Tranquilo in Catamarca

Catamarca, Argentina. Whenever I tell people where I am living, the general response is either, "Why?" or "Oh like Buenos Aires?".

 

No. Not like BA. Catamarca is in the north of Argentina, with a climate like Arizona. The city is small with 140k inhabitants and everything shuts down at siesta time, from 1pm-5pm. All cafes, grocery stores, bread shops, EVERYTHING. The heat is quite pleasant for most of the year until the summer (Dec-Feb) hits and then average temps are 34°C (93°F), which explains why siesta is almost a sacrament for Catamarqueños!

And the "Why?" Oh... LOVE. That's what brought me here. After 4 months of travel and long distance dating, I came here to be with my boyfriend. Holy mole... Life here has taken some adjustment for me! Learning another language is not a task for the faint-hearted, and via immersion is extra interesting, I have met 1 boy on exchange from Thailand, and now after 8 months of being here I met a fellow girl from the USA who leaves in 2 weeks. 

My boyfriend and I even posted our home (the one he so brilliantly designed! It's absolutely gorgeous, come visit!) on Airbnb in order to meet some more extranjeros on their way through, and it has been great. We have hosted people from The Netherlands, Germany, Chile, USA, and Argentina and it has helped to shake things up in the house!

From the tourist guide books, there is not much written about Catamarca, so unfortunately the city is often overlooked by tourists, but there are quite a few hidden gems I would like to share, so here is the list! Hopefully it helps convince you to experience this province!

FOOD IN CATAMARCA

VEGAN Lunch Option – Pachamama – Bº 50vv norte c/5 2º etapa
Have your lunch made to order at this family-run, vegan home, many veggies grown in their own garden!

Tapas – La Cueva Del Santo – Republica 1150
Spanish tapas restaurant, trendy vibe.

Fancy – La Guada – Ayacucho 769
Different specials each night: sushi, asado, pasta and more. Eat in the back on the picnic tables under the stars.

Cafe – Florentino – Esquiu 811
Great trendy café, wifi, tasty pastries & salads. Owned by a wonderful woman from Buenos Aires (she speaks English!). 

Local Pub – Oveja Negra Rock Bar – Nunez del Prado 898
Best lomitos in town (a vegetarian option that is so-so) loud music, good beer.

Cerveceria – Wakani – Calle Echeveria 1
Great craft beer selection, made in-house, try the plantain chips.

Pizza – Napoles – Av. Gdor. Francisco Galindez 599
Delicious brick oven pizza. Trendy vibe and strip of restaurants.

Local Vibe – La Guarda – Rivadavia 430
Empanadas, locro, wines, all things local. The front room is a complete wine shop, the back is a chill restaurant.

Tea House – Sabores Caseros – La Carrera
Off the beaten trail, cute tea house with amazing pastas and pastries.

Club/Bar – Jagger – Av. Pres. Arturo Illia
Late night club, all hour’s bar with great draft beers. OK snacks and food.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN CATAMARCA

Waterfall Hike
30 minutes from the city, a 5 hour round trip (medium intensity) hike into some amazing waterfalls.

El Portezuelo
A 45 minute drive into the clouds! Stop for a tea at the Casa de Te at the top!

El Rodeo
Take a drive into the countryside, just 50km from town! Don't miss the short hike to La Virgen.

Trekking Catamarca Tours
See what this group is up to when you are visiting!

YOGA IN CATAMARCA

Acro Yoga - Suasti Bienestar y Movimento Esquiú 969
Acro Yoga on Tuesday and Friday! Suggested donation, 50-100 pesos per class  

Classic Yoga - Casa Abierto 
Class schedule varies, 100 pesos per class! 

CULTURE IN CATAMARCA

Free walking tours – Free Tours Catamarca
Walk Catamarca, tour in Spanish. Right in El Centro in the main square.

Museo de la Virgen del valle – Republica 449
New museum in El Centro.

Museo Arqueologico Adan Quiroga – Sarmiento 450
Museum in El Centro, featuring a branch of the Incas, the Diaguitas.

Non Zen AF

The last time I wrote I had just exited 10 days of silence and meditation. I am still meditating regularly, and you know what?

I am still the control freak, anxious ball of OCD emotions I always was.

Surprise, sur-fuckin-prise! I was definitely not expecting a metamorphosis from the experience though, and something the instructor said has really stuck with me:

on top of Swaziland

on top of Swaziland

You will still get angry. You will still experience emotions and exhibit bad behaviors, but what used to be 5 hours of anger might only be 3. Regular practice will slowly and consistently continue to improve this.

This was especially true on my Prodigal return to the United States (first time in 15 months) for Christmas. After so long away from one's family I think the traveler tends to romanticize them, idealizing them into a perfect clan - at least I did. Well when I got back, reality struck. I was sleeping on the couch and no one wanted to be my personal chauffeur. Not even for Epic Anderson Animal Rescue Road Trip 2016. 

Despite some letdowns, I was home. And my perfectly imperfect family was there for me, and I for them. Catching up in person was delicious, under-cooked brownie delicious. And the 6 days flew! 

I had dreams...!

This time at home was supposed to be about ridding myself of 80% of my belongings and making travel money from them. Well that sure as hell was not possible, here is why:

  • 6 days (including Christmas) is not long enough to list and sell something online then ship it
  • I am never going to host a garage sale
  • It does not make sense to donate / sell an item that I will end up re-buying in the future
  • Furthermore - as wonderful as Minimalism feels, the concept of un-weighting myself is potentially a burden to the environment if the secondhand shop cannot sell it, thus adding to landfills

So instead, I reduced 8 bins to 4. Then donated a truck full of bags to AMVETS. 

Dreams do come true...

  • I got a new 52 page passport while in Buffalo, they turned it around in 24 hours. This was obviously necessary for my last minute, financially irresponsible jaunt to Zanzibar
  • I thought I needed surgery on my ever-exciting reproductive system - but while in Bogota the doctor was unable to locate any issues via ultrasound! WHATTTTT?! IZ I NORMALZ?
  •  I had thoughts of South America and learning Spanish, and here I sit in Yopal, Colombia typing away. A volunteer opportunity came up teaching kids English and I took it. Teaching is hard. Spanish is hard. Missing someone is hard. And I don't regret the decision for 1 second
  • ❤ I'm in stupid, crazy, last-minute-flight-booking, move-down-to-Argentina-for-you L O V E... Yes. Me. ❤ Headed South in 23 days!

I keep reminding myself of the note in my phone: If I step outside my comfort zone today, then I will grow.

Not all dreams though. Yet.

I haven't started the dog sterilization non-profit yet. I guess we will call this the *leisurely information gathering* phase of my life.

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... 

Am I Crazy

I am crazy. Fact.

I am crazy. Fact.

The title of this post is a rhetorical question. Hence the lack of a question mark. I already know I'm crazy. Take a peek into my unedited brain. I've attempted to write an authentic Stream of Consciousness. It goes in order of my thoughts as they popped up tonight (Saturday), post yoga, post a half-assed meditation, while dinner cooks on the stove.

Ok. My pointer finger knuckle hurts. Pretty sure it's arthritis. 
Not exactly insured. Now it's a pre-existing condiiton.
Should stir the curry.
Curry stirred. The electric range is supposedly fancy, yet trying to get it to work started this joint pain.
Am I actually thinking something more important now? 
Not really no.
I want to bike to the beach tomorrow, but not bring my laptop. I really don't want to work tomorrow. 
Yet that requires me to work for 90 minutes tonight.... It's 8:47. Ok, I can work.
I don't get paid enough to work on a Saturday night.
Tonight's dinner is vegan. I'm not getting skinnier.
Oh yeah, alcohol.
What am I thinking? Not much. I like the silence - in my head and this apartment.
Yoga will be good for me tomorrow. If I can find it. I know I will be a rushing anxious mess bc the train arrives at 7:59.
Setting myself up for anxiety. Cool.
Does my internal monologue sound whiny?
Am I mentally healthy?
Will I ever find someone who loves me 100% including the craziness?
Am I actually really normal and just like to think I am crazy to seem interesting?
No. I am crazy.
I think not in a diagnosable way - just like a little OCD and anxious.
Ha when ____ flipped out because I chucked the shampoo bottle and shattered it. He was a little scary then.
Not scary to me in general.
Why do I get myself into those messes?
Dinner smells good. 
Stop trying to force thoughts into your stream of consciousness to seem more interesting.
Seriously. This is a learning exercise.
I wonder if this is boring to read?
Oooh. I seriously don't give a fuck about ______. Maybe I should just ____. So close to zero fucks.
Is a vegan Vietnamese themed dog rescue cafe really my dream? 
A lot of times when you get what you want it isn't what it was cracked up to be. 
I should hustle some more and put money into savings. Paradoxically, people live on so little and are happier. So maybe "should" is really relative.
Money absolutely has almost zero correlation with happiness.
_____ are pretty miserable. 
Toys are nice though. White Vespa and white Specialized bike.
Why white? 
Because it's trendy or because I like it? Also, a Fiat.
Those things cost money. I don't have money.
Well some. 
Where do I want to go next? Do I even care to get to Africa? 
It's scary. But scary things are what help you grow.
Maybe I am done growing.
I like being alone. 
Banana pancakes for breakfast. I should try and meditate again now. 
I wonder if other people think I go off on ranting tangents when I talk to them. Sometimes I see people's eyes glazing over. I talk less now.
That's sad.
__ used to say I had melancholera. A disease of unhappiness. Maybe it was because I was dating him.
Or maybe I am just bound to be unhappy with whoever I am with.
Or maybe I just need to find the right person.
Maybe I need to be the right person.
I wonder if my list is too specific. Tony Robbins thinks no. He and his wife seem happy. 
"Seem" so many smoke and mirror shows.
Who really is happy?
WTF is happiness?
Why couldn't I get out of bed this morning? 
I need to figure my shit out. 
Or don't I?
No one saves anyone. 
I want to find that thing that makes my soul expand. 
It's out there I think.
I have almost traveled all the way around the world. In December I will have done it, plus 400 miles.
Where will I end upppp? Fuck.
My contacts are dry.
It's 9pm. I should probably work.
I should do whatever the fuck I want.
I don't really want to drink. Drinking alone is pointless. 
Hm, Does drinking ever have a point?
I drank too much Thursday. I don't like how that feels.
My stomach looks fat. Maybe another month off the sauce.
I want to travel. But from this as my home base.
A few plans already.
Maybe re-downloading Snapchat was a mistake. Too many channels to get worn thin on.
Another social media cleanse?
I should blog more.
When I die will I look back on my life and think "I should have blogged more"? No. Shut up.
Dinner is probably ready. I didn't make rice. On purpose.
I hope I don't go blind.
Why did I cry?
"I am not empty I am open" - remember that horoscope. 
Am I boring now?
I want a hug. Now I am sad. Fuck I sound like a crazy person. 
Well mom said it was brave to do an unedited stream of conscience. Is it conscious?
Sadness passed.
Numb now. 
Definitely crazy. 
I probably have a layer of thoughts I am not tuning into, maybe they are more interesting than this layer. 
I wonder if she will be mad if I _____.
Some things are too personal to type out.
I want to be off computers and phones and technology 100% for a while. I won't be able to work though. Maybe I should WWOOF. Will I write postcards?
I want Frank's phone number. Not to get an inheritance. Because I miss him. I will bet that's why that bitch wouldn't give me his number. I will just write him a postcard. I have been planning on doing that for 8 months. Why did I delete his number? Oh right. I am crazy. 
I blocked a lot of people and deleted a lot of numbers through the years. I wonder if I owe anyone an apology. Yes. I do. I wonder who the most? Probably _____. Or __. Or _____? Oh I apologized to him already.
Emotional warfare. But not intentional. 
Oh or _____. He hates me.
No comment. 

I live here.

I live here.

Aged, Aging, Age, Agh. Nudity.

When I was 4 my best friend Timmy Ulbrich took his shirt off on a walk through Como Park. Not to be out shined, I also took my shirt off. After a few minutes, self doubt flooded in and I asked mom to please return my shirt because I was "cold".

where my babiez at? nope.

where my babiez at? nope.

Today I turned 32 and while reflecting on different ages, I feel the same as I did when I was 18, plus some key lessons.

At 18 I had just left Buffalo for college in Boston. College, a place where the small circles of friends from a tiny all girls high school didn't apply. Friends of all shapes and sizes were possible, gay Filipinos, beefy black men and Long Island Jewish princesses. I made them all. And some enemies too - like a douchey hockey player who I told off in the cafeteria (Pat Noonan, hiiiiiiiii), and my bipolar freshman roommate who slept all day on the top bunk, and the "friend" who picked me up in front of a group of friends and held up my skirt so everyone could see (thanks rape-culture!).

So much of that time and my 20s was spent focusing on the next step and appearances. 2 years ago something snapped though, and it started with my foot - in 8 places. Breaking my foot and totaling my dream car was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Insurance wiped out 20k in loans and the accident recovery coincided with my 30th birthday, a milestone that is oft met with panic and expectations (dafuq where my hubby and babiez at?). For me it was a joyful celebration of how lucky I was to be alive.

Just 2 short years later and I'm shocked at how much things have changed and keep changing. Just this week I went to a topless beach and did headstands & cartwheels as my 32 year old boobs sunned themselves.  I didn't even feel "cold" once.

Infested

Tonight I made pesto pasta in the electronic teapot in my hotel. And it made me so fucking happy. 

Little pleasures like this really matter while enduring a harrowing bed bug infestation. In the last 6 days I've accumulated around 50 bites covering my upper back, face and arms, oh and 9 on my knee, for good measure. For those of you that don't know, bed bugs hide in mattresses, bed frames, walls and travel in clothing and other objects. They can lay dormant for up to a year as they wait for their favorite thing, human blood. For some reason, they LOVE mine. So although I was staying in a relatively nice hostel, someone before me must have left them behind, because, 24 hours post check-in the nasty bumps made their debut. 

(L to R: selfie on day 2; note-to-self in phone; gratitude journal, May 17th)

After a day of scratching I went to a dermatologist who immediately diagnosed me and prescribed some stuff (ugh $). Then I washed all 15kg of my clothes on the hottest setting and was moved into another dorm room in the hostel, with promises of an exterminator. But hello, I woke up this morning with new bites. Cue 3 more rounds of laundry, bagging of belongings, checking into a hotel to cortisone my naked body on repeat while I Netflix & chilled with bae (me), and the teapot pasta. 

tick infested pups, bed bug infested Lulu. samesies.

tick infested pups, bed bug infested Lulu. samesies.

Most of you haven't had a skin condition that marks you in such a miserable and obvious way since the chicken pox, so let me explain, the red bites come in clusters, mostly on your arms, back, face - they can raise into hives, and are so itchy that each night I wake up scratching the shit out of myself. These welts then either blister or open into sores, and as of Day 6, are still quite visible. Did I mention they were on my face? A quick Google search yields interesting responses to bed bug outbreaks such as alienation, depression, oh and suicide. Nice. 

So, I did what any logical woman would do. I joined Tinder. Insert Marilyn Monroe voice "If you can't love me at my worst...blah blah..." In fact, this was not my reasoning but still pretty funny. My first dating experience in Portugal was nice, but isn't that the kiss of death? Nice. Although my sores didn't frighten him away, his lack of a job did frighten me away. 

Through all this I've managed to work, buy a bike, find an Airbnb for the next 2 weeks and volunteer with the dogs at Goldra (a dog sanctuary with 110+ dogs!!). While picking ticks and fleas from the body of an abandoned 4-week-old puppy, it dawned on me that maybe I don't have it so bad. 

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. 

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...

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.

Paradise Found: Phu Quoc

I <3 Maggie!

I <3 Maggie!

I'd suggest that anyone go to Phu Quoc to recover from a breakup. Or to recover from... The common cold, general malaise, seasonal affective disorder, boredom... Make up any excuse you can and go! Plus, once you're in Vietnam the hopper flights can drop as low as $50 round trip from Saigon! 

My Buffalo-Boston-Creative-Soulmate Maggie (and ultra-talented jewelry designer) visited me for 10 days and we treated ourselves to an island getaway to Phu Quoc. This little island has its high season from November through March, but felt relatively quiet while we were there (March), which was perfect. The weather was also consistently perfect.

For accommodation, we went from luxe to luxury, choosing to treat ourselves to 2 different non-hostel resorts. We recommend them both for their own reasons:

puppy at MyPlace Siena

puppy at MyPlace Siena

MyPlace Siena is a quiet little boutique resort in between the city center and the airport (10 minutes to each). The rooms smell of cedar and the grounds feature gardens and fountains; it feels like a tiny slice of paradise. The rooms are priced reasonably (approx. $40 usd) and a simple (delicious) breakfast is included. I was in heaven here thanks to the menagerie of sweet pets that freely roam the property: 3 cats, 1 puppy, 1 dog, frogs and lizards. We rented a motorbike through the resort for under $7 per day and kicked off the vacation exactly as we had planned - stress free! We checked out after 3 nights to be closer to the beach, but it's important to note that MyPlace is building a swimming pool which will be a perfect addition!

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Next up was Cassia Cottage - this resort has created the ultimate island wonderland. Their infinity pool overlooks a pristine beachfront with lush seating options. At check-in we were greeted with a hibiscus juice and given a tour from Mariz. There are 3 pools in total and the resort was renovated last year, offering guests the option to stay in traditional garden cottages or luxury premium suites, we chose the former. Rooms are around $150 / night and are worth every penny. Included is wifi, unlimited breakfast (omelettes, croissants, VN foods...), aircon, pool, beach...

Other musts while on the island:

Rory's: The island was quiet during our stay, but Rory's always had a crowd! This beachside bar is where people flock to watch the sunset and get white-girl-wasted. If HJ is there you're sure to laugh your ass off. He's the Asian bartender with the Australian accent, and no, HJ doesn't stand for Hand Job (I asked...).

Winston's: I've decided to become a vegetarian (yes it's true); however I went out with a savory bang. The burgers here are stateside quality and the buns have a lovely sweet, pastry-esque appeal to them. We also met Winston, an expat from the States (duh), who had great recommendations for the rest of our trip.

Gecko Bar: A solid option for a cheap (delicious) Vietnamese bite. We had pho and veggie + noodles here, and a few bottles of their finest Dalat red (of note, Dalat red wine is wine from Dalat, VN, it is not fine, it is not even nearly fine...).

Sau Beach: Day 1 we motorbiked here - DO IT! Beautiful white sands and plenty of cheap VN places for a bite to eat on the main drag. However, resorts like Paradiso charge if you use their lounge chairs (150,000 dong each), so make sure to bring your own towel. We did park the motorbike for free there though, which may or may not be allowed.

Peach Coffee: Yummy and affordable, vegan and vegetarian options (See what I am doing now? Subliminally weaving my new agenda in!), fresh juices, smoothies, and on the main drag.

Photo cred shared between Maggie + me for this post. See more from her here!