- Everything fit into our suitcases and bags! Actually, we were able to get all the gifts into just Brett’s and my bags – we are ready to go!
- Meiling was hired for the summer position at the University that she interviewed for last week. The position will give her free room and board on campus during the summer, and a nice fat check right before she heads back to classes in the fall, enough to cover over half of her living expenses next year.
- We spent an absolutely lovely afternoon at the beach on Tuesday!
- Today I start another month of keeping track of my daily “obligations,” and last month’s cards will head off to the recycling bag. Rather than buy a new journal or something similar, when I decided to keep track of what I wanted to accomplish every day, I came up with the idea of using the index cards we found in the girls’ bedroom that they didn’t need. So far it’s working very well, and is quite motivating – I’m one of those people who likes to see all the blanks filled in.
- YaYu has been accepted to participate in a two-week research and language study trip to China through the Pacific Asian Affairs Council (Hawai’i)! The application process was quite rigorous and competitive, so we are absolutely thrilled she was accepted. She’s also been shortlisted for one of the scholarships that will pay for part to all of the entire cost. We let her know when she applied that unless she received one of the scholarships we could not afford to pay for the trip; she understood and decided to go for it anyway. With all that’s been happening recently though, both Brett and I are more than a bit nervous about letting her travel overseas without us. She is heading over to Oahu at the end of this month with the team from her high school to compete in a day-long Japanese language/history event. The association for that (JASH) paid for the plane tickets. She’ll be back in the early evening, just in time to attend her swim team banquet. The girl stays busy!
- I’ve been using Rosetta Stone to study Japanese these past several weeks. In the early sections I thought it worked very well, especially since it was primarily review for me, but as I’ve been moving into more difficult grammatical structures I am beginning to discover several limitations with the program. Speaking as a language instructor, it gives far too little introduction, instruction or repetition to many of the grammatical structures and vocabulary it introduces. Also, the program uses pictures and requires me to match phrases with the pictures, Many times it’s flat-out impossible to tell what’s happening in the pictures, so instead of matching I end up having to guess (and of course get it wrong). The speech recognition software is also problematic. I can say something one time and it’s fine, but the next time have to practically scream at the microphone to be heard, or it only hears part of what I’m saying. And, I’m often given a long, complicated sentence or two to speak, but the buzzer goes off before I can even say half of it – very annoying! In my opinion, Rosetta Stone would be a fine accompaniment to a regular language class, but on its own it falls far short as an effective language learning program, especially with a language as difficult as Japanese. I’m not disappointed I bought it, but I am disappointed in what it claims it can accomplish. I’ve been using the Rosetta Stone program for at least eight weeks, but when Brett and I watched a Japanese film last week (with subtitles), I couldn’t understand even one thing that was said in the film, including words and grammar that I’ve supposedly “learned” already.
On Mondays, I usually write about something related to travel, my favorite subject. Right now that seems like rather a quaint idea, in light of the thousands of people who were caught up in the executive order banning travel from seven Muslim countries in the middle east. I had hoped that this blog could remain free of politics, and going forward I hope I don’t feel the need to write about things like this again. But I cannot stay silent.
The travel ban is still in place, and although federal judges have ordered a stay on the ban in several areas some with visas or green cards are still not being allowed in or being detained. Hundreds of lawyers have volunteered their time to assist the detainees, and other judges have ordered that lawyers have access to those with permanent resident status. Customs officials in some locations however have refused to obey the judges’ orders. Tens of thousands of citizens spontaneously gathered at airports all over the country to protest the ban, and protests are continuing.
Here are just a few examples of how the travel ban affected people trying to enter the United States, although its effects were more far-reaching and devastating than the few examples can provide:
- A Syrian man, a permanent resident with a green card, was not allowed to re-enter the United States. He is the sole caregiver for his father, who remains in the U.S.
- A 77-year old grandmother, from Iraq, who has not seen her family here for over four years, was locked up, detained upon her arrival at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. and sent back to Iraq.
- An Iranian woman, who has held a green card for the past five years, and had her citizenship interview scheduled in two weeks, was denied entry into the country.
- Legal permanent residents, returning home after funerals, vacations and study abroad were stopped and questioned about their religion, their views of Donald Trump and denied entry.
- Interpreters who risked their lives to serve with the U.S. Army in Iraq, and who were promised safe travel to the U.S. were stranded at airports in Iraq; one was held in handcuffs for over 17 hours. Others’ family members were denied entry to reunite with their husbands and fathers.
- Two of the persons held for hours at O’Hare airport were an 18-month old and a newborn. Both are U.S. citizens.
Does the ban make us safer? Not one of the 9/11 hijackers came from any of the countries that were banned, nor did the Orlando shooter or the San Bernadino shooters. No American has ever been killed by anyone from any of the banned countries. I sure don’t feel any safer because of the ban. In fact, it makes me feel a whole lot less safe than I ever have.
The ban is a disgrace. It is shameful. It is hateful and cruel. It is illegal. It is evil.
I’m still reeling from this action. I did not serve, nor my husband, nor our parents and ancestors to see this happen in our country. I will close with a quote from Dan Rather, written on Saturday:
I still remain optimistic that the vast majority of American people will recoil and speak out at this unwise policy. But whether we like it or not, as the detentions and impediments already springing up make all too real, this is the stated de facto policy of the United States today. Every day that it goes on, every day the chaos, confusion and heartbreak deepens, America loses more pieces of its soul and standing in the world.
This past weekend, Mrs. Occasional Nomad asked what I intended to do while YaYu was studying with her Mandarin tutor, and I told her I thought I might explore another little beach near Lihue. However, on my way to the Ninini beaches (there are two), I was distracted by the sight of a little lighthouse. By following the “Shoreline Access” signs from the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort I arrived at Kukii Point, across from the breakwater at Nawiliwili Harbor.
Parking was available at the end of Kalapaki (double-yoked egg) Circle, and I walked from there around the loop surrounding a huge ficus to get to the somewhat steep pathway and stairway down to the 16th hole of Kaua‘i Lagoon’s Kiele (Gardenia) Golf Course.
At the turnaround for golf carts, there was a short rubber-clad stairway that ended only a little closer to the shoreline.
A blue warning sign was waiting at the bottom of the stairway, where the path simply disappeared into bushes and guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus), also called buffalo grass or elephant grass. If, like I was, you’re wearing shorts, you won’t want to go this way because this tall grass bears fine, whisker-like stickers the first few feet above ground, and the upper blades are just that: blades. I walked around the berm between the bunker and green to my left and found a more inviting, though steep, descent.
Once I was down to the harsh pumice field (where my hide would have remained in perpetuity if I fell—probably should have recommended running/hiking shoes earlier) I could see three channels scouring away the point to the left of the lighthouse.
Both the two narrow channels and the broad channel up the middle of the pumice field afforded spectacular demonstrations of the hazardous surf at work here.
Rip-rap dumped at the head of the broad channel created interesting random click-clack sounds like the colliding balls on a pool table at the break.
Intense wave action on the other side of the point often makes for some decent surfing at Kalapaki Beach, but at the same time the surf rips into the jagged stone that supports the foundation for the lighthouse.
I could spend hours—weeks, months, years perhaps—exploring and sharing photographs of these rocks, and the wave action, but know that may not delight everyone. If you enjoy geomorphology as much as I do though, I invite you to come on over to my island sometime and watch the shoreline tumble into the Pacific.
After watching rocks and surf for a while, it was time to proceed back up the stairway, pick up YaYu, and head for home.
One week from today WenYu and I will arrive in Massachusetts, and it is really starting to sink in how much we both need to do to get her ready to go (I can pack my bag in about 15 minutes). This morning WenYu is renewing her passport, and this afternoon she and I both have appointments for haircuts (same stylist) among other things that need to be taken care of. Every day now she will be setting things out to be packed, and she has three more days of work to get through as well.
At least all our travel snacks are ready to go! WenYu and I went to Costco on Monday to pick up a couple of things she wants to take with her, and when we saw the bag of Kona Coffee Macadamia Nut Brittle we knew we had to have it, even if it wasn’t on our list. What’s not to love about coffee, macadamia nuts and brittle? WenYu is set with her pork jerky, Pringles, Chimes ginger chews and Sour Patch Kids to get her through the long flights, and I’ll make do with the ginger wafer cookies and brittle (and maybe a couple of Pringles). We’re going to pick up a couple of sandwiches on Monday to take along for lunch on our way over to San Diego, but unless we can find something in the San Diego airport before we depart for Boston we’ll have to buy our lunch onboard for that leg of the trip on Wednesday.
On a different note, Brett and my retirement in Hawai’i was highlighted yesterday in Bob Lowry’s wonderful blog, A Satisfying Retirement! If you’re starting to think about retirement, getting close or already there, Bob’s blog is a fabulous resource, with a wealth of information about how to truly enjoy a more satisfying retirement no matter where you live or what you plan to do. I encourage you check it out (if you’re not already reading it, that is)!
If I learned nothing else over the last few years, it’s that downsizing and decluttering takes time. No matter what you want or need to get rid of, whether it’s things or debt or activities, downsizing doesn’t happen quickly, because it’s both a process and an attitude adjustment. Three or six months or longer after you’ve sworn you couldn’t live without something, or think you have to have it or do it, you may realize that you actually no longer need that thing any more. So, out it goes, or you at least get yourself on a path toward getting rid of it, or changing things.
Our wakeup call came in 2005 when we moved from the house we had lived in for 10 years to a new house across town, one that was closer to the girls’ elementary school (and had more than one bathroom). As we begin to pack our stuff up for the move we were appalled at how much we had accumulated over those 10 years. It was the longest we’d ever lived in one house, and even after holding a few yard sales and making several donations we apparently still owned an awful lot of stuff. The move was a near disaster when, at the last minute, the buyers changed their minds and wanted us out of the house in 24 hours after closing versus the seven days they had initially agreed to, giving us no time to finish getting all our stuff packed up and out. We were somehow able to find a moving crew at the last minute to help, and just barely got everything out of the old house on time, but it wasn’t pretty.
Never wanting to go through that experience ever again, our downsizing journey began from that day forward. First it was just stuff we started getting rid of, but at the end of 2009, after a financially disastrous year following a reduction in Brett’s salary (it was that or being laid off), we decided we’d had enough of debt and began a three year journey to rid ourselves of that as well. Combining debt reduction with downsizing put us on the path to retirement and relocation to Hawai’i.
Along the way we used things up, we went without, we mended, we saved, we purged and completely revamped how we lived. We shredded, we donated, we recycled and we threw things away. We learned that we could easily live without lots of things we thought we couldn’t, that we didn’t need those things to have a satisfying life. We also figured out that although we didn’t have to give some things up, we could live without them if necessary. And, we realized what things we absolutely would not give up or go without.
Coming up with a personal list of “No Way, Maybe, Gone (for good)” took me a few days. I’d think of something, put it on a list and then change my mind or move it to another part of the list (“I could actually go without that if I had to”). The list surprises me in some ways, most especially because other than coffee, it’s definitely not the same list I would have come up with 10 years ago, or even five years ago.
Here are seven things I cannot imagine doing without:
- Good coffee
- My MacBook & iPhone along with high speed wireless internet when I’m at home
- Sharp, quality knives for cooking
- A slow cooker & rice cooker
- Organic whole-grain bread
- My library card
Seven things I could do without if I had to:
- A gas stove – I hope I never have to go back to electric
- A washer and dryer (this one is this close to being on the ‘no way’ list)
- Wine, or gin & tonics
- Shoes. I could happily wear flip flops or sandals for the rest of my life.
- Eating out
- Occasionally buying books for my Kindle
- Other than the slow cooker & rice cooker, most of my other small kitchen appliances, including my KitchenAid stand mixer.
Seven things I (we) have given up that aren’t coming back:
- A second car
- Magazine subscriptions. Brett gets one as a gift, but that’s it.
- Cable TV
- Land line telephone
- Trader Joe’s (SOB!)
- A full size suitcase. Carry-on only for me these days
Finally, there’s one thing I currently don’t have any more but wish I did at times: A dishwasher! Most of the time I don’t mind washing dishes, but there are those days when I would give just about anything to have a dishwasher again.
What about you? What things do you have to have? What things could you do without? And what things are gone and never coming back?
Myth: it costs a lot to travel.
Yes it does if you stay in $400 a night hotels like I used to do.
It was fun.
The truth is I love to travel solo.
I don’t have to wait for a friend to break up with her lover, leave their job, or save enough money to go with me.
When I want to go to Nepal, Colombia, or Sardinia I put on my Van sneakers and go!
I can sit in a fancy pants bar/restaurant like I am now and write. And enjoy a superb glass of red wine and be at ease and comfortable.
You never have to negotiate where to go based on money.
I was backpacking in the Himalayas solo in 2009 in Sikkim, India and realized I was spending less money per month than I received for renting out my apartment in Palo Alto, California.
I was spending less than $300 per month to stay in guesthouses eating home made Tibetan soup and momos, traveling by share jeep in the Himalayas, and having a blast.
I came home from that 10-month trip with money in the bank.
Don’t go over your budget on lodging. Yes you can splash out for a few days. But you can also get budget accommodation and live it up at the upper crust lounge/restaurant like I am now.
Secret: you can often work/write in 5-star surroundings enjoying the incredible views and then go back to your Airbnb room, campsite, or rented home.
You’ll discover that having a set amount to spend on lodging will keep you kosher.
I often times suggest a lower price on a room when the price suggested is too high.
It’s called rich foreigner tax. Many countries, like India, have no set prices on their rooms, the price is whatever they can get.
So haggle wisely, you’re still most likely paying too much.
One of the best things I ever did was travel twice around the world with no itinerary buying one-way plane tickets along the way.
If I felt like staying in Bali another month I could, no discussion.
If I wanted to explore Burma for a month, I went.
First time I went round the world I spent $2900 on plane tickets, the 2nd time I spent $1800. No I didn’t buy a RTW ticket, it doesn’t give you freedom on your journey.
For example I decided to stay in Cambodia for 4 weeks when I couldn’t stomach the thought of leaving.
I was falling in love with Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat is located and so I stayed.
No heated arguments. I found an incredible local guesthouse: Rosie’s guesthouse. And another one, Ou Malay where the Cambodian owners and I had a love fest of laughing and daily camaraderie.
It was $7 a night, no wifi but so what?! We loved each other!
You meet so many people!
When you’re solo, there’s no one to listen or talk to. You can be alone with your own thoughts and then Bam! you meet someone seriously interesting who lights up your world and you wonder how you ever would have met them if you were with someone.
This has happened to me more times than I can count. And I’m still in touch with many friends I met traveling from Spain, Korea, Australia, Nepal, India, Germany, and Argentina.
They shook up my world and invited me into a new portal of love and friendship. I never would have met them if I wasn’t solo.
Being solo you have to reach out. It can be intoxicating.
Traveling solo, I mention my thoughts to whoever is standing by, I don’t take offense if they don’t respond, I’m simply radiating aloha which means, I’m spreading good will and happiness which is what the Dalai Lama advises but I didn’t realize until living in Hawaii that this means Aloha.
Pay attention. You might meet your soulmate, best friend ever, or meditation master around the next corner.
Suddenly you’ll be in a new world that you had no idea even existed.
Yes you can be safe but you have to trust your gut. Don’t negotiate with the red alert warnings your instincts tell you. Pay attention.
Your body knows before your mind. Listen.
And while you are at it: don’t tell people you’re traveling solo. Don’t advertise your solo status by flagrantly drinking and carousing. Really.
Do make friends with families and women. Volunteer with humanitarian foundations that are educating and changing lives. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and smile.
A smile is universal. Yes it works in every country. Try it. It works.
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Suddenly your gut says one thing and your mind says another.
What to do?
Looking back over the last 10 years of world travel I see that when I trusted my gut and didn’t over analyze a decision the path opened up before me and sometimes it was even lit with sunshine.
Thinking didn’t get me to the source of my own wisdom. It appeared as a tiny nudge in my gut, or a soft whisper in my heart.
One time a voice woke me up and told me Go Home! I was living in San Francisco, 35 years ago, and was wondering if I should go back to New York where I was born.
Clearly I got my answer and was startled by the dramatic way it came to me.
So I bought a one-way ticket and crossed the entire country by train, California to New York. It took 4 days but I knew it was the right thing.
I had connected to my own divine guidance.
You can’t look in a Lonely Planet guide book for it. You can’t ask someone else what to do.
No it wasn’t comfortable and it wasn’t easy but leaping out of your comfort zone isn’t pleasant. It can be messy going into the unknown.
But every time I’ve done it, my life opened up in a way I never would have predicted.
I used to try and meet up with my son Wolf, who has traveled in 50 countries, I’ve only been to 32, and it was difficult to pin him down to one country.
Then when I went on my first round the world no-itinerary global adventure, I couldn’t be pinned down either.
Learning how to let go of planning made me wake up.
And thats how I got to Hawaii. By trusting my gut, what I call waiting for my instructions from Grand Central God.
But you can call it anything you want.
You can test it out by asking your gut little things through out your day. Which way to drive to work, who do I need to get in touch with right now?
I love how when I trust it, I get to a place that I would not have envisioned being in.
The other part of it is to stay positive and focus on a remarkable result but without being attached to the outcome.
I’m still practicing that one.
But every day brings new opportunities to let go and see what your divine guidance says to do.
The more you listen to the layer of truth under your reasoning mind the sharper it gets.
Sooner or later you won’t be able to ignore it.
Recently I found a little cottage to rent here on Kauai and everything checked out but there was just one thing. My gut said no. I wanted my gut to say yes.
I have a strategy for hearing my guidance. When I go to bed, I present the issue or question and I know as soon as I open my eyes in the morning the answer will be there, shining on the inside of my eyelids, in my heart waiting to tell me.
The answer was no. And I immediately felt relieved.
This is all the evidence we need to trust our guts.
Trusting your gut changes your life.
Was there a time in your life when you didn’t listen to your thinking mind and went ahead and acted on your own inner guidance?
Do you want peace of mind, a room of one’s own, and a battery re-boot?
Learn Yoga and Photography on Kauai with me in a 3-Day Private Luxury Retreat. Relax and Recharge. Have the best rest of your life being lulled to sleep by ocean waves all night long. Learn More Here.
Life is pretty calm around here for the most part, with days flowing in and out of each other without a whole lot of turmoil and/or surprise.
This week is already begging to be different, with both good and bad news showing up.
Bad news out of the way first:
I don’t know what’s going on with my computer. It’s doing the whole overheating and battery draining again but it’s been inconsistent. I’ll have a bad day where I wonder if it will make it through the day and then the next day everything is perfectly normal (like yesterday). On Sunday afternoon it got so bad that I decided I’d better order a new laptop, and of course right after I did the overheating stopped and the battery began operating normally. Then, Monday morning the overheating and battery issues returned with a vengeance and hung around all day, but yesterday it was back to operating normally. This morning it’s fine again . . . so far. The new laptop arrives today but I don’t know whether to keep it or return it. I’m afraid if I don’t keep it this one will soon up and die, but if I do keep it this one will continue to run fine. Arrrrgh! I’m more than a bit upset about (possibly) having to buy a new laptop after only two years, especially after paying several hundred dollars to have this one repaired just six months ago for the same issues. I’ve been using a Mac for over 24 years now, and have never had a problem until I got this one.
I spoke with my phone service provider on Sunday morning about not being able to call or text with the new phone I had just received last week, and that tech support had determined the phone was defective. The rep I talked with was wonderful, and agreed to replace the phone without hesitation. However, I first had to pay for Phone #2, so that’s two phones out of our account right now (along with a new laptop). However, when Phone #1 is returned I will be credited back the full amount (free shipping for return is provided). Then, I got a notice on Monday afternoon that my new phone would arrive . . . in two weeks. What? Two weeks with no phone? But, late yesterday I received another email that the phone had shipped (!!!) and should be here tomorrow!
Staying on the winning side of things, I found both a great price and great schedule for WenYu’s and my flight back to Boston this summer. There were a few flights with cheaper prices (although not by much) but they either had l-o-n-g layovers or not enough layover (like only 35 minutes between flights, not enough time to even move the luggage from one plane to another, let alone passengers). Each of the less expensive flights also had a redeye segment, and after last month’s trip to Colorado neither WenYu nor I was eager to repeat that experience – we were both zombies when we arrived. The new flight schedule gives us a full 13-hour overnight layover, enough time to get a good night’s sleep and breakfast in a nearby hotel before returning to the airport in the morning and heading on to Boston, and with our luggage still checked through. I also got a terrific price on a nonstop flight between Boston and Denver – less than $200! – as well as for my flight from Denver back home – $328 – which includes a nonstop flight between Seattle and Lihue (we paid $378 per ticket just for the Seattle-Lihue non-stop, which was a bargain, when we moved in 2014). I also was able to reserve a room in the same B&B YaYu and I stayed at in Colorado when we visited in 2012 – it was the most reasonable place to stay in the area, is an easy commute to my mom’s residence, and the breakfasts are to die for. All that’s remaining to arrange now is ground transportation and hotel in Massachusetts, and I’m closing in on that.
And, saving the best for the last, WenYu was notified on Monday that she had been selected as one of ten statewide finalists and will be receiving a $3,000 scholarship!! One student from each high school in the state was chosen to receive a $1000 scholarship, then ten were chosen from among those students for the top finalist awards. This means that all of her costs this year at Wellesley will be met through scholarships and grants, that she will not need any federal financial aid to cover expenses. Brett and I are so proud of this girl we could just about burst!
You lose some, but you win some too! I’m still wondering though what the rest of the week will bring . . . .
One of the best countries to travel solo is Burma, AKA Myanmar.
I spent 31 days boating and bussing across this incredible, new to the Western world, country and I was amazed.
Warning: Don’t listen to any media news about this isolated and remarkable country. Ask a person who has actually visited Burma.
What did I love?
The non-stop devotional people who are kind caring and told me where to get off the city bus in Yangon before I asked.
This is the mark of a compassionate culture.
I didn’t want to leave, everywhere you looked, more lovely souls.
Example. My passport fell out of my camera bag in the taxi from the airport and I didn’t know it until I was checking in at my guesthouse and noticed I didn’t have it.
The smiling taxi driver returned it within the hour, without being asked to.
The Hidden Places
I’d never heard of Pyinoolwin before arriving in Burma, but this place soothed my soul, the orchids and flowers in the botanical garden got me awake and strolling at 8AM in the morning.
I met kind women gardening who painted me up to look like them.
Yangon and Bagan are filled with little known temples, markets, and beckoning Buddhism that doesn’t make you feel like you have to be Buddhist. It’s serenity on tap, a simpler life than what most people are used to. It’s in the air and the soil.
Maybe even in the water but I didn’t drink any. I buy bottled when in Asia.
Burma has everything, kind people, holy places, simple tea shops selling noodles, and markets where the farmers will talk with you as they slice their fish, put out their wares, and haggle over price.
I didn’t feel unsafe at all. Yes I know what happened to Aung San Suu Kyi, but she’s off house arrest and things are beginning to change in this amazing country. Political prisoners are starting to be released and Burma is waking up to the fact that tourism can be good.
Don’t wait. Go now. You will never regret it.
Want to see more of Burma and discover the highlights of my 31 days exploring this mystical country?
Check out my Myanmar issue of Vagabond Travel Mag in the itunes store. It’s for iphones and ipads.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Burma but didn’t know anyone who had the answers.
See my gallery of photography from Burma here
Mary Bartnikowski is an award-winning photographer, author, educator, retreat leader, and lover of world travel. She has led programs at Apple, Intel, Stanford University, and globally. Come say hello at www.bartnikowski.com and get a free ebook, Secrets of Stunning Photographs.