Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How I Learned to Stop Planning for Love

In my early 20's, I learned a very important lesson. I learned that in order to be happy one should always dream, make them into goals and set plans to achieve them. That's the first part of it. The second part is that you are to be flexible.

Many times, those are two conflicting desires for a strong headed person. I'm as stubborn as hell and in my adolescence if I didn't get exactly what I wanted, I would just turn around and decide that I didn't want anything to do with it at all. I could not negotiate, I could not compromise, and I settled for nothing less. The only times I would be flexible were the times I didn't care.

Then I became an expat and started traveling. Loads. I wasn't able to stick to what I wanted because there were so many options I didn't even know existed. I remember nights in Taipei when I decided that all I wanted to do was order food and eat it, and whatever that looked like it would be okay. It's pretty terrifying to order food when you can't read anything on the menu and no one speaks English. You just point at photos on the window and pray for the best. I became grateful every time I ordered a meal without duck blood or tofu, and learned how to just go with the flow. Once when I thought my Mandarin was getting better, I ordered a bubble tea with mango, coconut and green apple (vague guess) and ended up with three different bubble teas, one flavor each. I just took them all home as punishment for not studying harder. When I traveled, I used to have a list of places I absolutely HAD to see. I remember when I went to Bali, I was so set on going to this touristy beach for some reason, to see the sunset I guess. Then we met some locals who threw us on the back of their motorbikes and took us to these amazing cliff bars (haha like the power bar! but really, they were restaurants engraved on sections of a cliff) at the edge of the sea, and there I also saw the sunset. It was better than anything I could have planned on my own, and there I realized that having plans only take you so far. My place of work has a saying for this, and we call it 'Embracing the Adventure'. Love it, live it.

(Actual picture I took of this sunset in Bali)

Sooo. The man named Joe.

We got a little ahead of ourselves, and I'm pretty sure we were the only ones completely blind sighted. Long story short, it was like a beautiful slow-motion trainwreck. We went from long distance idealizing and romanticizing the crap out of each other to living in my petite studio together and discovering that we were human. We were devastated that it wasn't perfect, and I forgot to be flexible and watched it fall apart instead. Still, miraculously, we pulled ourselves together like the mature adults we are and had an incredible summer playing all over Oregon. We went hiking, road tripped down the coast, ate at my favorite restaurants and tried new ones, went wine tasting in Hood River, went to strip clubs, rock climbed, etc. We became friends, and then adventure buddies, and when I had to say goodbye to him at the airport I realized I had deeper feelings for him than I ever did before. It was not possible for me to care and miss him so much prior to his visit because we had not experienced life together (five hours in a casino bar in Las Vegas doesn't count, really). I tried to play it off cool but I missed him so much last week I ate a ton of burgers to fill the void.

What I'm trying to say, boys and girls, is that planning and being flexible applies to relationships. Find your person (probably the hardest part) and embrace the crap out of that adventure. Date someone you deserve and who deserves you, and plan a future together, but be flexible with what that could look like. Choose to love each other, and be open minded to what the future might become. This might be the only way it can work. As for me, we'll see.

One of many beer tastings with my Joe 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas.

As I type this, I'm dangling outside on my old school metal fire escape, relaxing with a Mason jar of red wine and enjoying the cool evening summer breeze. It's quiet, minus the faint whoosh of traffic going across the bridges in the twinkling distance. Last month I went to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, and while I had an amazing time everywhere I went, still nothing compares to coming home in the midst of Portland's glory months.

In the summer, every day feels like a vacation and every night feels like the weekend. I don't even want to sleep right now. We embrace the outdoors now more than ever before, and there is no reason to eat, drink, or party indoors-summer is here, baby. The endless BBQ's, river floats, beer festivals, fruit picking, the best is all yet to come. 

I love two things right now: 1) Portland and 2) a guy named Joe.

Yeah, aka the man I confirmed on Facebook as my boyfriend, seemingly out of nowhere. Kinda was. And we're serious about it; that Facebook status is almost equivalent to marriage in the world of us millennials. I had to double check a few times but like, it's official. It's been over a month and I still haven't found the right words to explain what we have without sounding completely mental.

Crazy story simplified, we met in Vegas (don't kill me mom) and instantly wanted to be together. Sure, he lives in Belfast and I live in Portland, but that hasn't stopped us. I know I've stated before that if you love someone, then let them go. That was before I met Joe, and now I believe that if you're ever lucky enough to meet someone this special, you better hold on with everything you've got. After over a year of me agonizing over the drama of relationships, Joe finally showed up, took my hand and we haven't looked back since.  I guess it really can be that simple.  We're learning more and falling harder for each other every day. He's coming to Portland this month to visit me, and although I don't know what the next steps will be, I know I adore him and we're so happy together. Most of all, we're both excited to build a future together because we know it will be the beginning of an extraordinary adventure. It's already a pretty epic story.

So, my life is pretty damn complete and now you know why. Plus, he has an accent, AND plenty of single friends so...ladies holla!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ten Things I Learned in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

1. Sunscreen is expensive there, bring as much as you can from home. Even the locals tell me they have their relatives ship them sunscreen from Walmart! About $12 for an 8-ounce generic brand!? I swear this is how their drug stores stay in business..tourists will always be forced to buy overpriced, watery sunscreen or BURN!

2. Ordering at fancy restaurants costs just as much as in the States, and their portions are HUGE! Share an entree with a friend, or eat street food. Street taco trucks are everywhere and look filthy, but the locals do it and so can you, my friend. Plus, they're made fresh, they're dripping with deliciousness, and costs about 12 pesos (less than a buck).

3. You will not die if you eat raw oysters sold under bridges at the beach. I did it. My friend Rachelle did it. We are still alive and have NO RAGRETS.

4. Tequila is actually really nice. Please, go tequila tasting even if you hate tequila (remember to tip if you aren't buying any bottles). I discovered anejos, and now I'll never look back. I checked a bag in just so I could bring a few bottles home with me.

5. There were no hot Australian surfers. In fact, there were no hot men at all. This baffled me throughout my entire trip. My least favorite thing in the world? Traveling and not meeting cute guys. Siiiiigh. Maybe some other things can be worse, like slow internet or cold coffee. #firstworldproblems. But seriously, this part was really weird.

6. Who you travel with is crucial. They will set the mood and pace of your entire adventure. Pick your travel buddies wisely-going on a trip with someone can be like an intense, dramatic, short-term relationship. Sometimes it's better to travel alone than with the wrong person. Luckily, I picked a friend who said YES to everything as much as I did, and still managed to not leave me passed out on public Mexcian buses. Yes, we were in a constant cycle of being hungover, intoxicated, or hungry so we did get on each other's nerves, but now we can laugh about everything and I love her more than ever.

7. Hostels are seriously the best idea when you first arrive into a new town. They're cheap, centrally located and you will almost ALWAYS meet cool people that will go on adventures with you the next day or point out some good ones. That's how we found out about Sayulita, and when we got there, we got invited to beach parties by our hostel mates too. However, by the end of the week we were beyond thrilled to check into our luxurious poolside Airbnb.

8. There is an abundance of WiFi. I think that was the main attraction of Puerta Vallarta, cause it certainly wasn't their nightlife or beaches. We never found whatever nice beaches there were to be enjoyed there. Still, I like WiFi so I wasn't miserable.

9. It's okay to splurge a bit on touristy day trips/adventure packages. One of my favorite days was going on a party catamaran to Las Marietas, a natural beach/cave reservoir. It was about $80 USD but we were picked up from the city center, served breakfast and lunch, they had an open bar the entire time, music, water slides, stripper poles, kayaks and paddle boards, snorkeling gear, the whole shebang. The journey was just as fun as the destination, and the tequila probably made it all a bit more magical.

10. I'll have to go to a different part of Mexico if I actually want to experience Mexico. Any pointers?

This is the plate of oysters we bought on the beach and devoured. $10 USD and we're perfectly fine. #livinontheedge

Going up north to spend a few days in Sayulita, a surf town, was a brilliant idea. 

If a beach shack sells fresh coconuts and will fill it up with rum, just shut up and say yes. 

My favorite little street in Sayulita! Fish tacos galore! 

But really, the most decadent fish tacos for a buck? #getinmybelly 

One day I will be a retired Canadian cougar and buy this Airbnb for myself. 

The real thing. 

This was the day I got sick from eating too many real things. 

If you take a stroll along the Malecon in PV, you cannot miss the tequila stores. 

It's always fun to have a waterproof camera/go-pro!!

Our party catameran was pretty dope. 

This here was the money shot. I've been pinning this moment on Pintrest forever and now my life is pretty much complete. 

You really need SPF 50. I'm still peeling. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On why I CAN'T EVEN.

I've been trying to wrap up my post about Puerto Vallarta for about a week now, and I just can't do it yet. I suppose that is the discipline that writers must build-to write even when it doesn't feel natural. I'd so much rather write about things on my mind so I can pour and process everything out into palatable words, because that's how my thoughts start to make sense. Journals and diaries are probably better for this stuff, but typing is faster and I love the sound of my keyboard going 'click click click'...

I'm going to be 27 in a few weeks, 15 days to be exact. I'm pretty sure I cried the afternoon I turned 26, not because I was officially in my late 20's but because I had just moved back to Portland and wasn't where I wanted to be in life. A year later, I've done pretty well for myself career wise, become a blondie, backpacked South America and trekked Macchu Picchu, found a paddling team, created a beautiful home for myself, traveled a bunch, fostered new friendships, paid off a huge chunk of student loans, living a very blessed life and I'm still single. Roll your eyes all you want at this constantly revisited rant of mine, it's my blog so I'll write what I want :D

Being single is not a disease, but I still hate it. I HATE dating-I hate the drama, I hate the games, I hate the pride and the hurt and the guessing and the waiting. Whenever I'm happily single-always when I'm the MOST happily single-it'll attract a random dude and he'll fuck everything up. I've learned how to close doors and bounce back more swiftly than ever by now (practice, my dear) but I can't stop this cycle and frankly, I'm too old for this now. And it still hurts every time. I literally can't even. All I want is to be in a kind, fun, loving and secure relationship with someone I respect and adore, and someone who treats me how I deserve to me treated (text me back, don't be late and buy me flowers-ridiculous expectations I've been told recently. Is there a middle finger emoji? Can someone make one please?) I would still love to fall in love.

A few weeks ago I taught a workshop for my company on Online Dating 101. Specifically, how to work Tinder. It was a roaring success (so I've been told) but a part of me was whispering inside, "so you'll meet someone in person and maybe you'll like each other...and THEN what?" During Q&A, someone in the class asked how online dating has worked out for me and I had to confess-I've gone on many awesome dates but I've never MET anyone. At least none that I remember anyway-no fireworks, no one I had to tell mom about right away, no one I wanted to make breakfast for (going out for brunch tastes better anyway). Online dating is exciting at first, and then it gets repetitive and depressing. It's definitely worth a shot, I just haven't lucked out yet.

Some of my girlfriends have vowed to be single for a period of their lives, so they can focus on their careers and schooling. Rachelle, Rose, Erica, I see you and I wish I could be you. You guys are my heroines. I did that senior year of university already, and involuntarily did it this past year and it was great, so can I please have a boyfriend now? Wait-I'll be 27 soon.

I guess it's time to confess: Boys, step aside. I'm looking for husband material this year. Is there an app for that?


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

So I ran off to Canada last weekend.

If you live in Portland and want a PLAYcation, Vancouver BC (oh, Canada!) is where it’s at. My friend Andrew and I decided to drive up there on a whim last weekend to celebrate a three-day weekend and it was AWESOME.

I learned a thing or two about Canadians while we were up there, which was refreshing since the last time I was on their soil was in middle school (?). By the way, it’s been agreed upon that Canada is the most boring vacation your family can do as a road trip during childhood. I almost didn’t want to go based on my memories of being dragged through every Chinatown by my parents, and having to get out of the car and get photos taken next to every horse drawn carriage. My friend had the same traumatic experience, but then we figured, if Portland got so much better after we turned 21 (or got fake IDs), how bad could Canada be?  

The first thing I learned was that Crown Royal at the duty-free store next to the border patrol is really, really cheap. All the liquor is, but you can only bring back one liter to the States. 

Second, I was reassured that Canadians really are the friendliest people! I guess this doesn’t say much because I usually just adore everyone (except for pretentious East Coast men) You can get a passport stamp at the border if you ask reallllly nicely and smile! J We stayed at an adorable Airbnb in the West End (their version of Nob Hill or NW Portland) and our host was this sweet, down to earth, artsy blonde chick whom I instantly developed a girl crush on.

Third, Easter is a big deal. I think Good Friday is an actual holiday that people get off work, and a lot of the shops and restaurants were closed due to it. Oh well. Also, tea is a big deal. I’m assuming it’s from the British influence? GAH I must not have paid enough attention at the museum, I’ll get to that later.

Fourth, I’ve never seen so many restaurants in my life. Food is everywhere, and every street is packed with incredibly diverse cuisines, from Malaysian to seafood tapas. Vancouver locals are definitely foodies.

I made a list of things to do and places to dine and drink at during our drive up, curated from generous recommendations from friends and Google.  We had two-ish full days and checked just about everything off our list (got shit DONE!), but it would have been great to stay and relax/shop for an extra day.


Exploring Granville Public Market. If Pike Place Market in Seattle was in Canada instead, this would be it. Isn't it funny how if you’ve been to a lot of places, after a while everywhere you go reminds you of somewhere you’ve already been? It’s comforting and annoying at the same time to me. Lots of fresh meats, pastas and delis serving gourmet local pastries, pies, etc. It’s under the bridge along a pretty waterfront as well!

Gastown. This is a downtown, gritty bar district, which makes it glorious and also essential for any decent city. Although most of the shops were closed for the holiday, each bar was just a stone’s throw away from each other and packed. We popped into a few for drinks, and then hit up a highly recommended Japanese izakaya for dinner.

GUU. OMG. Is it bad that I lived in Asia for four years and I’m tempted to crown this place the best izakaya I’ve ever had?? I was beyond impressed with the quality and flavors of our meal, everything was perfection. I’m no foodie, but the fried chicken was breaded masterfully and so tender, the yakiudon was seasoned JUST right…best meal of our trip hand’s down. If you’re in Vancouver, GO EAT AT GUU.

Keepin’ it classy in Yaletown. They say Yaletown is for yuppies, so I guess it was like Portland’s Pearl District..only there were a LOT of well dressed, drunk middle-aged folks on dates. That's just what I observed. Anyways, when a bartender at a swanky bar insists that you check out another swanky bar down the street, you should go. That’s how we discovered George Lounge, a plush, sexy joint playing 80’s music and packed with 40-year-old divorced housewives in 5 inch heels. No, I really loved it. Their cocktails were excellent (I’m a cocktail snob now, don’t you know?) and I was thrilled that mine came in a Chinese take-out box. Probably my favorite cocktail ever!

Taking the ferry to Victoria, the capital and one of the oldest cities of British Columbia. I like taking ferries, I take them whenever I can because I’ve never been disappointed by the views. It was too windy to sit outside, but I could have stared out those windows for hours. Oh wait, I did. I’m too lazy to think of adjectives so here’s a photo. Protip: If you’re only here for a day, no need to bring your car (which will cost you $100+ CAD to drive on to the ferry each way). Double decker buses #72 and #70 picks people up right outside the terminal and brings you straight to downtown for $5 CAD round trip. You can buy bus passes in the gift shop on the ferry, you’re welcome.

Stumbling into the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria. Totally unplanned, but I saw this on the map and we decided to throw down the $16 CAD to check it out. THE MOST AMAZING MUSEUM I HAVE EVER BEEN TO. I’ll admit I usually don’t beeline to museums so I haven’t been to many, but I’ve still been to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and this was way better. It’s better than OMSI too. I walked through movie-set like exhibits learning about the colonization of British Colombia to now, it was just so done. Maybe I’ve just gotten older, but this was the highlight of Victoria for me, and it would have been such a shame if everyone missed it!

Oh last thing I learned about Canadians- they adore Portland. J

And tomorrow, off to Mexico I go!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Life as I know It

SO I haven't posted since the beginning of January, which was a very, very long time ago for someone who claims to be an aspiring writer.

Last week my little brother posted a disturbing Facebook note about a period of depression he went through alone, and how he has been saved by Jesus again. My parents wrote to me immediately to make sure I was aware, which I was, because I always know everything going on with everyone around me as long as it's on Social Media somewhere. EVERYTHING. 

As for myself, I've spent the last few months being an emotionally unavailable borderline alcoholic. But you know what I've realized? So is everyone else like me, and we are all pretty reasonably happy this way! I keep on wondering if anything is wrong with me, but naw. I still have a cool job I love, I've successfully moved into a new apartment, I've traveled a bit here and there and will again soon, I hit the gym, I've made new friends, etc.etc so basically still a functioning adult. The emotionally unavailability of course is referring to men, but that's an old and boring story by now. If you love someone, let them go. If you hate someone, let them go. Basically, let everyone go cause boys can be dumb. I'm too busy being obsessed with other things.

For the past 2.5 weeks I've been completely obsessed with my new flat. I knew I would be, so it feels right to me. I'm really grateful to have found a studio I love so much, to have this blank canvas to create a home I can't wait to return to. There's been no holding back, what my baby lacks my baby gets. Antique armchairs, bar carts, chandeliers, all the things I've always wanted but never wanted to splurge on-I don't mind this time around because I've finally found a city I want to call my home base. The longer I've lived here, the more I've fallen in love with Portland. It's just ridiculous. Maybe I should get a toaster oven before I go out and get more mantle decor. 

And when I finish, I'm flying off to Mexico to celebrate. Because life is short, travel is my therapy and I think I can try liking tequila again. Also, the Shamrock Run this coming Sunday was obviously not enough motivation for me to get back into shape (shoot though, it came up SO QUICKLY), so maybe Mexico will be. My girlfriend who is coming with me keeps on swearing to lose weight as well but so far we just end up hitting theee brunch and bars. #firstworldproblems

What other brain spillage can I afford to leak out. My schedule is working out again so that I can go resume dragonboat paddling and IT FEELS SO GOOD. Being out on the river is my happy place. It is my zen, it is my balance. And balance is the most important thing. 

Over and out. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Week in Taiwan

There is a place where you can sleep in until noon, work part time, eat out three meals a day, live in a sleek studio, party until 4am and save up enough to travel on the weekends. There, you can easily learn a very useful new language, discover and develop hobbies, enjoy the outdoors every day, and make life-long friends that will become your family. There are endless natural wonders to explore from enchanting mountain villages, hidden hot springs, to dreamy islands off the coast. There, strangers will help you with directions and the cost of living is low, yet the quality is superb. You don’t need a car, or even a scooter. You don’t need to come with much more than a suitcase, a degree of any sort, a couple hundred bucks and an open, adventurous mind. Taipei is a gem, and for years travelers have been streaming in to see if the rumors were true and end up staying because, well, they are. I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t fall in love with Taiwan. If you’re even consider it, stop it and just go.

My experience living in Taipei is difficult to put into words. Three years, three glorious, unforgettable years, flew by as I spent my early 20’s there. It’s just another one of those things where you have to experience it to understand what it's like.  When I got on the bus to leave Taiwan in September of 2013, I bawled uncontrollably throughout the whole 40-minute ride to the airport. I’m surprised the driver didn’t stop and ask me if I had just lost a family member. I’ve never even cried that hard over a boy before!

I didn’t think I would be coming back for a long time, and I feared that when I did, everything would be different. I thought I was losing a part of my world I would never be able to return to. It was time for me to close that chapter and move on, grow up, establish myself somewhere, and get a ‘real’ office job. Well, we all know how that turned out.

This ‘real’ job gave me a pretty generous holiday break, and although I heavily considered Mexico at first, I couldn’t say no when my parents offered to meet me up in Taipei. I see them like, once a year if that, and if I were to pick somewhere to go ‘home’ for the holidays, Taipei with my friends and family would be it. So that’s how I ended back for a week. It was the best week I’ve spent in 2015 so far!

I didn’t do or go anywhere new, but I loved moment because every place held so many memories...the familiarity was exciting. Also, got so much quality time in with my forever friends and family. Here are some highlights of my trip:

WULAI: Wulai is an aboriginal village in the mountains, famous for hot springs and wild boar sausages. The buildings are bit run down, but the scenery as a whole is breathtaking. A river runs through the town, and you need to cross the bridge to make your way up the ‘Lover’s Path’ to see a waterfall! I went with my parents on their first day meeting me up, and they were sooooo slow due to holding hands the whole time. More on them later.

HIKING: One morning I got up really early and met two of my friends to do a random hike before they had work. It was really windy that day, and I was thrilled that I was able to get a breakfast sandwich to have once we got to the top. The views were astonishing, and our selfies did it no justice.

HALO: I really wasn’t sure where to spend my actual New Years Eve because so many of my friends were doing different things, and I wanted to spend it with everyone! In the end I decided to do the thing you should do, where you should be doing it. To me, that ended up to be partying and watching the fireworks at Taipei 101 from the balcony of one of the trendiest lounges in the city with friends that had flown in from all over the world. It was seriously magical-we were so close to the fireworks the ashes could have fallen into our champagne glasses. Epic way to begin an epic year.

BIKING: The weather was sunny every day I was in Taiwan, which is NOT what I remembered from past winters spent there. But hey, I wasn’t complaining. One day a group of friends and I all rented Ubikes and biked all afternoon through the city, alongside the river, and to Danshui, the fisherman’s wharf. When we got there, we fought through crowds on the historic touristy main street to get our deep-fried snack cravings sorted. I don’t like biking, but I will go with friends and especially if the destination includes food. Or booze.

PUB 45: A month ago, another returning friend and I planned a joint ‘welcome back’ party. There are no breweries (yet!) in Taipei, so we settled for Pub45, a simple bar stacked above an herbal medicine shop close to Shida. I used to go there and be depressed with their draft selection (still only two, still only Taiwan Beer or Stellar Artois) but it was alright this time cause I knew I would be back in Portland soon. :) It was one of the best nights during my trip cause one by one, familiar faces were approaching me with wide smiles and it was like I had never left.

SHIFEN: This is a railroad town on the outskirts of the city where the yearly Sky Lantern Festival takes place. On normal days, friends and lovers can take the train out and release their own lanterns up into the night sky. I LOVE watching our glowing lanterns float up slowly into the darkness. I had no idea the rest of the world even knew about this until I saw Frozen.

SUN MOON LAKE: Spent two days with my parents at Sun Moon Lake, a popular honeymoon destination due to the scenery. This was my third time, and it was a nice break from the city. There are ferries that take you between 3 ports around the lake for sight-seeing and hiking. Last time I biked around the perimeter of the lake, but this time I was glad to relax and enjoy the views! All the food stalls were still right where I remembered them and I think my parents finally fell in love with Taiwan there.

Actually, every day and everyone I met up with was a highlight, and if I go on I’ll never be able to be a travel blogger cause I’ll just be gushing about my friends and things I love and no one will ever take me seriously. I honestly don’t know who reads these posts, but apparently more people than I thought, and it’s so humbling! Especially the touch rugby guys ie. Ting, Spencer, Doug, what a nice surprise ;) Thank you, thank you for spending your precious time reading whatever spillage my mind randomly has. I’m always flattered at first, then I get really nervous and hope I haven't written anything embarrassing. EOM. (Finally found out that means End Of Message, duh.)

PS. I also ate a lot of food: