Improvements

I said I could drive. I never said I drove well.

 my handiwork

my handiwork

Accordingly, within 3 days of arriving here in Montenegro I drove the jumper van off the road. In the middle of the night. On a mountain. Alone. 

My lack of depth perception has resulted in similar scenarios in the past: off the side of a cliff, hitting a house, and bashing into the cement pillar at the Walden Galleria (and that was just my first year driving. Curious? Read about it here).

Driving vs. Dating

As it turns out, there are quite a few parallels between my driving and dating styles. I can't really see where I'm going, avoid it when possible, but when I start, am fully committed, even though I can't really see where the edge is. This has led to some dramatic and cataclysmic breakups. The good news is that I might be improving at one of these - and it isn't driving. 

lulakilla-old-logo-blogger-travel.png

Back in February I co-branded this blog with my then-boyfriend of military background, hence the old grenade logo.  But I think it's pretty apparent that my "killa" side has almost nothing to do with violence, and not for lack of trying. I stabbed a tarantula to death in the Philippines with a machete, yet to this day, feel bad about it. I've gone vegetarian, and am debating doing the vegan thing. And oh, the dogs. In Portugal I volunteered 4 days a week at sanctuaries and found an endless supply of love. So goodbye grenade logo and hello perfect, new design, crafted by the oh-so-talented Maggie based on my tattoo that Nini @ NINja Ink created (pictured below, in case you have forgotten what my ass looks like). 

Maybe most important, in a recent relationship, I opened myself up to be honest and vulnerable. When incompatibilities came up I didn't lash out, get nasty or run to another guy as a quick fix. And do you know what? I'm beginning to think my small heart grew three sizes.

Ow My Ovary

 looking up with dad

looking up with dad

Last week I was informed that my notions are too romantic.

Let me back up. I have one ovary. In 2010 the gynecologist found an ovarian cyst the size of a softball resting comfortably on my left ovary. Said cyst had suffocated the ovary and its eggs had died. Aka half of my half babies (are you following me?). 

Instead of rushing down the altar and into motherhood, my thoughts about dating and life evolved. Maybe I won't be able to have kids once I'm ready. And maybe I'm open to finding a man who already has kids of his own so as to take some of the pressure off of me. And that man I am suited to be with, he will love me if I can have kids or not, because it will be us first.

That right there is my too romantic notion. I'm not so sure though. We're all just bunches of atoms configured together in a majestic pattern that has somehow lucked out and received this dope, unique soul. For me, a successful life is going to be without misery and avoidable physical pain, plus adventure and a lot of people (and animals!) around me that want the best for me (and vice versa). I think it would be great if that group of people involved my own spawn, but I can't consider it a failure if my remaining eggs don't cooperate.

A friend and I even brainstormed a Kickstarter campaign to fund the freezing of a couple eggs. The play would be that I spend a ton of time volunteering, US insurance is a joke, I'd like to slow down my biological clock, and (most obviously) my genetic makeup MUST be replicated. But asking for money is not an option for 3 reasons:

  • Old-school Irish pride
  • I don't like getting all science-y about something so natural as getting knocked up
  • And to mom's point: 
Right now, the life you are living is one of beauty, travel, independence and freedom (from debt, obligations, a relationship, a reg job). That is a wonderful and enviable thing. For any number of reasons, you did not choose the June Cleaver, Leave It To Beaver life—more Jack Kerouac hits the road. And that carries natural consequences.

Asking for money to fund your eventual/potential/maybe and never-before-expressed desire to have a child (even to me) while you are living in paradise might strike some as disingenuous, whimsical, an afterthought, and even irresponsible. Like: Why doesn’t she settle down like the rest of us schlumps and marry good-enough, boring Joe and get knocked-up the regular way while she still can?
— Mom
 romantically inclined.

romantically inclined.

So for now, I'm going to be a little more romantic than usual and take my time. If it's meant to be then it will all come together... 

Badass Guide to Vietnam

And just like that, my 3 months in Vietnam has come to a close. I jumped in over my head to experience as much as possible, and still only scratched the surface of this kickass country. To sum up it up, I've created the Badass Guide to Vietnam. This Guide is in no way recommended and will most likely not workout for others as well as it has for me. 

 a canine constellation

a canine constellation

Breakup with Boyfriend, Force Solo Travel Upon Oneself

  • The topic of my breakup is getting old and I'm bored talking about it. Ultimately, I manned up against my fear and decided not to run home after the breakup. This journey will be defined by something greater than a failed relationship.

Tattoo Coverup - Ninja Ink, Hanoi, VN

  • At 21 I thought it was cool to have a bear paw tattooed on my ass. At 31 I want something with more meaning. I have a note in my phone of places people that I meet suggest I visit - low and behold I had a mention of a tattoo shop in Hanoi (recommended on an island tour in the Philippines). I am in LOVE with the watercolor creation Nini made possible. It symbolizes a lot too:
    • ∵Δ∴Δ is a math poem my cousin Natalie has tattooed on herself. "Because Change Therefore Change" - simple, beautiful, geometric.
    • The moon and paws create a *canine constellation*. Dog paws symbolizing my relationship with my dog Olive whose death ultimately gave me the freedom to take off on this journey, as well as the ongoing relationship I have with pups and animals around the world (and my recent decision to be a vegetarian). The moon a nod to Vietnam and the Communist hammer & sickle

Walk the Shit Out of Everywhere

  • Springing $20 per month for a data plan was absolutely worth it. I've found hidden gems up crumbling staircases, seen some weird shit (dog meat alley in Hanoi...), and avoided a sedentary lifestyle without fear of getting too far lost.

Going Vegetarian

  • It will be hard they say. The food is boring they say... LIES.

  • Not going to turn this into a soapbox, but really it's my own blog so yeah I am. I had such an extreme problem with the Vietnamese eating dogs, "How Barbaric!!!" I thought. But then, I've been eating slaughtered animals (preferably bloody, rare steaks) my entire life. Why should it bother me with dogs? And I've loved many a cow, pig, goat that I've met. Then there are concerns like the quality of meat from slaughterhouses and the truth that eating meat creates more carbon emissions aka ruins our fucking planet. Personally, it's been an easy choice, with occasional slip-ups due to language barriers.

Redefine My Career

  • A work in progress for sure, but I have found a part-time role with a yoga brand that pays the bills. The remainder of my time is my own, and I am using it to create the life I've dreamed of. This life will not include a traditional 9-5, it will include animal welfare, and it will include a shitload of autonomy (go ahead, try and manage an INTJ...).

Book Now, Research Later

  • I really like knowing things, but I've noticed that there is a very low level of pre-planning necessary to yield a better experience. Musts include: Visa details, low-cost transport to-from airport, accommodations for first 2 nights in a new place (skim reviews for cleanliness and mattress quality). Also, don't book pricey tours ahead of time - once you're on the ground there is always a better option.
  • For people traveling through places more quickly than me this probably isn't an option, but when applying the principles of slow travel, I find the most joy meandering along and making conversations with strangers.

Also, in no particular order:

  • Pet all the dogs. All.
  • Use the block feature when you know you're about to take a turn down a toxic path.
  • Feel the feels. Bad, good, happy, ecstatic, depressed, confused, lost. 
  • Invest in yourself - I bought a Fujifilm XA-1 before I had a steady income because I believe in myself and what I can do with it.
  • Take risks - like a 54km bicycle ride through the mountains of Da Lat on a shitty mountain bike. Worst case scenario? At the 40km mark it rains, the gears break, you hail a bus. Simple ;)
  • Make friends - say yes when they ask you to hang out and accept their kindness. Realizing I'm not alone but a part of an ever-changing community melts my ice-like heart. 

Saying Yes

The Universe gives back what we put into it - gratitude, love, money, even fear. It is endless in extent. 

After a foot shattering car accident in 2014, I took this to mean that saying yes where others might not would lead to extraordinary things - and it did. It also led to some really shitty things. Let me explain. 

 oh Burning Man...

oh Burning Man...

Romance

Thanks to Tinder in 2014, I met an enigmatic, wild-child like myself. Within 2 days we booked Burning Man and Europe. We had so much fun together, but because I said yes to too much up front, it was nearly impossible to end things after I found him in the back of the Bronto-Bot with another girl. So we proceeded to Germany, France and Amsterdam, where this darling asked if I wanted to watch him with one of the Red Light girls. No.

After realizing Tinder might not be my best bet, I joined Match. I met 2 men off the bat. The first was an ex-pro football player. He was hot AF, unmotivated, loud, and totally my type. I ripped myself away from him and went for the sweet, dorky, tech guy. Not one for learning lessons, I accelerated the relationship by suggesting the Love Study (a fun exercise, but give it some time it really speeds up the L word) and then we booked a trip to Colombia. 5 hours into the trip I felt claustrophobic. For the remaining 4 days I drank myself into a stupor and broke up with him on the flight home.

A week after Colombia, I reached out to a friend for Southeast Asia travel advice. She connected me to her brother in the Middle East. You see where this is headed... Yup. After 5 months of talking online he booked me a flight to Bali. My heart was overjoyed. I had taken 5 months to get to know this guy and even though we hadn't talked on the phone that much, our core values seemed to align. After our 3 week vacation he asked me to leave my life in the States, my career, and live the nomadic lifestyle with him. With trepidation and a few glasses of wine I said yes, despite some pretty big red flags that had already come up. We all know how that wound up. Here I type, solo again.

Work

Last year as I paid off my debt, I was also learning how to position myself as a freelance digital marketer (an ongoing learning process). I had an intense deadline at work to launch a new website in time for a major campaign, had said yes to 3 freelance jobs and had just launched my blog. On one day in particular, Maggie came over as a bereft and naked me couldn't even make a decision on what clothing to wear. 

 time to make big girl choices

time to make big girl choices

The next month I went to Bali. What a shock that I didn't want to return.

You can change your mind!

I am not suggesting that saying 'No' is the best option. I am the perfect example of how taking risks can have some extraordinarily awesome consequences. However, as a woman and a people-pleaser I need to get better at saying 'No' and changing my mind as soon as things don't feel right.

Here is the problem: When I change my mind I feel like I've failed at the decision in question. This guilt leads to me sticking with bad choices far longer than necessary. 

Traveling solo as a female is the perfect time to employ saying 'No.' It's a matter of survival. No, I will not meet an exes friend, late night at a coffeeshop. Yes, it was a poor decision to take a cab with the 2 men I met at the sushi restaurant.

Ultimately, I have no regrets. But as this journey progresses, I am getting better at pushing back and creating a forcefield around myself of un-fuck-with-ability.

Wagon to a Star

Sitting here on a flight over Vietnam I'm realizing my recent relationships have been driven by my wanderlust. Burning Man. Europe. Colombia. Southeast Asia.

 funemployed = working to live, not living to work

funemployed = working to live, not living to work

Not deliberately and not so these men would fund it (I paid my own way every time). But to avoid doing this on my own. I don't know why. And it feels cowardly.

This trip is a vacation from the vacation that is my life, with one of my best friends. It isn't a solo adventure, but it has the makings of one, like the training wheels for where I'm headed next. And wouldn't you know, it's March. I had planned a solo vacation for this month 1 year ago. Then I met my ex, then we quit our jobs together, traveled together, loved together, broke up. And so here I am doing exactly what I dreamed I would be doing now, but from a very different path.

yoga-inversion-vietnam-wanderlust

I don't feel like I was dishonest in the relationship, and hindsight is 20/20, yet part of me wishes I had been brave enough to kick this life off on my own. A part of me wishes it had worked with him. And all of me is trying to forgive myself for when I let things get ugly.

Looking back there has been a pattern of "hitching my wagon to a star". In other words, I have often dated men with big dreams and been comfortable being their sidekick, losing sight of what my dreams were and trying their dreams on for size.

So here we are.  Me having a revelation about patterns that have gotten me in trouble in the past, pouring it out. Feels a lot like this post. But how many times do you have to make the same mistake before you learn from it?

puppy-blog-vietnam-traveler-dating

Maybe I don't know the answer yet, but I'm making some moves in the right direction:

  1. For my time left in Vietnam I'm going to explore the country through little excursions; alone and with some of the unique humans I keep meeting
  2. Book my flight out of here, quite possibly to Portugal for a really cool opportunity that has come up
  3. Research animal non-profits where my skills could be used for good (Africa?)
  4. Stay on this path, but allow myself to make mistakes and missteps, laughing all the while

I know that I'm going to knock everything off this list and I'll keep you posted every step of the way. Promise.

Fear

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear." 

The well known quote rings true to me, especially this week when I made another terrifying decision. I ended things with T. There have been many tears and moments of angst. And there is this magnificent peace. It's totally fucked. 

I have no regrets about my decision, even though I’m completely alone now in Vietnam. As many know, I am a list person, but I couldn't even bring myself to write a list on why it needed to end. I was that disappointed in myself for what I had put up with from a man I dated for only 4 short months. 

But there were good things too (aren't there always?). He helped me rip off the band-aid on a life that wasn't making me happy any longer. I felt safe and physically protected with him, and he was a teammate. For a while, anyway.

But this isn't a vacation. It's the rest of my life. And the little voice in my head kept reminding me of three things:

  1. We were great at planning and accomplishing goals together, but lacked joy
  2. The fights were really nasty
  3. In a tight spot he folded, and in an incident I’d rather forget, he betrayed me

So now what? When the going gets tough, Lulu crunches numbers. I used this fancy budget tracker and determined exactly how much money I owed him ($459.73) and am debating purchasing the motorbike that was custom-built for me (another $400, jury is out on that one).

making new frandz

I signed on for a shared workspace for the month (Dreamplex, $89), paid for March rent at a new place with friends ($200), have been drumming up quite a bit of digital marketing projects ($?), and decided to stay for the remainder of my 3 month visa here in Vietnam.

Things aren't a fairy tale at the moment, but the support from friends and family around the world has made me feel connected, loved and a little less alone. I'll end on these words from each of my parents:

Don’t run away from, medicate, or fuck away the pain. Be present to how life is right now. Let it burn off the stink. Be compassionate with who you are and where your life is right now. How would you talk to your 13 year-old Lulu? What would you tell her? Do you extend compassion and gentleness to yourself?
— Mom
In adventures it isn’t possible to fail. Most people won’t ever get on the boat.
— Dad

Capitalization

Note: Since this post things have drastically changed. But I am leaving it up for old time's sake.

Fuck. The blog has had quite a facelift over the last month. Completely redone, remapped, and now a shared social footprint with my boyfriend. I hate that word. I have a serious aversion to possessive-relationship terms and although I can see the need for them there is just something so icky about hearing something like, "You know my fiance, ____? Anyway, yeah my fiance and I were..." - JUST SAY THE NAME.

Part of my hangup might be that the love of my 20s insisted on stating that we were non-exclusively dating, and would only tell me that he loved me when I would break-up with him. Also, we were living together. Also, we dated on and off from 2006-2011. Oh baggage you silly little buddy.

motorbike-vietnam-blog-couple-hcmc-saigon

Anyway, yeah. My boyfriend (T) now is half of Lulakilla. This was a really hard step for me. Maybe harder than quitting my job and leaving my apartment in Boston because I think I was all set with them anyway. Sharing this blog and telling our story on it (not just mine) is kinda like getting a dog together. Or moving in - funny because we technically have lived together since Day 1 just given the nature of travel. Also funny because T is pushing hard for us to adopt a dog (look at the PUPPEEZZZ).

So now I am turning this blog into something that can tell our bad-ass travel tales and share the magic we get to see on a daily basis, also you can vote on the future of the beard from the homepage. I think I am having a love affair with Vietnam - the coffee, the French infusion, the street food, the harmonious chaos of the motorbike traffic - this place is next level. Also? The epic wifi. I'm back on the grid.

And now that I am a grown-up I am taking mom's feedback as productive and not criticism and introducing Capitalization into my life.

En-Gagged

A year ago none of my exes were married or engaged. While creepin' the interwebs this week I saw that one of them is newly engaged. The same one whose Match profile said "never married", but had been divorced 3 years prior (FUN FACT: almost all of the food in his fridge and pantry was also dated 3 years prior). 

Of note: We broke up in May. 

It gets better. 

I should have broke up with him after a month. I tried to, but it didn’t stick. He was needy and insecure and it was making me crazy. Remember in Twilight how the wolves (om nom nom Jacob) imprinted on the one they loved? Becoming completely obsessed and at their beck and call, willing and eager to forgo all of their own interests for this paramour figure? Yea. That. He is a really sweet guy though. The type that you always think back about and know that you never woulda' had to worry about anything had you been a gentler soul and partner. 

However I'm all angles + mostly bristles, and after 2 months I kept asking myself... "But how am I growing aside from extending the time-frame it typically takes me to snap?" 

psychiatric-help-engaged-dating-blog

Providing the ultimate clarity in our incompatibility was 5 days post breakup when I received a 40+ minute audio recording through which he revealed through tears and multiple dramatic pauses:

  • He was in therapy again (due to our breakup)
  • The happiest he had ever been was during his time with me
  • He could see how tender and broken I was on the inside and he could help
  • He had been looking at rings... you know, the engagement kind...

The question that all of my friends and I had was if his therapist had encouraged this voice recording? I'm fucked up, we're all fucked up, it's the fucked up club - but the weight that was lifted when I let the relationship go was so intense that I could not even bring myself to go on a proper date for over 3 months. The emotional drain I felt was so exhaustive and intense. I guess the lesson from this one was that although I thought I might be compatible with someone so very in touch with his emo-side that I over-reached for the goal and probably am better suited to more of a man's man...

Habitz

 rawr + shit

rawr + shit

I wrote the following 39 days before I *jumped ship* on my structured life (noted below). And did so with a man who in some ways is just so much what I should not be dating (he dumped me when I was sick, 8 days into our 20 day trip) - but weirdly... Somehow... It's working. I'm really not even trying to explain it. Anyway here was me, trying to fix me, before I repeated what has fucked me up, yet again. 

My general existence is very planned and orderly  - work, gym, outdoor exercise, reading, work, side-work, sleep, friends. But also batshit crazy. This means that my life equation generally nets out positive, however there are 1-3 monkey wrenches per year that fucq my shiz up. Let's call those monkey wrenches men. Not all men. Most men come into and are spat from my life easier than a wad of gum. But these monkey wrenches... man, they throw me for a total loop, I'll forfeit sleep, watch my phone, jump when they say how high, throw my goals and plans out the window. Their usual profile is as follows:

  • Older than me
  • Dreamer with big, fun plans
  • Obnoxiously hot
  • We share a weird other-worldly chemistry
  • Annoy me at first, then quickly expose an emotional side that makes me want to save their life and make everything ok
  • Generally a pretty messed up history with their dad (sometimes mom) 

There have been 3 extreme cases of these men and about 6 smaller bouts.

Thanks guys. 

Note: Poor man choices is not my only area for improvement, I specifically have work to do on my general anxieties which lead me to binge eat, face pick, have a reactionary attitude, be fairly self-unforgiving, and also chronic masturbation (jk that isn't a problem). 

Accidentz

 Ride Or Die. Literally.

Ride Or Die. Literally.

Melissa tells me my accident prone behaviors in Southeast Asia are (potentially) a desperate cry from my subconscious to ensure that my new boyfriend will take care of me. if that is indeed true, I'd like my subconscious to seriously stop messing with my shit and be a little more resilient.

For example, when I was taking the motorbike out yesterday I really wanted to prove I am capable of taking the painstaking lessons he has imparted on me and am in fact a Ride Or Die Bitch. Instead, while backing a non-running 125cc motorbike down a tight alley I lose control and "laid it down" ever so gingerly against a tree, Resulting in a big ass dent on the gas tank. At this point it might have been smart to call the proving quits, but my ever-rational brain determined that the net-net of a 30 second experience with one crash would seem less bad if that one crash was averaged over a much longer span of riding successfully.

Not four minutes later (after a jerky exit through a wooden plank bridge, rock wall + shoddy sand grooves in the sand), I turn right onto a dirt road and need to come to a sudden stop, which results in me trying to hold up said 278 lb. bike on my right leg, Failing and ultimately causing lay down 2, as well as an embarrassing rescue from a local, who yells after me "Drive Careful" as I stall out while careening away down a dirt hill, gripping the clutch and slamming on the foot brake for dear life.

The fortunate net-net of the biking extravaganza was a dent and a bruise to my leg, which T took remarkably well, see:

Until I picked him up at the dive shop... "Woah, that dent is like the size of my arm, you realize you dented it in the worst spot where we can't pop it out and it will for sure rust and suck for whoever has it long term. Not worried about the money though, the bike is only worth $500, but if this was a nice bike you'd be fucked."

Thanks. This on top of my firework injury. On top of my coral scratched knee that took 4 weeks to heal. On top of a UTI last month. And the scrape on the top of my foot (from dancing / doing a split in Pai). And my total dependence on contact lenses. And my general limpiness on my once broken foot. And a few other things. I'm definitely the ultimate liability for someone whose been compared to the hybrid version of James Bond, Chuck Norris, Macgyver, Transporter...

motorbike-el-nido-philippines-blog