Manage With Movement

#ManageWithMovement on Instagram is a Yoga Challenge that helps to bring awareness to the public about the benefits and role of Physical Therapy in managing pain as well as various facts about opioid use.

“Specifically in the US in 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioid pain medication. Stats show that as many as 1 in 4 people who receive these prescriptions long-term for non-cancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction.
We want to educate and talk about how PT, exercise (yoga, running, weightlifting), and holistic approaches to help safely manage pain amidst the environment of the opioid epidemic can be explored.”

Be sure to follow along and check out info from our first yoga challenge #ManageWithMovement as well as our second #ManageWithMovement2 for all the facts!

Want to join in on our next one!? *Yes, you are eligible for prizes for participating! πŸ˜‰

Keep an eye out on my Instagram account for #ManageWithMovement3 – coming to you sometime Mid-2018!

Global PT Connect

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a PT/PTA in different parts of the world?

Let’s join together to learn more!

The morning coffee β˜•οΈ
The tough patients
The smiles you receive
The new techniques you just learned
All of the ups and downs

Check outΒ http://www.globalptconnect.com for more information!

Or follow the latest therapist take over onΒ @globalPTconnect on Instagram.
Be sure to Like us on Facebook, too!
Want to participate and show us what your day is like as a PT/PTA/PT student? We want people from ALL OVER THE WORLD! Don’t be shy!

Join others who have already taken over and show us what your day/week is like!
Email globalPTconnect@yahoo.com to join! Or send us a DM! πŸ˜‰

 

Be sure to listen to the podcast on Therapists on Fire to learn all about how Global PT Connect was founded!

NPS (Nail Patella Syndrome) – General Clinical Presentation

Hey Everyone!

Rare diseases – there are a ton of them, right? They can often times be difficult to treat just because they are not as common, the population may be widespread, and there just simply hasn’t been much research done to effectively help the people and remain “evidence-based.”

I’ve decided to try to undergo a little series here in regards to helping people with a rare genetic disease called “Nail Patella Syndrome.” Why, you may ask? Oh wait, because I have it too! While this syndrome varies widely in presentation, many factors and things seen are similar.

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Those of you who have NPS may not need this brief overview, but I’ll just summarize some typical physical clinical findings and a general presentation. Please remember that EVERYONE with NPS varies in presentation – there is not just “one” type of presentation. Due to other co-morbidities, health conditions, lifestyle factors, etc., nobody presents exactly the same.

Nails – people will generally have abnormal looking fingernails and toenails, especially the thumbnails.

Elbows – people may be unable to fully extend the arm at the elbow, they may also be unable to supinate fully at the forearm due to an increased growth of the radial head (this made it SUPER easy for my partners to palpate my radial head during PT school, ha). On the other hand – people may have underdeveloped bones in the elbow, leading it to be easily dislocated.

Shoulders – not usually talked about, but due to the inability for some to turn the palms up (supinate), the shoulders may become more unstable and demonstrate increased external rotation. Think about it – if you can’t turn your palms up all the way, you will compensate and use what you have next up the chain — your shoulder! Many also present with underdeveloped scapulae.

Back – Generally, people with NPS present with increased lumbar lordosis – meaning a little more curve in the lower spine. This may make the buttocks appear more prominent. This extra curvature could also make gaining weight in the stomach region and pregnancy even more painful in the lower back. With weight in the stomach, gravity naturally pulls your body more forward, creating an angle in your lumbar spine. Already having an angle there may just make the pain a little more evident.

Hips – When I asked my professor about “iliac horns” in PT school, she looked at me like I had 2 heads. Yes, these are talked about being present on diagnostic imaging; however, they generally do not affect anything. Hips, as with most people, may tend to be stiff and inflexible. At times, people may complain of pain in the groin area due to a muscular imbalance in the hip and core region which may cause a hip impingement.

Knees – People may present with abnormally small kneecaps, or at times, no kneecap at all. This can predispose these people for dislocations if there is decreased musculature around the surrounding areas. The small size of these kneecaps and easy dislocation ability may also then cause pain under the kneecap where it improperly glides and/or partially dislocates in/out of place.

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General appearance – It may be difficult for this population to gain weight, particularly muscle, especially in the proximal musculature (upper arm and upper leg). While difficult, it is not impossible by any means. It certainly just takes more work and dedication and the proper exercise program.

Fatigue – Many will note chronic fatigue syndrome. Many times this may be due to lack of activity due to abnormal kneecaps, other underdevelopments of the musculoskeletal system, or even fear of getting involved due to social reasons with the abnormality. The more active you are – whatever it may be – over time, your body will build up endurance, allowing you to participate in more activities and feel more energy.

Pain – Many will also complain of general pain, chronic pain, etc. especially at the knee joint and other joints in the body. While people with NPS have a different musculoskeletal makeup, it is at times not all that different. To feel more stable in your joints, you must have more musculature supporting them. The issue here is that it tends to be more difficult to gain muscle when you have NPS.

So, you get a general picture, right? Some people have things worse, some better. The word syndrome defined, per good ole Merriam-Webster, “a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition.” Meaning NPS is mainly a collection of signs and symptoms that tend to present together and make up this condition. Having NPS doesn’t mean NPS will cause something necessarily, it is just the makeup of the body with NPS (the genetic mutation, the other parts of your genetic history, your diet and exercise habits) that then may cause other things to happen. Don’t get me wrong, obviously abnormal kneecaps and fingernails were caused from the genetic mutation – but you must be careful when talking about certain symptoms that may not be associated directly with NPS.

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If you’d like to read up more about the disease, I have provided a few public links below. Again, these are just a few. A quick google search will give you more available links:

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/nail-patella-syndrome/

Click to access v040p00153.pdf

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nail-patella-syndrome/

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So..you have NPS. What next? Stay tuned as I write up a few exercise programs, tips, tricks, and adaptations to help you manage your pain, improve your function, and hopefully improve your quality of life! Not to mention helping you understand NPS and your body a little better πŸ™‚

 

Keep an eye out for the first blog — NPS and Knee Pain!

Until next time,

Jen

LennyLarry

The Generalist PT

It’s 2018. I’ve been out of PT school for about 2.5 years now. Time flies, right? I can’t believe it. I’ve been working in acute care mainly, a little PRN help in SNFs and outpatient facilities… Ya know, the typical post-grad-need-to-pay-off-my-loans thing. Meanwhile, I feel like everyone around me is getting certified in a million different things. I mean, I’ve been doing my continuing ed (and some extra), but I still feel like I’m behind because I don’t have any certifications…

But do I want any? I’m honestly not sure. Each certification is hundreds to thousands of dollars, and of course certain ones require that you get approved before you can sit for the exam. It’s a lot of time and money to dedicate to something that I’m not 100% sure and confident that I want. But what do I do then? Am I falling behind? Am I going to be able to keep a job without adding letters to my name? Am I overreacting? Probably, but maybe not. I truly feel like so many PTs around me are doing residencies and fellowships and publishing articles and doing these amazing things. And for that, I applaud them (and you if you’re one of them). Frankly, I think I’m a little jealous that others know exactly what path they want to take in this career. I want to make a difference, but I want to be in it 100% – not just to add some letters or pad my resume. Not to mention I’m still drowning in over 100k of student loan debt.. and trying to experience life a little here and there..

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These questions and thoughts go through my head on a very regular basis. I have looked at various certifications that I think would be good for my “life goals” but continue to have a difficult time deciding which one I want to choose (commitment issues, much?). Truthfully, I feel like I want to continue learning and improving my skills as a “General PT.” I think I made this up – but basically, I want to be like the “family practitioner” of PT. I want to learn as much as I can about a variety of things so that I can be that primary care PT who can help with differential diagnosis so that the patient can get the appropriate treatment – whether that be from me or not.

I want to work with a team of nurses and physicians and other healthcare workers to derive the best plan for a patient – whether they are a pediatric patient or geriatric patient, total knee replacement or post-CVA. I want to understand and learn as much as I can. I want physicians to look at me and ask me questions when they are deciding the best plan of care, so that they have my respected perspective on it too. I want to collaborate, I want to help.

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I want to keep taking continuing ed on clubfoot and the Ponseti method and then next month take it on traumatic spinal cord injuries… and then in a few months on treating Parkinson’s. I want to confidently know the difference between an allergic reaction and cellulitis when a patient walks into my clinic. I want to understand the McKenzie method and other ways to treat low back pain – never settling with using only one tool, one technique, or one specific method.

I want to be able to read diagnostic imaging, maybe hopefully down the road (pending the state), even order it. I want to be able to determine if someone just had a stroke or if they just have facial droop from Bell’s palsy. I want to be able to notice that a patient’s back pain is caused by something that needs medical treatment instead of physical therapy treatement. I want to be an expert in differential diagnosis. Not just good, but great.

I essentially want to be that New Grad PT… but better. I want to not be pigeonholed into one category – afraid that I may lose my manual skills (which truly has already happened only 2.5 years out after mainly working in acute care), afraid I might forget how to talk to a 2 year old and be creative during treatment, afraid I may only want to do repeated extensions for everything musculoskeletal, afraid I may keep repeating the same treatment for every older person who has a fall without personalizing it.

I want to interact with people all over the world in the PT profession. Because even though I know I will always want to stay up to date generally, maybe there is something else out there, somewhere else, where my skills are in need and can provide the greatest benefit. Maybe I just haven’t found it yet.

But how? How do I demonstrate this on my resume? How do I keep improving as a generalist PT? Are there any certifications for differential diagnosis and understanding pathologies at this primary care level? Are there any interdisciplinary courses that are offered that involve all members of the healthcare team? So that we can learn and grow together?

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I think this is okay to feel like this. Again, I’m not sure, but I think so. But how do we change this? How do we make these thoughts and notions about being a generalist PT feel okay? I’m simply not ready to step into the neuro world, or the ortho world, or the pediatric world, or becoming a yoga therapist… I’m not ready to fully dedicate my life to one area. And, yes, I know this doesn’t mean I can never take courses in those again, but it does mean I will be characterized by the OCS, CSCS, COMT, or the GCS or whatever letters appear behind my name. People may feel that because I did a residency with the geriatric population that I am only equipped to treat them – and completely leave out my love for the sports population. I don’t want that.

This blog isn’t meant to have answers. Mainly questions and insights for us as a profession (and other professions) to build and grow together. And for other “generalist” PTs that may feel lost to know that you are not alone. I’m not advocating for certifications or not – I’m simply saying I am personally not ready to commit, and I’m not sure when I will be. But until then, I want to keep improving my skills to show that we, as PTs, can be great as generalists.

It shouldn’t be frowned upon to be a generalist, as long as we are improving ourselves in whatever way will lead us towards our goals. And again, I’m not saying it is frowned upon necessarily, but I do know that I personally feel pressure all of the time from the advancing PT world to pursue one specific area. I’m not ready for that, and it’s okay. I’m allowing myself to feel okay about it. I know I will do my best to make a difference however I can.

Until then, I will keep seeking opportunities, progress a little, fail a little, and learn as much as I can. And I hope you will too.

– Jen

LennyLarry

Going Vegan in Japan

Going vegan seems to be the hottest new trend in health and diets out there. Recently, my husband and I watched the Netflix documentary, “What The Health.” While I do feel that some of the documentary was a little dramatized, there were definitely some great takeaway points and facts that I didn’t know prior to watching. I won’t go into detail, but you should check it out yourself, whether you decide to take the vegan plunge or not!

After watching, we were a little disturbed with some of the foods we consumed. There are definitely some vivid, lasting images in my mind that I can never unsee. As a physical therapist, promoting health and wellness is part of my role in life, so this all seemed like something I should definitely listen to and try. Seeing how dairy and eggs alone can lead to a higher risk of disease was enough to make me want to try switching to a vegan diet.

Over the last few years, I have come to realize firsthand the part that nutrition plays in my health. Two years ago, for about 3-4 months, I kept a food diary and completed an “elimination diet.” To break this down – I eliminated all major allergens and food intolerances that would be questionable (dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, etc.) and then reintroduced one thing (dairy), ate a lot of it one day, and then tracked how my body reacted the next 3 days. Then I would introduce the next thing. It’s a bit more complicated than that, and it definitely requires self-discipline. It was very much worth it though. Now I can “pick my battles” when it comes to food based on if I want to feel bloated that day, or if I want my allergies to act up, etc. It’s pretty interesting. Shoot me a message if you’re interested even more πŸ˜‰

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With this history of eliminating many of these foods from my diet, I felt like I already had an upper hand on the whole “vegan” thing. I knew there were decent dairy and egg-free pizzas, cheeses, milks, yogurts, etc. I just had never gone without meat before – Ah!

The even trickier part to starting this is how limited we are with groceries in Japan. Neither of us can read Japanese, we can hardly speak the bare minimum conversationally, so we don’t know much of what we can buy at the grocery store besides your fresh items. Of course, we have the grocery store on the naval base, but again, it is a limited selection since only certain things are shipped from the US.

Scott and I agreed that we would try, but we also agreed to not give up hope if we couldn’t make it work in Japan. We will be in San Diego, CA in just about 2 months and we know it will be much easier to adapt to a vegan lifestyle there.

Oh and did I mention – in Japan, they don’t have ovens in their homes!? Yeah, so we can only use the stovetop and our microwave. We could buy a toaster oven and/or a crockpot – BUT we’re also in a predicament here. You see, all of my 1 bedroom apartment belongings (food processor, crockpot, George Forman grill) are all back in MD… so we obviously don’t want to buy too much more and have duplicates of items that we already have (and will be reunited with soon).

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So to get started, we did a lot of searching online. From Pinterest to Instagram to random other websites. I have my basic recipes, but we wouldn’t to make sure we didn’t get bored. I’ll post a few links below that helped us out, specifically the ones that were easy and tasty πŸ™‚

Our general grocery list looks like this:

  • Bananas
  • Fruit that is on sale (blueberries, pineapple..)
  • Baby spinach
  • Potatoes (regular or sweet depending on what is accessible)
  • Onions
  • Green and Red Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Baby Carrots
  • Mushrooms (I know there are different kinds but we’re not that smart yet)
  • Dried fruit (raisins, mangos..)
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Fortified Cereals (Cheerios)
  • Granola
  • Ground Flax seed
  • Frozen fruits and veggies (whatever is on sale)
  • Granola bars (whatever we can find that is Vegan and somewhat healthy)
  • Almond milk (usually unsweetened vanilla.. but chocolate is also delish)
  • Tofu and/or some other “meatless meat” in the frozen section (hoping to eventually only rely on the frozen ones every once in awhile)
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Avocados
  • Salsa
  • Black Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Hummus
  • Pretzel crisps (or other chips for dipping/snack)
  • Spaghetti Sauce (to at least have around, even if you don’t use it right away)
  • Seasonings (we already have a few, but basic sea salt, ground pepper, garlic salt, chili powder are helpful.. others too – but again, we are on a time constraint)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Nut butter (we already had almond butter and peanut butter)
  • Vegetable broth
  • Coconut Water
  • Vegan Protein Powder (because we like to work out a good bit)
  • Enjoy Life chocolate chips (very optional but we love chocolate so..)

Okay so that is a basic list for the two of us for about a week (maybe more, maybe less). Of course sometimes we have to run out and get something else, but that’s usually only one thing and it changes all the time!

So for breakfast, we generally eat cereal/granola and almond milk with some sort of fresh fruit. I will also make smoothies (fresh and frozen fruit with some flax seed, coconut water, and almond milk) occasionally, oatmeal, overnight oats, I’ve even made vegan pancakes pending what we have in the cupboard. And of course, I’ll have a cup of coffee usually. Right now we’ve been drinking ours black, but I know there are almond, soy, and coconut milk creamers back in the US.. just none available to us here!

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When you think about not eating meat, the first thing you probably think about is a protein deficiency. There are plenty of articles that go into depth with this – but what I didn’t think about were other deficiencies, the main one being Vitamin B12. Okay, so you could buy a supplement (I love gummy vitamins, not gonna lie). BUT you can actually get B12 in Fortified cereals (Cheerios, for example) and nutritional yeast! This was something I definitely didn’t know until I did some research.

Easy Lunch and/or Dinner meals:

Smoothie Bowls (AKA make a smoothie and sprinkle whatever toppings you want on top)

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– Usually my smoothies consist of banana, frozen fruit, flax, coconut water, almond milk. I’m kind of plain and stick to that often, but feel free to make your own and switch it up! I’ve made green smoothies plenty of times with kale, spinach, and/or avocado!
– Toppings may be: granola, sliced almonds, coconut flakes, flax seed, chia seed, other fresh fruit.

Salads

Be creative with salads because they can get old quick!

Usually our salads include some sort of darker leaf (spinach), sometimes we mix other types of lettuce in (romaine, arugula). Toppings include things like: dried fruit (craisins), almond slices, tomatoes, onions, peppers, fresh fruit (strawberries), avocado, cucumbers, zucchini, garbanzo beans, vegan cheese … really whatever you have and seems to go together!

Rice/Quinoa Bowls

Quinoa bowl – The one below is a Spinach Quinoa “Risotto” that was sooo good. See the recipe here!

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Poke Bowl – This is just your basic “sushi bowl” … kind of. Use white or brown rice – whatever you prefer – and throw some raw veggies on top! We cut up some carrots, avocado, cucumber, and then threw some soy sauce on there! You can definitely top it with tons of others, it was just what we had at the time! Super easy!

Rice and Veggies – Simple cook your rice (or make it in bulk so you can use it for other ones above too) and then sautΓ©ed vegetables.. throw them together and voila! If you want to add a salsa or vegan cheese.. hot sauce..liquid smoke.. the options are endless!

Mexican bowl – Again, plop whatever rice and/or quinoa in a bowl. Throw in some salsa, black beans, if you want any seitan or tofu that is seasoned to taste, avocado, vegan cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions.. literally whatever!!

Tacos/Wraps

Tacos – For our tacos, we used seitan ground “beef” that we bought in the frozen center. We grabbed a taco seasoning packet and then made the “meat” according to the packet – super easy! We grabbed some tortillas, cut up some tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, vegan cheese, and added some salsa.. yum! You can also just make black bean tacos.. And I’m sure you could substitute the black beans for the seitan even!? Not sure, but it’s worth a try!!

Veggie Wraps –

You know all those veggies that are about to go bad? Well, we used leftover tortillas and all our leftover veggies, put them in a wrap together and put some salsa and vegan cheese on it. Or you can add hummus. Again, the options are endless and really depends on what you have! Super simple and tasty!! And helps us get rid of veggies that are about to go bad…

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Vegan Sushi

— This may be tricky, but as long as you get the sticky white rice, you should be good. You will need a bamboo wrap thing too (not sure what the fancy name is, just being real here). I didn’t do this one, my husband did. I’m a little more impatient so I think it was better for him to do πŸ˜‰ Haha. We used this video to help us out!

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Chili

So for this, I ended up boiling some regular potatoes first. I put them in the Tupperware containers and then poured the chili over top so that it gave a little “meal.” I based everything off of this recipe – but I’ll be honest, I really changed it and kind of just “winged it” (how I cook most of the time, let’s be real). I also really want to try making pumpkin chili one time… I had it once in the past from a co-worker and it was amazing!

Pastas

Basic Spaghetti – Okay, this is for real the most simple. Grab a vegan spaghetti sauce and some noodles of your choice. What I ended up doing to add a little extra – I sautΓ©ed some spinach, onions, and green peppers together and then added them to the sauce and let it simmer a little. I threw in some chick peas then for a little extra protein! You can get creative with this, though! And if you want to make your own sauce – by all means, go for it!

Another easy pasta dish we tried (recipe below)…

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Creamy Vegan One Pot Pasta

Snacks

Hummus and pretzel crisps/veggies. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been doing this foreverrrr anyways, haha.

Banana “Nice Cream” – There are so many varieties of this you can look up. There’s even a whole Instagram account dedicated to it! I do recommend a food processor, my blender had some issues with grinding up the frozen bananas and it was a little frustrating.

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Oat balls – Amazing. I’m obsessed with both kinds. Peanut butter chocolate chip and almond butter with raisins. Note: I’ve had to change these both a little bit – I’m not sure if my proportions were off or what, but I usually end up with more dry ingredients…? Just as a heads up πŸ˜‰

Complete Cookies (okay, we buy these). They aren’t too bad for you and they definitely help a sweet tooth! You may be able to find limited flavors some places, or you can order in bulk here.

I hope this gives you a good idea on how to eat vegan even with limited resources. Will it take time to learn – yes, definitely. But if you’re committed, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you!! You can do it! πŸ™‚

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Oh and if you’re in Kamakura, Japan, I highly recommend checking out Vegetus – an all vegan restaurant that we visited for a night out. It was delicious whether you’re vegan or not!! We found it on Happycow.net — which is an amazing restaurant that can help you find Vegan restaurants (or options) near you!

Good luck if you want to try it out! If not, you can still try the recipes πŸ˜‰ You might be surprised!

– Jen

(Follow me on Instagram – @jennstrack19 if you want to check my vegan progress!)

 

Travel on a Budget: 2 Days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

After my few days in Singapore, I headed to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

I took the bus from Singapore to KL which ended up being about 6-7 hours total, with 2 stops at customs/immigration, and a rest stop in the middle. Many people recommend flying as it is not much more expensive (maybe $60 compared to the $20 I spent), but truthfully, I was happy for a relaxing day where I could just look out the window and admire the Malaysian countryside.

I came to realize quickly that there are SO many places to go in Malaysia (Malacca, Penang, the islands, etc), but due to my short timeframe and budget, I only spent about 2 days in KL before heading back to Japan.

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Upon arrival at KL Sentral (where my bus happened to take me), I stopped at the ATM and took out 200 Ringgits. This is equivalent to about $48 USD. I truly wasn’t sure how much I would need, so I figured I’d better be safe than sorry!

When I went outside of the mall area, there were taxis galore. I had read somewhere that taxis and Uber are very common here. The train system is also, and is likely cheaper; however, it isn’t quite as common as, say, Japan.

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I was super thankful my hostel host sent me a list of directions and estimated taxi fares to get to the place. This is something I HIGHLY recommend, especially here. In many Asian countries, as I may have said before, if you are blonde, people stare. And people obviously know you are a foreigner and they WILL take advantage of you. Haggling is common here, and I am also very thankful that I learned a bit during my previous trip to Bali – AKA how to say no and make sure you are very confident in what you are asking/saying. You can be nice, but be careful because, again, they may try to take advantage of you.

My taxi fare was supposed to be approximately 5 Ringgits to my hostel. Example number one of why this was beneficial to know. I walked outside and the taxi drivers were waving me down. I showed them where I needed to go on my screenshotted map. They looked at it for a minute, conversed a little, and then said “25 Ringgits!” I initially felt a little confused, and said, “My host said 5.” No joke, they laughed at me. They kept saying “25, 25.” To which I said, “let me check.” So of course, I reread everything and realized I needed to find another way to get there. One taxi driver then approached me and said, “How about 15 Ringgits?” To which I again said no thank you and walked away.

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I’m not going to lie, I felt a little frustrated. I decided to just wait a little and see if I could get some more Wifi and try to get an Uber (luckily this mall had Wifi). I also realized maybe I should try to see if someone could fix my SIM card, since it had stopped once I made it across the Malaysian border…and well, it was supposed to roam (AH!). This would be super helpful for catching an Uber.

I decided to ask some people at a local SIM card place. What I noticed, and maybe it was because I was a foreigner, or maybe people just had a bad day, I’m not sure. But when I asked about the SIM card, one lady was very short with me and said “no we can’t help you” while the lady next to her smiled and said, “maybe the information desk can help you.” It truly seemed like there were two types of Malaysian people – the ones who stared/talked rude to me and the ones who were SUPER friendly and nice. I know this happens everywhere, but I’m just letting everyone know about my trip without sugarcoating anything. Even though I was a little upset about rude people (what did I do to them!?), I had to remember that I needed to respect their country, their people, and their culture. This is their home, after all.

Once I went inside and was directed to the IT area for my SIM card, EVERYONE was yelling at me to help me – again, nice – but a little overwhelming and made me feel a bit uneasy. And of course, they only wanted to sell me something, so once I asked if they could give me advice, they said no. So, again, frustrated, I decided I better go try to get to my hostel.

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I found an Uber for 8 Ringgits (that’s more like it) and decided to go with that one. My Uber driver was super nice and said how much he LOVED his job. He even gave me his business card, such a sweet man. Once I got to the hostel, I had to wait a little – because this was a “check in by appointment only.” It was legit the fanciest hostel I had ever been to. Mainly because it was surrounded by a lot of really nice hotels and apartments, with a fancy restaurant on top. Luckily, I was able to check in right away despite a little confusion.

My hostel room cost about $30 USD a night. So a total of $60 for two nights. It was steep, for a hostel, but I decided I wanted to splurge a little bit.. Mainly because when will I ever get to stay somewhere with a rooftop infinity pool ever again!?

So far: 8 Ringgits ~$2, hostel was $60. So $62 USD

The first night I ended up just chilling and relaxing there, went up to check out the infinity pool for a little before I came back downstairs to shower and get ready for bed. They had a few snacks at the hostel (Weetabix, animal crackers..) that I ended up eating throughout the evening (in addition to a granola bar and some chips I brought from Singapore). Was it the healthiest? Nope. But hey, it’s what I had. I could’ve went downstairs to the convenience store but I was just that lazy. Sacrifice.

I woke up the next morning with the plan on going to the Batu Caves for breakfast! I called an Uber using the Wifi, hopped in and headed on my way! My hostel owner told me to make sure to get a coconut here because they are “the best,” and so is the breakfast.

The drive was only about 20 minutes or so, and the Uber was only $2 when it was converted back to USD (again, I made sure to ask the hostel guy how much it should be…super helpful). Once you get to the caves, it is all free (unless you pay for parking). I was also told to go in the morning before it got too hot because, yes, you will likely be sweating after climbing all of those stairs.

I probably spent about an hour walking up and down the stairs, mingling with monkeys, hanging out inside the cave. I’m sure you could take longer if you wanted, but I was getting a little hungry and thirsty. I headed back down the stairs and saw a coconut stand close to the entrance. 5 Ringgits! AKA just over $1 USD, woohooo! I watched the guy cut it right in front of me and sipped on that beaut for a solid few minutes. I’ve only had fresh coconut in Bali and I can’t quite remember enough to compare, but regardless, it was an awesome coconut.

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From there, I decided to wander a little to find somewhere to eat breakfast. There were a few shops with some local candies and treats, but other than that, nothing really caught my eye. I finally walked by a place and was waved in. At first, the guy was trying to explain things to me – it was Indian food. I decided to ask for a menu. The STRANGEST thing happened – he motioned like pushing me away instead of a “come here” motion. He walked away and kept pushing the air away. I thought maybe I offended him, I was so confused. 30 seconds later, he grabbed the menu and brought it back out to me. My heart had stopped because I wasn’t sure what I did. Turns out, I guess it just meant to wait there? I’m not sure – but if this happens to you, don’t be afraid! haha

I ordered some sort of crepe thing on the menu as well as an iced coffee. Guess how much this cost me? 5 Ringgits! Another $1 USD, woo woo! And let me tell you, this was hands down the best iced coffee I’ve ever had.

The toughest part of going to the Batu caves without a SIM card was that – ahh, I didn’t have WIFI!? How could I call an Uber?! I had asked my hostel guy (he knows everything, I swear) and he said the restaurant people would likely let you connect just to get an Uber.. but honestly, I wasn’t sure. Again, being a foreigner sometimes scares me, honestly. It can be tough, but you just have to be confident in yourself (or pretend). I ended up wandering a little to see if I could get a free Wifi connection. Magically, after walking closer to the caves, I hooked onto some. I was able to call an Uber quickly, and then walk to the entrance to wait for him (even after I lost the WiFi). Amazing, right? Also kind of lucky, but hey, it worked. Once again, this Uber was about $2.Geckos Latest Offers Gaiam Restore Products Banner

I headed back to shower and chill out (the beds were super comfy, so why not just lay there for a little and let everything recharge?) My breakfast was kind of late so I didn’t really plan on eating until 4 PM – like an early dinner. And since I still had a crap ton of cash, I decided I would let myself splurge a little bit.

Around 4, I headed out to a mall close to the Petronas Towers. It didn’t have wifi like I had hoped, but it had a few restaurants that I could pick from. My Uber here ended up being about $1USD.

I was told to try Laksa while I was here, so I found a place inside the mall to eat this. I wasn’t sure which kind to try, so I just got the basic. Now… I’m not the spicy food kind of person (you might ask then why the heck I was in Southeast Asia?!) and I didn’t know this was going to be spicy.. but I guess I should have assumed that (duh).

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So, I ate it. Well, I sipped it. And then I took large gulps of my iced tea. It was spicy (to me), but delicious! I kept eating as much as I could but eventually had to buy another iced tea (I’m that lame). My meal in total cost me about $5 USD.

Running total: $74 USD.

I still had some time to kill before it got too dark out. I wanted to make sure I saw the Petronas Towers in the light, but then wanted to be at the light show at night – around 8 PM. So, I decided to wander the mall and treat myself to some dessert. I couldn’t help it! The food was too good!

I ended up with this crepe/cake kind of thing. I think it was French inspired, but my tummy loved it regardless. It cost me around $6 USD with the coffee and cake (there was a special I took advantage of- obvi).

After I relaxed for a little, I took my short walk across the street to see the infamous Petronas Towers. One thing I want to warn people of – is if you’re on the first floor and need to go to the bathroom, they will charge you. On a budget, I could definitely head up to the next floor to go πŸ˜‰ haha.

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I headed out back and relaxed for a bit in the park. There were tons of people around and it was definitely a cool vibe. I ended up sitting across the pond area so the towers were in the background during the light show. It was definitely neat, but to be honest, I thought the Gardens By the Bay one was better for sure. I would still recommend you go see this light show, though!

Exhausted and without wifi after the show, I decided to head back to the mall because I knew there was a Starbucks there. I grabbed a bag of chips (about $1 USD) and hooked onto their wifi. Yes, you had to actually buy something to hook into their wifi. From here, I ordered an Uber to head home, once again, about $1.

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It was about 9:30 or so when I finally returned. Being the grandma that I am, I decided to pack my things and head to bed. I would have to get up early to head to the airport tomorrow. I planned on calling an Uber again, but, of course, the cheaper option would be to take the train (not sure how long that would take or how much).

My Uber to the airport ended up costing me about $20, bringing the total to $95. Again, I’m sure if you used the train, it would have been much cheaper. They also warn you about Kuala Lumpur traffic. I didn’t hit any (I left around 9), but beware. I wanted to make sure I left super early even though it should only take about an hour to get to the airport. Once I got there, of course I ended up eating breakfast and heading to my gate, normal airport things.

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My last breakfast was Teh Tarik and more kaya toast with soft boiled eggs (similar to what I had in Singapore). I still thought it was too sweet for me, but delicious and I definitely recommend you try it. It cost me about $3.

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So total including all of my transportation during my 2 days, I spent about $99 USD!

Again, without the taxi back, that could have easily been $79+ the train fee. And of course, if you wanted to spend more or had more time – go for it! Just letting you know what I spent πŸ˜‰

Hopefully this helps in your KL journey… and if you need advice on any flights or other tips to save money here and there – check out my blogs on those πŸ™‚ Or check out my most recent blog on a short trip to Palawan in the Philippines.

Happy travels!

Jen

Japan: To Yokosuka and Beyond

While I’ve traveled many places this past year, there’s one place I now call home – Yokosuka, Japan! Whether you are stationed here for the military, living abroad here (or nearby in Yokohama or Tokyo), or just traveling temporarily, I’m sure you will be looking for things to do!

I have been to a few places now in the local area, all at a relatively cheap price. One of the places we traveled to recently was Arasaki Park.

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Arasaki park is about an hour via public transportation from Yokosuka, even quicker by car, according to Google maps. It’s great for families and a great place to spend your whole day if you desire. When we arrived, there were tons of families with tents and picnic blankets camped out for the day, just enjoying the weather.

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You can either sit on the beach, at a picnic bench, in the grass, or go explore the beautiful cliffs!

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The trails weren’t difficult, except maybe one where there were chains provided. However, you don’t need to conquer these difficult paths to see the beauty!

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Another thing we recently did, available on the Yokosuka naval base, was rent paddleboards for a few hours. On base it was super cheap, my husband was even free. You just have to go to the Green Bay Marina to check it out.

Not in the military? Paddleboarding and kayaking are available at many harbors – google your town to see what’s available near you!

Another trip we took, just a short 45 minutes from Shioiri station in Yokosuka (possibly quicker from Yokosuka-Chuo as long as you’re on the limited express), was to Kawasaki. We have headed here twice now and plan to return again. Similar to Yokohama, Kawasaki is just a little smaller, but very modern and filled with tons of restaurants and shops.

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In the summer, the More’s Beer Garden is open. For 3800 yen each, we enjoyed a BBQ and all-you-can-drink! We easily got our money’s worth, not to mention it’s on the rooftop of More’s so it was a nice view. It wasn’t crowded at all around 4PM when we arrived, but once we started leaving around 6PM, people started to gather.

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Another place we ate at was J.S. Pancake Cafe in LAZONA. These pancakes were beautiful and delicious – seriously the maple butter ones might have been the best pancakes I’ve ever had.

Finally, a place we explore often… Yokohama! Yokohama is a 30-40 minute train ride from Yokosuka and has TONS of things to do. One thing you can do in the fall is go to Oktoberfest.

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Like many other Oktoberfest celebrations, there are tons of beer options, both local and from Germany, and lots of vendor food. It was a nice day to kick back and relax and enjoy some good beer (in some really big glasses…or not, whatever you decide).

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Another place we checked out in Yokohama is the Kirin Brewery. You can take a free tour of the brewery, taste hops and malt, and then you get 3 FREE samples at the end. And I mean legitimate samples — like FULL glasses. The catch is, you only have 20 minutes to drink them. Challenge accepted? πŸ˜‰

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Just want to go for a walk in Yokosuka? Be sure to check out Verny Park, the park that runs right next to the JR Yokosuka station, very close to Shioiri station and AEON mall. It’s a beautiful little park along the water with tons of benches, plants, and space to do whatever you want! Yoga included πŸ˜‰

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Looking for other things to do in Japan? I previously wrote two different blogs on places I have been in Japan, one on some general areas and another on our adventure up Mt. Fuji.

Be sure to check those out as well- and check out my blog on Simple Ways To Save Money (because we all know traveling isn’t cheap) to help you budget for your upcoming trip!

Until next time,

Jen

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Frostbite on the way up, Sunburn on the way down: Mt. Fuji Night Hike

Hiking Mt. Fuji is one of the main reasons younger tourists come to Japan nowadays. As my husband and I began our research, we found there were a decent number of blogs, youtube videos, and lots of Instagram posts describing each person’s experience.

While my husband had hiked it once before, I had not. And to be honest, he didn’t even remember much of it as he did it with a tour group. We looked up and researched as much as we could. We noticed the average time is 6-7 hours to hike up the Yoshida Trail, with about 3 hours down. We are fairly active people; however, just before our hike, we had a 2 week vacation in the states where we did almost nothing other than eat and drink a lot of horrible things. And by horrible, I mean, horrible for your body. Taking all of this into consideration, we assumed it would probably take us around 7 hours to get up the trail, especially with the altitude difference. Plus, we didn’t really see anybody writing about how “easy” it was to hike.

We decided to hike through the night so that we could see the sunrise when we got to the top. After reading and seeing a few Instagram posts, we noticed that it was dropping to the 30-40s at the top, so we made sure to pack adequately (hat, gloves, scarf, jackets, and I even packed sweatpants to go over my thicker leggings). We bought headlamps off Amazon for about $10 each to wear as we hiked, since it would be dark the entire time.

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Our journey to the mountain started off a bit rocky. We left from Yokosuka around 2 PM with an assumption to get to the mountain around 6-7, according to Google Map and the directions we had screenshotted from my phone. We decided to head to Shinjuku to catch the bus that takes you straight to the 5th station. Of course, after arriving to the station, we realized the bus was completely booked for the rest of the evening. Poor planning on our part for sure. From here, we had to re-screenshot directions and we ended up missing one train and waiting 30 minutes for another, which was the wrong train. Luckily, a super nice Japanese lady wrote everything down for us and told us when to get off so that we could get to the right train station (Otsuki). We ended up waiting another 20-30 minutes for another train, and after hopping on there, then getting off at Otsuki, we hopped on yet another train and made it to Kawaguchiko just before the last bus left for the 5th station. Basically, it was a whirlwind of a day. I, of course, was freaking out but luckily Scott kept it cool the whole time.

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From Kawaguchiko station, the bus ride to the mountain is about 45-50 minutes. We were exhausted, not only from traveling the whole day, but also from jet lag from the day before) and finally were able to catch a short 20-30 minute power nap. The bus left the station at 8:10 PM and arrived around 9 PM, which was definitely later than we were hoping. We were a little nervous we wouldn’t make it to the top for the sunrise (around 5 AM), but we were just happy to at least FINALLY make it to the mountain.

At the 5th station, they are able to lend you a lot of things and you can even buy oxygen for when you reach the higher altitudes. We didn’t end up buying or renting anything, so we can’t really speak to it, but it’s available!

We began our hike around 9:15 PM with hopes to make it by 5 AM, just a little less than 8 hours. The beginning of the trail is all pretty flat and even a little downhill. You actually start above the clouds already – I felt my ears pop on the way up on the bus! We arrived at the 6th station fairly quickly and took a very quick rest/bathroom break along with plenty of other hikers. Determined, we didn’t rest long and kept on our way. Between the 6th and 7th station (if I remember correctly) is basically just a lot of zig-zagging and walking up ash at a steady, slow incline. In our opinion, this was the worst part. I’m not sure if it’s because we like climbing more or if it was just the beginning, but we ended up stopping every 2-3 full zig-zags to catch our breath. We ended up making it to the 7th station by 11 PM…Only 2 hours!

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When we got to the 7th station, we realized we had been passing just about everyone and recognized nobody else around us. We heard others saying that it takes about 2.5 hours to get to the top from the 7th station. At our pace, that was probably accurate.. AKA we needed to slow down, especially as we climbed the altitude. It was starting to get colder at this time, so I put on my sweatpants and another jacket. We ended up taking a 50 minute power-nap/rest, again, with other hikers nearby, at this station. We decided it was only going to get colder at the top and we might as well just relax for a little because we were pretty confident in our ability at this time.

Once we woke up – around 11:50, we decided to begin ascending the trail again. We got to the next little mountain hut and saw they had cup of noodles and hot tea. We didn’t really want to stop again – but hey – what the heck! So we each got some hot, lemon tea. I swear it was the best tea I’ve ever had. That’s probably because I was so cold, but it was so worth it. We sat for about 10-15 minutes finishing our tea and warming up a little before we really began again.

Between the 7th-8th station is where we really “took off.” It’s basically rock climbing/really big rock steps that you have to climb up. We were passing people right and left. It was the booty workout anybody could dream of.. so much hip extension (nerd alert). But seriously, this part was fun. We got a little tired and would take breaks, but it was way better than the first part, in our opinions. We got to the 8th station pretty quickly, but I can’t remember the exact time.

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We took a solid 10 minute rest at the 8th station. Once you get past the 8th station, it’s almost like a combination of part 1 and part 2.. Long zig-zags with slow inclines but smaller rocks that aren’t really climb-able, if you know what I mean. It’s definitely tougher/more annoying, plus you start to hit 9-10,000 feet and your breathing starts to become more shallow. We took a 5+ minute break at each mountain hut, and as we got higher up, we took a break just about every 1-2 minutes.

While we didn’t necessarily feel nauseous, super dizzy, or pass out.. I can definitely say I had a headache when I first started; however, I tend to get headaches when the weather is colder, even in the 50s. Once I put my headband/ear-warmer on, I was fine the rest of the way. Our hearts started pounding with just a few steps when we got to the top, but again, we tended to move faster than others. We really started taking a lot of rest breaks because we knew we still had plenty of time.

We made it to the top just before 3 AM, so it took us a little less than 6 hours to get to the top. Don’t forget our 45-50 minute nap in the middle also! Overall, it was definitely tough, but it’s obviously doable in 5 hours if you’re in shape, especially if you’re more conditioned to higher altitudes (we flew from the east coast of the USA to Yokosuka, which is just above sea level.. then hiked).

Once at the top, we rested for a little. There is a mountain hut; however, it wasn’t open. We thought it may not open until 5, but it actually opened around 3:30 AM for food/drinks. It was kind of confusing and didn’t help because everybody swarmed in. You kind of just sat in a few rows and they took your order for simple things. I got a coffee for me and a corn soup for Scott. In case you haven’t had the corn soup before, it does come in a can. Some people around me were kind of weirded out by this. They actually sell the corn soup at train stations, which is where we first tried it.

Scott and I ended up taking turns getting up and walking around, because since we were up there around 3, we had a front row seat for the sunrise! We obviously didn’t want to lose our spot, but it was so cold that we had to get up and move a little. Once 5 AM rolled around, there were tons of people surrounding us, and the sun began to rise!

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It ended up being a little cloudy, but it was still such a beautiful sight. We were still freezing, but also mesmerized by a sunrise above the clouds. We hung out for about 45 minutes watching it rise until we walked further over to check out the crater.

We probably stayed up on the mountain until about 6:30 AM, then began the trek back down. Our fingers and toes were numb and everything else was just cold. It was a beautiful sight on the way down, though. Especially since we were unable to see the scenery on the way up in the dark. We took breaks walking down also, not because of fatigue, but because it was definitely tough on our knees/ankles (are we that old?).

You’re literally sliding down ash and rock in a zig zag pattern, but lots of people were actually slipping too. I think I would have rather climbed back up, to be honest.

It took us about 3 hours, as predicted, to get back down. There definitely were people who passed us, but again, I guess we just have old and achy bones.. Back at the 5th station, we checked out a few shops and then got in line for the bus to take us back to Kagurachiko station.

We were exhausted, I was legitimately concerned for Scott because he had barely slept on our flight over and the jet lag was pretty crazy. We got back to the station, went to grab some food, and then came back to make sure we got bus tickets for the next day. We were able to get tickets from Kawaguchiko to Yokohama station, which is so much closer to where we live. And way more convenient.

Finally, we headed off to our hotel. Check-in wasn’t until 3PM, but we got there around 1PM. We waited in the lobby for about an hour and they brought us our room key an hour early! They probably felt sorry for us, but hey, we took it.

The hotel was super nice and I definitely wish we could have spent a little more time there. We ended up showering and then going right to sleep. We woke up once around midnight, but then slept in again through until around 6 AM. We slept at least 12 hours total, it was amazing.

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The breakfast at the hotel was included in our stay. Everyone was wearing their robes from their rooms, it was pretty cool. I definitely would have worn mine if I had known. The breakfast was a buffet-style, but still pretty fancy.

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As it was a spa, resort-style place, they also had private and public baths that could be used. We checked them out but ended up just heading back to the room to relax a little longer instead. The hotel does have a shuttle bus you can schedule, and it’s free! We just didn’t know that ahead of time.

Our trip home was, luckily, uneventful and much quicker. It was a great trip overall! Very rewarding, fulfilling, and then relaxing. πŸ™‚

Hope this helps you plan your future Fujisan hike!! Or I just hope you enjoyed reading this πŸ™‚

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Until next time,

Jen

 

Simple Ways to Save Money

**Blog updated on 9/20/17**

Attention Californians (and a few other states/cities)!! Ever since moving to San Diego, Scott and I signed up for OhmConnect. You make simple money for simply turning your lights off for a few hours — crazy and EASY. We use the time to sit outside, go to the gym, go to the grocery store..NAP! Since joining approximately 6 months ago, we have made $130 and are on a streak. You simply connect your electricity account with it and then you’re good from there. I’m planning on cashing it out during our next vacation πŸ˜‰ Check it out!! Use my code through this link and get $10 just for joining and then $10 once you are fully enrolled with your electricity account! Happy Saving!!

**Blog updated on 7/20/17**

Hello again!

As many of you know, I recently took a 2 month hiatus from work to do some traveling and just kind of “live” in Japan. With an overwhelming amount of student loans plus the regular amount of bills to pay (yay adulthood), my ability to save and budget money needed to be top-notch to be able to do this. Luckily, I have always been pretty good at saving money my whole life, but finding these few extra little things has definitely helped me save a few extra bucks here and there!

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First off, GROCERIES! I love using coupons, but I find it hard sometimes to be able to readily access them whether it’s in the newspaper or I have to print it. I’m not exactly one to go out of my way just to get these, but if it’s convenient, I will definitely do it! What I have absolutely loved is two coupon apps that I have on my phone:

  • Ibotta: This one is my favorite and I think it works the best to be honest. You simply go through the app, find the store you are shopping at, and click each coupon you want to add. To me, the best part is that you can do this AFTER you are done shopping (at most places – I think Food Lion you have to do it before). But this way I’m not necessarily tempted to buy 3 things I won’t use. I can just get home, sit down, and scroll through what I bought! Sometimes you can save 25 cents, sometimes it’s 2 dollars! They even have challenges to win extra cash! You can do these with “teammates” and other people you know that have Ibotta. Finally, you can even earn percentages back on items you purchase through the app. You really can’t go wrong!! ANNNND if you click HERE to download it now, you will get an automatic 10 bucks added to your account for your first qualifying purchase!! You can literally buy bananas..and get 10 dollars.. crazy.
  • Checkout 51: This one doesn’t have quite as many options as Ibotta, but I still like to use it also! You can start by clicking HERE. I definitely haven’t saved as much, but it’s cool because sometimes you get the same coupon for both apps, and it ends up basically being free! This one also has the option of entering into a sweepstakes every time you spend more than 60 dollars on your grocery bill! Which is pretty easy to do, unfortunately, haha.

The thing to remember about both of these is that you must reachΒ $20 before you can transfer it over to Paypal, Venmo, or the giftcards of your choice! Just as a heads up πŸ˜‰

The second big thing I use is Honey. It’s basically an app you can download to your browser that searches for coupon codes that have been used by other people. I’ve saved probably about 60 dollars so far using this with different coupon codes I had no idea even existed!! It literally does all of the work for you and it just pops up to let you know – heeyyy you can save money here, duhhhh! It’s pretty awesome! AND if no coupon codes work, you still have the option of getting some sort of % of cash back into your account, which you can later turn into an Amazon Gift Card πŸ™‚ You can’t beat it!! You can download it HERE!

The third thing I use is Bing search engine which is connected to Microsoft Rewards. This has changed a little bit over the past year, but you still get to earn points by just searching the web! These points then add up to things you can buy on the Microsoft Rewards store such as movie rentals, subscriptions, or what I use it for — Skype credit (perfect for traveling)!! You can also redeem your points for donations to certain charities, it’s pretty awesome. πŸ™‚

Besides the basic budgeting and not spending money on a ton of silly things, these are a few other ways I have been able to save a few bucks here and there!! I hope it helps some of you out whether you are budgeting for a house, a child, a wedding, travels, or just trying to pay off bills!


**UPDATES as of July 2017**

DScout: Something that was brought to my attention after I wrote this article was Dscout. It’s a mobile app for market research. In the 3-4 months I have been using it, I have probably spent a little over an hour recording things and I have been picked up for 3 surveys, which I have made about $50 each in! Of course, you have to be selected, but hey, being picked for 3 in 3-4 months isn’t half bad!

InboxDollars: If you read previously, I had tried Swagbucks. Maybe I just wasn’t patient enough, I’m not sure. But it was taking awhile and I was having little success. I’m not saying InboxDollars is going to be much different, but hey, I’m going to try it out. They send emails and have surveys as well as earning little bits of change through polls and search engines. You can check it out HERE. It’s definitely not a way to make a ton of money quick, but it’s something!

Something very similar to InboxDollars is Branded Surveys. They actually give you more money when you get denied surveys, so that’s pretty nice! And you only have to make $10 before cashing out!! Double win! (So far, I’m liking this one better than InboxDollars I think? But you can’t make money from watching TV on here…)

Booking.com: So since I have used booking.com multiple times, I am now able to “refer” you to receive $20 USD! Both you and I will receive this discount if you use my link to book. Then, after you book, you can invite others and receive more discounts!! See what I mean?! Click HERE if you’re planning on staying in a hotel anytime soon!! They have been a great service to Scott and I, we’ve actually booked through them a few times and they’ve been great!

If you’re really wanting to travel and want some “real life experience tips” – be sure to check out my Budget Travel blogs in Singapore and Malaysia πŸ˜‰ AND/OR check out my blog that describes my current progress with my student loans!

Until next time,

Jen πŸ™‚

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Love, Pray, Eat… Or Something Like That: Bali

Ahh Bali, my final destination on this short journey! Well, except I did return to Japan after, but that’s another story. Bali was certainly the “pray” part of my trip.

My flight left Thailand around 10 PM, leaving me with a 5 hour layover in Singapore throughout the night. Upon arrival, I tried to find somewhere to charge my phone and ended up just closing my eyes and resting on a few chairs (like many others). Unfortunately, my phone wasn’t able to connect to their wifi in the airport, the kiosks couldn’t read my passport and I didn’t have any coverage to make a phone call like it said, I only had wifi capabilities. Luckily, they do have free internet computers located around the area, so I grabbed one of those to send out a few emails and messages to pass the time. As crazy as it was, I was on the computer and I turned around and saw a bunch of Singapore cops, guns and all, surrounding me! I was terrified, as you can imagine. They asked to see my passport, boarding pass, asked me a few questions and if I was traveling alone. I obviously cooperated and knew I didn’t do anything wrong (or at least I hoped not!) I’m not sure if it was just again, the timeframe that I was traveling (just after the inauguration 2017..) that put them on a higher alert. Or maybe because I was a blonde American female traveling alone? I’m not sure, but it was scary. Even the workers nearby said “That was scary” after they left. Ahh! But it’s okay, we all survived. I still enjoyed the airport, haha πŸ™‚

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I finally arrived in Bali bright and early. Immigration went much quicker than in Thailand, that’s for sure. I stopped at an ATM to grab some cash. Of course, in the moment and in a rush to find my airport transfer, I didn’t fully understand how much money I was taking out and ended up taking out only about $100 USD, which I later realized (duh). I figured that probably wasn’t going to last me my whole week, so I had to make another ATM trip once I got to my place of stay.

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So while I was in Bali, I stayed at Serenity Eco Guesthouse. My stay included unlimited yoga for the week as well as a single backpackers room (there were a bunch of options, but this is what I chose). Being that it was eco-friendly, there were a few rules/suggestions such as: no toilet paper in the toilet (had to put it in the trash can), lights out when you leave, no sunscreen on before you get in the pool to decrease chemicals, recommended use of organic products, all raw/vegan food served at the restaurant. If you like to recycle and save the planet, I would definitely recommend a place like this. Otherwise, you may want to find a “fancier” hotel or resort! I loved all of the gardens and the atmosphere of the resort..so Bali! The pool wasn’t too bad either πŸ˜‰

With my stay, I got free breakfast all week! The food was all so amazing and healthy, I loved it!! I drank straight from a coconut, had gluten free breads, nutella pancakes, vegan cheese spreads, rice porridge, fruit smoothies, I even snuck in a few pieces of chocolate here and there. Why not, ya know? This was all at the restaurant “Alkaline,” which was attached to the guesthouse I was at. They also bottled their own water that they had filtered and set at a certain pH level, it was pretty cool! The only food I didn’t like of the whole trip was here.. Gado Gado. You can find this many places, but for some reason I just couldn’t finish it. I think I just like stronger tasting foods. I would definitely still try it if I were you, we all have different taste buds!

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My first few days I mainly woke up and went right to the beach. I was staying in Canggu, which, upon booking, I didn’t realize that it was such a surfer’s beach! Pretty cool atmosphere though. There were a lot of people from all over the world who came to surf! The beach didn’t have that crystal blue water, but hey, I was at the beach in January..in Bali, who cares? I will have to say the one thing I didn’t enjoy about laying at the beach was constantly getting approached by the locals to buy bracelets, rings, massages, hair braids. I did buy a few bracelets, but that was only from one local, so the others wanted me to buy some too! I completely understand this is their way of life and how they make a living, and I respect that. It was a little difficult at times to completely relax on the beach, though. I tried to situate myself near others in hopes to not be approached. Let’s be honest, I’m not much of a jewelry girl anyways πŸ˜‰

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I generally hung around the beach for a few hours, wearing sunscreen of course, and still getting sunburnt. Then I would head back for lunch and yoga! Somedays I went to the restaurant downstairs, but I found a few other cute restaurants that I would recommend here:

The Recovery Room: Amazing! I ate here twice and got their avocado coffee, an egg frittata avocado benedict (or something like that), a beautiful smoothie, and even a gourmet grilled cheese. The staff was super friendly, there are couches everywhere and it’s such a chill vibe, I loved it!!

Old Man’s: This is the “hip” spot at Canggu. There are tons of tourists here and it’s definitely a party atmosphere. I went one night for dinner because I was really craving a burger and a beer – something not organic, haha. It was delicious! They had an acoustic reggae band playing while I was there and there were not only younger folks but families as well. Plus I loved the lights that decorated the whole place, not to mention you’re right next to the ocean.

Eden Cafe: Okay so the day I tried this place, I had just walked to the post office from my place of stay which was about a 45 minute walk.. Except it turned into an hour+ because I had to stop in all of the cute shops! Needless to say, when I was heading back and found this place, it was the perfect place for me to cool off with a smoothie bowl..and let my sweat dry haha. It was so satisfying!! I also had some of their homemade lemonade, which was also good!

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Obviously while I was here, I did a bunch of different yoga classes. I actually had my first experience with Yin in Bali! And wow, let me tell you, it was amazing and crazy all at the same time. We were focusing on 4 different emotions throughout the class during each of the positions (that you hold for a few minutes, because that’s what you do in yin class). I am not kidding you, I cried! I couldn’t stop myself! We were told to think of different instances where we felt 1) safe 2) thankful 3) love and 4) happy. While I tried to think of other things, I could only think of my boyfriend (sappy, sorry). I won’t go on with the sap, but it was an amazing session, even if I was trying to hide my tears during it, haha.

On the other hand, I also did some aerial yoga and acro yoga!! Again, all of it was amazing and just being surrounded by others who loved yoga was so much fun! We were all definitely sweating after acro!

Besides the yoga and the beach, I felt that a trip to Bali would not be complete without a trip to Ubud, the “cultural center” of Bali. Those words could not have been more true. There was so much artwork and culture in Ubud, it was beautiful. I was able to see a Barong dance, see some beautiful wood carvings as well as watch jewelry being made. I booked a tour for the day which was basically my own personal taxi, costing around ~$50 total for the day, which included pick up around 9 AM and drop off around 6 PM. I ended up additionally having to pay for tickets and parking, so I might have gotten ripped off, but all in all, I still only paid about $70 for the day itself, plus my souvenirs. My tour guide was very kind and informative, even held out an umbrella for me when it was raining.

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One of our first stops of the day was the Barong Dance. The Barong dance is a tale of the triumph of good (Barong) over evil (Rangda). I learned from a woodcarver that the Barong is also symbolically said to be a “house protector.”

Our next stop was the holy water spring temple (Tirta Empul). This is a Hindu temple where people come from all over to cleanse themselves. It was packed with locals and people from all over. Just make sure to grab a sarong on the way in (I didn’t know!)

We stopped to eat lunch at a buffet where I could see Mt. Batur and the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy and drizzling that day, so it wasn’t perfectly clear. It was beautiful nonetheless, very peaceful. The only thing I didn’t completely enjoy was the buffet style food. Because of the tour I chose, this was my option. It was definitely overpriced and I tried to get my money’s worth, but I doubt I did. This part of the trip I wouldn’t exactly recommend, but for the view, it may be worth it!

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After lunch, we stopped at a Luwak coffee plantation. Luwak coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world. The Luwak (a small mammal) eats the ripe coffee cherry and then, after it travels through the digestive system, the beans are cleaned, roasted, and ground up to make coffee!

After this, we journeyed over to the Tegallalang rice terraces where I ended up trekking through in just my sandals and a dress. I was slightly unprepared, but I didn’t fall so it’s okay! There were a lot of cute restaurants and cafes here. If I had more time, I definitely would have stopped. The view was amazing regardless!

Our final stop of the day was at the Ubud Monkey Forest! This was awesome, and although we could only stay for a little, I got to feed some of the monkeys and see some of the cutest little monkey families. There were literally monkeys everywhere!! I’m not sure I can say monkey one more time in this paragraph, haha.

My last day in Bali was spent mainly laying next to the pool, soaking up some rays before I headed back to Japan. It was peaceful and relaxing. I had the whole day to pack as my flight didn’t leave until midnight and was an overnight flight back to Tokyo. I took Garuda Indonesia, which may have been my favorite airline so far. You can read about my flights here!

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Now, just to advise some of you on a few things I didn’t really discuss but you should be aware of.. Β Many of the locals throughout my stay would come up to me and ask me to buy bracelets, massages, rings, etc. At times, I would need to use a stern voice to ask them to leave, just to have another person come up to me. Sometimes it was even children just asking for money. On the taxi ride to the airport, there was actually a young child that came up to my window in the middle of the highway and held out her hand saying “please.” It was sad, and I’d love to help, but at the same time it was a little frustrating. I completely get why they were all doing it, I really do. It was just hard at times to remember it after being approached and hassled so many times. I wasn’t personally prepared for it, and knowing myself, I probably was a good target for them because I’m much more of a soft-y. But, I think it’s something people should be aware of!

Anywho, I hope you enjoyed reading about my travels!! If you haven’t read my other blogs on Japan and Thailand, be sure to check them out πŸ™‚ And don’t forget to check out my other blogs on my trips to Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

-Jen