Showing posts with label wish list. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wish list. Show all posts

Hoi An - The Tailoring Capital of the World

We're currently in Hoi An, about mid-way down the coast of Vietnam. We've been in this country for a week and a half and it was not love at first sight. After the lovely trickle of life in Louang Prabang, Hanoi felt a bit like being dropped into a furious ant hill. People piled on top of one another, endless noise, crazy traffic, people pushing, shop keepers following us down the street trying to get us to buy any number of Hanoi t-shirts and fake war memorabilia. Also, I managed to have my wallet stolen less than 24 hours in.

It wasn't for us.

So we high tailed it out of town and spent a night on a junk ship on Halong Bay. The area was stunning and I really enjoyed the experience of sleeping on a ship, anchored out in the water, but the weather was cold and there were rats in the walls. Then we were back for one more night in Hanoi before catching the sleeper train south to Hoi An.

It's been unseasonably cold in Vietnam since we arrived, which has been okay because it makes it easier to focus on work rather than on going to the beach. Hanoi was only getting up to about 8 degrees during the day and Hoi An, a bit warmer, sits in the high teens (celcius). The heat isn't such a big deal, but it's also been cloudy and rainy, which makes for wet, muddy roads and the sensation of wanting to do little other than curl up under the blankets with a book and a cup of tea.

Hoi An is beautiful. It's an ancient town and at night, the old centre is lit up with hundreds of lanterns. I'll post pictures soon, but it is really very special. The town is split in the middle by a river and is located out on a kind of peninsula on the sea. It's a strange mixture of very old Vietnamese people who don't speak English and live a very quiet life working their fields or selling their crafts, and all the tourists who've come here to get clothing made on the cheap. Because that's really what Hoi An is known for: in this town of just over 100,000 people, there are over 600 tailor shops all vying business.

Pretty much all of the tailors work out of shops where they've got a range of samples on display. You can go in and buy something off the rack or ask them to adjust any garment for you - or you can go in with a sketch or some images and get them to make something from scratch. Prices vary from store to store and I'm told that the work quality isn't consistent between them, but you can generally get a basic custom dress for just over $10. There are also dozens of shoe shops and again, you can either buy off the shelves or get them to make you a pair of shoes.

On the 22nd of this month I'm being flown to California for a job interview with a hugely exciting company (hint: rhymes with schmasebook) and given that I've spent the last nine months living out of a suitcase, I'm a little lacking in appropriate outfits in the 'business casual' category. Since I can't possibly turn up in flip flops and a floor length hippie skirt, I'm planning to have something made here within the next few days, which is exciting because I don't think I've ever owned a custom made outfit before! I want something simple, comfortable, not too serious and with a bit of personality - something I can wear again.

Last spring at Target I saw a simple little dress by Massimo (pictured on the left, below) and one of the shops here has a similar pattern. Instead of the tank top though, I'm going to get them to add 3/4 length sleeves, with a slight poof at the shoulders (I seriously love a poof!).




Images from: Target, The Fashion Police, Sugarscape and Picassa.  Image of Hoi An by Viajar24h.

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Welcome to 2011


It's  beautiful, sunny New Years day in Luang Prabang, Laos. Yesterday we ended the year with a 34 kilometer bike ride (up mountains) that almost finished us off, a stop in a hill tribe village to take polaroids of the kids and leave them as gifts (they were amazed!), a wander through some of the most beautiful waterfalls I've ever seen, a visit to an Asiatic bear sanctuary, a lovely meal, watching dozens of handmade paper lanterns float up into the night sky, and a count down at the stunningly beautiful local bar Utopia. It was pretty much the most perfect way to end the year and I couldn't have dreamed up anything better.

We stumbled home along the river, slightly tipsy and a little bit achey from our bike ride, but happily calling out "Sabaidee Pi Mai", which means happy new years in Laotian, to passersby and settled into our little room for a long sleep. This morning I was briefly woken up by the resident rooster and then again around 9 am by the sound of monks chanting across the street. Then a nice brunch next to the river.

Dan and I have discussed resolutions a lot this New Years and I think I've narrowed mine down to a few basic shifts in behavior that can mostly be boiled down to mindfulness:

  • I want to eat less meat and when I do eat it, I want to be more conscious of what it is I'm consuming. I love animals and in a country like Laos, where water buffalo wander out into the street, and chickens are part of the community, it's much harder to divorce what I'm eating from the idea of a living, breathing animal. I just want to be more responsible and aware of what I'm putting into my body and the impact that has on the world. 
  • No more pop for me. It's bad and filled with nasty chemicals and I don't need it in my body. 
  • I want to do a better job of letting things go and spend less of my time dwelling on people and things that make me unhappy. There are so many wonderful things in the world - I don't want to waste any more time on negativity or on trying to work out the motivations of other people. I would like to master the art of throwing up my hands and walking away (in a good way). 
  • I want to do a better job of really committing to my creative writing practice. Setting tangible goals seems like an important things to do so here's mine: 5,000 words a week creative writing. Doesn't matter what it is, doesn't matter if it's any good, what matters is that I put in the time. 
  • Be more mindful of how I'm spending my time and do a better job of setting hard daily goals so that I spend less time floating around the internet without any direction. 
  • Move my body more. The bike ride yesterday was hard and I don't know that I'll be doing 30+ km uphill on a regular basis, but it felt good to by physically active. I want to spend more time walking, swimming, biking ... I don't want exercise to be something I need to go to a gym to do, but something that is just part of how I live my life. When I see the kids running around here playing, I'm reminded that our natural state is to move through the world and to take pleasure in doing it. I want to remember what it's like to enjoy my physicality. 
  • Career wise, I want to keep moving forward, keep feeling excited and inspired by what I'm doing and continue to surround myself with passionate, creative people. We started Contentini: Content Strategists this year and it's been more successful than I could have imagined (thanks clients!). I've done a lot of thinking and writing about web content - something I'm passionate about - and have had some great responses. The idea of content strategy as a professional focus is still relatively new and I am beyond excited to see how it evolves over the next year and how my own practice will change with it. 
I hope you all had a peaceful and joyous New Years and that you're as excited for the year ahead as I am. We've got another few days in this country that I've fallen completely in love with and on January 3rd we fly to Hanoi, Vietnam. I will be sad to leave Laos and I'm always a little nervous when visiting a new country but really, I couldn't be in a better place to enter 2011. 

x


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Reverb 10 - Photo





I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.
I like this photo because I look happy in a caught off guard sort of way. There's no contrived smile or posing (apart from the Japanese peace sign thing they always do in photos) and I feel like it captures a moment of real happiness. And yes, of course I want to loose myself more and more in moments of unabashed smiling happiness!

Dan took the photo and I think we were at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan.

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The Merry Christmas Edition - Reverb 10 - Everything's Okay



I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?
Now.

It's Christmas morning and I am sitting in a little coffee shop in Vientiane, Laos. A gigantic faux fireplace has been built up the wall and cheesy holiday music is blasting out of the speakers. The sun is shining, we slept well last night, my bug bites are healing, I have enough to eat, Die Hard I and II are on the television later tonight (yippie kai aye!), I'm excited about my life, I count a group of wonderful people as friends and family, we've actually found a pub that is doing a 'real' Christmas dinner where we'll be heading later today, and I feel such gratitude.

I am a lucky girl and as I spend more time in this beautiful country, with people who have very little but who are still so warm and joyful, it's hard not to realize that this notion of 'alrightness' is a bit of a luxury. Most of the people here are too busy trying to find enough to eat, working insanely long days, trying to support their families and trying to overcome the health problems that are intertwined with poverty. And I'm sitting in a Western style coffee house pondering the degree to which I think everything is going to be alright for me.

All I can hope is that I never become someone who forgets my incredible fortune: I am healthy, I have resources at my disposal, I have love. I don't know what will happen tomorrow, but in this moment, on Christmas morning, everything is beautifully, perfectly alright.



As I child, I used to cry my eyes out on Christmas night, grieving because the day was over and because even though I knew it would come around again in a year, it would never, ever be exactly the same. Even as a five or six year old, I felt time slipping away too quickly and it broke my heart. I still feel that way sometimes. Every time we leave a place, I find myself wondering if we'll ever be there again and if we are, what it will feel like. I think the holidays must make a lot of people feel this way - so many Christmas shows and songs are so sad and wistful. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer stop motion cartoon (poor misfit toys!), Miracle on 34th Street, It's A Beautiful Life ... Frosty the Snowman is basically a symbol for our mortality... and let's not forget the Peanuts Christmas special, which always makes me cry.

This is all to say that I think it's important to do less crying over the passage of time and spend more time feeling grateful for every moment. And that's what I'm going to carry with me into the next year.



Merry Christmas everyone!

x

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Reverb 10 - Travel



I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?
I am on an around the world trip and have been living like a gypsy since May 1st. London - Scottsdale - Las Vegas - Puerto Vallarta - San Blas - Los Angeles - Vancouver - Ucluelet - Vancouver - Whistler - Revelstoke - Calgary - Regina - Calgary - Revelstoke - Vancouver - Sydney - Melbourne - Great Ocean Road - Melbourne - Sydney - Tokyo - Osaka - Bangkok - Vientiane ....

Next up: Louang Prabang - Hanoi - Halong Bay - maybe Southern Vietnam - Bangkok - Koh Lanta and the Southern Thai islands - Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai and maybe back to Laos.

You can read more about my travels on my other website, A Tramp Abroad.

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Reverb 10 - Future Self


I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead?
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Make time for books, films, kissing, swimming, hand holding and sunset watching. Contrary to what some people might tell you, these things are priority. 
  • Try to get better at sleeping. It's important and you really need to work on improving your skill set in this area. 
  • Stop obsessing about circumstances outside of your control. Learn how to be better at letting things go. 
  • Laugh more and stop taking yourself quite so seriously.
  • Make time for play. 
  • Complain less and be better at really acknowledging how lucky you are.
  • There is no such thing as being too nice. Be mindful of kindness and how transformative small actions can be. 
  • Wear bug spray when you are outside, unless you're in Iceland, Antarctica or Saskatchewan during the winter time. 
  • Keep it light enough to travel. 


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Reverb 10 - Avoidance


I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: will you do it?)
Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Whatever.

Now if the heart of this question is about procrastination then I'd answer that I'd like to do less avoiding of writing, reading and moving my body around the world with purpose (also known as exercise). But I don't regret one wasted moment this year.

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Reverb 10 - Lessons Learned, Try and Healing





I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.

Three posts in one today. Efficient or lazy?
Lesson Learned: What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?
When you spend an entire year traveling, when you have no real home, when all your earthly possessions fit inside one suitcase, when you have no nine to five job or office politics to contend with, when you're relatively healthy, when you learn words in a new language every few month in order to communicate in your new country, when you go from summer to spring to winter and back to summer again in a matter of a few months, when your friends and family are continents away: you learn that you can't blame unhappiness on anything apart from yourself and that it's up to you to deal with the ghosts that follow you across the world. You learn that its okay to be sad one minute and happy the next and that life is always challenging but that there are rewards that you never dreamed were possible. You are reminded that stuff matters very little in life and that you probably didn't need all the dresses, kitchen appliances or Ikea furniture. You learn about self-sufficiency and wonder and loneliness and gratitude.

I will never forget this year or the lessons I've learned. They're a part of me and it would be impossible for me to push forward into the next year without continuing to hold them very close.
Try: What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? 
Eat street food in Vietnam | Visit Halong Bay | Sit on an abandoned tropical beach and swim in the ocean | Write more stories | Go scuba diving | See elephants and monkeys in the wild | Get married | Write more | Read more | Snowboarding or Skiing | Visit Nepal | Spend time at a cabin with no Internet | Develop more technical photography skills | Doodle and draw | Get back into running | Swim. A lot. |

I wanted to do a lot in 2010. I did some of the things I'd hoped - an astonishing number of the things I'd hoped actually. The biggest thing was quitting our jobs, selling our stuff and setting out to travel for a year. It was a bit scary - especially the idea of rootlessness - and entering 2010, I'm not sure if I believed we'd actually do it. But we did and it's been the most transforming experience of my life.
Healing: What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?
I've had the space and time this year to think about how I feel about things and why and to explore all of this through writing, photography and in a number of other personal ways. I've always been a fast moving person - always planning for the next thing, always thinking, always doing and worrying. This year, with so many variables outside of my control, I been forced into a quieter space. I feel like I'm leaving this year with a much stronger sense of who I am than when I entered it.

As for how I want to be healed in 2011? I'm not great at letting things go and I hold onto bad experiences and hurts for a long time. I'd like to be able to let some of that baggage go and to learn to filter out the negativity much earlier in the process.

Oh, and I'd also like to avoid any kind of bug biting interactions if at all possible. Amen.

Photo by me - Vientiane, Laos River Construction

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Reverb 10 - Friendship


I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?
  • My oldest friend Vanessa, who sends me hilarious email updates from her adventures working in the non-profit sector and traveling in South America and Cuba, has taught me that sometimes laughing in the face of intolerable circumstances is the best approach to a problem. 
  • My closest lady friend Jackie teaches me that you don't have to be in the same city (or continent) as someone to keep in touch and let them know that you care. She's also an amazing writer, insightful reader and just about my favorite person to have drinks with. 
  • My newest friends Stacie and Scott teach me how nice it is to have people in your life who take the time to be supportive and encouraging. They are two of the most generous people I've met. 
  • My friend Carrie taught me that I need to do a better job keeping in touch with people who matter to me. We hadn't seen each other in years until this summer and I was struck by how much I missed her.
  • My friend Ali reminds me of the importance of making time for girl dates - particularly if they involve tea and cake. 
  • My mother, who in her 50s found the courage to completely transform her life, teaches me that it's never too late to take back your life and make it wonderful; and her sister, my Auntie Denise, who always manages to send me encouraging notes when I need them the most, reminds me that small acts of kindness can mean an awful lot.
  • Though I haven't seen my friends Miranda and Lindsay for years, the crazy funny Facebook updates about their adventures in higher education make me realize that some friendships can sustain years of distance. If we were ever in the same city, I think we'd have drinks, laugh our faces off and it wouldn't feel like there'd been a gap. 
  • My friend Kate who passed away suddenly this year reminds me to appreciate every fleeting moment of my life. 
  • My friend Gaynor reminds me of how cathartic it is to have a good, long catch up talk. 
  • My friend Michelle teaches me that sometimes the best way to show strength is to have a soft heart and allow yourself to cry until you can't cry anymore. 
  • My friend Crystal reminds me that sometimes, even though it hurts, the only thing left to do is to let go. 
  • My best friend and fiance Dan reminds me that we don't have to enact the same male/female relationships and structures we were raised with. We can do something different and better and we can actually be happy. 
xo


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Reverb 10 - 5 Minutes

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.  
The realization that there are multiple ways to live my life and to not let fear stop me from choosing an unconventional path. 
 What it is like to live in physical discomfort and to use it as a reminder for being empathetic to others who will likely always live their lives feeling hungry, too cold, too hot, sick, bitten by bugs and afraid.

How warm and salty the ocean was in San Blas and how the pelicans flying overhead looked prehistoric.

Our beautiful afternoon in Manly, Australia and how, if I was ever wealthy, I would want a cottage there, overlooking the sea.

Seeing penguins, koalas, kangaroos and wallabies in the wild.

The stunning and solitary drive through the rocky mountains between Whistler and Lake Louise and imagining how hard it must have been for people to build the highway that runs through it.

Paco.

Kate.

Carrie May and Michael's wedding - and all the new and different ways it made me think about marriage.

Playing with my nephew Seth and hearing him talk for the first time.

The freedom and exhilaration I felt on May 1st, as we were leaving London to begin our journey.

My happiness with Dan.

The view from the Tokyo Hyatt at night.

Feeding the wild deer in Nara, Japan.

What it was like living in a house for a month with two kids under the age of three - and the recognition of how hard it must be to deal with that every day.

The sun setting over the Mekong.

Cooking in our impossibly tiny Japanese kitchen in Tokyo.

The Arizona desert and the way the sky looked at night.

The relief of writing a complete short story after a long dry spell.

The Buddhist monks in their bright orange robes, riding around Vientiane in tuk tuks.

Photo of my and a kitten, taken in Vientiane by Dan.


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Reverb 10 - Appreciate



I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?
The problem with this and so many other questions like this is that it assumes that we can sort our experiences into neat little packages. While the obsessive compulsive in me likes the idea, it's an arbitrary exercise. Life is not like a logic problem in high school and to try to pretend that it is possible to roll the complex, nuanced experiences of our lives into "the one things you have come to appreciate" is kind of ridiculous.

I've had an amazing year and I'm not willing to single out one thing. But here's a sampling:

  • soft sheets
  • the ability to travel the world relatively cheaply
  • laap, vegetable pakora, garlic naan, gyoza, nachos, summer rolls, good cheese and bread, fresh vegetables and fruit, and Trifon's Pizza
  • an internet connection
  • air conditioning
  • the kindness of strangers
  • the love and encouragement of friends and family
  • that my suitcase has wheels
  • that I have the ability to mostly choose the course of my life, unlike millions and millions of other women in the world
  • calamine lotion and tea tree oil 
  • life changing great books like Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
  • being able to work on projects I'm excited about with people who respect me
  • not being in a city that is creatively, physically or emotionally stifling
  • bug spray and bug proof lodgings
  • that creative work still fulfills me and that I have the luxury of making time for it
  • relative good health
  • cold beer on hot days
  • overnight flights that don't have screaming babies
  • the smell of a campfire or barbecue
  • Japanese politeness
  • the Mekong River at sunset
  • my partner who is infinitely patient, kind, generous and who brings out the best in me; and who I still like kissing
  • the smell of rain and clean laundry
  • wild horses running down the beach in Mexico
  • strange desert creatures  - like Javalinas  - and the night sky in rural areas of Arizona
  • a quiet, cool, dark room to sleep
  • swimming
  • flushing toilets
  • cool night prairie air
  • people like Maggie Doyne who are saving lives every single say
  • 'magic hour' light
  • the distinct lack of divas in my life at the moment
I express gratitude for these things by trying my best to say 'please' and 'thank you' and by trying to take moments out to breath deeply and recognize how lucky I continue to be.

Photo of me in Vientiane, Laos taken by Dan.


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Reverb 10 - Action

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?
The lovely Friday Films answered this prompt more cleverly and thoughtfully then I could. I totally agree with her. So instead of making more noise over here, just head on over and read her post:
What is this new obsession with ideas and making things happen? When did a nice way of delving into the hearts and minds of regular people turn into a rat race for some hazy, distant prize of...what? I’m still trying to figure this out. Is it money? Fame? Recognition? It’s not enough that we get to live a life largely without constant hunger, pain, grief or hopelessness – we want our big fat future reward too. We want a trophy that will prove to ourselves, and to those around us, that this life of ours really means something.
Photos: Friday and me, last new years. 

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Reverb 10 - Body Integration


I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?
Well, given that I've not yet reached nirvana (cough!) I don't know that I can pin point a moment when I felt like  "a cohesive me, alive and present." Ignoring the poncey assumptions and language in this prompt ... which is hard ... the most integrated I've felt with my body this year was in Mexico. We spent six weeks there during the height of summer in a small, buggy, hot bungalow in San Blas. Bugs were feeding on us day and night, the heat was like being trapped under a wet blanket - with a hot steamer blowing underneath - and the rains were intense, flooding the little road we were located on so that for days we had to wade ankle deep through muddy water to get out of our little compound. I can remember washing out laundry by hand, dripping in sweat; I can remember being itchy; I can remember wanting to take the two hour bus journey to Tepic just because it was air conditioned and despite the motion sickness the bad roads would cause, at least I would feel cool for a few hours. I remember not being able to properly fall asleep until sunrise because I was so afraid of the giant spiders, millipedes and cockroaches crawling on me in the darkness. And I remember the few wonderful nights when the wind would pick up and cooler breeze would come in off the sea, and we would lay there on top of our sheets, feeling finally, mercilessly like we weren't crawling out of our skin.

It sounds horrible but it was actually wonderful to be so present, to have my anxieties reduced to worrying about the heat, my bad stomach and the bugs. I could sense the slightest breeze picking up, the most subtle drop or rise in temperature ... I was grateful when an itchy mosquito bite would suddenly feel cool under the tea tree oil I'd applied. Although I would never want to experience it again, I recognize that the luxuries of my life are designed to keep me apart from physical experiences. I put up barriers between myself and discomfort and sickness so that I can ignore my physicality.

I would be reluctant to trade away my physical comforts, but I learned a lot about myself during those long hot weeks in San Blas.

Image: San Blas Palm Trees by me.

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Reverb 10 - 11 Things

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.
What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? 
1. Passive aggressive behavior. Seriously, let's call shit out rather than beat around the bush. Things are much simpler that way.  
2. Bug bites. Something about me is like sweet candy to all flesh eating insects. Given that I'm likely spending the next five months in tropical (read: buggy) South East Asia, it might be hard to eliminate this without destroying the ecosystem of the region, but I do intend to invest heavily in DEET.  
3. Excessive procrastination. I don't know why I'm so tempted to put off doing things that I love. Like writing. I've got dozens of story ideas swimming around in my head and while I note them down, I rarely make the necessary time to actually write. I don't know why I'm so inclined to do this but I am going to try schedule time in to do the things that matter to me as I've realized that I work best with a bit of structure. 
4. Doing work that I don't love. Yes, there are bills to be paid (or guesthouse rooms to be rented in our case) but I've been lucky this year. I've found that it is possible to achieve a really lovely balance between doing the things I'm passionate about and getting paid for it. We spend so much of our lives working - I want to do work that motivates me with people who are excited and talented. Whether I'm working in a bakery or continuing with the web consulting work I've been doing, I vow to love it or leave it.  
5. Frenemies and people who make me feel sad, inadequate or overly competitive. This year I'm going to invest more time taking care of the relationships that are encouraging, positive and mutual and a bit less time worrying about the other people. I wish them well, but I am also officially letting them go.  
6. My addiction to technology and obsession with always being connected. As I wrote about here, I love technology and as someone who is location independent I rely on it to keep in touch with friends, family and clients. But I want to do a better job of managing the time I devote to it so that I feel more in control and less like I'm obsessed.  
7. Physical lethargy. Although I've done and seen more this year then in any other year of my life, I've felt physically quite tired and rather unmotivated to move my body. I live in my head and I have trouble pulling myself out to go for a run, do yoga, or swim. I've been healthy and have had no more than one cold all year, but I feel tired and my muscles are tense from not being used enough. I want to use this body more.  
8. People pleasing. It's not that I don't want to make people happy in 2011, but I want to stop worrying about making people happy.  
9. The intense desire to control 'what's next'. I've gotten better in this regard during 2010 in part because when traveling you quickly learn that there are a number of things you can do absolutely nothing about. The bus might be late, the tuk tuk driver might rip you off, the dinner your received may not be the one your ordered, the mosquitos swarm, the temperature rises and falls, lightening may or may not strike the small house you're living in ... In my childhood home everything - every single detail of every moment - was planned and I've carried some of that tendency into my adult life. I want to continue to work on letting go a bit more and accept that the world will not end when things don't go as planned.  
10. Stress and worrying. From September until about two weeks ago, we were intensely busy with freelance projects and although we balanced everything and came out in a really good place, I found myself feeling intense panic on occasion. It usually came on most abruptly when I would go to bed - instead of sleeping, my heart would pump and I would consider every possible outcome until I felt like I couldn't breath. This is a new development for me - I've always been someone who thrived under stress, particularly work-related stress. But I'm aware of my family history of stress disorders and am determined to keep a better handle on these symptoms if and when they arise, and to deal with them accordingly.  
11. Soda. I shall not drink Pepsi Next, Fanta or Sprite. It's bad for me. I must stop. 
Image by me, Kamakura, Japan


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Reverb 10 - Wisdom

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.

(I've skipped prompts December 7th through 9th because I've been in transit from Osaka, Japan to Vientiane, Laos and I'm busy and mostly because I can.)

December 10th Prompt - Wisdom
Wisdom. Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
Hands down. This year I decided to quit my full time job to travel around the world and let life take me somewhere I couldn't possibly have planned for. I am currently sitting in a lovely guesthouse in Vientiane, Laos - a city of strange contradictions - and I don't regret one single moment of the last six and a half months*. How many people can say that?

* Okay, I do regret going outside three nights ago without bug spray on.

Strange photo by me, originally posted on my now mostly defunct Lost and Looking website. 

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Reverb 10 - Make

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.


December 6th Prompt - Make
What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?
I am always making things - there's almost always a short story or an essay half written or just completed (whatever that means). I get to make interesting web projects as part of my job, I constantly make photographs and recently I even made a pillow case into a dress.

If I want to make something bad enough, I generally clear time for it.

Super 8 Girl image, by me. 

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Reverb 10 - Let Go

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here. Or read all my Reverb posts here.

December 5th Prompt - Let Go

What or whom did you let go of this year? Why?
Since taking on a location independent life, where we are traveling to a new place every month or so, I feel like I've let go of a lot of things. By necessity I've gotten rid of most of my 'stuff' and can now fit almost everything I own into one standard size suitcase. Although I still consider London my home base, in some ways I feel like we're homeless - we've learned to adapt to new cities, new beds, new surroundings, new social rules in a way that I would never have believed myself capable of.

Stripping away everything has also forced me to get rid of excuses. I am living this amazing traveling life and if I'm not happy, there's very little I can blame it on but myself so I'm forced to be a lot more self-reflective than I used to be.

Finally, I've let go of the idea that I have to be anyone other than who I am. Some people aren't going to like me and I'm pretty okay with that these days. I've also learned that sometimes friendships run their course and by letting go of old relationships, I'm not devaluing them or what they meant to me, just recognizing that not everything was meant to last forever.

Photo by me, taken in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, Japan

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Reverb 10 - Wonder



I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here.


December 4th Prompt - Wonder
How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?
In some ways this entire year has been about creating opportunities for wonder. Feeling weighed down by a life that was not fulfilling me, we changed everything, risked everything, sold our stuff, and set out for a year of travel and exploring the world.

Now half way through our adventure, we've explored the deserts of Arizona; drank too much under the Vegas fluorescents; been eaten by bugs and stung by jelly fish in a sleepy sea-side Mexican town; wandered the cobbled streets of Puerto Vallarta; spent a glorious month in Vancouver; drove through the mountains from Vancouver to Saskatchewan; explored Sydney, Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road; and have spent the last two months falling in love with the strangeness of Japan. Every new place brings with it a sense of being lost woven with an overwhelming sense of amazement. There have been countless moments where I've the words "Look at where I am!" surprise and root me to the place and moment and for a short time I am completely and happily where I am.

The image above was taken in Wilson's Promontory in Australia. The water is brown because there is a plant in it that actually turns the fresh water to tea. Yes, tea! I think that's wonderful.

Photo by me, taken in Wilson's Promontory, Australia

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Reverb 10 - Moment

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here.


December 3rd Prompt - Moment
Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).
Early on the morning of May 1st, Dan and I strapped on our backpacks, did one final walk through around our London flat and locked the door for the last time. It was a beautiful, bright spring morning in London and everything looked and smelled clean because the night before it had absolutely poured. We'd gotten stuck in the storm on our way home from seeing a movie; as we ran the few blocks from the cinema to our flat, jumping over puddles, getting absolutely soaked, I remember feeling the weight that had become permanently wedged in the pit of my stomach begin to lighten and it occurred to me that the biggest thing I had to worry about was how I was going to get our clothes dry enough to pack before we left to catch our flight in the morning.

For the first time in our lives, we were almost completely unencumbered, on the brink of a year of travel and possibility. My gigantic 80 liter backpack was heavy and I was tired - we'd slept on the floor the night before and because of that and the buzz of anticipation, neither of us slept particularly well. As we walked towards the underground station near our house (the same one we'd used for our daily commute to work) to go to Heathrow airport, I felt something nearing pure hope. The train was almost empty because it was early on a Saturday morning and I tried to soak up the smells and sounds of the life I was leaving behind. I can remember us making an audio tape of the noises of the train as a way of bringing a little piece of London with us, and I held Dan's hand.

Photo by Dan, taken at Kawagoe, Japan

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Reverb 10 - Writing

I'm participating in Reverb10, a daily writing prompt throughout the month of December related to reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. You can read more about why I'm doing it here.


December 2nd Prompt - Writing 
Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? 
I spend way to much time getting distracted by the noise of the Internet: Facebook, Twitter, email, my RSS feeder. Recently I wrote about some measures I'm taking to deal with some of these distractions and it's going alright - though I still check the RSS way too often.

It's challenging to eliminate these distractions altogether because I work in the web space and because I'm location independent and the web is also where I do most of my networking and where I keep in touch with loved ones. But I can do a better job of managing the amount of time I'm spending there so that it's less of a compulsion.

On December 10th Dan and I are heading into South East Asia for three and a half months - starting with Vientiane, Laos, then Hanoi, Vietnam and then Chiang Mai and other parts of Thailand. Although I need a certain amount of access to the Internet to work, I am genuinely hoping to try and schedule one or two days a week where it's mostly inaccessible to me so that I can try to find my way into a deeper practice of writing and thinking. We are also looking at renting some remote accommodations, which I'm hoping to be able to use as a retreat of sorts.

Image by me, Imperial Palace Grounds, Tokyo, Japan

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