Interview with Helene Choo of The HC Lifestyle Blog

food, lifestyle, travel

I’m Helene, creator of the HC Lifestyle Blog, where I talk about all sorts of experiences, mainly related to food, health/fitness, and of course, travel. I try to live life to the fullest every day, and I like doing things my own way. I would like to inspire others to do the same by sharing my experiences, and hopefully my positive attitude and energy, with them.

Man Travels World: Are you working full-time as a freelancer? Does your website provide you with a monthly income? 

HC Lifestyle Blog: No, I have a full-time day job. I would love to work as a blogger full-time, but it’s realistically not going to be possible for a while. And that’s cool! Slow and steady progress!

What inspired you to begin a blog?

I’ve always enjoyed chronicling my experiences traveling, with food, etc. somewhere. I figured, why not gather them all in one place, and share them with the world? Plus, I love photography, and running a blog is a great way to learn and progress.

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Sitting in Parc Guëll – taken in July 2017. Gaudí’s design makes for a must-see attraction in Barcelona. The structures there are like none seen anywhere else in the world!

You write about travel, food and a healthy lifestyle. What tips do you offer readers for maintaining a healthy lifestyle while traveling?

If I stay in a hotel, I usually use the hotel gym to do my regular workouts. Going for morning runs is also a great way to explore the new place! Additionally, I walk around a lot when I travel somewhere, and some places are great for biking. There are a ton of ways to stay active : )

Tell us a go to meal/recipe you enjoy frequently.

When I’m too lazy to cook, I’ll throw together some tomato and mozzarella, and drizzle it with olive oil, oregano, and green pesto. If I want something more filling, I’ll combine it with a salad (spinach, tomato, mozzarella, hard-boiled egg, and smoked salmon or tuna, with a pesto-dressing). You can also add avocado in there. Delicious and healthy!

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Barcelona Reggaeton Beach Festival – First edition of this festival, with many well-known Reggaeton artists and a great atmosphere!

From your experience, what dish/cuisine would you travel a thousand miles to eat?

My absolute favourite cuisine is Thai. A proper pad thai, pineapple fried rice, curry, or tom yam, and for dessert mango and sticky rice. I would absolutely travel all the way to Thailand just to get the authentic dishes! My other favourites are Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese Dim Sum!

Any advice for new writers/bloggers that want to make this lifestyle legit?

Hustle every day! And build relationships with other bloggers, influencers, brands, anyone who you can help or who can help you.

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Helene at El Escorial – taken in May 2017. El Escorial used to be the royal residence in Spain and is fascinating to visit if one wants to get out of the city of Madrid for a day.

Your website is fantastic. How do you maintain it and what costs are associated with it?

Thank you! I have a set process where I do routine maintenance before I do anything else. I also have a list of ideas for improvement that I add to whenever I come across a cool feature somewhere. The cost is quite high, but it doesn’t have to be. Personal choice, I guess. I spend a lot on convenient web apps (design, social media scheduling) and plugins.

Top 5 travel bucket list experiences? Climb Kilimanjaro, scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, etc…?

Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef is definitely up there! Visiting Australia, in general, is an item. I would love to go on a proper African Safari, visit Disneyland, see Hobbiton (and the rest of the LoTR film sets), and see the New 7 Wonders of the World (already been to the Great Wall and the Colosseum, so I have 5 left plus the Great Pyramid of Giza!).

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I truly enjoyed Stockholm as a city, it’s so beautiful! There are loads of green spaces, and the architecture is charmingly Nordic.

Top 5 favorite books?

The Harry Potter series (out of nostalgia), the Bartimaeus series, the Kingkiller Chronicles, the Mistborn series, the Millenium series.

Top 5 favorite films?

Ah, don’t do this to me!! I’ll try to vary them by category, otherwise, it’ll be endless…

Disney: The Lion King, Marvel: Captain America – Civil War, Drama: Intouchable (the French one), Classic: Shawshank Redemption, Comedy: Ocean’s Eleven.

How many countries have you visited/lived?

Visited, around 25, lived 5.

Next destinations in 2017/2018?

Santorini in a week, then Rotterdam, then Luxembourg (home). This summer I went to Shanghai, Barcelona, Stockholm, Valencia.

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Follow Helene on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! Be sure to get inspired at The HC Lifestyle Blog!

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Why Georgia? Book a Weekend, or Relocate to Atlanta, Dudes

food, lifestyle, travel

Honestly, I have never met a fellow traveler on the road saying, “I plan to visit Atlanta, Georgia on my holiday!” Oh, foolish, foolish people. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago. Sure, those bustling municipalities are tops of many lists when visiting the United States. Those beautiful white sandy beaches of Florida are definitely worth a visit too. This post is not meant to sway you away from visiting those locales, but instead, to add another absolutely worthy option to the list – ATL (handy airport code too).

Wheels up!

Guess what travel geeks? Atlanta is home to the major airline – Delta. Even better, Business Insider ranked Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as the busiest airport in the world in 2016. Not only does this mean travelers will find great airfare deals, say via my favorite website for booking flights, Skyscanner, through this major hub, but if traveling elsewhere it’s “within a two-hour flight of 80% of the US population.”

Check out Skyscanner’s Deals Updated Weekly!

Spin That Outkast Vinyl

Every time I am around the city I pick up a copy of Creative Loafing. This local publication is chock full of happenings and is the best reference for the local music scene. Top concert venues include The Tabernacle, Lakewood Amphitheater, Masquerade, Fox Theater, Terminal West, Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and the Georgia Theater up in Athens.

Traveling from out of state or out of the country provides the opportunity to stay a while and take in a festival at nearby Piedmont Park or Centennial Olympic Park. Sweetwater 420Fest (sponsored by Sweetwater Brewery in April (duh), Shaky Knees and Shaky Beats in May, and soon to be Music Midtown (September 16-17, 2017) are the major jamfests in the city.  2017 Music Midtown Lineup

Netflix and Chill?

Ever heard of The Walking Dead? Of course, you have! The hit AMC television show is one of many productions that call Atlanta home. AdWeek reports, “According to Georgia’s Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office, 245 film and TV productions were shot in Georgia during the fiscal year 2016 (between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016). Those productions spent $2.02 billion during that time and generated an economic impact of $7.2 billion.”

Numerous Marvel movies including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spiderman, The Fate of the Furious, Netflix’s Stranger Things and FX’s Archer were all produced in ATLwood. And here is my shameless plug from that 1-second clip of me in The Watch with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill (0:17 seconds).

Even ManTravelsWorld likes to pretend…erm…I mean act…

Whet Your Appetite AND Wet Your Whistle

Let’s be real. The single best part about traveling to new places is the opportunity to try new food and drink, in excess. And regret the gluttony later? Never! There is no better place on EARTH to overeat than in the United States. Mind you, this is not a “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!” proclamation. On the contrary. Yet, Atlanta is home to some of the best up and coming chefs/restaurateurs and breweries in the United States so go nuts!

A great list of critics and readers picks can be found, once again, inside Creative Loafing’s “Best of Atlanta” section. I also recommend Atlanta Magazine’s “50 Best Restaurants” as a reference. As for the wild ruffians traveling to the metropolitan area, I found this reference from Thrillist to be quite exhaustive and much better than anything I could put together in 24 hours.

Let it be known I am a super fan of Bravo TV’s Top Chef. When I returned from studying in Valencia, Spain in 2008 it was the first show I really sat down and watched religiously. Partially due to my naive understanding of Spanish food and wine (I ate and drank plenty!), but this does not make one a gastronome. The show conjured up so many memories from my recent travels at the time. A featured cheftestant on the show was Richard Blais from Georgia. Since watching and becoming a fan of his, I began to notice how many incredibly talented people whip up good eats and bevs around the city.

Home of the 1995 World Series Champions…

Atlanta is home to world-class, innovative athletic facilities like the brand spanking new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and recently debuted pro baseball stadium of SunTrust Park in Marietta. Notably, the city has not crowned a champion in any of the major leagues since the Braves in 1995. Tom Brady and co. dashed our hopes in Super Bowl LI last February. However, the sports gods are gracious as our city will host the 2018 College Football National Championship, Super Bowl LIII in 2019, and NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2020.

Professional teams calling the “A” home: Atlanta Braves (SunTrust Park), Atlanta Dream (McCamish Pavilion at Georgia Tech), Atlanta Falcons (Mercedes-Benz Stadium), Atlanta Hawks (Philips Arena), Atlanta United FC (Mercedes-Benz Stadium). Collegiate athletics are often larger events than many of the pro teams, and often times, fans of Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia roam the downtown and midtown areas cheering on their teams.

Don’t forget Atlanta was the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympics where Bob Costas, the former voice of Olympic coverage in the U.S. said this about his favorite moments when speaking to USA Today: “When I have to pick one, I always say Muhammad Ali lighting the torch in Atlanta in 1996 because it was such a unique moment. It seemed to pull together so much of his life and a good portion of the history of sports and social issues in the second half of the 20th century.” However, as much of the city has profited from stadium development, many former venues remain vacant and unused.

The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) hosted the athlete village and swimming and diving at their facilities and still thrive over 20 years later. [Side note — It’s worth mentioning GaTech is a globally renowned engineering and research institute where students get to play with lasers, robots and are sometimes badasses at public speaking.]


Remember, when planning your next international jaunt Stateside, or domestic getaway for the Americans out there, Atlanta should be creeping up your destination list as a frontrunner. This post doesn’t even hold a candle to what this city has to offer (don’t chastise me for omitting anything, ATLiens) and by no means is a comprehensive guide to Georgia’s capital city. Maybe there will be a Part II coming.

Let me know your thoughts and musings in the comments section!

What are some of your favorite underrated cities?

My Five Day Vacation in Thailand: Krabi and Ko Puh

food, lifestyle, Thailand, travel

Throughout October I am featuring Memory Monday. A throwback to past travel posts. No. 3 features a video after my quick vacation to visit ESL teacher friends in Thailand. What a life changing trip!

After my contract in South Korea ended, I went to visit some friends in Krabi, Thailand. We spent five days touring their town, riding scooters across the region, relaxing on the beaches in Ao Nang and Ko Puh, and finished the trip with a short layover in Bangkok. I don’t think this video gives justice to the beauty of the country and I surely will return to further explore this majestic landscape.

I wish I had pictures of the incredible dishes we sampled while in Thailand. From kaeng keow wan (sweet green curry) to Massaman, the food alone is worth the trip.

Enjoy the footage and let me know what you think!

Vista point in Ao Nang, Thailand

A view of Railay Beach between Krabi and Ao Nang

Top 10 Reasons to Work on a Cruise Ship with Royal Caribbean

food, lifestyle, Royal Caribbean, Scuba Diving, travel

A quick late night style version of the top 10 reasons to work aboard a cruise ship with Royal Caribbean:

Number 10…Challenging yourself on a 7-month, 7 day work week contract…

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Number 9…Living amongst the places people vacation…

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Number 8…Experiencing the behind-the-scenes action on board a 3,600 passenger vessel which operates 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

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Number 7…Indulging in local food and culture…

Number 6…The chance to learn new adventure sports…

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Number 5…Stepping into or out of your comfort zone surrounded by thousands of guests…

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Number 4…Stepping back to enjoy the little things in life…

Number 3…Financial savings/debt payoffs…

Financial_RescueNumber 2…A 3-minute commute to the office…

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And the number 1 reason to work for Royal Caribbean…TRAVEL!…

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Sunday Rewind: Baseball and Food Sweats in Tokyo

food, travel

Written by Julian Austin and originally published November 22, 2013 via Waegook Tom. This recounts part of my travels in Tokyo during the World Baseball Classic.

I arrived in the Suidobashi neighborhood of Tokyo on a crisp and cool spring afternoon last March. This was my first time visiting Japan and the trip only materialized after I convinced myself that I may never be this close in the too near future. Many people would jump at the opportunity to spend any period of time in this city and I certainly was part of that group. I had recently finished my one-year contract teaching ESL in Seoul, South Korea and Tokyo for all intents and purposes was a new animal all together.

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The motivating factor for my visit, before I returned to the United States, was to watch a game of the World Baseball Classic at the Tokyo Dome. Growing up an Atlanta Braves fan I dreamed (and still do) of taking a MLB stadium tour road trip to visit the historic ballparks in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. On a global scale, Tokyo fits that mold perfectly and I found myself flying across the Sea of Japan to make this epic journey.

Vending machine ramen

Of course, the Japanese, known as fervent baseball fanatics, are also known for having some of the tastiest cuisine in the world. After exploring foods in the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand, Japan most definitely was on my list. I regrettably had only two full days in Tokyo and I found myself craving Japanese cutlets and noodles at every turn. Massive bowls of hot, sweet broth mixed in with tempura battered vegetables and thick Udon noodles constantly were the meals of choice – often times ending up with me sitting in a small, subway station eatery, bellying up to the counter with the working locals quickly slurping down a bowl of the good stuff.

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The meal that is forever engrained in my mind was my last in the monstrous Japanese capital. As I was heading to the train station to make my final trek to the airport I found myself walking the immaculate and trash free streets in the Bunkyo district, searching for one last bowl of noodles. My Japanese language skills were useless when ordering and I often found myself pointing and smiling at these small restaurants to make my noodle dreams come true.

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Close to the entrance to the JR Suidobashi train station was a small corner shop with a bright white sign and a yellow vending machine with about 50 different options to order at the press of a button. Of all my meals in Tokyo this was the easiest to order. I inserted my yen into the machine and pressed two buttons – Udon noodles with pork and an Asahi beer – out came a receipt with a number and inside I went. A bell rang as I entered and the shop was toasty warm, steam rising from the kitchen, hungry customers occupying the few stools and booths for seating. I reluctantly walked up to the counter and calmly handed over my order to the chef. He smiled and motioned for me to have a seat. I set my bright red backpack next to me on a bench and rolled up my sleeves. I half expected the diners to peer over their bowls as English and practical Japanese phrases echoed out of my mouth. However, no one seemed to even care that I was joining them in this Zen like moment in a disappearing act of hunger.

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The enormous bowl of noodles was delivered on a shiny, black tray. I reached for chopsticks and a large spoon, catching the harmonious smells of the broth in front of me. I had yet to amass the skills of the Japanese when devouring noodles and took my time eating this incredible bowl of food. I found myself sweating after slurping down the rest of the broth and bits of vegetable and noodles. My stomach protruding over my belt, I was in a food coma. Was this heaven? The sweat stayed on my brow until a final swipe with a napkin, and a collective sigh — signaling that the final journey back to my homeland was about to ensue.

Tokyo stole my heart that weekend. She burned a beautiful image of acceptance and a never-ending array of food options into my young impressionable mind. I will have her again.