well-rounded experience of life, rather than getting tunnel vision and focusing too much on one thing. It’s equally important for me to travel and see the world, to challenge myself through work and career, maintain good relationships with family and friends and to be healthy and fit. I go through periods where I am focused on one thing more than others, but I think that’s why I have such an extensive bucket list in the first place – to remind myself there are many, many pleasures to be had in this lifetime.


Browsing through your posts it seems the craziest thing that’s happened to you was that you were reported as a missing person during Typhoon Haiyan. (Serious wow!) Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Oh, that was insane. I was in El Nido, which the typhoon hit on its way out – so there was minimal impact there. No one was injured. The craziest thing was getting back online after three days of radio silence, and finding out Australia had made me a missing person! I wrote a whole post about it here.


You’ve mentioned on your site that your site is for those who “passionately and continually seek an inspired life.” How do you personally live an inspired life?


Excellent question! I think it starts with practicing gratitude for all the things you already have in this world. The “normal” these days is working in an office and spending too much money on things you don’t need – we are a consumer society. I am “normal” in the sense that I am still tied to corporate life (kind of…) though running my own business allows certain freedoms I didn’t have as an employee. But ultimately it doesn’t matter what you do for work – it’s about how you spend your time, overall. To find moments throughout the day to connect with loved ones, to care for your body through good nutrition and exercise, to spend your time doing the things that make you come alive, and to find challenges that make you grow and become a better human being every day.


And I know every travel blogger hates this question but how do you afford all this travel?

I work – really, it’s as simple as that. As I mentioned, I live and work in Cairns, and save almost everything for travel. In all honesty, this blog has given me leverage to experience a range of tours, activities and accommodation in exchange for reviews which I am most grateful for. Whilst I do not generate an income this way, it does help to lessen my costs of travel.

It’s about making travel a priority. I am constantly on the hunt for ways to lessen my daily living costs (without sacrificing quality of life,) to save more. My money gets divided into a daily spendings account, savings account (which I don’t touch) and a travel account. Guess which account gets the biggest share!


I read that you’re heading to Europe in the fall. Where are you off to and where are you most excited about?

Oh, I would go everywhere if I could! I scored an amazing sale fare flying business class on Etihad, so firstly, I’m excited about that! I’m starting in Seville, Spain, then going to Barcelona, meeting up with friends in San Sebastián, then Paris, Berlin, London and Pirmasens in Germany, which is my dad’s hometown. These are all new destinations for me (aside from Pirmasens,) so I’m excited for all of them!

Social: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Bloglovin

So let’s hear it! Any other questions for Michelle?

What I Miss Most About Long-Term Travel

What I Miss Most About Long-Term Travel

Around this time last year, I returned home from a year of backpacking. And although it’s so nice to be settled, sometimes I’m nostalgic for my nomadic lifestyle.

There are so many wonderful things about long-term travel. Long-term travel lets you live your life to the fullest every day. Your entire universe is dedicated to your personal pleasure and growth, and you’re infinitely flexible to do as you please.


Obviously there are downsides to traveling full-time, particularly when you’re working on the road. I struggled most with the emotional fallout– meeting people, coming to care for them and saying goodbye a few days later.

But obviously there’s a lot to love about long-term travel- why do you think I did it for so long? Here are the things about long-term travel I miss most.

1. Making friends from all over the world.

What I Miss About Long-term Travel

I miss meeting people from every corner of the globe. In Denver I so rarely hear an accent I forget that there are other dialects of English. (Only half-joking. But not really.)

There’s nothing better than walking into a hostel common room and meeting people from Australia, England, France and China. By meeting people from other countries, you learn about so many things you otherwise would never know: German drinking games, Australian trap music, what Christmas in Sweden is like.

What I Miss About Longterm Travel

And making friends from all over the world means you can visit them in their home countries- I’ve done that several times!


2. Flexibility.


These are several requests I’ve said yes to while traveling:

“Hey, you want to motorcycle across Vietnam with me?”

“Want to road trip to my parents’ house in Wales?”

“Want to drive with us to meet our durian dealer?” (Probably shouldn’t said no on that one.)

When you’re traveling, your flexibility allows you to make decisions on a whim.

For example, when I was backpacking Southeast Asia, I rarely booked rooms- I just asked other westerners on the bus where they were staying that night.

Now I can’t imagine leaving my precious vacation days up to chance.


3. FOOD.

What I miss about longterm travel

Clockwise from upper left: a banh mi in Vietnam, a bacon sandwich in London, baklava in Istanbul, popiah in Singapore.

Constant travel is a dream for foodies. You get to try the best food in the world in its country of origin- what’s better than sashimi in Japan or cassoulet in Southeastern France?

And try as you might, the Thai green curry you make at home just won’t measure up to the curry you had in Bangkok. Trust me, I’ve tried.

4. How easy it is to keep up foreign languages.

When I traveled, I kept up my Spanish and French effortlessly– I didn’t study, I simply talked to fellow travelers. At home I have to make a effort by watching foreign films or TV shows, skyping native speaker friends or going to language classes.

I know this isn’t a concern everyone shares, but it’s so much easier (and fun!) to keep up foreign languages simply by interacting with native speakers.


5. The late-night partying culture.

What I Miss About Longterm Travel

In my opinion, partying in the U.S. just isn’t as fun as it is abroad. First of all, the bars shut at one or two AM here, which is right when things get interesting.

Secondly, alcohol is crazy expensive. ($8 for a glass of Yellowtail? No thanks.)

And post-college, most of us don’t have the energy to stay out until six. Which I totally understand- waking up at 5:50 AM during the week has turned me into a grandma.


6. More time to read.

As a total bookworm, when I traveled full-time I read constantly. In India, I often read four to five hours A DAY (Game of Thrones– what else).

Now I’m lucky if I have time to read for four to five hours a week, much less a day. Sigh.

7. The cheap cost of living.


I’ve traveled in many incredibly affordable countries: Cambodia, Thailand, Ecuador, I’m looking at you.

India was the cheapest of all– I remember paying $3 a person for a three-couse meal with fresh-squeezed mango juice, tea and dessert.

In cheap countries you can afford to buy a round of drinks, a new dress or a day of scuba-diving without worrying. Living or traveling in a cheap country is freeing because you don’t have to worry about money the way you do at home.


Confession- when I was in Cambodia I would sometimes get two massages a day. When they cost $4 an hour, how can you resist?


8. Trying new things all the time.


Long-term travel is undeniably addictive as you can cram so many life experiences into such a short period of time. In one year traveling I scuba-dived with sharks in Indonesia, motorcycled across Vietnam, skied in Switzerland, completed my Yoga Teacher Training in India and hiked the Himalayas for ten days.

For those of us who thrive on constant stimulation, long-term travel is the best.

Have you ever traveled long-term? What do you miss most about it?

Club W: The Personalized (And Home-delivered!) Wine Club

Club W: The Personalized (And Home-delivered!) Wine Club

It’s no secret that I’m a wine lover- between working for my restaurateur/wino uncle in San Francisco and living with a wine-obsessed family in France, I’ve enjoyed a lot of good vino in my day. (And not so good. Because college.)

But despite having tried a lot of wine, I still find myself choosing the same wines over and over again. Pinot noir, I’m looking at you.

Which is why I love the concept of Club W, a monthly wine description that delivers new wines to your doorstep every month.

Here’s how Club W works.

1. First, you take a six-question palate test.


ClubW Review


2. Club W recommends wines that suit your palate.

ClubW Review


3. Then you order your wine. I personally have three bottles delivered a month- this is perfect for me as I usually drink a bottle or so a week.

Club W Review

Club W Review

Another thing I love is that each wine comes with an information card, describing the flavor profile, the winemakers and grapes used in the wine.

Club W Review

Club W Review

But what I love most about Club W is the convenience of having wine delivered. At least for me, having a box of wine waiting for me at the end of the work-day is kind of like Christmas.

Plus, if you enjoy hosting wine and cheese parties, it’s nice to have good wine at the ready.

Club W Review

Club W Review

Taken at my latest wine and cheese party on my favorite new toy- my Fujifilm Instax camera!


While Club W provided my first box of wine for this review, I’ve since renewed my subscription and now receive a box every month.

The price is very reasonable- The Club W Monthly Experience starts at three bottles a month for $39 + $6 flat rate shipping. Additionally, Club W covers shipping on orders of six or more bottles.

The only downside of Club W is that occasionally they send a wine I’m not crazy about- personally I’d rather have a wine with a specific varietal than a wine blend. But that’s just me.

That being said, I really love most of the wine and have made some great discoveries. Which is why I want you guys to try it, too!

You can use the link or use the code ASHLEYABROAD (case sensitive) to have a $13.00 coupon applied to your first order. 

Something to note- you need an adult over 21 to sign for the box, which makes it difficult to have the wine sent to your apartment. I instead have it sent to my work. (Is it weird to have wine delivered to your office? Whoops.)

How about you guys? Would you consider ordering a monthly wine subscription?

Club W provided me with a month’s subscription to their wine club for this review but I now subscribe on my own dime. As always, all opinions are completely my own.

Exploring Jerash, Jordan, The Rome of the Middle East

Exploring Jerash, Jordan, The Rome of the Middle East

As any reader of this blog knows, I absolutely adore history. But despite seeing Roman ruins like Palatine Hill in Rome and the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, I was never terribly interested in Ancient Rome.

Jerash, Jordan, changed that.

Jerash is the most impressive Roman ruin I’ve ever seen; a 2,000-year old Greco-Roman city complete with a chariot-racing track and an Artemis temple. What more could a history-obsessed girl ask for?

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

As soon as I stepped foot at Jerash, I realized why it’s Jordan’s second most-visited tourist site.

One, Jerash is enormous. The ancient city has an oval forum, cardo (colonnaded street), agora (marketplace), amphitheatre, hippodrome (horse-racing track), Roman bath and two temples dedicated to Zeus and Artemis.

Two, you can touch the ruins. At Jerash there are no fences or barriers- nothing to prevent you from walking among the buildings as the Romans did.

And three, you often have Jerash all to yourself. On the day we visited in April we were some of the only tourists. Can you imagine being the only visitor at the Roman Forum?

We entered under the Arch of Hadrian, erected to honor the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

I was excited to recognize Hadrian’s name from Hadrian’s Wall, the barricade he built in Northern England to keep out the Scottish picts. (Which is exactly like The Wall in Game of Thrones. Um, moving on…)

The expanse of the Roman empire truly blows my mind- how could a civilization stretch all the way from Northern England to Jordan?

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan The oval forum with Ionic pillars.

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

Then we discovered why Jerash is called “The City of a Thousand Columns” as we strolled along the cardo maximus, or colonnaded street. Almost every Roman city had a cardo maximus as they were main streets that served as centers for the local economy.

Fun fact- did you know all cardo maximus run north to south?


Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

Next we headed to the Roman market, or agora, where our guide pointed out where the butcher’s stand once stood. See the lamb carved into the rock below?


While normally I’m not into guided tours, I love when guides point out little details like this- I would never have seen the lamb on my own.

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan The Roman amphitheatre.

As a Greek mythology aficionado, I especially loved seeing the Temple of Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt and patron goddess of Jerash. I was impressed by how intact the temple was, with 11 out of the 12 original pillars still standing.

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

By the end of the day I was so grateful that we had visited Jordan in the spring- not only was the weather temperate, the fields were covered in purple and yellow wildflowers.

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

Jerash was one of my favorite places I visited in Jordan. By the end of our visit I was dreaming of all the Roman ruins I have yet to see- Leptis Magna in Libya, Pompeii in Naples and the famous aqueducts of Nîmes, France. My Roman obsession continued for the rest of the week in Jordan- I watched Gladiator not once, but twice on the flight home.

The most important thing I learned at Jerash was if you love Ancient Rome, don’t just go to Rome itself. The Roman empire was vast, and so are its ruins. So fellow history buffs- consider Jordan. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Are you a fan of Roman history too? Would you visit the Middle East to see Roman ruins?

I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Life Out West: Months 7 & 8

Life Out West: Months 7 & 8

Since I moved to Denver, I’ve been posting monthly updates about the ups and downs of life out west: check out month 1months 2&3months 4&5 and month 6 here. Most of these photos are from Instagram, @ashleyabroad– find me there for travel inspiration and mountain pics! 

I hate to be such a blogging cliché, but here goes- I can’t believe it’s been a month since I blogged! I blame my absence on a few factors.

One, it’s summer, and the last thing I want to do is be holed up inside on my computer. Two, when I put in effort into other arenas, like working extra hours, exercising more or getting outside, my blog (sadly) suffers.

But anyway I’m back and life lately has been fun. I’m busy almost every night which is exactly how I like it.


New hair- a bit blonder for summer!

They say people come to Colorado for the winters but stay for the summers. I now TOTALLY get that.


Savoring every second of Colorado summer.


A salted caramel peanut butter cup ice cream cone at Denver’s most popular ice cream shop, Little Man Ice Cream.

Summer in Colorado is truly glorious. On weeknights I’m usually hiking the foothills of the Rocky Mountains or drinking on rooftops. On weekends I’m either attending music festivals, hiking, camping or white-water rafting. Or enjoying Sunday Funday, obviously.

And as a francophile I love any chance I can get to force friends and coworkers drink wine and eat cheese, so I enjoyed hosting a wine and cheese party back in May.




Catching 80’s and 90’s flicks at Red Rocks.

Film on the Rocks is AMAZING. Essentially you just grab a beer and spend the evening watching old-school movies on the big screen in the amphitheatre. Recently I’ve seen both Jurassic Park and The Princess Bride, one of my all-time favorite childhood movies.


Lots and Lots of Music.

Per my 2015 goal to make music a bigger part of my life, I’ve seen ton of shows recently.

So far I’ve seen HOLYCHILD and Passion Pit, Cage the Elephant and Flume, my absolute favorite DJ.  unnamed-2

Friends at the Flume concert!

But honestly the best show was Luke Bryan at Sports Authority Field. Beforehand  we tailgated with fried chicken and very hoppy IPAs- so I was basically in heaven from the get-go. Once inside, his concert felt like the Fourth of July, full of unchecked patriotism and fireworks.

Sunday dinners with friends.

The thing that bothered me most about long-term travel was the lack of community and long-term friends, so it makes me super happy to have a group of good friends in Denver.


And thankfully, all my friends love good food as much as I do. Every Sunday we get together for “family dinner”, which be anything from super authentic ramen at a Japanese farmhouse to hole-in-the-wall dim sum. Nom.


Enjoying the Great Outdoors as much as possible.

While I don’t love commuting, I’m super grateful to work in Boulder as after work I get to hike here:



While I’m still far from my goal of being in good enough shape to hike a 14’er (that’s Colorado speak for a 14,000-foot mountain) I’m getting there slowly but surely.

Last weekend I felt super outdoorsy as my coworkers and I went camping and white-water rafting. While I’m still not sold on sleeping in a tent when cozy B&Bs are nearby, I still love the whole friends-around-a-fire experience.

And I absolutely loved adrenaline rush of white-water rafting on the Arkansas river- next I want to try class-4 rapids!


A very rainy May.

In May it rained almost every day, which apparently is not characteristic of Colorado weather at all. I also got sick in May so I was thrilled for June to come along.


Sales slump.

Sales is so full of ups and downs, and the downs are demoralizing. I’m doing much better now, but have decided that if I kill it in July I’m rewarding myself with an ONA bag and a wide-angle lens. Just because.


So freaking behind on blogging.

I still love blogging as much as ever but am ridiculously behind. This summer I’m going to try and play catch-up and in the fall will hopefully be able to actually write about my life here.


What’s Coming Up


In the coming months I will be taking French classes, attending a bachelorette party in Vail and heading to Telluride for Pretty Lights, where my friends and I are renting a gorgeous nine-bedroom house. I’ll also be heading back to Michigan for a few weddings and am planning a big international trip! (I’ll share more once I book the tickets.)

Oh, and I’m turning 25 later this month!


Most Liked Instagram Photo


A little #TBT of the Taj Majal.

How are your guys’ summers going so far? Also if you’re on Snapchat let’s be friends! @Ashleyabroad.