Bureaucracy Will Be The Death of Me

Leaving Hong Kong is not so simple. Yes, I am moving home to the States, but there is still a ton to do! I need to terminate my phone and television and internet contracts, close out my utilities account, ship boxes home, get my pension money out of the HK system, and most of all: pay my final tax bill.

Taxes in Hong Kong are not withdrawn from your monthly paycheck- you pay them in a lump sum at the end of the year. It's a weird system that I've never totally figured out, where they charge you somewhat for the upcoming year as well. Although I am leaving in June, I need to first pay taxes on all of my income through August in order to submit of a 'letter of release' from the Inland Revenue Department to my employer, so that my employer can release my last few paychecks and pension holdings. Got it? Right.

The imposing government building everyone needs to visit in order to leave Hong Kong
Sorting out stuff like this is actually pretty straight forward in Hong Kong- I&#…

The Natural Beauty of Tioman Island

Off the southeastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia, just a couple hours drive from Singapore, is the idyllic island of Tioman. Tioman is a hotspot of adventure sports for the outdoorsy type, but can also be a place to post up in a beachfront bungalow for a week with a stack of magazines and coconuts to sip on if that's more your style. I was there on a school trip with students, so it was pretty much nonstop action for us.

Students and staff on our jungle trek
A well deserved dip
Right off the bat, we took our kids for a jungle trek followed by some over night camping in the jungle. It was a jolt to the senses having come from the city noises of Hong Kong to the deafening noises of the Malaysian jungle wildlife. The kids got to build campfires, swim in rivers, and do their business outdoors- oh joy!

Kayaking through the mangroves
Pythons spotted above us whilst kayaking! EEK!
Considering Tioman is a tropical island, there are plenty of water activities to do either in the rivers of the…

My Travel Bucket List

I know I should be focusing on a Hong Kong bucket list considering I've only got 6 weeks left here, but I'm a dreamer so let's shoot for the stars, shall we? Just because I am moving back to the US does not mean my travels are coming to a halt. Some personal financial goals might mean I don't aim to visit ten countries a year like I did in 2016, but there is still so much more out there I want to see. Here are some of the places I have on my mind for the near future:

1. New Zealand

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Any Lord of the Rings fan wants a chance to visit the Shire and Mordor and Helm's Deep and Rivendell and shall I continue? Ha! I want to go to New Zealand for the stunning scenery and to visit the infamously cool city of Wellington.

2. Tarangire Safari Lodge, Tanzania

photo credit
A friend recently told me this is their favorite place on Earth, and I'm sold. Africa is a continent I still need to crack, and this seems like an epic way to start. Sleeping in luxury tents amongs…

Tioman With Teens

Last year I went to Taiwan with teens, and this year I was lucky enough to go to Tioman Island, Malaysia, with a group of my 9th grade students. It was a week long outdoors extravaganza of jungle trekking, turtle conservation, scuba diving, mangrove kayaking, organic farming, snorkeling, and beach parties.

The students loved snorkeling in the pristine waters
With my students cooling off after a long hike (I'm the overexcited one on the end)
Traveling with teens can be frustrating sometimes. They have to come first, so even if you quietly spot a turtle swimming off in the distance, you can't blame them for shouting and pointing and driving it away. If you find a ukulele or a dog to pet or spot a monkey nearby, they too will be enthused and likely take over your finding and drive it away with their infectious enthusiasm (aka ruckus). Being asked for a band-aid for every single little bug bite or boo boo might wear down even the most resilient teacher.

We really did push them out of …

Beach Time in Cuba

Vacation for me (especially spring break) must include lots of time near the water. Slap a bikini on me and dump me in the sand and I'm good to go. Luckily Cuba provided plenty of opportunities for this, seeing as it's a tropical island and all.
Slurping coconuts at a swimming hole outside of Viñales

Cruising down a causeway on the Gulf of Mexico
The beaches were stupidly beautiful and underdeveloped. Crystal clear water with lush sea grass made for perfect swimming conditions, and the sand was silky white. I bet scuba diving here would have been great, but I just didn't have the time to get around to booking a dive trip. Some of them looked a lot like the beaches I grew up visiting in South Florida.

Cayo Jutias had stunning mangrove formations
One odd thing about the beaches of Cuba is that it is hard to find food at some of them. Playa Ancon only had one pizza stand, and I use the term pizza loosely. Was this socialism creeping in, a lack of entrepreneurial opportunities a…

Cuban City Life

Cuba has so many cities to explore, so if you are going to Cuba, make sure to visit more than just Havana! On our last day there, my friends and I did a little roundtable sharing about our favorite memories from the trip, and certain moments in Viñales and Trinidad kept coming up. The town of Santa Clara is all packed full of museums and colonial architecture to check out.
Expect live music where ever you go, as well as people hanging out in the streets. You can stop and make friends with a local very easily in any Cuban city. Everything was super walkable, and there are plenty of museums and cafes to keep you busy for days on end.
Trinidad is a picturesque little town
Trinidad could easily be mistaken for Antigua, Guatemala
How did we always snag a rooftop terrace at every AirBnB?
Of course no visit to Cuba is complete with a good chunk of time to meander the streets of Havana, and whoa was I blown away and surprised by the beauty of the place. We found underground jazz clubs, bunker a…

Roadtrippin' Cuba Style

When I arrived at the Havana airport late Friday night, my AirBnB host had arranged for a driver named Henri to pick up my group of friends from the airport. We stuck with him for all of our driving needs for the next week! Henri drove us all over the country- from Havana to Viñales, Trinidad, and Santa Clara, and back to Havana again. And I think this is the best way to go. Rather than booking seats on buses, we stayed loyal to our driver, and he catered the routes to our schedules and hunger pangs.
With our driver Henri- he was the best!
Henri took us to a little paladar where  we feasted on fresh fish and yams
The old cars were super comfortable and had big spacious back seats to sprawl out in and get cozy.
I would recommend bringing an auxiliary cable if you want to play your own music, because usb cables did not seem to work with their sound systems. Otherwise it might be 6 straight hours of reggaeton or Marc Anthony (which I'm frankly ok with). Snacks were a bit hard to come a…