A Girl’s Guide to Defecting

As many of you may know from my recent blog post here, I am moving to Canada in just a couple weeks now! While I’ve moved WAY too many times in the last few years, moving to another country comes with a whole set of different challenges that you normally don’t have to worry about when you’re moving within one country. I love the idea of living abroad, and although Canada isn’t exactly as exotic as I’d like, it is still a foreign country and a new set of logistics need to be considered. So if you’re the same as me and are considering, or have considered living abroad, here are some things you should take into account:

  1. THE LAW. I know, I know, this one is obvious. But it is worth repeating here because each country has its own immigration laws and regulations, and you should become intensely familiar with those rules to avoid any mishaps. Common ways to live abroad include getting work or student visas that provide you with the correct documentation to live in a country that is not your own. If you’re a U.S. citizen, the Federal Secretary of State website is the place to start for this info. For me, I’m in a unique situation since I work from home for an American company. For this first year at least, I won’t claim that I live in Canada, and I will make sure I go back to the states at least every few months to prevent violating immigration law. If I live with my boyfriend in Canada for a year or longer, he can actually sponsor me for permanent residency and things become a whole lot easier.
  2. TAXES. The only certainties in life right? Death and taxes. Just because you move away does not mean you are free of paying your government money. In fact, it gets even more complicated because you will have to file in both countries. I make money through an American firm, but will be using Canada’s resources so I have to file twice. I’ll be honest, taxes are already complicated enough as it is, so I’ve decided to hire an accountant for this. It’s expensive but I will definitely need the help and peace of mind of putting this burden on a professional who can make sure I don’t lose too much money.
  3. HEALTH INSURANCE. Maybe you’re on your parent’s policy still, or maybe you have insurance through your work. Either way, chances are, your policy doesn’t really apply abroad. I have Blue Cross Blue Shield and they do have emergency insurance for if I were to break my leg or something abroad, but as far as getting checkups or other appointments, I have to come back down to the states if I want coverage. There are ways you can extend your coverage abroad, or buy a separate policy for extended trips, but you will have to make sure you contact your health insurance providers for more details.
  4. CELLPHONE. Ideally, you would simply buy a Sim card in whatever country you moved to and get a new plan with one of their providers. However, because I will be constantly going back and forth between the states and Canada for work, I 1.) Don’t want to commit to a Canadian plan and 2.) Don’t want to change my number. I have Verizon and they have quite a few options for people traveling abroad. For now, I have added Canadian Access to my phone at a limited capacity for an extra charge, and will add more as I need it.
  5. MAILING.  If you leave the country there are still going to be some important documents that you might not want to forward across oceans and continents. I know I will change all my subscriptions and official document addresses to my parent’s address. Make sure you obtain a PO box or an address for a person you trust for official documents and tax purposes. Figure out how to forward your mail with your current postal service or call/email all your subscription services and change your address manually.

There are obviously a billion other little things to consider when moving period, but when moving abroad, the most important thing is to make sure all your legal affairs are in order. Moving to another country is honestly a logistical nightmare and for me, I really had to do my research and talk to people that had done something similar to me to figure out how they handled all this. Information online can be vague or misleading so it is best to find forums for expats or official government instructions to get a better handle on the things you need to know. Wish me luck!

 

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Photography by the lovely Clara Yu

 

Peru Travel Guide: Lima & TIPS

If you haven’t read the first two parts of my Peruvian adventure (INCLUDING MACCHU PICCHU!!), then click here or here!

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At last, we have reached the conclusion of the reminiscence of my Peru trip. Because we bought round trip tickets from LAX to Lima, we obviously had to conclude our trip in the Peruvian capital city. Although there are many museums and churches to see, we decided to keep our last two relaxed and stayed in the surprisingly beautiful, beachside area called Miraflores.

We were told that parts of Lima can be a bit unsavory but that Miraflores tends to be where all the expatriates live and is the safest area. We stayed in a private room in a cute little hostel minutes from the main square and spent much of the day just walking around. The first day we went to the LARCOMAR mall which looks out over the ocean and consists of beautiful restaurants and high-end shops.

The second day, we walked all the way along the coastline to the next neighborhood called Barranco, to stroll through the colorful houses and visit the Bridge of Sighs. Unfortunately, my travel partner had some food poisoning so we couldn’t push too hard during our stay, but honestly, a couple relaxing days were the perfect way to end an incredible vacation.

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Now for some TIPS on traveling in Peru!

  1. In Cusco, most places speak English. In Lima, it is much less common, even in the touristy areas, so brush up on the basics if you plan on spending a lot of time there. (If nothing else, learn how to ask for the bathroom!)
  2. Peruvian currency is the Sol. One Sol equals about 30 cents in the US.
  3. For food, make sure to try the ceviche, the Lomo Saltado, the cuy, and alpaca meat.

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4. You can negotiate for EVERYTHING. My boyfriend even got five soles off a cappuccino at a restaurant. Just go for it.

5. The water is not potable in Peru so make sure you buy bottled water from the small shops.

6. If you want traditional Peruvian chocolate or Coffee, buy it from the supermarket, not the tourist market, it will be WAY cheaper.

7. To get actual alpaca material, go to either a textile store OR a real alpaca shop. The street vendors will tell you their material is alpaca but it is not! REAL alpaca has a lot of weight to it and feels cool to the touch.

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8. The weather can be super volatile in Peru since the geography changes so drastically between places. Make sure you have a warm jacket, and a rain jacket just in case.

9. Some longer trips can be amazing, like the Salkantay Trek or Rainbow mountain, but they take a whole day or multiple days and require some advance planning. So do some research beforehand to make sure you get to do the excursions you want!

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10. When doing an excursion (like Macchu Picchu) where you have to leave early in the morning, discuss breakfast arrangements with your hostel. Many hostels realize that tourists must get up super early for these events and are willing to pack you a breakfast! Don’t miss out!

Overall, our time in Peru was amazing! All the different places we visited had their own attributes and the sites we visited had unparalleled energy — you just can’t beat Macchu Picchu! This was our first time in South America and of course, we were nervous, but Peru truly exceeded our expectations and now we can’t wait to go back!

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Peru Travel Guide: DRINK THE TEA

Even though Peru falls within the time zones of the U.S. the trip down there is still enormously tiring. We booked a nine-hour nonstop flight from LAX to Lima and then had booked a flight a few hours after landing to go straight to Cusco.

Cusco is HIGH. Literally. Cusco proper sits at some 11,100 feet of elevation, and let me tell you, coming from the ocean village of Los Angeles, it can be a shock to your system. It is definitely harder to breathe and you will be able to feel your heart beating harder in order to pump blood to your oxygen deprived extremities.

The easiest way to get from the Cusco airport to wherever you need to go is by taxi. Of course, be wary of the taxi drivers in case of scams or safety concerns, but feel free to negotiate with them. A taxi from the airport to the main square should cost you between 20 and 30 soles (Between $6-10 USD). Agree upon the fare BEFORE getting in the taxi as the fares are not metered and you don’t want to arrive at your destination to find out that you’re being charged double.

In Cusco, I recommend staying at the Wild Rover Backpacker’s hostel, it has amazing views of the whole city, free breakfast, great wifi, and the best common areas (ping pong tables!). Furthermore, there is a bar on the property for any late night shenanigans, but it also keeps the party out of the room for anyone [ME] who prefers to sleep. They also have free Coca tea which helps a ton with adjusting to the altitude. I had at least two cups a day (along with liters of water) and the altitude never bothered me again after that first day.

 

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The view from the hostel…

 

Cusco is the ultimate jumping off point for most of the tourist sites Peru has to offer. It was the epicenter of the Incan empire and has the history to prove it. There are tons of travel agencies all over the city offering day trips and tours to all the different sites. Michael and I ended up doing two relatively low-key ones.

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Sacsayhuaman – This huge stone behind me weighs over 128 tons!

The first was the Cusco City tour (you can find this one anywhere so I’m not even going to bother recommending a travel agency). It costs thirty soles per person (a little less than $10 USD), and contrary to the name, this tour actually takes you around the archaeological sites closest to Cusco, not around the city itself (there are other tours for that). We covered the ancient fortress site of Sacsayhuaman (sounds like “sexy woman” if you say it too fast) which is a prime example of Incan building strategies. The site consists of huge stones, we’re talking over 100 tons, cut to fit perfectly together; the site took over 77 years to build with over 30,000 laborers! The tour includes Quenqo which is the site of the ancient Incan calendar and a ritual site for actual animal and human sacrifice. We also covered Puku Pukara, a small ancient rest stop, and Tambomochay or the “Incan Baths” a picturesque waterfall site.

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Tambomochay

The second tour was covered a little bit more area. We wanted to do the Maras — Moray tour. Although this tour also was a half day, it took us much farther outside the city limits of Cusco. Moray is an ancient agricultural testing site made up of terraced concentric circles. The Incans used it to try out different crops and created over 3000 different strains of potato! (Why anyone needs that many different potatoes is beyond me…). Maras, on the other hand, is a small town that leads into the Salineras salt flats which have been producing salt since before the Incan empire. The water that feeds the flats is 70% salt and 30% water, and the flats produce black, pink, and white salt. We didn’t get to spend much time here but it was honestly one of the highlights of the whole trip.

 

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The salt flats at Salineras

 

Within Cusco itself, there are also plenty of sites to see. The main square alone has two cathedrals that are worth a peek inside, one is actually a museum, and through ambling along the tourist districts, you should be able to find many other little churches and squares. The San Pedro market should also be at the top of any Cusco visitor’s list as one can do literally all of their shopping at this market. Not only do they sell blankets, socks, jewelry and the like, they also sell coffee, chocolate, and have an indoor eating area with many different vendors selling their specialty at an incredibly cheap price (between $2-6 USD).

 

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The cathedral in the Plaza de Mayor

 

As far as food is concerned though, I only recommend eating at the market once because there are some far better options outside the market. First off, get your hands on some street meat. There will be ladies on the street selling enormous skewers of all different kinds of meat. We preferred the alpaca and because each skewer has a whole potato on the end of it, you can eat an entire meal for five soles! ($1.50 USD). If you’re looking for something more formal, our favorite breakfast spot was Jack’s Cafe. They have great Western and Peruvian breakfast options for a very good price and they give you tons of food! For dinner, we cannot recommend Pacha Papa highly enough. I had the roasted trout, Michael had the lamb shoulder, and we shared the whole roasted Guinea Pig and a traditional Peruvian Quinoa dessert. Everything here was AMAZING! It is so good, in fact, that you actually might want to make a reservation to make sure you get a table! On the other hand, there is a ton of Italian food in Peru, especially in Cusco, and I cannot stress enough that you SHOULD NOT try any of it. We tried to get Italian (pasta, pizza) a few times and each time it was awful. I’m a terrible cook and I could’ve made better pasta than these places, so beware. On the whole, the Peruvian dish ‘Lomo Saltado’ was my favorite. I got this a few times in Cusco and elsewhere in Peru and it is solid. It consists of marinated beef with red onions and tomatoes served with french fries and rice. Delicious every single time.

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The Roasted Guinea Pig!

Michael and I spent the bulk of our trip in Cusco and it was definitely worth the extra time. The people here are helpful and kind, and for the most part, speak English! You’re able to negotiate for everything you buy and there is so much history to experience within the city and beyond. If you are interested in ancient empires or ancient architecture, Cusco is a MUST. However, everyone knows the real reason tourists flock to Peru each year. The best parts of the trip are yet to come, so stay tuned for Part 2!

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How to Travel as a Couple without Killing Eachother

I recently went to Peru with my amazing boyfriend (travel guides coming soon!) and I have to confess, I was a little nervous to travel with him. We had met while traveling separately but we had never really done a trip together as a couple and this was an important step for me. Traveling to new places is a passion of mine and I knew I couldn’t be with somebody who was a terrible travel partner (not that I’m a saint but you know what I mean). However, after doing this trip I realized that there are some lessons we BOTH learned about traveling together that make things a lot easier.

If you’re bringing drugs, bring lots: It is not unlikely to feel under the weather or even get sick while traveling. If you know you always get indigestion, for example, and bring medication for it, bring twice as much because you never know if you’re significant other will need some. This came in handy multiple times throughout our Peru trip. I knew I would need Alka-Seltzer for my stomach but I brought a lot and lo and behold, my boyfriend ended up getting food poisoning towards the end of the trip and needed something to calm his stomach. Likewise, my boyfriend gets headaches so he brought a lot of Advil, and I ended up needing a few for an untimely sprained ankle.

Recognize each other’s limits: Each of you will have different capabilities and limits when it comes to traveling and it is important to not push your partner too hard, and also to be vocal if something is too much for you. My boyfriend and I were pretty good at this but only because we were both outspoken about when we were struggling. For example, I cannot sleep on airplanes or in airports and my boyfriend can sleep anywhere. So after traveling for over twenty-four hours, my boyfriend knew I was zonked and we took it easy that day. On the flip side, while we were hiking Macchu Picchu Mountain we ran out of the water and it hit my boyfriend way harder than it hit me so I knew to be quick about pictures and get him water as soon as possible. It is extremely important to be aware of what your partner is feeling so you can make sure you both can enjoy yourselves.

 

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Macchu Picchu of course – this day took a lot of prep and compromise

 

Be Decisive: There will be endless decisions to make on a trip, even once you’ve already planned it. Where should we eat? Should we go to those ruins today or tomorrow? How should we get there? Is this too expensive? And on and on and on. Nothing wastes precious travel time like being indecisive. We ran into this issue a couple times, especially where food was concerned. Tourist towns often have a million different restaurants that all serve the same thing. This should make it easier to choose, right? WRONG. My boyfriend and I would go back and forth with the whole ‘I don’t care where we eat…actually no not this place…’ type dialogue until one of us [ME] snapped because they were so hungry they couldn’t take it anymore. We had to actively have a conversation about when we actually mean we’re indifferent to certain decisions as opposed to speaking out immediately if we have a preference. This smoothed things out considerably for the rest of the trip.

Be open-minded: This one should go without saying, and most people who are love traveling in the first place possess this quality, but every so often you end up traveling with someone who sticks their nose up at everything and would rather order room service than go exploring a new place. This person SUCKS to travel with. Don’t be that person, don’t date that person, and don’t go on a trip with them if you can help it. If you’re enamored with traveling and experiencing new things, this person will kill your vibe SO FAST. Neither my boyfriend nor I are like this, so it wasn’t a problem for us, but we witnessed other couples with this dynamic. The worst kind of travel partner is the one that says ‘no’ too often. When you travel you should open yourself up to what that place can teach you, and those with a bad attitude have no interest in learning and you should not let them ruin your fun!

 

Ultimately, traveling with another person, especially a romantic partner, should be tons of fun. However, in order to make it an amazing trip all around, you both have to go into it with open eyes and a willingness to compromise. Sure you can plan down to every last detail if you want, but I can assure you that attitude will EITHER kill the energy of the whole trip, OR something will go wrong and your plans will have been for naught and you’ll have to work together anyways. And to be really frank, if your trip sucks, maybe you just aren’t right for each other. Awk. (Luckily my boyfriend and I rocked it and realized we are more perfect for each other than ever! Sickening, I know.)

 

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Exploring Sacsayhuaman