Saturday, August 29, 2015

Book Review: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

Title: Modern Romance
Authors: Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
Pages: 277
Published on June 16th, 2015 by Penguin Press
Links: Official Website, Goodreads, Indigo! Chapters, Amazon CA
Summary: Comedian Aziz Ansari takes a complete look on how romance became modern in the world of technology and a new generation. He analyzes the habits of young daters in the hook up world, the apps and websites connecting all of us, and the trends of dating using a smartphone (or any technology/app). There is no longer a "traditional" romance in this era; it's a modern romance.
Review - We all know who Aziz Ansari is, right? He's one of my favourite comedians right now and to find that he released a book this summer, I had to jump on it and grab a copy myself... and it's by far one my favourite reads this year. Modern Romance is the first novel (to my knowledge and excluding academic papers) to focus on the new relationship between the dating world and smartphones.

How many of you guys tried online dating via a website or an app? How many times have you stared at your phone hoping your crush would call you by now? Text you? How many of us have sent nudies? Nearly all of these trends began only recently (aside from calling) with the increase of technology usage.

Ansari describes these new trends on dating, "modern romance". Gone are the days we marry our next door neighbours by the age of 19. Gone are the days of "kind men" and date nights. Gone are the days of "traditional" romance.

Mixing his comedic skills, this light read proves all to real in the dating world. Now, note that although Ansari is a comedian, he did put a lot of resources and dedication into conducting his studies for this book, and co-written it with psychologist Eric Klinenberg. So, don't brush this off as another silly comedy book - it does have some psychology to it.

Through his studies, the two authors shares real life experiences of the dating scene with technologies. He touches base on apps such as Tinder and Grindr, and sites as OKCupid. He analyzes why we take ages to reply to messages, or how some guys come off as rude. Ansari even provides tips on how to text. He explains the transition from traditional to modern romances. He even talks about marriage and arrange marriages.

The novel provides a humongous insight on the dating habits our generation has developed thanks to the usage of our mobile phones. He reflects on dating habits of our generation, eg. putting careers first or waiting until we're in our 30s to get married.

It's funny to realize that what we do individually isn't so insane. It's a habit, or a reflex that smartphone users developed overtime. Dating in this age is different, and some may say it's harder than the previous generation.

Regardless, all of us fall under the "modern romance" generation now. If you're one to use "non-traditional" means of finding love, or more interested in how our generation finds love and approach the dating scene, I definitely recommend picking up Modern Romance. It's insightful and guarantee to make you laugh!

I picked up the audiobook version which was read by Aziz, himself. If you're looking for a different experience, try his audiobook. It's 10x more hilarious than the book since Aziz adds his own commentary and personality.

Rating - 5/5

*Disclaimer: This review was not sponsored by Penguin Press or Aziz Ansari/Eric Klinenberg. It is also not sponsored by any of the corporations the links above leads to. The purchase made for this review came out of my own pocket.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Beginner's Guide to Hostels

We've all heard about hostels and how cheap they are. You've probably seen the movie Hostel and avoid it like a plague. You probably have friends that stayed in a hostel for a few nights.

Regardless, hostels provides travelers an affordable accommodation for one night or for their entire duration of the vacation.

For many, hostels is not a first choice of accommodation for many people, mainly because they're not familiar with hostels or hold untrue beliefs about hostels. When I first considered staying at a hostel, I was a little be apprehensive about sharing rooms with a bunch of strangers, especially washrooms as well. I grew up staying in nice hotels whenever I went on vacations, so "downgrading" to hostels was extremely different. But, the price difference was substantial so I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried a hostel and let me just say, I probably won't be booking any nice hotels for ordinary vacations (honeymoons and all inclusive vacations are a different story!).

Today, I'm sharing you a guide into stepping into the world of hostels and how beneficial they are to traveling!

Prior to staying at hostels, I worked at hostels as well and know the "back end" of these places.

To begin,

Clear your mind of any assumptions you have of hostels. Just because they're cheap, doesn't mean they're bad! Many people choose hostels because they're affordable and safe. Many travelers from the age of 20 to even 50 stay in hostels! Get rid of any negativity stigma you have with hostels because they're most likely false*.

*Everything differs from hostel to hostel, but like any good traveler, check the reviews!

They're not filled with druggies, drunks, party animals and thieves. In fact, people staying in the hostels are probably some of the most culturalized individuals you'll meet. Many travelers have backpacked throughout countries, and some are highly independent individuals. Talking to these travelers will most likely inspire you. Hostel guests are educated, well mannered and fun individuals! They're open minded and extremely friendly.

It's safe and clean. And not at all weird sleeping with other people. Hostels operate like any other hotel. They employ housekeepers as well and clean out the facilities. However, because you're sharing washrooms (sometimes) with others, it's most likely the fella down the hall that made a mess. The hostel staff tries to keep it as clean as possible, but for the price you're paying, they're not the typical around the clock housekeeping staff. Most locations of the hostel are situated in downtown areas, and nearly all hostels are equipped with storage lockers for valuables. However, I've left my phone and electronics in plain view and none of my roommates stole it. And no, contrary to the popular belief, it's not uncomfortable sleeping with other people in the room. It's like having a sleepover with some friends!

They're cheap, so don't expect much. You're not paying $500/night so don't expect everything to be a 5-start hotel. Some places will have you make your own bed (eg. put on the bedding yourself), and some are already made. Some hostels will charge you for towels and some will rent them for free. Some hostels provide guides and city maps, some don't. Each hostel differs but in most cases, hostels are NOT hotels. They won't cater to you like a princess. The staff will be there to check you in and out and answer any questions or concerns, but don't expect them to carry your luggage to your room or hand you a toothbrush at 1am in the morning.

Keep an open and adventurous mind. Unlike hotels, guests at hostels are welcoming and fun! These people are the type of people you can grab a beer with at the local pub down the street. These are the guys that you will add on your Facebook account and the next time you travel to London, they'll hook you up. Hostels are a fun place to meet new people and create friendships. Keep an open mind and don't brush anyone that greets you! I'm not saying you have to be an extremely outgoing person to stay a hostel, but don't be alarm when a group asks you to join them in their night out.

Hostels are fun! Unlike hotels where they have such a formal lobby, hostels are homes to some of the coolest common areas ever! It's the place where guests come downstairs to relax and have fun and meet other guests. Most common areas are sort of like a living room or university student lounges - TVs, board games, couches, books, etc. At one hostel I stayed at, they even have a "theater" with movies playing until 10PM.

Hostels are family-friendly. Believe it or not, hostels are not just reserved for the young 20-something years old for a weekend getaway. Hostels can accommodate to families as well!

Tips and Tricks:

+ Bring flip flops (and maybe a bikini). Flip flops to keep your feet clean throughout the hostel and bikinis if your hostel doesn't offer private showers (aka community showers).

+ Book and read reviews with HostelWorld, the biggest hostel booking website.

+ Remember, choose a location with good location, cleanliness and security rating.

+ Many hostels offer free breakfast. Take that advantage to save some money!

+ Also, many offer discounted tourists stuff. Ask the staff if they have any coupons.

+ Some hostels will charge for necessities such as towels, toothbrush, etc. Pack your own if you want to save a few dollars. Alternatively, some hostels require you to pay a deposit for their towel and then refund the deposit upon check out - ask if they do that.

+ Hostels are not meant for their guests to stay in their rooms for the night. Don't forget to immerse yourself into the "hostel culture"!

+ Hostels offer private rooms with en suites, usually for a few dollars more. If you really need it, opt for a private room instead of sharing.

+ Hostels have great kitchens. Feel free to buddy up with someone to cook a meal and save some money.

+ Hostels are a great place to solo travelers. You can meet so many people traveling alone that wouldn't mind buddying up for adventures! One of my friends, Jenny, traveled to Hawaii alone and 1.5 weeks later, she found herself with a lasting travel buddy. The two of them ended up doing everything together and built a great friendship, all thanks to the hostel they were staying at!

Hostels have an iffy stigma to them, but I honestly recommend everyone to try it at least once in their life. Step out of your comfort zone and throw yourself into the hostel culture! I think you might actually enjoy it!

Sure, hostels are not meant for honeymoons or such, but if you're having a weekend getaway or a short vacation, opt for a hostel. Especially if you're traveling alone! If you think about it - if you're spending most of your vacations exploring the city, and returning to your bed at the evening for a 8 hours of sleep, why pay $500/night? You're already asleep, it's not like you can fully indulge in your hotel room. For me, it makes more sense to pay $30/night for a bed, a fun culture and spend my money elsewhere.

Friday, August 21, 2015

1 Month Update on my 100 Days Shopping Ban Challenge

I'm back from my Alaska trip! Prior to leaving for my vacation, I was doing very well on my Shopping Ban Challenge (with the sliiiiight setback on some Canadian jades).
In my natural habit surrounded by stuffies! #Alaska2015
Vacations are not cheap. My airline tickets to Alaska were cheap but expenses on trips can add up easily. You'll see very few Canadians south of the border nowadays since our dollar is extremely weak and makes no sense for anyone to be splurging in America - in fact, many Americans are flocking over to Canada for vacations and shopping!

I had no other choice since all my flights and accommodation were booked already, waaaaay before the dollar dipped as low as it is now.

So, aside from the meals and a few taxi rides, my shopping ban was skewed dramatically while on my vacation (which, by the way, I did mention I might put a pause to this challenge when I'm in Alaska):

  • I kept all my meals under $15USD. Hooray for free breakfast!
  • Limited my usage on taxis/car rentals so it was public transit for most of the time.
  • I kept souvenir shopping relatively cheap. Because most souvenir tend to get forgotten overtime, I based my selections on prices rather than looks.
  • I chose to stay in a hostel (because I also wanted the experience as well) so that saved A LOT of money for me.
  • I had Starbucks on a near daily basis because obviously Alaska doesn't have Timmy's...
  • I kept my clothes shopping limited - only purchased items I felt I needed to invest in; eg. business casual tops and sweatpants. Even then, they were relatively cheap since they were from Target.
  • I DID NOT BUY ANY BOOKS FROM BARNES AND NOBLES! That is a major bonus for me because I cannot walk out of a bookstore empty handed.
  • Similarly, I did not purchase any make-up/facial cleansers from Target
  • Or, in any case, any random shit from Target. I have the urge to purchase useless things from Target because it's so cheap.
Overall, my vacation was short, but despite purchasing a few things here and there that were listed on the ban, I'm quite happy with my spending habits. Normally whenever I'm in the states, I purchase a lot of goods/clothes but since embarking on this challenge, it made my reflect on a lot of my purchases. I feel like I need to see an investment in what I purchase rather than basing everything off a "I like this t-shirt" feeling.

1 month into this challenge has me reflecting a bit. I think about the future so much it has affected my spending habits. No more buying books I won't read for a while since I rarely got the time and I'm planning to move. No more purchasing random clothes based on style rather than functionality. My closet might be changing as well since I'm leaning towards a neutral, casual, professional look rather than a kiddish-teenager look with cute designs on my tank top. I also invest in a lot of basic stuff that I can wear both at a job and on my days off.

I'm excited with my progress. Kicking my bad spending habits is fun and gives such a nice feeling! Now that I'm back to reality, my challenge resumes and hopefully successfully complete it!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Canadian Jade

Going back against my shopping ban, after lunch today, I caved in and purchase two jade accessories.

Lately, I've been feeling very sentimental about Vancouver and Canada. Maybe because it has to do with the fact that I'm moving to New Zealand in the near future?

Regardless, I'm seeking little Canadian things to remind me of home when I get overseas.
Canadian jade ring. Super simple looking piece :) I was stoked that they had it in my size! I got small fingers :P
 Canadian jade maple leaf - doesn't get any more Canadian than that, eh?
The Canadian jade can be found in the Cassiar Mountain Range in British Columbia, the Rockies, Yukon and Alaska. Both of these accessories were carved from jade found up north.

Jade is also believed to have spiritual powers that brings peace, wisdom and balance.