Budgeting: Montreal and Quebec City

After a crazy summer filled with transitions, I am ending it with my first international trip since South Korea. Of course, I am nervous as I stumble on currency conversions and public transportation. But I feel like it is another step to better myself in budgeting and traveling.

Below, is my projected budget:

  • Travel (excluding public transportation): $354.
  • Housing: $260. I should note that I am sharing the cost with a friend.
  • Public Transportation: $50. Montreal has a more reliable public transportation compared to Atlanta, so I expect to use more of it on my travels. So hopefully, no Uber!
  • Food: $250. Like every trip, food seems to drain my $$$. I try to look for deals or cheap restaurants, yet it continues to be the most difficult to budget. I’ve thought about purchasing some breakfast foods to just lessen some expenses and hopefully, it helps.
  • Tourist Things: $100. I am not going to buy maple syrup as I decided to collect Metrocards (and their international equivalents). Most don’t have an expiration dates, so I can always use it again if I travel to those countries. Otherwise, I do expect to use $$ on museums, or other tourist locations.

Projected Budget: $1,014 (or $1,020)

Once I calculated the costs, I realized that travel is expensive. According to Lonely Planet, the cheapest daily budget is $100 and the most expensive is $250 for Canada. So for a week, my budget should fall between $700 to $1,750. Hopefully, my budget will stay closer to the cheap side as I do want to travel, despite my status as an unemployed graduate student.

Another travel, another experience. Bye Bye.

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A Week in Atlanta

First, I want to start with my updated budget:

  1. Transportation: $427–I did not consider the cost of traveling to the airport, or paying for gas.
  2. Food: $150–I relied heavily on friends’ suggestions, so I did end up in high-end restaurants unintentionally. I did, however, enjoy my experiences while staying very conscious of the meal prices.
  3. Housing: $0–I did not spend a cent on housing. It does not mean, however, that I am a freeloader. I paid my share for gas and groceries.
  4. Tourist Things: $50–I saved the most money in this category. Because of Grace’s meticulous planning, we were able to enjoy activities with little or zero cost.

Total: $627 ($117 BELOW EXPECTED BUDGET) 


Now onto the fun part, I loved my visit to Atlanta and I want to share my highs and lows on my “first” vacation.

HIGHS: 

  1. Mt. Yonah–Located in Northern Georgia (2 hrs. from Atlanta), Mount Yonah was a IMG_2168difficult yet wonderful experience. It was my first time hiking, and additional physical deficits made me wary about the trip. Despite the aching right leg or occasional slips, I persevered relying on poorly-marked routes. With Grace keeping me company, we hiked to the top to enjoy breathtaking views. Also, it was significantly cooler hiking early morning so it was a great break from the heat.
  2. Georgia Aquarium–Cola-Cola Museum? CNN Building? Museum for Civil and Human Rights? Georgia Aquarium? These famous tourist sites are located right next to each other, so I had to decided which one I’d like to go. I decided to visit the Georgia Aquarium as I love fish, and I loved the online photos. It was a pricey choice, but Grace was able to purchase the tickets at a discount. I’d recommend visitors going at 4 PM as you can save about $10.
    IMG_2372
  3. Belt Line–I couldn’t help but to draw comparisons to the New York High Line. It was long paved road where bikers, children, dogs and people shared a comfortable, scenic walk. I loved how the Belt Line was littered with art, making it a perfect location for Instagram photos (Yes, I admit it).  Also the Belt Line leads right into Ponce City Market, somewhat similar to Chelsea Market. It is filled with food vendors, which range from the low-end to the high-end. Make carefully choices, or you’ll spend too money at Ponce Market.

LOWS:
My primary low on the trip is the reliance on driving. I proposed taking public transportation, and everyone just laughed. They told me that MARTA is unreliable, and does not take you everywhere. I also proposed walking to “nearby” stores and restaurant and again, they just laughed. They told me that I would need to walk across a highway to get to certain places. Or that, it wasn’t like New York where walking is a pre-requisite.
I was saddened by that reality as I walk as a means of exercise and transportation. But I will admit, it is nice to drive everywhere and not worry about the heat or public transportation failing me.

IMG_2519Overall, it was a beautiful experience. I was able to meet with other Fulbright members, and to see Grace’s life. She speaks a lot about her alma mater, Georgia State University, so it is interesting to see that aspect of her life and her friends. Thank you Grace for taking me around your beautiful city and state. I hope to visit Georgia again!

Next, Montreal!

Budgeting: Atlanta

After months about my personal journey as a disabled individual, I can finally talk about my goal to travel again. I doubt that I will take extended trips as I must consider my financial, medical and time constraints.

But as I have been telling myself for months, I do the best I can. So, I am going to Atlanta! I am excited as I have never been to the South (the farthest I’ve ever been is Washington DC). Also, I will spend a week with Grace Lee–a supportive, and wonderful friend that I met in the Fulbright South Korea program. She came to New York so now, I will go to Georgia.

I wanted to share the ways I budget the trip as I am extremely conscious on my spending.

  • Housing: $50–I have friends so, I am able to stay at a significant discount. It is always wise to find a companion to share expenses, or find friend that may offer a couch. Always remember, be a clean “roommate” and send thanks.
  • Travel (Flight): $337–I am bitter about the cost. It was my fault, however, for purchasing my tickets three weeks prior to the trip. Google would probably provide better information on optimal purchase times.
  • Personal (aka Food): $200–Food. Food. Food. It is a necessity, so I am not going skim on the budget.
  • Tourist Things: $150–I am setting my budget quite high, but it is my first time going to Atlanta. I expect to spend time visiting major tourist attractions like the World of Cola-Cola or the Georgia Aquarium. I do hope to spend less than expected, but I also do not want to limit my experiences.

Total Budget: $737 (or $750)

I will say now, the budget is likely to change. I am still learning the ropes to travel, building an understanding of the general expenses and the optimal times to travel to certain states or countries. I am coming in the budget with a poor perspective, and I don’t believe Asian countries are a fair comparison. Plane tickets are expensive but otherwise, everything else is much cheaper.

So on the next update, I will bring more insight on my budget and my travels~

Just Being a “Disabled” Person

Please note, these are my own experiences. They do not represent a whole population, and a whole range of disabilities. 


Perhaps, I’ve tricked myself into believing that I am content with my current abilities and weaknesses. I have accepted my disability accommodations, and continue to walk among the “normal” people–unnoticed.

Underneath the successes, however, I feel insecure. I don’t want employers or peers to see me differently. I don’t want them to excuse me for my poor job performances, or just to pat me on my back for small successes. I accomplished everything through my sheer hard-working. On the other hand, I just want others to acknowledge that I can never be 100%. There will be days when the fatigue takes away my ability to tolerate, to articulate, or just to stay awake.
It’s a paradox. 

Honestly, I didn’t want to speak about such insecurities because on the surface, I have been doing better than others. I am a functional member of society. I have no visible indication of a disability.
Then, I encountered online dating. People often ask, “What do you do aside from work or school?”It makes me uncomfortable because the answer is nothing. When I’m not going to school or working, I am recovering. I sleep. I relax. I go to the doctor appointments.

That’s it.
I have no fancy stories about going to museums, or hanging out in bars, or volunteering at an orphanage.

I just don’t want to hide, but also I don’t want to lose anymore. The silence on the other screen hurts because it is the truth. The ugly truth that there are people who don’t want to deal with the “disabled.” We are not perfect. We are broken. We are the laughing stock of society, even when we have endured so much.

Despite the somber mood, I will applaud the ones who have handled the “breaking” news like true champions. They have commended my “optimism” (I would argue otherwise because I am a pessimistic realist), and my effort. They are not potential dates, but we’ve become friends. We speak on equal terms. There is no pity. There are no assumptions. Just words.

 

2016 -> 2017

If I was asked, “What is your evaluation of 2016?” Well, I would say that it depended on when the question was asked.

For most of the year, I was rather pessimistic for logical reasons. Foremost, I suffered from an illness that should have killed me or left me severely disabled. (Tangent: I am not exaggerating. It is true that many stroke survivors are left as mere shadows of their previous lives. The amount of rehabilitation to recover even 75% takes so much practice, and time). It changed my entire course in my life, and adjusting to that reality was the hardest thing.
I failed myself. I failed others. And others failed me.

When I was given a chance, however, I started to feel optimistic.
I started a new job and honestly, I think I like it more than Fulbright. I am working with my ideal age group, and my ideal environment. Also, I am part of a team where I feel fully involved, and supported. (Tangent #2: I was not in my ideal placement. Also as a non-white foreigner with limited Korean, it made things difficult. Am I bitter? No. I had an experience that foreigners would never ask, or seek. So, I appreciate every moment that I had in South Korea. I, however, acknowledge that my current situation would help me more as a future teacher).
I started engaging in more activities. Activities that I have dreamed about doing, but was always scared to do. First, I started learning Wing Chun. I’ve always wanted to learn a martial art, but I was so worried about commitment and physical capability. But, I decided to take the plunge and learn. Now, I feel more physically fit and I feel more accomplished. Second, I decided to mentor a HS student for her college process. It was a quite difficult task, since she was not the most self-motivated person. The most important detail, however, is that she completed her applications. And now, we want until 2017 for her letters.

2017. Soon, it will be 2017. It will be another year filled with moments of happiness and regrets. I know for a fact, however, I have no resolutions. Of course, I have goals. But I would rather live for the moment. Every word that I read on a book, or a website. Every step that I walk. Every question that I answer in the GREs (Yes, I am preparing for the GRE). Every conversation that I have with a familiar or unfamiliar person.
It is a lofty goal, but I want think more about the process.

2017. See you soon.

Releasing my Nerdiness.

On Friday evening, I wondered if I would regret it. I was alone, sick and tired but paid $75 to watch the League of Legends World Championship at Madison Square Garden. So, I grudgingly dragged myself of my bed and caffeinated myself for the games.sktrox

I was greeted by men at Madison Square Garden. It was quite overwhelming, and my society anxiety kept saying, “ABORT. ABORT. ABORT.” But, I weaved through the crowds seeking for a sign to my seat. It took about 15 minutes to go through security, and the entire building to actually reach the stadium. And when I found my section, I was welcomed by bright lights, and a great atmosphere.
I stopped caring that I went alone because I was there for me. And it was a truly amazing experience. I missed the NA LCS Summer Finals in 2015 because I went to South Korea, so going to the World Championship was to make up for that missing passion and time.

baronfightI watched the SKT vs. ROX Semifinals, which has been hailed on Reddit as one of the best series in League of Legends. And I agree on a financial perspective, I won. And I agree as a SKT fan, I watched my favorite team push aside the haters and prevail as the imminent winners.
And I would love to summarize the whole event, but I am not an analyst and I know that anyone can find a YouTube video to watch it. But, I won’t forget the testosterone-filled atmosphere, which led to the stadium smelling like sweat, and Axe-ish body spray. I won’t forget the non-existent bathroom lines for women, and the hilariously long lines for men. I won’t forget the security guard who allowed my small water bottle to pass the inspection. He probably heard my sickish voice, and allowed the water bottle to save me from the terrible coughs. He probably allowed me because I am a woman surrounded by men.

I’m extremely excited for the Finals happening on the 29th, and I will definitely be watching it. But, I’m also excited for November because I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and do things alone. I will be seeing Conan O’ Brien when he comes to NYC, and I will be watching the Daily Show live. I just needed League of Legends to teach me to enjoy life in the company of others, and alone.

Small Steps, San Francisco

Ever since I left South Korea, it felt as if the idea of travel disappeared. My fears left me thinking that I could never leave New York, but going to San Francisco was an escape and a reality. An escape from my fears and honestly, the sense of claustrophobia from living so close to so many people. A reality that I can travel, and I can remake my life from taking one step.

13987605_814989735310518_8393913797265544707_oSo, San Francisco appeared to be a perfect vacation since it mirrored that of New York City. A big city. An expensive lifestyle. A cultural and economic center.
And there were some highlights to my vacation:
Asian Art Museum. I wanted to go because Asian culture is ignored for the most part, in the US. We hear about China and Japan and Korea, but it’s just a limited perspective that we can’t fully enjoy the culture and history behind it. And also, there was an acknowledgement of Southeast Asia. It was quite surprising, seeing that it is the most unappreciated region in Asia. It brings pride to look at the culture showcased and think, We are not as uncivilized as everyone else likes to believe.
Daiso. This is a 99 cent store hailing from Japan (yet popular in South Korea). We went there because it is the best store that doesn’t exist on the East Coast. We bought a lot of useful things that you wouldn’t buy when you’re in a vacation–like kitchen goods. But we went, and we thoroughly enjoyed the cheapness and the snacks.
Weather. We went to SF during the height of the East Coast Heatwave. It was glorious to be able to walk, and not feel as if I was melting away. It was, however, too cold. But I will not complain about that because again, I forgot what is tolerable weather.

And the meh moments to my vacation:
San Francisco is mad expensive (and this is coming for a New Yorker). Food. Museum. Transportation. Everything felt so expensive, so we tried to limit our spending by doing more free/cheap activities. For example, we went to the Asian Art Museum on a Thursday because there were discount tickets on that day. We invested most of our spending on Uber because THE HILLS (and public transportation can never compare to NYC).
Haight-Ashbury. This particular neighborhood is famous because Hippie culture originated from there, and residents and stores try to glorify that history.  But aside from that history, it wasn’t amazing. In fact, it just showed more of the homeless issue in SF (Ramble: One Uber Driver noted that there is such a huge wealth gap between Silicon Valley and everyone else that unless you had a high paying job, you can’t live in SF. Honestly, it’s what I fear will happen in NY because neighborhoods are changing, and low-income individuals are being forced out). Perhaps, I went on the wrong day but I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I’d be.14066262_814989641977194_4207942709163252185_oBut I was happy in San Francisco, mainly because I had the opportunity to be a TOURIST. I did tourist things like take the Boat Tour around the city. I got to take pictures at touristy things. And I can’t do that in New York City because I know that I would never subject myself to it. I tried, really. I tried Times Square at night, and I wanted to push and yell at people. I live in the most populated city in the US, and yet I don’t like people. I did wish, however, that I TOOK THE TOURIST BUSES! Missed opportunity there.

Either way, I do hope that this vacation will remind me that there are opportunities. It may not appear in my ideal way, but they still are there.