Continuation of Something Good

Although I’ve loved being “the Travelling Aunt,” and my experiences in that regard couldn’t be measured, I look forward to the next chapters in my life as someone rooted in the States. This is where God is planting me and I can only trust that His plan is the best one.

This may end in a re-branding of my blog, and a little bit of an overhaul in the wanderlust department. If you’d like to read my new bio, it gives a better look into what the re-brand may look like. Wellness has always been something I’ve striven for in my first quarter of life. I believe, firmly, that well people can help lead unwell people into the wellness that we enjoy. I also believe that your circumstances can fool you into thinking that you are meant to be unwell, and this isn’t so. You were destined for wellness and joy. With this affirmation, I’d like you to join me in this journey to health in every part of our lives.

This is the season for a new anointing, a fresh outpouring!


xoxo, Bre



25 Notes

At approximately 3:10 PM on February 9, 2018, I will have been alive for a quarter-of-a-century. For the less-melodramatic readers, that’s 25. Twenty-five trips around the sun, twenty-five birthday cakes, twenty-five notes of linear-progression. “You’re older!” “You made it!” “Happy Birthday!”

Well, I view this new age as the last year on my quarter. If God wills, and as the averages note, we get approximately 3-4 quarters of life to spend on this earth. Each quarter of life has its peaks and valleys, challenges and eases, noteworthy coincidences and mundane routines; and we are remarkably different from the beginning of the quarter to the end. A newborn baby enters the world in complete surrender to her environment; a 24-year-old wishes with all of his power to change the environment which surrounds him.

And I’ll admit that, being as I’ve only spent one quarter on this earth, my notes will pale in comparison to those who have spent two, three and four quarters: they are the real founts of wisdom.

But as little as I know now, I can’t help but share the notes that I’ve taken as the end of this quarter came into view.

So, with that said, here are 25 notes that I’ve taken from the lessons that life has taught me, whether through wisdom given to me or through personal experience:

  1. Keep wisdom close. Proverbs speaks of wisdom as if she is a woman shouting in the streets and many turn their backs to her. (Proverb 1:20) I wish it wasn’t true. I wish everyone sought wisdom and loved mercy, but that’s just not so. Pride gets in the way and people choose ignorance in order to feel secure in their bad decisions. I have been there, I know, and that’s why this lesson is so important to me. There are people we know who are actively engaging in the pursuit of wisdom (they are usually the quiet ones) and those people will be the ones to rescue you from grave mistakes. Keep them near, appreciate them, and be so thankful for them.
  2. Don’t fear change. Curve-balls await us at every corner and it’s up to us what we do with them. If we fear them and cower at their approach, we miss the opportunity to grow. Even if it isn’t a curve-ball, per say, but a natural life event that we are running from; embrace the changing season and hold onto the hope that it’s going to be good for us. Oh yeah, also remember that only fools think that their plans are going to happen. (Psalm 94:11)
  3. Be the first at the starting-line. Lead the charge, blaze the pathways, do anything but be a blind follower.
  4. There are dog people and then there are the crazies. Sorry cat lovers, it’s nothing personal….or maybe it is. Cats are the spawn of Satan himself and shouldn’t be allowed passage through my doorways…. ever. 
  5. Don’t take it personally. The objective criticism, the relative stories that don’t include your own name, the opinions of another person….. just let it go.. it’s not about you.
  6. Do take it personally. When something awakens compassion in you, when you see someone in need: You better believe you were meant to help them.
  7. Nothing is by accident. Do not think for a second that life is just a big mess of happenstances. There is a design in the chaos, trust Him.
  8. Think a whole lot less of yourself. Yes you’re beautiful and wonderful and all that jazz, but that’s not what life is about and you’d better start searching for a better reason to be alive..
  9. The good life was made for the dreamers and believers. The creative fire that burns inside of you is something that will lead you to do amazing things. Don’t put it out.
  10. Appreciate the silence. Before I knew that I was an introvert, I always questioned why I needed this so much. Now that I know, I can sit alone and appreciate the moments of time to recharge in the quiet.
  11. Anxiety doesn’t make you a weak person.  Anxiety will make you feel insignificant and weak but that’s just a feeling. Hold onto the reigns and keep going; your thoughts will get healthier soon and your mind will strengthen.
  12. Filter out the negatives. Negative people, that is.
  13. You will lose sometimes. People, money, relationships: all can be lost. This was so crucial to accept as I went through some really hard times and had to decide whether I could accept that finality just can’t happen while living on the earth. The only certainty is being saved by the Greatest Love that ever was and that’s something I can definitely accept.
  14. Travel often. This is obviously one of my main lessons in the past five or so years. The travel bug bit after studying abroad in 2013 and I’ve been craving adventures since. The real moral of the story is that travel enhances every part of your being: that’s pretty huge.
  15. It’s okay to change your mind. Open-mindedness isn’t a personality flaw. It’s okay to accept when you’ve misinterpreted a situation or lived in ignorance. It’s okay to decide that you don’t want to become a counselor and, instead, you’d like to work in assisted living.
  16. Family is everything. You know this as well as I do, and I’m so thankful to have been blessed with the goofiest/craziest/loving-est family ever. We may fail each other at times, but in the end we will always have each other’s backs.
  17. You’re a bad friend, but you can get better. I’ve had to accept that I struggle maintaining my friendships. The introvert in me just can’t seem to manage more than one person at a time…. but I am praying and working towards improvement.
  18. Forgiveness is essential. This is for all parties involved. You, the debtor and all that were affected by the debt. Healing begins when true forgiveness takes place. Oh yeah, and God can really work miracles in these situations, trust me!
  19. Eating salad is good for you and so is eating a piece of cake.  Moderation is key.
  20. Take baby steps when necessary. Don’t be in constant stress because you haven’t drastically improved in a specific area after one attempt.
  21. You are unique, but then again you’re not. We have all been “blessed” and “cursed” in ways, which makes us feel as if we are alone in our situations; but no one is an island and I guarantee there’s another person in the world feeling the same way as you right about now.
  22. Today is the perfect day to have a good day. A positive attitude will get you so far in life. Blaming others for your place in life…will not.
  23. Be more concerned with your community. Because we can’t change the world in one day, but we can start in our community and work our way out.
  24. Nothing in the world is free. Someone has had to give up something in order for you to obtain that free thing. Be grateful for any opportunity and don’t behave like an entitled, spoiled idiot.
  25. Welcome to the next stage of your life. Once you leave college, your success is up up to you. A job isn’t handed to you on a silver platter and sometimes you have to start out in something you don’t see yourself in long-term. The best part of being on your own, though, is that awesome moment when you do get your foot in the door of your dream job… and it was all because of your own efforts… so you take yourself out for a celebration donut and coffee like a real adult should 😉


Have you thought about how you’ve spent your first quarter? What lessons have you learned and would like to share? Please leave your own notes in the comments!




The Travelling Aunt

The Evolution of a Flower Bud

“Contentment is not stagnation”, I tell myself as I try to settle my roots into ground I once before had ripped them out of, somewhat drastically.

As a mid-twenties-post-graduate-post-world-traveler, it’s been a challenge to adequately put into words just what this season has been like. I could use metaphorical speech about the beauty in the death and renewal of life that comes with each season and I could  go on and on about how wonderful it has been to be reminded of the promises fulfilled by the amazing God that is always looking out for the good of His children. In fact, there are about ten drafts written based on these thoughts; but, as time went on, my focus shifted to something more potentially helpful for all the other people who feel as if “post-whatever” seems to take over their current title.

I’ll begin with a story:

About two weeks into my first arrival in China, I was at a fellowship with brothers and sisters and attempting to have a little conversation with acquaintances of my friend. As I was introduced to a brother, we got on the topic of names. He first asked my English name (all this having to be translated, mind you) and then asked if I had been given a Chinese name. I replied with a “no but I would like to have one.” At this point I was so incapable in my speaking or understanding of the language, that when he gave me the name “Huā bèi lěi,” it didn’t strike me in any way. I nodded, smiled and asked my friend to write the name down on a piece of paper so I could practice saying my brand-new name. My friend said, “do you want to know the meaning of this name?” And, as I knew that names carry meaning, I replied, “of course!”

They had some trouble in the translation, at first, but then came up with the best explanation possible and agreed on “baby flower” or “flower bud.” As someone that has been told plenty of times how “youthful” and “cute” I am, I wasn’t too-surprised by this. I was thankful for not being “thorn-toe” or “hobbit-face,” and I had by now long-accepted my fate as a forever youngin’, so I thanked the man for his kind gesture and didn’t really think too much about it for a while.

But as my time in China went on, and the explanations of the name Huā bèi lěi became more descriptive, I knew that such a name wasn’t given to me by accident. This name was God speaking to me. And not in some “I am something special” or “I’m such a unique snowflake” type way, don’t read me wrong, but this told me that God, all my life, has been trying to remind me that I was created to thrive and grow, and reach for the light. I will always be evolving and changing, unable to be complacent. I’ve always known that I can’t settle and I don’t like routine, but for it to be explained that this is part of who I was created to be is something so rich and life-giving.


So lately I’ve been asking myself the tough question, “have I evolved in any way?” Have I been challenging myself enough so that I can stretch my character and grow closer to the light? Have I been surrounding myself with streams of wisdom? Have I been leading a life that I can be proud of? They say that your formative years are in the early stages of life but I disagree in that we were made to be continuously changing and shaping our character.

Do you think the wise old man became that way at eight-years-old? Hardly. 

He was once a twenty-something struggling to provide for his family, going from paycheck to paycheck. He surely had those moments where he thirsted for something different; some grand shift in the routine.

Now, living in the “post-China” season of coming back Stateside and deciding to plant myself in the roots of home for a while, I keep in mind that it’s okay to always yearn for change and growth. And it’s the same for all us born-to-thrive (a.k.a everyone) people that are constantly finding new ways to improve themselves and their environment. We were made to evolve internally by the challenges we will face as early-adults.

One of the things this season has taught me is that life isn’t some competition where we compete for who has had the “coolest life”, but what we should strive for is to lead a life that we can look back on with the same excitement as we had on the journey, like that wise old man.

Sorry to venture off into an “old man’s memoir” tangent, I just love old people.

But anyways….

As I forge into this new year, I’m remembering the dear lessons of the past years and anticipate those that will come with the future.

I hope my audience can be patient with my as I evolve my style and, most importantly, character.

Remember this with me: Contentment isn’t stagnation and evolution doesn’t have to be a scary word. Be patient with yourself as you constantly yearn for growth in some area. It’s part of life. As long as your roots are deeply planted into the love and grace of Jesus, you are always safe from the craziness that comes with the passing seasons.

Colossians 2:7

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”





the Travelling Aunt, Huā bèi lěi


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