For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to recognize the sources that have inspired me and influenced our blog.
My family Whether by nature or nurture, I credit my family for my love of travel. If there’s a travel gene, I surely received it from a grandparent on either side, for all have been prolific travelers. Having lived in and visited dozens and dozens of countries on every habitable continent, they all have the travel gene. Its Grandma Shibata who always passed on her father’s wisdom: If you don’t get out and see the world, then you’re just like a frog in a well. Of course, if travel is an acquired taste that must be cultivated, then I credit my parents. Although neither of them has traveled as much as any of my grandparents, they always took us on family vacations. From local destinations like Yosemite and Mendocino to foreign places like the Caribbean and Polynesia, they taught me to enjoy and learn from traveling.
Past Travels Perhaps nothing encourages travel more than travel itself. The thrill of entering the unknown, experiencing a new place, meeting different people, and encountering foreign ideas is not only intoxicating, but addicting. I was only three amazing weeks into my first visit to India that I promised myself that I’d do some long term travel before settling down in my life.
Paul Theroux A great writer who has chronicled some truly amazing journeys. Theroux’s stories are always entertaining, insightful, and inspiring. Inspiring in the sense that I want to “do” many of his journeys; London to Tokyo and back by train, Cairo to Capetown overland, Massachusetts to Patagonia by train, a circuit of the Med, all over China. What I like most about his writing is it provides a candid perspective of travel, not exaggerated like so much travel writing. He writes of the boredom, the constant discomfort, and the loneliness of travel. At the same time, I can identify with his love of simple things people-watching, looking out train windows, or walking. Reading Theroux reminds me what travel consists of and why I love it.
It seems that some people have the misconception that what we did was novel and unique. Sure, Americans don’t share the European, Australian, or Israeli traditions of a “gap year,” but we met tons of Americans doing the same thing as us. In fact, much of our research before and during our trip was focused on the blogs of individuals and couples doing RTW trips. While we compared FAQ’s, packing lists, and expense worksheets from dozens of blogs, there were only a few that we really followed with any frequency. Not surprisingly, these blogs also influenced me as I designed our blog.
Full Passport An old blog, but a great one. Wes and Jill’s blog is actually the first RTW blog we started looking at and one of the very best. They have tons of writing (daily diary entries), detailed country reviews, calendars, spending breakdowns, and lots of photos. I think what makes this blog great to explore is that they’ve seemingly gone everywhere and done everything- they traveled for 3 years and visited over 100 countries! I’m jealous.
Me-go: Around-the-World A blog covering a girl, Megan’s, second RTW trip. I liked this blog for its itinerary. While most blogs are South East Asia heavy, Megan went to places that most people don’t visit: Western China, the ‘Stans, India, the Middle East, and East Africa. Aesthetically, I really liked the overall organization, design, and feel, which I tried to emulate with our site (notably the random banners and clean-looking galleries, although I’m still trying to get our site as organized as hers).
Mom Say’s I’m Running Away It didn’t take too much research for me to realize that I don’t like reading most travel blogs; I just like looking a photos. Not only is this blog great because it is photo-heavy/writing-light, but the blogger, Rob, is an amazing photographer (the best photos I’ve ever seen on a travel blog). This blog influenced me to buy a dSLR rather than a compact camera and to make photos a big part of our blog.
The World is Not Flat There’s not too many RTW blogs by couples and there’s even fewer good ones. This is unfortunate because I find couples’ trips to be far more interesting than solo journeys. I think to some extent, we could identify with Lee and Sachi more than many solo travelers. Their writing resonated with me more and their blog gave me ideas on how to have a two-person blog.
A couple other blogs that we liked:
Six in the World Joylani followed the RTW travels of this family of six. And I thought getting the two of us around the world was a feat!
The Traveling Morans Entertaining sight, although their podcasts are the definite highlight.
mid-march along the five, grapevine
Well, we are still settling. While there have been many interviews, neither of us has yet to land a job, and I find myself doing something I never thought I would: living with my in-laws. The plan was always to stay here when we first arrived home, but staying has definitely turned into living and Matt and I have claimed the little nook in the sunny corner of the upstairs, also known as his sister’s room. The walls are still baby blue, but we’ve taken down the last of the tennis team photos and stashed the bulletin board that is plastered in stickers and mementos safely in the closet for the time being. Our big bed takes up most of the room, but in what’s left of it we have room to maneuver over to the closet where (dramatic pause) we have what seems like a ton of clothes hanging–suits, dresses, all the things we haven’t needed but now we do.
I love being unpacked, walking downstairs to a well-stocked kitchen in the morning and throughout the day, and sleeping in not just the same bed every night, but my own bed. There are probably just as many things that both Matt and I miss about traveling as there are things that we are glad about being at home. It is a well known fact that you can’t have it all, but you can be happy with what you do have, and we are. (But that doesn’t mean we won’t take off again sometime…somewhere…later.)
There is a lot more that I would like to have happen before I can actually say “we are settled,” but most of that is pending on finding jobs, so it is just waiting to happen…like my plans to find a fabulous Danish sofa and expertly put together a homey apartment to put it in. In other areas, however, I feel pretty up-to-speed—something which all this time off (ha!) has contributed to. We finally made that first trip up to Arcata. I had already seen everyone in my family except for my dad, so with another week without work, and it being about time I saw him, Matt and I drove the six hours up to Arcata for a fun weekend with my parents and little sister. (Long drives are a lot different when you are the one who has to drive.) I also got a chance to finally meet up with my friend Melissa, who I hadn’t seen since the beginning of our trip in Europe. Between Hawaii, California, and two weddings, we have seen a lot of friends and family. It’s refreshing to be close, accessible, to them again.
Some days I despair that we will never find jobs, and other times (when I am done emailing out resumes) I absolutely love this continuum of open time to do whatever and keep hanging out with Matt during the day, enjoy sitting in my sunny spot on the corner of the bed, cook a meal, or take a walk in the hills. And I wonder how much longer I will be able to enjoy this. I hold on a little bit more appreciatively to the day I have, not sure when I will start working again. In the meantime, the weather is getting warmer and it has been nice to fully witness the change from one season to the next. The trees are full with new green leaves, and things are moving on.
And a few thoughts:
There are two things that I tend to do (or think about doing), and one that I marvel over.
Collecting small change and bills. This was a necessity in several places we visited, and definitely so in Argentina. The habit carried over throughout South America, and now I find I still have a stack of ones in my wallet. Not to mention the coin pocket hat is bulging with quarters (good for the candy machines at Fry’s).
Throwing toilet paper in the trash can. Also a necessity in South America. For my first month or so back home, I found myself giving a sideways glance and sigh each time I saw a trashcan next to a toilet. But now my exasperation turns to relief as I remember I don’t have to do that anymore.
Hot water in the sink. I never realized how amazing this is until I didn’t have it for almost 2 years straight. It’s great. Sometimes I take an extra long time washing my hands just to revel in the novelty of hot water in the sink.
In the mean time, I’ve finally gotten the last of my South America posts up. You can read about what I thought about Copacabana, Mass on Christmas Eve, and Christmas in the hospital. Also, for those of you who remember our coke-drinking spree in South America, i wanted to share that I have tried coke just once since we have been back, and it’s just not the same. But I have had about twenty jillion cans of rootbeer to fill the gap.
If you haven’t already noticed, Matt’s been doing some work on our site. He has reorganized some of our albums, and you can now browse our pictures sorted by country in addition to checking out some new photos in the Flowers and Us In albums.
We’ve got some more additions in the pipeline including a destination guide covering [practically] every place we have stayed in the past 19 months (we switched beds 212 times, not counting 44 nights of overnight transportation) and well as a few tips and thoughts on various destinations. Post-trip lists and answers to new frequently asked questions (and believe me, they are frequent )are on the way as well. So please stay tuned…the blog’s not over yet.
In the meantime, if you are looking for some cool co-workers, we are both available and would love to be employed so that we will no longer be homeless hapas in the literal sense.
Oh yeh, and those posts I was going to post from a while ago…those are coming too…
Going to Hawaii feels like going home, only it still feels like vacation. Hawaii is comfortable, familiar and welcoming. As a home for people from many different cultures and as the main destination for tourists, Oahu always has a lot going on from live music, weekly fireworks shows, and cultural festivals, to name a few. And then there’s the food. (What place feels like home that has crappy food? Unless you normally have bad food at home. Sorry if that’s you.) Salty kalua pig, mac salad that is the perfect mixture of creamy, tangy, and al dente, my grandma’s refreshingly cool somen salad, sweet sunrise papayas in the mornings, toasty malasadas rolled in a crunchy bath of granulated sugar, a barely warm block of spam musubi at the beach, shave ice melting into a sweet mush of vanilla ice-cream, azuki beans, and syrupy goodness…the list goes on.
People are friendly, unpretentious. One morning I accompanied my grandmother on her daily run to the market and, like usual, she ran into an old acquaintance near the produce section. After talking for a couple minutes my grandma and I perused the display of apples and oranges, set up to look like a football field, complete with fans in the bleachers. The fruit on the “field” had pictures of peoples faces on them. We were laughing at the elaborate display of fruit when the man rolled his cart by and joked, “What, you looking for your face?” Anyways, I don’t think I really need to extol the virtues of Hawaii; they are already pretty apparent to most. But I do have a few other reasons reasons why I like it than the average tourist.
My dad is originally from Hawaii, so I have a lot of family there still. I always stay with my grandma, but this time got the added bonus of being there the same time as my uncle, who I hardly get to see. Matt and I had a lot of fun hanging out with him, and I must say (not that they weren’t fun before), it’s way more interesting hanging out with family when you are older and can actually carry a normal conversation. Mom and dad’s siblings are pretty cool. Hanging out with my grandma was nothing new, as I have been able to stay with her pretty much every year for the last six. The first time I stayed with her as an adult was when I studied at UH for the summer in 2003. I got spoiled with fresh breakfast waiting for me when I got up every morning, and became hooked on the Korean soaps she watches every night (more like telanovelas than American never-ending soap operas), which we would watch eating mochi icecream or while working on a crochet project. Almost six years later, we still watch the soaps. Matt joins in by default, though he does not crochet. Breakfast was hit or miss, and I usually just made my own, but there was still always a half of a papaya on the counter, waiting to be eaten.
with my grandma
In addition to family, we had fun seeing friends in Hawaii, most notably Matt and Sheila, an old roommate and friend from college. We did what we do best together, which is basically hang out and do nothing except eat, talk, and maybe the guys will share a beer or two… It just so happened that while we were hanging out with Matt and Sheila, we also got to finally meet their new son, Josiah (our god son!), for whose first birthday we were in town to celebrate. I made a chocolate cake for the occasion and we all had a good time watching the little guy discover the wonders of sugar.
Hawaii has been a really good transition for us coming back with a lot of familiar faces, places, and food, but still thrilling enough to feel “on the road” for a little bit longer
“The only thing worse than looking for a job is finding one.” -my Uncle George
As I begin sending my resume out in response to job openings, I’m starting to ask myself, “What the heck am I doing?” Broadly speaking we’re ending our travels to begin pursuing some of the other goals in our lives, but its just now that I’m realizing the implications of that choice: waking up early every morning to go rent the majority of my day to “the man.” Many of my friends and family often quip that Joylani and I are “living the dream.” I don’t like the cliché phrase, but its a somewhat accurate description of what we’ve been doing. But now, I’m consciously deciding to trade that for what everyone calls the “rat race.” With the realization that I’m trading “the dream” for “the rat race,” the only question is: What the heck am I doing?
Happiness is eating good food for every single meal and not worrying about getting GI problems. Happiness is spending all your time with family and friends. Its being thankful for simple comforts, luxuries, and pleasures: clean air, carpet, quietness, space, swimming in the (clean) ocean, drinkable tap water, refridgeration, ice, and even a familiar language.
We arrived in Honolulu late this morning for one last hurrah before returning home. I’m expecting a great couple of weeks here for a couple of reasons. For one, Hawaii is one of our favorite places. Besides all the family and friends we have here, there’s every kind of Asian food, the local food is good, the weather is awesome, there are verdant volcanic mountain ranges and dozens of gorgeous beaches, and its incredibly diverse. It’s the one place in the world where there’s a sizable population of hapas. It is everything that we’ve been lacking and craving for the last four months: family, friends, food, and comfort.
Not only is Hawaii paradise, but Oahu is meaningful to me in the same way that Fremont, Santa Barbara, and Delhi are. Although my first visit was not until I was 18, many important events in my life have taken place here. Its where Joylani and I started dating in 2003 and where we got engaged two years later (at Ehukai Beach, pictured above). Some of my closest friendships have been forged here. It’s where I began my adventurous streak, from simple pleasures from driving scooters to complicated endeavors like skydiving to pure pursuits like hiking. It’s great, familiar, and I could not ask for a better way to wind down our adventures.
It was a dusty road, but a good one.
Four weeks have passed since I last wrote anything for this blog. Recovering from a bad bout of food-poisoning along with a four-day trek, three over-night bus rides, and keeping up with the most energetic 70+ year olds I have ever met, have all taken a lot out of me, and I have chosen to sleep in my spare time, rather than write. Oh, I have a draft or two here and there, and some wafting around in my mind, but nothing ready to post just yet. I will post them…sometime soon…but in the mean time I couldn’t let this last day of our days abroad go by without sharing a thought or two.
As our plane sat on the runway in the crisp air of this morning’s chilly dawn, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Victory. We made it. A little bit scarred, perhaps a bit thinner, survived bad haircuts, a few disastrous bus rides and hotel rooms, got sick a few times—but we made it. And we had so much fun while it happened. And sometimes not so much fun. But it was a good trip.
I didn’t spend very much time thinking about what it would be like to be leaving finally. More of my thoughts have been spent thinking about what it will be like to arrive home and how I will feel: Happy? Sad? Nostalgic? What will it be like to completely change my lifestyle of the last 21 months? The answers will slowly start to show in the next few weeks. But for now I want to break down this victorious feeling I have.
This is not what I expected to be feeling on the plane this morning. It’s like the pleasure of winning race you have spent a long time practicing for. And the triumph of having, perhaps not overcoming, but at least to have survived the perils of dubious sanitation and food over the last couple of months (and be on my way home). I am not a believer of Nietzsche’s, “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” because I think that that which didn’t kill me has kind of jacked me up. But I do find strength and hope in knowing I will eventually be fully recovered. And it is nice to know I’m coming to a “safer” place where even if I will never look at peanut butter the quite the same, at least I will feel secure brushing my teeth in the tap water.
Finally, there is an accomplishment in having “done” this crazy dream. The dream, or in my opinion at the time, delusion, started sometime around Matt’s first time in India, and during my whirlwind of a trip visiting him. I had had a really uncomfortable last 24 hours, and we had just boarded a train bound for Delhi, where I would be leaving from in a couple of days. We shared the cabin with another couple, maybe five or six years older than us. They were also finishing up a trip—seven months on the road. They didn’t have jobs. I thought they were crazy—what type of adult quits his or her job and gallivants around? Matt, on the other hand, thought they had a good idea, and over the next year, proceeded to make me believe the same. We graduated. We got married. And we worked. We ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, and we pined away at the big map on our wall during dinner.
And then we left, and were finally swept up in the randomness and adventure that happens in dreams. And like with all good dreams when over, I hope to pick up in the same dream again one day.
This is not the end of the blog (coming soon: Hawaii and all my other posts…oh yeh, those…), but for now here’s a little song.
And so I’m [flying over] the sea
To an island where we’ll [be]
You’ll hear the music fill the air
I’ll put a flower in your hair
Though the breezes through the trees
Move so pretty you’re all I see
As the world keep spinning ‘round
You hold me right here, right now
I’m lucky I’m in love with my best friend
Lucky to have been where [we] have been
Lucky to be coming home
I’m lucky we’re in love in every way
Lucky to have stayed where we have stayed
Lucky to be coming home [to]day
(modified lyrics to Lucky, by Jason Mraz)