New Territory

Via Joie De Vivre (I think - not actually sure about the original source because tumblr's horrible for tracking that.)

Via Joie De Vivre (I think. Not actually sure about the original source because tumblr’s horrible for tracking that. I’m not even convinced this is a precise quote from HH Dalai Lama.)

I came across this image pinned on Pinterest and felt instantly both happy and guilty. I felt happy because, ever since I was about 20 years old or so, I’ve made it my life’s goal to travel someplace new every year. For me, travel is an essential part of a life lived with intention: it exposes me to new sights, sounds, people, cultures…ways of thinking, ways of interacting, and ways of being, so I can be more intentional about my habits of thought and action, choosing which ones are worth keeping and which are worth sloughing away. I’m the kind of person who gravitates towards friends I admire because I love to learn from them. It’s my friends who help me be more generous, more kind, more complimentary, more willing to stand up for myself, more funny, more open, more creative, and more courageous than I would have been, if left to my own devices.

Travel does that for me too. While others might worship power, money, status, or prestige, I bow to the altars of Freedom and Experience. I choose an unfettered life in which I can continually explore and learn and grow. I chose a lifestyle that affords me opportunities to do so, even if it means being far from people we love and that I roam outside the box, fall off the corporate ladder, and don’t fit in anyone’s pigeonhole.

I couldn’t always afford travel, of course. The greatest irony, I discovered when I graduated from college and started working at a publishing company, is that the college life afforded plenty of time to travel, but no money. I started working and had plenty of money, but no time. Nevertheless, I made my resolution stick. By hook or by crook, I would see some place new every year. It didn’t have to be exotic and it didn’t have to be fancy, or even comfortable. Sure, flying off to Greece would be lovely, but there were plenty of things to explore in my vicinity.

So, sometimes that new place involved a flight overseas (my 25th birthday present to myself was a trip, all by myself, to Germany). Some years it was as exotic as South Carolina. Or it was a festival in the desert, like Burning Man. Or just a new city in my home state. And I’ve bunked on couches, camped in tents, shared rooms in hostels, and even spent nights sleeping in a car to make it possible.

When I came across that pin, I felt so happy because this one life goal has brought me so many experiences and a life that I already feel has been so enriched.

But I felt guilty too. Because this whole living life with intention thing is an ongoing process. I’ve flown halfway around the world and landed in the tropics on the other side, but that grand gesture doesn’t let me off the hook. Just because I did it once, doesn’t mean I get to be complacent. If I want to still learn and see and experience and grow, I can’t forget my life goal.

And this year, I almost had–might have entirely, if I hadn’t seen that quote. Since getting pregnant, I’ve lain low. We had talked about going to Bangkok for a shopping & eating expedition at our favorite shops and restaurants, but I mentally shoved it aside, feeling uncomfortable with too much exertion when I felt I should focus on the baby. This year we’re celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary not by jetting off like we did last year, but by staying at an uber-fancy resort right here in town. (Turns out, when you don’t have to pay for transcontinental flights, you can put that money towards some swank accommodations!) And maybe that’s okay. The Parent ‘Hood is definitely new territory for us–a whole new wealth of experience and learning that I can only begin to imagine.

Now that I’m thinking about it again, we’ll probably work in a day or weekend getaway to one of the little towns near us that we haven’t yet seen. I hear Chiang Dao is beautiful, and it’s only a few hours’ drive away. I do wonder though, whether a new place in life constitutes a new place for being and seeing. Maybe, as Proust has said, it’s about seeing things with new eyes more than it’s about just seeing new things period.

Either way, every now and again, it helps to get that reminder to stay open.


Scenes From My Weekend

This is probably stretching the definition of a weekend, including pictures from our flight home last week, but touching down in Tokyo was just so gorgeous at sunset, I just had to share. One day, I will actually visit this city. I’ve traveled through here six or eight times, but I’ve never actually stayed. One day, I will.


The rest of the photos include:
roses my parents bought to welcome us home
a ghetto-ass plastic bottle turned vase, thanks to Pinterest inspiration
home brewed tea + old shirt
to create a tea-stained (on purpose) shirt
and my new favorite funky vegetable: wing beans.
Slice them up raw and toss them in salad, they’re like crunchy stars.
(Also good in soup.)


Linking up with Communal Global

A Coffee Chat

Today, I am sipping coffee out of my favorite Harry Potter mug. It’s one with a picture of Hagrid on it, carrying baby Harry on the flying motorbike – funnily apropos, given that tomorrow, our adventures in America will come to an end, and we’ll be flying back to Thailand.

I’m not looking forward to the long, long flight. I’m also getting a little sick (surprise, surprise, considering, in the past month, we haven’t lit in one city for more than five days at a time). I’m hoping I can stave off the bug so I’m not too miserable on the plane.

In the last few days I’ve been at home, I dug up some old photos of me as a baby, and my family when they were younger. I chose several favorites to make sure I have a digital copy of – because who knows what will happen to the hardcopies in the future, right? It’s good to have a back up.

Here’s one of my dad, back when he was a soldier:

And my mom (she’s the one on the right):

And here’s me as a baby:

Actually, I’m pretty sure I was trying to be some kind of Venus fly trap when I was a kid

because I sure did spend a lot of time with my mouth wide open.


I was agape.


Seriously ridiculous.

Anyway, today we’re going to spend packing (i.e., shoving all the new stuff we’ve acquired into every crook, cranny, and pocket and praying that we’re still under the weight limit). And we’ll pick up my nieces from school and take them skating one last time and maybe have one last game of baseball together before we go. And then, in the morning, we shall begin the long trek back.

I probably won’t be able to have a Bigger Picture Moment post up this week since we’ll be in transit until late on Friday, so I’ll catch up with you all next week. I hope everyone affected by Sandy stays safe and dry and that this storm passes quickly.

Till next time!


Scenes From My Weekend

A visit with Toby’s colleague – whose apartment has a fantastic aesthetic
and a fabulous pooch named Henri.
A pumpkin spice latte
because if you’re Stateside in the fall, it’s practically a requirement.
More coastal scenery on the drive from the OC to San Diego
An early dinner at Stone Brewery
and their smoked porter with vanilla beans
and Toby’s new camera.


Also linking up with Communal Global

California is so friggin’ scenic

As I write this, I’m rocking out to Fun.’s “Some Nights” and “Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes. Those two songs have become the soundtrack to my trip home and the epic time we’ve been having with our friends. The latter was playing while we were folding pinwheels and making bouquets out of succulents. And the bride and I grabbed each other and belted out “Home, home is whenever I’m with you” as we danced in celebration of their union and our reunion.

I’m going to remember that forever.

Toby & I drove down the coast route, the Pacific Coast Highway, our favorite way to get from Santa Barbara to L.A.

We had the top down on the convertible. The ocean was candescent with greens and blues. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.


I asked Toby what top three qualities he appreciated most in people. He said an adventurous spirit or drive, self-sufficiency, and being unpretentious about who you are is what he valued most.

My top three are: loyalty, compassion, and an approach to life with a healthy sense of humor.

What are your top three?

Travel has expanded my definition of home. It’s not one place or one scene or one idea. But it’s a large, beautiful home. And my heart overflows.


A Coffee Chat

That right there is some red velvet bread pudding. It looks like dessert, but it was my breakfast. If we were sitting down for coffee and a chat right now, I’d have a ton of stories to tell you. It’s been an action-packed week, in which we’ve rolled sets of silverware into napkins, folded pinwheels until our fingerprints near wore off, made bouquets of succulents, eaten more red meat and drank more malty & hoppy beer than we have in the past year, partaken in deep fried Snickers and cornbread Kielbasa sausage pops (seriously), watched grannies dance Gangnam style, and shuddered at the “chill” of 60-degree weather. (We’re wusses.)

I’d tell you about the cousins of the bride, who, during the wedding, took a Slip ‘n Slide down to the beach and set it up to slide right into the ocean, but when one cousin slid down, the tide went out and he slid right down and rolled over into sand. He did it in his under-britches and another cousin stole his clothes, so he had to run half-naked back to the reception to get his clothes.

I’d also show you the video of the opening dance and the bride & groom’s first dance. (Skip ahead past the first minute, and be sure to stick around for the bride & groom’s dance.)

So that happened. I also love how none of us went to help them up.

The wedding was a blast, but it wasn’t all we did. I joined my boss from SOLD and, together, we gave a presentation at Westmont. My best friend from college and her husband came down from San Francisco drove all the way down to see us, so every moment not dedicated to wedding stuff, I spent with them. Other friends from college were in town for the wedding, so we caught up with them too. Toby and I also enjoyed driving around and seeing old familiar sights.

I had kind of forgotten how freakin’ scenic Santa Barbara is. Mountains, ocean, palm trees…crisp fall weather.

Having a convertible to drive around in is also fun. (Thanks, Mom!)

It’s been a great weekend. Tonight, we’ll drive back down to LA to hang out with Toby’s colleague & his wife. We need to stop at the embassy again on Wednesday morning, then we’ll head back to Orange County. I want to soak up as much time as possible with my nieces and nephew before we leave. But there are dinner plans with family friends and a trip to San Diego in the mix, so we’ll pretty much just keep on hopping until we fly out.

How has your week been? Thanks for stopping by for the coffee and the chat! Hope you’re enjoying some fabulous fall weather too!

Scenes From My Weekend

Toby driving down the coast; me peeking out of the convertible
red velvet bread pudding, more dessert than breakfast
An October wedding
a gift trunk
succulent centerpieces; the opening dance
the view from the reception area
bride & groom; candy wedding favors
guests on the dance floor
pies for dessert & a neglected glass for wine.

It was a jubilant weekend and a sweet & fun wedding.


Also linking up with Communal Global

A Coffee Chat

This morning, I’m sipping my coffee in a shop just a few blocks down from Paramount Pictures Studio. It’d be really cool if I could tell you that it’s because I’m starring in this new feature film, but really it’s because we just had some business at the Thai embassy nearby. It’s a cool coffee shop though, with a neat scrubbed wood and metal aesthetic. I’d show you pictures, but I left the camera in the car, so we’ll just have to make do with this flower from a breakfast in Charleston last week.

It’s a pretty flower anyway.

And it was a pretty day in Charleston too. We got to look at some of the old historic houses. I wanted to buy them ALL.

I wouldn’t say no to the Jag either.

I just LOVE colonial style architecture.

I can’t even pinpoint what I like about them. The combination of colors, maybe. How they’re so individual.

I especially love the dove gray ones, with black shutters and white trim. Gorgeous. The brick ones are a favorite too. And I adore wrought iron.

I would be so tempted to buy one, except the only one I could probably even think about getting would be a fixer-upper and there are very strict regulations governing such historic buildings. To get the proper crown moulding or precise correct treatment and details would all cost too many pretty pennies to count.


So I’ll stick to coveting them.

And daydreaming about how I’d decorate each of the individual rooms. I like the idea of a different theme for each room, but complementing colors for adjoining rooms and hallways. I would do that.

We took a day trip up to North Carolina to visit a friend. He took us to a Molasses Festival and we were very excited at the prospect of a whole festival dedicated to molasses. We could only imagine what goodness we might consume.

Alas, the Molasses Festival had no molasses.

It did have a camel though.

And Toby cracked a lot of jokes about all the camel toe he saw.

I rolled my eyes and sighed.

After we’d got our fill of the no-molasses Molasses Festival, we took a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway to ogle the tree leaves.

Them are some pretty leaves.

We hiked to a waterfall too.

I might have been temporarily distracted by other sights.

It was a great view.

The mountains too.

I guess.

This week is jam packed. We’re having dinner with friends in LA tonight, then driving up to Santa Barbara, where we have plans to meet friends for drinks tomorrow, dinner & drinks with my boss on Thursday, a wedding rehearsal dinner on Friday, a wedding on Saturday, and then hanging out with different friends on Sunday. At some point, we may also actually get work done.

I am grateful every day that we both have jobs that let us work from almost anywhere.

Are you going to watch the debates tonight? I’m going to try to. Our friends are political junkies like us, so we may watch them together. Or we may just focus on having a good time together, being as limited as it is. It’s not like you learn anything new in debates, if you’ve been paying attention at all. They’re kind of more like pep rallies than anything else.

Well, my coffee is getting cold, and I’m not one to waste a good El Salvadoran french press. What’s in your cup this week?

Scenes From My Weekend

I spent my weekend in the Carolinas (North & South).
It began with a day trip to Charleston,
where we consumed biscuits & gravy and ginger pumpkin bread
before doing a walking tour of the houses.
I just love colonial style architecture.
We ended that day at the Tattoed Moose,
where I ate duck fat fries & vanilla porter.
Then we took a day trip up to Lenoir, NC.
We went to a Molasses Festival
that had a camel, but no molasses.
There were pretty soaps though. And old tractors.
And men in kilts tossing logs, Highland style.
Then I got to watch autumn happen
up in the Blue Ridge Parkway
which is one part of the Appalachians.
What a sight.

Simply stunning.

What did your weekend look like?


Also linking up with:

A Globetrotter’s Life

When I was little, I used to dream of having a life where I could travel and see the world. When I tried to imagine myself as an adult at the ripe old age of, say, twenty-five, I imagined myself in an airy New York apartment with wood floors and concrete walls, stalking about in power heels and a sharp suit in between jaunts to London, Chicago, Paris, and Moscow. I was a lot taller too.

It wasn’t clear what all exactly I’d be doing, but that’s what it should look like.

As I got a little older, the probability of this fantasy coming true began to wane. I maxed out at 5’1″ in high school. I pursued studies in art, clearly having no realistic sense of how few artists make enough money to buy tailored suits and plane tickets. I thought I’d become a graphic designer, working with models and photographers for fantastic magazine ads like the kind you see in Vogue, clearly having no sense of how to get there.

I thought I might do a semester abroad in college, but I had the kind of love going on that kept me bound rather than setting me free, and I was okay with that. I made my choices. I might have been a little afraid to leave too.

Then, after college, I got a “real” job working in advertising for a real magazine company. The dream, right? Except I was chained to my desk. I learned that ads involved more computers than cameras and stock photos of Tahiti rather than trips to Tahiti. I finally made enough money to travel, but with only two weeks’ worth of vacation time primarily eaten up by Christmas and New Year’s, I never had time to go anywhere.

I made a rule for myself then: to see one new place every year. It didn’t have to be exotic; it just had to be someplace I hadn’t been before. I stopped envisioning trips to Rome and Machu Picchu, and focused instead on the splendors of Yosemite, Nevada, and South Carolina. That rule for myself was my lifeline; my declaration that I had not given up on my dream, no matter how little money or time allowed for it.

When that job at the magazine publishing company lost its luster, I decided to go back to school, and again traded time for money. I had vacation time aplenty, but no money.

My twenty-fifth birthday did not see me in a svelte flat in New York.

But it did find me on a plane to Germany. I begged and bartered my way there, staying with people I was lucky enough to know living there, thus saving on hotels. (One of whom was a man I’d never met before in real life and on the train down to meet him I began hyperventilating over the fact that he could be all manner of dangerous freak — it turns out he was one of the most gentlemanly men I’ve been fortunate to know and he set me up with a place to stay at a female friend’s house and they showed me all around Munich, despite barely knowing me, and we’re still very good friends to this day.)

I made that trip as a gift to myself because I wanted to prove to myself I could travel on my own. I remember arriving at that German airport and being terrified for not being able to speak the language and being all alone. It ended up being one of the best gifts I ever gave myself. I learned the kindness of strangers, and I learned I was less fragile than I thought.

Flash forward a few years, I was coming to the end of my doctoral program, still unsure what my future would hold. I might have had a few day dreams of standing in a long flowing skirt on a dirt road, with dusty children playing around me, as I fought for their rights. But those dreams were born of visions of movies like The Constant Gardener and had all the reality of centaurs and Patronuses.

And yet, this time, I was a little older, a little braver, and married to a man who had spent a year traveling around the world. Rather than chaining me to all I knew, he spurred me to know more, see more, and do more. We spurred each other on.

I could have played it “safe” and followed a career path so set and immutable it was literally called a “track.” But we were ready for a transition. We were comfortable – and we figured we were far too young to be so comfortable.

So we shed everything: our apartment, our furniture, prescriptions for a “safe” job (which, by the way, was not at all safe given the state of the economy), my trusted old car, and my husband’s beloved motorbike. We traded it all in for one-way tickets to a foreign country and a potential position with an NGO.

This year alone, I’ve been up and down Thailand innumerable times. I’ve been to Hong Kong, Berlin, Krakow, Prague, Dresden, and Los Angeles. I’ve stood in a long flowing skirt on a dirt road, with children playing by my feet as I discussed the best ways to keep them from becoming enslaved. And I have plans to go to Charleston, Santa Barbara, and the tropical islands in the south of Thailand. I have far more experiences and much less stuff. I take shorter showers, but communicate in more languages and eat a much broader repertoire of food.

Looking back, I’m still not sure how I got here, other than much like my first trip to Germany: I booked the tickets and then freaked out about it later, when it was too late to do anything but put one foot in front of the other.

But I’m still just shy of 5’1″. (If anything, I mighta’ shrunk a bit.)

A traveler’s life can be lonely and isolating, being so far from all you know and having to navigate all manner of things without speaking a lick of the language. But the truth is, I never really did any of it alone. I did it with the emotional (and often financial) support of family. I made friends with people who made transitions easier. I have a husband to hold my hand and mirror my look of awe and surprise as I go. I flew, always knowing I had a soft spot to land with friends and family whenever I wanted or needed.

When I was little and dreaming of a globetrotter’s life, I couldn’t really imagine much beyond that svelte flat in New York. Now I’m living it, I know it has nothing to do with any flats in any particular place and everything to do with the attitude you bring to it. The things that matter in life – loving family, good food, strong connections, freedom, and security – are the same whether you’re sitting in fisherman pants on a bamboo mat in Mae Tha or around the dinner table in Elgin or at a beer garden in Berlin. Whether you’re riding in an SUV or a rickshaw, you still make the choice to impact the people around you in a manner that’s positive or not. Children respond to gentle encouragement whether they’re learning to color in a community center in a rice field or learning to skate in a rink in Fountain Valley. You can have the same conversations with concerned people, whether you speak in a northern Thai dialect or with a Southern twang.

And whether here or there, you can be 5’1″ and still walk a long stride.

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up HERE!
And head there for your daily dose of creativity:
prompts for photos, for words, for inspiration,
and for a life lived mindfully!

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I’m linking this up again as my Best of Bigger Picture Moments from 2012.
Join us next week with your One Word Resolution for 2013!

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