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.

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. 

Crash

My nickname at 16 was crash. Cute right? The Botzenhart Brothers (our mechanics) named me that after frequent (monthly) visits to their shop to fix my 3 (4?) car accidents that year. Now at 31 my grand total is 14, and 3 of those accidents totaled said vehicles. 

Yay money! Yet somehow I worked it so that in high school to always had 2 jobs which covered the accidents and insurance premiums, and then in my twenties it just seemed like insurance rates couldn't keep up with me. The frequent moves? Constantly changing aliases? Sex operator phone skills? However all that spending had to have had its toll. Now for the first time I dive into the true ramifications of putting me behind a wheel... (numbers are approximations due to prompt destruction of records post-calamity):

  • Accident 1: hit the house with the neon, damage to siding and car - $350
  • Accident 2: ranger, hit the cement barrier in the garage at the galleria - $200
  • Accident 3: ranger, falling off of a cliff in canandaigua - $250
  • Accident 4: ranger, hydroplaned into another vehicle - $250
  • Accident 5: ranger, totaled by a semi truck - $0 (it wasn't my fault!!!!!)
  • Accident 6: totaled a rental car - $0 (thank god for rental insurance...)
  • Accident 7: scion, let dumb bf drive and he ran a red, got t-boned - $500 + renting a car $300 (yes I paid, my poor dating decisions is a separate topic)
  • Accident 8: scion, reversing back into an intersection - $500
  • Accident 9: equinox, rear ended a truck - $0 (no damage)
  • Accident 10: equinox, side swiped a guy who was high as a kite, totally my fault but when I mentioned a police report he peaced - $0 (same day as accident 9)
  • Accident 11: mini cooper, hydroplaned after intersection - $250
  • Accident 12: mini, side railed by another vehicle - $0 (woooo, not my fault)
  • Accident 13: mini, took a left turn into a vehicle passing me - $500 
  • Accident 14: mini, totaled on the pike - $500 + miscellaneous broken foot fees... $1000?
  • Insurance ranged $60-120/mo during this time and I was not driving during 4 years while in college: $90 x 12mo x 11yr = $11,880
  • Car payment years were 2006-2014 ranging $250-450: $350 x 12mo x 8yr = $33,600

Assuming an 8% interest rate and compounded interest from the middle age of my driving years (16-31 = 23 years), this $50,080 would equal $1,269,001.25 at retirement. 

And that is not including gas, excise fees, planned maintenance and tolls...

OK, so kill me.

This is part of why I chose to be car free as of 8.6.15.

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Snap

And who the fuck am I to blog about spending? 

Looking back one might say that my twenties were a well orchestrated symphony of financial ruin. Since my first credit card at 20, I had managed to rack up expenses well in excess of 30k (not including 12k in student loans), ranging from worldwide vacations, cosigning on boyfriends debt, a naughty bulldog and her maintenance, a few surgeries (one on COBRA), cars I couldn't afford, keeping up with the Boston scene... 

Based on that resume, I would at best qualify as a funny statistic about what not to do. Except here's where it gets interesting... I will be debt free in 86 days, and on top of that have a healthy (i.e. above average) amount in my retirement accounts.

My financial seismic shift occurred in a car accident on 4.29.14 at 7:42am. since then, thousands of tiny pivots have brought me here. 

broken-foot-snap-money-expensive-car-accident