Hello! I'm Julie!

The Bamboo Traveler

Welcome to the Bamboo Traveler!

Hi! I’m Julie, the Bamboo Traveler!  This blog is devoted to helping the inquisitive traveler explore the history, heritage, and culture of a place. On this site, you’ll find itineraries to help you plan your trip, reviews to help you make more informed decisions, lots of history and cultural information to help make your travels more meaningful, and book recommendations to help you understand a place more deeply.

Countries

Cities

Continents

years living overseas

My Story

I think I fell in love with travel even before I set foot outside of my very small hometown in northwestern Minnesota (it’s so small that if you blink while passing by, you’ll miss it). Perhaps I even fell in love with travel before I had left my mother’s womb, when she took her first and only plane ride to Las Vegas. After that she never really left her small area of the Midwest and neither did the rest of my family. The point is that I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t curious about the outside world.

I did not grow up in a family of travelers. We almost never traveled. Travel was considered indulgent and wasteful. My father, who was an incredibly practical and stingy person but with also a strong sense of responsibility towards his family, saved his money for his children’s education and his retirement instead of spending it on travel. I’m actually really grateful that I didn’t have such self-indulgent parents.

The only trips our family took were to the Twin Cities in our old blue 1969 Chevy Impala. We spent most of that time touring grocery stores because my father owned a grocery store (I love visiting grocery stores in foreign countries) and going to Twins games because my father loved sports (I love all teams from Minnesota but don’t pay attention to them because all they do is break my heart).

As for me, I was always a lover of books and movies about foreign places. I wanted to become a writer and write mysteries like the Nancy Drew ones or an archaeologist like Indiana Jones and travel the world visiting ancient temples like Angkor Wat or the pyramids of Giza. I wanted to study another language and would pretend sometimes that I could speak it. I used to read the Encyclopedia of Britannica for fun growing up, especially the entries about foreign countries. I always had my head in a book and my mind in the clouds day dreaming about escaping my little part of the world.

I finally did escape my hometown and moved to the Twin Cities and eventually made it to Europe to study in Vienna, Austria. My family did not want me to go to Europe and thought I was being a spoiled brat for wanting to go to Europe (I paid for it with my own money!). The other reason was that the first Gulf War was beginning and for some reason, they thought it meant Europe was dangerous, too. I defied my parents and went anyways.

I loved the freedom that I felt when traveling. I loved being able to pick up and leave when I got tired of a place. I loved meeting new people. I loved the openness of other travelers. I loved being surrounded by history and old buildings. When I got back from Europe, I discovered Paul Theroux and the Lonely Planet books, which led me to fantasize about becoming a travel writer. But a part of my brain said that was a pretty stupid idea, and I shut the idea down pretty quickly. Instead, I got a job in an office.

Another thing that I fell in love with while in school was China. It was the summer of 1989 when I watched the tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square. I thought those students were the bravest people in the world. And the next semester, I began to study Chinese.

When I graduated from college, the only thing I knew that I wanted to do was to leave America and travel around the world. I got a job teaching English in China I ended up staying for nearly eight years with a one-year interlude in South Korea.

My goal had been to travel around the world teaching English in every part of the world until I was in my 30s when I would then return to the U.S., get my master’s degree, get a “real” job, and settle down and have a family. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I met someone, got married, and started a language school in China. I didn’t travel that much after that because I was so consumed with my business and career.

In 2005 the marriage and business ended and I returned to the United States at 35 years old defeated and depressed. I lost everything, and I was living in a studio apartment while everyone I went to school with and everyone around me had owned their own home and had successful careers. They were consumed with acquiring the biggest TV and the biggest house in the best neighborhood. I had none of these ambitions, but I still felt like a failure.

I eventually got my master’s degree in teaching English as  second language and have been doing it in the U.S. for the last eight years.

However, twenty-eight years after my first trip to Europe, one marriage and one divorce, one successful and then failed business, one master’s degree, and over fifteen years teaching English, I have found myself at a crossroads in my life where I am asking myself what it is that I really want to do. Twenty-eight years ago, I wanted to travel around the world and see as many countries as I could. Did I do it? No, I didn’t. Do I want to continue teaching? After the 2016 election, the number of students coming to the United States to study English is drying up. Prospects in my field have also dried up.

And then my father passed away in 2017. That unexpected event really hit me, and made me aware of the preciousness, brevity, and unpredictability of life. You only get one life, and if you mess that one life up, you don’t really get a do over. You might not be the most beautiful person with the best personality or the smartest person or have the best family or best car. That shouldn’t matter. You need to make the best of what you have. Life is too short to spend it around people that make you feel worthless or to spend it worrying about what others thing of you.

The measure of a successful life is not how much money you have or how high you went in your career. Instead, it’s when you look back on your life while on your death bed and you don’t need to say, “I should have done that” or “I shouldn’t have done that.” If I find myself with too many regrets on my death bed, then I know my life was a failure.

I looked back on what I have been passionate about and that was travel, books, history, and East Asia. Therefore, I decided to start this blog and write about those things that have kept me going in my life and that have sparked my curiosity and brought me joy and passion. I am still a teacher at heart and a teacher’s job is to inspire, educate, and inform others. Hopefully, I can do that for women like me who still dream about seeing the world beyond their backyard or their city or province or country.

Where Have I Been?

World Map Placeholder
World Map

How can the Bamboo Traveler help you?

The Bamboo Traveler is for those who want to...

  • explore the history, heritage, and culture of a place. 
  • travel on a budget but comfortably. I prefer small two or three-star boutique hotels, but I'll also do hostels if I need to like in the U.S. or other expensive countries.
  • get detailed itineraries about where to go, what to see, and how long to spend at each stop along the trip.
  • travel off-the-beaten-path and get away from the big cities and the touristy sites.
  • get nervous and anxious before their trip. I'll tell you exactly how to get from point A to point B, so you won't feel so anxious.
  • do lots of research before they go. There are lots of suggestions for books to read.

Why did you name your website, the Bamboo Traveler?

If you’re like me and you’re around my age (somewhere north of 45), you’ve probably experienced a lot of sh$t in your life like divorce, job loss, career stagnation, career burnout, aging parents, death and so on. You’ve probably got lots of life and job experience, but nowadays that experience isn’t valued as much, especially if you’re a woman.

However, in order to survive and not let all the things that have happened to us beat us down, we need to adopt an attitude like that of the bamboo: strong, resilient, flexible, and open-minded.

◊ Like bamboo, we might not look tough. In fact, I’m pretty short (5’3’’), not very fit, always the last picked for team sports, and definitely someone who would come out on the losing end in a bar fight.

◊ However, looks can be deceiving. and in fact, bamboo is as strong as wood, concrete, and steel. So like bamboo, we really have no choice and we need to be strong on the inside. All women need some kind of inner strength to survive and thrive in this world.

◊ Bamboo is incredibly resilient. No matter how much pressure is put on it (if you’ve been to Hong Kong and China, you might’ve seen the scaffolding made of bamboo that is used on skyscrapers), it’s going to bounce back. Like Bamboo, we, too, strive to bounce back from failures.

◊ Like bamboo, we’re able to bend in the wind. We don’t fight change. We go with the flow. We adapt to the culture around us whether it’s China, Zimbabwe, Guatemala, or Prague. We can travel the world, accepting the differences and diversity, and willing to be with what is.

◊ Finally, bamboo is open inside. Like bamboo, we need to also have an open mind when we travel the world. We need to travel with an open mind and a willingness to travel to be with what is.

Disclaimer

The Bamboo Traveler is a blog and the information in this blog is my own personal opinion and not the opinion of anyone other organization or person mentioned in this blog. The information in this blog should be used for informational or entertainment purposes and should not be a substitute for professional advice.

 The information is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge. This site cannot guarantee that all information has changed. Thus, there may be omissions, errors, or mistakes. This includes, but is not limited to, information about prices, exchange rates, dates, accommodations, transportation, restaurants, and tourist attractions.  

 All prices and exchange rates are those from the dates of my travels or the dates the post was written or published. These prices and exchange rates may be just the approximate amount and may have been rounded up or down for convenience purposes. I cannot guarantee that these prices and exchange rates will be the same on the dates you travel. You should not rely on them for complete accuracy and should instead research them using more professional and up-to-date resources.

 Under no circumstances shall the Bamboo Traveler or its writers have any liability to you for any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of information provided on this site. Nor shall the Bamboo Traveler be liable for the success or failure of your travels and travel preparation. Using any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

Travel Highlights

First They Killed My Father – Book Review

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers By Luong Ung, 2000 My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars “I think how the world is still somehow beautiful even when I feel no joy at being alive within it.” Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. ...

Cambodia Itinerary: An Ideal Guide for Temple & Island Hoppers

A Cambodia itinerary for those looking to explore the history and culture and Cambodia and the islands and sleepy riverside towns of the South.

A Ranking of the Best Books by Murakami

I have to admit that the first Murakami novel I read, I hated. It was Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. But let me explain something: before I had read it, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew nothing about the kind of magical realism Murakami uses, so while I...

20 Great Books on Sri Lanka

Whether you’re looking for books on Sri Lanka for future travel or to escape from this pandemic, here is a list of the 20 books (yes 20!) that I have read on this fascinating and complex country. You’ll find a list of fiction and non-fiction books. Nearly all the...

Phnom Penh Itinerary: The Perfect Itinerary for History Lovers

Phnom Penh might not have gorgeous white-sandy beaches, breathtaking rice terraces, or charming colonial architecture like a lot of popular Southeast Asian destinations. But what it does have is something much better. It has history--a history that EVERYONE should...

An Angkor Wat Itinerary That Will Delight History Lovers

When I was preparing for my trip to Cambodia, I had a hard time planning my Angkor Wat itinerary. Most itineraries I found online were geared toward the traveler who was just looking to tick off a box on their “been-there-done-that” bucket list. I, however, wanted a...

Recent Travels

Read about my most recent travels. Leave a comment and share your travel experiences or ask a question. I’ll be happy to answer as soon as I can.

First They Killed My Father – Book Review

First They Killed My Father – Book Review

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers By Luong Ung, 2000 My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars “I think how the world is still somehow beautiful even when I feel no joy at being alive within it.” Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. ...

A Ranking of the Best Books by Murakami

A Ranking of the Best Books by Murakami

I have to admit that the first Murakami novel I read, I hated. It was Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. But let me explain something: before I had read it, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew nothing about the kind of magical realism Murakami uses, so while I...

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