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Tessa Juliette

Asia Guides Insider Tips

15 Photos That Will Convince You to Travel to South Korea

Let me be very clear – South Korea was not on my travel radar at all. I only went because I got an email notification from Scott Keyes that I could get a round trip ticket there for less than $500. I booked my flight and less than 2 weeks later I was on a plane headed to Asia.

Once I arrived I realized what an amazing decision I had made.

The Palaces are amazing and there are 5 in Seoul alone to see.

Processed with Snapseed.

Behind the main Palace is the gorgeous Pavillion which is the epitome of relaxation.


There is also a secret garden in Seoul


The Palaces aren’t just made to be seen during the day but also light up brilliantly at night.

seoul-at-nightSpeaking of nighttime in Seoul the city lights up brighter than vegas.

Busan, Koreas biggest port city, is also pretty impressive at night.

In the middle of Seoul you can climb a mountain.

While on the mountain you can take the elevator up to the top of Seoul Tower for an awesome observation deck that has stunning views of the city.

If you’re into more of the outdoor hiking thing take a trip to Jeju and gasp at the most amazing waterfalls….


…and volcanos.

If indoors is more your thing head to the Hanok Villages and take in the beautiful old architecture.

Korea also has some futuristic buildings as well. This one is the Dongdeamun Design Plaza.

The interior is also pretty impressive.


So yeah – go to Korea – I think you’ll have a great time.


















Advice Asia Insider Tips Journal

Pink Stones at The Taj Mahal

I went to India with zero expectations. Some of you more experienced travelers are probably looking at this post wide-eyed wondering how I managed to not know India is one of the greatest travel destinations out there. I know about the Taj Mahal but not much more. I fully admit to being a fool. Try not to judge me too hard.

Of course, so many travelers will tell you that India is so much more than the Taj Mahal. And it is! Lodhi Garden in New Delhi. The Red Fort in Jaipur. Dinner in real palaces. There were so many times in India that I had a “pinch me I can’t believe this is real” moment. But the Taj Mahal was the crown jewel of my visit.

We arrived in Agra around noon and met up with our Taj Mahal guide at the steps of the East Gate. The huge complex was packed. So many people everywhere. I have seen my fair share of tourist destinations but this one was the most crowded I had ever been to. By far.

Our guide walked us around the complex, telling us fascinating stories about the construction of the Taj. He explained why it is a symbol of love and gave us fun facts like the 53 water fountains symbolize the year it was completed, 1653. He helped us understand the optical trick the builders used, as you move closer to the gate, the Taj Mahal keeps getting smaller. And of course, he took many pictures of us around the amazing complex.

Instead of watching the sunset in the complex (along with a million other tourists) our guide took us to the moon garden, which is directly behind the Taj across the river. We watched the sun go down while standing on the foundation of the mythical black Taj Mahal that was never built. That in itself was magical and would have been worth the trip to Agra.

standing behind the Taj Mahal in the moon garden. The best place to watch the sunset in peace away from the crowds.

But we had one more goal for the Taj Mahal. I had read online that in the morning the sun rises and turns the stones of the Taj Mahal pink. I had to see it for myself.

We woke up at 5 am the next morning and I dressed in a saree I had bought earlier in the trip. We headed to the East Gate and joined the small line that had already formed before the first rays of sunlight had even made an appearance over the horizon. The line was tiny, especially compared to the massive crowds the day before, but still bigger than I had assumed. Everyone in line chatted sleepily to their neighbors. You could immediately tell how excited we all were for this experience.

All of us bonded quickly over waking up so early. I met a group of 50-something Australians who had just spent 10 days hiking a remote mountain in India. I met an American who had been traveling for 5 months social media free. We all met a cow. He joined the line for a good 5 minutes and thoroughly enjoyed us all scratching his ears and back.

Finally right before sunrise started the doors opened and we all quietly filed inside. We collectively gasped as we rounded the corner. The Taj was awe-inspiring. The light was still low but you could see the tiles turning slightly pink as the sun finally showed its beautiful face.

The mood in the air was so serene. There is something surreal about immediately bonding with so many different travelers. We all came from around the world with one common goal: See the Taj at Sunrise. After we all took turns happily taking pictures of one another in the empty garden the small group that woke up ungodly early dispersed among the huge complex. A sad strange feeling settled in my stomach knowing I would probably never see those strangers again.

Sunrise at the Taj Mahal is an amazing experience. Do not miss waking up early to see the Taj as the sun turns the stones pink.

Matt and I found a bench and watched the sun rise slowly over the Taj. I don’t know if it was my imagination or if time was just being kind but it was the longest sunrise I have ever witnessed. We mostly sat in silence both completely lost in thought, both of us not truly believing the perfect travel experience we were witnessing.

Our silence was broken when a group of 5 or so Indian women with literally 20 small children approached me to ask for a picture. I happily smiled for a photo with them and they asked me in thick accents where I was from and complimented me on my saree. One of the women, the oldest in the group, explained to me the joy she feels when she sees foreigners traveling and embracing her culture to the fullest. She told me she hoped I wore the saree once I returned home. I promised her I would.

Head here to read more about my tips for planning a trip to India.

Advice Budget Journal Solo Travel

Solo Travel: Because There’s No Time to Waste Waiting For Others to Join

Growing up I was never alone. I went to a tightly knit conservatory high school for dance, surrounded by 30 girls (and a few guys) following their passion and forming a predictably tight bond. That atmosphere continued every day after school and on weekends when I went to a studio and danced with more people who became close friends. I continued on to college and before I knew it I had joined a sorority and lived in a three-story house with 80 girls. After college I immediately moved in with my then-boyfriend (now fiancé). Life has been far from perfect, but there were never dull moments; friends and experiences constantly surrounded me. Looking back I am astonished by the fact I’ve never been truly alone.

When I started to tell people that I wanted to travel solo and experience some things by myself I, rightfully so, got a couple of strange looks and lots of questions. As someone who hated going to lunch or a movie alone, how would I possibly manage a different country alone? But the bigger question, one that even I kept asking myself, was why would I want to do this alone?

The simple answer is that I wanted to travel and see more of the world more than I wanted anything else, and I was tired of waiting for people to travel with me. I realized that if I didn’t go off on my own I would never go. That scared me much more than the thought of traveling alone.

So I did it. I quit my job, bought a plane ticket and told myself a million times you can do this. There have been good days and bad days. It hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine as I sometimes display on social media. Every now and then I longed so badly for my fiancé or an old friend to be standing next to me in an unknown city that it physically hurt. But then suddenly I’ll have a day where I make friends over a couple of beers with 3 people from 3 different countries that I realize why I’m doing this, and it’s completely worth it.
Before I left I had read a million blog posts on solo travel trying to prepare for this extremely scary experience I was willingly putting myself through. They all said the same thing, “solo traveling is the most unalone you will ever feel”. I believed them, and hoped that is the type of experience I would have, but I was weary. I am quieter and shyer than I appear and I constantly fear being judged, but through travel and new experiences I am slowly letting go of that. I am forcing myself to talk to people at hostels and strike up conversations at coffee houses and it has so far been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

The Taj Mahal in all its glory.

I am by no means an expert on solo travel, but I feel like I am getting better at it one day at a time. My biggest takeaway that I wanted to share for traveling alone, or traveling in general, is to put down the phone. The first week I was in Barcelona I found myself choosing coffee houses and museums based on if they had wifi. My first task when I sat down anywhere was always get the wifi password. I would connect and immediately catch up on my group texts and chat with my fiancé or parents.

Then one day it dawned on me: why did I even buy a plane ticket? To come out here and sit on my phone in a different location? No, I wanted to meet people from different cultures and find people like me who love to travel and experience new things. So now instead of searching for cafés or hostels that have wifi I search for a cafés or hostels that look to have interesting people. I strategically sit next to people who aren’t on their phones and strike up conversations any way I can.

It can be awkward sometimes, sure, but with this strategy I have recently chatted with a 20 year old Lithuanian guy hitchhiking across Europe, a 50 year old married couple from Australia who told me all about their backpacking experience when they were 30, and a girl from Madrid who dreamed about moving to London for a guy she is sort of seeing.

I am starting to realize that this is what travel is all about. Yes, of course experiencing a buzzing city, feeling history, or taking in wonderfully preserved nature are the reasons we travel, but it is the people that I have connected with so far that I will remember the most when I look back on my time travelling alone in the years to come.

standing behind the Taj Mahal in the moon garden. The best place to watch the sunset in peace away from the crowds.