Category Archives: Freelancing

The Taiwanese aboriginal lifestyle

I hear the word aboriginal and I automatically think Australia. But that’s a little naive, because obviously there are ancestral all roots all over the world. We had many things like hiking and food on the itinerary, but I did not think I would also get a glimpse into the world of aboriginal life in Taiwan.

Spanning over 7,000 years, of history the aboriginal people of timeline are a proud and complex society. Roughly 2% of the population today can claim aboriginal roots. Many live in the area of Hulien, specifically near Taroko National Park.

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There are about 14 different tribes in Taiwan, some that only have a few hundred representatives left. One of their most distinctive traditions is facial tattoos. These days the kids don’t often take part, but many older members of the tribe have long lines and blacked out jaws, representing housekeeping achievements for women and enemy slayings for men.

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The food too was some of the best I’ve had in the country. The Lantern Hotel located in Taroko National Park has a working aboriginal restaurant, serving either barbecued pig, lamb or vegetables. The hotel itself has cabins surrounded by mountains, and a few recreated, classic aboriginal homes for guests to take a peek in.

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To learn about the aboriginal livelihood in theory was wonderful but of course I wanted to really get a feel for this type of life. I was told after dinner there would be an opportunity to listen to some live music performed by local aboriginals but I was so dead tired. By practically dragging myself up a few flights of stairs I was delighted to discover two young men on guitars playing a sad and powerful song. It can be amazing how music transcends the spoken word and can evoke emotion in people all over the world no matter what the lyrics say. It was as if I was transported to another place and time through this intense performance. I thought sleep as long as I could but only was able to enjoy a few songs.

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More things to come after I nurse this awful cold and enjoy the last few days here in Taiwan. We’re heading south for more biking today, then venturing back to Taipei via high-speed train!

-CrookedFlight

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The top three first impressions of Asia

For the past 48 hours I have been on a complete odyssey in Taiwan. This is my first time in Asia altogether so immediately it was clear that I was on another planet. Obviously, when talking about a place you cannot just generalize the entire continent, that would be silly. But within our first layover in Osaka, Japan, and touchdown in Taipei, I already had some interesting impressions of the area.

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Like a zombie I walked off the plane in Japan after a 12 or 247 hour flight, I’m not sure, sometime in between that. It kind of felt like three weeks but I digress. Anyway, I couldn’t help but realize that everyone spoke exactly like I had heard on TV. I wanted to have a different more worldly impression of the people there but nope, they all just sounded like anime characters. I have also never felt tall in my life, so this was a new thing as well. Everyone seemed to just scurry below my feet and move really quickly to herd us like cattle into the correct lines. Once the chaos was over I found myself inside the lounge for China Airlines and that was a new experience altogether. The very first thing I ate was a triangle of rice of course. But this was no ordinary rice – they did something magical to it that I think involves grilling and teriyaki sauce.

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Now this kind of statement might get me in trouble but I can’t help it. Another three hours later after arriving in Japan we touched down in Taipei. In my defense, things like basic motor skills and depth perception were completely off. So as soon as the automatic doors swung open at the airport the first thing that came to mind was, oh my goodness, this entire country smells like a Chinese food restaurant. I know. I’m so sorry.

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The last unique thing that happened was all of the attention. Thank God I’m not a tall lanky blond like one of my travel companions. That poor thing is getting stopped like a celebrity around every turn. But I didn’t realize I quickly had to learn how to say “How are you” and “Thank you” in Mandarin because people were going to demand I acknowledge them all the time. Not in a pushy way, but more like hey, I want to see if you can understand my cool English skills even though they are limited to one or two words. This is mainly just the teenagers. But it is fun and everyone is very friendly, at least to my face, which really is all that matters when everyone is speaking Chinese.

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Oh and then we got caught in a massive downpour. With thunder and lighting. While standing on a flooded, very tall bridge. So that happened. I may be smiling but I’m whimpering like a small child on the inside for fear of being barbecued. ADVENTURE!

-CrookedFlight


Smack Dab in the Middle of Texas, Part Three: History & the Kitchen Sink

When this mini-series was started, I thought Texas might be my last stop on a line of trips I had been taking, so there’d be a slew of time to really dig into it. Wrong. But I still want to do it proper justice and wrap this up right.

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Fredericksburg has a big German history. Apparently a ton of German settlers made their way to Texas in the 1800s and left their mark.

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This might be the best tour guide ever, and of course I can’t remember his name. He brought us through the Lyndon B. Johnson ranch, complete with house, stables, museum, schoolhouse, cemetery and tons of land.

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Former president Johnson’s house has been perfectly preserved with almost all of its original furnishings. I loved Lady Bird’s touches as well, like this pillow on the presidential chair that said “This is my ranch and I’ll do as I damn please”.

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Not only did they have the “Texas White House” and school on the ranch, they had LITTLE FARM ANIMAL BABIES. There’s a whole section just for them as well as period homes to reflect what Johnson’s childhood would have been like.

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Ranch hand at the farm overlooking everything.

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I think I mentioned the Hangar Hotel before, but it was a real treat to stay here. Everything looks like it’s been frozen in the 1940s. My favorite part was the swanky cocktail lounge. I wish I had some slinky dress to wear in there while I sipped my martini.

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I’m not crazy about history, but the brand new WWII museum in town really kept me riveted  They have these great bomber jackets and memorabilia on display. There’s a reenactment type exhbiit on Pearl harbor with a massive tank that made me tear up, it was so moving and amazing.

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These two weren’t on the itinerary, but they hung around the Hangar Hotel and offered rides in this 1929 airplane. Winston was the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen and I fell in love the moment I saw his unfortunate mutt.

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Right?!


Smack dab in the middle of Texas, Part Two: Music and Culture

Back on track! Wondering a bit more about Fredericksburg, Texas? Get ready:

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Fredericksburg has such a vibrant and successful community that they represent a wide rainbow of faiths with beautiful places of worship. We took a peek inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church, which was built out of the popular and special stonework seen on many buildings downtown.

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The stone is seen here too at the cute Pioneer Museum. You can stroll through the complex and hang out in some wonderfully re-created and restored period houses full of antiques and charm.

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I mean, he just had to be included. I forgot to show off this photo when we chatted about the brewery, but it needed to be brought up. Before landing in the Austin airport and officially stepping onto Texas soil, I assumed I would just see a whole lot of this. I know, I’m sorry, but obviously everyone would be gun-totin’, cowboy hat wearin’, chew spittin Americans, right? TOTALLY WRONG. People tended to be wonderfully helpful, intelligent and hilarious. Not to mention, everyone dressed better than I did, so I digress.

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One of the best evenings was a drive down to the Luckenbach for some music and brews. Now I know next to nothing about country music, but a few new friends swore I just had to listen to some TEXAS country music, which apparently is a whole other thing. It was – slow, a little sad and mesmerizing. Legend has it Willie Nelson used to frequent this place back in the day.

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In the summertime and on warmer nights the adjacent dance hall is opened for hours of entertainment and special concerts or events. I would love to get back there and learn a little line dancing.

If you want to hear a quick clip of the singers/strummers in action, here’s a YouTube clip of the performance:

We’ll finish the Texas round-up next week with some history and everything else left I haven’t covered yet. Fredericksburg was fantastic, but it’s time to move onto Virginia! And on Wednesday I leave for Little Rock, Arkansas. Then two weeks from today I take a little adventure over to ASIA. So much is going on I’m just hold fast onto all the action and whatever else may come!

 


Where else can I find you online talking about travel?

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Although I’m lacking in sleep, my time in Texas has been absolutely fantastic. It’s true what they say though – most of Texas wine is drunk in state, and I am certainly the one drinking it all. I can’t keep up, there’s so many delicious varieties! Besides wine, there’s art galleries, Texas nouveau cuisine, cozy accommodations and really, truly, the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

But that’s all I can say for now, because our days are jam packed with things to do! I’m on call in 20 minutes and haven’t showered yet!

While I wander around, I thought I’d just offer all the other places on the web I’m actively chatting about my adventures. I’d love to find you there too and interact!

Twitter

Instagram

Foursquare

ViviTrip: A fun little site that acts like Facebook for travelers – allowing you to post pics, comments and track your trip on a world map alongside others.

Quilt: This primarily is a smartphone app where you can hook up with other travelers and “stitch” together the story of your trip through posts, tips, photos and whatever else you like to share.

Even LinkedIn!

Look forward to connecting on all platforms and I’ll be back soon with details from this Texas trip!


Top 3 travel things to do in Greenwich, England

My boyfriend (we’ll call him X) moved to the US from England when he was young, but always has been strongly drawn “back home”. When a business opportunity for him to train in the UK for three weeks came up, I immediately bought a ticket to join him.

Obviously London is just one of the coolest places on the planet, but X was itching for a day trip to Greenwich. This is where he was born and where he spent many summers exploring the town with Mom, Dad and his brothers. I was thrilled to experience it too, as I heard it was soaked in nautical history. I’m not crazy about the past, let’s be honest, but having X show me around was like hiring an expert tour guide without the price tag.

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After getting off the tube, we walked a few minutes through the streets of town and made it to the banks of the Thames. Here is the massive Cutty Sark ship, now encased in a display structure made of glass around its base. It’s the last surviving tea clipper ship and still looks magnificent as I’m sure it did decades ago.

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Honestly, I completely forget where we wandered after that, but X brought me to a museum in a massive columned white building. Maybe the Queen’s House? Anyway, doesn’t matter, because they had KNIGHT STUFF. Move over 8-year-olds, I have some imagination to do.

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Next stop was the Maritime Museum, full of shiny things and interactive exhibits. The highlight for me was the temporary Ansel Adams display, who was the reason I got into writing and snapping photos. Funnily enough the pictures were curated by a museum back home in Massachusetts and transported to Greenwich. I did love this place but started to glaze over a little when X went on a giant diatribe about the British hero, Horatio Lord Nelson.

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It was pretty unbelievable to see the actual jacket worn by this vice-admiral – the same one he was shot in while doing battle. You can easily see the bullet holes.

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Before wandering around the observatory, we waged a battle of our own to stand on either side of the Prime Meridian, which was established in the 1800s to help ships navigate the nearby waters.

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This is just a beautiful area. You hike up some stairs or come through the park at a gentler slope and are rewarded with a vista of the city below. Alongside the prime meridian is the observatory, with London’s only planetarium.

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I have a French macaron problem/addiction/obsession. This is only exacerbated because there’s none to be found in Boston. So when I’m anywhere else I drop everything at the sight, including buying one of these blue ones at an outdoor market that cost 7 DOLLARS, but I digress. Totally worth it.

When you make it out to Greenwich and have a sunny day to spare, don’t miss these three spots:

1. Cutty Sark

2. National Maritime Museum

3. Royal Observatory

It’s a charming detour for its marketplaces, museums and pubs off the beaten path. It’s not the suburbs, but it’s a lot slower paced and offers stunning views of the greenery below when you stroll through the hilly parks. I’m a little jealous X comes from such an amazing little place.

Have you ventured outside central London on your trips? Find anything cool?

Next week I’m taking a little road trip to New Jersey. Let me say, I can’t get enough of my car and the open road. PS, his name is Jose, he’s a little black coupe, Latin and bisexual. Which suits me perfectly for a quality, reliable road trip partner.


I keep running away to New York! – Affinia Manhattan hotel review

It really is a shame that one of the greatest cities in the world is only a few short hours from Boston – a shame for my wallet that is. Luckily this ‘biz has a couple perks and I was able to return last weekend for a quick little romp. I brought the boyfriend this time and was planning on some serious sightseeing and only having the laptop open for a couple of hours. We enjoyed wine-ing, dining, an off-Broadway play and my first trip to the strange yet fascinating Guggenheim Museum.

Before all that though, let me sing some high praises for the Affinia Manhattan Hotel. While I wasn’t on official assignment, I till was looking at this place with a writer’s eye and was totally satisfied with what I observed.

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Right off the bat the lobby is insanely impressive, if not a little daunting. What better way to a girl’s inner Audrey Hepburn though than chandeliers, right? The front desk staff were top notch and super helpful in getting me all settled in. I took the old school elevator up to the 23rd floor and was met with massive hallways and dated carpets, but the room itself was fresh and fun.

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I like the idea of not feeling confined to the bed when staying in a hotel, especially when I have writing to do. There was copious amounts of space to stretch out, from the comfy chairs to the sectioned off office space with a desk and countertops. And a fridge! I loved London and all, but having a fridge is key, even for some chilled water to grab in the middle of the night. No silly mini bar either to shove over – just a big, cold space for my own snacks and drinks.

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My temporary home office came with indulgently soft pillows – a few picked from their famous pillow bar, where you can choose the right style to best suit your needs (from hypoallergenic to pillow iPod docks!). Two big windows open up to the streets below, letting in plenty of light. Each wall had pretty gray, black and white flowers and accents to give the space a unique touch of style.

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Yes, the bathroom was super tiny. But hey, welcome to New York. To compensate for lack of elbow room, there was plenty of other superb amenities -including full size bottles of their bath products. For someone like me with a lion’s mane of hair, this was crazy appreciated, as I often have to hound the poor housekeepers for extra conditioner.

Overall I only have a few little gripes about the Affinia, which makes me fear I’m getting snotty and spoiled, but I digress. One, it was LOUD. There was a fire station below is I think that constantly had trucks raging in and out. A necessary evil of course, but it did make me think twice about staying in the dead center of Manhattan (in contrast, the Hotel Americano in Chelsea was much quieter, but a totally different and modern scene). Two, it was tough finding some cute bars and restaurants within quick walking distance. This really is not the Affinia’s fault, because it’s right next to Madison Square Garden, making it a high traffic and commercial area I suppose.

No real complaints, though – I adored Affinia Manhattan and was happy to lay my head to rest there for the long weekend. These short trips to NYC are getting a little addictive – I might have to reign it in and wait a few months until the next venture to repair my broken bank account.

Have a favorite hotel in Manhattan? Or just a really memorable stay anywhere in the world? I’m always up for future recommendations!

Freelancer Tip #2: Have no shame when starting out. Of course be smart and try to avoid those shady online projects without a contract just for the dollar signs, but also be willing to put in the work when opportunities arise. I literally fell over myself when I thought I had met a legit editor, and ever since I’ve been handsomely rewarded. Yes I had a few sleepless nights, but it was well worth this NYC trip and all the future adventures I’m bound to have. Don’t make traveling the goal – building a good reputation and portfolio should be the aim, and the trips will eventually fall into place.


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