Eating the Delicious East End

Eating the Delicious East End

Over my three weeks in London, I finally settled upon my dream neighborhood- the East End. The East End is everything you’d want as a twenty-something; it’s packed with street art, cute cafés, lively bars and some of London’s trendiest restaurants.

The East End also has hundreds of years of history. For centuries it was synonymous with poverty and over-crowding, and Huguenot refugees, Irish weavers, Ashkenazi Jews and Bangladeshi immigrants have all called it home.

So when Eating London invited me on a food tour of the East End I was totally on board- as both a foodie and history buff how could I pass up the chance?

And if I haven’t already convinced you that London’s a foodie town, prepare yourself, dear reader.

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St. John Bread & Wine // Bacon Sandwich

Our first stop? St. John Bread and Wine. Featured on my favorite travel show ever, No Reservations, St. John is known for its nose-to-tail dining approach, which as an offal lover, I’m all for.

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This bacon sandwich was near perfect: thick, cut-with-a-spoon-tender slices of bacon slathered with a secret ketchup sauce and held together by grilled white bread. And what’s neat is that both the bread and bacon are baked and cured in house.

And while normally I prefer American-style bacon over English, this was the bacon sandwich to rule them all.

The English Restaurant // Bread and Butter Pudding

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What’s that you say? Who eats bread and butter pudding at 10 a.m.?

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Well at the English Restaurant, you can! Between the creme brûlée crust and the luscious crème anglaise sauce, I was literally sighing with happiness over my bread and butter pudding. And plus, the English Restaurant had the most cozily English atmosphere- I could’ve nursed a pint there all afternoon.

Androuet // Cheese Platter

To my delight our third stop was Androuet, a little French cheese shop! We tasted two of my favorite English cheeses, cheddar and stilton. And from the first mouthful of perfectly ripe cheese I was in fromage-ophile heaven.

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The young French owner explained that Androuet was started in Paris in 1909. I also learned that the owner and I are cheese twins; both of our favorite cheeses is Sainte-Maure de Touraine, an unpasteurized, full-fat aged goat’s cheese with a piece of straw through the middle.

 

Poppies // Fish and Chips

British readers, please skip this paragraph. But to my palate fish and chips is overkill- why pair fried with fried?

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But the fish at Poppies was light as fried cod can be, and was especially delicious when doused in vinegar. I also loved the throwback American diner interior and kind of wanted to play Elvis on the jukebox.

Pride of Spitalfields // Ale

Next it was time for drinks, so we headed to Pride of Spitalfields for an ale tasting.

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While I love beer, my inner hipster hates that I can’t get myself to love ale- it’s just too lukewarm and still! And although I sadly hadn’t been converted into an ale-drinker by the end of the visit, I’d definitely return to Pride of Spitalfields for its cozy, red-plush interior and dozens of beers on tap.

Aladin // Indian Curry

Would a tour of the East End be complete without stopping by Brick Lane? Probably not.

Brick Lane, also known as Curry Mile, is home to a large Bangladeshi community that immigrated to London in the 1970′s and 80′s.

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The chef served up three curries for our visit, and all were scrumptious- I especially loved the lamb curry. But by this point I was so stuffed even the tastiest curry could hardly entice me.

(But don’t worry, I made room. You think I’d let a lamb curry go to waste?)

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Street art by Stik on Brick Lane

Beigel Bake // Salt Beef Sandwich

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There was quite a line outside Beigel Bake, and from my first bite of this salt beef sandwich I could see why. The fatty, melt-in-your mouth meat paired with the yeasty bagel and dab of sharp yellow mustard made for a perfect fatty-acidic taste combination.

Pizza East // Salted Caramel Tart and Tea

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And the grand finale? Dessert at Pizza East! I fell in love with Pizza East for two reasons- first, the uber-chic, warehouse interior which oddly enough we weren’t allowed to photograph. And secondly, this salted caramel tart was possibly the best thing I had all day- decadent, chocolaty and topped with coarse sea salt.

My only regret- I wish I would’ve had room for pizza as the pies coming from the kitchen looked to die for!

Final remarks on the tour

As you may have guessed, I absolutely loved the Eating London food tour. I loved that the tour guide, Nicole, provided so many interesting facts about the East End’s history and culture- I was jotting down facts on my iPhone during the tour. And as I’ve mentioned, the food was bar-none.

And my favorite eat of the day? It’s a two-way tie between the bread and butter pudding and the salted caramel tart.

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After lunch I burned off a fraction of the calories I had just consumed by combing the East End for street art. Sigh… I love London.

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Have you ever eaten in the East End?

A big thanks to Eating London for providing a food tour in exchange for a review. They in no way insisted that I write a favorable review, and all opinions are (as always) my own. If you’d like to join the Eating London food tour, here are a few tips: don’t eat breakfast, bring a camera, show up on time and DEFINITELY wear loose-fitting pants and comfortable shoes.

Celebrating a Blogiversary – Ashley Abroad Turns Two!

Celebrating a Blogiversary – Ashley Abroad Turns Two!

Hey guys! So today I’m excited because my blog jut turned two. (And yes, I do refer to it as if it were my child.) Who would’ve guessed I’d still be blogging after all this time? I certainly wouldn’t have!

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Anyway, a lot’s changed since last year’s blogiversary and in short, I’m really proud.

I’ve worked with a lot of great companies in the last year, from Best Western to Skywings Paragliding, and even hosted my first giveaway and started offering sponsorship. And recently a journalist from Forbes.com interviewed me which made the parents happy.

My traffic’s never been higher, and my page views have more than quadrupled in the past year- in one year this site’s gone from 6,000 uniques and 15,000 page views to 13,000 uniques and 64,000 page views!

(For the record I still have troubling believe this.) Ashley_Abroad_Traffic Honestly though I’m happiest that I’ve managed to connect with such a great group of readers, regular commenters and real-life friends- you guys are really the best. Your support, particularly on more emotional posts, means the world to me.

I started this blog with four main goals: to improve writing and photography, make friends, earn a living and secure freelancing jobs. Four for four, I guess!

And just for the sake of strolling down memory lane, here’s are some of my favorite posts from the last 12 months.

Most useful: How to DIY A Budget Yoga Retreat in Bali, How to Start a Successful Travel Blog, How to Plan an Inexpensive but Awesome Trip Abroad

Most confession-y: Back Home, But What Next?, Why Working As a Digital Nomad is Not For Me, And Then Everything Changed in Vietnam, Why I Honestly Came to Bali

Best photos: Carnevale in Venice, In Awe of the Temples of Angkor, Magnificent Macau

Most adventurous: Canyoning in Dalat, Vietnam, Paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland, Climbing Mount Batur, Bali’s Most Active Volcano Best Food Porn:

My Top Eats in Singapore, Authentic Thai, A Very Tasty Guide to Vietnamese Food

My personal favorites: Tiny Paradise: A Week on Gili Trawangan, What I Miss About Bali, A DIY Trip Down to the Mekong Delta, Practicing Gratitude Wherever You Go, What I Miss (and Don’t Miss) About Living in France

And even though I’m ready to be a bit more settled, I’m still really excited to see where this blog takes me. Thank you guys for coming all for the ride.

Always,

Ashley

So now I’d love to hear from you! What would you like to see more/less of on Ashley Abroad?

Announcing My New Sponsorship Program (And Where I’m Moving Next!)

Announcing My New Sponsorship Program (And Where I’m Moving Next!)

So some big changes are afoot on Ashley Abroad. I’m now offering a sponsorship program for bloggers looking to advertise!

And I want to test the program before charging anyone so here’s where you come in- the first ten bloggers to comment below will receive a free 310×150 spot for September as well as a feature in the sponsor introduction post. So get commenting!

While sponsorship is a big thing on lifestyle sites like I Wore Yoga Pants and Yes and Yes (where I’ve advertised myself!), I’ve noticed it’s nonexistent on travel blogs. And with all the exposure it can offer, it’s time to change that.

 

A Big Move

And for my second announcement of the day- I’m moving! (Or, at least I’m trying to.)

If you follow me on Instagram you may already know where.

Here’s a hint:  unnamed-1

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I spent last week in the Bay Area apartment-hunting with my friend McCall and if things turn out well I should be a San Francisco resident in the coming weeks!

I’ve wanted to live in San Francisco since I was nine years old so it’s time to finally make that dream come true. I used to work in the Bay Area through high school and college at my uncle’s restaurants so I’m beyond excited to be based there again.

I’m also thrilled to have my own apartment- it’s been years since I’ve had my own space.

Diversifying My Blogging Income

To date I’ve made the bulk of my blogging income from sponsored posts and links but I’d like to start earning money in a less spammy (and potentially site-ruining) ways. I’ve been hugely inspired by Pinch of Yum’s income reports and have thus decided to implement a few new ideas.

So here are a few ways I’m diversifying my income:

a. Joining BlogHer ad network.

You may have noticed the new ads in the sidebar. This is because I have a year-long contract with BlogHer so I will have to post 1-2 a week to fulfill my contract. In short you’ll be seeing a lot of me around here!

b. Becoming a Hostgator affiliate.

I’ve had a great experience with Hostgator over the past two years and couldn’t recommend their hosting highly enough. While their sidebar ad isn’t pretty (see right), I’m excited to become an affiliate for a company I really love.

Essentially I earn a small commission if you buy a domain or hosting through the ad at right (or the link above), so if you’re looking to start a blog or website I’d really appreciate a click!

c. More giveaways.

While giveaways don’t directly generate revenue, they do help build social media numbers. And considering I’m a social media slacker, I could use the help.

I was very happy with how successful my recent Jo Totes giveaway went- not only did my readers seem very interested in winning the bag it resulted in tons of engagement on social media. And now that I have an $8 monthly subscription to Rafflecopter I’m planning on reaching out to more companies whose products I regularly use to see if they’d be interested in a giveaway!

d. Sponsored content with companies I love.

I’m interested in doing more product and app reviews on my site that I think could be useful for you guys. Currently I turn down 99% of product review requests that I receive but I’d like to do more outreach. I’m also signing up for a few promotional networks: Pollinate Media Group, Clever Girls Collective, POPSUGAR Select, to help put me in touch with companies I like.

 

Also, and this is only vaguely related, but recently I searched myself on Get Off My Internets (a terrible decision, by the way), and I found some very unkind things about myself in the forums.

I don’t have much to say in response, but I’d like to cordially invite anyone who despises me to stop reading my site. Because I’m sure you have better things to do with your time.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Going forward there is so much I’d like to do with this blog, including a site redesign, more recipe posts and maybe even an eBook. But I’m trying to take it one step at a time!

Anyway, for all the non-bloggers I’m sorry for sharing all of this boring back-end stuff! Regardless of how I monetize my blog I’ll always generate content I’m proud of and think can be useful for you.

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This post contains affiliate links but all opinions are my own. Thanks for keeping Ashley Abroad afloat!

The Best of London Food Markets

The Best of London Food Markets

Okay, world. Here’s my personal declaration: London is now a foodie town. In my humble opinion, you can find more creative and diverse food in London than you can in Paris or Chicago.

Yep. I wrote it.

Don’t believe me? Read on to learn all about London’s best food markets I discovered during my three weeks in the Smoke.

I ventured to all of these markets under the shrewd guidance of my friend and fellow travel blogger Amanda. Amanda knows all about where to find the best eats in London; she’s even writing her dissertation on London’s up-and-coming craft beer scene!

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What’s up: Netil Market is a tiny market located nearby larger and more frenetic Broadway Market. Its aesthetics are delightfully hipster-friendly with clapboard stalls, green pinstripe awnings and picnic benches. And despite its small size, Netil Market has lots of great eats.

What I loved: Um, this bao from Bao London. The only dish on the menu, this classic gua bao is filled with slow-braised pork belly, pickles and cilantro, and dusted with peanut powder.

It took everything in my power not to order a second one. IMG_6825

Also, the market offers lots of childhood classics like cupcakes and grilled cheese (which kind of goes with the hipster theme, no?). And I always thought grilled cheese was an American thing! IMG_6815 IMG_6827 Where to find it: Every Saturday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at 23 Westgate Street, E8 3RL. Websitenetilmarket.tumblr.com

Broadway Market

What’s up: Craving London’s best ethnic food? Get ready to queue up at Broadway Market, the sprawling market located only a stone’s throw from London Fields.

The market offers up quintessentially British eats like Scotch egg and stilton cheese, as well as a kaleidoscope of ethnic cuisines, from Italian to Indian.

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What I loved: At Hanoi Kitchen I had some of the best Vietnamese I’ve had outside of Saigon; I was in heaven over my barbecued pork and my beloved Vietnamese coffee. I even went back for a second coffee… whoops.

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IMG_6866 Amanda seemed to enjoy her first taste of Ghanian food quite a bit too!

We finished off the meal with a bit of caramel New York cheesecake in London Fields. While it didn’t quite compare to the cheesecake I’ve had stateside, it was still a nice taste of home. IMG_6871

Where to find it: Every Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:oo p.m. at Broadway Market, E8 4PH

Websitebroadwaymarket.co.uk

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What’s up: Brixton Village is a covered arcade market boasting the kind of fresh-off-the-boat fare that foodies dream of, from jerk chicken to traditional Japanese. It’s located in Brixton, a rougher immigrant neighborhood that’s a bit out of the way; but this food is worth the hike, I promise.

What I loved: We beelined to Okan, a tiny Japanese eatery for my first taste of okonomiyaki. Um, yeah, how have I never had this AMAZING dish before?

Okonomiyaki is a savory pork and scallion pancake topped with fish flakes and spicy mayonnaise. Drool. And because it’s always beer o’clock in Ashley and Amanda world, we cracked open some icy Japanese brews to accompany. v

As we wandered around the market after lunch I cursed my stomach for not having more room; everything looked so good! I did find space for some frozen Greek yogurt that I tried in Greece a few years ago. It was as delicious as I remembered! IMG_1448

Brixton Market also seemed like a great place to buy inexpensive groceries; I saw tons of fishmongers and vegetable stalls in the area.

Where to find it: Brixton Village is open 8 a.m. – 11.30 p.m. every day except Monday, when it shuts at 6 p.m. The directions are complicated so check the website below.

 Websitebrixtonmarket.net/brixton-village/

Borough Market

What’s up: Borough Market is a food market located in Central London, right on the Thames. Although a bit pricey, it’s the perfect spot to stop while sightseeing. The baked good selection is particularly tempting!

And as I so eloquently wrote last year, spit roast pork sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies and sangria all in one sitting? Yes please.

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What I loved: While in town I stopped by Borought Market on at least four occasions. But the best thing I discovered this year was La tua pasta, a pasta stall that sells some of the tastiest black truffle tortellini in existence. My mouth is literally watering just writing about it.

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Where to find it: Borough Market is open for lunch Monday and Tuesday (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and offers a full market Wednesday and Thursday (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.), Friday (10 a.m. – 6 p.m) and Saturday (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.). It’s located at 8 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TL, right outside the London Bridge tube station.

Website: http://boroughmarket.org.uk/

 

Here is a map I made to help you find all the markets!

View London Food Markets in a larger map

What’s your favorite London food market? And if you’ve never been, which one entices you most?

My Absolute Favorite Camera Bag + A Giveaway! [CLOSED]

My Absolute Favorite Camera Bag + A Giveaway! [CLOSED]

So today I want to tell you about my favorite travel camera bag- and yes, give a $100 Jo Totes gift card to one lucky reader!

I’ve written about this bag before- long-time readers may remember I listed it as one of my top ten travel products.

Jo Totes Giveaway

Why I love my Jo Totes bag:

a. It’s beautiful and stylish. See above!

b. It’s well-made. I’ve had mine for a year and a half and it’s in great shape.

c. It’s big. My bag can fit a camera as well as several lenses, and not to mention other valuables like my cell phone and wallet.

d. It’s street-smart. No one knows you’re carrying a valuable DSLR, which is great!

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Other Jo Totes selections

This bag has traveled with me around the globe. I used it a ton during my year in France, both walking around Paris as well as jaunting about the continent. I also used my Jo Totes this year on my world trip (although I sent it home after India- tweed doesn’t really suit Southeast Asia, now does it?)

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Hanging out in London… IMG_3988-001

Road-tripping down the French Atlantic coast… DSC_5250 copy

Weekend-ing in Strasbourg… (Courtesy of Sateless Suitcase.)

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Snapping shots in Madrid! (Courtesy of Sateless Suitcase.)

So here’s the exciting part for you- I’m giving a $100 gift card to Jo Totes way to one of my readers, to go towards purchasing the Jo Totes camera bag of their choice!

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment, follow me on Twitter, share about the giveaway or like my Facebook page. And you can share about the giveaway on Twitter each day for additional entries.

This giveaway will run until 8:00 a.m. on August 4, and then I will announce the winner on my Facebook page. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Twitter: @ashleyhfleck

Facebook: Ashley Abroad

Instagram: ashleyabroad

Jo Totes provided me with one $100 gift card for this giveaway. No additional compensation was given and all opinions are my own.

It’s my 24th Birthday!

It’s my 24th Birthday!

Hey guys! Today I’m 24. Which officially means I’m in my mid-twenties. Is it weird I’m mostly totally okay with that?

First off, I want to thank each and everyone one of you who responded to my twenty-something crisis post. I teared up reading a few of the comments- seriously, you guys are so awesome for sharing your sympathy and wise advice.

Okay, and back to the birthday. My family threw me the loveliest birthday at my lake house, complete with the same strawberry cake I’ve had every year since I was 16. And while I did receive some lovely gifts (a new Swarovski necklace!), the real gift was being home: riding old-fashioned bikes with my brother, sipping champagne with my grandmother, hearing my grandpa’s World War II stories over coffee. I adore my family. ash ash1

Also, I do have some exciting plans in the works. While I don’t want to prematurely announce them, I’m 95% sure of where I’m moving in September- but my lips are sealed until I sign the lease!

Until then, I will be right here. IMG_1981

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And I’m so excited to continue blogging about my world trip- I still have Switzerland, England, Wales, Spain, France, India, Thailand, Malaysia AND Vietnam to cover! There’s so much I can’t wait to share.

And long-time readers may remember that last year I posted a list of 23 things I wanted to accomplish in my 23rd year. Here’s how I did!

COMPLETED: (8/23)

Learn how to scuba-dive, get in the best shape of my life, learn how to cook Asian food, get 3 freelance articles published, fight muay thai, make a conscious effort to keep up my French and Spanish, try Stand Up Paddleboarding, pay off all my debt

WILL COMPLETE (I SWEAR): (10/23)

Move to a new city after the Asia trip, learn how to drive manually, get a job that I love, try surfing again, go to a music festival, volunteer for a great cause, attend a travel blogging or media conference, take a graphic design course, throw a surprise birthday party, run a 5K Color Run

HALF-COMPLETED/DEBATABLE: (5/23)

1. Learn how to use my camera in manual, learn how to shoot in RAW and edit with Lightroom.

I learned how to shoot in manual and use Lightroom, but still don’t know much about RAW. Oops.

2. Buy a new wardrobe.

Um, do a few ASOS dresses and two pairs of jeans count?

3. Buy a custom-design for my site.

Well, I got a new theme. But money was way too tight for a $5,000 redesign.

4. Learn how to do liquid eyeliner like a French girl (yup, still failing after a year).

Yeah. I think I’ve got this one but I’d have to run it by my French friends.

5. Keep blogging!

Well I took an intentional three-month break, but I fully intend to blog regularly now.

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And for next year? Here are seven goals. (Apparently 23 was far too ambitious!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . . . . . . . .

So, do you set goals at your birthday? Or is it just me?

Back Home, But What Next?

Back Home, But What Next?

Confession: recently I’ve been having a bit of a crisis.

I’m back home and savoring the Michigan summer as always. But the one question that plagues me day after day is, “Okay, so what now?”

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As many of you know I just returned home from a four-month trip around the world: Europe, India and Southeast Asia. My trip was perfect. Truly, it was the best, most confidence-building trip I’ve taken. I was so, so achingly happy for most of the trip and don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much.

Leaving my laptop behind served me well- instead of planning out blog posts I lived in the moment and only endured a few anxiety attacks in which contemplated my imminent doom and old age. (Loveee those.)

So now I’m at a crossroads- continue traveling or look for a job stateside.

The problem with the former option is that there’s nowhere I’m itching to visit in particular. And living in hostels loses its charm eventually- there are only so many times you can discuss the same three questions with strangers: Where are you from? Where were you last? Where are you going?

The latter option frankly terrifies me: Sign a lease? Work in an office all day? Live in the states? Be… normal?

For a while I hoped I’d follow the C’est Christine trajectory- a year in France, a year traveling Europe and Southeast Asia and after two years of non-stop fun, to settle down stateside.

But now that I’m home, I have no desire to settle down here. On the contrary, I walk around with a knot of anxiety in my chest. It’s like a pesky little voice is constantly whispering in my ear, “You do not want to be here. You do not want to be here.”

Which makes me ask myself, what on earth is wrong with me? Why can’t I enjoy living in my own country? Do I have to be abroad to be happy? What about my family and friends I love so much?

I have a few ideas of what to do next: move to Australia, learn German, teach English in Japan. Yet none of these are lifelong goals, they’re whims. More like well, that would be cool, right? kind of goals. Which isn’t the passion-fueled life I’d like to be living.

I sometimes wonder if I’m living up to my potential. I come from a very bright family, from a long line of inventors and entrepreneurs. While they rack up scholarships to Yale and gigs at Google I flit around the world and “live in the moment.”

While I was in India and Southeast Asia, I was traveling with two friends who work as a management consultant and an investment banker. While they are incredible warm and supportive friends who gave me lots of sound advice, being in their company made me feel… unaccomplished.

I didn’t go to an Ivy League. I don’t make 120K and I don’t have a job with amazing benefits and intellectual coworkers. And a part of me wishes I did.

Spending time with such hard-working (and happy) people also made me wonder, “Could I pull 16-hour days on a regular basis? And if I didn’t enjoy it, does that make me lazy?”

Recently my little brother commented, “Ash, I have no idea how you travel all the time. Don’t you get sick of being broke?”

Which yes, frankly, I do get sick of being broke. I want to be able to order a glass of wine at dinner without worrying. I want to buy my friends birthday presents that cost more than $30. I want to be able to put $500 on my credit card without having a panic attack.

So here I stand, absolutely, 100% unsure of what to do next, uncertain of what will make me happy either short or long-term. I stand here utterly humbled and afraid for the future. Luckily I still have youth on my side, but how much longer will I be able to say that? How long will I have that free pass?

And I don’t want to wrap this up with my usual pithy, optimistic conclusion. I wrote this for my own catharsis as well as for the sake of other twenty-somethings grappling with the same problem.

And I also wrote this to humbly ask for your advice, any and all life or career advice you can give me. Because I honestly have no idea what my next move should be.

Traipsing Round the Globe: Month 4

Traipsing Round the Globe: Month 4

Hey! Welcome to the fourth update of Traipsing Round the Globe, a real-time recap of my round-the-world trip! Check out months onetwo and three if you haven’t read them yet.

Hey guys! This edition of Traipsing Round the Globe is coming to you (slightly belatedly) from the Windy City. And okay, I know I say this every month but Month 4, the final month of my RTW trip, was the craziest yet. After six weeks of the ascetic life India, I swung hard in the other direction once I hit Southeast Asia and reveled in non-stop fun.

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Where I’ve Been:

Koh Tao, Thailand (7 days)

Penang, Melaysia (4 days)

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia (1 day)

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (5 days)

Melaka, Malaysia (2 days)

Halong Bay, Vietnam (3 days)

Hanoi, Vietnam (4 days)

The rest- at home in suburban Michigan!

Highs:

Koh Tao, as always. The time I spent on Koh Tao this year was a dream. I spent ten days there completing an Advanced Open Water dive course, sipping buckets at beach bars and zooming around on the back of an Aussie guy’s motorbike. And I finally saw a Muay Thai fight- fascinating!

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Falling head-over-flip-flops in love with Penang. So I have a new favorite city in Asia- Penang, Malaysia. From the crumbling colonial architecture to the ornate Peranakan mansions to the creative bursts of street art all over the city, I couldn’t have found more to love in Penang.

Finding my favorite hostel in the world. Haven’t been to Reggae Mansion in KL? Go now. Reggae Mansion was literally the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in and I’ve stayed in 60+ hostels around the globe! And I even tried my first karaoke in front of a large crowd at the rooftop bar. (But did you know American Pie is NINE minutes long?)

Another bonus- due to this blog almost all of my accommodation was comped while in Malaysia. Win.

Malay food. Upon arriving in Malaysia, I dove right into the national cuisine, which being a fusion of Indian, Chinese and local Malay food cultures, was downright delicious. I heart hawker centers.

Being adopted by a group of local girls in Melaka. While in Melaka I connected with a local girl and she and her friends essentially adopted me and drove me around to all their favorite food spots. They also taught me how to pray in a Chinese temple which was a very lovely and moving experience. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Eating everything in Vietnam. While I enjoyed the food in Southern Vietnam more than the north, I still relished every opportunity to enjoy my beloved Vietnamese food as much as possible. And at $1.50 for a meal, I indulged often and heartily. image (2)

Taking the party cruise in Halong Bay. Sailing through an enormous bay full of limestone karsts surrounded by fun-loving backpackers? Yes, please. The trip was infinitely improved by the great group of people I met on the boat, and we ended up hanging out every night until the end of my stay in Vietnam. image (3)

Coming Home. While I was sad to say goodbye to the beer and backpacking lifestyle, home has been wonderful. Each time I come home I’m reminded by what funny, loyal and generous friends and family I have, and it comforts me that no matter how long I’m gone nothing ever changes. I’m a very lucky girl.

Lows:

The Cameron Highlands.  Um, sorry, but the Cameron Highlands were so pointless. Cool, I got to take a picture of a tea plantation. Yawn.

Experiencing yet another creep in the street. Um, why does this keep happening to me? Anyway, this time it was a middle-aged man at a bus stop. As I was slightly tipsy, I screamed profanities at him while my travel buddy tried to pull me away. So vile. image (5)

Ripping up my shoulder in Vietnam. Tubing in Halong Bay? BAD idea. I nearly screamed when I hit the water and am still wincing in pain two weeks later. Ouch.

Favorite Shot:

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Yeah. So I miss $9 Thai massages with a view of the ocean.

Enough about me! What are you up to this summer?

Back From My World Trip and Kicking Off the Blog!

Back From My World Trip and Kicking Off the Blog!

Hey lovelies! Guess who’s back in the beautiful US of A? This blogger.

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Life is good- I’m happy to be home, as always, but I won’t lie- I’m feeling the post-Asia blues a bit more acutely than usual. Life here is just so much more expensive and boring (no offense, Michigan!), and I miss the chaos and the cheap beer and the plastic stools of Southeast Asia.

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The best part of being home- my little brother and sister.

Regardless, now that I’m home the blog is back on! I’ve missed blogging a ton in the last four months, and not having my laptop definitely changed my travels for better and for worse.

And while I’m trying to stay grateful and enjoy the moment, my head is clouded with worry: worry about finding a job, settling down (or not?) and especially about replenishing my very lean bank accounts. (How one can spend $3,000 dollars in one month in Southeast Asia is a mystery to me, but here I stand.)

I’ve never had less of a plan than I do right now, and the world is truly my oyster- my current job hunt stretches from Shanghai to Paris to San Francisco. I may be anywhere in a year.

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Anyway, enough about me- how are you guys? How are your summers going so far? Any travel plans?

Tons and tons of bisous,
Ashley

Traipsing Round The Globe: Month 3

Traipsing Round The Globe: Month 3

Hey! Welcome to the third update of Traipsing Round the Globe, a real-time recap of my round-the-world trip! Check out months one and two if you haven’t read them yet.

Hey guys! This round-up is coming to you from the idyllic island of Koh Tao, my favorite spot is Thailand! As usual I’m finding it hard to leave- I’ve already been here four days and am planning on staying at least another three. Whoops.

Where I’ve Been:

Rishikesh, India (11 days)

The Himalayas (Uttarkhand) (11 days)

Bangkok (4 days)

Koh Tao (4 days)

Highs:

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Becoming a certified yoga teacher!

This month I wrapped up my 30-day Yoga Teacher Training and guess what- I’m now certified to teach yoga! Yoga has seriously made such a difference in my life- from helping me control my anxiety to keeping me strong and flexible. I don’t feel ready to be a teacher just yet, but someday I can’t wait to share the gift of yoga with others.

And while I sadly had to bid adieu to my incredible classmates, I also got to say goodbye to two-hour vinyasa classes on 110-degree days. Dear God. Also I won’t lie- I was happy to leave the cow-shit and fly-ridden streets of Rishikesh far, far behind.

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Trekking the Himalayas.

This one was a literal high- a high of more than 14,000 feet to be exact! I’m not sure if I’ve fleshed this out fully, but I’m not hugely into camping- in fact, this nine-day Himalayan trek was my second ever camping trip! So I was super proud of myself when I managed to survive the world’s highest mountain range. While there were days when I was practically dragging myself to camp (namely, the eight-hour, almost all uphill day when I got sunstroke, yay), most days I was just soaking in the Middle Earth-esque views and having a blast with my fellow trekkers.

Three nights of luxury in Delhi and Agra.

And after a bare-bones month in rural India and nine days not showering in the mountains, a girl deserves a little luxury, right? So my two travel buddies and I pooled our Starpoints and rupees for some pretty swanky digs: Le Meridien and Leela Palace in Delhi. Leela Palace was utter luxury- from piles of white lilies and a string quartet in the lobby to beds fit for a sultan to unsolicited lemon iced tea being literally delivered on a silver tray, this hotel was the perfect break from the grit and grime of the five weeks previous.

 

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Seeing the Taj Majal at sunrise.

See above. Gorgeous, right? While the Taj was admittedly quite out of the way, overall its beauty made the hassle well worth it.

Re-embracing civilization in Bangkok.

Um, post-India Bangkok might has well have been Boston. I spent my first day in Bangkok strolling the swanky Siam Paragon mall, perusing H&M and swilling a vanilla latte. Joy. And okay fine, I did some serious damage on my credit card at the Bobbi Brown counter- budget be damned.

Also after 5+ weeks of fan-rooms, AC felt like a thousand tiny angels all kissing my skin all at once. Glorious.

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Becoming a beach bum on Koh Tao.

My Koh Tao schedule: wake up to poached eggs and fresh-squeezed pineapple juice, bathe in the warm, turquoise-blue waters, read Game of Thrones, drink Chang(s), meet friends for dinner on the beach, fall asleep to the waves crashing to the shore. Repeat ad infinitum.

Lows:

White-water rafting on the Ganges.

My Indian white-water rafting experience was insanity: manning a raft full of fully-clothed Indians who couldn’t swim, hearing the shrieks of a terrified, soaking wet infant, watching a mottled-blue human torso drift by. Um, who brings a 10-month old on a raft? WTF?

Dealing with the administration at my yoga school.

Let’s just say I did not leave on good terms with the owner and to be honest I wouldn’t recommend the school (or to be honest the city, Rishikesh) to anyone who wants to do their Yoga Teacher Training abroad. Post soon.

Blood blisters and high-altitude sunburn in the Himalayas.

Em yeah. I would’ve hoped I was made of more solid stuff but apparently I have a fairly delicate composition. Ouch.

Flying into a country with martial law.

Oh, so you know how Thailand is under control of the military, has a curfew and is under martial law? I flew here anyway. And while the only repercussion was that I couldn’t enjoy Bangkok nightlife as I would’ve wanted, it was still a possibly risky decision to come here. Oh and for the record- there’s no curfew on Koh Tao!

Blowing way too much money.

So I’m now traveling with an (awesome) friend who works as an i-banker in NYC- soooo my budget isn’t quite as water-tight as usual. To be honest I’m not too worried though- I’ll be home within a month anyway!

Not knowing what’s next.

Right now it feels like one chapter of my life is closing and another is beginning, which leaves me feeling more melancholy than I would have thought. As much as I want to start my career and settle down somewhere (and have a freaking apartment of my own, finally!), I know I’ll miss these carefree globe-trotting years of my life.

Favorite Shot:

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So enough about me! What were your May adventures? Any shenanigans? Spill in the comments.