Wednesday, July 22, 2015

WE'RE HOMEOWNERS!!!

170 square feet. Two bed. One bath. Open floorplan. Location. Location. Location.


Way back in November, we had an idea. And today, we took the first step towards making that idea a reality. Stay tuned for some serious US adventures!


Saturday, May 23, 2015

We’re starting to seriously panic about the price of entry to return to the US. Cell phone plans. Health insurance. A computer. A car?? Hair appointments. Dentist appointments. Clothes and shoes that haven’t been worn every day for ten months. Living in the US, California especially, is freaking EXPENSIVE!!

Our perspective on finances changes so much whenever we travel. We’ve grown accustomed to spending no more than $2 on a meal. To not having any bills. To paying someone $3 to do all of our laundry for us. I was reading the menu of a new restaurant I want to try in LA, and noticed that not a single glass of wine was under $15. FIFTEEN DOLLARS!! That would pay for a hotel room in Vietnam. A nice one!

People often ask how we afford to travel like this. And the short answer is, we save aggressively and spend prudently. We travel to really affordable places where our monthly budget is a fraction of what it is at home. We think carefully about every purchase and make sure it’s meaningful and worth it before we splurge. We stick to our guns and don’t make exceptions for every special circumstance (cause trust me, there are lots of them!)

But somehow, within weeks of living in LA, I know that a $15 glass of wine will feel normal again. Phone bills will be paid without a second thought. Appointments and shopping trips just a swipe of a little piece of plastic.

As our arrival in the states grows closer, we are really hoping to carry a little more of this mindfulness home with us. That we’ll seek out and appreciate the cheap and free things to do in LA, just like we would if we were travelers there. That the line between wants and needs will be almost as clear as it is on the road. After I buy my new iPhone, that is.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Midget Boxing Lady Boxing

Cause when the bar around the corner from your hotel advertises midget AND stripper boxing, you go. And you watch. And you cheer.





Note: If you find a nice looking hotel in Manila that's in your backpacker budget, it's probably in the red light district.

Monday, April 13, 2015

All Too Civilized

One day you’re walking down a road that is under water for half of the year, amongst naked kids playing soccer with plastic bags and houses on wooden stilts. The next day, you’re riding down an escalator in a shopping mall with a Starbucks cup in your hand. Travel has a way of messing with you.

It’s strange - We’ve always felt more culture shock upon arriving home from a developing country than the reverse. Everything is just SO convenient! There are SO many things to choose from at the grocery store! Portions are SO big! People have SO much stuff! We always return to the first world overwhelmed by the excess, and determined to live more simply.

But inevitably, within mere hours it seems, we’re right back into the swing of things. We upgrade to the latest iPhone. We become particular about the kind of cheese we buy (New Zealand grass fed extra sharp white cheddar). We need new clothes and new shoes and our apartment slowly gets filled with new stuff. How are we all innately so hard wired to consume?

On our recent transition from the remote dusty village of Kompong Phluk to the metropolitan city of Manila, the shock was a particularly strong one. Because over the past several months, we’ve grown to feel so connected. To those around us. To history. To the earth. Okay, I know I sound like I’ve gone completely off the reservation here. But I’m telling you, long term travel heightens our senses in a way we could never have understood before experiencing it. We found on our 2010 trip, and again now - when we are constantly surrounded by strangers, judging who we can trust, finding our way, navigating the unknown - a sort of sixth sense emerges that enables us to read the energy of a person or a room or a place in an instant. The longer we’re gone, the stronger it gets. And when we return home, it fades right along with the desire to live simply.

So I find myself on this escalator in the mega Greenbelt Mall of Manila, and everybody around me just feels so… disconnected. Wandering the air-conditioned halls like zombies. Phones in hand. Shopping bags on arm. It felt so empty to me in contrast to where we had just been. Sterile. Soulless. It was difficult to comprehend how both of these worlds are happening simultaneously, less than a day’s travel from one another. It felt like another planet.

We sat down at a generic, overpriced restaurant in a spotless booth with colorful, laminated menus in our hands. I asked Reece – Why is it that sitting on a dirty stool on the sidewalk, breathing the exhaust of passing motorbikes and eating whatever their serving up that day, is so much more satisfying than this? I don’t get it. He answered - Because it makes us feel human. Funny, I bet a lot of people out there would argue the opposite.

We both felt a bit sad by the realization that we weren’t excited to be back in “civilization.” That we missed the dirt roads and lack of technology and the connection with perfect strangers. Cause after all, this is the world we’d be returning to in LA. Were we ready for that? Had we been too quick to book our flights home? The feeling made us uneasy.

Ultimately however, there are a million amazing things about going back to California. We are so, so lucky to call it home. And it goes without saying that we’re excited about everybody we get to see when we get there. To enjoy the existing, lifelong connections of friends and family, instead of perfect strangers. And we are so insanely blessed that we have the choice to experience both. To get lost in a third world country, and then return to the comforts of the US. 

Further, we are grateful that places so unlike home still call to us so deeply. That we share the desire and apprecaition. And that hopefully, even after going home, it won’t be long before we return to them again J

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap really turned us off when we first arrived. I mean this place is TOURISTY. A street called "Pub Street" with nothing but bars. "The Lane", a tiny alley with cafes and wine shops. The "Night Market" full of souvenir stands and foot massage parlors. A plethora of boutique hotels with comfy beds and stylish pools. Wait a minute. This place is awesome!

That's pretty much how our experience there evolved.



Yes, it's full of tourists. LOTS of them. And all of the comforts that cater to them. Not at all the exotic, mysterious land I envisioned. Which makes sense, considering the 2 million visitors to Angkor Wat every year. Once we got over our damn selves and embraced it, we had a really good time. How can you be mad at $1 beers? What could you possibly have against $2 foot massages? Tell me one bad thing about a $22/night hotel room? And who wouldn't love $1.50 margaritas at an open air restaurant that actually serves damn good Mexican food? Be reasonable.

Toss in some Khmer boxing, Apsara dancing, and traditional craft-making, and you've got a pretty well-rounded experience. Not to mention that somewhat significant series of temples nearby.




Siem Reap is easy and fun and affordable and, while crowded, a place I could easily recommend to anybody. And please, have a blended margarita at Viva for me. With salt.


For photos of our time in Siem Reap, click HERE.