Veteran’s Day in China

Veteran’s Day, 2013

Veteran’s Day has always been an holiday that I have respected. When I was young, it was because of my family’s military background as well as the fact that I was simply a patriotic kid. I joined the military shortly before September 11, 2001, so every Veteran’s Day after that took on a newfound significance. The last three Veteran’s Days have been a bit different though. Continue reading “Veteran’s Day in China”

Wanderlust – Destination: Costa Rica

I hate the winter, so I’m moving to Costa Rica.

Well, there are other reasons, but chief among them is the fact that any weather which requires me to wear long sleeves makes me irritable.

Other reasons include: the lower cost of living (which will be important since I’m in the start-up phase of beginning a business and frugality is crucial), time zone proximity to my business partner in the US, cheaper cost of living, desire to learn Spanish (but not to be stranded in a place where I can’t function without it), and the need to sate my wanderlust which, if put it off any longer after 2 years of grad school, will demand that I move to Papua New Guinea for the next decade.

Costa Rica is one of the countries that US citizens can go to without a visa and stay in for up to 90 days (this also played into my decision). As luck would have it, the next major business milestone that requires my geographical presence will take place in Beijing after the holiday season; my 90 day excursion neatly falls between now and then.

Other than basing major life decisions entirely on first world problems and minor annoyances, I tend to be a very meticulous and organized person, so after choosing the destination (and buying my plane tickets to stomp out any last minute wishy-washiness), I went about researching everything I could about Costa Rica and ended up finding a fantastic sublet in Playas del Coco (pictured above) for the exact dates of my trip. Playas del Coco is a small town in the northwest of Costa Rica and my place is just a few short blocks from the beach.

Incidentally, I don’t know a single person in Costa Rica. This is new for me. As much as I’ve traveled and lived abroad, I’ve never really gone anywhere where I didn’t know anyone. I figured it might be a good challenge. Everyone seemed to be impressed that I moved out of the country 5 years ago but, though I had less of a life plan then than I do now, I did have a close friend to help me figure things out when I got to China. As glad as I am for that, and as confident as I am that I can survive without that type of crutch now, I want to actually DO it. And why wait?

The biggest question I get asked is why I feel the need to leave the country at all. The answer is complex, but what it boils down to is that there is nowhere in the US where I feel entirely comfortable. With the possible exception of my time living in Hawaii, I have never been entirely satisfied by what any one place has to offer.

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I doesn’t only boil down to some existential need to find the “perfect” place. Really what it means is that, if I don’t feel a very strong connection to any one location, why settle when there’s a whole world out there to explore? Though I have many places that I love in the US and where I have family and amazing friends, for some reason none of them are very attractive to me as places to live permanently.

I don’t really know what it is that makes me want to GO. I just feel like there is so much that I have yet to experience, so many perspectives I want to better appreciate. Perhaps it’s the fact that every time I travel I feel like I come back a different person; I’m addicted to the changes in myself that travel brings, the shifts in understanding that learning new languages brings, the understanding of myself that being foreign brings.

Or maybe I just love the beach. In any case, next stop: Costa Rica. After that is anyone’s guess.

Why You Should Keep an Airplane Journal

When I was 21 years old I realized something about myself: I didn’t have what it took to keep a journal. Not the traditional kind of journal, anyway: the kind where most nights you open it up and write something about your day and your state of mind. I had tried before, and failed. I might write an entry or 3 over the course of a few weeks and then never pick it up again; ultimately, the perceived drudgery of most of my days (at that age) kept me from writing daily. Even now, when my life is much more interesting than it was then, I still can’t imagine having something worthwhile to write every day, or even most days.

And this is from someone who loves to write.

I did however want a log for posterity of what I was doing at that time in my life. I wanted to have something to look back on that would tell me what and how I was thinking so that I could compare and contrast. I wanted to know if I was changing.

So I invented the airplane journal. One thing I knew for certain, even then, was that I wanted to travel. A lot. I had traveled some up until that age, mostly in the United States, but also to the Caribbean a few times. And to me, at that age, those were the memories I cherished most. I associated travel with freedom and escape, two things I felt eluded me at the time. I’m glad now for that largely illusory powerlessness because it led to the creation of the airplane journal.

My Airplane Journal is a marble notebook that I take with me whenever I take a trip. I’m a fan of arbitrary rules, so for me the rules are: I can only write in airplanes, and only when the plane is off the ground. And I HAVE to write every time I fly.

I started off writing mostly rhapsodically about life and the world, but as I got older I began to write entries as letters to myself. I fill my future self in on the events that have taken place since my last trip, and also talk about where I’m going, both literally and metaphorically. Every entry is dated and tagged with both my destination and my departure point (ex: 11/9/2010 PEK –> SFO). I’ve been doing it for over 10 years now. I have over 60 entries now and have almost filled two books.

Anyone who has ever successfully kept a long term journal can attest to the feeling that comes from being able to take a glimpse into your own past. There is a catharsis in reading about the concerns of yesteryear and realizing how far you’ve come (and, occasionally, how little has changed).

Now, not everyone travels very often nor even has the desire to. In that case an airplane journal might not be the most suitable undertaking. However, a conditional journal, tied to a life activity which is relatively frequent and enjoyable, makes the process of keeping a log much easier and also gives you more bang for your buck. It’s easier to go back and review as it covers longer stretches of time, and it is linked to those milestone moments in life that are the most important to you.

Sometimes I go back through my journal and it’s like reading the words of some other person. I barely remember where I was living 8 years ago, much less what the most pressing concerns in my life were at that point. My airplane journal catches me up on who I was and also reminds me who I am.

Two noteworthy revelations have come from reading back through my airplane journals. 1) My handwriting is getting much, much worse; damn you digital age. And 2) on a whole I’m much more content than I used to be.

It’s nice to know that some things do change.