Thanks for stopping by BECKY EXPLORING! I'm glad you're here!
I’m Becky - a U.S. expat from Washington, DC who moved to Hong Kong in late-2017 when my husband, Jeremy, got a new job. I’m always seeking new adventures. So when this opportunity presented itself, I decided – why not? We packed up our lives and moved 8,000 miles across the world with our two feline babies.
In Hong Kong, I’ve been a housewife and kitty mom, as well as a travel agent and tour guide for family and friends who visit. The best part of the move? Exploring my new home and traveling!
After a year living abroad and traveling, I started this site to share my adventures and inspire others to travel. On the blog, I’ll share tips and lessons I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) from my experiences to help you plan your next adventure.
What Will You Find on the Blog?
Although my adventures are sort of a mixed bag, I've noticed a few trends emerge...
More Random Bits about Me
1) I’m terrible at reading maps. And I have a bad sense of direction. So I get lost a lot. On the plus side, sometimes I discover amazing things that I wasn't even looking for!
2) I adore animals so if a cat, dog, monkey, etc. happens to wander past me, I will no doubt take a photo and be totally distracted from whatever I’m supposed to be looking at.
3) I've lived in 4 different countries (so far)...
That's the short and sweet version about me. If you're interested in learning more about my background, keep on reading! If you want to skip to the travel adventures - head to the blog to check out the latest posts!
Want to Know the Full Story? Keep on Reading...
The early years
My passion for travel and desire to experience life in other places began early on. I grew up in western Lancaster, PA (USA) which is roughly a 2-hour drive north from Washington, DC. Since my family is originally from the Baltimore / Washington, DC area, I spent a lot of time in those cities in my youth, including visiting the free Smithsonian Museums in DC regularly with my grandfather.
For longer family vacations, we traveled out west to national parks and cities across the U.S., such as Yosemite National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Our trips included hiking, exploring tourist attractions, and buying lots of souvenir t-shirts. Even though the U.S. is such a large and diverse place, I was still eager to travel further away.
First Trip Outside the U.S.
In high school, I studied Spanish and French hoping that one day I would get to travel to another country and use these languages. After my sophomore year, I got the opportunity to travel to Spain on a class trip. My first time leaving the U.S., I was 16 years old. This seems crazy to my husband who was born abroad so he's essentially had a passport since birth.
On my first trip abroad, I not only fell in love with Spain (how could you not?!), but I got a small taste of how much more the world has to offer. So, when it came time to decide on a university, I chose one that was known for encouraging students to study abroad.
University Years in DC
At my university in Washington, DC, I met so many people who had the same desire for international travel and study as I did. I also met Jeremy. We were assigned to the same floor in the dorms freshman year. Ironically, we'd gone to high school only ~20 minutes from each other.
Study Abroad in Paris
During junior year, I studied abroad in Paris, France for a semester. Studying (or living) abroad is an experience I think everyone should have. I learned to be self-reliant and resilient, plus gained the confidence to travel to a new city and just “figure it out.” Which I still do today.
Although the skills you get from studying abroad are hard to define, they’re ones that shape you for years to come. Plus, whenever you have a bad day at work, you can always think - “Remember that time you got semi-kidnapped in Rome? If you can handle that, you can handle this!” (True story. Lesson -> always get into the official taxi line!)
A few weeks after graduating from university, Jeremy and I got married! Planning a wedding my senior year of college was probably not the smartest move. With Mom's help though, it all turned out okay! Are we adorable or what?
Starting the 9-5 life in Washington, DC
After university, I worked in Washington, DC at a graduate school for international studies where Jeremy ended up getting his master’s degree. We made amazing friends during those years who we still run into in the most random cities around the world!
First Trip to a Developing Country... INDIA
During this time, I visited my first developing country – India. In retrospect, I probably should have worked my way up to India. But, in true Becky-fashion, I jumped in headfirst. Jeremy had a summer internship in Delhi for 10 weeks during grad school. We decided I should visit for 3 weeks at the end so we could travel together.
I spent a lot of the trip overwhelmed and sweating - it was August! But, I grew a lot during that trip and learned a lot about flexibility in travel situations. Even though there was discomfort, there was also beauty, kind strangers, and delicious food.
Nowhere else I’ve been since has stretched me as much as that first trip to India. Including when we went back to India a few years ago!
Foray into Expat Life – Vientiane, Laos
After a few years in DC, we decided it was time for us to make a change and embark on a new adventure. We applied for positions with a small development organization which operates globally in more than 50 countries. Two positions opened up with the organization in Vientiane, Lao PDR.
Life in Laos
Living in Laos was the experience of a lifetime – the people are kind and generous, the food is spicy and delicious, and the landscapes are gorgeous! When we arrived, we learned enough Lao language to get by. Mostly when bargaining or ordering food – obviously the most important things.
Traveling as Locals
We traveled throughout Laos and other parts of Southeast Asia on small budgets which often resulted in great stories afterwards. Local buses are not for the faint-of-heart!
In Vientiane, we partied with the locals at the bowling alley after midnight and learned how to fawn (Lao dance) at weddings… adequately…. Also, I bought a lot of beautiful sinhs - the traditional Lao skirt.
Since our positions were basically volunteer positions, we could not stay in Laos forever though. After 1.5 years, we said our tearful goodbyes.
Back to the Grind... and Winters!
We returned to Washington, DC in December. Terrible idea. I do NOT recommend moving from a tropical country's winter to a DC winter. In just a year and a half, I'd lost all ability to handle the cold!
On the job front, I found a position working at a nonprofit administering an exchange program for teachers. I loved working on that program and met so many amazing educators. And as they went abroad, I lived vicariously through them!
First Time Visiting Hong Kong
Jeremy and I always talked about moving back abroad, but it seemed like we were settling down - buying a house, a new car, etc. Then, on my way to a work conference in Taiwan, I visited Hong Kong for the first time.
I won’t say it was love at first sight. It was March, which is winter, so it was grey, drizzly, and foggy. There was something about it though. Maybe it was the energetic vibe, or the parks with old women doing the weirdest exercises, or the dumplings…. Who am I kidding, it was probably the dumplings!
Whatever it was, when Jeremy saw a job opening in Hong Kong that he was interested in, I said, “Apply!” After several interviews, he got the job! It was a crazy couple of months preparing to move to Hong Kong. Quitting our jobs, selling our house and our car, and packing most of our life in DC into a 150 sq. ft. storage unit in Pennsylvania.
Read more about our move and how we did it in the post "Moving Abroad Checklist".
Returning to Expat Life – Hong Kong
Our second venture into expat life was very different from our first. We handled most of the details of our move (and our cats’ move) on our own. When we moved to Laos, the organization we worked for had handled them for us.
In Hong Kong, we found our apartment and furnished it. This turned out to be a lot more work than I thought it would be! I spent so many hours in IKEA! Bank accounts, cell phones, utilities, so many things to think about! Our first few months here were busy.
During our initial two years living in Hong Kong, we loved discovering the incredible things to do in Hong Kong, plus took advantage of many travel opportunities. In those years, we visited several new countries for me, including Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and the Philippines. and also re-visited some of our favorites - including Laos and Thailand!
2020-2022 - Living as an Expat During a Global Pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt in 2020, traveling in and out of Hong Kong was limited. Even as the rest of the world returned to some semblance of normal, Hong Kong doubled down on its "zero-COVID" strategy to follow mainland China. Only in late 2022 did Hong Kong finally relax its COVID measures, including getting rid of quarantine.
Traveling to/from Hong Kong & Quarantine
As you can imagine, it was tough to be separated from family during this period of time. Although I was fortunate to take two trips back to the U.S. during these years.
My first pandemic travel to the U.S. was in March 2020 and I almost couldn't find a flight back! Returning to Hong Kong, I had to quarantine for 14 days in my apartment. In retrospect, however, that quarantine seems rather mild.
My second pandemic trip to the U.S. began in July 2021 and, due to Hong Kong's quarantine changes, lasted for 3 months. During this time, I visited family and friends in Florida, Washington, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles, California. When it was finally time to return to Hong Kong on October 1st, Jeremy and I quarantined for 21 days at the luxurious Kerry Hotel.
In the summer of 2022, instead of visiting the U.S., Jeremy and I took an amazing 3-week trip to Italy. Then, he worked remotely in Thailand for a month. By the time we returned in late August 2022, we only had to quarantine in a hotel for 3 days. Shortly after we returned, quarantine was scrapped altogether.
Exploring & Hiking Hong Kong
Since we spent three years almost entirely in Hong Kong, we've explored more off-the-beaten places in Hong Kong than we might have if we were still traveling as often as we did previously.
As a result, I have a lot more hiking guides on the blog than I ever thought I would! We're lucky to be in a place with such a wide range of beautiful places to see. If you're visiting Hong Kong, I highly recommend getting out to explore some of these beautiful hikes, in addition to the eating, shopping, and traditional tourist activities.
Resuming "Normal" Life
After quarantine ended, we expected to return to our normal life of travel and adventure. Life had another plan for us and we found out I was pregnant in November 2022. Cue panic and finding a larger apartment! Since I was pregnant, we didn't travel much. Though we did take a birthday trip to Ho Chi Minh City and then an epic Babymoon Trip in Bali in early 2023.
On July 4th, I went into labor at 39 weeks and headed to the hospital. After a couple hours of labor in the hospital, I began bleeding heavily and was rushed into an emergency c-section. Although our son, Damian, was born, due to a placental abruption, he had lost too much oxygen before delivery. He lived for 2 days in the NICU before passing away on July 6th.
We spent every moment that we could with him during those days. Afterwards, the rest of the summer was for grieving and healing, both physically and mentally for me.
When I feel lost and am looking for a way forward, what do I do? Plan a trip, apparently. In late September / early October 2023, we took an amazing trip to Portugal. It was exactly what we needed to get away and heal our souls a bit. We have more travel plans coming up this year so stay tuned!
Thank you for reading all about me! Feel free to reach out via social media if you have any questions or want to say 'hi'!