Minimalist

Money was a major theme when I kicked off this blog (33% of dickz, dollarz & killin it), but aside from tracking my expenses in this sheet, I haven't been writing all that much about it. 
I attribute this to 2 things:

  1. After paying off my college loans and credit card debt in October 2015, I quit my job and have been making more than enough to survive as I've been traveling - I just don't think about it as much now that the burden is gone
  2. Living out of a 50L bag reduces the chance that I'm going to buy shit. If I buy something I usually have to get rid of something - the Sophie's Choice of consumer manufactured products
must love salt water

must love salt water

Last week, on the shared Kindle account I have with my mom, I found The Minimalists. As a result, I am fully engrossed in re-visiting my thoughts on possessions. The read was also timely because part of why I'm in Montenegro is to work on an app that focuses on people's unused clutter with a charitable component. As a result I've been thinking a lot about possessions and why people (me) have attachment to those things. 

I live out of a 50L bag, yes, but I still have 8 bins of clothing and shit stored at my dads. For the most part this stuff is out of sight, out of mind, yet somehow I still feel tethered by it. The Minimalists have connected me to many great blog reads and ideas (like the Project 333 clothing challenge, relevant once I'm past the bag lady phase of life). Accordingly, I'm pivoting in their direction with the following:

  1. When home for Christmas I'll try to sell 80% of my possessions (Poshmark, eBay, not a garage sale, etc.). What I can't sell in that time will be donated
  2. I'm going to limit my purchases to things that are necessary to make me more efficient in my work (digital marketing freelance and kayak/SUP/bike tours). Wishlist includes: contact lenses, polarized sunglasses, a charging brick and potentially a new laptop if my $350 Thailand-bought Acer shits the bed (but does I really NEEDZ a shiny new Mac, precioussssss-s-s?) 

Oh yeah, Montenegro! I lead some kayak and SUP tours, live in a coworking-hostel, work a bit of freelance and am kicking off the app. A few months ago I saw a Facebook post on a digital nomad group recommending the space and Montenegro for travelers who've maxed out their 3 months in the EU.  With no other promising options on my plate I emailed the owner to see if he'd be up for a trade. He was, so I booked a flight to this country and am yet again, winging it! So far, so good!

Baby Steps

I keep booking travel. And making decisions.

danang-vietnam-blog-girl-beach-american-digital-nomad

But my body and brain are resistant (LIZARD BRAIN DOESN'T WANT CHANGE). In Saigon I would hit snooze 2-4 times each morning. And although my work doesn't require me to stay in any one location, I stayed there for 2 months (aside from a short vaca in Phu Quoc with Maggie). During my time in Saigon, I lived in 2 apartments and chose to work in the same coworking spot almost every day. Building some consistency helped me normalize after the combustion I created when I broke up with my ex. 

But as visas tend to do, my Vietnam one expires in under a month. For some reason I kept avoiding making a decision about where to go next, as though the decision solidifies the fact that I now lead a solo life...

saving the planet. one coffee at a time.

saving the planet. one coffee at a time.

Enter a new Twitter-friend, Flystein. A crew of travel hackers who (for a small fee) work with your miles and travel checklist to build out a shockingly affordable package. These guys came and visited me one day at Dreamplex and we had a chat about where I would wander off to after Vietnam. They recommended I try Da Nang before I leave, so I promptly booked a flight for $46. Easy.

But still, no plans to leave this country. With no real intention in mind, I logged into Flystein and casually entered details for Europe. In under an hour, I had custom itinerary to get to London for $22. 

"I'll book it this weekend." Me (& my lizard brain)
"Book it now." Flystein

So I booked. And a flight to Faro, Portugal ($42). And a flight to Dalat ($51). And from Cape Town to Buffalo for Christmas ($220). It would seem I am now addicted to booking travel. I went to Hoi An and Da Nang last week. I'm typing from Hanoi ($35).... WHAT?!

All this from the girl dubbed as "A dumb American traveler" from an ex not-to-be-named.

P.S. Still tracking the expenses down to the penny, if you'd like to follow along! Also, I chopped 80% of my hair off. I feel really awesomely spunky sometimes and then like a troll that will die alone at other times. Amazing how closely we link our identity to our hair...

I'm Rich Bitch

Find out how to travel the world + make money - it's simple!

"gucci" sunglasses, duh

"gucci" sunglasses, duh

Bullshit. Bullshit I say. As a savvy digital marketer who is trying to define what a healthy stream of income looks like (and how much of my free time I will let it take up), I can tell you there isn't a simple source of cash flow, sitting there, just waiting for you to quit your job. Oh no.

I've been lucky with my work, I can do it just as well from this coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh as I can from a desk, in a cubicle, in a boring office building, in the 'burbs of Boston - actually, even better. But it is not EASY to find the right work and the right blend of clients with mutually beneficial expectations.

As I see them, these are the options:

  1.  Sign-on for a location independent Full Time Job: Work at nifty shared workspaces and coffee shops in foreign lands. However, the reason I chose to be a #digitalnomad is traveling with an enhanced freedom - something that sitting at a computer 50 hours/week detracts from.
  2. Balance multiple clients with varying needs: This is not a bad option unless the needs for multiple clients ramp up at the same time, which can be stressful. Also, building up a client base requires a lot of groundwork (networking, dead ends, consultations, etc.)
  3. Land one part-time client, average 20 hours/week: Timing to ebb and flow based on their needs + your own travel. Maintain a few additional clients for small projects as needed. This option seems heavenly...

To note, these clients are not waiting patiently for you with a pretty cash flow. Nope. Finding these relationships requires hustle, trying different clients and roles on for size, and patience. I'm still searching.

In the interim, I've been having a blast traveling and experiencing all sorts of wild and crazy things... But don't be fooled, I am incredibly budget conscious (see financial tracker here) and look for opportunities to work at dive shops, hostels and WWOOFing to defray the costs of travel.

Just like the couple who quit their jobs and now scrub toilets to get by, my ex and I did our share of un-glamorous work to earn a buck! For example: 

earning a buck

earning a buck

  • Worked 4 shifts/week at Pai Circus Hostel for free accommodation + a few meals (I welcomed guests, he was a security guard)
  • I traded my social media skills to defray some of my diving costs for Deep Blue Seafari. My approximate rate? $11 / hour. Quite reduced from my old 80k salary.
  • The ex works at The Hideout Hostel here in Ho Chi Minh. For $300/month, free beer at the hostel and a shift meal he gives them 6 (!!!!!) nights each week. He runs bar crawls, pours bottles of liquor down backpackers throats + gets home late at night. This was less than ideal for a few (ahem) reasons... And one of the contributing factors to the break-up.
  •  We made money when we sold our motorbikes. Even after I crashed and dented the Palawan bike we sold it for 1000 pesos ($20.95) more than we purchased it for. That's money saved avoiding rental costs and *hopefully* leaves a nice little profit at the end
  • Still looking into WWOOF, HelpX and Workaway options, but slightly underwhelmed so far by Vietnam's options (more on WWOOF here)

The net-net? Although not washing toilets (yet), the diet consists of plenty of packets of ramen and as shown above, I have done plenty of sub-minimum-wage work to make this possible. It's not all fun and insta-filters!

Day Trippin' from El Nido

The Province of Palawan, Philippines is majestically beautiful. However, when looking for cheap backpacking options in Southeast Asia, Palawan and specifically El Nido should not be on top of your list. Despite this, it is a beautiful small town and not overly touristy (yet).

the views north of El Nido

the views north of El Nido

As two budget-conscious travelers, my ex and I were averaging about $41/day for 7 weeks (see the breakdown here) - we grocery shopped and stayed in the housing provided through our dive shop (774 pesos/night).  High season begins in December which is right around when we arrived and we found that the hostels were typically more expensive than the homestays (pensions). A non-aircon, single room in a homestay ranged from 500-900 pesos per night, whereas 1 dorm bed ranged from 400-700 pesos per night. Also, most of the places to stay are not listed online - just get to town and walk around, you'll find something!

Once in "downtown" El Nido you'll see the bay and many small boats. Warning: this is not where you want to swim. It is murky with boat fuel spillage and a couple sewage drains that seem to drain directly into this area. Sexy. Options for getting to El Nido are:

  • Flying directly into the tiny airport (pricier option)
  • Taking a van or bus from Puerto Princesa (the road is 95% paved as of Jan2016, apparently funded by American oil companies)
  • Boats + ferries from Manila or Coron (watch out for seasickness on the smaller boats)

Some of the best times in Palawan were the day trips that we went on. Many require a motorbike or renting a tricycle, but are definitely worth it!

sunset at Republica

sunset at Republica

  1. Marimegmeg Beach: Known to locals as Las Cabanas Beach. Just south of El Nido and only a 15 minute tricycle ride that should cost 100 pesos for 2 people. This beach is clean and has perfect views of the limestone islands. There are two reasonably priced bars that serve right on the beach. The only annoyance are the local kids selling fake pearls at an insane markup - you'll be asked no less than 10 times to buy them...

  2. Republica Sunset Bar: On the way back from Las Cabanas - this is the best place to watch the sunset just outside of El Nido. The San Miguel pilsner is 60 pesos and the view is perfect. The owner is Spanish, so you'll find their menu is European fusion + the sangria is amazing and the chill music they played was great. Follow them on Spotify (@republicasunsetbar)!

  3. Nacpan Beach: This beach is a 45 minute tricycle or 30 minute motorbike ride north of El Nido.  If you're looking for something more remote than the beaches in El Nido proper then this is a good option (although many tourists do head here). There is a 100 peso/person conservation fee once you arrive. The beach is pristine and is lined with small bars, restaurants and places to stay.

  4. Deep Blue Dive Seafari: A great PADI dive shop in El Nido. The staff is knowledgeable and professional, which is why we dove with them for 1.5 months. They offer day diving, night diving and occasional Seafaris to Coron for wreck diving + other remote sites. 

  5. Boat Tours: Boat tours to island hop are a popular option for everyone visiting El Nido. Almost every corner has a travel agency where these tours can be booked - most including a freshly prepared lunch. Additionally, there is an option to charter the entire boat and pick the specific islands you'd like to visit. When booking, make sure to find out how many people are on your boat - some are overcrowded (up to 16ppl). Although most of the tours leave at 9am, I'd recommend pushing for earlier and get to the best spots first. I went out with a wonderful Dutch family on Christmas day and they had chartered the boat just for us, it was one of the highlights during my time there.

  6. Duli Beach Resort: We never went to this spot, however I heard good things! It's a 60 minute motorbike ride north of El Nido (tricycle drivers will not take you there). It's quite remote with a small resort at the end of the beach that sells beer and food. Expect to pay 50 pesos per person to cut across a local family's land to get here. Another option is to charter a boat from El Nido, but this would definitely be pricier (unless you have a larger group).

  7. Verde Safari Beach: A 90 minute motorbike ride north of El Nido - and the trail is not for beginners (dirt roads, steep hills, etc.). This pristine beach is a reminder of what Palawan was 10-20 years ago, undeveloped, remote, tourist-free, gimmick free - just clean sands and the clear water. Make sure to bring snacks because there is nothing for purchase on the beach. 

  8. San Fernando: A small village just north of Verde Safari Beach. This tiny village is remote Palawan with local flavor. The friendly locals looked surprised seeing foreigners but were friendly wherever we stopped. There is almost no wifi and the cell phone data coverage is quite slow (but will work). Great place to get off the grid and disappear for awhile - especially Casa Felicidad, we stopped here for a beer and to check out their cocks (ahem, roosters...).

P.S. Don't miss Nagtabon Beach, about 45 north from Puerto Princesa. Pics + details here.

verde-safari-beach-palawan-panoramic

Eat, Pray, Play in Ubud

Just in time for the Year of the Monkey + VALENTINE'S DAY, here's a MUST list for Ubud (Bali, Indonesia)! Ubud was the setting for the Love portion of the book Eat, Pray, Love and was also the site of days 4-7 of my first date with my ex... You know, the "date" that kicked off my traveling, nomadic life!

temple wandering

temple wandering

EAT at Naughty Nuri's. You do not want to miss this spot while in Ubud. Seriously "The best martinis in the world" - just ask Anthony Bourdain - and a rack of ribs that are so delicious that I polished off the entire rack and then half of a second! When you arrive just seat yourself anywhere there is room at one of the communal tables. 

Another must EAT is the Baba Guling (suckling pig) at Ibu Oka. This is one of Indonesia’s most famous dishes, prepared very early in the morning. Make sure to seek it out at lunch time to ensure the freshest and bestest roasted pork and availability. Definitely a must have in Ubud or anywhere in Bali.

PRAY (or meditate or do whatever the fuck... just no physical contact between males and females!) at Pura Gunung Kawi: This is my favorite temple in Ubud, take a motorbike as the tour companies charge too much money and then you'll have time constraints. There are 2 options to get there:

  •  The front entrance where you will find 200+ stairs and hawkers trying to sell all of their wares OR...
  • The back entrance via Google Maps. We obviously took the back entrance (hehe...) and Google brought us to a local neighborhood which seemed to be a dead end. The locals there welcomed us (and were used to people getting mixed up) from a tiny pagoda where they were carving wood figurines for tourists (the ones for sale on the street in the town). One offered to take us to the temple via the rice terraces! Although we avoided the entrance fee, our guide asked us to buy something from the gift shop on the back side of the temple (a hair pick for $2 USD). Then afterward we chilled in their pagoda for a while and they even gave me a little wooden elephant to take home (we tipped our guide even though he didn't bring up payment).  Thank you to Google for being wrong (this time…).

Bring a sarong or other covering (knees must be covered for men and women) - otherwise you can borrow one from the front entrance at the temple.

PLAY in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary: No trip to Ubud is not complete without playing with the monkeys. Some of these monkeys are quite wild, however the tame ones are a delight and will play with you. Note: Do not antagonize them, especially not screaming at an alpha, while staring him in the eye, while he climbs up your body for the banana treat you are holding out for him (oops). There is a small conservation fee to enter that allows you to explore the temple and see monkeys everywhere!

Special reminders:

  • DO NOT BRING FOOD WITH YOU!! Buy bananas from the banana lady and offer them to a monkey that seems interested 1 at a time. To do so, hold it up as high as you can then hang on tight. One or two monkeys will likely jump onto you, climb up, grab the banana and possibly sit on your shoulder to eat it - so make sure a friend is ready with a camera.
  • Take all your valuable possessions (jewelry/phone/etc.) off for this visit, or else Curious George may walk off with your cell phone 

Fishy Thingz

bye El Nido!

bye El Nido!

The day before leaving El Nido we were getting the last minute things pulled together - basics for the boat like Skyflake crackers (an addiction that will be sorely missed), mini bananas, ramen + oats - so we swung by Atienza to confirm our ferry and bike transport details.

"Hello - just checking on our cargo ride."

"Oh that's not happening. not for 2 more days, the boats somewhere in Manila."

"?"

Somewhere in Manila. and we were going to find out when we rolled up at 7am the next morning to get on our boat. The nice woman then offered to take all of the motorbike paperwork and ship the boat for us...

"NO FUCKING WAY YOU'RE GOING TO STEAL MY BIKE!"

He's so delicate and careful with the words he chooses...

trippy thingz

trippy thingz

At this point we figure out we can get on one of the smaller, shittier boats (the Bunso) for 700 extra pesos to ship us and the bike, fine. All-in shipping a bike from El Nido to Coron = 1086 pesos + 4.5 hours of my life never to be seen again.

The next morning the boat ride is going as well as it could be given that T had his final divemaster test - the snorkel test (drinking alcohol through the snorkel in a round robin trivia game). after a lunch of fishy shrimp, rice and indiscriminate vegetables T surprises me by puking overboard.

This sickness culminates in a glorious, triumphant entrance to our hostel where T rides up on the motorbike and pukes fiercely + immediately (while on the bike), his projectile only narrowly missing a tiny local girl frozen mid-step with a look of true horror on her face. I pat his back in solidarity which unfortunately releases his other end. Yes. Joke's on me however, because within an hour I've already vomited 4 times, which repeats through the rest of the night.

WWOOF Dreamz

6 days left in El Nido before we leave on the Atienza ferry (cheaper if bought right at the port office - which is a shipping container where the hours are irregular at best) to chillax in Coron for a few days of wreck diving and island life before Manila > Vietnam.

In the meantime my skillz are improving:

  • I am meditating more
  • I am working on honesty + setting healthy expectations / boundaries in our romantic relationship - sticking to those as the goal, not a specific outcome revolving around *us*
  • I drove the (135kg / 298lb, MANUAL) motorbike through windy Palawan for 3 hours without stalling it, laying it down or fearing for my life (except when the bus rattled by @45km/hr well over the center line on a corner I had judged taking from the mid-right of my lane, near heart attack for sure)
  • I secured all of our travel + accommodations through Ho Chi Minh and am working on setting up a cool WWOOFing experience
  • Dinners are getting dope @ the greenhouse - chili bread bowls, spam fried rice, "spaghetti", pulled chicken + roast potatoes (Note: this is a feat due to the supermarket + outdoor market selection, as well as the kitchen which is 2 gas stove burners and a toaster oven)
  • Social media for Deep Blue Seafari is my project for the last 11 days in El Nido, it's actually fun to grow a brand's social presence again

Speaking of WWOOF, I am currently researching farms that we can divide up our Vietnam motorbike extravaganza with. We are planning to ride from Ho Chi Minh up and work on farms in exchange for housing and food along the way. Vietnam has not entered the "official" WWOOF site yet, so the process (per usual) is not clear cut. There are 2 sites which you can pay the annual membership fees on, however only the latter option has been established with actual farms: 

http://wwoofvietnam.org/ VS. http://www.wwoofindependents.org/

WWOOF independents has only 10 farms in Vietnam and some seem like they are defunct or not accepting volunteers. I paid the $22 usd fee and messaged 3 of the farms in the south - so far no response but I don't expect these places to be all that high tech and tapped into their email, so we will probably just show up on their doorstep and hope for the best! The most exciting by far is the bee farm on the southern island of Phu Quoc, I reallllllly hope that this one works out, especially bc when he was a little nugget, T used to collect honey for a neighbor. 

February 4th note: TranGarden responded and they are no longer hosting WWOOFers. This leaves a possible 8 or less spots available from the list provided. I heard back from none of the places I emailed.

Rum + Money

A bottle of Tanduay rum is 95 pesos. That is $2.02 usd at the time of this writing. Other things that are quite cost effective:

Palawan views

Palawan views

Speaking of Tanduay rum, when you move to *the rest of the world* plenty of the same bullshit troubles you had before tend to find their way to where you are. I don't have a drinking problem (and in fact take months off at a time for health reasons), but sometimes... as an OCD perfectionist with loop-like thoughts, I prefer to take the edge off (although the MME method is usually enough - meditation, masturbation, exercise).

Whether it be my mom's up and coming tell all book (my parents are divorced, so you can understand the implications), my frequent injuries, getting to know the ins-and-outs of a new boyfriend while living together and sharing finances, or realizing a few G's into a dive program that you prefer the operations end of things, sometimes a nice stiff drink is exactly what you need. Or sometimes adding that depressant into the mix just leads to a crying mess who misses her bulldog. 

Depressants and depressing things aside... The traveling and nomadic lifestyle is AMAZING. Living this way is really interesting and life-changing, in the best way. Every day I question what my purpose is, what I want to do, and how to keep it going. These aren't typical thoughts that really have to be faced on a daily basis in the States. And let's face it, even if Tanduay is made with gasoline - it's pretty awesome that a whole bottle costs less than one craft beer anywhere else in the world.

RIP Divemaster

sea-turtle-girl-diver-divemaster

I really love to dive. It's a sort of meditative exploration where you're seeing things in a distorted way (30% larger and seem closer) and you're floating by them for much longer than a human should actually be able to. Observing all sorts of ocean life and anemones as well as bountiful coral reefs, creepy cuttle fish, protective clown fish, sea turtles + spotted sting rays is magical.

But I really hate breaking up my meditative exploration to deal with some dumbass motherfuckers buoyancy. Helping others and empathy is just not my forte. At. All. I am a really compassionate person to animals and to those few that I am close to, but even then my patience wears thin and I need excessive alone time for happiness... After completing 42 fun dives to get myself to the start point for divemaster coursework, I had a day of shadowing as an assistant. The BS of hand-holding and babysitting weren't joyful teaching moments, oh no. They made for a day of annoyance and rethinking the entire career path. I soon realized that I could still be a part of the diving world via marketing, but the saint-like position of divemaster or instructor shall be reserved for those far better and more patient than I. In a glorious twist of fate I burnt off a chunk of my finger with a firework on NYE so I can't dive now anyway. Hello universe stop LOL'ing at me, or maybe with me in this instance, that conclusion is reserved for if my finger ends up getting staph/SARS/MRSA/chopped off/gangrene/lepracy (you never know, cleanliness and clean water are not what southeast Asia are known for). 

I know that I am always searching for lessons and the meaning of experiences to evolve and grow from them, but sometimes I've already learned the same damn lesson. This is a perfect example of that. Years ago I left a career in physical therapy/exercise science because of patients and my personal lack of empathy... Yet now I saw myself as a tanned, outdoorsy, informative, chill divemaster... EERRMMPPHH (buzzer noise for wrong answer). Oh well the diving was fun + beautiful (and pricey...ugh)... Lessonz...

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.

car-bike-commuter-eco-boston