Making Plans While Waiting for Plans to Come Through

As the window to getting my visa in time to start work and return to Asia closes, I’ve started deliberating on what to do next or where to go next. A friend of mine once said, that I always have a plan B and a plan C. I didn’t know this about myself, since I rarely think I have a plan A. I mean, I think or imagine or talk about possibilities, but actual planning… I’m not so sure. I do believe I have a think B and a possibility C, but that’s as far as most of my planning goes. Then again, maybe I have a sense of terrible self-awareness.

I’ll just call them plans for connotation. Asia, was plan A, and I was pretty set on China, and this all had to do with a job teaching at a drama academy which would be so awesome (in my mind), but my major hesitation is that the pollution in China is deadly. I’m not real excited about breathing in Red Alert air, since I already did it for one year, and that’s one year less of my lung life without ever smoking a cigarette, that I’d rather not add to an already short life ( I mean with all there is to experience in the world). When I received a Facebook message from my wanderlust friend Keiko telling me to come to South Korea, I seriously considered it. I considered it enough to apply, and to do two interviews, plus get offered a position. Yet, I’ve been talking to the school in China for quite awhile, and they offered me more money than originally offered. I’d been on the fence, but it looks like the United States will be making the decision for me. As I wait for the necessary Criminal Background Check, and health insurance in order to get the necessary (and too expensive to pay out of pocket) health check for China, my entry time to the new semester is getting smaller. Also, China is looking like less of a possibility without the health check. But, I could miss out on both because of the semester starting before I can get there. I’ll have to apply later, and look for positions where they didn’t get enough teachers or teachers bailed, and that’s fine, but involves more waiting. It will be a mystery to even myself where I will end up next.

As I’ve been waiting here in Portland, kind of not doing anything, at all, I’ve been wondering what I’m going to do with the remaining half of my life (I’ve got a birthday approaching). I’ve been watching all of my friends settle into their lives, and I’m really proud of them. I know a bunch of small business owners, people living life the way they want, having families, and getting their homes, and people who seem to be really happy, which makes me happy. On a really selfish side it’s good to surround yourself with happy people because happiness is like a rabbit- it keeps breeding. Still, I’ve been thinking, “wait, but what am I doing, really?” The answer right now is “not much”. Right now, as of today, I have a good excuse since I’m waiting, but with this delay in getting my documents, the waiting will be moving into the depths of needing to do something, and oh my god I’m wasting my life and the common feeling of being lost. I know this because I know how I think. I’ve been asking myself all the questions from all the positivity blogs and websites or the big motivational sites: HOW TO LIVE THE LIFE YOU LOVE. BE THE ONE YOU DREAM TO BE. You know the ones they’re everywhere. I do believe it is good to reflect on yourself and your life, and to ask yourself the important questions because one day you’ll ask yourself the most important question: “if you are going to die right now, can you say to yourself that you truly made the most of your life? Did you live the life you wanted?” And, of course, I think all of us would like to say yes because it is our one precious life on this earth right now, and no matter what your beliefs you will never be this person in this body in this place in this time again- so hopefully it is a good place.

I had been playing it over in my mind; the mantra of do what you love, and asking myself what do I love? I’ve given up before on the thing I loved because of fear and low-selfworth, and I don’t want to do that again, so I asked myself, “what do I love? what makes me happy?” What really makes me happy, not the idea of what makes me happy, but the reality of what makes me happy. I created a short list:

Dancing; when I was on stage; snowboarding; teaching (not prepping for class- I don’t like that part); writing; reading; going to art museums; being out in nature; and just talking with people- lots of chatting and learning about people’s lives; and a ton of laughing; learning new things; and traveling- in fact the actual travel part- especially on trains (my favorite).

I wondered if it was possible to combine all of these things and still make a sustainable living especially since there isn’t a lot of “jobs” in the list at list not obvious work except teaching, but I’m not going to be a teacher in America. It’s not going to happen for a lot of reasons. The most obvious thing to me, but I don’t think it’s all that easy, is to become a travel writer. Travel writing, to me, almost seems similar to trying to make it as a performer: A lot of people want to do it, and you have to know how to sell and market yourself, and few actually make money at it. Even so, I feel like it’s probably the best way for me to combine all my loves (snowboarding by the way can be replaced by any number of sports or activities. I just have really fond memories of my snowboarding life in Germany). So that’s what I’m going to set as my future life goal, and I’ve started the process.

I read somewhere that it is important that once you set a goal to immediately jump into action. Not crazy action, of course, like if you want you run a marathon you try to run 26 miles in your first day, unless you already run marathons, that’s just stupid, and a great way to hurt yourself, and to quit. This action can be small, as long as it is an action in the direction toward your goal. So, that’s what I did. I made a decision to have my goal to be a travel writer. I’m starting small here, I’m not thinking making tons of money, and getting paid to travel, but I am thinking professional. I’m open to making money and having it take care of me, but I’m not thinking I’m going to take the internet by storm tomorrow. God, knows that’s the truth, I’ve had this blog for eight years’ and it has not caused any earthquakes. I have a lot to learn. A lot. So I’ve set my goal as a realistic accomplishable goal. It is very possible for me be a travel writer. I just set up a website, travel, take good pictures, and write about it: done. Making money, and sustaining your life as a travel writer is something else. The extra part I added about doing it in a professional way is to set me up for goal number two which is to make income as a professional travel writer. Right now I can’t focus on the actual goal of money because when I look at travel writers’ blogs, I think to myself, “Oh, god, I’ll never be able to get a following enough to make money.” I’ll never write like them or take pictures like them and their backgrounds are so geared for that life not mine, and on and on I’ll go. I have to keep my goals reachable. So right now it’s just a travel writer with a website set up, prepared, and open to receive income when the time is right. I sound like The Secret or something. Anyway, speaking of other travel writers, that is where I took my first steps of action.

I went to several travel sites and collected a list of the best travel blogs, and the best blogs to read for 2016. I found 57, there are more than that, but I wrote down the 57, and that was my action day 1. Then the next day I browsed 23 of them, and removed any that I didn’t think were my style or my scene. Unfortunately, I didn’t cut out that many. The following day, I went through the remaining 34, and made my final picks of travel blogs that I want to research for content, ideas, and inspiration. Again, unfortunately, I only managed to reduce a few from my original list of 57 to 42.  My next part of the “action” (process) is actually reading these blogs which is why 42 is not exactly the ideal number. I have to read them. How am I to know the content, and to see what readers are reading, and what niche may be missing that only little ol’ me can fill if I don’t read them? So I’ve decide to create a little criteria that I’ll share later (because I haven’t made the list yet) to bring the list down to a reasonable number that I can actually follow and still manage to live my life.

Maybe you are wondering what the cut off was from the first round of traveler writers. Well, since you asked, I’ll tell you. Posh. I cut out the posh blogs or the blogs for rich folks. I know people without money like these blogs too just like they look at Goop by Gwyneth Paltrow or follow the Kardashians, but come on that’s fantasyland. I need to look at something I can actually do. There’s no way I can go to fancy posh hotels and top ten ritzy restaurants. That would basically make my travels last about one day. I need reasonable goals. I also cut out the crazy adventure extreme blogs. I’m not going to sustain myself on bugs of the Amazon, and jump from a helicopter to sandboard down a Namibian sand dune. Reasonable goals. There were a couple other blogs non-posey and non-extreme adventure that I was on the fence about because they just seemed like a little too pretty and too perfect, but I decided to put aside my initial judgements, and read through them a bit. As far as who I already gravitate to in the travel writing blog world I do have a few that I like even with only a small browse, and I’ll share those guys now:

I am Aileen
The Blog Abroad
Hole in the Donut
Nomadic Matt.

I’ve already noticed a couple of themes in language use amongst almost all of the blogs: Digital nomad being a huge one and Lifestyle creator. I find them a little cheesy, but that’s marketing- it’s all kind of cheesy. I also noticed that most people seemed to have changed their lives and quit their office jobs to began their travel blogs in 2008. I don’t know why this time exactly- the economy maybe? That was when the market crashed. It’s just something I noticed.

There you go. So as I sit and watch my window of opportunity close to a couple of jobs in Asia, and then wait for a couple windows to open for new jobs in Asia, I’ll work on building a door and then opening it myself.

CIMG0120
Every one’s trying to get in to get their visa.

The Interactive Arts exhibit in Melbourne NVG

I’m sitting in a cafe in Prague as I write this post about an exhibit that took place over a year ago. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, when my mother died last year, I really felt like it didn’t matter whether or not I posted anything here about my trips. Especially my trip to Australia. This is because three days after I returned back to China my mom was found dead in her apartment, and I felt so angry with myself for not being there with her, or at the very least sending her that e-mail I had promised. The e-mail that would have told her all about my trip. I didn’t want to talk about the trip because I was so mad at myself for going. The truth is I had a great time in Australia, and I was really happy there and if my mom had lived, I would still have been happy with the memories. I would have told her all about it.

This blog is no substitute for sending an e-mail to my mother, but I feel a little melancholy with the idea that all my life experiences will just fade into obscurity when I die. I mean they could be lost in the obscurity of the web, but I’m okay with that because the illusion that I’m sharing something of my life makes me feel like I’m a part of the story. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I’m still working out this whole “what to do with my one life” thing. I think of Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day, and I wonder, yes, what am I supposed to do with this life other than love being a part of it. What am I supposed to do? Is it greedy to want more? Is it too much to request that I experience the best of this world and die with that? I hope not. So why hold back on sharing the stories even if obscurity is the future.

If I had to be asked what I liked more Sydney or Melbourne, I’d have to pick Melbourne. I know they’re kind of rival cities, and I know that there are arguments for liking Sydney more, but the best way I can say it is that Melbourne was more my speed. Sydney has better beaches, but Melbourne had something special. A vitality, and an energy like something was being created. Sydney had that suit feel: All business and then some expensive partying at night. Everyone is beautiful, successful, and making money. I understand that this appeals to people, but it’s not my thing. I like real spontaneity and spark. I like the idea that things are not finished yet and its all still a grand work in progress. A place where you can take risks because failing is only part of the process. I don’t think this risk taking and allowance for failure is in Sydney so much because it already has the image to upkeep and when image becomes more important than process, I think it gets a little boring. But, what do I know, I was only there for a week.
CIMG2669

While I was in Melbourne there was an interesting exhibit going on at the National and International Art galleries of Victoria. I really enjoyed the National Gallery (NGV) because it was all Australian artists and all interactive. There was work from artists all over the country including Aboriginal art.

CIMG2672

And, since it was interactive you could literally walk on some of the pieces, in fact, you were invited to.

CIMG2865

CIMG2868

CIMG2685

In the International Gallery you had famous pieces from artists like Warhol and Lee Krasner. I was excited to see an original Krasner piece since a lot of her work has been overshadowed by her husband Jackson Pollock (mainly by her own choice since she wanted to foster him as an artists).

CIMG2683

CIMG2678

So much time has passed since I went to this exhibit, that I have lost the names of the artists. I have them somewhere in a journal hidden under piles of clothes in un packed suitcases. This is how I’ve been living for almost two years, unpacked and uncertain but moving, moving, moving- on. As soon as I find the names I will update this post.

I think some of my favorite work was the video work and of course the photography. I’m a huge fan of the film genre- moving and still.

CIMG2894

CIMG2892

CIMG2891

I’m not the kind of person that can really tell you what’s happening in a painting. I lack the vocabulary, but something about the medium of film really speaks to me even some of the most abstract work.

CIMG2890

CIMG2887

CIMG2882

CIMG2876

I don’t know how long my friend and I stayed in the gallery, but it was an almost all day event. I think we did both the National and International one in the same day. It was well worth it. There were many pieces I didn’t take pictures of because I’m not really big on taking pictures of art. It isn’t a motto, it’s just that I forget because I’m more interested in just looking at it, and I rarely feel like I capture it well in a photo.

The final photo below is from an alleyway near the gallery. Melbourne has some of the most amazing and creative street art that I’ve ever seen. I took this picture while we were planning our next activity.

CIMG2902

It is interesting how little of my trip remains in my memory especially since I had enjoyed it so much. I assume it has to do with my mother. I lost some of my joy. I think my mom would be sad to know that I had lost some of my joy because of her, but to her I would say, “what do you expect woman? I love you and you’re gone.” Still, I should reach back for some of those memories and those joys. I had never thought I would ever go to Australia. It had seemed so far away, and since I never have any money I had thought, I’ll never be able to go, but I was there. And, now I’m here in Prague writing about being in Australia. It’s ungracious to not revel in the memories of a joyful time of travel. It is ungracious to me and to my mother. So, a year after her death, I can say, “Mom, I had a really good time, and I’d like to have more.” I’d like to tell her all about it, but I’ll just have to settle with the ubiquity of the web.

So more tales from the travels of the past, as the travels of the future are dreamed about in the travels of the present. To the open road. No one can express the joy of travel more than Whitman.

You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.

Song of The Open Road, Walt Whitman

Good-Bye to 2014

At the time of writing this post there are six hours left until the New Year begins; for me that is. My friends in Australia and New Zealand have already seen the date change.

I think that if it were not for one event in my life, and a major event it was, I would chalk up 2014 to being challenging, but pretty thrilling, and damn- for lack of a better adjective: interesting. But, there was the main event that just broke my heart in a so-far-irreparable way: my heart was shattered. No one wants their parents to die (almost no one) and no one wants to know that that precious parent was found dead alone on a bedroom floor, and no one wants to know that that parent died of a drug overdose; prescription or otherwise. Yet, at the end of the year no matter how that loved one died, death is death. That life is over and you just have to let it go, and keep living.

In all honesty, I haven’t really dealt with it too much. When the thoughts of my mother rise, my brain goes into emergency mode: “You can’t think about it. Don’t think about it. You are not in a safe place. There is no passage here. Avoid it. Avoid those thoughts!” And so I mostly do.

Well, this is the New Year. I’m in Prague and the snow has fallen. Time is ticking and my year is nearly over- not that life is really gauged in years, but it’s a great way to write out a list.

2014

New Year’s Eve in Zhengzhou, China. The night starts out at Maddie’s with Bobby. We have too many drinks and go to Muse, a little smoky dance club next to Maddie’s apartment. Maddie leaves at a reasonable hour, but Bobby and I stay the whole night, have to climb stairs in the morning, and we wake up on Maddie’s couch. Bobby is covered in Gummie Bears. He fell asleep on them.

January
I travel to Ho Chi Minh City and meet a new friend who I had been communicating with via Facebook. We were on similar journeys. Took a trip on the Mekong River: One of my favorite moments in Vietnam.
Met up with a dear friend in Australia. We met new and great people in Sydney and Melbourne.

CIMG2111
Sydney

 

February
The 13th read a message from my mother. She was excited to hear about my trips to Vietnam and Australia. I wrote her back saying I would write on the 16th.
14th back in Zhengzhou.
16th forgot to send an e-mail to mom.
19th around 10:00 p.m. in Chico, California: Mom dies.
20th around 2:00 p.m. after school, Zhengzhou, China: Get a strange message to contact one of mom’s friend’s. Skype to find out my mother died.
21st Fly to San Francisco, CA. Stay a night with a friend before another, my best childhood friend, Rachelle, comes to pick me up and drive me to Paradise, California.
22nd another of my best friends, Rosi, comes from Seattle to help me with mom’s funeral arrangements.
23-24 We pick up mom’s things from the police. Have her cremated. I don’t see her body (not sure if this was good or bad since I haven’t seen her since August of 2013). We clean her apartment with mom’s best girlfriends. She had really loving girlfriends just like I do.
25th- My birthday begins with cleaning mom’s apartment: she had so much shit. A regular little horder. My best friend Rosi and my mom’s friends kick me out of the apartment. Rosi says, “what do you want for your birthday?” I say, “I want to go to the psychic, Madame Ruby, who lives across the street.” I’d seen her neon palm in the window since I was a little kid.
Rosi leaves, and Sara N. comes from Portland. We pick up mom’s ashes and Rachelle and her husband drive us to Eureka to spread mom’s ashes. My only knowledge of the place is that it was her only place of positive childhood memories. We spend the night in Eureka and then drive to Trinadad. We hike up the mountain and throw some of her ashes into the wind above a dramatic pacific ocean. I don’t know what she would want. She didn’t plan on dying so soon. Some things are hard to plan.
Dad comes to visit and drives me around Chico to the places where mom and him met and the first place they lived.
I give some of mom’s ashes to her girlfriends, and put a few ashes in Chinese stacking dolls for me.

CIMG5198
Last day of school

 

March-July
One last night in San Francisco before returning to Zhengzhou, China
Shao Boa, and Xiang Kia take me to Hua Shen, and we hike one of the most dangerous mountains in China. I toss some of mom’s ashes off of the sacred mountain. Now that she’s dead she can travel.

CIMG3700
Hua Shan

 

Apple takes me to Luoyang and we visit the Longmen Grottoes and hike in a gorge outside of the city after being stuck in what may have been the craziest country Chinese traffic jam ever.
School ends.

CIMG4865
Longman Grottoes

 

My students take me to Kaifeng for a three day trip. Me and five 16 year olds on e-bikes.

CIMG5291
Kaifeng with some of my students

 

July- August
I work at a new school.
Trip to Xi’an and meet a new friend: Leslie a fabulous scientist! See one of my childhood dream sites: The Terracotta Army.

CIMG5895
Terracotta warriors

 

August
Leave China.
One day and night in Seoul, Korea.

CIMG6203
Seoul

 

Arrive in Prague, CZ.

CIMG6608
Prague

 

September
TEFL training and certificate.
Visit Viktoria in Switzerland.

CIMG6923
Switzerland

 

October
Go to Cesky Krumluv and Ceske Budejovice
Can’t decide if I want to stay in Prague

November
Decide to stay. Begin visa process
Go to Poland for Angloville- 5 days

CIMG7472
Warsaw, Poland

 

Go to Berlin for Visa application- 3 days meet another amazing woman.
Back to Prague and begin new job
Go to Brno, CZ for first teaching job

December
Malacky, Slovakia for work.
Trenčianske Stankovce, Slovakia for work.

CIMG7721
Trenčianske Stankovce, Slovakia

 

Poland for Christmas.
Prague for New Year’s.

CIMG6638
Prague

 

CIMG7822
Snow on the Zizkov tower babies

 

The End of 2014