Hi, my name is Karen Chow and I started this travel and sustainability blog, Earth Jubilee, to share my love of sustainable travel with the world. Traveling can be hard on the environment. From transportation emissions to single-use plastics, the average vacation can take a toll on the planet. However, there are ways to offset your impact and even make a positive contribution while you travel. Earth Jubilee is a web site dedicated to sustainable travel. Whether you’re looking for eco-friendly accommodation or want to offset your carbon footprint, we can help you plan a trip that’s good for the planet. We also believe that sustainable travel should be affordable and accessible to everyone, so we offer a variety of resources to help you get started.
Here is my story.
I was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Canada with my family when I was four years old. It was tough adjusting to a new country and learning a new language, but I eventually graduated from electrical engineering at the University of Calgary.
The Chinese Immigrant Experience in Canada
I remember vividly the day my family immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong. I was only four years old at the time, but I will never forget getting on the plane with my parents. We had a big farewell party in the Hong Kong airport. We flew first to Vancouver and then took a smaller plane to Edmonton, where my aunt and her family lived. They had come to Canada a few years before us and had helped us get settled.
Moving to a new country is always tough, no matter what your circumstances are. But I think it was especially tough for my parents because they had to adjust to a new English speaking country where they couldn’t practice their profession. My dad was a teacher in Hong Kong, and didn’t want to re-do his education, so ended up getting into real estate. My mom became a paralegal. I was too young to really understand what was going on, but I remember my parents struggling to integrate into society and feeling very lost in a new place. But we persevered, and eventually things got better. My two younger sisters were born in Canada, so they didn’t have the experience I did of being a third culture kid.
What is a Third Culture Kid?
I’m what’s known as a “third culture kid.” To understand what that means, you need to know a little bit about my story. I was born in Hong Kong, and when I was four, my family immigrated to Canada. We settled in Calgary, and I grew up there until I went to college. After college, I moved to Ottawa, then Portland Oregon for work. So, technically, I’m Chinese-Canadian-American-Portlander. But the thing is, I don’t really feel like any of those labels fit me perfectly. They’re all a part of my identity, but they don’t define me. That’s what it means to be a third culture kid.
A third culture kid is someone who has lived in more than one culture for a significant period of time during their childhood years. Because of this, they often don’t feel like they fully belong to any one culture. They have a unique perspective that comes from being exposed to multiple cultures.
One of the biggest challenges for third culture kids is that they can feel like they’re constantly in limbo, never quite feeling at home anywhere. It can be hard to forge lasting friendships or find a sense of community when you’re always moving around or living in different places. And it can be daunting to try to figure out which cultural norms and values you want to adopted as your own.
But there are also some great benefits to being a third culture kid. You’re flexible and adaptable, able to quickly adjust to new environments and situations. You’re open-minded and tolerant of differences, because you’ve experienced firsthand that there’s more than one way to live your life. And you’re usually pretty fluent in more than one language!
One of the things that made adapting to life in Canada easier for me was that I learned English fairly quickly. My grandma put me in front of the television every day to watch Sesame Street, and within a few months I was speaking pretty well. It was amazing how quickly I picked up the language just by being exposed to it on a daily basis.
But learning English was only part of the equation when it came to integrating into Canadian society. My parents also had to learn how to navigate a completely new cultural landscape. That wasn’t always easy, but they did the best they could under the circumstances. Thankfully, my aunt and her family were there to help us every step of the way.
The Chinese Community in Canada
One of the things that helped my family feel more connected to our roots was attending Chinese school on Saturdays. This gave us a chance to interact with other kids who were also Cantonese-speaking immigrants. We also went to Cantonese Catholic church, which was another great way to meet people and feel like we belonged somewhere.
Overall, I would say it wasn’t easy being Chinese in Canada—at least not at first. But slowly but surely, we found our place in the world and built a life that we loved.
Saving Up to Travel
Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to see the world. And after years of saving up, I finally took the plunge and started traveling. My family did travel back to Hong Kong once to visit our family. Taking a big international vacation with a family of five on a limited budget must have been tough for my family to save up for. We also tacked on a trip to Hawaii, so that was pretty fun!
My First Time Traveling Abroad On My Own
When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to travel abroad with my band to England and Wales. It was an amazing experience and it really got me hooked on traveling. I stayed with a teenage girl named Nan in Wales and we became friends. We wrote letters to each other for about 10 years after that.
First, we visited all the main tourist highlights in London, like the British Museum and Big Ben. Then we went to Oxford. After that, we saw some castle ruins in Wales and participated in a band competition. I had such an amazing time on this trip. I loved being able to explore different cultures and see new things. This trip really got me hooked on traveling and I’ve been all over Europe since then.
How I Saved Up to Travel the World in My 20s
In my 20s, I was super frugal. I would ask myself questions like should I buy this TV, or this plane ticket, and the plane ticket always won. I was also careful about how I travel. For me, it was better to travel and eat groceries and stay in a hostel, rather than not travel at all because I didn’t have enough money to stay in a hotel and eat in restaurants. Even though I moved to Ottawa after graduating from university for a job at Nortel Networks, I still found ways to see the world. And I loved it!
I love to do sustainable travel, but I don’t always have a ton of money to throw around. Through the years, I’ve gotten really good at being super frugal so that I can save enough money to travel. Here are some of my best tips for how you can do the same!
Pick Your Priorities
Some people prioritize savings, others prioritize experiences. If you want to be able to travel on a budget, you’re going to have to figure out what your priorities are. For me, I’m okay with living in a smaller apartment or driving an older car if it means that I can spend my money on travel. That doesn’t mean that you have to make the same choice, but you need to be honest with yourself about what is most important to you. Once you know your priorities, it will be easier to make choices that align with those priorities.
Make a Budget—and Stick to It!
This one is key. You need to figure out how much money you need to live every month and then make a budget accordingly. Make sure to include all of your fixed expenses (like rent or mortgage payments, car payments, etc.), as well as your variable expenses (like food, gas, etc.). Then, set aside some money each month for your travel fund. Once you have a budget in place, do your best to stick to it. It’s okay if you go over sometimes, but try not to make it a habit. Having a budget will help ensure that you are making the most of your money and putting yourself in a position to travel more often.
Find Ways to Save Money Every Day
There are lots of small ways that you can save money every day, and those savings can really add up over time! One easy way to save money is by cooking at home instead of going out to eat. You can also save by cutting back on unnecessary purchases, like buying coffee every day or getting new clothes all the time. Find what works for you and make an effort to save a little bit of money each day. Those savings will quickly add up and before you know it, you’ll have enough money saved up for your next big trip!
Saving money can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! If you’re someone who loves to travel but doesn’t always have the funds available, use these tips to start saving up for your next big adventure. Prioritize what is most important to you, make a budget and stick to it, and find ways to save money every day. Soon enough, you’ll have enough money saved up for the trip of your dreams!
List of Countries
Here’s a list of all the countries I travelled to now:
- Cayman Islands
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- United States
Transitioning from being a student to working full time helped me save up enough money for travel. And even though I was traveling on a budget, staying in hostels and eating groceries instead of going out to restaurants, I still had an incredible time and got to see some amazing places. If you’re thinking about traveling but don’t think you have enough money, my best advice is to start saving now and find ways to cut back on expenses so you can afford to explore the world.
Our Son the World Traveler
My husband and I have a 12 year old boy. He’s quite sweet, and he’s come traveling with me quite a bit. His country count is already 14. He’s quite a good traveler. We had to adjust a bit to traveling with a kid, and would make breaks, like going to a playground when he was younger, to now, building in time for adventure parks and other active activities.
Unfortunately, my husband has ALS and so I now have to juggle full-time caregiving with running this blog (and working full time). It’s not always easy, but writing about travel helps me escape into my daydreams and explore new places through virtual armchair travel.
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurological disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The disease is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the famous baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in 1939. Symptoms of ALS include muscle weakness, twitching, and paralysis. The cause of ALS is unknown, although there is some evidence that genetic factors may play a role. There is no cure for ALS, and the average life expectancy for someone with the disease is just two to five years. However, treatment can help to improve quality of life and extend life expectancy. With proper care and support, people with ALS can live long and fulfilling lives.
My husband was diagnosed in 2017, and thankfully has a slowly degrading form of the disease. So for now, we’re enjoying our time at home, having lots of friends over to hang out with us, and watch the Los Angeles Chargers on TV.
Living in the Moment
Because my husband has ALS, it has caused me to be more introspective. I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately and what the meaning of it all is. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget that life is precious and fleeting. That’s why it’s so important to live in the moment and be present.
Since his diagnosis, I’ve been trying to soak up every moment with him. We travel as much as we can and spend as much time together as possible. Right after he was diagnosed in 2017, we did a big family trip to Switzerland. I’m grateful for every moment we have together, even if they’re not all perfect. Even on the bad days, I cherish the time we have together.
It’s hard to watch someone you love suffer from a debilitating disease like ALS. There’s nothing you can do to take away their pain or make them better. All you can do is be there for them, support them, and love them through it.
No one knows how much time they have on this earth. That’s why it’s so important to live in the moment and appreciate the people and things we have in our lives. If you’re fortunate enough to have good health, cherish it. If you have a loving family, let them know how much they mean to you. Don’t wait until it’s too late to tell them how you feel. Life is fragile and precious. Don’t take it for granted.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope that your life is filled with love, and lots of travel of course. If you’d like to contact me, I’d love to hear from you at my contact page.