it's been a while since I've done a "currently" type post, but I'm taking a break from travel stories to share a few updates on everyday life. [or as everyday as things have been lately.]

creating: things with stamps. not that I really need more crafty things... but I picked up these tiny letter stamps the other day. the stationary store here is one of my major weaknesses. at least I didn't buy any more washi tape?

considering: a blog redesign. ok, I'm pretty much always considering a blog redesign. but lately I've been thinking it's time to either suck it up and learn how to do some proper coding, or bite the bullet and shell out some cash for a professional. recommendations on designers [or coding tutorials] are welcome.

recovering: from a "get your foot stuck in some rocks while crossing a stream and fall in" incident. my brother and I went hiking by Wulai Falls yesterday and in our quest to adventure my clumsiness got the better of me. my foot has a lovely bruise developing, but thankfully the rest of me [and my camera] escaped unharmed.

packing: for my flight back to America next week. last summer before flying back I was sick, so just grabbed clothes and shoved them in a bag. there was no planning, and when I arrived and unpacked I found my summer wardrobe quite impractical. but this year I have a list! I may not get everything together to do a "3 months traveling the USA" version of my "10 days in Bali" packing post, but I'm confident that the right things will at least make it into my bag this time.

sweating: every day, all the time. summer is here in full force. it's been hot and humid... so much that even the tigers were swimming when we visited the zoo. I'm definitely looking forward to the cooler temperatures of a Michigan summer!

reading: Game of Thrones. I read books 1-4 back in 2008, but I had pretty much forgotten everything that happened after the Red Wedding. I've caught back up and passed most of what is happening on the show this season now, though I'm saving book 5 for the flight back to the US. usually I'm a huge fan of books over movies/shows, but HBO has really done a great job of editing and streamlining the story. they cut out a lot of extraneous things and give you more of what you want [in my opinion]

adventuring: all over Taiwan. last weekend we went to a baseball game in Taichung, have been in or through Taipei at least twice this week, and have been exploring Hsinchu as well. I love having visitors and getting to play tourist. a part of me is definitely ready for a break from Taiwan, but traveling around and seeing all the sights reminds me that despite all the challenges I really do love it here.

planning: for upcoming posts. I have plenty of Disney and then the non-Disney of Tokyo left to share, as well as Taroko Gorge and our current Taiwan travels. it seems to me that I always encounter a stretch of time where I travel a lot, and the posts end up stretch out over the following months. hopefully you won't be too confused as I post about Japan and Taiwan while back in the states!

craving: some Din Tai Fung soup dumplings. thankfully I'll be able to indulge my craving in a few hours, as we have plans to take my brother there tonight. DTF is on our "must-do" list with visitors, and I need to get my fill before leaving for summer.

what are you up to currently?

the cup of coffee that fueled the writing of today’s post was sponsored by Amy. she drinks her coffee americano style, extra hot, with steamed soy and a bit of honey and blogs about gluten free cooking, marriage, and life in Alaska over at Lovely Does It.


Tokyo Disneyland // easter egg hunt

I know what you're thinking... wasn't Easter over a month ago? well, in the magical world of Tokyo Disneyland, Easter lasts from March until the end of June. there was an Easter-themed parade that ran through the park several times per day, and plenty of decorations and merchandise to match the theme.

throughout the park they also scattered small statues of various characters transformed into eggs. we quickly became obsessed with finding these adorable statues and snapping photos. if you read Japanese, you can purchase an official easter egg hunt game and win a special prize. but for us, we just had fun.

usually the characters can be found in the garden/landscaped areas near their themed rides, but there are a few we spotted hiding in odd locations. they have both standard and expert egg hunt courses, so you'll have to look both up and down and in the shrubbery to find them all.

I won't give away all the magic, but seriously. these things were too cute not to share. what's better than your favorite character made even more adorable by compressing it into an egg shape?

and now that you've had your dose of Disney, let me take a moment to introduce my featured sponsor this month...

Jess is the mother, expat, and traveler behind The Flyaway American. her adventures have taken her all over Europe and North America, and soon to Indonesia and India! she has also recently started a series on traveling in the Netherlands, full of information if you are planning a visit there. I love that she strays from just the typical attractions and visits unique and out-of-the-way places such as the Old Operating Theatre and London's most haunted house. read more about her travels below, then hop over to her blog and say hello!

Hey there! I'm Jess, a former Texan now living the expat life in a small town on the coast of England. I am married to a Dutch guy I met at college and we have a five year old daughter with a very British accent. My blog The Fly Away American chronicles my life living abroad and my travels around the world.

any travel plans or goals you have for this year? I just got back from a trip to the US and Canada and have been exploring more of England during my free time. I head to Italy, Indonesia, Canada and India later this year which I am incredibly excited about.

what is your favorite trip/vacation you've ever taken - where to and why? My favorite vacation was probably a trip shortly after I arrived in Europe a little more than five years ago. We stayed at Lake Lugano in Italy and I truly enjoyed eating and exploring and getting to know the country in a more relaxed non-touristy way. We also climbed a local mountain and I went paragliding over the waters below. Good memories.

two of your favorite blog posts: I went to Norway on a solo-trip last year and it was one of the most incredible countries I have ever visited. This is a post on taking the train from Oslo to Bergen, definitely one of my lifetime highlights. I also love this post that chronicles my arrival in England and growing to love my new home.

where would your dream trip take you? I have so many places I want to see but Tibet is definitely at the top of my list.

describe yourself in 3 words: Indecisive, Happy and Impulsive

read more about Jess on her blog: The Flyaway American

or follow along with:


interview with an author

I'm linking up with Melyssa today for another edition of the creative collective. this week's prompt was to interview someone and take some editorial photos to go along. well... I miscalculated on the date and so was not able to interview my initial intended. but I do have someone special answering questions on the blog today: me! I thought I'd use this as a chance to catch you up on my book news and give some info to my newer readers, who may not know that I've been writing a book.

so you're writing a book. what's that all about? well. as the book currently stands, it is a personal travel memoir. it describes our move to Taiwan and how I've both dealt with culture shock and grown through the process. it covers the time leading up to the move and the first year and a half of our life here, with chapters covering everything from adjusting to not having a career to accidentally staying in love motels. I've been working on it off + on for the last 9 months and it truly has become my baby.

isn't that kindof like your blog? yes, and no. it covers the same time frame and a lot of the same events, but the blog tends to focus on photos and information. the book is more personal, dives in deeper, and written more like a story. I know some people publish their blogs as ebooks, but that's not what this is. I want it to read like a novel, not a collection of standalone stories. I think that makes it more challenging for me to write, but I hope will result in a better book.

do you have a title yet? no. I have a few half-formed ideas, but I'm hoping as I organize things something will jump out at me. if all else fails, I can cop out and name it after my blog, right?

how long is the book going to be? right now I'm around 55,000 words, which qualifies as a full-length novel. I'd like to expand up to around 75,000 words but in truth - it will be as long as it needs to be.

what inspired you to start writing this book? I've always loved to write. I grew up keeping journals, have been blogging for over 12 years, and the idea of writing a book has always appealed to me. I knew that moving to Taiwan [and not working 9-5 anymore] was my best opportunity to have the time to do so. it took me a while to start because I wasn't sure what I wanted to write. but sometime around last March I realized that the story I needed to tell first was my story. it took a few more months and a lot of encouragement before I actually started writing. I've had great support from my Husband and family, along with both real life and blogging friends. when I get discouraged I look back at emails and comments and remember conversations I've had, and it keeps me going.

do you actually write in bed, or are you just trying to Carrie Bradshaw in this photoshoot? nope, this was totally staged. though the pen poses are all natural movements for me. I typically write in my office [which is a hot mess right now] or at Starbucks. I'd love to find a local coffee shop to support, but none of them in Taiwan open before noon.

what do you use to write? I started by digging through all my blog entries and journals to create a timeline, then started typing in a Word document. I have a few notebooks full of book notes, and of course the journal and blog content that has been expanded on. right now my 7-year-old MacBook isn't capable of using iAuthor, but when I get my new Air in a few weeks I'll be able to move everything into that program.

when can we expect to read this book? hopefully in the fall. my first draft is a little rough, but it's just about complete. I hope to flesh it out and do some editing + organizing this summer, possibly have it professionally edited and formatted, have a cover designed, and then self-publish on kindle. I'm writing this book mostly for me - if I can tell my story authentically and put it out there, then that's success. [though if a publisher wants to pick me up and make me famous I'm cool with that too.]

do you plan to keep writing in the future? yes. I've written a few fiction short stories that I might try to expand, and I've considered dabbling in historical fiction or fantasy or even romance novels. maybe I'll try them all, who knows? but I do know that I want to keep writing, and hopefully publish more books after this one.

any advice for someone who wants to tackle writing a book? just do it. the hardest part about writing is convincing yourself to sit down and actually write. you'll have good days where the words will fly from your fingertips, and other days where it feels like you're just pounding against a brick wall. just keep writing, and keep reminding yourself to keep writing.

so that was only moderately awkward for me to interview myself, right? hopefully you enjoyed the update :)

linking up with Nicole, too!


travel by iPhone: Tokyo Disneyland

I'm back from a magical weekend in Japan! I have so much I want to share about our trip, but for starters I'm going to launch a new blog series: travel by iPhone. you see, I've been busy traveling for the past few weeks [first Taroko + Taipei, then Tokyo] and will be busy traveling more for the next few months. my brother arrives for a visit on Thursday, and then in June I'm flying back to the US for summer [where I'll be traveling all over Michigan, and to California and Texas.] poor me, right?

I'm going to do the best I can to keep the blog going during all this fun + travel madness, and the best solution seems to be sharing photos taken on my phone. some of them may look familiar if you follow me on instagram, but I also think sharing these iPhone photos on the blog will keep me from spamming your feed [maybe.] I've already done this for a few of my previous trips, but I figured why not make it official?

our first day at the park, it rained. at first I was really upset about it. we didn't bring any rain gear and had to purchase a pair of umbrellas to get us through the day. BUT. my disappointment was short-lived. the rain turned out to be to our advantage as it kept the crowds way down.

also, I was just really really excited to be at Disneyland.

by the afternoon, the sun was shining. thanks to the low crowds we were able to ride almost everything we wanted to on our first day, with our longest wait being only 1 hour [for Space Mountain.] I'll be going into more details on  the rides and how we used fastpass to avoid waits later, but I will say that you absolutely want to take advantage of them.

I'm also going to stop here to warn you that 70% of the rest of this post is castle photos.

that night the fireworks show was canceled, but the castle was lit up and looking gorgeous. we went back to the hotel where I soaked my aching feet and had a glass of wine, and crafted a plan of attack for the next day.

our second day the weather was better, though the crowds were bigger. since we mastered the fastpass planning, we rode everything we wanted and still only had one wait that was an hour long [this time for Pooh's Hunny Hunt.] over the course of our two day visit we managed 15 different rides, with a few of those two or three times.

clearly, I developed an obsession with taking pictures of/with the castle. my thanks to Husband who tolerated this with good humor, and coped by furthering his collection of "pictures of Jamie taking pictures." [one of which can be spotted earlier in this post.]

our trip was, in a word, magical. I hadn't been to Disney in the longest time and I felt just like a kid again... I laughed and even cried at points I loved it so much. this was certainly the perfect way to celebrate turning 29 - by reminding myself that you can still be a kid at heart no matter what the numbers say.

I can't wait to share more with you over the next few weeks! please let me know if you have any specific questions about visiting Tokyo Disneyland and I'll do my best to answer them in upcoming posts [or by email.]

linking up with Bonnie, Kaelene, Sammy, and Van for Travel Tuesday


the writer's block: international travelers

today I'm handing my blog over to three lovely travelers who have a wealth of information to share with you. I'm heading to Japan this weekend to belatedly celebrate my birthday at Tokyo Disney, so I thought that the topic of international travel would be fitting.

read on to see what these ladies have to say about their favorite international travel destinations, the highs and lows of visiting a new country, and where their dream trips would take them. after, be sure to stop by their blogs and leave them some love!

the basics: Hello, I'm Christina of Route Bliss. While I've been blogging for over a decade now, Route Bliss itself has only been around since the Summer of 2013. RB (as I've dubbed it) is where I share my love of travel and photography as well as what I'm learning on my journey to healthier living (adapted recipes as well as running and fitness tips and grumblings!).

what was your favorite international travel destination? I've only left the United States twice so far, so both destinations are my favorite -- Vienna, Austria & Canada (Waterton Lakes National Park to be specific)

what are the must-see or must-do things in that country/destination? In Vienna, all the palaces: the Hofburg, the Upper and Lower Belvedere Palaces, and Schonbrunn Palace + St. Stephen's Cathedral, the Vienna Opera House, and the Parliament building. If you go during the holiday season, hit up as many Christmas markets as you can (there's one in front of the City Hall and at Schonbrunn; others as well all over the city)

Waterton Lakes National Park has a township in it ... explore it along with the Prince of Wales Hotel and have high tea there!

what do you think is the most difficult thing about traveling to a new country? Customs and security pat-downs and butchering city names when asked where my final destination was by a hot border agent ;)

I was lucky and stayed with a friend in Vienna, so she was my interpreter, tour-guide, and public transportation expert. Thanks to one of the few things I retained knowledge of from my finance degree, converting currencies in my head is a piece of cake -- although if you're not, thankfully there's apps for that now unlike in 2003! In Canada, navigating streets because of their grid system and the crazy numbering in Regina!

what is your favorite thing about traveling to a new country? Experiencing new things, seeing locales that are far older than much of the U.S., and learning about local customs

what is one place you haven't been yet but would love to visit? Right now, I'd kill (figuratively) to go to Tasmania this November. My penpal of thirteen years, Kate, is getting married and I'd love to be there for it if I had the airfare to get there + see the gorgeous visits and historic ruins that make up Kate's beloved Tassie.

learn more about Christina on her blog: Route Bliss

check out a few of her favorite posts:

or follow along with:

the basics: Hello! I'm Amanda the lady behind Rhyme & Ribbons. Rhyme & Ribbons is an eclectic lifestyle blog document my travels, recipes, crafts, fashion, and all other things that strike this American living in London. I try to write with enthusiasm, passion and a dash of whimsy. Rhyme & Ribbons documents the exploits of someone who is insatiable curious.

what was your favorite international travel destination? On of my favourite places to is definitely Paris. It sounds really cliche, but I adore it! It stole my heart in a way that few other major European cities have yet to do.

what are the must-see or must-do things in that country/destination? I'd definitely recommend spending a few days just walking around Paris instead of immediately rushing off to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre (though those are great places to visit as well!) I'd recommend trying to go on a walking tour of Montmartre. I've been twice and I learn something new and amazing about the history of that very artistically significant neighbourhood every time! My favourite museum is the Musée de l'Orangerie. And of course you have to eat crepes and all other glorious French food to your heart's content. Definitely buy a baguette at a local boulangerie.

what do you think is the most difficult thing about traveling to a new country? For me, one of the most difficult things about traveling somewhere new is knowing where to start! I want to see and do everything, which is frankly impossible, so I've found it helpful in prioritising what I'd be disappointed if I left without not experiencing, and what I'd be okay saving for a future trip! Also always pack light!

what is your favorite thing about traveling to a new country? Well, I love exploring and learning. If I could be a student for my entire life I'd sign up for that lifestyle right away! But since that's not possible, I've found that traveling satiates that desire to learn and to do in me. Also, if you take a peak at my blog you'll know that I love food, so I also love trying new foods and local flavours!

how many countries or continents have you visited? Not counting North American countries, I've traveled to Spain, England, Wales, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany (very briefly), and Turkey. 8 so far!

learn more about Amanda on her blog: Rhyme & Ribbons

check out a few of her favorite posts:

or follow along with:

the basics: Hello there! I'm Jamie and I write at Gunters Abroad. My blog documents mine and Van's travels all over England and the rest of Europe. We have a huge travel bucket list to tackle so come and join us as we attempt to see the world!

what do you think is the most difficult thing about traveling to a new country? I think the most difficult part of traveling to a new country is feeling uncomfortable in new settings but I think you can combat these feelings with the right attitude! Just keep an open mind and learn to adapt to the changes. Funny enough, bathrooms in different countries make me feel the most uncomfortable haha!

what is your favorite thing about traveling to a new country? I love getting off the plane and just taking in the sights and smells of the new country. It's that perfect moment where you know that adventure lies ahead and you will be forever changed from your experience!

where is the farthest you have traveled? I guess it depends on where the starting point is! From my home in the US, the farthest distance would be to Chamonix, France I think, but Spain has been the furthest destination so far from our home in Ely.

how many countries or continents have you visited? Not counting the good old US of A, I have been to 7 countries and Van has been to 11 different countries! I need to catch up :)

what is one place you haven't been yet but would love to visit? We both are dying to go to Croatia. Plans are in the works but we just haven't made the full jump just yet! The beaches are calling our names!

learn more about Jamie on her blog: Gunters Abroad

check out a few of her favorite posts:

or follow along with:


Taroko Gorge // Xiangde Temple

if you ever make your way to Taiwan [which, you should] I suggest you take a visit to Taroko Gorge.

and while you are there, spring for a night or two at the Silks Place Taroko. aside from rooftop hot tubs and a buffet dinner, this hotel is one of few actually located in the gorge [in Tianxiang], and not in the nearby city of Hualien. this will allow you to start your day's explorations out where most of the busloads of tourists will not reach until afternoon. namely: the Xiangde Temple.

to reach the temple, cross the lotus-guarded bridge and head through the main gate. then you have to climb up a series of steep stairs and ramps winding through gardens and mountain forest. if you wander to the right, you can find the giant white bodhisattva statue peering down over the gorge.

the Xiangde Temple sits on a large terrace with spectacular views, and is surrounded by several smaller buildings and statues. there is one famous golden statue on the cliff edge, but it was under restoration when we visited.

the Tian Feng pagoda is located nearby, and you can climb to the top for more fantastic views. [but really, I couldn't find a view in Taroko that wasn't fantastic.] over the next few weeks I'll be showing you more scenes from this gorgeous place, so I hope you enjoy green mountains and blue rivers and bright temples...

the cup of coffee that fueled the writing of today’s post was sponsored by Jenn. she drinks her coffee with Truvia + almond milk and blogs about lifestyle + home improvement over at Near and Far Montana.
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