September Ipsy Glam Bag Review!

OK, so the month of September has had A LOT going on. New job, new apartment and lifestyle. Let’s just say I over-filled my plate! With that said, the arrival of that glamorous, hot-pink package was welcomed with a gaping smile. My Ipsy glambag was my little bit of joy in the midst of the surrounding chaos.


Luckily enough, I had also planned a date that evening, so it’d be the perfect time to try out my new products. And with glee I prepared a fresh face and open-mind.

Here’s my review of the September Ipsy glam bag!

  1. IMG-2581 Neogen Rosewater Facial Toner. Toners tend to irritate my face, so I was a little nervous to try this one– but I was pleasantly surprised at the results of a fresh, clean face!  My rating: 8/10 
  2. and 3. IMG-2607 These  next two products are both worth the spill! I am applying Elizabeth Mott Pop Goes the Shadow premium eye shadow in toasted. The brush i’m using is by Luxie and it’s the medium angled shading. The shadow is that perfect earthy tone that you can use for any occasion. As a fan of neutrals, I am a huuuge fan of how it was just the right shade to give my makeup some depth without overdoing it. And the brush is amazingly soft and applies flawlessly. My rating: 10/10 for both!


Next was the Tarte brand, Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 mascara. Let’s just say my double-rowed lashes took well to the brush and I ended up with beautiful, camera-ready lashes. My only complaint– the texture of my lashes was a little strange. I like to have natural-looking lashes even with mascara on, so finding that perfect combination is tough. With that said, my rating: 7/10. 

5. The PIXI by PETRA beauty blush duo in peach honey was my favorite product in the whole bag. Just look at the warmth it brought to my face:

21728158_10213852410367164_2526250265952931178_n I  was beyond impressed with this product that I’d give it a 20/10 if that made sense 😛 so my actual rating: 10/10


Here’s an overall review of all my products:


The quality of the products and bag itself made this September Glam bag a real treat worth the $$.

If you’re considering Ipsy, make sure to get the free APP so you can keep track of payment, shipping & get a sneak-peak of that month’s Glam Bag!

So, with my unusual beauty-related post coming to a close:

Have an amazing rest-of-September and a spooky October,


The Travelling Aunt


#ipsy #glambag #September #ipsyglambagreview


The Travelling Aunt Pro-Tips Pt. 3: Mindfulness in a New Land

Have you ever met someone that’s not “from” your country? Sometimes they are there as exchange students or business, other times they are planting their feet on your soil because of a dream they have. They desire to be a part of this new, exciting culture that you just happen to know like the back of your hand. You have walked the streets, understand the government, have connections with the businesses around you and feel that you have been a good citizen.

Now imagine if this foreigner decided that your home country didn’t please them. They didn’t like the food, were frustrated by the language barrier and didn’t really try to make friendships outside their own friend-group. Not only would that person be miserable, but they’d also be disrespecting the people of that country.

That’s why being mindful of the people in a culture outside your own is so important. Ethnocentrism (judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one’s own culture) will make anyone have a horrible time, so how do you avoid this?

First of all, you should be preparing for whichever country you travel to before you even purchase the flight. You should know the “dos and don’ts” and “basic acceptable behavior” before you decide to get attached to a specific country, and if you’ve done this you should have nothing to worry about!

But maybe it won’t be ethnocentrism that hinders your experience, but a struggle with insecurity in this new environment. Maybe you’re trying so hard to tap into the culture and find pleasure in the authentic cuisine, but it’s just not happening. What do you do?

Well, first of all, know that it’s natural.

Culture shock is real and it can be frightening at times. You are in a brand new environment with brand new ideals. You may have appreciated the ideals from a distance but now, here you are, in all the action. And do you really have to try the fish-head soup? Really?

In all honesty, we are easy to shock. Here in America we have enjoyed these comfy little lives, untouched by the harsh realities of possibly starving and having to live with six family members to survive. It’s not something we have to think about every day. So when we enter these types of dynamics, we can become keenly aware of this situation. It’s like a violent shove from the shallow-end to the deep. And I hope you’ve learned to swim!

But you don’t have to stay in this place. You don’t have to accept your fate, flailing our arms around like a helpless child. You can overcome this feeling of insecurity that sits on your shoulders like a lead blanket.

Here are four ways to overcome Culture Shock:

Number One: Call Home

You have that person that you tell everything to. Maybe your mom is your main support, always giving you that top-notch advice when needed. Or what about your brother/sister that puts you in your place when your mind isn’t right. CALL THEM!

The worst thing you could do is allow your insecurities to fester and multiply inside your mind. Most shocks that come your way can be easily fixed with a vent-session and a happy story from home.

Number Two: Stay Home

When I lived abroad in China, I would call the overwhelming, irritating days “China Days.” It wasn’t that I didn’t like or appreciate the culture, but it was more of my own American-self getting in the way of thriving in the situations of that specific day. Maybe the irritations had been building up, and all I needed was to cool off in the safety of my apartment. If I had obligations, I would do those to the best of my ability and then immediately resort to the homestead.

These times can be strengthening, especially for believers, when you decide to take the day off and press your knees to the floor in prayer. Sometimes tears would flow as soon as I shut the front door and I could only make it midway before I had to fall to my knees and say “Lord, I need You!” And those were the times I felt so so close to Him. I am still grateful even for those days.

Number Three: Find a Mentor

Depending on the country, the customs can be quite tricky to grasp and maybe your just not a chameleon when it comes to quickly picking up the little details about your environment to blend in. Finding someone who has been a part of the culture is very, very wise, even if you are confident in your blending techniques.

Someone who knows the ropes, whether they are a citizen of that country or they are someone, like you, who decided to dive into a new culture and grow from it, would be perfect for the role of mentor. The more seasoned, the better, and don’t be afraid to ask a ton of questions. In fact, people love to pass on their wisdom. It’s part of being a human.

So save their number, take them to coffee and tap into all the wisdom they can provide. You won’t regret it!

Number Four: Learn to Laugh

You are going to have moments when you will just want to break down. Everything will seem strange and confusing. Your brain will be packed with new material, and the sorting machine might be down for the day. But in these moments, when you seem to be fumbling your words and having an explosion in your neuropaths, it’s important to find humor. Literally….laugh at yourself.

Remember, this is a season in your life for change and growth and both of those require challenges. Your going to feel the stretching of your mind and body as you learn to survive and thrive in a new place. But after you run out of tears you can either go in one of two directions: depression or progression.

If you allow these challenges to beat you down into a dark place, you are risking your health. But if you can take the beatings, and put them in the right perspective, you can eventually learn to laugh when things go a little sideways.

So now that we’ve gone over the scary parts of cultural-integration, let’s go over the easier, more fun opportunities that could come your way!

As a newbie enters a new circle of people, the reaction is, most-of-the-time, a positive one. We like to make our fellow humans feel welcomed, even when we know they are far, far away from their actual home. It’s a social-structure that keeps the world going, somewhat, smoothly!

The good news is that you’ll probably get lots of invites to parties, dinners, book clubs, etc. And you may even be overwhelmed by the amount of e-invites pouring into your newsfeed. Therefore, the bad news is that you’ll have to become a master-discerner in what types of events fit you best and push you towards meeting those travel-goals.

By now you probably have a Pinterest-board filled to the brim with ideas for what to do as you travel throughout your country-of-choice. These travel-goals can help you navigate through those opportunities so you end up choosing to go outside of town to a random jungle instead of hitting up a coffee shop with a group of expats. It’s all up to you!!

But also keep in mind that you want to align your goals with the possibilities of making strong connections in your community. Maybe the coffee with expats brings more opportunities for getting connected to the culture of the city than the jungle-exploration with one friend.

Maybe a local will invite you to dinner (do that). There’s no better way to make connections than a dinner with someone who knows the ins-and-outs of the culture.

Once you become a master-discerner and know which opportunities suit you best, the next important step is learning to be a polite-decliner. As easy as it is to click the “not going” on an invite, we can sometimes get caught up in our own affairs and forget that the invitation was someone extending a hand towards you. So being cautious in your “no” can save you from a miscommunication.

For example, let’s say Bob from the corner market finds you friendly and intriguing. He invites you, on the spot, to dinner with him and his family. You’ve already planned to be at an expats dinner that night, and even arranged to bring a dish, but you’d much rather have dinner with Bob’s family. What do you do?

First of all, expats understand. We all have to have our priorities in line and when a great opportunity opens up, we celebrate for each other. All you will need to worry about is making sure your friends are informed and covered.

It can get tricky when the events carry the same weight in importance, and for those you’ll have to work a little to make sure you keep connections tight. Apology e-mails can be crucial, so freshen up on your professionalism in that area.

But seriously, just dive in to whatever comes your way. The most fun comes from those random trips and private-tours of local spots. The more you challenge yourself to do those “big things,” the less intimidated you’ll be by all of the littles.

If you can become a Culture-Shock-shaker, master-discerner and polite-decliner, you’ll have the best adventures of a lifetime.

Now go out there and get it, 🍯.


The Travelling Aunt

The Travelling Aunt Pro-Tips Part Two: Before You Leave 

Everyone needs reminders, some more than others (pointing at myself), so this is going to be reminders for those about to leave for a life-journey abroad. The lists of to-dos can get intimidating and some of us like to put things on the back-burner until last-minute. But the key to ensuring a safe, fun trip is remembering to take those things off the burner and get them done before departure day. 

From now on, you’ll see the acronym DD to note Departure Day. This is a HUGE day, y’all. “The double-d can determine your destiny.” You can quote me on that 😉 

So, in order to have a stress-free, hug-filled DD, post these reminders on your mirror: 


*Do you have all documents needed in neat-order in a single-file? Visa/Passport, letter of welcome from your host country, vaccination records, host’s contact information for when you arrive etc. 

pro-tip: put these in a convenient place so that you won’t have to fish for the file whilst in customs. 

*Have you contacted your host/helpers in your COC to ensure they are prepared for your arrival? Have they confirmed pick-up? 

pro-tip: have a plan-of-action in case of host’s failure to retrieve you or other unfortunate events. For example: write down numbers of taxi-services or figure out if there’s a metro-line that connects with your address. 

*Does your bank and creditor know you’re leaving the country? 

pro-tip: avoid getting your accounts frozen by making the calls.

*Have you given your home contacts your host-address and contact information? 

pro-tip: Google-Maps your host-address to, number one, make sure it’s a real place and, number two, have an idea of what you should be looking for when you arrive. It almost feels as if you’d been on the street before. It’s so cool! 

*Have you arranged for someone to maintain your business in the States? Such as bank account, credit card bills, student loans, taxes,  etc.? 

pro-tip:  Before you leave, set up who is going to be in charge of your at-home affairs. Give them a folder of your information and legally sign them over as the “power of attorney.” This ensures that they can speak with creditors about your personal accounts. Of course, make sure they are trustworthy! Mom and Dad would be best. 

*Does your luggage meet TSA and your COC’s standards? 

pro-warning: If that bottle of Listerine is .01 ounces above the requirement, it’s trashed. 

*Have you purchased airline tickets and arranged your transportation for DD? If there are multiple people involved, have you arranged a meeting time? 

pro-tip: give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and check-in. 

*Have you purchased International or Traveller’s Insurance? 

pro-tip: Look into, consider it, but I won’t tell you what to do. 

*Have you downloaded your music/movies onto your devices? 

pro-tip: do iiiit. 

So now you’ve checked off the reminders and the days on the calendar are exed with red-sharpie… 

it’s departure day. 

This day can go one of two ways: Hectic or Happy. Some events are out of our control, but if you are relaxed and prepared–the day will be stress-free and easy. 

Here are my  5  tips for a smooth as butter DD. 

Tip One: Make that carry-on count.

Your carry-on bags will be your buddies throughout the travel experience. If you pack them correctly, you can have all that you will need throughout the long hours right at your finger-tips. 

Here’s what’s in my carry-on: 

-one complete outfit

-travel pillow



-small journal and pen 


-facial mist (Evian is 🚀)

-one bottled water 

-two Nature Valley granola bars 

-gummy snacks 

-EOS lip balm 

-contact solution 


-travel-size toiletries bag (toothbrush/toothpaste/body wash/shampoo/conditioner) 

-Aleve or other painkiller 

-small makeup kit 


-hair ties

-tissue pack 

-Passport/Visa and tickets 

-Wallet with small amount of 💰 (I keep the rest in a hidden compartment) 

That’s what I keep in my backpack to keep me going through the layovers and hangups. This is what keeps me from pulling out my hair whenever I see a DELAY light up beside my flight. 

Tip two: Dress for travel. 

We’ve all heard through the grapevine that you can be upgraded to business class if you “dress to impress.” At first, it sounds like an “okay” idea because you will be in comfortable seating versus the cramped space of the peasant’s quarters (a.k.a economy class). 

But, let’s be honest, it probably won’t happen. So do you want to end up in economy in a tight suit and stilettos? No thanks! 

There is a way, though, to encapture both class and comfort that may land you in the Arm-chairs of glory. 

First and foremost-layering can be your friend. Start with basic leggings or comfortable black pants and then add a cute but airy top. Next, a cozy cardigan or colorful kimono will bring an element of cute and fashionable to your look. As for shoes, I’d go for flats or easy-off shoes. You will be taking off your shoes to get through security, so slip-on shoes are best

Tip three: enjoy the amenities 

The earlier you arrive, the more time you’ll have to enjoy the amenities at the airport. Find a seat at your gate and charge your appliances, grab a coffee and snack at the food court, have a bathroom break and freshen up before the long-flight. Because time can be a luxury when travelling, make sure you feel rich by the end of your trip. 

Tip four: don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Airports aren’t known for being small and easy to navigate. If you find yourself lugging two-hundred pounds in the wrong-direction, do not fret. The airport staff is there to help and they will. Find your nearest staff member. That goes for finding your gate, checking on your flight time and any other silly-seeming q’s. 

Just remember your manners 😉 

Tip five: Just Relax 

I say the night before DD is just as important as the day itself. You would think you’d want to skip sleep the night before so you can “crash” on the flight. While that MAY work for some, it can also leave you vulnerable to losing your mind on DD. For example, leaving things behind or having property stolen right from under your nose. Trust me, a rested, clear mind is best for lengthy, often complex, travel.

You can always take a sleeping pill once you get to your long-stretch, so take advantage of the last night of being in your own, comfortable bed. 

Super pro-tips: Have your “Bonjour Party” two days before your actual DD. This will give you plenty of time to recuperate and get your mind right. And if you struggle with anxiety, prepare a soothing playlist to listen to in your downtime and keep a journal nearby. 
Don’t let the thought of global-travel intimidate you. Take this advice, study all the facts but, most importantly, have courage that everything will turn out okay if you have a good attitude. 

The Travelling Aunt 

Travelling Aunt Pro-Tips Part One: Prepare for Anything

So, I’ve been noticing an impressive number of individuals deciding to take that leap of faith by traveling or even moving to a country outside of their own. This is fantastic! This is the best news! Because I see how traveling outside one’s own bubble can change you and take you to new heights in your life goals. Eek! Get excited! 

But there’s something we should talk about before you go…. 

You see, we all tend to create our own “safe spaces” where we keep what’s important to us. When we leave these spaces, we are going into the unknown where some of us may feel “unsafe” without some of those vital objects possessions. And then there are those “things” that we may not already own, but will serve to make the experience more enjoyable as you integrate into a brand new culture and explore what’s out there.

Whenever I began to plan for my first trip abroad, as a young sprout in college, I tended to lean towards the idea of “less is more.” I packed as light as possible and shifted into this minimalistic mindframe that was so in. But what I would later realize is that there were possessions that I left behind in my safe space that I’d rather have with me, to make me feel safe even in the middle of the Turkish countryside. 

So before I give you my personal tips on What to Bring as You Study/Live/Travel Abroad, make sure to keep in mind that you know you best, and you better bring that special blanket if it means you will be able to sleep through the night! 

And then we will go over some vital travel tips to get you past TSA like a breeze and even get you ready for CUSTOMS! 


So here are my recommendations for a packing list when studying/traveling/living abroad: 


DSLR Camera (Canon Rebel) or for lighter, less expensive, go for a more simple digital hand-held. Here’s a link to a helpful web-site!

Also pro-tip: I’d go ahead and get the insurance on the device. You never expect to drop your digital camera on a sidewalk in Israel but, ya know, crap happens. 

Earphones, Headphones– an inexpensive pair will do you just fine. I’d buy them pre-trip so you can enjoy the plane ride over and possibly avoid higher prices in your Country of choice. 

Cellular Device: I cannot stress enough how important it is to check with your Service Provider about International calling/texting. If your provider has a deal that doesn’t cost you a slice of your parent’s retirement, you should go with it. Otherwise, there are other forms of communication out there (FaceTime, Skype) and you can find Wifi in most places in the world (even if it’s in a coffee shop thirty minutes from your house.) 

Laptop/IPad: I personally prefer the IPad because it’s hand-held and doesn’t cost you the bag-space that carrying a laptop would. But to each her/his own 😉 

Adapters: You MAY be able to find appropriate wall-adapters for your devices, but I wouldn’t bank on it. I’d take at least two adapters for the travel over. Below is the link to a list of appropriate voltage/adapters per country.


For the girls, we like to dress our best and make those impressions when needed. This list is a little more towards the girly side, but boys can take something from the overall. 

To be honest, it all depends on where and how long. 

If you’re going to Spain in the Spring and returning befor Summer, you may want to bring a few flowy dresses and maybe a shawl for the cool Spanish nights. But if you’re going to Russia in the Winter and returning in the Summer, you’d want to stretch out your wardrobe to include a parka and some boots. Also keep in mind that once you’re in that country, you will want to shop around some street markets and boutiques that will provide you the styles and comforts to help you integrate better with that culture. And you may even go country-hopping and find some awesome new threads. (Like the Elephant Pants in Thailand.)  If you’re a “set-in-your-ways” type fashionista, you might want to ignore that last sentence. 

But I think the two most important aspects to a good travel-wardrobe is: Layers and Mix-and-Match 

Shanghai, China on my 24th birthday. Yes, I was as cold as I look. 

  Clothing is a very important part of packing because this will consume most of your baggage-space!!!

So, with that in mind…

Here’s, essentially, what I packed for my first year in China: 
3 pairs of denim jeans

5 t-shirts 

2 pairs yoga pants 

1 pair tights

3 blouses

1 long skirt 

3 dresses (light, flowy) 

1 heavy coat 

1 light jacket (wore it on the way over)

2 sets of pajamas 

8 pairs of underoos

5 pairs of socks (mostly ankle, maybe one or two long) 

5 bras (sports, strapless, regular) 

1 pair of boots

1 pair of Chacos 

1 pair of Tennis shoes

2 pair of flip flops/sandals 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: If you have “larger” feet or wear clothing in larger sizes, you may want to account for that if you are Travelling to European or Asian countries. They sometimes do not carry your size in retail stores. 

To be honest, I could have gone with less because I ended up buying a whole new wardrobe throughout my two-year stay. 


Girls PSA: Your COC (Country of choice) may not have your favorite brand/shades/ types of makeup products and often times, especially in European countries, the prices are sky high. My pro-tip: Bring two of all your favorites so that you can keep one in the carry-on and the other in your checked baggage– that way if one is lost you don’t lose both! 😉 I did have fun trying new make up in Asia, although most of their shades were specifically made for the Asian skin tones (no offense, beauties). In the end, I was only able to buy eyeliners or eyeshadow palettes. So, if I were you I’d pack two of your favorite Sephora matte foundations. 

Here are toiletry items you may not think of, but are good for those going to developing countries; Also, if I put two astrichs next to the item, you’ll want this items in your carry-on: 

Hand-wipes** (these definitely come in handy–no pun intended–if you are out and about without proper sanitation around you.) 

Tissue-packs** you can buy these is bulk at most supermarkets for cheap cheap

Feminine Hygiene** go ahead and be prepared for the amount of time you’ll be away. My pro-tip: check out your COC’s outlook on this subject. Some countries will have everything you need while others will not. Better to be safe than sorry 😉 

Toothbrush/toothpaste/mouthwash (**also a travel-size kit for the carry-on) 

Deodorant**- Again, look into your COC’s views on this subject. I packed enough deodorant for a year when I went to Asia. They have it in few supermarkets at ridiculous prices. 

Make-up brushes 

Flatiron and curl-wand (best if you can find two in one) 

Hair dryer (smaller the better) 

Make-up remover 

Hairspray (or any hair product you need for your hair woes) 

Hair ties**(I’d pack a zillion so you may have one by the end of your travels) 


Face wash** 

Q-tips (put a couple in carry-on) 



Body wash**



Shaving cream 


Wash cloths (I’d pack multiple in baggage) 



First-Aid band-aids, antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone cream, alcohol wipes

Mosquito-repellant (especially if going to a humid climate) 

Also PSA: For those with medical needs–make sure you are taking anough of whichever medications you need for the entirety of your stay. Otherwise, you are risking the chance of your COC not having the appropriate medication available. This even goes for contact lenses and allergy medication. 

By the end of China, I was devastated to leave my apt. This was my last picture before packing everything away. 

Which brings me to…… 

Homey-Things (especially for the expats) 

Photos from home

Your own personal touches (that can fit) for example: a wooden cross 

Kitchen supplies (basics that can be compacted into luggage). 

Electric or re-chargeable fan 

Pillowcase and sheet-set (Sometimes you don’t know your living situation until you arrive and it’s better to prepare for the worst) 

Small fleece blanket 

Small Doormat (if living in an apartment or home) 

Small candles (These were scarce in Asia) 

Journal for friends or guests of your home to “sign” 



File folders 

Pictures of your hometown or maps 

Brochures from your favorite places

Halloween/thanksgiving/Christmas decor 

Also PSA:  it’s always nice to bring your helper/host/friend a “homey” gift as you are welcomed. 


I had to give food its own section because it’s one of the most prominent questions brought up in a conversation of traveling abroad. Here’s the deal: we have to eat. But some of us (not going to mention names) have trouble accepting various tastes and flavors. Picky-eaters–BEWARE! You will most likely have to get over yourself and try something new. But, then again, sometimes we just miss a nice, big bowl of Mac-n-cheese made by Grandmama. That’s okay! It happens! But what will you do if your COC is Mac-n-cheeese-less? 

Have no fear! That’s why I’m here! 

Here’s a list of “foods” that are acceptable to bring with you on your travels. 

-Boxed Mac-n-cheese (velveeta, Kraft) {pro-tip}- one to two boxes to tide you over until Care-package arrives. 

-cake and muffin mixes in the plastic-sealed packages 

-seasonings cumin, parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, oregano 

-packets of ranch-mix (you’ll thank me later) 

-Nature-Valley bars (26-count) and a few for your carry-on

-Gummy or hard candies (only if they can be stored in a cool-dry space) 

-Vitamins calcium and Vitamin D can be great supplements to have on hand 

Drink mixes- hot cocoa, instant-coffee, kool-aid, crystal light 

Dried fruit 


-soup mixes

-microwave popcorn 

-pepper-mints and chewing gum

Honestly, if you attempt to bring canned items over–it can get heavy and tricky. I’d stick with items on this list and anything sealed. 

More things you don’t think of: 

iTunes gift cards: these are essentially life-savers! Need a new book to read (in English)? Get an IBook! Missing your favorite TV show? Download it on ITunes….and the list goes on!! 

Lanyard: In case you need to keep keys/ID on your person. Can also attach passport/cash pouch for better protection from thievery! 

DVDs: For the possibilities of having no wifi but a DVD player.  

Portable USB device 

School supplies- Scissors, clear tape, glue sticks, etc. 

Address book- with all your family and friends contact info in case your phone goes Britney ’07 on you! 

Essential oils- If you’re a believer like me, you know that these can be a big help when you run into health troubles. Since space is limited, I would narrow it down to three basic oils to get you through. 

Brita filter/Life Straw– for those going to COCs with questionable water sources. 

PM2.5 mask- sounds pretty odd but these masks are important for those going to COC’s with frequent air pollution. Click the link here for more information!

Extra storage bags 

Jewelry- Basics that aren’t easily ruined and not too valuable, if you can. 

Scarves, hats and gloves for the winter 

Those “American” things that you’ll want to show and tell to your new friends. Trust me– they love it! 

For example: I taught my students the game UNO and they could not get enough!! 

Like I said, you know you and you know what you can and cannot go without 🙂 

Most international airlines allow two checked (under 50 pounds) and two carry-on (can fit in overhead compartment or under seat), but that’s something you need to check and re-check before departure. ALWAYS read the fine print, friends. 

With that said, as you read through the list you most likely said “How do you fit all of that into two suitcases and carry-ons?” I’ll admit, you may not be able to fit every single item of this list….but you can get pretty darn close with these tips! 

First off- try to keep all clothing in one bag. I brought a HUGE duffel my first go-round and it fit all of my clothes except a few dresses. Shoes are separate. If you really want to save space and think you’ll be able to keep the baggage underweight– vacuum-sealing can save a ton of space. 

Step one- Roll t-shirts as tightly as possible like you would towels. Those can go at the base of your case. 

Step two- Add pajamas and any other cotton-blend that doesn’t easily wrinkle to this base. 

Step three- Neatly fold jeans and other heavier materials and place them next. You should notice plenty of space. 

Step four- Next is the coat–this is the tough one. If it’s big and fluffy–I’d consider vacuum seal. If not, fold it as neatly as possible and lie across the second layer. 

Step five- Now is the time to squeeze in the yoga pants, dresses, scarves, undergarments and knickknacks. 

Pro tip: Hide the fragile, small things in this bag within the clothes. They will act as a shock-barrier and possibly protect you from thievery. 

Step six- Next suitcase. Here is where zip-lock baggies and bubble-wrap will be your friend. To keep your baggage mess-proof, I suggest placing anything with a seal or cap into baggies to prevent a spill from compromising your entire luggage. Also, keep the less breakable items on the exterior walls. Try not to pack boxes or boxed-shape items and keep sharp items in a wrapped package so they cannot tear through luggage or items within. 

My suggestion for luggage: One large suitcase, one large duffel, one small duffel (carry-on) and a back-pack. 


In order to ensure a safe and smooth Travelling-process, I’d triple-check TSA guidelines for your luggage. Don’t take my word that all of this is safe to travel with–look it up! 

I’ve been pulled to the side for olive oil (that I purchased in the airport) in my carry-on. I’ve had to undo my luggage because of a couple batteries. Let’s just say it’s easier to plan ahead 🙂 

My next post will be specifically for “departure day,” so worry not my sweet wanderers! 


The Travelling Aunt 

A Mirror and a Message 

Today I am seeing things differently. It’s not that anything extra special happened: All I did was look into a mirror. 

But it wasn’t just any mirror: 

To most this mirror would just seem old, dirty and smudged from years of use. 

But this morning, as I sat in front of its’ bright glow I realized that the history of this, seemingly out-of-date, piece of furniture actually makes it a priceless treasure. Not that its’ history included hosting the face of Sophia Loren or Princess Di, but someone much more important to the fabric of my family. 

This is where my sweet grandmother or “Mamaw,” as we call her, sat every morning for longer than I’ve been alive. I asked her when she got it and she smiled as she said, “Your Papaw got that at a flea market years ago.” So even before it was in her possession, it had already obtained years of use. Still yet, I could picture the look on her face when Papaw brought home a special, state-of-the-art, mirror just for her: his still beaming bride. I could imagine kids tugging at the hem of her skirt as she attempted to perfect her lipstick and the light beaming into her soft blue eyes. (All of her children now love her dearly because of her enduring patience in those years.) I could imagine her preparing for weddings, anniversaries and funerals. She would have faced that mirror in the glorious days, when she smiled as she looked forward to what was ahead; as well as the harsh, unrelenting days that made her eyes well with tears as she patted on foundation. Yet she has always carried herself with quiet strength and dignity. And I now imagine all the times I, as a young child, sat and watched her get ready for the day, admiring her beauty and grace as she applied blush to the apples of her cheeks. Those small but sacred fragments of time are ingrained into the mold of who I am, as I now sit in the beauty chair gazing into the glass. These thoughts put into perspective the meaning of possessions: it’s not what they are but whose they are. It’s the same concept of being a daughter and son of Christ. Our value is not in what we are or what we’ve accomplished but Whose we are

So one day we hope that our grandchildren will look at a seemingly useless object and say, “This is priceless because it was hers.” Just as one day we will look into the eyes of our Father and He will say you are priceless because you are Mine


The traveling Aunt



The trail is long and the paths wind around the trees like a leather-bound journal. As the hills dip and ascend I feel a pull and release as my muscles catch short breaks in between the steep climbs. And as the sun shines above my head, growing hotter, I long to reach that peak that I set after. 
My feet dance to the rhythm of the whispering pines and my heart sings a new song of hope. Renewal is upon me and I embrace her like a new friend. She takes my hand and guides me up the mountains, directing me towards the spring that awaits. I trust her because she has been my friend before. She lead me out of a steep, dark valley. She told me of this spring, the one that renews your soul. The never-ending spring that washes you with mercy and grace. Once you taste of it’s water, you will no longer thirst for anything else, she says. 

As I reach the stone steps leading to the spring, she stops me with a tug in her direction. “Before you go, you need to leave your things here.” 

“But I will need this,” I say, “I’ve carried this all my life.” 

“Trust me, lay them down. They are no longer yours to bear.” 

So, I lay down the bags and ascend to the peak of the mountain where He is waiting. 

He takes my hand and gently says, “We have a lot to talk about, loved child.” 


Around this time last year, I was posting the announcement for my return to China for the 2016-2017 school year at my little technical college in the Hubei Province.

I titled the post ‘Another LEAP’ because, honestly, that was what it felt like: A giant leap of faith. It was one of those, “yeah I really like it here but I also just wanna go home where I have reliable electricity and insulation.” I had to fight my want for comforts in order to trust that the return was indeed the will of God.

The Spring semester brought me new friendships that became my final encouragement for the “yes” response. They were exactly what I needed in order to be completely confident in that second leap back into this land of everyday adventures, both good and bad. Something told me that the ride wasn’t over….the growth challenge wasn’t complete.

I say growth challenge because that’s exactly what I’d call this chapter of my life. If I told you I wasn’t challenged by many pressures/encroaching insecurities/debilitating anxiety and cultural differences, I’d be dishonest. I miss my family, especially my two precious nephews who are not waiting to age on my behalf (although I wish it could be so). I am in a long-distance relationship that takes every bit of effort that can be given. We are two imperfect humans that really really like each other. And I’ve missed him.

The negatives do seem to outweigh positives some days but that’s just part of the journey. That doesn’t discredit the overall beauty of what this season has been, trust me.

Let me get more into that!

In my previous article, I claimed the hope of completely diving head-first into the next year. I didn’t want a tip-toe lifestyle, avoiding the discomfort of trying new experiences that stretch you and make you get those funny little knots in your stomach. I wanted the knots! I said, “Gimme some of those belly knots, please!” Because I had already grasped the concept of the rewards that come with the challenges. And, boy, have I had many-a-knots in my belly these past ten months! From speaking in front of a thousand young students, completely unprepared, to gripping onto the seat beneath me in a minivan trekking down a narrow, bumpy mountain road, I’ve been provided with many breath-taking moments that will be etched into my memories for the rest of my life. And sandwiched in between all of these moments were opportunities to share the beautiful truth that makes me who I am and how I am. I got to explain what gives me the boldness to overcome my fears and face the unknown. I’ve gotten to explain the Matthew 5:16 tattoo on my right shoulder and have deep conversations about what faith means to me. I’ve gotten to share the message of hope with so many people simply because of the “head-first” attitude that carried me through the times of doubt.

This season also brought something that I didn’t expect: family. We call each other the “foreigners group,” because we are a collective of ESL teachers, from various countries,  that all have the common thread of being strangers to this land. And most days we feel very foreign. It may be our skin color, or our inability to hold a conversation in the local dialect, but we are definitely looked at as an outsider; and rightly so, if we’re honest. But this “outsider” label has united us in a way that is so powerful. We may not have the same first-language, skin color or cultural background, but we have all made the decision to come to China and become better people by it. That means something. And some days we have to wonder what in the world we were thinking as we gather around the dinner table and tell stories of our “crazy week.”

We are each other’s confidante’s, advice-givers, encouragers and security blankets for the days that seem hopeless. To me, they are God-sent. They have awakened in me a new passion for the people in, not only China, but all the world. They remind me of just how alike we all are. That we have this invisible thread weaving through our souls that connects us in ways that are easier to discover when you have open and inviting conversations. When you drop the “my country is better at ____” and actually open your mind to the possibility that your way might not be the only right way, it’s beautiful. It’s a glimpse of heaven.

“the greatest part of family is it’s inseparability by mileage.”

And then there are my sweet, loving China-natives. The people that took me in with open arms and tried their very best to make me feel at home. They led me through wild adventures and made me get out of my little protective shell long enough to truly experience the joys of life.They welcomed me to their homes, offices and lives in general without hesitation.  They showered me with praise that I didn’t deserve, but was all-the-more thankful for. Every day I’ve learned something new and am amazed by all this place has to offer.

China will always feel like home to me, and for that I can only praise God.

He gave me opportunity, the guts to do it, and the gifts that followed.



CHina 018.jpgiphone 048.jpg

But now is the time to LEAP back to the States. I say leap because it is going to take equal faith to go back home as it did coming back here for the first and second rounds. Now that I’ve finally gotten accustomed to the culture, language and relationships, I am officially LEAVING? I find myself going back to re-check the time of my departure and thinking is it really that soon!?!? And I get weird butterflies (or knots, if you will) in my stomach every time I think about it.

This tells me something: It was worth it. All those times of doubt, vulnerability and blind-trust in God totally led me to the best years of my entire life. I didn’t have to wave a magic wand or buy an expensive beauty product to find happiness. All I had to do was be present to the joys that God wanted to give me.



For those who have been following my journey: Thank you.

Thank you for your care, support and prayers.

You’ve helped me thrive.

Also, please keep them coming as I re-integrate back into an American lifestyle.

With earnest and relentless prayer, we can change the world.


The Travelling Aunt