Monday, June 26, 2017

American Dream?


Ever since we returned home, all I can think about is how challenging the American Dream really is to achieve. There are many other people around the world who imagine that coming to the United States would make their lives so much easier or allow them to live with so much more freedom. While that is a true change for some people, others should really stay where they are because of how good their lives would / could be in their country of origin.

I've told countless people abroad that their perception is not reality. How so?

Some people have said to us that they believe there is so much freedom in the USA. And I've replied that yes, there are freedoms, but there are so many laws, rules, regulations, by-laws, and other stipulations that need to be abided by while living here in the USA. When I asked them if they have such regulations, many were quick to think and respond that there was no such law in their home country.

When the case of education came up, many cities and countries have found ways to make education free for their citizens. If not free, then at least it was very inexpensive which allowed for many common people to become educated without breaking the bank. When I told them the local currency equivalent of an average education in the United States, these people were sticker shocked at the absurd amount necessary to obtain a diploma.

For me, the follow up to education was logically the issue of debt. Students in the United States expend so much of their capital on education, and then suffer through unemployment or subpar work because either the market for their chosen profession is oversaturated or they are still not qualified for the work they intend on doing. Then the vicious cycle begins. They can't pay their debt, interest is added, time passes, their total debt increases. And once they obtain a decent paying job, these new workers want to enjoy their money. Many spend on clothes, cars, entertainment, and food which leaves little to pay down their initial debt in the first place. And the cycle continues. Debts and interest compound making it years before a former student can ever be relieved. And as their lives progress, their debts seemingly always increase. The next steps of their lives leads to significant others, then engagements and wedding, followed by growing families. Americans live by constantly owing someone or some institution a sum that reduces at a fraction of the speed at which it grew (exponentially). 

So what have the people around the world said? Many have said their piece to me about credit and credit cards. The main issue is, "how can you spend money that's not yours?" Or they wonder, how can the government or financial institutions allow people to have such tremendous debt? Others have expressed concern over the impact it has on the mindset of the people and the cyclical nature of the system. And for me, I've identified another issue with debt. The idea of debt prevents many capable people of pursuing education for the sheer fear of having debt and the inability to pay it off. And uneducated people means a lifetime of poverty (relative to their environment) and/or future struggles; yet another unfortunate cycle that stems from an unfortunate cycle. 



Which leads me to my real point. I am an American by birth, but a citizen of the world in mind and in heart. And I've been thinking so much about my American Dream. For many years, I wanted to follow in the path of the majority. I wanted to graduate from a top notch university; I did that. I wanted to own a car; I paid it off in 4 years rather than 5. I wanted to own a home and grow a family. And this is where I've stalled somewhat.

At the age of 24, I purchased my first home, and I am currently financing it over 30 years (21 left) with some moderate interest rate. I spend a fairly good chunk of my salary paying for this home. But I spend most of my time in an office over an hour away from the home where my money is sunk. How on earth is this a justifiable way spend hard earned money? 

Is this really the dream I wanted? No way! Why am I spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a place where I spend less than half of my time? Why am I trying to fill my home with dead space or useless items of decoration? Why am I struggling to spend on other things that matter like continuing education, organic food and better health, or life experiences and culture? 



I am having a hard time coming up with good reasons to keep doing what I'm doing for the reasons that have previously been dictated by popular culture or merely precedent, here in the USA. 

I feel a change coming... 


Friday, June 23, 2017

Superlatives


We saw a lot in the course of 6 months. And some of these places really impressed us. So let me get my Julie Andrews on because these are a few of my favorite things: 



Favorite country: Bhutan - http://www.tourism.gov.bt/


Favorite People: New Zealanders (Kiwis), with Bhutanese and Burmese in a tie for a very close 2nd



Favorite Site: Angkor Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia) and the Moai (Easter Island, Chile) in a close 2nd

Favorite Food Culture: Singapore had a great variety of food options that ranged in price from unbelievably cheap to Michelin 3 star expensive. 

Best farmers market: Margaret River, WA, Australia - https://www.margaretriverfarmersmarket.com.au/

Best Street Food Market: Brisbane, Australia - https://eatstreetmarkets.com/

Most memorable experience: Witnessing the long-neck women in a small village in Pan Pet, Myanmar switch on a light bulb with constant running electricity for the first time. Previously, they used fire, candles, and in some cases solar power.

Best topography: Cape Town, South Africa

Most well connected to the internet: Australia

Least connected to the internet: Myanmar 


And to change it up a little bit, the things I missed the most were: our dog - Kirby and my Tempur-Pedic pillow


There were so many great sights to see, people we met, experiences had, audible languages, hand gestures, facial expressions, exchanges of ideas, cultural experiences, food journeys, and starry nights. But these were just a few from a laundry list of wrinkles in my mind. 

If I could experience them again, my life would be twice as grand. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Driving Around The World

Facts & Observations

Only about 34% of the world drives on the left side of the road. See the complete list here

Nerdy-ly, for my own knowledge, I took notes on the driving side for each country along with the side of the car in which the steering wheel was located. In most situations, the steering wheel was on the opposite side of the driving side. For example, in the United States, the steering wheel is on the left but we drive on the right side of the road. Only in one case was I so shocked to see the driver and the side the same... Myanmar. Here were my observations: 




Whether you drive on the right or the left, it seems most logical to have the driver on the opposite side (driver left, right side of road). That way, you can see the median lines and oncoming traffic much clearer.

But in Myanmar, it seems like it was still logical to drive on the right side despite the steering wheel being on the right side as well. I say this because the roads are so poor that in many cases the edge of the road or gravel had some drop offs or lips. To prevent from "falling off" the road, it makes sense to have the driver on the same side of the road as his steering wheel. That was my theory before I did any research.

But here's the funny reason why they drive on the right and have the steering wheels in their cars on the right as well. Read it here.

From Experience...

I did a lot of driving in various countries around the world. It was some of the most fun we had, and at the very beginning it was something very challenging to me. Even though I had driven on the opposite side of the road (left, instead of right) in Japan before, that was for a very short time. On this trip, extended parts of our journey were spent on the other side. The most driving I did was in New Zealand, Australia, and Namibia, where I drove over 3,000km (2,000+ miles). 

Where have I driven and what I drove:


Some of our rides... 










A post shared by Carolyn Go (@carolynluu) on 







Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Transition Tuesday: Changes to Make After Spending Life Overseas

Life's a beach...at least it should be. 

When you have a lot of time on your hands it's easy to make lists. This one is for improvement. I want to improve the way I live my life, and this is how I will do that.

  • Read more books. There's plenty of information, perspectives, insights, and opinions out there to learn from. And books are the platform. Despite the movement to e-readers and text available online, I still prefer the hardcover/paperback versions of books.
  • Maintain weight. You've read this from me before. But this time it's different. At 291lbs before we left, I struggled. My goal is to weigh-in at under 250lbs going forward. My best was 109kg (238lbs) while we were in South Africa. But I don't know how feasible that is to maintain. But I am pretty sure I can swing under 250lbs from now on. How will I do that?
    • Coffee - I started to drink coffee because it will boost my metabolism and help me move my bowels better. 
    • Drink plenty of water. While we were abroad, I drank something like 3-4 liters of water per day. We were doing a lot of walking and sweating in the heat so I needed it. 
    • Eat fruits and anything with natural sugars in the mornings to give them a full day to digest, break down, and burn off. 
    • Keep the carbs low unless I know I will need the energy for an intense workout or other strenuous exercise (hiking, rowing, climbing, etc.). Also, eating them for lunch will give them some time to digest. 
    • Increase my protein intake. This should include more fish, poultry, and lean meats. Finding and consuming alternative protein sources (like soy, nuts, yogurt and other dairy, etc.) is key to keeping my diet interesting and varied. 
    • Eat more vegetables. I was not a fan so much of eating veggies. I mean, I would do it but not often. Our time abroad has given me such a better appreciation for clean, organic, vegetables. In so many places around the world vegetables are the main dish. Meats and other foods are a treat.
      • We recently started our own little organic herb garden. We will have a variety of mints, parsley, and cilantro/coriander. Will keep you posted on how our garden grows. 
    • Try to eat more organic, non-processed food. It's hard. And it's expensive. But to the extent possible, we will make it happen. 
    • Add chili peppers to my food to make it spicy! This will keep my food interesting and may also help with metabolism and limiting the amount of intake.
    • Workout at the gym 3-4 times per week, even if it means going to work late or leaving work early. Because at the very heart of it all, I always blamed the lack of time to go to the gym on my work schedule. But like my boss has always said, it's not worth dying for. So I'm going to the gym, so I won't die at work.
  • Reduce daily stress. My former manager always told me that we have to live one day at a time, not to let the challenges of work or life make you crazy. I always listened to him and tried to not let things bother me, but it took this trip to really change my mind. One day at a time, one thing at a time.
  • Invest. Time, money, effort. We did a lot of thinking, and our conclusion was that we need to establish ways to make our own lives better and build a foundation for our future child(ren). So we're going to invest in property. A timeline was made and the hope is to stick to it as closely as possible to maximize the future benefit. We contemplated if it should be foreign property or domestic, and we narrowed it down to select cities. Now it's just a matter of executing.
  • Clean up. There are plenty of items, tasks, and thoughts that are unnecessary in our lives. The goal is to trim off what we don't need. If it occupies space and is never used, discard it. If the to-do can be lived without, then forego it. If the idea or thought causes stress, then try to turn it into a positive and learn from it. There are other mountains to climb and conquer. The goal is to see the top and look down on what has been accomplished, and how can that be fun if you're bogged down with the useless? 


Monday, June 12, 2017

Adjustment. Period.

Somewhere over the rainbow is another adventure for us to take. 

The Purpose Driven Life at Home

Tomorrow will make it 2 weeks since we got back home from spending time abroad. There is no doubt in my mind that it will take us another 2 weeks or more to really adjust to being home. With all the catching up on administrative things around the house, to cleaning, to making sure the next few weeks / months are in order we will have our hands full still.

We didn't have to think about things like this while we were abroad. Each day was spent enjoying the scenery around us or navigating the streets without purpose. And then each evening was used to determine the possibilities of the following day. It was like the ultimate procrastination for any on-goings at home. There was nothing we could do to change anything around the house, even if there was any kind of minor issue. Those items of concern had to be put off until we got home.

Now that we're home, the chores have been non-stop; the appointments have been daily; and all the little issues we deferred while on leave are all calling for attention. I guess it's called "leave" because you leave your issues behind; too bad when you return, your issues return too. If only there was a way to call it "vanish" so that our issues would vanish and never return.

At home, we live a purpose driven life. We have jobs that occupy most of our time, long to-do lists to fulfill outside of work, problems to tackle in-between time, down-time/leisure time to rest after the hustle, and sleep. Then we repeat. Everything is done with purpose. Even relaxation has a purpose, that is, to prepare us for the next round.

When you're abroad, purpose is determined by how you feel when you wake up, not a laundry list of matters to attend to.

Reverse Culture Shock

Someone told me that we'd feel strange about being back home, and they were right. It's easy to make constant comparisons between what is done here in the United States and what is done in various cities and countries around the world. (Note: We did this on the flip side also.) In some cases, the differences are shocking. Sometimes, you can be wow'd at how complicated and ridiculous the United States can be about certain things. And on the other hand,  you can see how lucky Americans are and how much better the quality of life can be here.

Alternatively, the beauty of other cultures, the simplicity of how others live abroad, and the organic nature of the people and food abroad is wonderful, and in many ways, cannot compare to the United States. As a traveler, it's these things that are most enjoyable.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

It's wonderful to see family and friends. It's great to have rapid internet. The conveniences of home are comforting. And our dogs still love us!