What is capsule packing? Well, it’s packing minimal items that you can wear in various situations. Below are the steps to take to pack lightly, which can save you time, space and baggage fees!
Things to keep in mind before you start:
You will probably be going somewhere nice for at least one night.
Evenings can get chilly.
Don’t skimp on the sunscreen or aloe.
If there’s anything to bring extra of, it’s an extra pair of flip flops and sunglasses. (I can’t tell you how many times I have lost both.)
Your Steps to Capsule Pack:
Step 1: Plan your color scheme.
Start by choosing 1-2 neutral colors, then add 1-2 accent colors. The key is that all items can mix/match with each other so you will want complementary colors. Color Scheme example: white and beige neutrals. Light blue & hot pink accents.
Step 2: Build your basic items.
You will want to think of how many days you will be staying at your destination. Whatever that number is, cut it in half and that’s how many bottoms you should bring. For example, if my stay is for 6 days, then I bring 3 bottoms. Here is a starter list of items you will need:
Pair of nice shoes
Pair of casual shoes
Rain protection (jacket, poncho, or umbrella)
Step 3: Arrange your outfits.
In a large space (bed, floor, etc) lay out each item and arrange your outfits. Tip: I make sure each item can be worn twice. I usually start with the bottoms, and alternate tops to create different outfits.
Step 4: Add accessories.
Accessories can definitely transform an outfit, but try not to add too much jewelry, as this will add to your luggage weight. A good way to accessorize is with light scarves, hair accessories, or a hat. Tip: Use a light wrap/scarf to use as a blanket on the plane, as well as a scarf to change an outfit.
Step 5: Review.
Now that you have your outfits planned, let’s make sure they actually work with your itinerary.
Do you have comfortable items for the plane ride?
Will this work for an evening out?
Are these shoes comfortable to walk in?
Do you have something to wear if it gets cold?
Can I wear this for (activity)?
Step 6: Rearrange.
If there is any conflict to the questions in Step 5, then swap them out accordingly. Again, make sure each item can be worn twice. If it can’t, toss or swap it!
Step 7: Reflect.
After you return from your trip, think about items you could have used or didn’t need at all and apply that to your next pack!
In college, I minored in Nutrition, and I have danced my whole life, so the importance of nutritional and physical health is not foreign to me. But in Japan, the emphasis on health is a part of EVERYONE’S daily life. (Which is why they have one of the highest life expectancies in the world.) There are billboards, commercials, lessons in school…. (the list goes on) all focused on ways one can stay healthy. But here are 5 easy Japanese health practices you can start today:
Easy Japanese Health Practices:
1. Take a bath.
Not just for obvious reasons of cleanliness, but because the benefits of taking baths have been scientifically proven. Benefits like: preventing, and even curing, some illnesses due to the rise of core body temp; improve sleep because of the decline in body temp after a bath; promotes blood circulation; and can even promote weight loss.
In Japan, the ritual of onsen (Japanese hot springs) visits are a huge part of Japanese culture. When visiting Japan, visiting an onsen or staying at a ryokan (Japanese inn with public baths) is a MUST!
The importance of proper nutrition is taught in the home AND at school. One agenda is to eat 30 varieties of food a day to ensure each organ has the appropriate nutrition it needs to function optimally. If you want to learn more about what daily consumption is like in Japan? Read about it here:
3. Walk it out.
No seriously, walking is a HUGE thing here. Most people don’t own cars in Japan. It’s not that they can’t afford it, it’s just there is not much space on this tiny island. Instead, people walk or bike for their daily commute. Also, not just space being an issue, they know the importance of physical activity. I know 93-year old’s here that still get out and walk every day for 30 min! You know what they say, if you don’t use it you lose it.
4. Limited snack attacks.
Japan has some pretty delicious, and of course nutritious, snacks. But most adults skip snacking on empty calories and eat three big meals a day. Yep, I mean BIG.
I think the common misconception about Japanese women staying thin is because the portions are small in Japan than America. I can guarantee you… they’re not. If anything, some portions are even LARGER than in the states. So much so that I can never clean my plate when we go out to eat :/
5. Wash yo hands!
Japan is known for its OCD when it comes to cleanliness. And it’s true! I’ll never forget the first time I went to Tokyo and I actually saw workers scrubbing the subway tile on the wall…. I mean, that is dedication!
But it’s no surprise when one of the most common customs is to take off your shoes before entering a home. Since living here, I find it weird that we wear our shoes inside in America… gross.
Since living here, I take my shoes off, go straight to the bathroom and wash my hands when I enter the house. Then, when I take a shower, I do it the Japanese family way: shower outside the tub, soak inside the tub, then shower again to get the sweat off. Yes. They shower, soak, and shower again. See… OCD (but totally makes sense)!
Want to see what our Japanese home looks like? Check out the video below!
Kyoto is one of Japan’s top tourist destinations! But, if you’re like me and don’t like crowds, I’m here to show you a more local, slow travel guide to the city. My favorite places to go, food to eat, and a few helpful tips for your trip to Kyoto, Japan.
What I love about “slow travel” is it gives you the opportunity to truly experience the culture and live everyday life like a local. Sure, you want to see all those IG-worthy spots, but a city is so much more than that. It’s history, community, and routine. Which is why I love staying in an apartment, as opposed to a resort.
We stayed in a small apartment near Kuinabashi Station. It was a quiet neighborhood, filled with parks for children, three different groceries, and multiple train stations.
The home had a small bath (as most Japanese homes do because baths are a part of every family’s routine), a kitchen and two bedrooms. We cooked often because the fresh and seasonal ingredients from the grocery closest to us was always stocked! Which made our rule of eating 30 a Day super easy 🙂
Food & Drink
Pickles & Sake
This sounds like an odd combo but at Gabana sake pub, they have it figured out! The contrast between the mild, sweet sake and sharp, pickled veggies pairs so well together. It is standing room only, but with only a small menu, it won’t take long to finish.
Tea in Gion
Obvisously we had to visit the oldest part of town, but places like Gion, Arashiyama and Fushimi-Inari are FULL of tourist traps and overpriced restaurants.
Luckily, we stumbled upon this charming tea house when I was in DESPERATE need of caffeine. Little did we know that the white coffee and fresh pastries came with a private view of Kyoto’s oldest pagoda, Yasaka.
This was TRULY a hidden gem.
Although a nation-wide chain, Wako is my FAVORITE tonkatsu place (even though I never order the tonkatsu, lol). The panko-fried fish and oysters are perfectly moist and crunchy. And, the famous miso soup is full of nutrients as well as super tasty. It is comfort food at its finest!
Busy, Busy, Busy
Honestly, I love Kyoto Station. I love looking over the city on the Skyway and I could shop at Isetan forever!
I also talk about my favorite hidden bar in the video at the bottom of the page! It was by far the most ideal setting for an evening cocktail.
(Not-so) Secret Garden
I’m usually not much for gardens, but if this place was as beautiful as it was during winter, I can only imagine how stunning it is during Spring and Summer. No matter what time of year it is, Kyoto Botanical Garden is always a great way to spend the day strolling through nature, meditating in the French Garden or English Garden or Japanese Garden… so many ways for you to reflect and appreciate every sound, smell and sight.
Lessons in Travel
The language barrier can be real. Unlike other tourist destinations, Japan’s economy doesn’t rely on Westerners… so there is very little incentive for them to learn English. Try to learn just a few phrases. A little effort can go a long way!
Shop seasonal produce… Truth be told, in Japan you don’t really have a choice. But it was nice to know that seasonal items were grown locally (be it in Kyoto or Japan in general) which makes it that much, more special 🙂 and makes it taste even better.
MAIN LESSON: Slow down. I guess I have really been slow traveling since moving to Thailand from 2017-2019. But, when I over-planned and packed a ton of activities into our New Year’s and my mom fell, I realized I did too much. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see and learn about places you visit, but it should be enjoyable… not run by a natzi.
Living abroad definitely has it’s ups and downs. One being… HOLIDAYS! I miss my family so much during Christmas. However, I have learned to share the Christmas spirit with friends in Asia, as well as adapted my traditions to fit my lifestyle abroad. Here are a few old, and new, traditions I have on my list:
Now that we live in Japan, a Buddhist country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas, I wanted to mix some of their traditions with my own. So, rather than making your typical glass ornaments, or popcorn and cranberry garlands, I have been making origami decorations instead.
Christmas Light Spotting
Although I have lived in a Buddhist country for the last few years, I still find that people in Asia, although don’t celebrate Christmas, still love the decorations. So prior to Christmas I make sure I hit up all the light displays around town.
This is a fun tradition from my friends in England. It’s a roll of fun! Filled with candy, toys, a crown and a joke.
On Wednesday’s We Wear Green
This is one I’ve added after living in Thailand for 3 years. In Thailand, each day of the week represents a different color. Christmas is not a holiday celebrated in Thailand, but I have adopted the daily colors by wearing the color of the day on Christmas, even if it’s not your tradition Christmas color.
Candle in the Window
This one is thanks to my heritage from Ireland. On Christmas Eve, a candle is placed in the window to welcome anyone passing by. Others, however, believe it is to symbolize the welcome of Mary and Joseph, or Catholics and Priests. Either way it is a tradition my family has always done and I still do today.
My sister and I started this when we were younger, but we would wear matching pajamas on Christmas eve. In most recent years I have not been with my sister on Christmas, but I still make members of my household participate J And, I have made my pajamas crazier and tackier. I find that this is a good distraction in those early Christmas morning photos 😉
Cream Cheese Stuffed Christmas Toast
Stuffed French Toast- this is my own Christmas doing. Citrus like clementines and mandarin are popular during this time of year. So, I make my famous, and fattening, French toast. I feel like the one day to splurge on sweets is Christmas! This meal also goes well with Christmas mimosas (for those of you that are dealing with a lot of family ;))
The story of the 47 Ronin is my favorite from Japanese history. It is also a story that many foreigners are not familiar with. But don’t worry, I’m here to share a summarized version with you now:
It was at the turn of the century, the 17th century that is, when the town of Ako would change forever.
Every year Lord Asano made the journery from Ako to Tokyo with his samurai, gaurds, and many others from the village.
In 1701, Lord Asano was at a reception at Edo Castle in Tokyo. While there, he and Kira (a powerful official) had a bit of a disagreement. Some say Kira was displeased by insufficient presents from Asano. Some say Kira continuously insulted and ridiculed Lord Asano.
Whichever is true, something led to Asano, who had been even-tempered, losing his temper and attacked Kira with a dagger.
The wound was hardly lethal, but a crime just the same and Lord Asano was sentenced to death.
Because of Asano’s status, he was able to perform seppuku, ceremonial suicide, which allowed his family to keep honor to their name.
However, the death of Lord Asano left his samurai masterless, or ronin.
Lord Asano’s head samurai, Oishi, knew his Lord had been treated unjustly by Kira and plotted with 47 other ronin to plan an attack to avenge their Lord.
Kira, being no fool, sent his men to spy on the ronin to assure he was in no danger of revenge. For TWO YEARS Oishi and the others led their lives as divorced men, town drunkards, visiting brothels, moving to Kyoto and Tokyo, and all to make sure Kira was thrown off their scent.
Once Kira’s men had assured them that Oishi and the others were honorless samurai, it was time to attack.
The men split into two groups, one led by Oishi and one led by his son, and began to play their well laid-out plan.
They surrounded Kira’s home, capturing guards and scaling the walls. They posted swordmens and archers to fight off Kira’s men. They came to Kira’s room, who’s bed was still warm.
Finally, they came to a hidden courtyard and found a man they thought to be Kira. Oishi came to the man, and it was indeed Kira.
Oishi offered Kira, because of his status, to commit seppuku and Oishi himself would act as kaishakunin (person who beheads one commiting seppuku to avoid a lingering death), but Kira being coward just trembled in fear.
Alas, the men pinned Kira down and Oishi killed and beheaded him.
Quickly after, Oishi ordered one ronin to run back to Ako to spread the story, and the others took Kira’s head to Sengaku-ji temple to Lord Asano’s grave.
The tale spread quickly, and many petitioins began on behalf of the, now, 46 ronin.
Knowing that this attack would lead to death, the samurai had not anticipated the officials decision to grant seppuku on the grounds of their Lord’s grave. But the dedication, commitment and loyalty of their actions could not go unnoticed.
Getting to Ako:
Depending on what part of the country you are in, you will take various trains or just one. However, the name of your final destination stop is Banshū-Akō Station.
Before You Go:
If you want to learn more about the story here are my two suggestions:
47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves- A loosely-based movie about the 47 Ronin… minus the half-breed and magic.
47 Ronin by John Allyn- This is a little more accurate than the Hollywood produced movie. And gives much more detail true to story.
Either way, it is a story worth knowing and sharing. If you ever get the chance to visit Japan, I suggest Sengaku-ji temple and Ako being on your list!
Before moving to Japan I had visited a few times. The first time I feel like there were so many rules and I didn’t quite fit in. However, each time I visit I learn a new lesson and I wanted to share a few things that will help make your travel to Japan a little easier and to share information you just may not know.
It will always be colder than you think.
Yes, Japan does have all four seasons. But even when it’s “spring” it’s still a lot colder than you think. Really, the only hot month is August. So, be sure to pack that extra jacket! You will most likely need it!
A little effort goes a long way.
Let’s face it. Japan is a powerhouse. The capital of future technology and economically wealthy. Being an island, and very respectful to their extensive history and culture, they don’t really need much from other countries. They don’t depend on tourism, they are pretty efficient… so, the need for the everyday person to learn English is on the bottom of the totem pole. So, as a responsible tourist, just TRY to speak a little bit of the language. It really pleases them when guests in their country show a little effort and in turn, they will be more willing to go out of their way to help you.
You can drink the water.
Back in Atlanta, you can drink tap water (it’s totally safe and actually has added fluoride) but most people still drink filtered. In Thailand, we NEVER drank tap water. In Bangkok the chlorine is too high, and in smaller cities it’s not filtered much.
In Japan, unless stated otherwise (like on trains) you CAN drink the tap water. In fact, in some parts of the country that are mineral-rich, you’re encouraged to drink the tap water!
Have a handkerchief handy.
Japan is BIG on recycle and reducing, and borderline germaphobic. That being said, a lot of public restrooms do not have paper towels or hand dryers. It will do you well to adopt the local tradition of bringing your own hankie or hand towel.
Get your luggage delivered to your door.
Again, Japan is efficient! And with 200+ mph trains that can take you from one end of the country to the other in a few hours, travel is popular.
It would be very difficult to travel via train with a lot of luggage (logistically and space-wise). So at most airports, there are services that can deliver your luggage to your hotel, home, homestay, etc. And the prices are not extreme. It’s usually around $25-35 USD per piece. So I highly suggest this, especially if you are using the JR Pass, and save yourself time and hassle.
This is mostly on public transportation, but even in everyday life. When one raises their voice it may come across as “angry” or “ill mannered.” And, when traveling it is considerate as a lot of people are catching up on sleep during travel. This should be used EVERYWHERE in the world. Planes. Trains. Any place where there are other people because it’s not just your world.
Slurping is ok.
This is mostly for hot noodles. Although, when in a matcha tea ceremony, you slurp a little at the end to get it all in.
But, when eating things like Ramen or Udon, it’s best to eat the noodle when it’s hot. In order to prevent burning your tastebuds off, you suck in a little air (and a little broth) so you can eat the noodle at perfect temp.
Hold small plates to your mouth.
While we’re on the subject of dining etiquette, some dishes are brought up to your mouth. For example, when eating Tonkatsu (panic-fried pork) you dip the pork in sauce and hold it over your rice (which is held under your mouth). This is to prevent sauce from dripping all over your outfit.
Not all slippers are created equal.
Sometimes, when visiting a home or onsen, there will be slippers at the entrance and slippers outside the bathroom. Don’t wear the house slippers in the bathroom, and don’t wear the bathroom slippers around the house. You’d be surprised how many people forget this.
Here’s a tip: don’t tip.
Like most countries outside of the US, tipping is not part of the culture. In fact, some may perceive it to be flat out insulting. Like they need your charity or something. So, when you get the bill you can skip the tip.
If you have any other questions or curiosities, feel free to drop a line and I can help you out 😉
If you follow me on Instagram then you know it’s no secret that Hua Hin holds a special place in my heart. It has been my home-away-from-home twice now. And I have to say, I love it even more than Atlanta!
To sum up the town of Hua Hin: it is a low-key, family beach town about 3 hours south of Bangkok. It houses one of the Royal family’s vaction homes, hundreds (if not thousands) of delicious seafood restaurants, beautiful beaches, mountains, and themed parks (for the kids).
No, there are no beach-side cliffs and emerald waters like you’ll see in Phuket or Krabi, but what you get in Hua Hin (that you won’t in Phuket) is a sense of community. Everyone, both Thai locals and foreign expats, in Hua Hin is friendly and treats you more like one-of-their-own, instead of a money-spending tourist.
The prices here are VERY reasonable and are not inflated just because you are a frarang (foreigner).
Whether you like to hike, lay out on the beach, or party at the bars, Hua Hin offers something for EVERYONE!
Ok, I know what you’re thinking: “Did Hua Hin Tourism pay her to say this?” And no, I wish! Haha. I just feel like it is a town that truly gives you a well-rounded experience of Thailand: culture, great food, and beaches.
So, if you do decide to visit, here are a few of my FAVORITES by category:
Places to eat
If you are visiting Thailand, I seriously suggest stopping by Hua Hin. I promise, you will fall in love!
Did you ever have to make a brochure or travel guide for Elementary Geography class? I did. I remember loving projects like those and telling myself, at age 8 or so, that I would travel to all the places I researched for class assignments.
Fast forward to 20 years later: I moved to Thailand for a year, then moved back to Atlanta for 2 years, then back to Thailand with the love of my life, Joey, and my mother with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s. We have lived here for about 3 years. I know. It seems crazy that I up and left my home in Atlanta to the exact opposite side of the world. But hear me out:
I had been working at a school in Atlanta for 5 years and although I loved my job, I knew I wanted to travel. And Joey was unfulfilled in his career and wanted to pursue his dream in golf. Also, my mother was in a retirement but wasn’t loving it. So when a co-worker got a job at an international school in Bangkok and said they were looking for another teacher, I jumped on it! Afterall, I had lived there before and loved it, Joey (who is naturally talented at golf) wanted to pursue his dream, and my mom… well, when I asked if she would want to come she obviously said “yes!”
All Things Considered
This was my exact thought process: win, win, win. Haha. I loved Thailand. Win. Joey could logistically succeed in golf through the Asian Tour Q-school (in Hua Hin, Thailand). Win. And my mom and I would be able to travel AND save money while doing so because the cost of living is so cheap in Thailand. WIN!
The downfall, of course, being that I’d miss out on family functions, hanging with friends and the life I had always known. I’m not going to lie. Missing your family and friends sucks! But I can’t always live my life for others. I had missed out on studying abroad during college because of weddings, childbirths and illnesses. I am so glad I was there to witness and help through those milestones, but they weren’t mine. I had put my life and my dreams on hold for other people’s important events. So, impulsively, I said “the time is now!” and packed me, Joey and my mom up for Thailand! (Really Joey’s sister packed him up because he procrastinates and if I had done it… well, I probably would have thrown half of his crap away and we wouldn’t be in Thailand together. Haha)
A Whole New World
I had lived in Thailand (solo) in 2014-2015 and it was sooooo much easier than bringing two other people with me. The first time I came through a TESOL organization and they pretty much supplied me with everything I needed (papers for visa, arranged accommodations, job placement). This time, however, I was hired BY the school and not through a 3rdparty. And they had NO idea how to hire, employ or even run a school. I hated it there! The children were the only good part of my day, but they only stayed for 2 hours a day. The other 6 hours spent in that hellhole were the worst! See, Thailand is very much a cast system. This crazy, probably inbred, family is a product of the upper-echelon of the system. They weren’t wealthy because they were intelligent, or earned their place, so you can imagine what a joke-of-a-school they ran. But enough about them, let’s talk about Thailand itself:
What’s to Love about Thailand
way of life (work to live, not live to work)
When you think of Thailand I’m sure visions of “Hangover part III” or “Brokedown Palace” come into mind, but Thailand is such a culturally rich and safe country! Even during late, drunken nights in Bangkok, I have never felt unsafe. Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, and Buddists strongly believe in Karma (along with the fear of Thai prison), so it is very rare to be the victim of a crime here.
Also, the fact that Thailand has never been colonized is one reason for their rich culture. Without the influence of western control, their culture has never been watered down… therefore their traditions and customs have remain untainted for centuries!
Now, let’s talk way of life! The people of Thailand are super friendly! Yes, there are language barriers, but that doesn’t keep Thai’s away from trying to have friendly chit-chatter. And, the are extremely laid back (which can be a good but sometimes bad thing). Once you allow yourself to adapt to the sabai-sabai life and go-with-the-flow, you can truly appreciate the way of everyday life: enjoy it!
-I once met a cab driver that told me he only works until he makes 1000 baht each day. No more, no less. Of course my response was, “What if you make that first thing in the morning?” He simply smiled and said, “Then I can go enjoy my day with my family.” That is working to live my friends. Life is too short to not be able to enjoy it.
Another plus, cost of living. Thailand is a third-world country, and most of Thailand is very undeveloped. Thus, the living is cheap which gives westerners a chance to splurge! How much does it cost to live in Thailand? I’ll tell you.
Cost of Living
We lived a little more luxurious than I did the first time I lived in Thaialnd. We had a full apartment in a very nice neighborhood with all the amenities.
I also spent pretty frivolously, but I still managed to save. I am going to take you into my personal finances per month:
Rent: 20,000 thb
Electric bill: 1800+ thb (we run the AC a lot)
Water: 120 thb
Phone & Internet: 1000 thb
Groceries: 5000 thb
Entertainment (mostly drinking at the bar): 8000 thb
Total (approx) 36,000 thb/ $1,185 USD
This is for 2 people! Crazy, right!? My total monthly spending was less than the cost of rent in Atlanta.
Now, I could go on and on about everything I LOVE about about Thailand, but chances are you’ll probably get sick of me yammering on. So, if you want further reasoning just check out some of my favorite experiences in Thailand:
Oh, what a place to go! Kanchanaburi is a town about 2.5 hours from Bangkok. It’s a small town, and not as developed as other tourists cities in Thailand, but manages to offer a little something for everyone: history buffs, foodies, and naturists. And the best part, it’s cheap to visit!
How to get to Kanchanaburi:
If you have been reading my Under $100 Series, then you know minivans are the cheapest way to travel in Thailand. You could also take a train, but it will cost more. Booking through 12go.asia is easy, cheap and even gives you maps and detailed itineraries.
Once you get there, there are a few side-car taxi’s that range from 50-100 Baht depending on where you’re going.
Getting to Erawan National Park:
The cheapest, easiest way to travel to Erawan National Park, is to catch the local bus at Kanchanaburi Bus Terminal, or on Thanon Sangchuto (on the side of the War Cemetary, not on the Train Station side). This will take you straight to the park. To get back to town, simply take the same bus down to town. It’s only 40 Baht to ride!
Kanchanaburi has quite the tragic history. During the Japanese Expansion, Japan used POW’s and their captives to build the Thailand-Burma Railway from Yangon, Burma (today’s Myanmar) to Bangkok, Thailand. The conditions were dangerous due to the malnutrition, malaria, infections, along with the danger of building on rocky cliffsides, causing an estimated 150,000 men to die. For this, the Thailand-Burma Railway got it’s nickname, Death Railway.
I will admit, seeing and walking on the bridge did leave a haunting feeling in the pit of my stomach, but it’s important to learn and share these pieces of history, for so many innocent men lost their lives for.
Where to stay:
Kanchanaburi has numerous resorts, but if you’re looking for something budget friendly, here are my suggestions based on price and location: