Travel newb.

Confession. Most of my wordpress entries are written while I’m at work. Yes, in between all the emails and phone calls, coffee breaks, and “important” meetings, I am often thinking about sentence sequencing, or ways to paraphrase convoluted thoughts, or which details to play up in that paragraph from that memory that’s headlining in my brain at the moment. I’m sure my coworkers have wondered about my extended blank expressions during meetings. Or why, occasionally, in the midst of some serious typing – because I’m obviously writing up an extremely passionate report about HIPAA audits – they hear a random cackle or sob from my work cube. I kid – I don’t laugh or cry at my own writing…externally…

Anyway this all leads to an apologetic explanation of my absence from the wordpress field as of late. Work has been a bit more demanding in the area of personal attention and privacy. Just completed a building move and the new location is an open layout, so people will no longer just be HEARING me sob, they’ll be able to visually witness the sad debacle. Damnation. This puts a slight damper on my abusing work hours by blogging.

But not to worry. It’s nice to think that in less than a month and a half, I’ll have full liberty to blog whenever my fingers please, though I will admit that I’ve grown to find some small bit of curious pleasure in having to look over my shoulder while writing. It’s like having your own little mischievous secret that no one else knows, and we all know that secrets tend to make everything a little more interesting, which may explain why I am writing yet again at work while the nurses are pacing back and forth in front of my blatantly unperturbed face.

So I see that my last entry was about the lemonade diet I so rationally embarked on a while back. That was…fun. Another etch in the line of things I’ve done in which my primary explanation will be in the form of a sarcastic shrug.

What else is new?

Well, in recent news, we now have a re-elected president (yay democracy) who I believe to be more of a social celebrity than a truly changing force in America, but for whom I have a mildly amused affinity for because he dances to gangnam style and has a pretty family. Oh and he also thinks it’s ok for women not to want a child that was seeded in them by a ruthless perverted criminal – guess that’s kind of important too. So after 5 gruesome hours spent yesterday in the name of honoring my civic duty as a citizen (aka not getting crap from everyone I know for not voting…), I am happy to say that I sacrificially partook in the success of the election outcome. Yay!
And that’s really all I have to say about politics.

In other news, I purchased my first piece of real travel equipment this week – a whopping $200 50L Osprey backpack to serve as the houser of my life for the coming 4+ months next year.

Thoughts: When it comes to travel gear, people do NOT mess around. It’s amazing how much technology goes into a simple travel backpack, accounting for the high price tag plus all the hours people spend trying to find the perfect one. I knew travel gear could get extensive (and expensive) but who knew how elaborate the features could be? Here is my travel newb scenario:

Small asian girl in heels (that’s me) walks in, coolly perusing the first line displays of attractive travel bags. I pick up a black and yellow REI vagabond 40 pack, note the front load feature and included rain cover, and gleam in front of the mirror at how well I think I’d blend in with a clan of backpackers with this backpack on (I’m still in heels..)

NAH UHhhh, honey. That bag ain’t for you,” barks a voice from behind. I turn around to an REI employee giving me the stank eye with a look that screams “can you BE any more of a novice?”

“Oh…what do you mean?” I caution back.

“Well FIRST of all, sweetie, you’re wearing a MEN’S backpack,” (These backpacks are gender specific??), “and it’s fitting you in all the wrong places.”

She proceeds to pull out some kind of measuring harness that she tacks onto my hips, gestures at me to pull some straps here and there, move my head that way and this way, do the Macarena (jk), and finally tells me that I’m an “XS”. Really, you needed that device to tell me that?

The lady then saunters over to a corner of the backpacking section that was too daunting for me to even step foot in (there were sooo many….STRAPS…) and picks out a pretty burgundy Gregory Jade 60 women’s backpack, retailing at $249.00. The torso frame on this one is noticeably smaller, the hip support belts much sturdier, straps in every which direction to give you the perfect hold, and overall a much more comfortable and protective fit. There’s apparently a billion n’ one other travel-advantage features on this thing, but the main point is that I had that “ahhhhhhh” moment as soon as I put it on.

I entered REI a travel newb and left REI a travel enlightened…newb.

Anyway, the eventual purchasing happened at Hudson Trail with an Osprey Atmos 50 that I fell in love with as soon as I tried it on. It wasn’t love at first sight – it’s actually quite ugly: gray, masculine, and straps galore. But it fit me like silly putty and I wanted strongly to take it to bed with me. So after some shameless smiling and friendly banter, I got the merchandising manager to cut down the price for me, throw in a HTO membership and a $5 gift rebate, and hugged my braaaand new backpack home with me! I love happy endings =)

Anyway, there’s a 5 year return policy on this thing, so much like marriage in America, there is no telling how long our relationship will actually last.

But for now…my new baby =)

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Day 6 update.

Today marks the end of day 6 on the Lemonade (Master Cleanse) diet.  Thought I’d throw in a quick update.

Despite more than one person’s exhortative warning, I am, indeed, still alive – very much so.  Don’t worry, I will be confirming this at the end of day 20 as well.  So far, I’ve lost 6.2 lbs, I can finally detect some remnants of abdominal definition, and my skinny (actually skinny) jeans have re-emerged from the dusty corners of my closet.  I’m being unfair – some of the abdominal definition must be given due credit to the daily yoga sessions (I swear Jillian Michaels, one day your abs will be MINE) that apparently, I have more than enough energy for even while drinking nothing but lemonade.  Believe it or not, I have been neither hungry nor tired since the 3rd day on the cleanse, so much so that I keep forgetting to even drink the damn lemonade throughout the day.  That’s not to say I’m not craving food, which is an altogether different issue from physical hunger.  Cravings…oh cravings can be deathly maddening, proven so by the other restless night when much to my bewilderment, I woke up abruptly at 3AM feeling a surprisingly intense desire to……cook.   O_O
Who AM I?  Who knows.

Well, I truck on, friends…onto a cleaner……healthier…

 

Ah, F it, onto a skinnier me!

When life gives you lemons…

…go on the lemonade diet!

And so it has begun. Round two of the lemonade diet chronicles.  Round one was had last year early in the summer months.  It lasted 10 days, I lost 10 lbs, grew dangerously cannibalistic towards the end, and vowed never to do it again.

This time around, I’ve decided to double the length of time I will be lemonading to 20 days.

…hey, some promises are just meant to be broken, what can I say.

 

So here’s the dilly.  For 20 days, I will be consuming ZERO solids. In fact, I will be consuming none other than what you see below:

6 – 8 cups of lemonade (water, lemon juice, raw grade B organic maple syrup, cayenne pepper), 2 cups of herbal laxative tea (morning and night), and plenty of water every day.  I’ve made an executive decision to omit the salt water flush because after one horrific and mentally scarring experience, I am deathly afraid that another attempt at injecting one whole quart (that’s HALF a two liter soda bottle, people…HALF….FRIGGIN……) of warm, digusting salt water will cause my insides to explode and putrefy to a green slime.  No thank you.  I’ll stick to poopoo tea.

Here’s what to expect from me during the course of this lovely adventure:

1) I will quickly morph into a whiny 10 year old girl in the first 3-4 days of the diet, as I will constantly complain to every soul within half a mile of my vicinity of the woes of my hunger.  I will most likely throw viciously evil stares at anyone eating anything remotely fragrant and carbalicious in front of my face, and if this state of affairs is left to continue, I will start to bark at you.  Because girls with no food can become…let’s say, animalistic.

2) Around day 3 or 4, I will grow very, very sick.  I will most likely have to miss a day of work, which is why I have strategically decided to begin mid-week, hoping I will hit this peak over the weekend.  Last year, my face turned an interesting shade of light green that made me wonder if I’d make a good Elphaba for Halloween.  In the end, I decided I would not.  (btw, if you’re curious, the sickness is caused by the body’s response to the toxins really starting to circulate and release from your body).

3) I will start to lose lotss…….of  jiggalow. My favorite part of the diet! =D !!

What I mean is, I’m totally doing this for the detox effects, of course…

4) That’s pretty much it.  I whine, I lose weight detox, I grow really really hungry and begin to see my fingers as delicious turkey sausages.

 

Why am I really doing this?

Honestly, I’m not really sure.  I’m kinda bored.  And I like doing sorta crazy shits just for fun sometimes.  Losing the jigs doesn’t hurt either.

 

Well, until next time!  (which should be soon, once I run out of people to harrass with the unfortunate effects of my starvation)

Mr.World, please don’t end.

Peeved.

It has been brought to my attention that a few many years ago, some group of dark skinned smart ass hooligans determined that the world is going to end at the end of this year, year 2012.  To be exact, it is supposed to end on December 21, 2012.

My flight to SE Asia is on December 22, 2012.

F U, Mayan bastards! *vigorous fist shake* You and all your crazy astronomical alignment, end of calendar cycle hoo-ha baloney.

World, you are GOING to continue, dammit.  You can end once I’m old and decrepit and ugly and tired of earthly shenanigans.  But until then, I have much too much to do.

MUCH too much…

Confessions of a restless soul.

I’ve been thinking about how to write this post for quite some time now. I’m realizing the challenge of becoming your own author of the things that you’ve found hard to admit to yourself for a long time. I’ve sat in front of this laptop multiple times trying to beat out something of substance that makes sense, something that doesn’t sound petty or foolish to the flippant ear. But in the end, I guess it is what it is.

I am looking for justification for leaving my life and venturing on a new one. I need to know why I feel the need to do this, why it has become stubbornly important to me, and why I do not even flinch at the thought of dropping my job, packing my bags and flying halfway across the world to conspicuously foreign lands with just an ATM card and a lonely planet guidebook. And I refuse to give it solely to downright stupidity and madness, though I’m sure that plays a small part in it all.

Inevitably, this takes me down a shadier, lonelier road, shrouded in shrubbery and dense thickets where the night vermin emerge only in the darkest of darks. It’s the path that ventures into the parts of my life, of me, that I am not proud of, borderline ashamed of, but the parts that I’ve decided nevertheless need to be visited at some point.

There’s one particular memory from earlier this year during a fairly low point in my life that I’ve been thinking back on lately. It was a Saturday night, just around the peak hours when the town’s youth begin to break from the late afternoon lethargy and re-energize for the festivity and glamour of the night ahead. My phone sat on my bedside table and was insistent with calls and texts from friends, all about the night’s events. I remember laying on my bed that night, watching my phone listlessly as it would light up…then turn off…then light up again, only for me to wait for it to turn off again. I remember being strangely devoid of any sort of feeling whatsoever: no interests, no desire, no joy, no pain, no thoughts. I had been that way since a few weeks prior, where daily tasks like going to work, coming back home, eating dinner, taking a shower, and going to bed became activities that I carried out mechanically and without feeling, along with most other elements of my life at the time.

I laid there in that same position for most of the night, not sleeping but just laying, in neglect of the plans I had made with my friends, until roughly around 1 am. I’m not sure what compelled me, but I suddenly leaped out of bed, grabbed my wallet, phone, car keys, and drove over to where the party was. There, I had no interest in socializing and allowed myself to drink too much too fast and quickly reached an intoxication level that let me believe it was okay to drive back home before anyone could notice that I had left.

Thankfully I made it back home that night without a scratch on my car or a ticket in my pocket. But, as karma would have it, to make up for that, as I walked into my bathroom, I propelled myself straight into the edge of my door frame with full force (I suppose I misjudged the width of my door frame…), which had me stumbling backwards and cupping my eye like it had just been shot with a bayonet. It hurt. like. hell. So naturally, I started crying. And then I started sobbing. And then I continued to sob…on…and on…and on, for a good part of that night.

It was a very sad and ridiculous scene, really. I’m grateful that through some heavenly force, I had enough sense through the alcohol to enact this scene in the privacy of my own bedroom. When I look back, I think about what it was that burst my bubble of calm and apathy, only to unleash a fury of emotion that left me swollen and breathless. My ex-boyfriend, who’s affections I had already lost months prior to the break up, had ended the relationship not long before this night. But I truly believe it was a lot more than the heartbreak of a failed relationship. There was something much more essential that I had lost. For lack of a better way of putting it, that something was my sense of self-worth.

I have always been a dreamer. Even as a child straight through college, there was always something I wanted badly to do, or to see, or to have. There is that saying, “dream big or not at all”. I’ve always told myself, “Every person only gets one life to live. Why NOT live it as grand as possible?”

I thought about this as I sat on the floor of my bathroom that night, wreaking niagara falls on my cheeks. What I had wanted and dreamt of in the carefree happiness of my youth, and what I had to show for it now was a devastating blow to my ego, in all honesty. Somewhere along the way, instead of living my life the way I had always wanted and taking ownership of my own happiness, I sought the comforting approval of someone else to validate me, to tell me that everything was okay, that I was okay. And I can say right now, that is a DANGEROUS game to play.

This year, I turned 27. There’s nothing particularly magical or special about that number, and I carried on through my birthday as I normally do every year. This year was a cheerful medley of food, beer, cake, birthday cards, presents, food, and more beer. Some pictures here and there. And before long, the day of humid skies, expanded waistlines, and calm merriment came to a close. And that was that.

It was actually the weekend after my birthday, when I was posed with a question by my brother that I was spurred into a string of obsessive thoughts and ideas with a growing excitement that eventually ended in me booking a $1000 plane ticket to Malaysia three weeks later. The question was quite simple, really. “So you’re 27 now, Yesl. What now… what’s next for you?

After pondering on this for at least what seemed like a long, long time, I realized that what I’d LIKE more than anything to have next…is a life truly worth living. A lot of people say that all the time, myself included, because honestly who DOESN’T want a fabulous life draped in adventure and meaning? But the roadblock for me has always been taking that next step in placing myself outside of the ordinary, the familiar, and the comfortable. It takes a certain amount of courage and faith, I think, to do that. I’ve come to a point where I am now willing, almost desperate, to take that leap of faith, if it means being able to participate in stories that I’ll be proud to imprint onto my identity and having a life that pursues what I have always vowed to pursue – my dreams, both big and small. I would very much like to learn of bigger things than myself, such as starting from the beginning again and taking baby steps to learn about God, who he is, and how he plays a role in my life. I’d like to experience other people and this world in ways that can only be experienced if one commits and actively, deliberately seeks it out.

So for some crazy reason, I came to the conclusion that dropping everything I have here and traveling to the other part of the world for a third of the year will catapult me into this next for me. It’s a start, and I hope that it will not be the last in my efforts to live outside the box and adopt a wider lens of this world. On top of that, I am very lucky that I am even in a position to be able to travel. I have my health. I have my funds. I have the time. I have the freedom. I know that many people who yearn to travel cannot say the same, and it feels like a humbling privilege to have that chance. As well as a despicable tragedy not to take the opportunity.

Several people have been asking me if I’m scared about being jobless when I come back home. In a way, yes I am anxious about an uncertain future. But I also hate the idea of people being chained to one place and one lifestyle… simply because of a standard idea of what a normal life should look like.

What if you could be free from the monthly mortgage payments and car bills, what if your baggage was light and your money was invested in experience rather than stuff?

For me, a nice house, a nice job, a nice family all sound very… nice. And it’s certainly something I will one day truly want. But right now, the thoughts of seeing a vibrant sunset from a side of the globe I’ve never been before, or feeling the warmth of foreign waters on my toes, eating dangerously unfamiliar foods and dealing with the aftermath, and witnessing new faces and ways of living that allow me to broaden the view of my own – these are the things that rile up my insides, not the former.

All that being said, I know that a trip in itself is not everything. I could spend all the money and time in the world traveling every niche and corner of this earth and come back with a million stories but still a void soul. I know that change is a journey, and perspective is a conscious effort. So I don’t bank on one trip alone. Instead, I have a series of challenges I plan to tackle one (or a few) at a time, both in preparation for my travels, and also, just because I want to:

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bag of money1) Money matters. Traveling costs money, apparently, so I’ll need that in order to do any of this, for starters. So from now until December of this year, I’m on a mission to live the righteous beggar’s life. And by that, I don’t mean I’ll skip an appetizer or stick to draft beer instead of an import. What I mean is that my paper and plastic will emerge for rent, phone, gas, and grocery bills…ONLY. Period. The challenge is to forgo the pleasures that I would normally not even think twice about, which is oddly A LOT harder than you’d think! What? Staying IN on a Friday night? No froyo whenever my belly pleases? No cute shoes smiling sweetly at me from the shiny store display? =(

Forewarning to family and friends: Christmas gifts shall be weak this year. Expect something… handmade. Yay!

  2) Fitness. I figure I’ll have to be pretty fit to backpack all throughout southeast Asia. Therefore, I’m on a regimen to get back in shape: running everyday, yoga (various types) 4 times a week, plus a green leafy diet. If ever I had a better motivation, it’s the anticipation of somehow ending up in the middle of a tiger-infested jungle, swarming with killer death ants and poisonous hot-tailed scorpions trailing at my ankles, and I’ll know that my life was saved alas… by kale, and the downward doggy. Four months! It can be done!

  3) The photo artist…issssssss hopefully what I’ll be inching towards until I leave the states. There’s still a WHOLE lot to learn, granted I’m still a novice, before I tackle the formidable task of attempting to capture the essence of the places I visit. But I’m super excited about this part of traveling- that I can carry with me the physical images of the memories I’ll pick up along the way. Not a budget-friendly hobby though, that’s for sure. (please refer to point #1).

  4) Spiritual openness. I once wrote a lengthy entry about this topic, or rather, about the lack thereof.  It never made it as a published entry on my blog, though I do plan to one day finish those thoughts that I started.  It’s definitely too heavy and loaded of a topic to include here and would detract from the main point of this particular post, but with brevity, I will say that in recent years, I’ve noticed myself adopting an attitude of spiritual confinement.  I find myself blocking out things God and Jesus related, not because I no longer believe, but because I no longer fully understand and wonder if I ever truly did at any point in my life, or if I simply did not care to intimately and thoroughly comprehend what it was that I brazenly confessed in faith.  My doubts led to the decision that I would rather question with authenticity and integrity than to slither through the well traveled and ideal Christian journey all my life in a haze.

I do not discredit, though, the freedom and joy one can experience through spirituality.  At this point, I am referring not solely to Christianity, but to the larger, more universal idea that we are not just ourselves – that there is some kind of bigger force, a more extensive and purposeful beauty to this life and to this existence that, through the right lens, sheds a ray of truth and of peace.  Oftentimes, even of hope.

I look forward to traveling with an open mind.  I would love to be immersed in a culture of people who eat, think, and believe in completely different things than I, to understand who and what it is that brings them strength and hope, and to see the places that they have built to feel closer to their gods.  I want to go with an empty cup, and I long for it to be filled with things that God wants me to experience, what he wants to teach and show me.  In all that, it would be the greatest blessing if by seeing a different light of his creation, I too, could feel closer to my God.

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So there you have it. My focus points for the next four months.

And then I quit my job!

I’m tired of being restless.  And I’m done living a life that is plagued by the past, saddened by the present, and wishful for the future.  I want to stop dreaming of what I can do, and just do it.  And whatever comes of it…well, I’ll never know until I try.

Marimba morning.

I woke up this morning to the sound of marimba playing on my phone at 6:15 am. On any normal Monday morning, this is the most gloriously annoying sound I could possibly ask for.  On any normal Monday morning, I would have let out a half-hearted groan as I clumsily fumbled around with the slippery device, in search of the button, any button, that would put an end to the auditory protest.  This would happen three, maybe four more times throughout the course of that unwelcomed morning, before my feet would finally, but reluctantly, unravel from the warm sheets to face cold, tiled flooring.

On any normal Monday morning.

But today wasn’t any normal Monday morning, because this morning I woke up engulfed in a plethora of heavenly soft sheets, another throw pillow- one of many incredibly unnecessary throw pillows- to hug my face in every which direction I turned, and a small but insistent ray of sunshine peaking through the cracks of the canvas curtains that hung over the doorway to the sun-drenched deck outside.  But most importantly, I woke up knowing that marimba here, was an accident.  Yes, I had merely forgotten to disable my weekday alarms the night before.  And why, you ask, would I do that?

Because I’m on VACATIONNNN! :D  *Insert happy dance jig here*

So after a long day of belly-stretching laziness and fun, of sun and sand, and water and waves, and ice cream and ukulele…I’m ready to expire while watching Anthony Bourdain on food network, knowing that in just a handful of restful hours, I get to have today’s morning…

All. over. again.  =)