lifestyle

Five Tips for Travelling Light

I have found in all my travels that I have never regretted packing light. There is a certain joy in knowing you have everything you need—or perhaps less than you think you need—on arrival at your destination ready for adventure and wonder.

So here are my five tips for traveling light—for short trips, long trips, backpacking trips or trips with a furry friend.

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1. Do your research
Head to the library and get a travel guide, learn the customs, get your shots, reach out to make a local friend, plan for all sorts of weather and plan for surprise.

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2. Simplify your outfits
I stand by the belief that a monochrome wardrobe is the way to go. Throw in a few pairs of jeans and choose pieces with textiles that breathe and dry well. Figure out the balance between casual and professional. A few things I never travel without: basic white shirts, running shoes, comfy yet professional pants (even better with pockets) and—if necessary—a dress for special occasions.

3. Skip the essentials
There is a tendency to pack everything you can imagine for unexpected situations on the road. I have found that extra battery packs, Q tips, toiletries or vitamins tend to weigh me down on the trip and return home unused.

Surprisingly, in most countries (especially Asia)—you are always able to find daily necessities, toiletries, and medication that meet your needs. India has pharmacies with selections that are second to none and able to treat any kind of ailment, though I advise bringing a local friend to help you with labels that get lost in translation. Save on your travel budget, luggage space and purchase what you can on location.

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4. Pack within a pack
I have found that separating the contents of my suitcase into individual packs helps with space and organization. There’s lots of great garment cases or packing cubes out there that you can use to organize all your worldly treasures.

5. Leave space for wonder
It is a wonderful feeling knowing you have space in your luggage for gifts and souvenirs—be it the Mexican dog sculpture you find at a market in Bali, an antique sculpture in Bangladesh or simply space to store your experiences and all the wisdom of the world.

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Go somewhere, be a tourist in your own city, take off to come home again and don’t forget to travel light.

Photos of me by Alisha Weng
Written by Sophia Hsin for Lojel Travel
Subedited by Megan Jenkins
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Say Hello to A Hog Named Bob

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Hello!

A little update from Taiwan. Today was a very special day. I traveled out of Taipei into Keelung and came home with a new friend — Bob the Hedgehog!

I realized there will never a time when I feel ready enough for many things. Things like new cities, new beginnings or new pets. But the beauty of life is to make up your mind and move forward with complete courage while expecting the very best.

Taipei will be the eighth city I call home in my many years of life. I have never known where I am heading next and I figured that’s the way it will always be. Moving around so much also made me realize the importance of being present, of making home wherever I am, and to accept every challenge that comes up with a fully committed heart. Sometimes those decisions involve hedgehogs.

So now, I am excited to call this city home and look forward to what I can create here. I know there will always be limits that come with each place like geographic location, industry, and culture. But right now, I look forward to growing lots in this season — in boldness, in creativity, in kindness, and to believe that there is nowhere in the universe to be now but here.

With that being said, here are photos documenting this special day with Bob.

keelung_harbour_taiwan_基隆港_sophia_hsin-5A rainy day at Keelung Harbour. This was the city where I lived and attended music school. The concrete building on the right was where I held my elementary graduation concert.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-4.jpg
Meeting Bob — the lightest colored hog among his siblings. Basically love at first sight.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-2.jpgTiny Bob. Born December 12, 2017. Two days after Amelia left for heaven and a week away from my birthday. His hedgehog coloring is classified as “milk tea” or “white chocolate”. Both delicious.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-3.jpgTo new amigos!

Postcards from Taipei + A Playlist for Asia

taipei_danshui_fishermans_wharf_sophia_hsin-5.jpgSunset at Fisherman’s Wharf in Tamshui, Taipei

It is so weird being back in Canada after a month in Asia.

While I feel that my soul will forever be stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between North America and Asia, I am glad for photos and stories to linger over these trips and memories.

When I think of Taipei, I think of the scorching tropics, the smell of pineapples, scooter exhaust and a city vibrant with the best selection of night markets, alleyways and temples that take you back in time.

Here you will find the perfect mix of western influence and Chinese tradition with traces of Japan. But the best thing about Taipei is always the hospitality of people who are ready to make a tourist feel like local.

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Huashan 1914 Creative Park: One of my favourite places with ongoing exhibitions of Asian designers and creatives, music festivals and coffee shops to sit in and watch Taipei go by.

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Taipei Main Station. Taken in 2014

So if you ever find yourself in Taipei, be prepared to let go of your western politeness, go all out with the best food, island scooter adventures and a warm experience of Asia you will not too soon forget.

A playlist for your trip: 

1. Crowd Lu – 100 Ways of Living (盧廣仲 – 100種生活)
If you are on the hunt for Taiwanese musicians this guy is such a good place to start. I love his humble lyrics like buying breakfast with homies (soy milk and salty donuts all day every day), wise words from his grandmother to the pursuit of his musical journey. He also works often with my favourite photographer Hideaki Hamada.

2. Nujabes – Aruarian Dance
Trust me. So. good.

3. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence
I found out about Mr. Sakamoto during my college years and my ears have been in love since. A pianist and slightly moodier composer (much like Studio Ghibli for adults), you will find yourself moved with his soft and deep pieces like Energy Flow and Rain.

4. Deserts Chang – Bao Bei (張懸 – 寶貝)
This lady is an inspo with her soft vocals, rich cadenzas and creating music for deeply sentimental people.

5. Shanghai Restoration Project – Jade Buddha Temple w/ Di Johnston
I found out about Dave Liang during my years living in China. It has been a treat following this Asian American producer turn Chinese folk songs into modern tunes. Shanghai Restoration Project brings me back to Shanghainese streets, steamed dumplings and music theatres with women clad in silk gowns and jade bracelets.

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Taipei has a pace that is surprisingly laid back for a popular Asian city. I love watching the locals stop for photos of flowers, trees, boats and anything that catches their fancy.
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Exploring old alley ways around Gongguan. Many of these apartments used to be air raid hidings from the Taiwan/Japan War in the 1900s.
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Monster shaved ice at Roji, Taipei – Are they not cute? I died a sweet death

If there was a time I grew up not knowing whether I was Taiwanese or Canadian, I am grateful for this city where I learn about my heritage every time I visit. Taipei will forever be my home away from home and hold a special place in my heart.

I leave you with a favourite quote from Ansel Adams:

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

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Till next time.

Three tips on Photography and Styling

This post has been updated on my website here.

scanteak_canada_gastown-17.jpgI get many questions on photography and styling so I thought I will share some tips here along with photos from a recent shoot for Scanteak.

There is no greater joy than the moments on set where you get to be behind the camera, working with your hands and finishing a project with a feeling of great contentment.

Here they are: scanteak_purebread_gastown-5.jpg

1. Keep it simple, work on composition and utilize white space

 

I am guilty of over-preparing for every set even now but I am always surprised how a good space, ample planning and fresh beautiful props go a very long way. As Phil Hansen says ” “We need to first be limited in order to become limitless.” You don’t need a lot to create magic but it does take some practice and honing to create a refined look. Remember that imperfection is beautiful too.

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2. Choose your light carefully

 

Lighting, lighting, lighting! Photography is all about lighting. You can shoot the most wonderful set in bad light and it will be 😦

I love working with natural light, by a large window and preferably during a time when there is no direct sunlight hitting the subject. If I am shooting indoors I always ask  to turn off  certain lights as multiple light sources can distract and change the tone of your photos.

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A few my favourite creatives: @verdenius, @cafe_no_ma, MUJI and Azuma Makoto

3. Put together a mood/vision board

 

If you are an indecisive person like me (I can never decide on pho or sushi, too hard!), a good trick is sketch your concepts, put together a mood or vision board, print it and take it to the shoot. It’s very helpful having a visual guide on set and you also save time communicating to people(example: bring me a chair that looks like this!).

Other than that, planning, creating a shot list, getting inspiration and getting hands on practice is always a good thing. And of course, rules are meant to be broken so take these tips with a grain of salt and trust your gut. As the wonderful Rumi says:

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.

scanteak_canada-6.jpgLeave any questions here and I’ll get back to you!

Photography, art direction and styling by me