My husband and I both have ADD: Here are our tips for traveling better together

Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the options when traveling. (Photo credit J Gunden)
Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the options when traveling. (Photo credit J Gunden)

J and I both have ADD, which always makes things interesting, but can especially challenging in a new place. Not having a routine can be difficult for us: we lose time trying to figure out what to do, and being in an unfamiliar environment can make us uneasy. My goal is to outline and develop habits that will make sure we make the most of our traveling time.

This was my first trip with my bullet journal, and I used that resource to write down some ideas for best practices for the future trips we will certainly be taking.

  1. Splurge on tours or classes. 
    There’s lots to be said for going on your own and getting off the beaten path, but sometimes J and I get so overwhelmed by the options that we spend more time before and during the trip thinking about what we could do than doing anything. But taking a street food tour in Saigon or a cruise in Krabi gave us the opportunity to explore without the additional worry of trying to plot our own course. Paying someone else to worry about the details lets us hyperfocus on having fun.
  2. Follow in the footsteps of the ones who’ve gone before you.
    This is the free version of hiring a tour guide. J was chasing his tail coming up with the best possible itinerary for seeing the sites in Saigon. I suggested we just follow somebody else’s walking-tour itinerary. We hit most of the stops, saw a lot of the city, and it only took about ten minutes of research. One word of caution, though: make sure you pay attention to the details about what to visit when
  3. Prepare and maintain a master packing list. 
    I started writing down what I needed to remember a few weeks before we left on our last vacation, and while on vacation, I made note of anything I wished I had brought or could have left behind. This list is in my bullet journal, too. If you’d like some ideas to get started, there’s a printable master packing list at ADDitude Mag.
  4. Plan some time alone each day. 
    In our daily lives at home, J and I do a lot on our own, but on vacation, we shadow each other 24 hours a day. J gets hyperstimulated and wants to talk about his impressions of everything; I get drained and overwhelmed by the newness of everything and being around him all the time. Planning solo coffee breaks or even splitting up for the morning gives us the little mental break we need to refresh and look forward to sharing our experience.
  5. Make sure you both have money in your wallet.
    This might be the most personal tip on the list, depending on how you and your partner run your finances. J and I usually mingle our money, but when we’re out or traveling, he carries the cash in his wallet. I don’t like having to always ask for money; he doesn’t always want to buy souvenirs or gifts. Making sure I have money in my wallet every morning will reduce some of the potential friction between us.
  6. Decide on how much money, if any, you’re willing to give to beggars or touts.
    This is another question without a clear answer. It’s hard to know what’s right or helpful to do to help other people, but I can’t stand sitting there drinking my fancy margarita and ignoring the people trying to sell me a bookmark for a buck. Having to ask J to open up the wallet every time can complicate matters, so if we agree that I can spend US$5-10 a day on souvenirs from little old ladies, then it’s one less thing that needs to be discussed at length.
  7. Don’t count on having time to do something later.
    There’s been a number of times where we’ve procrastinated on doing something or buying something and in the end, left without doing it. Procrastination is a really big problem for anyone with ADD, so it’s hard to to just say “don’t procrastinate while traveling.” I hope that if we have it written down as one of our best practices, we can keep it mind.

Any folks out there with ADD have more travel tips to share? I’m certainly looking to for ways to keep improving our experiences. I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Everything I need to know, I learned teaching kindergarten

This old thing was drafted during the years I wasn’t teaching. I’ve dusted it off and posted it so you can appreciate everything I knew circa 2012. Every. thing.

Break tasks into the smallest possible steps.
The first time I ever got observed as a kindy teacher, I tried to wow the head office with a very involved arts-and-crafts project. I brought all the ingredients for kids to make paper pizzas: paper plates, colored paper, tissue paper, glitter, stickers, gold and silver paint pens, markers, crayons, pom-poms, you name it. I explained every step to my kids: take a plate, glue on some red origami paper, okay, well, tear the paper first, then put on some stickers, and if you can be careful, dab some glue here and there and sprinkle the glitter on it, wait, but, put the stickers on first…

I made a pile of materials on each table and the class went into meltdown. They glued the paper in clumps, stuck the stickers on the back of the plates, spilled the glitter, and drew on everything with that damn silver pen. My observer explained to me that I should have given them just one item at a time and showed them one step at a time. In fact, I could have taken two days to finish the project. I felt bad because in my inexperience I had set them up for failure, but I learned something that day: Kids can’t make pizza. 

Provide an example
It’s no use to explain to twenty five-year-olds how to fold a piece of paper into an origami frog from scratch. They aren’t going to visualize a frog while you’re talking. You need to have an already-made example to show them what they’re making. Next time it’s your turn to show your colleagues how to make origami frogs, make a few examples ahead of time to compensate for their inability to conceptualize frogs.

Do a little something every day.
I taught kindy  at a school that provided us with a vague schedule and some teaching materials without expecting us to follow strict lesson plans. This gave experienced teachers a lot of latitude when it came to deciding what to do each day. But there’s no way twenty kindergartners can all cram a semester’s worth of English phonics in the last week of classes before their assessments like a bunch of undergrads strung out on Ritalin. Baby steps. That goes for you in your 40s trying to learn how to hula hoop or play the guitar.

You have to learn how to learn.
Kids literally know nothing when they are little. Most adults don’t know much. Why? Because they don’t know how to learn. In kindy, this means memorizing lots of information about the way we categorize the world and also learning to look for and identify patterns–colors, numbers, correlated events, phonics patterns, etc. Show me a kid who never picks up a book on their own because they don’t know how to read it until it’s been taught in class, and twenty years later I’ll show you the people who need to be walked through the Starbucks menu like it’s a whole new world every time they go. Every.single.time. Nobody likes those people.

Do it right AND fast
In Taiwan, even my kindy kids had to prep for an entrance exam into the next level of the program. The test was difficult, but it was also timed. Other teachers were generous with their students, requiring the whole class to move no faster than the slowest kid and letting them finish their practice tests at their own pace. In my class, once I was confident my students knew how to finish it, I put pressure on them to finish it quickly. Time limits and prizes for the fastest kids had them working at high speeds. In the end, more of my kids passed the test than anyone else’s. WHAT’S GOOD, DEBBIE WITH THE SHORT HAIR?!

Fake it til you make it
The parents of the students at my school expected their kids to be reading age-appropriate English books within weeks of studying English. It was kind of nuts. BUT their spongy little minds could memorize books in just a few days. The kids didn’t know they weren’t reading, but neither did the parents. Mom and Dad were happy, the kids were happy, and so the teachers were happy. And by the end of the three-year kindergarten program, the kids were actually literate. Like once I started reading about the wine I was drinking, I got tasked with ordering the wine all the time. The extent of my knowledge was “Merlots are generally fruity and accessible”. I ordered a Merlot, everyone loved it. I was a superstar because none of them had seen Sideways. You got this!

Health check at Landseed Hospital in Zhongli

Because some of you might have to get your health check done without any help, I thought I’d do this post to sort you out.

I went to the Landseed Hospital in Zhongli.

My healthy check cost NT$1400 (July 13, 2016).

I believe it’s NT$200 cheaper to do the health check in Taoyuan, but I prefer to do it at Landseed. Landseed is closer to my house and nicer.

Also Landseed doesn’t do a pregnancy test which requires peeing into a cup and waiting around for twenty minutes, all of which sucks.

They rely on the honor system:
X-ray technician: You have baby?
Me: No.
X-ray technician: Okay.

Bring money, 2 passport-sized photos, your ARC or your passport, and your health card, if you have it. 

I forgot to bring my photos, but they told me I could just bring them when I go pick up my health check in a week. How convenient!

You can get your health check from 8 a.m. -11a.m. or 1p.m.-4p.m. on weekdays. They also have Saturday hours. Ask at the information desk. I usually budget a couple of hours (like a free morning or afternoon) because when it’s crowded, it can take a while to cycle through all the stations you need to hit to get your tests done.

I usually go in the mornings, but this time I went on a Wednesday afternoon. I was basically the only person there and I was done in about 15 minutes. I don’t know that it’s always like that in the afternoon, but that’s a situation I’d like to recreate in the years to come.

(FYI: When I went back to pick up my documents on a Wednesday morning, it was super crowded! I had to wait 30 minutes just to sign for an envelope!)

If you can’t speak much Chinese, just be polite and patient. The staff doesn’t speak much English and they have to administer the same tests over and over again to clueless foreigners from all different countries who don’t understand any Chinese. Sometimes they seem a bit frustrated. Don’t take it personally! I try to speak Chinese and be smiley.

Okay, here’s the drill.

Here’s the entrance to Landseed Hospital.

The entrance to Landseed Hospital in Zhongli.
The entrance to Landseed Hospital in Zhongli.

The Outpatient building entrance is toward the left, behind this column.

amateur vagrant landseed hospital health check for foreigners teachers arc entrance

When you enter the building, go to the right, down the stairs to the Health Check Center on B2.

(To the left, there is an information desk, but I’ve never met anyone there who spoke any English at all.)

amateur vagrant landseed hospital health check center B2 sign

So from here, obviously, you go the left. Then you’ll see signs indicating that the health check center is on the right (past the bathrooms on the right).

amateur vagrant landseed hospital healthy check zhongli taiwan sign for health checkup center

In here, there are some nurses behind a table to the right. They will handle your paperwork. You’ll give them your ID and your insurance card, if you have it. Usually they can speak just a little English.

They will register you and send you back down the hall to pay before you get started. You exit this room and walk to the left past the bathrooms and the stairwell all the way to the end of the hall where it curves and leads right into the “Registration and Payment” office.

amateur vagrant landseed hospital health check zhongli taiwan registration and cashier desk sign

If there’s no one here, just walk to the desk and hand the person there your paperwork so they know what to charge you. If there are people already waiting, you might have to take a number.

The person there will stamp your paperwork and give you a receipt. Now walk yourself back down to the Health Check Center.

Now you are like a dog at the groomer’s. Nurses will take your blood, check your blood pressure, test your vision, and weigh and measure you, all without saying much to you. This has been my experience at every hospital for every check for all the years I’ve been here. They’re just being efficient, which means getting you out of there as quickly as possible.

The nurses also instructed me as to when I should take a number to see the doctor, who I saw right away in a private exam room. He listened to my heart and asked me a few questions about my medical history, medications, etc. If you don’t have any health concerns, this shouldn’t be a big deal.

Then the nurses sent me down the hall for a chest x-ray.

amateur vagrant landseed hospital health check zhongli taiwan sign for the x-ray room

Just hand your paperwork to the person behind the desk, then go into a dressing room and put on a blue robe. No shirt, no bra, no jewelry, and put all your hair up if you have long hair.

The x-ray technician told me, “no underwear” but she definitely only meant “no bra.” Just FYI.


amateur vagrant landseed hospital health check zhongli taiwan how to put on your robe for the xray
How to put on the lovely hospital gown for your x-ray.


So flattering.
So flattering.

After you do the x-ray, change back into your clothes. Put the blue robe in the big bin in the changing room. Gather all your paperwork and take it back to the Health Check Center and give it to the nurses at the “reception” desk there. They will confirm that you’re good to go. You’ll have to come back in a week to pick up your paperwork so you submit it when you apply for your work permit/ARC. (They gave me two copies.)

That is all! If you have any other questions, you can ask me.

Convenience-store cocktails, Taiwan edition

This post was inspired by this list of convenience store cocktail recipes, but in the end that list freaked me out because we don’t have half that booze at our stores here.

Also, my list is only drinks you could literally make while in a convenience store. We aren’t taking stuff home and infusing anything. In Taiwan, we walk our beers right down the street like the proud Americans Taiwan residents we are.

What we do have here is the most convenience stores per capita and an intimidating selection of juices, teas, and soft drinks and always at least one shelf full of wine, whiskey, and airplane-bottles of vodka, Jager, etc. There’s gaoliang, which I haven’t tried much, plum wines…

It’s also prohibitively expensive to drink all your drinks in the bar, so a lot of us sneak off to 7-11 for a cheeky 啤酒 (píjiǔ: beer) in between rounds just to stay under budget. This list might give you some more interesting alternatives on the spectrum between a can of Bar Beer and a NT$150 vodka-lime (price may vary).

And sometimes, you find yourself in a town so small that the local 7-11 or Family-Mart is the only place to get a drink after dinner when all the olds go to bed.

If you can conceive it, you can achieve it. Screwdrivers, greyhounds, cuba libre and any variations thereof are the first ideas that come to mind. Here are some of other ideas I’ve been playing with:

Taiwan summer, season of the plum green tea shandy. #Taiwan #taiwanbeer #jinpai #greentea #shandy #summer #cocktail

A photo posted by Keili Rae Gunden (@amateur_vagrant) on

Beer shandy

You can get Heineken-green tea at Taiwanese tea shops, particularly in the south. It’s very refreshing and easy-to-drink. Cheap beer and super-sweet green tea are both better when combined.

You need:

One can of Taiwan Beer

One bottle of plum green tea



  1. Drink or pour out at least half of the green tea in the bottle.
  2. Carefully pour the beer into bottle until it’s full. Enjoy!
Everything I need for a 7-11 sangria and a red-wine float
Everything I need for a 7-11 sangria and a red-wine float
A successful 7-11 sangria
A successful 7-11 sangria

Kalimotxo (7-11 Sangria)

This drink is big in Basque country, but in Taiwan, it’s a good substitute for the bar sangria that’s never good. By the way, the 7-11 I ended up at didn’t have Slurpees. I tried to buy a paper coffee cup, but they said they weren’t allowed to sell them. I ended up spending NT$25 on a couple of paper cups. Life goes on…

You need:

One can of Coke or lemon Coke

A half-bottle of red wine

A Slurpee cup (or some other appropriate vessel for mixing and drinking)


Optional: A tin or plastic container of snack fruit; a piece of lemon (not all convenience stores have lemons)


  1. Put the ice in the cup.
  2. Add the Coke and wine in equal proportions.
  3. Add the fruit, if you can find it, and if you like, but drain off the sugary syrup first. Enjoy!


This red-wine ice-cream float is more of a dessert than a cocktail, but it was nice and easy all the same
This red-wine ice-cream float is more of a dessert than a cocktail, but it was nice and easy all the same

Red Wine Ice-Cream Float

Note: They wouldn’t give me a %$&#ing cup or a spoon, either. I just had to use the little tab-thing that comes in the Hagen-Daazs. Also this 7-11 didn’t have soft serve. I like to think I’m resourceful, though.

You need:

A Slurpee cup

A soft-serve vanilla ice cream (or ice cream of your choice)

A spoon and a straw

Red wine


  1. If it’s really hot outside, put some ice in the cup first.
  2. Drop the ice cream into the Slurpee cup. Eat the cone.
  3. Pour red wine over the top. Enjoy!


Grown-up Slurpee

  1. Put some vodka in your slurpee.

Irish Coffee

  1. Add some whiskey and/or Bailey’s into your 7-11 Americano.

Whiskey and Sarsaparilla 

  1. Mix ’em.

I would love to hear about your ideas/experiments. I feel like it’s possible to make a bloody Mary because they have tomato juice and vodka. There are various kinds of spicy sauces and pickled concoctions as well, and some sauces that might substitute for worcestshire…if I make a Taiwanified version of a bloody Mary with convenience store ingredients, y’all will be the first to know about it.

I quit Facebook, for now

I deactivated my Facebook account. It wasn’t totally impulsive, but the day I decided to do it, I did it because I was annoyed with lots of people and lots of things and not because I was really in tune with my life goals.

Weeks ago, I’d started blocking exes on LinkedIn and Facebook, starting tightening up the privacy on my posts and pictures as much as I could, and started unsubscribing from people and even unfriending people because I just felt like I was getting too much personal information from people who wouldn’t have shared it with me if I’d bumped into them at the grocery store. I didn’t feel malicious or angry, I just felt like some relationships had run their course and it was weird for me to keep getting updates about milestones in their lives and photos of what might be some of their most intimate moments with good friends and family.

say no to facebook
Image from

At the same time, I have been getting annoyed with myself and J for spending too much time online. Facebook time is definitely not productive time, and curating what we were posting–pictures, status updates, funny videos, articles–was really taking away from time that should have been spent writing, reading, blogging, working on The Tabletop Cook, and actually living our cool life instead of just telling people about it. Especially for me. J is very chill about Facebook. He reads the newsfeed and uses Facebook Messenger to keep in touch with friends here and back home, but he only makes posts or shares photos every couple of days, like when we take a particularly cool trip around the island. I was posting every interesting article I read, every viral video I saw, every funny joke I came across. Ironically, if we were friends, you’d probably already unsubscribed from me.

I had been wondering how it was that I was wasting so much time on Facebook when as a much younger person I remember logging onto ICQ and MSN Messenger and rarely having conversations with anyone else, at least not substantive ones. It occurred to me that Facebook wasn’t actually a good fit for me, that it’s unnatural for me to spend so much time interacting with other people, even if it’s not in real life. At the same time, I have been recognizing that I am much more of an introvert than I ever realized. Maybe interacting with all those other people, all the time, was actually unhealthy for me because I wasn’t really getting the deep solitude I need to recharge, and feeling like I could never escape friends and family, no matter how much I love them, was making me feel resentful.

hermit crab picture
Sometimes I get crabby. Image from The Ugly Cricket

I only deactivated my account, which is kind of a bitch move because everything goes back to how it was as soon as I log back on again. And I did log back on again, for four minutes about a week after I’d deactivated my account, because a good friend was coming into town and I wasn’t sure if she had any other way of reaching me. The first post on my newsfeed was pictures of an estranged family member cuddling my baby niece, which I’d rather not have seen. I also had 40 updates, none of which were even real interactions from my friends. After sending her my cell phone number, I deactivated the account again and felt extremely good about the decision.

I haven’t regretted it for a minute. I noticed right away how often I was logging on out of sheer habit, as every time my students went on break or I was waiting in line, I pulled out my phone and only remembered as I was looking for the familiar icon that I had removed the Facebook app from my phone. But I’ve been able to commit with a lot of success to my 10pm bedtime so I can get up earlier, since I get so much more done in the morning before I go to work than I do in the evenings when I’m burnt out from teaching English. I read two books the week I stopped using Facebook, when the last little self-help tome I’d tried to read took me nearly a month. I googled exercise videos and healthy recipes and how to care for my bonsais without constantly checking in to see pictures of a college classmate’s new SUV or an old high school teacher’s new grandkids. I haven’t seen a cute animal video in ages, and I have to check an actual news site for what’s going on in the world instead of relying on my newsfeed. I’ve emailed friends and family, come up with a new game plan for The Tabletop Cook, picked out my clothes for the next day, and did the dishes before bed. I don’t want to make grand promises about never using Facebook again, but for the moment, why would I?

8/12/14 update: J asked me to reactivate my account for our trip around the island so he could tag me in photos and whatnot, so I did. I didn’t reinstall the Facebook app on my phone until the three-week trip was almost over. Since we got back a few days ago, I noticed I’ve been spending time on Facebook again, mostly reading articles and weird news stories from China. But I don’t want to! I blocked Facebook on my computer tonight and if I try to log on, it redirects to, which helps to remind me to stay focused on my goals. Incidentally, redirects to Mr. Money Mustache if I try to look at it on my computer. I don’t have the Facebook app on my phone at the moment, either, as it’s easy enough to reinstall, but also enough of a pain in the butt that I won’t do it unless I am really keen to be annoyed with myself.

My sanity checklist

I have more good days than bad days in any given year, but there are times when the bottom seems to give out and I feel all alone, bummed out at the bottom of a little black hole. When I was young, I took these moods very seriously. Like if I couldn’t find anyone to hang out with, I felt like I had no friends. And the thought that I had no friends made me feel terrible about myself, it made me anxious and sad and frightened. Thus not being able to find someone to go to the movies with was like the universe confirming that I was worthless.

Photo by puuikibeach

Eventually, I had to come up with some ways to pull myself together so that having a bad day didn’t feel like the end of the world. Now I have a pretty standard checklist that I go through whenever things get bleak, and I don’t think I’ve had more than one terrible day at a time since college (minus breakups and deaths in the family). If you have a checklist of your own, tell me about it in the comments. (I’m always up for learning something new!)

Continue reading “My sanity checklist”