Fresh Traveler takes on Thailand

Meet Patricia Serrano of Fresh Traveler.

She is doing what most of us dream of: traveling the world on someone else’s expense. Patricia’s easy breezy on-air presence mixed with some beautiful cinematography of the places she’s been to makes her videos addictive to watch.

This Thai-American travel vlogger recently made a trek to Thailand along with her videographer Brandon Li and is letting us in on her envious winter vacation. Check out the preview video below:

Check out Patricia getting her feet bitten off — err — getting cleaned below:

We asked the Fresh Traveler some questions on how she got to do what she does and some traveling advice. Check it:

How did you start your travel blog?
Fresh Traveler: After starting a spontaneous affair with a videographer I hardly knew, we whisked away on an adventure to Baja California and combined our shared passion for traveling and filmmaking. Now, I can’t get rid of him.

Why did you name it FreshTraveler?
FT: was taken and I liked the sound of a URL that had four syllables. I also wanted a name that captured what I wanted to do – a fresh and unabashed approach to travel.

Coolest place you’ve been to?
Definitely Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I saw nature inspired architecture that I swear was out of the forests of Walt Disney’s Snow White. I love the way that the Modernisme vibe of the whole city transports me to a fantastical land.

Most memorable adventure?
When I was on a speedboat to Koh Phi Phi in Thailand, I was so distracted by water caves that I dropped one of my videographer Brandon’s cameras in the middle of the Andaman Sea. I felt so guilty because it’s not like I could dive into the depths of the ocean to retrieve it. Lesson learnt: always wear a wrist strap when holding a camera on a speedboat. That’s definitely something that Brandon will never let me forget.

Piece of advice for travelers?
Sin gracefully.

If you’ve enjoyed Fresh Traveler’s Thailand trip so far, keep checking in, we’ll be posting more vids from them in the next coming weeks!

Mind & Body | Adjust Your Diet

ISSUE: Winter 2011-12

DEPT: Mind & Body

STORY: Shirley Lau

Celebrity trainer Yuichi Ohi (he’s the one who got Trans- formers’ Shia LaBeouf in tip-top shape) offers easy ways to shape up your diet.

  • Avoid food with refined sugar and flour. Instead, substitute those for whole grains (e.g., swap brown rice for white rice).

  • Have a satisfying glass of water instead of high-calorie drinks like soda or juices, which tend to have a lot of added sugar. If you are a habitual soda drinker, this change alone can give your weight loss some momentum.
  • At a restaurant, exchange a fried appetizer for a side salad.
  • When it comes to snacking, opt for low-sugar fruits (grapefruit, apples) and vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, celery). If you have to have a pre-packaged snack, have the 100-calorie packs to control your portions.
  • Instead of completely depriving yourself of your favorite dish, look online for a lower calorie version. Nobody will survive a restricted diet without being able to enjoy life. You’re more likely to change your eating habits in the long term if you’re satisfied in the short term.

— Shirley Lau


Mind & Body | Keep Your Smile Healthy

ISSUE: Winter 2011-12

DEPT: Mind & Body

STORY: Shirley Lau

Of course we know the basics: brush twice a day, floss once a day, and visit your dentist twice a year. Dental and oral care expert, Dr. Pankaj Singh, adds that we should also maintain a mouth-healthy diet, which means foods high in whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and dairy products. Here are a few more things Dr. Singh recommends you incorporate into your everyday routine to keep your teeth healthy and white (and your breath fresh!).

  • If you can’t brush after a meal, rinse your mouth and chew sugarless gum. There is usually some form of sugar in every meal, and the damage caused is related to the time sugar is present in the mouth. Chewing sugar-free gum helps stimulate the formation of saliva, which accelerates the neutralization of acid.
  • If you must consume beverages that stain your teeth, such as coffee, tea, carbonated drinks and red wine, use a straw to limit contact with your teeth. Rinse your mouth immediately after to avoid staining and tooth decay.
  • Use a whitening toothpaste once a week to remove surface stains and prevent yellowing. Use a regular toothpaste the rest of the time. And clean your tongue every time you brush, stroking in a back-to-front direction.
  • If you’re trying to conceive, schedule a dental checkup before you start. Hormonal changes, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy, can make your gums swollen and puffy. Your dentist can remove any plaque you’ve built up so your gums will be less likely to act up. Also, try to brush after episodes of morning sickness to get rid of the acid in your mouth. Otherwise, it may harm tooth enamel.
  • Taking any oral contraceptives may make you susceptible to the same oral health conditions that affect pregnant women. As the hormones in oral contraceptives increase the levels of progesterone, any local irritants (food, plaque, etc.) may cause gums to turn red, bleed and swell.
  • For Asian American women, evolutionary changes in our phenotype have created a predisposition to narrowing of our jaws, which results in crowding of the dental arches, disruptions in tooth eruption and impacted wisdom teeth. An increased incidence of dental crowding, if left untreated, increases our risk for gum disease.


Mind & Body | Protect Your Eyes

ISSUE: Winter 2011-12

DEPT: Mind & Body

STORY: Shirley Lau

Eyes are something we don’t think much about, but according to optometrist Arti Shah, OD, FAAO, we should be getting our eyes checked once a year. Since January is National Eye Care Month, I finally got my eyes checked out by Dr. Shah and she outfitted me with 1-Day Acuvue Moist, a vast improvement from my old-school one-a-day lenses. She also recommended some simple steps to keep my eyes healthy:

  • Give your eyes a computer break. Focus on something further away for a few minutes, a few times a day.
  • Try moisturizing eye drops several times a day if you wear contacts to minimize friction.
  • Eat eye healthy — fruits and vegetables with vitamins A and C, like carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and broccoli.
  • Remove all your eye makeup at the end of the day.


Rachel Rostad’s “A Letter to JK Rowling from Cho Chang” — and her Classy Response to the Haters

Recently, college student Rachel Rostad released her spoken word piece “A Letter to JK Rowling from Cho Chang” and as expected, she was bombarded with responses. Some argued angrily that she was being too harsh on Rowling and ignored Rowling’s very progressive points.  Others argued that Rostad was merely calling attention to the bigger picture at hand.

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Audrey Celebrates Women’s History Month | Top 10 Asian American High School Girls Next Door


High school: such a pivotal time in young women’s lives for college/career decisions, familial tension, first loves, first rejections, no-holds-barred attitude and unexpected self-discoveries.

And when high school years are depicted on American film and television, extracurricular activities may involve solving murder mysteries (Pretty Little Liars), and unrequited love is sometimes best told through song (T.V. Carpio’s cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in Across the Universe).

One could argue that Tamlyn Tomita’s Kumiko was the ultimate Asian American high school “girl-next-door” crush, even if, back in 1986, the Karate Kid had to travel all the way to Japan to be in the right neighborhood. But in the past 25 years, there have many memorable Asian American girls  — as well as British Asians, Asian-Scots and Asian Canadians that we snuck onto the list — that we can look up to (or reminisce with) in these classic tales of high school.


Below are our Top 10 Asian American High School Girls Next Door:


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My Story | Dying To Be Me: Sarah Yeung

Sarah Yeung had it all — education, career … and an obsessive need to control her weight. After more than a dozen years of battling an eating disorder, she shares how she went from denial to recovery.

ISSUE: Winter 2011-12

DEPT: My Story

STORY: Sarah Yeung

296.3 Major Depressive Disorder (Recurrent). 300.3 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 300.4 Dysthymic Disorder. 307.1 Anorexia Nervosa. 300.02 Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 307.5 Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. — Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM IV).

Age 27. I spent much of my first-ever therapy sessions “instructing” the therapist what she may or may not write on my chart, “proving” that I may have “some issues” but definitely not clinically diagnosed diseases. “Do not put me down as anorexic or depressed. I am not. I know the criteria in DSM IV and I do not meet them. I’m a little confused, a little sad, and I don’t want to be fat — but that’s normal. I am not crazy. What are you putting on my chart? I don’t want anything on my record!” My primary concern was not getting better — of course, if you are not sick in the first place, you don’t have anything to get better from.

My eating disorder symptoms started when I was 14, a year after my family moved from Hong Kong to the U.S. As an eager-to-please child living with high expectations, I took perfectionism to the extreme. I felt like I had to be good — preferably the best — at whatever I did. The message I internalized was, “Be the best! Must not fail!”

I remember always having a huge fear of going crazy and of being fat. Growing up, I only knew one person with a mental illness. One of my aunts had some sort of schizoid disease. The family didn’t talk about it. By the time I was born, my aunt had been medicated for years and I never experienced her hallucinations and delusions firsthand. But I knew “something was wrong” with her. She was “weird” and was obese. She was many other things, but those two stood out for me.

I don’t know how much my fears were related to my aunt; the media and our culture certainly didn’t help. I irrationally believed that if I went crazy, I’d be fat, too, so if I didn’t get fat, then I can’t be crazy. Either way, my conclusion was that I definitely did not want to be crazy or fat. My aunt was yelled at, shamed, ignored, made fun of and pitied, all of which, even as a young child, I knew I didn’t want to experience. I don’t know when, but I think I subconsciously determined early on that I would never allow myself to be crazy or fat. That just wouldn’t happen — not to me — as if those were things I could actually control.

It was a very difficult transition to American middle school. I felt lost, lonely and out of control. In addition to the usual teenage turmoil, everything I knew became ambiguous as my two cultures clashed. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do, how I felt, and ultimately who I was. I was having an identity crisis. I didn’t belong. I didn’t fit in. I spoke with an accent. I looked different. The wish to be happier, more popular, more in-control morphed into a relentless focus to be better and thinner. My belief that I could handle it myself, while trying to cope with confusing and painful emotions, ignited a destructive war within me.

The frequency and severity of my eating disorder behaviors fluctuated throughout the next 14 years. It would subside for month or years, and then peak again, particularly during transitions. For a long time, I got by under the radar. Undiagnosed. Untreated. Unlabeled. The worse the eating disorder got, the more strongly I tried to evade detection and treatment — not a surprise since denial is a prominent feature of eating disorders, making the disease even more lethal.

It is scary how easy it is for people, even those close to you, not to realize something is very wrong when you “look normal” and “are doing well.” After all, how bad can things be for a 27-year-old with two Ivy League degrees, a nice condo, a fancy car, a promising career, and a seemingly good relationship? Aren’t people with serious mental illnesses unemployed and living on the street? She has it all — she is just stressed. While some people were dying to be me, I was dying — literally. And, dangerously, I didn’t mind.

Some say you need to hit rock bottom before you are forced to change — I supposed that is true in my case. The bot- tom led to a four-and-a-half month inpatient treatment at the Renfrew Center, where my journey of recovery began.

Recovery is such a strange process; it’s not intuitive, especially when I was fighting against myself. The “getting better” part just couldn’t happen when I refused to accept that there was something to get better from. At first, I fought the diagnoses and was ambivalent about recovery. In my mind, those labels described “really crazy people” who obviously were not me. I wanted to be far, far away from the stigma and judgment I associated with having a mental illness. I wasn’t sick. Besides, nobody around me had mental diseases. Nobody talked about it and everyone seems normal. What would people think? Will I still get promoted at work? Who is ever going to date me? Will my parents think I’m a failure? I was terrified that if labels were written next to my name, the diseases would become me.

Letting go and being willing to be diagnosed and treated freed me from the fear of being labeled. Learning to accept who I genuinely was, the good and bad, was critical in letting me just be. I never found out what exactly was written on my charts. Gradually, the details didn’t matter. I learned to treat them as just words and categories — like numbers on a scale. They do not define me.

With nearly five years in recovery, I now have a life I enjoy. And I enjoy living, despite and along with the long list of mental diseases I had or have. It’s not easy. I sometimes wish I didn’t have to deal with them or that there would be a “quick fix.” But I have learned to accept and continue to get the treatment I need to maintain my health. I have learned to love my body, accept and integrate the diverse pieces of my life, and continue to discover and value my worth.

I have learned that I am not alone and there is a supportive community available to help. Now, it is important for me to help raise awareness about and increase access to treatment for eating disorders and mental illness. I want to help fight the secrecy, shame and stigma that perpetuate myths and deter people, including me, from getting help. I have learned that recovery and living well with mental illness is possible. And I have learned that, even when it may not seem like it, there is always hope


Plastic Surgery in Asia: All Asians Look Alike?

“All Asians look alike.”
Its a phrase that I have personally disliked for as long as I can remember. In fact, many of us are upset by this. We believe that this statement is simply ignorant. We believe that this sort of stereotype comes from the same people who don’t realize that there are various types of Asians. But before we get too angry, it may be a good idea to step back and give this another look.
A beauty pageant held in Daegu, South Korea has 21 contestants competing for the title. The problem? The pageant’s slogan “One Dream, One Face”  has a bit too much truth in it. The native judges literally have difficulty telling the girls apart. They claim that they constantly need to check the contestant ID numbers and choosing a winner will be difficult if the girls have such similar faces. While we cannot assume that this plays a factor for these particular contestants, it is important to note that Daegu is known for having amazing plastic surgeons who, apparently, have one set idea of what is beautiful.

This leads us to consider the bigger issue: we are upset that people think all Asians look alike, but do Asian women and Asian plastic surgeons all strive for the same “beautiful face”? Have we created one ideal type of beauty which results in such similar looks? Have we taken part in perpetuating a myth that we hate?

Tell us what you think and click on for some close up pictures of the pageant contestants:
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Breaking Rules Found Diane Farr True Love

Farr and hubby Seung Chung on their wedding day

New York Times‘ Modern Love column is always a refreshing insight into the nuances and complexities of modern love.

In the latest column, Bringing Home the Wrong Race, actress (and all-around babe) Diane Farr (Californication, Numb3rs) writes about dating a Korean American man–and finding out his parents don’t approve of her because she’s white. She shares about the couple’s trials and tribulations to getting to where they are today–married with three kids.

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