Just FYI…This Blog is Retired!

I’ve noticed that I have a few new followers on this blog! Thank you!

But I just wanted to let you know, this blog is for all intensive purposes, retired. I don’t imagine I will be posting anything new here.

I’ve started posting on a new blog, theculturalcourier.com. So if you are interested in my writing or the topics of travel, culture, anthropology and international issues, please go and follow my other blog instead!

Once again, thank you for your interest in (any of) my blogs.



Feeding My Addiction: My Travel Wish List

I have been fortunate to visit many places in my life so far, but as some of you may know, traveling is a bit of an addiction! I spend a lot of free time flipping through travel books and Googling places to visit…I sometimes go so far as to look up the prices of flights to places I really want to go, even if I know I can’t afford it at the time. In the spirit of dreaming big, here are a few (but not nearly all!) of the places still on my travel “wish list”..

Staying here in Mongolia:


I have my doubts about the “authenticity” of this experience, but it still seems incredibly interesting and fun. Also, for a trip that involves staying in non-traditional lodgings, it looks really cozy! I would love to get a peek at this culture’s nomadic lifestyle through this trip.


Ice Hotel in Sweden:


Chances are you have seen this hotel featured on the internet before, probably in a post titled “The World’s Most Unique Hotels” or something like that. I will admit it seems a bit gimmicky, but I would like to go and try it for myself. Probably for just one night, as I can’t imagine these hotel rooms to be very comfortable!



https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g308272-Shanghai-Vacations.html http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/05/essential-shanghai-china-street-food-dishes.html

I traveled to China for the very first time in August 2016, when I visited my dear friend in Beijing and traveled briefly to Yinchuan. I now have a tourist visa that is valid for the next ten years and I would love to make use of it, starting by visiting another big city—Shanghai. I want to eat some of the delicious street food, especially the famous soup dumplings, and experience some of the famous “cosmopolitan” culture of the shopping districts!






What intrigues me the most about Singapore is the mix of cultures from all around Asia that find their home there. The writer in the above lonely planet post describes the different districts that exist side by side—Chinatown, Little India, Bangkok district…I cannot tell a lie, the first thing that comes to mind when reading this list of districts is ‘so many delicious foods!’ But beyond food, I would like to experience one of the many different religious and cultural festivals that are celebrated here. Also, the green spaces in the city look beautiful.  


Hot Springs in Japan:


Visiting one of the places on this list seems to be a great way to experience a bit of traditional Japanese customs and the island country’s natural beauty at the same time. Plus, soaking in a natural hot spring just sounds incredibly peaceful and relaxing.




I have visited Cancun twice, and although it is beautiful and fun there, I would like to venture outside of the typical tourist destinations in Mexico. I would especially like to visit some of the towns that exist in Mexico’s central mountainous area, such as San Miguel, where my aunt has visited many times. Seeing how Mexico is so close to home (in comparison to other countries), it seems a shame that I haven’t seen more of it!


Lake Malawi National Park (Malawi Africa):



When I was little my dad had a fifty gallon fish tank full of brightly colored cichlids, which I loved to watch. Lake Malawi is home to hundreds of varieties of cichlids, as well as the greatest number of fish species in any one lake in the world. Because of the lake’s isolated location, the fish that live there are a great source of study for scientists who want to learn more about evolution and adaptation. In addition, the area around Lake Malawi is full of natural beauty and like everywhere, a unique culture.


Madrid, Spain:


Okay, I have to admit that one of the main reasons Madrid is on my list is because of food—I really want to try some tapas! Also, the streets of Madrid look like they would be perfect for endless walking and exploring, with plenty of charming cafes to stop at when you need a break. I need another excuse to keep practicing Spanish as well!


Quebec, Canada




Quebec has actually been on my mental travel wish list for a long time, but it recently resurfaced in my thoughts because of the recently concluded Korean drama, “Goblin”. This drama was filmed partially in Korea and partially in Quebec, and the display of Quebec’s scenery is incredible and beautiful. The atmosphere of Quebec City seems to fit the magical theme of the drama perfectly. The travel site above advertises Quebec as a place to experience European culture without leaving North America, which sounds intriguing to me.

I hope you enjoyed reading my list. What’s on yours?


Image Source: Michael Tompsett fineartamerica.com




Today is the Day

In just a few minutes I will leave for the airport and being my long journey to China and Russia! For the past few hours I’ve had that nervous, adrenaline-rush feeling that I usually get before flying or taking a big trip. I’m also feeling a little emotional because I know I am going to miss my family, friends and Calum so much…I wish I could pack them up and take them with me!




I successfully attained my visas and packed all my things…now all that is left is to go!

I will try to update my blog with pictures and written posts as much as I can. However, circumstances may not always permit me to update, or I may only be able to write a post and without adding any pictures.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and this trip in many different ways.

Mariia, I’m coming to see you!


My Adventures in Visa Applications

According to my Dad, I have learned a valuable life lesson today. A sad lesson, but a true lesson.

Life Lesson #3459:
If you throw more money at your problem, your problem has a better chance of going away. 

After weeks of deliberation on how I should handle my visa needs for Russia and China, I decided to visit an expedited passport and visa service in Dallas during their walk-in hours and see what they could do. I brought with me everything I should need for my applications:

  • Passport
  • 2 Passport-style photos (taken at Walgreens photo center)
  • Hostel booking confirmation in China
  • Flight booking confirmation for all flights
  • Copies of my drivers’ license (as proof of US residency)
  • Knowledge of my trip itinerary

There are various reasons I waited so long to apply for my visas. The main reason is that Russian visas require an invitation from a party in Russia to be approved. Maria’s mother graciously put in a request for a private visit invitation for me at the immigration in office Russia. However, it takes a very long time to process these private invitations, and quite a bit more time to mail them from Russia to the US (they cannot be scanned or e-mailed, they must be the original copy). As weeks passed after the request was put in, I began to realize that the invitation may not come in time for my trip. Even with the invitation in hand, it can take weeks to process a visa application through the Russian consulate, and at least 3 days to process an application when using an expedited service. After a little internet research, I found out that most expedited visa companies can work with the Russian consulate and a Russian tourism company to create an invitation for you, for an extra fee.

Anyways, back to my visit with the visa service in Dallas.

The ladies at the service were very helpful, and were able to help me finish my visa applications in a little less than an hour. The assured me that my visas will be done by August 2nd (2 days before my trip departure!!!) and that they would call me when my passport is ready to be picked up. They really put my mind at ease. (I plan to leave them a stellar review on Google…)

However, getting a visa expedited or “rushed” is not cheap. Between the fees for the visa service, the Russian invitation fee and the consulate fees for both countries, I racked up quite a bill. I’m not comfortable sharing the exact cost on my blog, so I will leave the actual numbers to your imagination. I am fortunate enough to have been able to put a lot of money in my savings account over the past few years as well as to have the support of my parents when it comes to many (most???) of life’s financial necessities (I can’t thank them enough). I have also been working two jobs this summer in order to save money for my trip and my future living expenses.

If I didn’t pay the fee, I would have lost the trip of a lifetime (not to mention the cost of 3 different plane tickets.) KakaoTalk_Photo_2016-07-14-19-07-47_85Either way I’d be paying the price.

I think I learned several important life lessons today…


There’s a reason I’ve created this new blog. A reason that I hope will be a launchpad for a variety of other reasons to continue to use this blog in the future…

In August of 2016, I will be leaving Texas and the United States for three weeks to visit my “Russian sister”, Maria Revina, in two different countries. My first stop is Beijing, China, where Maria is currently finishing her first year of graduate school. My next stop will be Moscow and Maria’s hometown of Kursk, Russia. Lastly, I will finish my trip and depart for the US from St. Petersburg, Russia.

So essentially, I will be circling the globe in three weeks! With this blog I will document my travels, share pictures of the sites and review the numerous airlines I will be flying with. I will document the process of preparation for visiting two foreign countries. I will share travel trips that I already know from my study abroad trip to South Korea, as well as new tips that I learn on this new adventure! I will share my thoughts and observations on cultural differences and new experiences abroad. Typical travel blog stuff!

However, there is another purpose for this trip and this blog that I want to make known. Between Maria and I, there is a story of international friendship, cross-cultural communication and life lessons that deserves to be shared. Many of you know us from snapshots of our relationship on social media, or from the time that Maria spent in Texas in 2013, or from Maria’s visit to Seoul in 2015. But with this blog I want to share our whole story from the beginning, as well as how our long-distance friendship has changed my outlook on life, my relationships with friends and family and my even my academic experience.

And of course, I think Maria herself will want to contribute. 🙂

So as cheesy as it sounds, please stay tuned!