Hong Kong: Part One

My family and I just got back from a trip to Hong Kong! This was sort of like my graduation present, since I don't know if I'll ever again be able to go to China for 10 days.

Hong Kong was, to put it best, very very interesting. We had a good time and have a ton of funny and memorable stories from the trip, but it was definitely exhausting! Not to mention the 13 hour time change from Atlanta!

We fly standby, and the flight to HK is pay load optimized from Seattle, which meant that on Thursday when we first tried to get there we didn't get seats on the flight. We were stuck in Seattle for the evening... and it just so happened that the Seahawks had a football game that night! We had to buy hats and gloves (and tickets of course), but the experience was fun and it's definitely a great story! I mean, when in Rome!


When we arrived in Hong Kong, it was about 7:00 at night on Saturday. (The flight left Friday at noon Pacific time.) We were obviously exhausted from traveling, and by the time we got to our hotel it was about 9:00. All we wanted was a light dinner snack before going to sleep! Little did we know... that would prove to be a challenge!


We stayed in the Times Square area of Hong Kong and (wrongly) assumed we would be able to find a restaurant with some snack-type food that we could eat quickly before resting. Instead we found a tiny restaurant with a giant pot of soup and three men who couldn't speak any English except for the words "yes" and "ok." We all ended up getting pretty good food (I got noodles and soup) but it was certainly a challenge, especially running on little sleep!


Our first full day in Hong Kong was packed to the brim with things to do. We woke up early (ish - with the time zone we were all awake about 7AM, 6PM the day before on the east coast!) and got started. We made our way over to Victoria Peak and took the tram up to the top. We luckily managed to have a beautiful clear day and could see out all over Hong Kong Island, as well as part of Kowloon and even the outer corner of Lantau (all islands that make up Hong Kong). The man behind us in line for the tram said he didn't see the need to go all the way up the tower, but I absolutely recommend it if you're in HK! There's no better way to grasp just how big the city is than looking over all of it.

After Victoria Peak, we went over to the Central-Mid Level Escalator, which is "the world's longest outdoor covered escalator and walkway system in the world." Definitely interesting. The escalator is only one way, so just remember... what goes up, must come down! Since it was around lunch time, we stopped just over half way up to get lunch at a Nepalese restaurant (still scarred from our experience the night before) before finishing out the escalator. 

We walked all the way down the escalators, to the ferry piers, took a boat to Kowloon, and walked to the Ladies Market. I do not recommend walking, and I don't think anybody else would either! The map made it seem like a shorter distance than it was, but toward the end of our long trek we were already to stop at one of the many McDonald's for a treat (and boost of energy).

The Ladies Market is very cool, there are tons of (fake) purses and wallets and belts, as well as actual clothing and even underwear for you to buy. There are also little trinkets that make great souvenirs. 

Once we finished at the Ladies Market we made our way to the Goldfish Market, which wasn't a far walk but literally felt like forever on our aching feet. We were instantly cheered up buy the sight of PUPPIES!! The Goldfish Market street actually had a lot of general pet stores, but walking on the sidewalk you could see tons and tons of goldfish tied up in little plastic baggies all along the walls. Many stores also had frogs and tadpoles and some even had giant blue crabs. But the puppies were our favorite parts, it's just too bad you weren't able to take any pictures of them!

After taking the subway back to the ferry pier, and getting on a boat back to Hong Kong Island... we did as any good tourists would do... we went to a restaurant called "Angus" and got pizza. Oops!


This day was an even earlier start because we were going over to the island of Lantau to see the famous Big Buddha statue (formally known as the Tian Tan Buddha)! We were able to take the subway all the way over there, and then a cable car up the mountain. We bought tickets for the crystal bottom cars because the wait was (somehow) shorter, and it was fun to see us soaring over trees and water, and then spot people hiking up to the tourist town on top, Ngong Ping.

Once we were in Ngong Ping, which is kind of like a mini-Disney World town, we walked toward the Big Buddha. Pretty self explanatory, since that's what everyone else is doing up there too! The "hike" up to the Big Buddha is about 250 steps, so it really wasn't hard except for everyone stopping to take pictures along the way (ourselves definitely included!).

Once you're up there you can go inside the base and learn more about the Buddha itself and the religion of Buddhism. There are also a few shops in there that have Buddhist gifts blessed by all of the Monks. I got a Chinese knot symbol to hang above my bed that means "all my dreams will come true." Plus all of the profits from those stores go back directly to the monastery. 

We went to a Japanese noodle restaurant in the village before going back over to the Po Lin monastery. The monastery is absolutely beautiful. It looks a lot smaller than it is from the front, but goes back pretty far. The temples and altars all have beautiful tile work on the roofs in rich green and blue colors, and the Buddha shrines are all in innate gold. 

After leaving the monastery and taking the cable car back down to Lantau, we took the subway to Kowloon station and went over to the Ritz Carlton. We looked pretty funny in our sneakers and tshirts from visiting the Buddha, but there were many other tourists trying to do the same thing as us... get a drink at the World's Highest Bar! The Ozone is on the 118th floor of the Ritz Hotel and the view is spectacular. It opens at 5:00 and is definitely worth a visit to see Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon side, as well as the sunset. The view from the bar is great... but the view from the bathroom is even better!

For dinner that night we had Vietnamese and Thai (I actually had sweet and sour chicken, which I thought was usually considered a Chinese dish, but at this point I was just rolling with it) at a restaurant in the Lan Kwai Fong area. This area has a lot of bars and a lot of advertisements for happy hour deals lasting until 10pm! Nothing can be too bad about that!


Our last full day in HK was pretty relaxed. In the morning we went over to Aberdeen fishing village, on the other side of Hong Kong Island. We walked around the fish market there until the water came up above our shoes, and then took a "harbor tour" in a little boat driven by an older Chinese woman who spoke almost no English. Then we went over to the Aberdeen temple and to the Aberdeen market, where we saw many interesting sights and smells... including butchers cutting up meats and displaying all parts of the animals: hearts, kidneys, livers, intestines and more.

After leaving Aberdeen, we made our way back over to Kowloon to the Wong Tai Sin Temple. My mom and sister had seen an episode of the Amazing Race where they went to this temple... so we had to visit it too! This particular temple is famous for it's fortune telling. You get a can of sticks, each with their own number on it. Then you shake it "prayerfully" until one falls out. You then take your number to a fortune teller who asks you what you want to know about: jobs, love, family and health. I chose the job fortune, and through her broken English (even though the sign said fluent English speaker, haha) she told me I was going to get a good job and all my dreams would come true. I'm choosing to believe her, part out of desperation to find a job and part out of knowing I had just bought the Chinese knot symbol with the same message!

We then revisited the Ladies Market on our way to the famous Jade Market. China is famous for their jade sculptures and jewelry. Let me tell you though... the jade market vendors are vicious!! If you even looked at their stall for a second they would pounce on you and essentially not let you leave until you bought something! That made for good bargaining, but my mom was looking at a necklace but decided she didn't want it anymore... until the woman grabbed her arm and essentially barricaded us in the market until my mom finally agreed to buy it! 

At night we had tickets for the light show. Hong Kong is famous for their Symphony of Lights, so we decided to watch it from the tourist version of a "junk boat." You can watch the light show from almost anywhere along the water, but we wanted to be on the water to see it! Overall... we were disappointed with the show, but agreed that maybe all of the Christmas lights/decorations were in the way of some of the lights. Hey, just an excuse to come back and see it again!

The next day we boarded a ferry to Macau... so stay tuned for part two of our trip!

Salzburg, Austria in 24 Hours

So many people are gearing to study abroad this spring! I'm 100% on board. Spending a semester abroad will be, without a doubt, the best experience you have in college. You will learn and see so much, grow as a person, and come back to the U.S. more cultured and ready to take on the world.

I've decided to start a little travel series here on the blog. I hope you like it! Right now I'm aiming for every Thursday... but we will see how that goes!

First up is Salzburg, Austria.

Bear with me as I try to get through this post. Salzburg will always have a special place in my heart, since it was my home away from home for four months. I love everything about the city (except when it rains for days on end…) and there’s a lot to do, but if you’re only there for a day, here are the highlights you won't want to miss:

9:00: Get a donut (or two… or three) at Tasty Donuts on Theatergasse. You can thank me later. Personal favorites: Lady Marmalade, Cinnamon, and Berry and White. Honorable mentions: anything else.

9:30: Cross the main bridge to Getreidegasse. This is the most famous (and expensive) shopping street in Salzburg. Turn left and walk along the street until you get to Mozartplatz at the end. (“Christmas in Salzburg” is also a really cool store to go in if you get a chance! It’s on the way to Mozartplatz and features tons of painted eggs that are used as ornaments.) From Mozartplatz, make your way to the Residenzplatz, which is a block over. Spend time looking in the Dom and at the booths outside it.

10:30: Walk through St. Peter’s Cemetery next to the Dom to the other side. Make your way down the block to the Universitätplatz. Explore the booths and go inside the Universitätkirche. Pro tip: get a hotdog from one of the booths in the square. Again, you can thank me later.

11:30: Go through the alleyway toward Mozart’s Birth House. This is one of the more crowded areas of Salzburg, simply because it’s the birthplace of a prodigy. The museum is 7 with a student I.D., and cool… but it’s not necessary.

12:00: Make your way to the other end of Getreidegasse and see the horse wall. (There’s probably an actual name for this landmark, but you’ll know it when you see it.) From there take a right and cross the river on the bridge with the lovelocks. That bridge offers a fantastic view of the city! Plus it leads you right to the final stop, Mirabellgartens.

1:00: Once you’ve finished in the gardens, if the day is nice you could walk up Kaputzinerberg, off of Linzer Gasse. It’s not that hard and ends with a beautiful view of Salzburg! (Plus, there is an incredible and tiny crepe restaurant at the foot of the hill. Seriously. Amazing.)

2:00: Cross the river and make your way up Mönchberg. (Start walking toward the mountain and eventually you will find a path toward Hohensalzburg Fortress.) The hike is so worth it because at the top you will be treated to an incredible view of the city. Start by the fortress and make your way all around the back toward the Modern Art Museum. That’s my favorite view of Salzburg… Ever.

3:30: In the afternoon, there are a ton of of cute little cafes to stop by. Cafe Sacher (across the river from Getreidegasse) has amazing Sacher Torte - one of the most famous cakes in the world! You could also stop by a grocery store (or vending machine) and grab a Stiegl or two, and enjoy them down by the river. You could even tour the Stiegl brewery near the train station. This would also be a perfect time to shop for a dirndl as well. If you're trying to pack the Sound of Music highlights into this trip, you could also spend the afternoon at Hellbrunn Palace, the yellow house in the movie.

6:00: For dinner, go to Goldene Kugel on Getreide Gasse. Best schnitzel I’ve ever had in my entire life. Don't forget to order pretzels and beer to go with it!

8:00: Head across the city to Augustiner Bräuhaus for a nightcap. It's across the city, but you can easily walk to it next to the river.  This is Salzburg’s original beer, and it’s great. There are tourists, but not too many since it’s off the beaten path a little! There are a ton of locals with their own steins and reserved tables as well. A liter of beer is only €6,00 (half a liter is €3,00)

If you have an extra day in Salzburg, go up the Untersberg! It’s the giant mountain overlooking the city. (Seriously, you can’t miss it.) Get on the #25 bus at Rathaus or Mirabellplatz and buy a ticket from the driver (2,30). With a student I.D., the ticket up the mountain and back is €15, and the view is incredible! The last car down is at 5 P.M., but it’s a great place to go early and bring a picnic! There are several benches as well as two restaurants up at the top.

P.S. Check out my Europe MUST SEE List and some of my hostel recommendations!

Fall Break Trip to New York

Last weekend was our fall break from school. I can't believe this semester is already halfway over! It's going by so quickly... I was definitely not prepared.

I flew up to New York City with my sister. She stayed with her friend who recently transferred to Columbia University and I stayed with my cousin down in Battery Park City. It was such a great trip, I wish it was a little bit longer!

Columbia has one of the most beautiful campuses! I've seen a lot of colleges, but I was so impressed with it. I didn't even feel like I was in the city!

And finally for a live look into my future... ;)

And it wouldn't be a complete trip without some pizza!!

Buffalo chicken on EVERYTHING!!

Tips for Shy Girls

Whenever I tell people that I'm an introvert, nobody ever believes me! But I promise, I am! My official personality type from 16 Personalities (a Myers-Briggs based test) is ISTJ-T. Introverted, observant, thinking, judging, and turbulent. (LOL - sounds aggressive, but other ISTJ's include Denzel Washington, Natalie Portman, and Hermione!!)

I definitely consider myself to be an outgoing introvert, and in a field where my career is based of my public speaking ability it is SO important not to shy away from people like I want to most of the time!

Throughout the years I've learned a few tips and tricks to make me seem more outgoing and extroverted than I am! And then, when everything is all said and done, my bed is there to welcome me home!

Fake it 'til you make it // The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that if people think you are extroverted, the more extroverted you will feel. So when I really have to be extroverted, I force myself to smile bigger, laugh more, comment on more things, and people naturally just think that I'm more outgoing and extroverted!

Comment on things // We all have opinions. I've learned that just simply stating my opinions sometimes can start conversations and lead to friendships. I found this especially helpful my freshman year, and I still use it in classes to this day! Even commenting, "Wow I'm bad at accounting," can lead to the person sitting next to you agreeing, and asking if you want to study. (That sounds like something a "high school girl" magazine would say, but that is a personal anecdote!)

Learn to laugh at yourself // This goes hand in hand with embracing your natural awkwardness. Introverted and shy people act differently around people than extroverted people do. Conversation doesn't flow as easily, and sometimes awkward things slip out! The key to all of this is just laughing at yourself and your mistakes! Another quick anecdote, but my college campus has an insane amount of uneven bricks and I trip over them pretty much anytime I walk anywhere. This leads to me saying, "OMG Tori, watch out!" and then laughing at myself because I'm walking around campus talking out loud to myself. Super awkward, but the key is that I can laugh at my own mistakes and not beat myself up over them!

Reward "good" behavior // After a long hard day of talking to people and being "on" constantly... the only thing I want is my BED!! (And Grey's Anatomy and a glass (or bottle) of wine.) And that is A-OKAY!! Exerting enough energy to get through the day can be hard! But you did it, and just like the other amazing things you do, you should be rewarded!

Are you shy? How do you get through your days?

Be Where Your Feet Are

I've been finding myself thinking a lot about "what might have been" recently. What might have happened if I said something else, or reacted differently in a situation. Unfortunately this leads to a lot of me being totally consumed with what happened in the past, instead of focusing on the day in front of me.

Whenever I find myself thinking too much about things that I can't go back and change, I have to remind myself to be where my feet are - in the now. My feet are with me in the present, and they'll be with me as I move forward into the future, but they can't ever go back in the past.

A quick example, here: yesterday at our first home football game, as I was walking into the student section my phone fell out of my hand and landed screen first onto the ground. I knew as soon as it landed that it was most likely shattered and I didn't even want to pick it up. I did though, and yep - I was right. My screen is super shattered, and as someone who has never cracked a screen before, it's really disappointing. I think about it every time I look at my phone - which as a 21 year old, is a lot! But what was I going to do? Go back in time and not accidentally drop it? Magically heal the screen without dropping $100? I can't do that, so I just had to embrace the fact that my screen is cracked and I have three options moving forward: paying to replace it, living with a cracked screen, or waiting until my contract is up and I can upgrade to a new phone.

The past is in the past for a reason. Yes, maybe things would be different if we had done or said different things, but we didn't! Things are the way that they are for a reason - and if they are meant to be different, then they will all fall into place eventually.

As humans we are constantly moving forward. We have to keep our eyes on the prize and move forward until we get where we're going. We have to be where our feet are.

How I Wake Up Early

Ok, I usually am not really a fan of those posts that are something along the lines of "how to become a morning person!" because I don't believe that you can just become a morning or night person. As we grow older, our schedules change and we have to adapt to them, but some people wake up earlier than others and some people can stay up into the night and not even think twice about it.

With school in full swing, my routine has become more concrete and those early mornings are getting (somewhat) easier. And although I'm lucky that I am a morning person, getting up can still be really hard!

When I posted my morning routine last week, I was really surprised at how many people commented on how early I wake up! I guess I'm just used to it at this point, and don't see it as all that early. (When I worked for MSNBC in February, we had to be there for the morning shows at 5:30 so my alarm went off at 3:30. Now THAT was an early morning wake up call!)

Alarm Clock // I don't use my phone as my alarm. Seriously! I have a $10 alarm clock from Target that I love. It really helps me get out of bed and not look at my phone first thing in the morning! It's also just far enough from where I sleep that I have to at least partially sit up to turn it off. I seriously recommend getting one!

Breakfast // I mentioned on my morning routine post that I don't know how people can do mornings without breakfast. It is the best part of my day!! Okay... maybe that's an exaggeration, but still. Breakfast it something I look forward to to give me the energy that I feel like I'm lacking from an extra few minutes of sleep. I eat huge, indulgent breakfasts, too, so I'm always looking forward to it from the second my alarm goes off to when I'm finally sitting down to eat it.

Down Time // This almost goes hand in hand with breakfast. I remember in high school, my best friend told me that she woke up at 5:45 every day to get ready. She explained that she hated feeling rushed and didn't want to half-ass something because she spent extra time laying in bed. Now that I'm in college, I totally understand it. I love having extra time in the morning to do one thing at a time, or sip on my coffee while I watch the Today Show, rather than drinking coffee, eating breakfast, watching the Today Show and doing my makeup at the same time.

Notion of Productivity // I'll be honest with y'all... there are totally some days when I'm guilty of snoozing my alarm, skipping my workout, and laying in bed for an extra 40 minutes. (But I never actually go back to sleep... it's a weird genetic thing I share with my dad.) The fact that I'm still up before 6:00 makes me feel more productive in a weird way though! Ultimately, that's the best part about waking up early: everyone is so impressed with you and makes you feel put-together regardless of how you actually spent the morning.

Attitude // At the orientation for my internship, we got the pleasure of talking to the strength and conditioning coach for the football team. Every time I don't want to get out of bed in the morning, I can literally hear his voice in the back of my head telling me to get up! He mentioned that you'll really only be tired for a few minutes in the morning, regardless of what time you get up, so there's not really a huge point in snoozing your alarm until the last minute. That is so true! Once my alarm goes off, sure I want to get back to sleep, but when I'm up I'm up and ready to start my day.

What time do you wake up? How do you get up early?

What I Wish I Had Known

Next week, I begin my final semester of college. It's so strange to think about where I started freshman year. I was nervous and alone (literally, I was the only one from my graduating class to attend my school) and I didn't know what to expect. Looking back on the past 3.5 years, I've learned so much but there are still many things I wish I had known before starting college. So, from an almost-graduated senior to the freshmen staring at their cinderblock dorm room walls, here are the many (many) things I wish I had known.

  1. There is no cookie cutter version of college. Everyone's experience is different.
  2. Feeling not okay is not okay.
  3. Do not be afraid to reach out for help.
  4. YOU should be your number one priority.
  5. Sometimes the nights in the library will be just as memorable as the nights spent out and about.
  6. Eat the Taco Bell. Go to Sonic. Order the pizza.
  7. But don't skip out on the gym. (Learned a little too late on this one.)
  8. Find an organizational system that works for YOU.
  9. Productive and creative outlets are incredibly important for your mental well-being.
  10. DRINK WATER!!!
  11. Study abroad as much as you possibly can afford. You will learn much more out in the world than just sitting in the classroom.
  12. You are not weak for showing emotions.
  13. Boys suck. Don't listen to them. You deserve better.
  14. They will break your heart and you will think the world is ending, but it's not. Keep getting out of bed anyway.
  15. Friends come and go. Even the ones you think are forever.
  16. Take notes. Study them.
  17. Worry less about what people think.
  18. Never, EVER, judge someone for what they wear. 
  19. Be kind to everyone you meet.
  20. Take a deep breath.
  21. Everything happens for a reason. I know it sucks, but it's true.
  22. Being homesick is completely normal!!!!!
  23. You cannot control other people. You can control how you respond.
  24. Find a professor you can trust. Talk to them.
  25. Cry if you need to. But then be done with it.
  26. Instagram is not real life, but it's almost impossible not to get caught up in it. Familiarize yourself with the "deactivate" button and take a step back.
  27. You are much, much more than the amount of likes your picture gets.
  28. You are so incredibly young. Don't try to grow up so fast.
  29. If you don't bend, you will break.
  30. Learn to laugh at yourself, but avoid self-deprecating humor.
  31. Don't let the world beat you down.
  32. Learn to apologize. But only apologize when you are sincere about it.
  33. You are the source of your happiness.
  34. Wash your face. Moisturize your skin.
  35. Stand up for what you believe in.
  36. Make mistakes, learn your lessons, move on.
  37. Loosen up! People will act differently than you, but college is not the time for a judgmental attitude.
  38. If you don't love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?
  39. Sometimes, the best response is no response.
  40. If he wants to call, he will call.
  41. Find somewhere or something that you are passionate about and spend as much time there as you can.
  42. Figure out productive ways to channel your whole range of emotion: everything from blind rage (it happens) to elation.
  43. Reaching out to your on-campus counseling center will make you feel so much better.
  44. It is scary to ask for help, but that doesn't mean that you should try and do it all yourself.
  45. Smile more.
  46. Respond to people's messages sooner rather than later. (Applies to: emails, texts, voicemail, Tinder, Twitter, Facebook, IDK just respond.)
  47. Use this time to branch out. Talk to people you never thought you would be friends with. Learn from people whose opinions differ from yours.
  48. Prove yourself wrong, if no one else.
  49. Never give up. Never look back.
  50. Even through the thick of it, you will survive. I know it seems like everything is going wrong, but I promise you, you are stronger than you think.