...and spending everything i've saved for the last two and a half years on all seven continents!

11 September 2012

Final Update

Greetings from Seattle! I've spent the last two days poring over my travel notebooks so that I can finally answer the big questions that everyone likes to ask. For instance, people always ask if I have a favorite place but in truth, I can't pinpoint any place that deserves the title of "my favorite place in the whole world." Can you? I think about the places that took my breathe away... the places where I felt happy and just incredibly lucky to be alive: 

- Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
- Zanzibar, Tanzania
- Whitsunday Islands, Australia 
- Sipadan, Malaysia 
- With Family (Indonesia, Netherlands) 

I've really come to value places less for how objectively beautiful they are and more for the feelings they evoke.... At least for the first four I listed, go there! They are worth it! 

Of course not all moments were good.... I had my fair share of complaints, most of which I shared with you all. In no particular order, these are the top five worst things to happen to me:

- Losing consciousness near Bowen, Australia*
- Bed bugs from a hostel in Chile
- Getting grabbed in Zimbabwe
- Being lost in Salvador (Brazil) during Carnaval
- Eating sushi in Nairobi (and the 13 subsequent trips to the bathroom that night) 

*I didn't actually tell my mom about this one.... I was on an overnight bus from Cairns to Bowen and when I got up to use the bathroom, I fainted. I think it was because of dehydration, but I suddenly felt nauseous and then just collapsed on top of the person sitting next to me. I woke up to concerned voices and later, as I was recovering in the bathroom, I could hear the guy talking about me saying, "Yeah, she was heavy too!"

Am I a better person for having traveled the world? Definitely. For one thing, my sister says I'm very self-entertaining now. However, I admit that I am more picky and opinionated than I ever was. I think I made a lot of concessions while traveling and I'm not in the mood to do that anymore. I don't want to eat food I don't like and I don't want to be around people I don't care about! That said, I love being home and I don't have any immediate desires to leave. For the first time in years, I don't have my next trip abroad planned - it's a bit unsettling!

Should you travel the world for 18 months? Maybe. Particularly when you are on a budget and alone, traveling the world is a lot of work. Everything has to be planned and organized and it's not so much a vacation as a different type of job. Your job is keeping yourself safe, fed, and entertained and it's exhausting in its own way. I loved having the freedom to explore places for as long as I liked, but I was sad that I got so jaded and essentially stopped caring about new places. I feel incredibly lucky though to have had this experience, to have had the chance to "live the dream." I would never discourage anyone from having an adventure like mine and if you're thinking about doing it, I say go for it!

So how much did it all cost? I had been telling people that I spent roughly $25,000-$30,000 but I was a bit off. I calculated that the number is actually closer to $40,000. (I came up with $38,826.25 but this does not include the incredible generosity of family and friends with, for example, trips throughout Indonesia, trips to Singapore, a cruise vacation, delicious meals, comfortable beds to sleep in, and good company.) Thank you so much to everyone who donated to the cause, met me on my travels, shared a beer with me, and made this an incredible 18 months abroad! I also got a lot of my flights free with United miles and didn't really have to pay for my flights from LAX-Buenos Aires, Dubai-LAX, LAX-Singapore, Singapore-Japan, Japan-Korea, and Amsterdam-LAX. Thanks, United!   

The Breakdown:

Food: 13.96%
Alcohol: 1.80% 
Transportation: 24%
Accommodation: 9.41%
Gifts (for myself and others): 2.45%
Postcards/Stamps: 0.76%
Miscellaneous (Supplies, Necessities): 6.75%
Tours/Activities (including Antarctica and Africa): 36.57%
Visa/Entry-Exit Fees: 2.73%
SIM Cards/Phone Cards/Internet: 0.59%

I'm a bit stunned by how much I ended up spending, but I wouldn't change a thing! I could have put the money towards a down payment on a house or bought myself a brand new Audi A5 or something but there aren't any cities I'd like to put roots down in yet and I love my 1994 Honda Accord. I essentially spent the equivalent of an entire Berkeley undergraduate education but probably learned just as much, if not more, while traveling than I did at Cal :)

A  few random statistics in case anyone is interested:

Takeoffs/Landings (Flights): 63
Books Read: 40+
Scuba Dives: 35
Drinks (Beer/Wine/Cocktails) Consumed: 530+
New Friends: 90+
Hostel Stays: 80+ 

Anything else you'd like to know? Ask! 

What now? I have been actively job hunting. I've had many rejections, several interviews, and an offer or two, but I'm waiting for the right job to come around. Time is ticking, however, with my current net worth in the three figures range :) Life is definitely good though, with Theo and I almost fully settled into our apartment in Seattle.

I've really loved blogging and being in touch with people I wouldn't ordinarily hear from, so even though I wont be sending updates anymore, I hope you all keep in touch. Thank you so much for reading and for following me on my journey around the world!

17 August 2012

America the Beautiful

Celebrating the 4th of July in 'style': Barry Manilow @ the Hollywood Bowl :)

People have been telling me to write about my adventures in America thus far and although they might not be as exciting as my adventures abroad, they have been wonderful! I love America! I love the massive portions at every meal and constant flow of free refills. I love feeling safe when I walk around by myself at night. I love that there’s everything to see, eat, and explore with a fresh, new perspective. Above all, I love being 



A lot of eating out! Grazianos, Oceanstar, Whole Enchilada, El Tepeyac

Diamond Bar: For the first few weeks home, Theo was studying for his boards and I was mostly relaxing and enjoying life. I made pastry and muffins for the first time and to my delight, they both turned out great! The pastry took me six hours and was extremely stressful, but I suppose it was worth it in the end.


Pasteis de Nata, Blueberry Muffins

I started work on my photo albums and otherwise spent my time catching up on television shows and eating an endless supply of food from Mom. Having traveled the world, I still say Mom’s Dungeness crab is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten:

I had her crab twice while home in addition to her amazing pea soup, porridge, and shrimp. Thanks, Mom! I also got to see my best friend from grade school get married and it is official: I have reached the age where, every weekend, I’m almost guaranteed to discover that someone is newly engaged or married.  

After boards, Theo and I took a weeklong road trip through Arizona, Utah, and Nevada and I loved every minute of it! The only drawback was rather extreme weather when, for example, we stopped for gas just outside of Phoenix and the heat was unbearable. It was so hot standing outside that the wind made it worse: It felt like standing in front of an oven with hot air blowing in your face. We also had massive downpours of rain, thunder and lightning, and hail! But, America is beautiful.


One of our first stops was in Sedona and the red rocks there are stunning! You see nothing for miles and miles and then stumble upon these beautiful rock formations that take your breath away. Unfortunately, we were rushing through Sedona in order to get to the Grand Canyon by sunset. We made it, but just barely:

Sunset was set for 7:48pm and we got to the shuttle stop at 7:30pm. A sign indicated that the last shuttle out is at 7:25pm! Luckily, a couple had been caught in a similarly unfortunate situation and had already sweet-talked someone in operations to have one last shuttle run so that we could catch sunset. I have to say that sunset was just okay and not quite spectacular enough to make us want to get up at 4am the next morning to catch sunrise. (We were also staying an hour away in Williams because everything affordable near the canyon had been booked way in advance.) We visited the Grand Canyon again the next day though and what they say in the literature is exactly right: It may not be the biggest, widest, or deepest canyon, but it sure is grand. It’s massive and beautiful and the colors are incredible. Most people enter through the southern entrance and I’d advise people to not miss the eastern entrance and in particular, the Desert Rim View; it was probably our favorite view of the Grand Canyon! 


Antelope Canyon

Things just kept getting better and better, more beautiful at each turn. The next day, we did a tour of Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon situated on native land. We had to go by guided tour but I’m glad we did because our tour guide helped us adjust our camera settings to get amazing shots of the canyon. So incredibly beautiful!



If you pay a little extra, you can do a tour in the daytime when light shafts beam through the canyon. We did it, it’s worth it! Later that day we also saw Horseshoe Bend and though we weren’t expecting any hiking, it was worth the trek, and in the heat!


Theo had just read a lot about deaths in the Grand Canyon.... He was mad at me for jumping :)

We took the scenic route from Arizona into Utah passing the Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, Vermillion Cliffs, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Mammoth Cave, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Cedar Breaks National Monument, and some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had en route to Bryce Canyon National Park. If anyone is passing through Panguitch, Utah, stop at the Cowboy’s Smokehouse for fall-off-the-bone ribs!

And for anyone who hasn’t been to Bryce Canyon, go there! The canyon is decorated with hoodoos (thin rock spires) that make for really stunning scenery:


The last of our sightseeing was a trip to Zion National Park to admire the massive rock formations towering over our car. By that point, we had seen and appreciated so many beautiful place that we were ready to be on our way and spend the weekend “recuperating” in Vegas :)


Zion National Park

I had missed Vegas! I’d never been to Vegas with a significant other and it might have been one of my best trips there. Theo’s friend got us into Pure nightclub Friday night and a crazy pool party at Wet  Republic the next day. We were pampered and made sure to spend a lot of time relaxing by the pool and eating buffets during the weekend.


Pure Nightclub @ Caesar's Palace


Wet Republic @ MGM Grand

Saturday night, we decided to take it easy and spent a few hours at Circus Circus. I hadn’t been since I was a child but it’s still as fun as ever! They have the same carnival games that they do at the fair, but at a fraction of the price. Theo won me a giant bear too! We didn’t gamble too much and I ended up a winner for the first time ever – up $2! We had casino credit at the Westin and lucky us because the dealers and casino staff were unfriendly. Had they been nice, we would have wanted to stay and gamble more, but they were mean so we took our winnings and left :)

Me and Bubba

After a last week seeing friends and packing in Southern California, we spent some time in the Bay Area. In truth, visiting made me really miss my old life. It was amazing to catch up with everyone though and I certainly ate very well  :)


An amazing steak and BBQ at the Sotteros.... Some of the best steak I've ever had!

The week flew by and then Theo and I set out for our 13 hour drive from the Bay Area to Seattle. It’s hard to move to a city where I don’t have a job, friends, or an apartment, but I’m making progress on all three fronts. Life is good :)



Up Next: Recap, Lessons Learned, New Beginnings, and Endings 

06 August 2012

Holland Here I Come!


Scenes from Holland

Pictures galore! (To make up for my long absence! Things have been ridiculously busy these last two weeks and I feel like I haven’t had a moment to myself – let alone to blog….) Here goes Holland!


The Camphuynder Line

Then and Now: Tante Noes used to take care of me when I was a kid :)

From start to finish, I was with my amazing family. Yes, I have family in Holland! I moved all around the country visiting as many people as I could and I feel so lucky to have done so. The only other time I was in Holland was in the summer of 1999 when we visited the country after a whirlwind tour of Western Europe. Even after watching home videos of that visit, I honestly don’t remember all that much. This last visit though is very vivid in my mind and I can’t wait to go back. I was finally getting to know this far-away family as an adult and it was wonderful discovering so many people I love being around.


The Lorenz and Zinauer Line (Parents above, their kids [and their kids] below)




Baby Zara 

I ended up in a lot of random cities to visit family (Hoevelaken, Heusen, Zevenaar, Alblasserdam, Papendrecht, Windsum, etc…) but I managed to get in some touristing as well. Zutphen, for instance, is a very old, charming town with a lot of historic architecture:


 They do an amazing farmer’s market each week that has an incredibly cheap selection of fruits and cheese. Yum! Scheveningen is a really popular beach on the west coast that strikes me as the Santa Monica Pier of Holland. A lot of restaurants line the beach and there’s even fun and games at the end of the pier – a casino though instead of roller coasters. It wasn’t the best beach weather (cold and drizzly) but it was fun watching a toddler throw sand and cuddle up to a sculpture or two at a really cool boardwalk exhibit.







I made it, of course, to the famous windmills in Kinderdijk (kin-der-dayk). In the end, they are just windmills, but they are highly photogenic and I ended up with hundreds of pictures of them. I went to see them at sunset (close to 10pm!) and again in the daytime sun. So much fun! My niece lives pretty much next door to the windmills and I got to see the non-touristy part where it’s only locals wandering around :)


Baby Haiko!



Boomer made me miss Rocky...

And then there’s Amsterdam – famous for its museums and canals (and highly liberal attitudes towards prostitution and marijuana). I only had a half day to spend in the city and I enjoyed it very much. I didn’t visit any of the coffee shops or tea shops because I had no real interest and because I was with some older family; I also heard that only Dutch citizens are legally allowed to partake in “the green” these days. On the way to Chinatown, I passed through several alleys in the Red Light District. Even though I’d seen women in windows as a kid, it was quite unsettling to see it as an adult. There is a woman to fulfill every fantasy from the busty and curvaceous to the hairy and not and there are also women of every color who look like they are in junior high. You see women flirting and enticing customers into their rooms and complacent looking men leaving. It’s interesting to say the least…




I wandered some of the highlights of Amsterdam like high-end Kalverstraat and Nieuwmarkt, but my favorite thing to see was the Van Gogh Museum. I think it’s the best art museum I’ve visited on my travels! It was exciting to see in person artwork I’ve studied since I was a kid. The museum is in a nice area of the city too! From an architecture standpoint, most of Holland looks the same so no one city was particularly striking for me. I don’t really come here for the touristing though, more to spend time with family :)



The Wiesbrock Line



From top left: Berenklauw, Erwtensoep, Stroopwafel, and Indonesian Food

In terms of food, I had lots! I had a checklist of foods to try as always and a lot of it was good. Snacking is a big part of the culture with things like kaassouffle (fried cheese), kroket/bitterbal (fried ragout), and stroopwafel (caramel-filled waffle). They have these vending machines where one or two Euro will get you a nice warm snack. People also really like raw herring that I didn’t bother with because I’ve had it before and it’s gross! There are lots of Indonesian and Chinese food influences on cuisine and it’s made the Chinese food really delicious. One teppan-style Chinese buffet in particular in Ede was phenomenal. Mostly I had a lot of home cooking – an amazing stoofvlees (stewed beef), erwtensoup (pea soup), asperges flamandes (seasonal asparagus cooked served with a buttery sauce, eggs, and ham), and chicken satay with nasi goreng (fried rice). The one thing I remember most from visiting in 1999 was the kibbeling (fried fish) and it was just as amazing as I remembered it being! They fry it without heavy batter and its perfectly crispy and pretty much the best fried fish ever!  


From top left: Kibbeling, Stoofvlees, Asperges Flamandes, and Satay/Nasi Goreng

I had an amazing week and a half in Holland :) Unfortunately, I had to say a lot of goodbyes and not knowing when I’d see most of the family again made me really sad. I am hoping though that many of them will come back to the US to visit so that I can be as good to them as they were to me! I got dropped off early at Schiphol International Airport (thanks Myra and Henri!) and then I was on my way home!



My lovely nieces! 

Up Next: America the Beautiful :) 

This was my Rocky... When we went off to Europe last time, someone left the gate open. Rocky was either stolen or eaten by a coyote :(