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My new favorite thing: Sea to Summit Liner review

Yes, this post contains affiliate links. For those of you who may not know, this means that if you click through and purchase anything on Amazon in the next 24 hours, I will earn a very small percentage of whatever you buy. All this money goes back into the blog via ad spaces, hosting fees, etc. This does not affect my review in any way.

sea to summit sleep sack

We’ve been on the road for about two weeks now, with a decent breadth of weather and living situations, so I feel it’s a good time to start poking through my backpack and seeing what’s worth it and what isn’t.

It took no time at all to figure out what ‘specialty’ item I’m most glad I went ahead and bought: the Sea to Summit Premium Blend Silk / Cotton Liner Standard. Yes, what the Russky lovingly refers to as the ‘sleep sock’ is definitely my top pick.
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Expat Life Guest Post

Those Awkward Moments: Sponsor Stories

Anyone whose ever traveled abroad for any amount of time has one of those stories. Yes, one of those awkward moment that are cringe-inducing long after they’ve happened. Cultural differences abound, leaving life abroad rife with danger while adjusting to new social/linguistic norms. I won’t get into the (several) times I misspoke and said suka instead of sumka (bitch and bag, respectively.) or the number of Russian cashiers I’ve horrified by plopping cash right into their hand. My lovely sponsors Jamie and Van were gracious and unselfconscious enough to share their adjustment stories…

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Hi, I’m Jamie: American expat, writer, and teacher’s wife currently calling Taiwan home. Ink + Adventure chronicles both my travel stories and expat exploits, complete with lots of photographs. Moving to Asia has required me to adapt to a lot of changes. For example – I now drive a scooter and bake in a toaster oven. But one of the biggest differences has been the food, and meat in particular.

Taiwan – and most of Asia – uses different cuts of meat and cooking methods, and it certainly doesn’t resemble what most of us Americans think of as Chinese food. [Sweet and sour sauce, or even General Tso's doesn't exist here!] We’ve also learned that medium well in Taiwan is medium rare by American standards. Burgers, steaks, and even chicken is served with plenty of pink of the inside. It’s just what’s normal here.

I grew up eating boneless, skinless chicken breast cooked extra well done. I’ve always been a little picky about meat, and eat vegetarian a lot of the time. I don’t like fat or gristle and if creeps me out to eat off the bone. So I had quite a shock the first time I ordered chicken in Taiwan. My chicken breast still had all its skin and bones attached. Instead of being baked or grilled or fried, it had been steamed and then _chilled_. The skin was cold and rubbery, and I could see the spots where each feather had been plucked out. I’m sure it was tasty, but I just couldn’t stomach it. I pushed it around my plate and ate the most well-done bits I could find. [And have't ordered chicken while eating out since.]

Find Jamie here:
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Hey – or as Norwegians say – Hei to all of Polly’s readers! I’m Van from On the Road Again, a 22 year old German with a love for Scandinavia. While Polly is now probably drinking cocktails at a beach in Costa Rica, I want to take you to the other side of the world, namely the Arctic!

I’m not an expat yet but I want to move soon. Yes, to the Arctic. You probably wonder why anyone could be so crazy to want a life at the cold end of the world where, depending on the season, constant daylight or constant darkness awaits you. Adapting to those circumstances will be anything but easy. I know that because in fact, I’ve already spent 4 weeks at literally the end of the world in Gamvik, the northernmost community of Europe. I have of course loads of stories to tell about my time there. I could tell you about that one time when I visited the local store for the first time and a fisherman started yelling at me in Norwegian with a heavy accent which made it impossible for me to understand anything. I could tell you about my crazy and chauvinist Finnish host who hired feminist me to clean and cook for him on the pretext of caring for his animals. I could also tell you about the unpredictable Arctic weather and how my crazy Finnish host gave me days off when there was sunshine and wanted me to repair fences outside when there were hail and snow storms.

But no! Instead let me tell you how beautiful the Arctic is. How beautiful it is to watch the sunrise over the ocean, knowing that there is nothing but open sea for the next 2000 miles. How great it is to stand on top of a mountain in Northern Norway, the end of the world, and last but not least to experience the magic show of the Northern Lights. Those things will be a reward for my efforts… At least I hope so. If you’re interested in further stories on the crazy Finn and life in Gamvik, I’d be more than happy to welcome you on my blog! Until then I’m On the Road again!

Find Van here:
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So what’s YOUR awkward adjustment story? Something you absolutely couldn’t get accustomed to while living or traveling abroad?

Costa Rica

Dispatches from Puerto Viejo

On the beach Puerto Viejo
1. There are few things sadder than a redhead on the beach. Immune to the seductive sounds of waves crashing onto the shore and the hyper-blue sky, these translucent creatures huddle miserably under palm trees, deperate for shade. Yes, it’s the curse of us freckly, pale ghosts. Thankfully (due to a combination of partly cloudy skies and ungodly high SPF sunsreen) I’ve managed to avoid getting any more than the rosy pink glow that inevitably crops up when I step outside.

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2. It’s still kind of unimaginable to be in a place that organically produces such an amazing range of flora and fauna. We’ve been eating different fruits for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Seeing coconut trees everywhere, along with a vast range otherunknow, exotic fruits, still gives a pleasant ruxh. As for the fauna part, we recently headed over to the Jaguar Rehabilitation Center, just down the road from Puerto Viejo. Despite almost passing out (a four kilometer walk is deadly for me in tne heat), it was so fascinating to see all the animals being trained to reintergrate into the wild.
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Travel

Long-term travel and the expat

Farm in San Jose

I know that there’s a lot of controversy about the term expat in some circles; however, I couldn’t describe myself as an immigrant or a traveler so I’ve come to find that it’s been the quickest and best way to describe my situation for the past four years. An expat, by my definition, is someone living long-term in a foreign country (without plans to remain there forever) and who generally lives both within and a bit separate from normal society.

So. I’m an expat. And I have to say that, as much as people rhapsodize endlessly about la vie boheme that is living abroad, expat life isn’t really that exciting. When you commit to living in a foreign country for a long period of time it becomes your life, not some endless, exotic adventure. You go to work, have drinks with friends on the weekend, get stressed about things. Usually, expat life is entirely mundane with just a dash of quirky absurdism.
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Being Touristy Costa Rica

Travel Tuesday: Looking over San Jose

Last week we headed up to the Mirador over San Jose to get a better look at the city. If you read my post yesterday, you might see why we preferred this over the city itself…

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Linking up with Megan.

Costa Rica

My Thoughts: San Jose, Costa Rica

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We arrived late at night, hustled through security without a second glance and unceremoniously thrust into the warm night air. In the hallowed custom of many airports throughout the world, we were immediately accosted by a horde of taxi drivers who were not put off by our pleas of a pre-arranged ride or the fact that we spoke no Spanish or English.

“Ruso?” One particularly tenacious driver shouted. “Yo can hablo el ruso! DA!”

We finally managed to work around the crowd and plant ourselves safely on a bench. In fact, we were waiting for a ride. The person in question (tastefully described to the Russky’s overwrought mother as “a friend”) was actually a native that I’d only spoken to several times via CouchSurfing. For this trip, we were totally winging it and hoping that this “inherent goodness of humanity” trope actually proved true.
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Travel Travel Tips

Packing List Central America

So we’re in lovely Costa Rica. You can follow along more closely on my Twitter and Instagram accounts. But in the interest of avoiding total radio silence on the blog, here’s a quick peek into the Packing List Central America Edition.

Packing, man. It’s stressful, especially when you do it several times a year and find yourself whittling your possessions down more and more. That $30 sweatshirt you had to have? Too heavy for the bag — toss. That gigantic book of Russian poetry? Is the spine even cracked — toss. The $200+ Jeffrey Campbell studded platform sandals? OK, those were totally worth it.

Now I’m no stranger to the packing game. Over the past four years I’ve lived in DC, Texas, Korolev, and five (six?) apartments in Moscow — each for at least several months. So I’m pretty good at keeping things light and limiting my life to 50 pounds (22 kilos) of checked baggage and a carry on. But this trip is a totally different game. While we won’t necessarily be ‘backpackers’ in the strictest sense (we won’t be moving super fast and we do plan to settle somewhere for a while), we are limiting ourselves to one backpack and a small bag. For the foreseeable, indefinite future. The difference between a 50 pound suitcase and a backpack is pretty staggering.
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Guest Post

Passport OMG: Unlocking Kiki

Hey all! As the Russky and I are somewhere hanging out in San Jose, Costa Rica, please welcome Kaelene to the blog! She’s telling the story of an experience that no expat ever wants to experience…

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Hello A Girl and Her Travels readers! My name is Kaelene, an American expat living in Iceland and blogging along the way over at Unlocking Kiki. While Polly is off starting a new adventure I am here to share the story of my first move to Iceland two years ago.

As I said my goodbyes to my family at the airport that day I was stress free and looking forward to an exciting adventure abroad with my Viking.
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My Viking and I in beautiful Iceland

As I was checking into my flight I was surprised when the flight attendant asked for my return ticket or visa permit. When I began explaining that I would be receiving my visa once I arrived in Iceland I was informed that in order to board the plane I needed proof that I would be leaving the country within the allowed time period or that I have a visa.

Enter panic mode.
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America Being Touristy

Travel Tuesday: Hogwarts at Universal!

For an expat blogger, sometimes I feel that I don’t fully take advantage of all the coolness that occurs in the online expat community. To rectify this, I’m jumping in to the Travel Tuesday linkup this week and hoping to scope out some new reads.

My humble contribution to this link up is our trip to Florida last week and, more specifically, our trip to Hogwarts at Universal. Yes, I loved all of the Harry Potter books (the first book came out in the US when I was about 11 years old, so it was a pretty great time to follow along with the story) so this was a great treat to see that world come alive.

Hogwarts

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America

American Road Trip 2014

Our American road trip was totally awesome and we totally didn’t kill each other! It was truly a trip of firsts for the Russky: first time meeting my extended family, first time going to Universal Studios, and the first time seeing the ocean. Good times were definitely had by all.

Excuse my radio silence as we try to get everything together for our big trip (we leave Tuesday!) and accept these photos in lieu of a wordy post. I know you all like the pictures anyway! (Click on any of the pictures to make them bigger.)