Vietnam with Courtney

Hi friends! Courtney here from over at Alkeks Abroad. Today I am going to talk about one my favorite countries- Vietnam.

We spent nine days making our way from north to south of the country last month and absolutely fell in love. So I am here to tell you why you should add Vietnam to your bucket list.

The People: We had to opportunity to meet various Vietnamese people throughout our travels, and we fell in love with each and every one of them. They were kind, generous and genuinely interested in talking and sharing their lives with us.

Diversity: Whether you are looking for beautiful beaches, bustling cities or tiny villages- you can find it in Vietnam. We braved the crazy streets of Saigon and Hanoi, scuba dived and snorkled off Cham Island by Hoi An, cruised through Halong Bay and rowed down the Mekong Delta with a local villager and yet we barely scratched the surface. Our plans for our next trip? Check out the rice terraces in Sapa and the highlands and lakes of Da Lat.

The Food: That’s probably self explanatory but seriously the food in Vietnam is delicious. With street vendors on every corner offering everything from Pho to Banh Mis, you can’t go wrong. Each region has their own specialities that you must try out.


The Coffee: Tied with food is the coffee. Vietnam is the second largest exporter of coffee and they know what they are doing. Coffee comes with a silver strainer contraption on top and condensed milk at the bottom. Let it drip, mix it up and drink it over ice. It’s perfection. Sipping on a glass while perched on a tiny stool people watching is the perfect way to start the day.


Authenticity: Vietnam has only become a large tourist destination is the past decade or so. Compared to other places we have visited (ahem Thailand) it did not feel overly touristy at all. Walking around busy Hanoi, we could go for a while before spotting one or maybe two fellow tourists. Locals still stared at us and even took secret pictures. We felt like we were still seeing their authentic culture instead of what they were selling or putting on a show just for the tourists.


The Culture and History: Vietnam has a unique and beautiful culture that is inspired architecturally by the former French rule and religiously by the Chinese. Whether you are visiting pagodas during prayers or browsing at the many outdoor markets, you will get to experience it for yourself.


Even with its tumultuous history the people of the country are smiling and friendly. I feel like Americans often shy away from visiting Vietnam because of a war that happened forty years ago. I hope that it does not deter anyone from seeing this wonderful country. Even visiting the somewhat confronting (and anti-American) War Remnants museum we never felt any hostility towards us from the locals.


Hopefully if you hadn’t considered visiting Vietnam I have changed your mind today. If you have been, what was your favorite part of the country?

Keep up with our journey through Vietnam right here– I have only just began to recap our perfect week and a half. Happy Travel Tuesday!

Thanks 😀

Travel and Packing

We are back! Took a little unexpected hiatus on the blog and Travel Tuesday is back to running as normal. Big thanks to my co-hosts Courtney and Lauren for keeping the link up running on their blogs while my computer was out of commission. Today we are talking all about Travel and Packing. We have tips, tricks, guidelines, and lists of things you cannot leave home without. So without any more from me let me give Courtney the post to talk about Travel and Packing:

Courtney was just packing her bags to head off on a trip this week. I asked her what packing tricks she uses and she was happy to share with all of you how she gets ready for the road.

Courtney’s Packing Tips:

-Pack by outfit. I used to just throw in x amount of shirts, x amount of bottoms and call it a day. Then when I got to my destination I couldn’t put together a cute outfit for the life of me. Now I take picking out outfits for each day/occasion, looking to pinterest for inspiration, trying them all on and then packing everything I need for that outfit together including accessories. For longer trips I do the same only I make sure to use neutral pieces that can be worn lots of different ways. This has been my go to method for the most efficient packing.

-Subscription boxes are your friend. My mom gave me a birch box subscription for Christmas a couple years ago. I am not a big product person so I wasn’t really sure if I was going to enjoy the gift. Since we do quite a bit of traveling around Australia with carry ons only, these samples have become my best friends. I love having small, quality products to use when I am traveling instead of trying to pour my big bottles into travel containers the night before. Plus I have found some of my new favorite products from using the samples on vacation whereas before they would go sitting on a shelf unused for months.

-Keep a travel toiletry kit ready to go. One way to save time and headaches is having a separate travel toiletry kit ready to go. This includes all my previously mentioned travel sized products, plus a spare toothbrush and toothpaste, hair ties, bobby pins etc. Make sure it stays well stocked and then you don’t have to worry about running around gathering everything before a last minute trip (or just a last minute packing job).

-If you are traveling out of the country, bring an unlocked phone. If you are out of a contract the provider has to unlock it for free, if not then try and find one online or get yours unlocked under the table (but don’t tell anyone I told you that). Sim cards are typically super cheap and it makes getting around (hello google maps) and calling hotels or tour companies so much easier.

Thank you so much Courtney for your packing tricks. Even as experienced at travelling that I am and having moved so many times with my nomadic upbringing, I am always eager to hear new and other ways to help me pack. I am still the person who will wait till the night before to do the majority of my packing and go to bed pretty late to make sure that everything is perfect. Not always the most enjoyable way to go about it if you have an early morning flight. Especially if you are not certain on what to pack when looking at locations, weather, and your activity itinerary. Luckily Lauren from Lauren on Location has shared guidelines she uses for when she is prepping for her travels.

Hi guys! I’m Lauren! Even though I have a lot of experience traveling, I still consider myself a notorious “over packer.’

For me, packing is one of the most annoying and difficult parts of planning a trip. I constantly find myself playing the “what if” game, imagining every possible hypothetical situation I could be in for. Throughout my travels I’ve learned [the hard way] that you can’t plan for everything.

So now when packing, I try to follow guidelines such as these:

1. Plan your outfits ahead
a. Planning your outfits ahead of time may seem time-consuming, but I find this really is the best way to minimize your load. Taking a few extra minutes to plan out your outfits eliminates bringing things you won’t wear and will even save you time putting things together during your trip.

2. Pick a color scheme
a. I usually go with a basic brown or black theme and take it from there. If I really want to pack my brown boots, I make sure all of the outfits I’m bringing work with them.

3. Roll your clothing
a. I’ve tried many, many techniques to fitting the most clothing in my bag and rolling my clothes takes the cake every time! I don’t know what it is, but rolling up your clothes just seems to shrink them right before your eyes.

For more tips like these check out one of my past posts: Practical Packing for a Weekend



Keep a look out for my “Over Packers packing guide” coming soon!


Thank you Lauren! With all these great tips and guides on how to pack for your next trip I think we are all on the road, no pun intended, to pack just what we need and leave home with just the essentials. However what your favourite must have items in your travel bag? Lauren gave me her list. Think of what your top five items that are always in your bag and see how it compares.

The things Lauren can never travel without:

1. iPhone 6
a. Isn’t that an obvious though?
2. Hand sanitizer
3. Pack of Tissues
a. You never know when you’re going to need a tissue, napkin or even toilet paper!
4. Scarf
a. Even in the summer I like to bring a scarf along on my travels. You could find yourself on an ice-cold plane, want something to learn your head against, or even need to cover your shoulders in the sun.
5. Ear Plugs & Ear Buds
a. Unfortunately, I am an extremely sound sensitive person. Babies crying on the plane. The guy in the hostel bunk next you snoring his head off. I just can’t deal.

Close enough to your list? Let me share the five items I most always have in my travel bag:

1. Camera. Sometimes its my Nikon DSLR which means it has at least one lens with it and possibly my travel friendly LED light for dark lit situations and a mono pod. Sometimes I just go with my phone depending on the trip. Photos are one of my top priorities when it comes to traveling and so my packing always reflects and leaves room for that.
2. Spare bags. Some are plastic shopping bags from the stores and then a reusable linen bag. These are perfect when you either need to store dirty clothes, bag certain items, or need something smaller and quick to transport your items in. Sometimes you just need a rubbish bag to clear out the receipts and junk you start accumulating and – your travel bags.
3. Ziplock Bags. Resealable bags are a must. Why? I pack with them for one thing. Not only will I roll up items like underwear and socks, but I will put them in a ziplock bag and press out all the air. They act like mini spacebags, are affordable, reusable, and make organization a cinch! Not only can you organize your suitcase by items of clothing you could use larger ones to put in a whole outfit and label it so that you are not rummaging through your whole suitcase just to find something. Alternatively you can use them to get from place A to place B, unpack everything and then just pack up like it again using the ziplock bags again before you travel home. Extra bags are great for toting your toiletries, housing items that could leak or cause spillage, and even for misc. items you may be saving for your scrapbook on your return home.
4. Journal. Something I can write, draw, or even paint in when I travel. Being able to just be creative in another part of the world is inspirational and being able to document your travels seals the deal of making this item a necessity for the travel bag.
5. Baby Wipes. To be fair I have these in my normal bag even now that my kids are primary school age. However they are great, travel well, and have multiple uses.

Comment below with your favourite things to pack with or travel tricks. As always remember to link up!


Road Tripping in Australia

Hi friends! I’m Courtney and I blog over at Alkeks Abroad. My husband and I moved from Houston, Texas to Brisbane, Australia a little over a year ago and I write all about our life and travels in the land down under.

Since we are here for my husband’s job we really don’t know for sure how much time we will have in Australia, so we are trying to do and see as much as we can of this amazing country while we are here. One good way to see a new part of the country is to rent a car (or drive your own) and get out on the open road.

We have taken two weekend road trips in other states since we have been here, and this weekend we are taking off to Tasmania to make that three! So for the sake of reminiscing and to get me even more pumped for the weekend, here are my favorites from our last two trips.

Trip 1: The Great Ocean Road

We have had this on our imaginary Australia bucket list since we moved here, and in March we finally got to tick it off. For those of you that don’t know The Great Ocean Road is a 151 miles drive down the coast of Victoria. It starts an hour and half outside of Melbourne and ends in a small town of Warambool.

We left early from Melbourne on a Saturday morning and returned straight back to the airport the following afternoon after spending the night in a quaint little cottage (pictured below). You can really make the trip as long or as short as you want it. Some people do it all in one day and others take weeks spending time in each destination. Here are some of our highlights:







National parks, gorgeous rolling hills and a stunning coastline? This drive has something for everyone. To read more about the Great Ocean Drive, check out my guide here.

Trip #2: South Australia Wine Country

We love a good glass of wine around our house (or apartment actually) so the wine regions in the state of South Australia had been on our radar for quite some time. My husband works in Adelaide pretty frequently so we decided to have me meet him there at the end of the week and head out to see some vineyards.

There are 18 different wine regions in South Australia and over 200 cellar doors, so we had our work cut out for us. We headed out from Adelaide and first spent time driving through the McLaren Vale Region, which was absolutely picturesque in the crisp fall weather.




Next up was the famous Barossa Valley– where we spent two nights. It was the middle of the Barossa Valley Vintage Festival which is a big community celebration throughout the entire region. We had fun seeing all the locals out in full force celebrating their town and livelihood.



Last was the Adelaide Hills region, which along with vineyards there were apple orchards lining the roads as well. We stopped in the cutest little German town for lunch before heading home (nine bottles of wine heavier).




I can’t wait to see the scenery that Tasmania has to offer this weekend. We will be creeping up the East coast of the island and checking out the tulip festival before heading back to Hobart. Feel free to follow along via Instagram or Snapchat (@courtneyalkek for both). Happy Travel Tuesday!

Super Blood Moon Eclipse


This was the Super Blood Moon during its orange blood moon stage as viewed from Batheaston, England near Solsbury Hill.  I took this with a Nikon DSLR with a 300m lens.  These images are straight out of my camera with out any editing whatsoever.


This was before the Moon turned into its Blood Moon phase.


This was after the Blood Moon during the eclipse, to which I finally fell asleep to get two hours of sleep in before getting up for work.  It was so beautiful. We could see it from our bed so I fell asleep cuddled up on my husband’s chest watching the moon as I drifted off to sleep.


Q: Did you get to see it from your part of the world? How did it look? Get any photos?

Where Will You Go?



Where will you go?

This year I have not had the opportunity to go outside of England, though my husband and kids did travel back across the pond to the US this summer.  It has been a busy year with much going on.  However I am now in a job that I love and things seem to be going in the right direction.  I am already looking at where we will go in 2016 and the different options are exciting.  I still want to take my family back to ‘old stomping grounds’ so that they can experience it for the first time.  Austria, Italy, Germany, Sweden, and Norway are a few on that list.  However I just realised that next year is the big anniversary for the artwork by Bosch and would love to go to the huge 2016 Exhibition in the Netherlands to see so much of his artwork in one place.

So where will you go?



Meet Your New #TravelTuesday Cohosts

Everyone is back to school and we are back in the game with #traveltuesday I have two new cohosts to introduce to you today. Make sure to head over and say hi after you have linked up with your Travel or Expat post in the link up below. Remember it can be an old or new post, but just make sure it is related to the subject matter. :)

unnamed Lauren was nominated in the last round but was unable to at the time to get involved.  She was renominated this month and we are so excited to have her on board. She is now on vacation visiting beautiful national parks, so she will be sharing posts here at the second half of this cycle. Lauren blog from Lauren on Location (


Courtney is our other cohost from Alkeks Abroad ( you to both girls and have fun linking up!

Travel Tuesday | You Have Been Chosen

Christine Keane 3
Sara and Christine would like to nominate:
Lauren from Lauren on Location (
Courtney from Alkeks Abroad (
Congrats ladies and let us take another look at our past Travel Tuesday hosts and how you can keep in touch with them from their blogs and across the social media network.
Christine Keane 2
Christine: For this coming year, I will be traveling to the east coast of America, Mexico, and Belize (as of right now) and will be sharing my travel stories from these places. I will also continue sharing my Houston adventures as well as fun Texas day/weekend trips. As long as I have at least 1 trip to look forward to at any given time, I’m a happy girl!
Christine Keane
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous
Snapchat: akeanesense


Sara:  My blog, SARA SEES, is my little online diary documenting my favorite things — traveling and music! I love to share stories, photos, and tips to encourage people to get out of their comfort  zone and TRAVEL! I want people to know that it is possible totravel as a college student/young adult on a budget!
I’m currently loving life as an expat in Dublin, Ireland so I’m sharing a lot more posts specifically about Ireland and expat life now, but still sharing stories on previous travels around Europe!
“Move. As far as you can. As much as you can. Across the ocean or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes, or at least eat their food. Open your mind. Get off the couch. Move.” – Anthony Bourdain