[1Month2Wander] Stop 3: Skirting Around Stockholm by Amanda Liew

One of the biggest differences about my #1Month2Wander is how unplanned my itinerary has been! In all my previous travels, I have taken the time before hand to write out a detailed itinerary from city to city and attractions I want to see. With this entire trip being planned so impulsively, though, I suddenly found that everything I needed to do in New York City by the end of the year, I now had to do in one week. There was just no way I would be able to spend hours planning out my route, booking hostels, etc. I opted to buy a one way ticket to London & eventually a flight from Dublin to San Diego for Christmas, and that was essentially it. Patrick’s desire to go to Copenhagen changed my first weekend's plans, and then as I was browsing flights in Stephen’s flat, I found a ticket to Stockholm with Ryanair for $10 in the middle of a Tuesday. Boom. Done. That alone determined I would be staying one extra day in Copenhagen beyond Patrick & then rerouting my travels towards Stockholm. What a world that we live in where I can pay just $10 and get transported to another country on a flying hunk of metal!

As cheap as the flight was, though, I definitely realized some downsides to this option later on – for one thing, daylight is literally fleeting in December. The sun rises around 8:00am and sets by 3:30pm, meaning the “myth of the 1 hour flight” (which I was already aware of from my semester studying abroad) took out a solid chunk of daylight to explore the city. Unfortunately as I planned things further & tried to prevent my following cities from running into the same problem, it meant that at max I could only spend 24 hours in Oslo!

So what do you do when life hands you yellow lemons? See that the grass is greener with Hannah Greene, of course! Hannah is a senior at UPenn who is in my sorority, Chi Omega, and when she saw I was planning on visiting Stockholm she reminded me of her own semester abroad (chronicled in her blog here) and sent over some recommendations! When I told her about my daylight dilemma, she literally responded back with a full itinerary with screenshots of my walking routes in case I didn’t have WiFi. I kid you not. This girl goes ALL OUT and I love it! It was both so unexpected (because who would expect something this generous?!) yet so expected (because lets be real, us Penn Chi O girls know how to run the world and get. sh*t. done.). But all in all it was so incredibly helpful to fully maximize my Stockholm experience. So after arriving in the evening at my hostel, I ran off to go get a hot cocoa from Chokladkoppen, walked around the old cobblestone roads on the island of Gamla Stan, and headed to Kungstradgarden (the King’s Garden) for Christmas lights and to check out the ice skating rink. Hilariously, there were a couple of boys playing American football while skating which seems both ridiculously fun and ridiculously dangerous.

For dinner, at Hannah’s strong urging of course, I decided that despite the price, I was going to treat myself to a meal of authentic Swedish meatballs at Prinsen. I am happy to report that it might have been the best decision of my life. I will dream about these meatballs for the rest of my life, you guys. You know that moment when you bite into something truly well-made and delicious, and this extra special taste bud in your mouth that you forgot about gets activated? It just jumps out and goes “Oh my god! I’ve been hiding for so long, but now I have life again!” Yeah, that’s what happened on my first bite. I normally get food fatigue halfway into my meal, and instead I kept nibbling on my lingonberries. Even when I was contemplating whether I was too full to eat more, I held onto my fork so that the waiter wouldn’t try to take away my plate. That’s commitment to food, my friends.

Pleasantly satisfied with my current state of life and concluding that the meatballs alone were worth the trip to Stockholm, I ventured off to Fotografiska at around 9:30pm because amazingly it stays open until 11:00pm nearly every night. This was particularly useful considering all other museums closed at 5:00pm or 6:00pm, not to mention extremely exciting considering I’m sort of kind of interested in photography…

The museum was incredible! There was such a clear distinction between how other museums display photographs and how a photography-specific museum displays photographs. Most museums are brightly lit and display a collage of photographs together on one wall – visually it does’t quite invite you in to truly view the photograph. Fotografiska, on the other hand, had dim environmental lighting with strong lighting that enhanced rather than altered the colors. One of the main exhibits was of Martin Schoeller’s work, with enormous prints of public figures. There was such a hyperrealism to the photographs, such a different way of viewing these people that you see plastered on media each and every day. It was also interesting to see how his rarely unaltered style put all of his subjects on the same leveled playing field, providing an objective view of each person. Getting down from my lofty high horse, though, can we talk about the fact that Taylor Swift's photo is right next to Obama's? That's literally the first thing you see when you walk into the entire museum. Props, girl. Props.

Finally, in the morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to grab a Swedish cinnamon roll (kanelbulle) at Fabrique bakery, took a quick run through the food market Ostermalms Saluhall right when it opened, and then walked across the bridge to the island of Djurgarden to see the boats and architecture! If I had more time, I would definitely have tried to go to Skansen (open-air museum & zoo) or the Vasa Museum (enormous Viking ship museum) since I heard both are incredible. Alas, I suppose I’ll have to come back again!

Many many many thanks to the incredible Hannah Greene for maximizing my spectacular Swedish experience under such tight time constraints!!



  • I stayed at Skanstulls Vandrarhem Hostel (might just be listed as Skanstulls Hostel on some websites) and quite liked it! I stayed in a 4-bed mixed room, but since it is off-season there was only one other guy in my room. The room had individual locks & lockers, enough outlets, and a light by each bed which is pretty crucial. The bathrooms were clean and spacious with plenty of toilets, showers, hooks, flat surfaces, etc. They also had a really cutely decorated communal kitchen & dining area with free coffee / tea / pasta. Location was great as well – it was close to the T and in the hip newer neighborhood of SoFo. The only two things I didn’t like was 1) the front desk hours of 8am-8pm really limited my ability to check-in late and check-out early, and 2) you had to pay to rent sheets which I find quite annoying. Ultimately, though, I’d definitely come back again! 


  • Be very careful with which airport you are flying in and out of! When I bought my $10 ticket, I didn’t realize there were 3 & that I would be flying into Skavsta which is about an hour and a half outside of Stockholm. This, again, took away from my daylight! I took the Flygbussarna (fancy coach airport buses, easily bookable online and when you get ther!) to T-Centralen, the central station. On my way out of Stockholm, I again took the Flygbussarna, but this time to the Arlanda airport which is much closer.
  • In the city itself, the public transit system is pretty great! I bought a 24 hour pass and used the subway multiple times & even jumped on a tram at the last minute when I read some signs & realized it was going towards my destination. It probably helps that I have multiple years of East Coast public transit under my belt, but I still think others would have an easy time navigating the area!
  • One thing interesting to note, is that Swedish taxicabs aren’t fare-regulated! I wasn’t planning on taking a cab to begin with, but just in case you are, heads up!


  • Prinsen – all you need in life, really. It’s a more upscale restaurant, but I didn’t get any judgment from the waiters for being in my cardigan, t-shirt & jeans.
  • Candy – Hannah made a great recommendation to stop in the Presbyran since Swedish candy doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup. The watermelon tubes (?? I don’t know my candy terminology) were definitely my favorite! However, I couldn’t tell the difference visually between some tasty licorice and some horribly disgusting sour-prune-flavored black candy, so…be careful with that one. 

Can't believe I've done 3 blog posts thus far! Onward and onward! 

[1Month2Wander] Stop 2: Getting Hoogly in Copenhagen by Amanda Liew

I've officially been traveling for one week on my 1Month2Wander trip, and am astounded at my own ability to semi-live blog my travels yet again. On Saturday, I woke up at the crack of dawn to fly from London to Copenhagen with my old coworker, Patrick, or as I lovingly like to call him, my "work husband." Pat was one of the first people I met as an intern in banking - I can't even imagine telling myself 3+ years ago that I would end up doing a weekend trip with the kid I sat next to in intern training! Yet, here we were -- Pat had moved to London for his next job & jumped at the chance to explore more of Europe. 

I've started judging cities by whether or not I would return for a longer stay. There are some cities with incredible tourist spots, but after you've seen them all once, I wouldn't necessarily want to spend a week there hanging & exploring the city itself. Without a doubt, Copenhagen passes that bar with flying colors. We kept referring to CPH as  "the cool older sister" of the neighboring regions because it just had the best vibes. I shouldn't be surprised because the Danes are well known for this, but everything was just so brilliantly designed visually: from the casual store fronts to the coffee cups to the offices. The architecture was a gorgeous mix of old & new, and everybody was just downright trendy and hip! 

The Danish word "hygge" roughly translates into the phrase or concept of "coziness" or "togetherness." We honestly saw it exhibited across the entire city - every coffee shop or bar was filled with a million candles, warm blankets & heaters for outdoor seating, and of course glogg their main mulled/spiced wine drinks. Technically the proper pronunciation of the word is "hooga" but Pat & I misunderstood it as "hoogly" the first day and it just stuck from there: "I'm having such a hoogly time! This is such a hoogly spot!"

One thing I was so impressed by was the extent the Danes celebrate Christmas. Pat kept joking that we were in Whoville because we seemed to run into a Christmas market every other turn, found adorable Santas in every shop, and then we went to...Tivoli. There are no words that can properly describe Tivoli. The place is seriously Christmas on steroids, and that's in addition to the fact that it's the 2nd oldest theme park in the world! We had zero expectations when we walked in & thought it would just be a quick market, but were astonished at the amount of old-school roller coasters, enormous Japanese pagodas, Taj Mahal inspired hotels, full sized Viking boats that were actually restaurants, and not one, but two artificial mountains. 

In terms of typical sights, I highly recommend the Copenhagen Free Walking Tours! We did both the Christianshavn Tour and the Grand Tour of Copenhagen, both of which were well organized, historically interesting, pretty darn hilarious, and probably the most efficient way to see a large amount of the city in a short amount of time. Fun fact: the bluetooth symbol is based off of a Danish medieval king which is why the symbol is a Viking one & the way Princess Mary met Prince Frederick is practically the real-life story line of The Prince & Me (in other words, ladies, it can in fact happen to you!). 

For those of you planning your own trip...

Great Things to See That I Didn’t Mention Above:

  • Nyhavn – gorgeous waterfront area with multi-colored buildings
  • Marble Church & Amalienborg Royal Palace – incredible architecture and such a beautiful stroll
  • Christianshaven – the “Free Town” of Copenhagen that has essentially been an experiment of a free society. Interesting that marijuana is sold so openly in little stalls, but since it’s technically not legal (like Amsterdam), everybody wears masks to hide their faces. Super fascinating to just walk around!
  • Coffee Shops: The Living Room & Café Paludan were both great hoogly options!
  • Food Markets: I went to both Copenhagen Street Food (located on Paper Island in the harbor, super trendy & great for dinner) and Torvehallerne (a food hall / supermarket that was great for lunch). A typical Danish item is the open-faced sandwich “smorrebrod,” and while it was really tasty, I think I have a weird aversion to cold sandwiches in general. At Torvehallerne I went to Grod which serves a variety of porridges that are really incredible – great example of taking something old & turning it into a new concept! 


  • Flew from London --> Copenhagen with Norwegian. My bag didn't get weighed, but Patrick and I switched backpacks just in case (it looks like a monstrosity on me just because I'm short)
  • We took a train from the airport to Copenhagen Central Station for ~35 DKK each which was surprisingly cheap!
  • Copenhagen is an extremely walkable city - we didn't have to take any busses or subways! It was never more than 20-30 minutes to where we needed to go. The city is extremely bike friendly, though!
  • We took a 45-50 minute train out to Helsingor to visit the Kronberg castle which was about ~100 DKK each. The ride was very smooth and they have a scrolling marquee that tells you the station stops so you don't need to worry about missing announcements.


  • Patrick was only here for 1 night so we splurged a bit more to get a room at the Imperial Hotel - it was quite nice, extremely close to Copenhagen Central Station, Tivoli Gardens, and the Stroget shopping street! I made fun of Pat for being a diva and getting us a hotel instead of a hostel, but I admit it was nice at the end of a long and crazy day hahah
  • I snagged a room at the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel for the two nights on my own. I was mainly attracted to the fact that they have a free dinner at 6:30pm every night where people can easily meet one another (you have to snag a seat by ~6pm though). The hostel was very centrally located & I ended up hanging out later at night with 3 awesome Italian guys & 1 Swiss girl from dinner! The hostel itself is huge, but it has a really fun vibe & was decently clean. I would recommend it!

ABCD Trip Part 1: The Grand Canyon by Amanda Liew

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I’ve always been a cheater when it comes to communication. I am essentially incapable of letting my photos or my words speak for themselves so I resort to doing both. That alone probably explains why I choose to blog instead of just letting this website stand as a portfolio - photos and words on their own cannot encapsulate it all, so why not combine the two? So as I begin blogging about my ABCD Trip*, I will do my very best to capture even a sliver of what this trip meant to me in terms of as many senses as I can describe! 

*Coincidentally our trip’s participants were Amanda, Benedetto, Corey, and Dana

As some of you may already know, this trip came at a time of significant transition: I’ve just finished up over 2 years in finance and am looking to shift to the social enterprise industry. As I was planning this trip with the others, I was ridiculously excited about the itinerary, but didn’t anticipate how the “flow” of the energy levels & emotions would impact me. My trip split into 3 parts: Vegas, the National Parks, and San Diego. Each one vastly different than the others. I finished up my job on a Wednesday, and less than 24 hours later was on a plane to Vegas which was perfect for a hyperactive catharsis of sorts. Over the course of two days we were running nonstop, barely sleeping, and literally dancing the night away. Then, suddenly, we were in nature nature nature for 5 straight days: the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Moab, and Zion. We were actively hiking each day, viewing grandiose creations of God, physically exhausted but mentally at peace. Finally, I was in San Diego, experiencing for the first time in a long time what it meant to have solitude lead to peace in my heart, mind, and spirit. I look back on the flow of this trip and am just so amazed by how KNOWN I am by God. We planned this trip based off of logistics, yet I can see so clearly how God's hand worked to ease me perfectly into where I needed to be in New York at this moment. Each aspect of the trip - the hyperactivity, the physical exertion, the self-confidence in accomplishment, the awe & wonder, the peace - was all what I needed to encounter. I just didn’t know it at the time. 

Enough with the misty-eyed reflections, though! Let’s talk about how epic The Grand Canyon was. After much deliberation, we opted to do the Bright Angel Trail, one of the more popular trails that descends into the canyon. There were signs all over warning us "what goes down, must come up" and that the ascension would take 2-3x as long. We slowly meandered our way to the 1.5 Mile Resthouse, taking photos every other second (mainly glamour shots of Benedetto heh...) and found a great lookout spot to eat our lunch at. The vision of the canyon are truly incredible - there's so much depth, so many layers, such an extensive amount of colors. I had originally bought my Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 wide-angle lens for my trip to Jordan and was so happy to have it with me for this trip as well! It makes a huge difference in the landscape shots.

Without a doubt, the true winner of our hike back up was Dana. Girl was storming up the canyon at a crazy pace, but making it look like she was just going for a chill walk. I, on the other hand, was merely grateful that I was passing some, but not all, of the 70 year olds on the trail. As some background, Dana & I were still getting to know each other on the trip since we hadn't hung out too many times before. It was as we were watching her fly up the steps that Corey began to spin his deception about how when I had the time, I should ask Dana to tell me more about her "condition." He convincingly started weaving a tale that Dana couldn't actually feel pain and that was why she was so good at these sorts of things. I was doubtful for sure, but coincidentally, 20 minutes before, she had told me a story of how she accidentally bruised herself doing a pretty mundane task which seemed to fit right into this issue. I started peppering him with questions (Wasn't that condition really severe? Wouldn't she be stuck at home?) , all of which he had answers to: she's really careful and has to monitor herself really closely, it used to be difficult but now she has it maintained, she eats really carefully, etc. etc. Finally he couldn't take it anymore and gave the ruse up to which I nearly pushed him off the canyon ledge. Not usually the one to fall for pranks, I had to give him credit where credit was due & we all had a solid laugh at the fake condition. Moral of the story? Dana's just a total hike killer & never believe any story that comes out of Corey's mouth.

Fortunately for us, we missed a sudden thunderstorm by about 3 minutes and managed to seek shelter in time. We were originally considering just heading back to the hotel, but instead opted to wait the rain out with some hot cocoa and try to catch the sunset from Maricopa Point. While the clouds weren't being cooperative, I have to admit that the shots came out beautifully. The amount of color & light in the horizon compensated for the lack of actual "sun." The way the light filled up & bounced off the inside canyon also made for a vastly different scene than what we saw only a few hours ago. 

One thing that we didn't fully grasp before our visit was truly how vast the Grand Canyon is. The next morning, on our way to Antelope Canyon, we got a view of it from a greater distance & just couldn't believe how it kept going and going and going. Driving around the canyon definitely added a significant amount of time to our trip, but it was well worth the views during sunrise. 

Overall, the South Rim was just a magnificent visit. A couple of tips & tricks below in case you are curious about the more minute travel details. Next up: Upper & Lower Antelope Canyon!

Learn From Our Successes and Failures!


  • We stayed at Canyon Plaza Resort for two nights and enjoyed our stay quite a bit! We were worried we would be too spoiled since we were just coming from the ARIA in Vegas, but the room itself was very clean & spacious. We had a slight issue with our key card on the second day, but overall I would recommend it. It is within walking distance of quite a few restaurants and a quick 10-15 minute drive to the National Park.


  • We had a great learning lesson to always trust Yelp. We forgot that the world doesn’t operate like NYC where restaurants are open until 2am, so by the time we decided to get dinner at 8:30, our options were extremely limited. I voted for Pizza Hut (the safest option), but we ultimately settled on Sophie’s Mexican Kitchen. Honestly, I’m not even kidding you when I say avoid it at all costs. Our meal was essentially the equivalent of “college kids try to do taco night.” The second night we were ecstatic for Pizza Hut, and despite the long wait, it hit the spot just right after a long day of hiking. 
  • For lunch, RP’s Stage Stop is a fantastic option - decently priced breakfast & lunch sandwiches. We all ordered delicious bacon-egg-and-cheese’s & lunch sandwiches to eat on the trail! All their coffee options are delicious as well. 
  • Once you enter the park itself, there are quite a few Lodges with food options. While we didn’t check out any dinner menus, we made the good choice of grabbing hot chocolates & pastries as we waited for sunset.


  • The parking lots & shuttle system within the Grand Canyon is pretty useful! Unfortunately due to the downpour, the shuttle system became extremely overcrowded.
  • If you are driving from the Grand Canyon to Antelope Canyon, you will need to drive through the park. I recommend leaving a large amount of time for the drive because there are some truly incredible sights along the way. Unfortunately we were on a tight time schedule and couldn’t stop as much as we wanted to!


  • In general for this entire trip, I think it would have been worth it for me to invest in a flexible gorilla tripod. There were plenty of situations that I could have taken advantage of a longer shutter speed to compensate for the large depth of fields I wanted to capture with my wide angle lens. The South Rim viewing points usually have a guard rail of some sort that would have been ideal to wrap the flexible legs around.

Want more details? Just contact me! We essentially stole most of the trip's planning from our good friend Claire & Greg and are happy to share details. 

Tiny Person Photoshoot: Baby Weston by Amanda Liew

A few months ago, I brought my camera along for fun to the joint baby shower for Amy & Renee. Fast forward to late August & imagine just how ecstatic I was when Amy asked me to take photos of the newest addition to her family: Baby Weston! One of my goals for this year is to branch out in terms of subjects, and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to photograph such a cute little nugget! A tiny person photoshoot - what an adventure, right? Because Amy didn’t have a specific plan or style in mind already, I originally planned to capture photographs that were gentle, intimate, and peaceful. Hilariously, Baby Weston had a different plan in mind. I certainly learned a lot of pointers during the shoot, that’s for sure. A few nuggets of wisdom on photographing the nuggets themselves:

  • Because of babies’ extreme short-sightedness (only a few feet at this point!), it required quite a bit of extra maneuvering and positioning to try and capture his gaze. This meant lots of squatting, jingling things, and shooting nonstop.
  • Many babies find running faucets extremely soothing which isn’t too far fetched, but it was pretty amusing to watch Weston go from crying to “in the zone” the minute we leaned him over the sink. It made me wish I had a waterfall easy access all the time for when I'm stressed (how nice would that be..)
  • Cuddly and textured blankets are your best friend. It was so easy to spread one out on the floor & still have it large enough to capture straight down shots & angled depth of fields without catching the edge! You don't get this luxury with "big person" photoshoots, so take advantage of it in this instance.
  • Keep the camera on the entire time. I was able to capture so many tender moments between the family just while they were arranging themselves, comforting Weston, or changing his outfit. Some of the photos of Weston clinging to Amy’s shoulder are so much more precious than anything we could have pre-posed.

One thing that I definitely want to improve on is shooting in low light settings. Even with a f/3.2, I had to bump up the ISO quite a bit & the graininess definitely comes across. As I continue to develop as a photographer, I'm starting to consider different equipment options (reflective surface probably would have come in handy here).

Aside from the photos themselves, this photoshoot was the 2nd time that I tried out my new donation-in-liew-of-payment method (get the pun..get it..?). A few months ago I first tested this out by asking Sarah Jane to donate to Krista’s mission trip, and similarly I asked Amy to donate to our church’s new women’s ministry which I strongly believe in. It’s continued to be a win-win-win for all involved: beautiful photos for the “client” // an implied valuation attached to my time & effort that doesn’t commoditize my art // an extra donation to a worthy cause! Beyond that, it’s been wonderful to connect my clients with those in need of the donations, thus helping to form a stronger connection within our community. If anybody else has unique payment systems, I would love to hear them!