My Top 12 Travel Fav

As I am packing for my next departure (I am not sure if they are still considered “trips” since I’m more often away from home than actually home! 🤔🙄 #travelholic), I thought about sharing with you my top 12 favorite traveling accessories. Of course I skipped all the essentials stuff such as adapters, traveling towel, earplugs etc. So here are what you will always find in my backpack:

  • 1. Apple EarPods: I bought this pair of earphones when I was training for my first ultra marathon and wow, what a life changer! Cordless earphones are the invention of the year, I am never going back to those tangled annoying earphones again! Today, I use them for everything: running, cycling, skiing, yoga, cooking, taking a bath, talking on the phone (although I started having problems with the mic after a year; this is my only criticism). They just make life much easier! EarPods are also a must for any athletes training with music! No they don’t fall off my ears, never. 
  • 2. LifeStraw bottle: I received this gem as a birthday gift from my sister who’s also a traveler and tree hugger. The LifeStraw bottle holds a purification system that removes 99.9% of bacterias in water. You can fill it up anywhere (yes, even from a lake!) and enjoy a nice clean fresh drink (note that the filter does not eliminate the chemicals in the water, so don’t fill it up in a pool!). No more wasting of plastic and money. And to top it off: the purchase of every bottle provides clean water to a child for an entire school year!
  • 3. Lonely Planet Travel Guide: Going to Chapters to buy the Lonely Planet copy of my next destination is always a little pleasure. It’s probably the influence of my father who has been a fanatic of Lonely Planet since he started traveling, but I also convert to this collection a couple of years ago. I love the way the books are designed and they usually have excellent recommendations. I am especially a fan of their Shoe String editions (“Big trip on small budgets”). The Central America one is on my bedside table at the moment! 😉
  • 4. Running Hydration Vest: Since my run across The Gambia, nowadays I always run (or hike or even cycle) with my hydration vest. I do drink a lot when I exercise so I like to have access to my water anytime I want. Plus, it also has many pockets to stuff all your essentials (phone, snacks, keys, kleenex) and it is super comfortable! At the moment I am using the Nathan Fireball Race Vest.
  • 5. Hiking Poles: I might look like a 70 years old when I trek with my poles but I don’t care, I love them! I originally bought my poles to hike the Yunnan ultramarathon (since I couldn’t run it because of my herniated disks). During the entire 60km, they gave me the support I needed going up and down those mountains while keeping my posture straight. They have been my favorite hiking buddies since!
  • 6. Yoga Mat: Since my back injury, I made yoga part of my daily routine. Every morning, while my coffee is brewing, I religiously do my fifteen minutes back extension yoga sequence. What better a way to start my day! After an extended research on traveling mats, I opted for the Yoga Design Lab Mat which I am very happy with. It is ultra compact and very cool looking (but could be a little more grippy).
  • 7. Divacup: This should be a must for any women (traveling and non-traveling chicas). This little rubber cup is revolutionary: cheap, comfy, extremely environmentally friendly and a huge money saver. If you don’t have yours yet, please do yourself and Mother Nature a favor and go get one now!
  • 8. Epilator: Still in the women’s stuff, I discovered the beauty of an electric epilator just recently. I know they have been around for a while but since waxing was so cheap in China, I never bothered getting one. I finally made the move this summer, I bought the Braun Silk Epil 7. Let me tell you, it works like a charm. Ok, it does hurt a little (a lot) at first but you quickly get use to it. No need to search for waxing salons anymore, I got mine in my hostel room!
  • 9. Kindle: Like many of you, I was resistant about buying a Kindle at first (don’t we just love reading real books?), but man it saves on space and weight in my backpack! Not only the e-books are cheaper but you get them instantly on your Kindle! And how about that backlight letting you read all cuddled up in your bed at night? Gotta embrace new technology!
  • 10. Portable Speaker: Music plays an important role in my daily life. When I am not listening to music in my EarPods, I have my portable speaker to keep me company. I just bought myself the Bose Soundlink Micro Speaker as a Christmas present. Can’t wait to listen to some Anjunadeep around a bonfire on a lost beach somewhere in Oaxaca!
  • 11. Collapsible Coffee Cup: My mom bought a couple of Pokito collapsable coffee mugs as a Kickstarter project. Generous woman she is, she offered me one before my trip to Guatemala. I stopped counting how many paper cups I have saved since (…My name is Juliane and I am a coffee addict). Plus, I keep getting cool comments about it in coffee shops and hostels!
  • 12. Journal: And last, but not least, I always travel with a journal. I started writing on a daily basis about a year ago. I use it as a reflective tool. I write whatever is happening in my busy little head. I tell stories, I reflect on life, I write quotes and poetry, I sketch, I organised my budget etc. It is not only a precious traveling buddy, but a everyday life essential.
  • And finally, I always pack some instant coffee (in case I need my caffeine fix in the middle of nowhere) as well as trail mix and dark chocolate, which are simply my all-time favorite snacks! 😋

The Land of Smiles

If there’s one thing I have learned from living in China for a year now, is to escape the country during any national holidays! To make sure I didn’t get caught up again into the China’s Great Migration, I planned a trip to beautiful sunny Thailand. Yes, it is one of the most touristic countries in Southeast Asia, but hey, within a 3h flight I can eat 1$ Pad Thai, watching the sunset on a beach, after a full day of scuba diving! I didn’t have to think twice before booking my plane ticket!

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I only had one week of holiday so I had to plan accordingly. I picked three destinations: Bangkok for the sightseeing, Koh Tao for the scuba diving and Koh Phangan for the legendary full moon party; which unfortunately got cancelled because of the King’s funeral that was held at the end of the month. As you probably know, the King died last October; a man who was greatly respected by his people. Thus, this October was a mourning month and the government was banning all sorts of festivities and outdoor entertainment, which made wacky Thailand a little quieter than usual. Regardless, I still had a very enjoyable trip. The weather was great, the sceneries stunning and I had wonderful encounters as I always do (the joys of traveling alone!). The Land Of Smiles lives up to its name.

So here’s a few of my highlights (and must-do if you come to Thailand):

Temple hopping in Bangkok: There are over 400 wats (temples) scattered around Bangkok. My favorite one was the Wat Pho. I went at the end of the day when the crowds were gone so I could fully enjoy the serenity of this complex. I walked around, admiring the hundreds of stupas and even took the time to meditate with some Buddhist monks in one of the temples. However, the highlight of the Wat Pho is the Reclining Buddha: a 46m long and 15m high statue illustrating the passing of the Buddha into nirvana (his death), very impressive!

-The never-ending nightlife on Khoa San Road: The “centre of the backpacking universe” as it is described in the book ’The Beach’. Khao San Road is a 1 km strip that comes alive at night. In one night, you can easily get a tattoo, a cheap foot massage, eat a scorpion, down a few buckets and finish off the night dancing on a table in a bar. (I did 4 out of 5)

-Doing my advanced scuba diving course in the wonderful underworld world of Koh Tao! This was the main reason why I came to Thailand; after 7 years of scuba diving, I finally got my advanced certification! Koh Tao is one of the world’s most popular diving destinations (and also one of the cheapest place to get certified!). There are over 50 scuba diving companies on this tiny island! Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the famous whale sharks (many other divers saw them during that week) but it was still some of the best diving I did! The marine life and the visibility were stunning!

-Beach hopping Koh Tao by scooter with my friend Jess! Apart from scuba diving, this small island offers incredible beaches where you can easily spend the day working on your tan while hitting a book and drinking a cold Chang. And of course, riding a scooter is a must when visiting Thailand!

-The « light version » of the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan: Even though it was cancelled, because of the high number of tourists on the island there was still a party (but no music!) on the infamous Hat Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach). The Full Moon Party is a monthly party (yes, held on the night of the full moon) where thousands of tourists from around the world come to dance on the beach from dusk to dawn. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to experience the real one!

-And of course, the amazing Thai food! Pad Thai, Green and Red Curry, Spicy Shrimp Soup, Green Papaya Salad, Fried Rice, the ‘Best’ Pancakes on Koh Tao, Coconut Ice Cream, Mango Smoothie, you name it, I had it and it was delicious! 🙂

Back on the other side

After a beautiful summer visiting my loved ones, enjoying northern Ontario fresh air and touristing around Europe, I’m now back on the other side of the world. I surely didn’t miss the pollution and the crowds of China, but Dongguan is now my second home. I was quite happy to return to my apartment, my classroom, my friends and my dear Qifeng Park! 😊

I’m very excited for this upcoming year. I’m lucky enough to be teaching the same courses as last year (Secondary French and IB language B) at the International School of Dongguan. I actually just came back from Jakarta where I attended a professional development workshop for the course I teach. It was great to meet and exchange with other IB (International Baccalaureate) teachers from across Asia. I also got back into running a little more seriously. Thus, I decided to challenge myself and registered for my first ultra marathon, a 54km trail run around Lantau Island (Hong Kong) in December. Let’s see what I still got in me! And of course, I already have many traveling plans for my future holidays. This year should be as enjoyable as the previous one! 😄

Leaving home is never easy and I don’t think it will never be. As much as I love to travel and live abroad, I always get emotional when it’s time to say goodbye. I’m at a stage in my life where my friends are getting married, having babies, buying new house while I’m planning where I’ll be living in a few months! It seems like everyone is settling down while I’m living my little life day by day on the other side of the world! Sometimes I do ask myself if I am doing it right. But you know what, there’s no ‘ideal’ way of living our life. As long as it makes us happy and helps us thrive as human beings, that’s the key. And well, that’s the case for me, for now. 😉

One last thing, I know I haven’t been the best blogger in the last few months. I apologise for my laziness! I took the resolution of writing on a monthly basis. It’s my way of feeling connected to home but also keeping you updated on my upcoming adventures! ✈️

再见! 👋🏻

Surrender to what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be. 💚

 

Teaching abroad: A newfound passion ❤️

I’m proud to say that I’m officially happy with the spontaneous decision I took last August when I signed a one year contract with the International School of Dongguan (ISD). Not only I had absolutely no idea where Dongguan was, but my knowledge of China was quite limited (i knew it was a big country with lots of people that eat rice…!) but there was something about that school and the position that caught my curiosity. It was a gamble. Making a big life change is pretty scary. But, what’s even scarier? Regret. Thus, I took a deep breath, signed my life away, packed my bags and left home for this unknown world of teaching abroad. Here I am, 3 months later, happier than ever! 🙂


ISD is a young, vibrant school that opened its doors in 2012. Today, it has now 330 students from kindergarten to grade 12. For myself, I’m teaching French and English as a second language at the secondary level. I also have the chance to teach the International Baccalaureate to the grade 11 and 12, a rigid program to teach but very enriching at the same time. Thankfully my classes are quite small which make my work a little less stressful! 🙂 And not to mentioned that my students are also extremely disciplined and responsible! I haven’t much to complain, really!


In a few months only, the school has already offered me some great traveling and professional development opportunities. Early September, I was sent to Bangkok for an IB workshop. I spent three busy three days in the Thai capital learning how to teach my program (French/English as a second language). It was a very intense but extremely useful course as I had no prior knowledge at all of the IB program. I came back to Dongguan more confident, with a head full of new ideas and resources, oh and a desire to come back to Thailand one day! 3 days was such a tease!


Two weeks ago, I also had the chance to accompany the grade 6 and 7 on their Week Without Walls. The WWW is a yearly field trip organised by the school where the upper school students spend a few days in a rural village doing some community services (we helped cleaning an elders home and gave a hand to a local farm), while engaging in new outdoors activities (camping, rock climbing, cycling, hiking, kayaking). It’s a great opportunity for the kids to learn new skills while bonding with their peers and teachers outside the classroom setting.


One sure thing, ISD knows how to keep its students and staff busy, and most importantly, happy! 🙂 Its no surprise Im already secretly considering staying here for another year… ☺️ But for now, the focus is to survive the last stretch before Christmas. 3,2,1, here we go! 👍🏻

My Golden Week 🌇

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Beautiful Beihai Lake

After only a month of work, yes, I was already on holidays! #joysofteaching The first week of October is the Chinese National Day, a week-long holiday, also known as the Golden Week, to commemorate the founding of the People’s Republic of China on the 1st of October 1949. What a perfect opportunity to visit a new part of China and learn about the history and the culture of this vast and beautiful country! My first pick was Beijing, the national capital. At first, I was wondering why I was one of the only teacher at my school traveling in China, while most of them were escaping to other southeastern Asian countries. Well, I quickly understood why…

I left early on the Saturday morning allowing (I thought) enough time to head to the airport in Guangzhou, which normally takes 1h by bus from Dongguan. Well this “1h” bus ride turned into a 4h30 nightmare! If you think you’ve been in traffic before, you haven’t been to China! The highway literally became a giant parking lot… It seemed like every Chinese family in Dongguan decided to go on a road trip, on the same day, at the same exact time. Urg. I did practice my patience that day. A lot. Well I eventually made it to the airport, and, obviously missed my flight. However, it must be a common thing because they told me “Oh no problem, we just put you on later flight”. Oh ok then… and it was that easy! A few hours later, I was finally landing in the country’s capital. Lesson learned: Never travel on the first day of a Chinese holidays.

I won’t go into details of my whole trip. In a nutshell, despite the number of tourists, I had a lovely week visiting Beijing top attractions like The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven, The Bell and Drum Tower. I also didn’t miss the chance to wander through the city’s countless hutong (alleyways) and of course I couldn’t leave without trying the capital signature dish, the Peking duck.

The highlight of my trip was definitely my camping trip on The Great Wall of China. What can I say, my happy place is in the mountains, not in the city, especially during a Chinese national holidays! I went with this local hiking group called Beijing Hikers (recommended by my lovely colleague!), which brings you to the unrestored sections of the wall, away from hordes of tourists. Let me tell you it was quite special not only to hike, but also to sleep on China’s most famous icon. You can see and feel the hundreds of years of history beneath your feet. What a thrilling experience!

So now it’s back to work until December. I’m really excited to be coming back home to Canada this year for Christmas. After spending my last winter in The Gambia, I’m extremely looking forward to be reunited with my family and friends for the holidays. Home is where the heart is they say… ♡

Hakuna Matata! ✌

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Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase. Hakuna Matata! Ain’t no passing craze. It means no worries for the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy. Hakuna Matata!

Does this catchy song ring a bell? Reminds you of a lion, a meerkat and a warthog happily singing in the jungle? Hakuna Matata was indeed a very popular song in the Waltz Disney movie of The Lion King. However, this wonderful phrase is actually an expression used across East Africa meaning ‘no worries’ in Swahili, describing the positive and easy-going African lifestyle. Well, this is exactly how I can recap my week on the heavenly island of Zanzibar.

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Since I’m having such a wonderful experience in SA, I decided to extend my contract at the orphanage for another few weeks. Therefore, in order to renew my South African visa, I had to leave the country for a few days to be eligible for a new stamp on my return (perfect excuse for a little vacation, right?). With South African winter at our doorstep, my holiday criteria were clear: heat and beach! I might be Canadian, but it’s getting freaking cold down here! Thus, I opted for Zanzibar, an exotic place I was dreaming of visiting. ☀️

Zanzibar is an archipelago of 50 islands with a population of a 1.3 million, nestling in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean. Unguja, the main island, is located 36km off the African East coast and 6 degrees from the Ecuador. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, which means they still have their own President and government, and they deal with their own internal matters. Over the centuries, Zanzibar has been colonized and occupied by explorers, traders and settlers of several nationalities (Swahili, Persians, Arabs, Indians and Europeans) becoming today a small nation rich in history and culture. For decades, Zanzibar was mainly used as a slave-trading port until this practice was abolished in 1890. Today, the economy of Zanzibar relies on tourism and spices exportation (Zanzibar was once the world’s leading clove producer!).

A few highlights of my trip…

-My visit to a spice farm where my senses were highly stimulated. I got the chance to smell, taste and feel dozens of local spices including cinnamon, coffee, nutmeg, ginger and of course cloves.

-I also had the privilege to pet and feed giant tortoises of over 200 years old in a sanctuary in Stone Town (the nation’s capital).

-Finally, yes I did enjoy the pristine beaches on a daily basis, but a visit to Zanzibar would not have been complete without visiting the underwater world. Therefore, I spent my last day scuba diving, exploring the depths of the Indian Ocean where I spotted turtles, starfishes and massive schools of colourful fishes.

It was the perfect Hakuna Matata type of holiday where I fully recharged my batteries before heading back to my ‘mommy’ role at Othandweni. It’s now time to make the most of my last moments with my little ones… 3 weeks before my big departure!

Next stop: South Africa 🇿🇦

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It’s been 6 months now since I left home and I’m presently visiting my 6th country on my itinerary, South Africa. So far my journey has been way above my expectations. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, the cultures I’ve come across, have all changed my perspective on life. This experience has open my mind and my heart on a whole new level. I’ve learned to fully embrace every day, to appreciate the little things life gives us and to simply be happy! 😊

Ok enough with the cheesiness! 😝

I arrived in South Africa at the end of February to attend the Ultra electronic music festival, which I’ve been impatiently waiting for since last year! After having spent six months in developing countries arriving in Johannesburg (the largest city in the country) was a bit of a reverse culture choc, but at the same time, it felt good to be in a familiar environment. Flashing my Canadian flag throughout the festival was an easy way to make new friends, but also a great way to get the attention from the DJ’s. I must say I was pretty stunned when Skrillex yelled “Canada is in the house!!” during his set!! 🇨🇦

After the festival, it was now time to start my second volunteering project. I am currently based in Soweto for the next few months. Soweto is a large township outside Johannesburg with a population of two million (Soweto stands for SOuth WEstern TOwnship). It was originally developed in the early 1900 for the black population who were working in the gold mines. Soweto is also famous for being the hometown of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu; both Nobel Peace Prize winners. Despite being strongly affected by the apartheid, Soweto is now a modern and touristy place. I’ve been living here for three weeks now and I’m already feeling at home.

I am presently working at the Othandweni orphanage, which means ‘Place of Love’ in Zulu (one of the eleven South Africa official languages). There are 90 children living in this lovely government-funded children home. I’m mainly in charge of taking care of the babies in the nursery (bathing, feeding, changing, playing) but I also spend time with the older kids helping them with homework, house chores or simply being a shoulder to lean on. My goal for this project is to give as much love, attention and care to those beautiful little souls. These children all have different past and individual stories but they are all looking for the same things: affection, friendship and love.

“Give your hands to serve and your heart to love.” -Mother Theresa