Top 10 Travel Tips

YAY because school’s finally out for spring break and we’re leaving for Phuket in 12 hours:) So to get in the spirit, here are my top 10 travel tips:

  1. Travel in style. While traveling is super exciting and fun, the actually airplane ride can be kind of grueling. I’ve always felt like dressing for the flight and having cute travel accessories with me always makes the plane feel a little more chic. Dress comfy, but cute; yoga pants or jeggings with a flowy top always fits the part. Passport covers are another way to feel a little more high-class. Right now, I have a white Kate Spade passport cover with gold polka dots, and I am 100% obsessed with it! Carry-on a cute bag so you can feel classy while shopping at the airport (tax free!).
  2. Turn the plane ride into a spa session. I was watching a Shay Mitchell video once and saw that she used face masks while she was on the plane. At first that sounded insane, but once I gave it a shot I was sold. My favorites are the hydrating face masks from Sephora or the Freeman Beauty masks. Now I have to warn you, the people sitting around you are going to look at you and whoever you’re traveling with may pretend not to know you, but there’s nothing better than walking off the plane and starting your vacation with a perfect face.
  3. Bring some coloring books along. I am definitely a sucker for watching as many movies as I can on a plane, but sometimes I just feel like I need a little change, something different to do, so I find that coloring is exactly what I want to do.
  4. Plan out where you’re going to eat. I know this is super “food nerdy” (is that even a word?!) of me, but researching restaurants to eat at before you go on a trip somewhere is amazing and makes life 10 times easier. I’ve also found that walking around the streets can be a little bit overwhelming (especially where there are so many restaurants to choose from), so doing a little research ahead of time can help to ensure that you find a local, safe, awesome place to eat.
  5. Pack smart. I have always been the person to over-pack, but there have been times where I have found myself in need of something that I don’t have. A lot of times this has to do with the outfits I have (or don’t have) with me. If we’re going to a city, I tend to pack way too many jean shorts and tops/shirts and if we’re going to the beach I always pack tons of casual beachy clothes. This would normally be okay but I’ve found myself in the past being in need of a nice outfit for dinner while we’re at the beach, or in need of a swim suit in the city. So what I do now is always have one super casual outfit, one city-wear outfit, and one outfit that would be perfect for a nice dinner. This just makes me feel safe and prepared for anything. 
  6. Try to avoid taxis/ubers as much as possible. While it’s so nice to just call an uber at the end of a long day of sightseeing, I’ve found that using local transportation, whether that be the bus system, the subway, or a tuk-tuk is a super fun way to get immersed into the culture. You get in the flow of the local’s daily lives and get a sense as to how they live. It’s also a great way of seeing more of the place your visiting, instead of just sitting in a car. 
  7. Take pictures, but also take time to disconnect. Trust me, I am a sucker for finding the perfect Instagram photos, but I also try to disconnect from my phone and social media while I’m traveling. Since I only have wi-fi at the hotel anyway, I find this pretty easy, but it can be difficult to try and stay off of Facebook and Snapchat during dinner. That being said, take tons and tons of photos. I’ve never regretted taking a photo, but there have been so many times where I wished that I had a photo of some view I saw. 
  8. Try to plan your own days. As easy as it is to just sign up for a tour, the amount you learn while planning your own day and trying to figure out your way around a new place is incredible. It gives you a chance to interact with locals, deal with the currency and maybe even try to learn the language. None of which would happen if you relied solely on someone else the whole time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a day doing something completely different as a tour!
  9. Try new foods. This has always come pretty naturally to me as I have never been a picky eater, but for those of you who are, try to push yourself outside your comfort zone a little bit and try a food or dish you’d never thought you’d try. There have been plenty of foods I’ve looked at and was hesitant to eat, but once I did I was glad I did. You don’t get the chance to try truly local foods that often, so don’t pass up that opportunity.
  10. Have fun! It’s so easy for us all to get caught up in the daily grind, whether it be school, work or anything else, so when you’re traveling and exploring a new culture, try to leave that all behind and soak in the beauty of the country. There is so many eye-opening experiences you can have while you’re traveling, so make sure you don’t let that get overshadowed by other thoughts.

As one of my favorite quotes goes, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”. Happy traveling!

SG52- The one year countdown

Exactly one week ago from this second, my plane from Haneda, Tokyo landed at Changi airpot in Singapore. ‘Ugh, back to school, back to reality’, was my first thought as the plan cruised down the runway. But as time passed, as I got off the plane to see all the workers in the airport, as we lugged our 9 suitcases into a taxi, as we passed all of the familiar HDB’s, work buildings and malls that had surrounded me for the past 17 years, it hit me like a ton of bricks. In one year from that moment, I wouldn’t be going back to reality or familiarity, but I would be starting a new life. That was an interesting day for me. Not only was that the last time I would return to Singapore from a summer vacation, but it was also National Day as the nation celebrated it’s 51st birthday. While I was dreading the thought of getting back to the 6am grind, there was this weird sense of comfort. That comfort was a feeling I had never felt before. Yes, I feel comfortable back in California with Americans around me who share the same believes as me, and yes I feel comfort when I’m at my lake house in Japan with all of my American friends around me, but this was a different type of comfort. In that 30 minute taxi ride from the airport back to my apartment in downtown Singapore, I realized just how much this beautiful country I get to call home had influenced me and how it will always continue to influence me. It’s the little things that I have been learning to appreciate more. The old Chinese lady at the supermarket who yells the amount I owe at me until all the money is on the table, the taxi driver who doesn’t understand what I’m saying, then takes a wrong turn so I have to go all the way around again, or the smell of the local wet market. All of those things used to bother me or annoy me, but now all I want to do is to be able to be around that for the rest of my life.

It’s weird, the idea of only having one more year left in this little island. And while I am extremely excited to begin my new journey as a college students, there’s a part of me that never wants to leave high school. Not only has this little red dot influenced my life, but my school has shaped me into the person I will be for the rest of my life. Being able to attend a school for 12 years that thrives on diversity and cultural competence has make me as open to new cultures as I could ever be. The teachers who I’ve formed relationships with, who have taught me just as much outside of the classroom as they have in, the friends I’ve made who have come from all of the world and will be by my side for the rest of my life.

So while I look forward to watching Singapore grow another year older, I am also dreading the next national day. This place is my home and will be my sense of comfort for decades to come. I’ll be saying goodbye to this place in one year from now, but I know that won’t be the end. If I’ve learned anything from my 17 years in Singapore, it’s that you never know where you’ll end up. I will be beginning a new adventure, and will have a structure for four years, but after that, who knows where I’ll end up. Singapore, you might just pull me back in!!

life in the +65

May 29th, 1999-Singapore: I was born. It wasn’t until 2015, 16 years later, before I realized how fortunate I was to have been raised in such an amazing country. For so long, I would sit at the lunch table with my friends and complain about Singapore; complain about how boring it was and small the island-nation is. One night in early June 2015, I was having dinner with some friends at the Chocolate and Cheese Bar located at the top of the Marina Bay Sands. Once we were seated at our table, I looked around to see a stunning 360-degree view Singapore. The sky was dark, yet a perfect shade of blue. The Central Business District was densely packed with tall, funky buildings. The large laser lights filled the whole island with red, green and gold strobes. Right at that moment, I realized how much love I had for Singapore, and how Singapore defines who I am as a person.


The Marina Bay Sands put on a laser light show every night


Singapore’s Central Business District

Visit Singapore and you’ll find an island with possibly the most diverse population. Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Indian, Americans, Europeans, and the list goes on and on. Never before have I visited a country with so much diversity. I’ve always taken for granted that I am surrounded everyday by people from all over the world. I’ve taken for granted that I have been able to travel to exotic places. I’ve taken for granted that I know can say that I know somebody from each continent. It took me 16 years to realize that not every teenager has this experience, and not every teenager is able to understand what true culture is. Although I am American and Greek by blood, I feel like I am so much more than that. I have a little bit of Singapore in me, a little bit of Japan, and a whole lot of culture and respect for everybody’s backgrounds and beliefs.

Aerial view of Gardens by the Bay at Marina South, with the Marina Bay Sands and Singapore Flyer in the background. The Super Tress in the garden was build by TTJ Design & Engineering Pte Ltd. Photo by Tommy Chia, STUDIO 8, Photography, Singapore.

Birds’ Eye View of Singapore

Singapore is a place that houses expats, especially from the US. Going to Singapore American School, I understand the expat way of life far too well. Each year, anywhere from 120-150 new families move to Singapore, mainly from the US. The good thing about this is the sheer number of people I meet and become close with. However, no matter how many times friends come and go, saying goodbye is something that nobody ever gets used to. These families come and are used to their neighborhood gatherings, long car rides to visit their families, and the feeling of belonging wherever they are in the US. Coming to Singapore is usually a culture shock for them. They are so intrigued that you can be in Chinatown one minute, and drive 10 minutes to get to Little India, and another 5 minutes to get to Arab Street. The amazement I see in these expat families is fascinating to me, as I just assume that all countries are as diverse as Singapore. My appreciation for the exposure to all of this has grown immensely in the last few months, especially after my annual 2-month trip back to California.


The bustling streets of Chinatown


Temples in Little India


The colorful walls of Arab Street


As Singapore celebrates its 50th birthday this year, I am so grateful that I have a place in the world that I can always call home. Even though when I come back to visit Singapore in 10 years, it will probably be so different, I’m sure that the culture will be just as colorful, if not more, and that’s what makes Singapore so amazing. No matter who you are, where you come from or what you believe in, you’ll feel so warm and welcomed in our little tiny island. I have so much love for this little red dot, 1-degree north of the equator. Singapore, you will forever be a part of me, and I can’t wait to see what the next 2 years have in store for us.


Singapore in 1965- Singapore celebrates its 50th birthday this year


The little red dot in Southeast Asia