Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Travel Poem; Or, Romance is Dead

Dorothy Parker is a damn inspiration. Her wit and charisma and astute observations withstand the passage of time, and I think young women today are still benefiting from her legacy. 

Of course, she was also a raging alcoholic with a pair of failed marriages and suicide attempts under her belt, but that's best swept under the rug of history along with the last Matrix movie. I used to write poetry when I was younger, and after reading the Dorothy Parker biography, 'What Fresh Hell Is This?' I came up with this little ditty.

On the road I am the best version of me
Smart, energetic, charming and free
This occasionally means finding people who agree
To every boy on the road; every fling that could be

A dash of giggles and a whole lotta glee
These flings have a lightness you seldom see
No repeatedly checking my caller id
The future matters to a much lesser degree

Remind me once more, is your name Lee?
Oh darling just forget it, dance with me
A hostel romance or a disco floor spree
For one evening we matter like the global GDP

Your departure in the morning was so very early
I’ll miss you, I’ll write you, no need to worry
We’ll meet again, I promise, perhaps on the Black Sea
Wait a minute, who’s that new cutie.. no really, who is he?!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Potential Lives

My mind is wandering as I sit on this bus driving through rural Washington state. I see a woman jogging, cute homes hidden by trees, a man riding a horse down the street, snow capped peaks in the distance, and I wonder what my life might be like here. More wholesome, perhaps. 

What sort of life might I have in this house in Astoria, Oregon?

I was wondering the same thing in Chiang Mai a few weeks ago when I realized it had a plethora of charm, bicycles, and tasty bites. Maybe it's the nature of my job; I could feasibly live and work in most places. 

Last week I visited a vegan restaurant on Sihanoukville called 'Dao of Life.' Except, it was so much more than a restaurant. It was an old house with high, grand ceilings. The rooftop had a yoga studio/movie screening room with bean bags chairs and hammocks. Kittens roamed freely, art covered each wall, and the book exchange was overflowing. I could own a place like this, I thought. 

But here in Washington, I think of this potential future as well. I could have a cute little cottage in the woods, and finally surrender to my inevitable hermitude and read my way through my goodreads list without any distractions. 

In this air streamer in Seattle?

I'm not sure any one of these possibilities would provide more meaning or fulfillment than another. I'd probably dig into the community no matter where I end up, but I might be unknowingly less inspired in some places. 

Does anyone else feel torn about all the possible lives they could be living? How the hell am I supposed to pick one?!

In this downtown hobbit house in Vancouver?

I've obviously just finished traveling around the Pacific Northwest and have fallen head over heels in love with its quirks, majestic trees, dive bars, used book stores, and progressive politics. That's another post for another time.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

An Evolving Traveler

I recently finished a two week tour of Thailand and Cambodia with some friends, of which I was the youngest. We are all between the ages of 26 and 30 and I couldn't help but notice small changes in the way I now travel. 

My travel style is a lot slower, and I will choose to spend five days in a place rather than whipping through cities. We added an extra day in Chiang Mai when we weren't ready to move on after two nights only, which gave us the chance to dig deeper and discover both a riverfront live music bar and try khao soi- two special experiences we would have missed out on if we were rushing on to the next spot. 

Why not take two days to explore Angkor Wat? 

Slowing down means making more authentic connections with communities as well, I think. That may mean hearing first hand stories of the survival under the Khmer Rouge from a hired driver, or researching local charities to support. I am more aware of local customs and culture when I go to a place now, and more respectful as a result. 

I am much gentler with my liver now. Talking to my friend Luke one night, he mentioned he doesn't feel the same satisfaction from a night of partying that he would have four years ago. We turned down an invite to a pirate party on the beach in Sihanoukville, and my girlfriends and I rejected the offer of free shots at a famous beach club. What is this madness?!

Guatemalan Roommie Reunion in Cambodia

Drinking less on the road means less hangovers, as well as this crazy new phenomenon called a sunrise. Yes folks, we woke up for not one or two, but THREE sunrises on this trip, and I wouldn't trade any one of them for a good party the night before. 

Overall, I don't feel the need to squeeze everything in anymore. My travel style has evolved to something slower, more reflective. I'm grateful for the experiences in which I am able to partake, and don't stress that there may have been a bigger better version of something one town over. If possible, I appreciate my travels even more now.

The Dongers do sunrise at Angkor Wat

In October, I get a week off work. I've booked myself a solo trip to Bali and I imagine it is going to be very nourishing and loving and fruitful as far as personal growth goes. I will do yoga daily and eat lots of raw vegan food and scuba dive with sea critters and ride a bicycle around Ubud and I can't wait. Just a few years ago, I never would have done a trip like this by myself. If I want to make the most of my travels though, I need to be self-aware about what sort of experience I want. This Bali trip sounds perfect for where I'm at.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Summer Fashion Is Upon Us!

Spring is melting into summer here in Hong Kong, and that called for a deep cleaning of my wardrobe as well as a transition to some fun new summer clothes!

If you live in Hong Kong, you’ve got to check out ZALORA, an online store with free delivery for any order over 150 HKD. I’ve talked about them before, and just love perusing all their funky tanks and quirky little flats. The boutique Sugarpop has a line of cute, feminine dresses on ZALORA right now that I would love to get my hands on!

Out for birthday drinks with some girlfriends 
wearing my favorite sheer ZALORA top

Of course, Hong Kongers also have to take advantage of our tropical setting. When I was back in the US for spring break I picked up some new bathing suits for those impending junk trips and beach days.

My favorite one piece from ModCloth-
Looks great with jean shorts and works 
as a Minnie Mouse costume in a pinch!

Fun new ASOS bikini

Another option is to throw a frock swap. I got together with some girlfriends a few weekends ago, and we each brought a bag of clothes and a brunch item. We dug through each other’s secondhand clothes whilst sipping on some strawberry mint juleps and everyone went home with a couple of cute new outfits. The leftovers were donated to Friends of the Earth, a local Hong Kong charity with environmentally friendly initiatives. One lady’s trash is another lady’s treasure, am I right?

Everyone's favorite item at the frock swap

It’s that time of year when I break a sweat just walking to my bus stop, so I’ve chosen to embrace it and dress for the occasion. Lots of flouncy sundresses, miniskirts, and strappy sandals can make the summer heat more bearable, and turn some heads along the way as well ;)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Spring Break in the States

I try to make it back to the States once a year, and last year I chose summertime for my return to Florida. Huge mistake! Summertime is the wooorrrssstt when your hometown is basically a swampland on the Gulf of Mexico. To avoid the oppressive summer heat, this year I headed back for spring break. April in Florida is ideal- hot enough for beach days, but not so hot that you burn your feet on the sand.

Some Florida thunder clouds rolling in

My Dad and I grabbing lunch in a marina

My trip took me to Georgia as well to spend time with some family. Everything looks picture perfect and Southern hospitality sure does sound as sweet as iced tea in Georgia. We took a back road to get to my uncle's house that made us drive for an hour through rural neighborhoods and historic downtown districts and it was like stepping back in time.

My brother and I in front of a Cracker Barrell

Typical Georgia home

After a weekend in Georgia, I ended up in Chicago with my girlfriends from college and we decided to take a big step in our sisterhood. Can you say friendship tattoos?! Whatup! The design we agreed upon was an intricate compass, because we have all travelled so much together and independently, and yet ultimately always find our way back to each other.

A grand reveal of the matching tattoos

Out in Chicago later that night

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Camping on Grass Island

In Hong Kong, there are loads of islands and remote beaches where you can go camping, and a few weeks ago, I went with some friends to explore one island in particular- Grass Island. Our initial plan was to rent kayaks to get out there, but when we realized a kayak tournament meant they were all rented, we caught a ferry out to Tap Mun (Grass Island) from Sai Kung. 

Our camping crew for the weekend

The docks at Tap Mun

Riding on the ferry boat and arrival at the campsite

 I was a bit worried, seeing as my idea of camping is to pass out drunkenly on the beach only to be woken a few hours later by the Coast Guard shining a light in my face. That counts, right? Lucky for me, camping in even the most remote locations in Hong Kong comes with some basic amenities. There were a couple seafood shacks on the island so we never even needed to use the gas cooker we brought out. 

There are a couple little seafood restaurants 
right near the water on Tap Mun

It was really refreshing to escape the city for a day and spend some quality time with my favorite people. We didn't do anything in particular, but just hung around the campsite playing cards, reading Harry Potter out loud to each other, jamming on the ukulele, walking some of the island trails and checking out the rock beach below. 

Joep dominating everyone at cards

View of the fishing boats around Tap Mun-
I've gotten so used to harbours like these, 
I need to appreciate them more!

Tap Mun is a great island for camping, as long as you are cool with cows wandering into your campsite at all hours. Seriously, these things were assertive. Hide your food and slap them on the ass to get rid of them, is what we learned. You could almost always tell when cows were coming your way because you would hear shrieking from nearby campsites. Ha!

The coooowwwwwwwssss

 Camping in Tap Mun can be as wild as you make it. Yes, there were toilets somewhere, but we designated a certain patch of bushes to be our toilet. Yes, you can eat at the local seafood restaurants (salt and pepper squid!) or bring your own cooker. You can make camp in the main stretch of shoreline, or get creative and walk a bit further for some privacy. I actually wish we had stayed two nights rather than one because I had such a good time. I'm already looking forward to a potential kayaking and camping trip later in the spring.

View from our campsite-
Can you imagine pirates here in the 1840s?

The people next to us had the coolest tent

Monday, April 13, 2015

Filipino Birthday

This year, I had a really special birthday party in Angeles City with my family. This was my third time going to the Philippines and it grows on me with each visit. My aunt and uncle were in town, and it just so happens that my uncle's birthday is two days before mine, which meant we could celebrate together. My aunt said she would throw us a little birthday gathering. 

My aunt and uncle on the family property

Me with some of the relatives

Playtime in the cubo!

'Little birthday gathering', my ass. She invited all of her 11 siblings and their kids and there ended up being dozens of people in attendance. In true Filipino style, there was a feast to be had so we cooked all day. My aunt and her sisters went to the market at 5 AM to stock up on groceries. They threw together a huge pot of spaghetti sauce in honor of me and my uncle's Italian American heritage, which was super sweet. On top of that, there was an epic buffet with fresh grilled meat and seafood and salads and salsas and the list goes on. 

I'm an unsuspecting victim of toddler attack 
while helping prepare potatoes

A Filipino feast with some crabs and sisig 
(chopped pig's face)

Fresh tilapia and mussels from the market

Apparently a Filipino house party is only a success if there is a karaoke machine, so my aunt rented one with a massive sound system you could hear around the whole neighborhood. Her family raged from the afternoon til one in the morning when everyone passed out all over the family property amongst piles of empty Red Horse bottles.

My aunt's brother and his ridiculously cute grandson

Me with just a fraction of my Filipino family

As someone who can be introverted amongst large groups, it was a really overwhelming night. On the one hand, the party was a blast and I got to meet so many relatives of my aunt's. On the other hand, I felt so drained from introducing myself to so many people and trying to shout over the sound of the karaoke machine, that by the end of the night, I crashed long before the last cover of 'Gangnam Style' serenaded the party. A Filipino backyard barbecue puts an American one to shame, that's for sure. 

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