Hoi An, Vietnam – A Shaved Face and An Incredible Breakfast

With the impending typhoon, we quickly booked a flight to Da Nang, Vietnam and headed south 30 kilometers to the quiet Vietnamese beach paradise called Hoi An. Anthony and I had each been to Hoi An before our travels intertwined and I had been anxiously wanting to get back after only spending three days there with my nannying family in 2017. During that trip, I specifically remember thinking, “I could spend a whole month here”. The plan was to spend six weeks in Hoi An, a few nights in Da Nang, and finish off with a week in Hanoi.

Hoi An 1

Flight from Taipei to Da Nang

After arriving at our AirBNB near the beach, we headed into town to get our life sorted out for the next month — scooter rental, SIM card, gym membership, body wash, etc. During our errands, I decided to get my eyebrows waxed while Anthony got a haircut and his ears cleaned. I walked into a random salon as I typically do and saw their service for a face wax which included eyebrows, lip, and cheeks. I explained I only needed my eyebrows done but would still pay for the whole service as it was only $2.50 USD.

I laid down on the table and closed my eyes like normal.  As the esthetician began, I felt something weird but kind of ticklish on my forehead. Maybe she’s just prepping me and giving me a massage??? Next she moved down to my eyebrows and I heard the sound of hair being cut. Oh, ok, she must be trimming my eyebrows… that happens sometimes in the US. Then I felt that same weird but ticklish sensation on my upper lip. I opened my eyes to find she had a straight blade razor and was shaving my face! No… no, no, no, no, no!!!! “STOP! What are you doing?!?!” I frantically asked. With a warm and kind smile, the esthetician replied, “I waxing your face.” I quickly pulled out my phone to show her a picture of the eyebrow wax I was expecting. You know…. hot gooey wax applied with a Popsicle stick and removed with a white strip. “Oh! We no have here,” she answered. But the picture next to this service shows this kind of wax…. I’m not in America anymore… I refused her attempt to continue “waxing” my face, paid the bill, and began walking back to Anthony’s barber.

During the ten minute walk, I was reflecting on what had just happened. She actually shaved my face. Why would she think a a girl would want her face shaved? Different cultures I guess. Wait a minute… once you start shaving, the hair always grows back thicker and darker… Oh my gosh, I’m going to look like a werewolf! I just had peach fuzz on my forehead like any other person and now I’m going to have a hairy forehead, a dark mustache, and a unibrow. I’m going to be so ugly! By the time I arrived back to Anthony, I had tears streaming down my face. “What’s wrong?” he politely asked. “I’m… going… to be… ugly… with a… hairy…. face!” I managed to get out through sobs. — I’m happy to report one shave didn’t change my hair at all and I still look like I did before I entered that salon. Pro Tip: show a picture of what you want done before you agree to a service.

DCIM100GOPRO

Woke up at 4:30am to witness the sunrise at Bãi biển Cửa Đại

After four nights in our AirBNB, we moved to Aurora Riverside Hotel & Villas as it was in town and closer to Superfit Gym & Yoga, food, and a coworking space called Dingo Deli. We definitely spoiled ourselves here as our balcony overlooked a rice field, we had daily housekeeping, robes were provided, our bathroom had both a shower and a tub separately, and the daily provided breakfast spread was incredible. It had everything from made-to-order omelettes to freshly squeezed orange juice to a delightful sticky rice topped with peanuts dish and more fresh fruit than you can imagine.

Hoi An 8

Breakfast – Round 1, complete with spaghetti because why not?

The shampoo provided by the hotel wasn’t the greatest and really dried out my hair. So I went to a little convenience store and bought myself a bottle of Dove shampoo. After the first shower that I used the shampoo, I noticed a rust color under my nails. That’s odd. My fingernails usually get super clean after scrubbing shampoo into my head. Then I looked in the mirror and noticed my hairline and forehead also had this same rust color. I swear Vietnam is trying to make me ugly! I have no idea what was in the shampoo or if it was just old, but the rust color on my forehead and nails didn’t go away for a week! Needless to say, I switched over to a Vietnamese brand of shampoo for the duration of my stay in Hoi An.

One night our talks of additional revenue streams turned back to dropshipping, but this time, instead of me managing Anthony’s store, we decided to open a new Amazon store jointly. And so began the process of establishing an LLC, opening a bank account, setting up a virtual mailbox, and getting verified by Amazon. Did I really just start a business with my boyfriend of a mere four months?! I am SUCH a different person than I used to be in the States. However, the things I’m good at and enjoy doing are what he doesn’t care to do and vice versa so he’s definitely an ideal business partner.

As with Bali, my days began to fall into quite a routine. Five a days a week, I would teach from 8am-Noon, we’d immediately head to the gym for an hour or two, get some lunch, I’d teach again from 5:30-9:30pm, followed up by us learning dropshipping through the software we had purchased until about 11:30pm, and then I headed to bed. On the two days I didn’t teach each week, we headed to Dingo Deli to work on Amazon for most of the day with food and gym breaks built in. While teaching was becoming more and more unbearable, I was really enjoying dropshipping as it combined my love of research and numbers.

For those of you unfamiliar with dropshipping, it’s where I buy a product from Store A, mark up the price to cover my expenses plus make a profit, and then sell it to my customers. Our model of dropshipping didn’t require us to have any inventory on hand. Instead, we would advertise products on our store. Once a customer purchased a product, we would buy it from Store A and ship it to our customer. Of course there is a risk of the product being out of stock in Store A after a customer buys it from our store, but I would rather take on that low risk than use our own money up front to purchase products and deal with storage and fulfillment.

One of the first thoughts I had after being introduced to dropshipping (and one you might be having right now) was, Why would anybody pay a higher price on Amazon for the same product they can get at a different store? Through my experience with dropshipping, I’ve learned that people just do whether it’s because they don’t know the price is cheaper other places or they don’t want to take the time to shop around and would rather just buy all their goods on Amazon. Our store had a wide range of products including basketball hoops, gaming chairs, wine glasses, and lawn fertilizer to name a few. Honestly, we would list any product that we could turn a profit on. We made our first sale 10 days after loading products onto our brand new Amazon store. Holy cow! This ACTUALLY works!

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She Can PLAY in Taipei, Taiwan

After five relatively expensive days in Hong Kong, we flew east to Taipei. Another flight made! My initial thought upon landing was ‘Wow! This place is so green and mountainous!’ Even in the heart of Taipei, there were parks and green space everywhere.

As with Hong Kong, we didn’t do a lot of exploring or activities as I was still feeling overwhelmed and lost in regards to my future. After some more conversations between the two of us, Anthony introduced me to Hurricane Liz. For any of you Amazoners out there, she is QUEEN. From FBA/private label to dropshipping and everything in between, she absolutely crushes it. We started some initial research of dropshipping on Amazon and discussed me managing Anthony’s store.

One evening as I was laying around thinking about the future, I began thinking about this blog and how I could monetize it. Lots of other people have successful blogs. Anthony did make a good point — I have loads of content as I’ve been writing almost weekly for the last year and a half. What other articles or topics could I write about outside of my adventures? And then, BAM! Ideas just started flowing out of me. I quickly filled my notebook with two pages full of blog post ideas. Woah! I might actually be able to do this! Why didn’t I think of these things before??? Alright, I’m going to be ok. This is going to all work out.

Yanping Riverside Park 2

Basketballs for anyone to use

On Wednesday, I aimlessly walked around the city in between my classes for about two hours. I stumbled upon Yanping Riverside Park, a really large park that had a running/biking path, basketball courts, tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, and picnic/grilling stations right along the Tamsui River. Oooo! Anthony could come here to play basketball and break in his new basketball shoes. As I was checking out the quality of the courts, I noticed they had a bin full of basketballs tied to a tree that were well pumped up. Talk about a safe city! And how amazing that people are respectful and actually put the basketballs back after they’re done playing so others can enjoy them too. This is how it should be!

The next afternoon, I brought Anthony to the park to show him this awesome phenomenon. Before we got to the basketball courts, we ran across a bike rental shop. This’ll be fun! We can bike along the river. Couldn’t tell ya the last time I did that. First we tried out a tandem bike, because I mean, why not?! We quickly realized Anthony is not fun-sized like me as his knees slammed into the handle bars with each failed rotation attempt. We then switched to a different storage unit and tried out just a regular bike. Again, he made the road bike look like an 18″ BMX bike. Looks like we won’t be biking today.

Yanping Riverside Park 1

Yanping Riverside Park

We made it over to the basketball courts and Anthony started shooting around. Ok! He does have some skills here! His form is good; he’s hitting shots from both inside the lane as well as around the perimeter; now THIS is what I was expecting when I watched the guy in Hong Kong.  As he passed me the ball, I again reminded him that I hadn’t played basketball since the 8th grade. I stepped up to my sweet spot just to the right of the key and swish! Three-pointer, nothing but net. Oooo! Hey! I’ve still got it! Just don’t ask me to do a layup. I’ll probably still shank it off the backboard. You should have seen the look on his face. It was a mix of disbelief, amazement, and confusion. He didn’t say anything as he passed the ball back to me. After three more drained buckets, he said, “You can play! Are you sure it’s been since the 8th grade? I expected you to do a granny shot. Most people who haven’t played since the 8th grade can’t  shoot properly or even dribble.” I never said I wasn’t athletic. Basketball just isn’t my sport. We continued to play around for the next two hours and I can honestly and fairly say that I won the last game of Horse, even in the rain.

Anthony’s thoughts on the situation: I got hustled. This is bullshit. My girl can play! Oooo! Just wait until we go play pickup in Miami. They won’t be expecting her. Secret weapon. She’s a pure shooter. Hasn’t touched a basketball in over 15 years and she still has her form. I lost my manhood. The one sport I thought I was good at… she’s even wearing sandals. I gotta get her basketball sneakers. 

As is common in the early stages of most relationships, I held back from burping, farting, or pooping in front of Anthony. This was a little more difficult since leaving Bali as we were now living together out of hotel rooms. I would either hold it in and not go or find some excuse to go down to the lobby to use the toilet there. But even then, I felt rushed and uncomfortable. Beginning Thursday evening and only intensifying by Friday morning, my stomach hurt really bad. It got to the point of nausea and caused me to have to bend over while walking just to get some relief. Anthony grew concerned about me over the next few days. He was persistent about taking me to the doctor which I refused and came up with different excuses. I don’t need to go to the doctor. I just need to have a real poop! Side note: I didn’t tell him the real reason why my stomach hurt until about 7 months later.

For being a Chinese territory , there sure was a lot of Japanese influence especially in the food. I introduced Anthony to ramen and it was just as good as the times I had it back in Tokyo in May 2017. During one of our dinners, he ordered two massive bowls of ramen and cleaned up both of them. If you’ve never had real ramen (not the sodium-filled instant noodles you find in any US college student’s cupboard), you must take a trip to Japan or apparently even Taipei.

In addition to being a safe city, Taipei was another very clean city. So clean in fact, that we couldn’t even find garbage cans to throw our trash away in. A local informed us their garbage cans were camouflaged into sides of buildings or as potted plants. We had to strain our eyes to notice them. It was a little like ‘Where’s Waldo’.

We had initially planned to stay in Taiwan for two months. One week in Taipei and the rest of the time in Hualien, but the immediate threat of a typhoon cut our trip down to just six days.  Back in August, I had talked Anthony into staying on Bali for another month even with all the earthquakes happening so I felt it was time to compromise on this severe weather/natural disaster threat and we headed for safety in Vietnam. As it turned out… the typhoon changed direction a bit after we left and slammed into Hong Kong instead.

New video out — Finally got around to creating a video for when Adam and I spent 10 days hopping around the Thai islands. Has it really already been one year since he came out to visit me?! I quickly realized I didn’t take as much footage as I usually do. You’ve been warned.

Hong Kong

Anthony had told me that he was notorious for missing flights especially when he goes out the night before. So the evening before our flight, I had told him our driver would pick us up at 5:30 in the morning and to enjoy his last night out with his boys. 5:00am rolled around and Anthony snoozed his alarm. 5:15 rolled around and he snoozed his alarm again. At 5:25am, he frantically popped out of bed, notified me of the time, took a shower, and finished packing, all while I snoozed away. “It’s 5:45!! Is our driver here?!” he asked as he shook me awake. “Huh? Oh… yeah… he’s actually not coming until 6:15”, I replied. “What??? But you said 5:30. Ohhh… well played!” I told ya we’re not missing flights. 

We made it to the airport with time to spare and hopped on our flight to Hong Kong. During our in-flight conversation, we began discussing other potential revenue streams for me so I could continue to travel but not have to teach. I again, had a mental breakdown just five short days after my first one.

I feel like I’m running out of money/not making enough. I really don’t enjoy teaching. I haven’t put anything into savings since October 2017. I don’t know where to start. There’s so much information out there. I won’t get to explore new cities. Traveling on savings is MUCH different than being a digital nomad. I need to get my IUD replaced September 2019. Do Asian countries even know what an IUD is? Will I have to go back to the US for this? What am I going to do for long term health insurance? Pay out of pocket? COBRA? I feel like the digital nomad market is super saturated. Maybe that’s because that’s the only people I’ve been around for the last two years??? I feel like I’m in a constant state of anxiety/being overwhelmed. It’s going to be a grind to start new again and I feel like I just did a grind with learning how to teach and build up my base of regulars. Can I mentally handle another grind? When will I find the time to learn something new? I’m already exhausted after teaching and exploring new cities is how I de-stress.  I don’t even have time to research new places. Being a digital nomad goes against the norm and feels like a big risk. I don’t know anything about running a business. I got a degree in Parks, Recreation, and Leisure Services…. never once did I have to take a class relating to Business Administration. I’m really not happy with my current work/financial situation. But I don’t want to live back in America quite yet. 

Let me tell ya… I don’t recommend having a mental breakdown on a flight. The other passengers look at you weird and there is no escaping it. You’re literally stuck in a tube for three hours. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, I had calmed myself down, along with Anthony’s help.

We spent the next five days in Hong Kong and to be honest, I really didn’t do much besides teach, eat, and sleep because I didn’t want to spend the money. We stayed on Hong Kong Island the first two nights and then in Kowloon for the final three nights.

Hong Kong 5

Introducing Anthony to public transportation by navigating the subway station

After we checked in to our Kowloon hotel, we looked out our window from the 15th floor and saw a basketball court about 300 meters away. Anthony had mentioned he was going to play basketball that evening while I taught. Perfect! I should be able to watch him while I’m teaching. Six o’clock came and Anthony put on his workout shoes and clothes. I situated myself on the built-in bench attached to our window and started teaching. A little while later, I looked down at the court and noticed a black dude towering over the local Hong Kongese.  Yay! This will be fun! Unfortunately, the more I kept watching, the more disappointed I was. He missed every single shot he took. He was the last person up the court. He never once got back to play defense. Oh my gosh. He’s terrible! What do I say to him when he gets home??? Pretend like I was too busy teaching to watch? Tell a white lie and say I enjoyed watching him??? I’m a terrible liar though. So much for me thinking he was athletic. I mean yeah, he’s coordinated in the gym, but the dude can’t even make one shot or hustle!

Shortly after I was done teaching, I heard the door beep and in walked Anthony. “So… how was basketball?” I casually asked. Please, please, please acknowledge it was awful so I don’t have to….. “Oh, I actually went running instead. I’ll play basketball another time.” Yes!!!! It wasn’t him on the court! Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I then told him what I had witnessed and my internal struggle of not knowing how I was going to respond. You’re right,” he said. “You’re going to hurt if your kids don’t play sports.”

Even though I didn’t really do any exploring, I still was able to observe a few things. They don’t use sprayers in the bathroom which was a welcomed change from Bali, Thailand, and Cambodia. The city was VERY clean. I don’t know if I ever saw a piece of trash on the ground. Hardly anyone smokes — granted, we didn’t go out at all so maybe it’s different in the bar scene. Everything was very modern and sophisticated — their taxis had automatic doors, their buses were double-deckers, their cars were super luxurious.

Hong Kong 7

My first Rolls-Royce

If you like tennis shoes (or sneakers/runners for you other people), you need to go to Hong Kong, specifically Sneaker Street. So. Many. Tennis. Shoes! Anthony was in need of some new ones and I can’t even count the number of athletic shoe stores we went into over the course of three days. 1) Not many places had his size of 14. 2) There was just store after store after store, all offering different shoes.

Hong Kong 2

Heading to Fa Yuen Street (aka Sneakers Street)

While Hong Kong was expensive and I’m not sure I want to go back there, it was nice to be back in a modern and Westernized city.

Hong Kong 8

 

122 Glorious Days in Bali

Being able to call Bali my home for the last four months has been nothing short of amazing. I met some awesome people from all over the world, saw some stunning scenery, experienced a string of near-daily earthquakes, and made many unforgettable memories. First and foremost, I … have… a… BOYFRIEND! Cue your mouth dropping to the floor. Mary Poppins has found her Bert! Or as Flynn would say, Laura has found her Llyod! I know you are all dying to hear the details as it’s been nearly seven years since these words have come out of my mouth so here we go…

Anthony and I first met back in January in a Kuala Lumpur hostel. I had been doing research on my laptop for Adam’s and my Thailand trip for a few hours when I heard, “Are you working hard or hardly working?” Quite the pickup line, I know… I gladly welcomed the break and we hung out for a few hours until I headed to the airport to catch my flight to Bali. He was also planning on going to Bali two weeks later to celebrate his birthday so we exchanged Facebook Messenger and off I went.

Remember when I randomly went to that AirBNB in Balian Beach with the two Americans for two days? Anthony was one of them. We spent two weeks together in Bali and then parted ways as I was heading to Thailand to get certified to teach English and then off to Cambodia and Nepal with Flynn.

Fast forward to May, I got a random phone call from him about three days before I was flying back to Bali to start this whole teaching gig. Turns out, he never left Bali from the time he first arrived back in January, apart from visa runs. Bali is truly THAT amazing! About a week after I arrived back in Bali, we met up for dinner and the rest is history.

Fun facts about Anthony: He was born in Jamaica, immigrated to the US when he was nine, and became a US citizen in 2002. He served in the Marine Corps. You know I like those military men! He has been traveling in Asia since February 2017. He meets my four minimum requirements of 1) Doesn’t live with his parents, 2) Is financially stable, 3) Doesn’t have kids, and 4) Believes in God. He crushes my “It’d be a bonus if he was…. List”, but I’m sure you have better things to do than hear me gush about how wonderful of a man he is.

So without further ado, here are some of the highlights since the last blog post (Full disclosure – Anthony has granted me permission to write about him without any sensors. Bless those famous last words of his) :

7/29 – Sunday morning as I was lying in bed awake at 6:30am (thanks rooster who lives behind my house), I started to feel an earthquake.  Here we go again. Although this time, it wasn’t over in a minute and was stronger than the previous ones. Um… why is it still happening? At what point do I get out of bed and take cover?? What would I even hide under? Our dining room table outside??? But if I’m outside, I might as well just stand in the rice terrace as nothing would fall on me there… As I was lost in these thoughts (and still lying in bed), the earthquake stopped. A quick Google search informed me the earthquake was, in fact, the biggest one I’ve been in…. a 6.4!

8/1 Anthony and I went on a weekend getaway to Uluwatu to check out the southern part of Bali. I was a little hesitant at first as we had never spent more than 16 hours together and I like my own space. We didn’t really do much besides work and check out the nightlife at Single Fin. We spent most of the day in our little villa. On Sunday, as we were eating breakfast before heading back to Canggu (where we both lived in Bali), we were reflecting on the weekend. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m actually surprised I didn’t get annoyed of you and or feel like I needed space. I was a bit nervous about this weekend before we came down here, ” I said. “I was thinking the same thing, ” Anthony replied with a smile. This might actually work out…  Uluwatu Nyang Nyang Beach 8

Git Git Waterfall 278/4 – After the successful Uluwatu weekend, Anthony and I decided to try our luck again with another mini vacation and spent four days in Ubud. After checking in to our AirBNB, we drove up north to GitGit Waterfall as it had been on my list to check out since I was first in Bali back in January 2017. And I wanted to see if Anthony could keep up with my adventurous side. After a short little hike down through a forest, we arrived at the first of seven waterfalls. The area around these waterfalls was even cooler than I expected. There were some awesome photo ops; there was a giant swing; there was aGit Git Waterfall 37 cliff jumping platform! You know I love a good cliff jump! Anthony declined my offer of cliff jumping so I had him be my photographer and videographer instead. This could really work out!

After a few hours of fun in the sun, we began our two hour journey back to Ubud. About an hour in, the sun had gone down, it was raining pretty heavily, and my phone had died. I was set on making it back to our AirBNB by all means necessary, but Anthony was quite the opposite. My view: we already paid for the AirBNB, I have my rain jacket on, we’re only an hour away, this will be quite the adventure trying to navigate our way back in the dark and rain! This is AMAZING! Why does he keep stopping? Why is he grumpy? He’s being such a diva. I don’t think he’s going to be able to keep up with me. Looks like I’ll still get to have real adventures by myself.  His view: This is dangerous. Why take the risk? I’m cold. There’s a hotel just up the road we can stay in. This experience is not the reason I’m traveling. This is her view of fun? What is wrong with her?!

After some discussion, we ended up staying the night in Saranam Resort as it was the first, and really only, hotel in the area. And oh… my… gosh… it was BEAUTIFUL and luxurious! I’m talking pillowtop mattress, plush robes, a balcony overlooking rice terraces, pool, two restaurants on-site, etc. Full on resort in the middle of nowhere. We lived like a king and queen for the night and soaked up all their amenities, including a fantastic breakfast complete with Western foods that I had been desperately missing.

Saranam Resort and Spa 2

The view from our balcony at Saranam Resort

8/5 – After arriving back in Ubud and settling into our hotel, I began my evening shift of teaching. In the middle of a class, I felt shaking and heard the dishes rattling in our kitchenette. Eh, it’ll stop here shortly like all the others. This time, however, it kept getting stronger and it wasn’t stopping. All of a sudden, I yelled to my student, “Shit, I’m in an earthquake!” and went into full-on panic mode. Since I was teaching out on our balcony, I ran inside, threw my computer on the table, and sprinted outside towards the street. That’s when I realized that I didn’t even think about making sure Anthony got out as well. I think I’ve been single for too long…. Do I go back inside to get him? Is it safer to stay out here? He surely must have felt that even though he was in the upstairs of our hotel room. But what if he’s sleeping? Does he know what to do in an earthquake? After going back to get him, we had a discussion on what we should do if another earthquake happens again. After some quick Google searches, we found out that earthquake hit the next door island of Lombok and was a 7.0.

Ubud LOL Bar

Introducing Anthony to the wonderful world of wine at Ubud’s LOL Bar

We felt numerous aftershocks through the night and well into the next few days. On August 9th, when we were back in Canggu, Lombok was hit again with another earthquake; this time a 6.2.

 

Over the next two weeks, 20+ earthquakes (5.5 or smaller) were felt on the island of Bali. It got to the point that most times I couldn’t tell if I was still feeling aftershocks or if my mind was playing tricks on me so I ended up putting a glass of water on my dresser. If I was feeling shaking, I just looked at the glass of water to see if it was also moving. Due to all these earthquakes/aftershocks, there was some chatter about a threat of a tsunami coming. There’s really not too much you can do to protect yourself from a tsunami when you’re on a small island. After some discussion with my two roommates, we came up with our own evacuation plan —- grab surfboards and attach them to our ankles. Surfboards float and are pretty durable. Never in my life did I think I’d have to have evacuation plans for both earthquakes and tsunamis. My, how my life has changed…. 

8/11 – I had been taking Indonesian classes consistently for about a month at this point. Whenever I interacted with a local, I would try to speak to them in Indonesian for as much as I could before switching over to English. On a few intoxicated nights, I seamlessly spoke in both English and Indonesian to Anthony, only to realize later that he doesn’t understand any Indonesian. Is this the first sign of fluency in a second language?!

8/14 – After two successful trips around Bali, we decided to go on one last trip to make sure traveling together could actually be a reality. We decided to treat ourselves to four days at that REALLY nice resort we stayed in on a whim during the bad rainstorm the previous week. After checking in to our room, Anthony used the bathroom. Soon after, I heard, “Um… shit. SHIT. ” He came out of the bathroom and said, “We’re about to get really close…. everything that I just did in the toilet… is now all over the floor…. DON’T GO OR LOOK IN THERE!”  After laughing for a solid ten minutes, we had maintenance clean up the bathroom while we were upgraded to the business suite. Yep, I think we’ll be just fine traveling together.

The next day we drove two hours to Aling-Aling Waterfall. I was super excited to go there as there were a couple of highly sought-after cliff-jumping spots. In true fashion, Anthony stayed down low to video/photograph me while I gleefully hopped off 5, 10, and 15 meter (16, 32, and 49 feet) high cliffs. On the walk back to our scooters, Anthony said, “You’re the first person I’ve dated with this personality. Like, you talk about doing all these cool and extreme things and then you ACTUALLY do them with no hesitation!”

Aling Aling Waterfall (29)

Scoping out the 15 meter cliff jump!

Aling Aling Waterfall (46)

Aling-Aling Waterfall

8/25 – With Anthony being a big movie buff (he’s seen every movie that has come out in theaters in the last 3 years), we went to a real movie theater to watch Mile 22. The showing that we wanted was already sold out  upon arrival, so the cashier offered us a showing 45 minutes later in their Premier Experience. So for $7 each, we got blankets, comfortable leather recliners, and they only allowed a total of 16 people in the theater. I could get used to this! A movie in a regular theater in the US is at least $10 and that’s if you go to a matinee! After the lights dimmed, the previews started rolling. Only in Indonesia do you watch the trailer before the show starts. Yes, literally the last preview before the movie started was the trailer!

8/28 – I was randomly thinking about my teeth one day. I usually get my teeth cleaned twice a year, but since traveling, I haven’t had a cleaning in 2 years. After getting a recommendation from one of my local friends, I headed to the dentist. My bathroom was bigger than her office. The equipment was from the 70s complete with a spit sink, but it smelled like a dentist office back in the States so I went with it. 30 minutes and $20 USD later (without insurance), my teeth were sparkling clean! I will definitely be back to her next time I’m in Bali.

8/31 – Ooo… this was a rough one… I had a complete mental breakdown day. I wound up at Anthony’s with tears streaming down my face and a racing mind that I couldn’t quiet down. I hate teaching! I feel so burnt out. But if I don’t teach, how will I continue to travel? Anthony and I will now be traveling AND living together. My minimum requirements in accommodation are much lower than his, so how do I find us a place that stays within my budget but that’s he’s happy with? I really need to buy another round of health insurance. Etc. Etc. Basically, I was stressing out about money. Back in the States, I had always kept to a strict budget while still being able to put money away into savings after each paycheck. I knew exactly how much was coming in and how much I was spending. But with traveling and teaching, a) you don’t entirely know your budget before entering a country and b) students can cancel class up to a minute before which causes me to lose out on money I had already anticipated getting. Even though I open my hours up for 40 hours per week, it greatly varies on how much I actually teach. If I don’t teach a class due to a cancellation or the slot not getting filled, then I don’t get paid for it. It’s even worse than an hourly job because at least with hourly, you are essentially guaranteed those hours for the shift that is assigned to you. I’m really just living paycheck to paycheck at this point and I have NEVER done that in my life. You can do research up to your ears, but you still don’t have an exact understanding of what just basic items cost such as water, local food, transportation, etc. So I was majorly stressing out as Anthony and I were headed to Hong Kong for a week and then off to Taiwan. A few days after he talked me down off the ledge, I was able to come to some conclusions:

Being a digital nomad doesn’t mean you work less… it really just means you can work from anywhere in the world. You’re able to live in some of the most exotic places that other people only get to experience during a short five-day vacation. You get the chance to live like a local and really immerse yourself into the culture rather than just be a tourist. Teaching English is definitely not something I want to do for the rest of my life, but it’s what allows me to continue to travel the world right now.

While I’ll definitely miss Bali, I’m excited to explore new cultures and countries again. A little piece of me, rather a LARGE piece, is sad that I can’t say I’m solo traveling anymore. I love the look/reaction I get when locals/other travelers find out I’m traveling by myself, especially as a female. It’s that look of utter disbelief mixed with respect that I crave. I also like being able to do what I want, when I want, without having to take other people into consideration. Since Anthony and I started making plans to travel together, I’ve had numerous conversations with Barb about this internal struggle. The best advice she gave me was, “You’ve never traveled with a significant other before. Maybe you’ll enjoy it even more than solo travel.”

I guess we’ll find out soon enough…

Kuta Sky Garden 2

Girls’ night with Haley at Sky Garden

Uluwatu Balangan Beach 3

Trying to catch the sunset from Balangan Beach in Uluwatu

Uluwatu Nyang Nyang Beach 6

Mini hike down to Nyang Nyang Beach

Uluwatu Nyang Nyang Beach 12

Nyang Nyang Beach

Canggu X Bar 7

My last night out in Canggu was spent with this wonderful lady and housemate, Layla

Nine Months of Solo Travel

Woo hoo! It’s been nine months since I started out on this solo travel adventure! I swear I just wrote a post about crossing the eight month mark. Time is absolutely flying by. I’ve now been living in Bali for 77 days!

I have enrolled in Indonesian language classes to further my understanding and speaking of the local language. Even though majority of the locals here can speak English, I find I get more respect and better prices when I attempt to speak Bahasa Indonesian. Plus, I can relate to my students on a whole new level now! On the first day, my teacher commented that I have a Jakarta accent which would totally make sense. My Bali boys taught me the basics so I just mimicked their pronunciation and one of them is from Jakarta. Jakarta is on the neighboring island of Java.

After some contemplation, I have decided to take a short break from updating this blog. Not only am I super busy with work, activities, and friends, but I’ve also settled into a daily life routine where I find myself writing about the same things week after week.

I’m nowhere close to being done traveling and will resume this blog in the near future.

Canggu X Bar 2

Layla and I at our favorite spot, X Bar.

Kuta Sky Garden

Getting down with some locals at Sky Garden

 

60 Days in Bali

What a whirlwind these last two weeks have been! So much has happened that I couldn’t even find time to write a post last week. Ok, let’s see if I can remember all the highlights…

It’s been fun to watch the World Cup matches as there are always citizens from both countries in attendance. PSA: French and English fans are absolutely NUTS, especially when they score.

Canggu Old Man's

Brazil vs. Mexio at Old Man’s

On Friday, June 30, I was hired on by Hujiang and offered the highest possible starting rate! Hujiang is a digital company that teaches daily and business English to Chinese adults through an audio only platform. After having a big night out celebrating this awesome accomplishment, I got to work on completing the nine modules of training. Rather than the free flowing conversations on Cambly, I will need to stick to the provided Powerpoint teaching materials. I will be responsible for getting through all the slides in each 25 minute class, providing feedback to each student within 4 hours of their lesson, and conducting skills tests to determine if students can move on to the next level.  I plan to work on Cambly in the mornings and Hujiang in the evenings until I build up a solid student base and can transition completely over to Hujiang.

Another work related accomplishment – This week I opened up my schedule for 30 hours on Cambly and I was booked with students for 25.5 of those hours which is my highest reservations to random students ratio so far. Also, my rating improved from 4.91 to 4.92 out of 5! I am the highest rated teacher on Cambly with over 1,000 chat sessions completed. This is so awesome! Especially since I came into this industry with zero experience. 

Starting the night of Sunday, July 1, Mount Agung, the volcano located on this island about 70km (43 miles) away from me, erupted six times within a 24 hour period. The most significant one lasted seven and a half minutes. It caused lava to overflow out of the crater which made all the trees and other vegetation catch on fire. Several thousand people were evacuated. This is the most active this volcano has been since the devastating eruption of 1963. We’ve since had multiple eruptions on a daily basis. There has already been three today and it’s not even 1pm here.

Bali Agung Volcano

View of the vegetation catching on fire at Mount Agung

On Tuesday, July 3, we had an earthquake of 4.3 magnitude. It shook my house and rattled the windows in the middle of a student session. “Woah! Jack, could you hear that?! That was just an earthquake!” What’s next? A tsunami?!

Thursday, July 5, marked my 60th day in Bali for this stint. I feel like I just arrived here! Is it really already the beginning of July?! As my visa expired, I had to do my first ever visa run. A visa run is where you leave the country for a certain amount of time so that you can start a new visa upon arrival back. Luckily for me, Indonesia doesn’t have a minimum amount of time you need to be gone from the country. As soon as you cross the border, you can come right back in. So I hopped on a flight at 1:35pm, arrived in Kuala Lumpr at 4pm, chilled in the airport for a few hours, and caught my return flight back to Bali at 9:55pm. $124 for the roundtrip flight, $35 for an extendable 30 day visa, 15 hours total out of my day… but I’m able to stay in Bali for another 60 days! Yeah buddy!

When you arrive in Bali’s airport, the taxi drivers swarm you like koi fish at the zoo when visitors drop crackers down. “Miss! Miss! Where you go? You need transport? Cheap price for you!” This time, all it took was me saying, “Nope, I live here” while flashing my scooter key and then I was like garbage that had been basking in the sun for a week. They all dispersed and went to claim their next victim, I mean, passenger.

Speaking of living here, Dude, I freaking live in Bali!, I’ve been getting more and more involved in the community. I take the newbies under my wings and show them the ropes. Ana and I now moderate the weekly lunch meet up for digital nomad girls.  Piggy-backing off Eat, Pray, Love putting Bali on the map, Ana created a group chat for our friends called Eat, Play, Drink. Everyday we find something to do that falls into one of those three categories. This takes me back to my social coordinator internship days on Chicago’s Navy base. 

I felt a sense of community before, but it’s an even stronger feeling now. I feel like I’ve made a name for myself here and it’s been quite some time since I’ve had that feeling. About 10 years to be exact… back to my college soccer days. It’s like a “big man on campus” feeling. For example, I’ve been invited into this elite secret bars group. To access one of these hush hush spots, you walk into a convenience store and one specific refrigerator door is actually the entrance to their secret bar.  Like… whaattttt?! This place will definitely be hard to leave… if I ever do…

Canggu Mocca Cafe (2)

Weekly lunch at Mocca cafe

Canggu Bahn Mi

Ana and I enjoying a delicious banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich)

Canggu X Bar

Another eventful night at X Bar… literally a tiki hut on the sidewalk

You Can Find Me Watching the World Cup

The World Cup has officially taken over my life! Old Mans, one of the bars in town, live streams every game with their giant projector screen on their massive patio overlooking the ocean. Since the US didn’t qualify, I chose Brazil to be my team for this year.  On Sunday night/Monday morning I watched Brazil vs Switzerland which started at 2am. I woke up at 1:30am to head into town, got home at 4:15am, and had to teach for 5 hours straight starting at 7am… I could barely keep my eyes open during the sessions. For the rest of the week, I only watched the 8pm games because I didn’t think I could teach after another sleepless night.

In case you haven’t tuned in, here are some highlights – Argentina (Messi) won’t make it past group play, Mexico upset Germany, Japan was the first ever Asian country to beat a South American country (Colombia) in a World Cup match, Neymar is a crybaby and would rather fall in hopes of getting foul than stay on his feet to score a goal, Brazil plays emotional, and there have been some SIIICCCKKKK set piece goals (Ronaldo, Kroos, Golovin).

I had a few instances this week that made me really feel that I’m at home. My laundry ladies now remember my name and don’t make me prepay. Just about every time I’m in town, I run into someone I know. Even when I’m driving I hear, “LAURA!!!!” from the sidewalk. While I love experiencing new countries and cultures, it’s been nice to have a sense of community here.

I didn’t make any progress on my videos this week, but hopefully these pictures of beach volleyball will tide you over until next time!

Canggu Community Volleyball (2)

Canggu Community Volleyball (4)

I mean… I really have no fighting chance here against Paul.

Canggu Community Volleyball (1)

Not captured: my awesome diving save seconds before this

Canggu Community Volleyball (3)

Jumping in the sand is HARD.

 

8 Months of Living My Best Life

Remember how productive Layla and I were regarding our list last week? Well…. this week, we only completed one item – eat at a new warung. Yes, we did cross this one off last week, but we tried three different warungs on the beach 500m from our house this week. All three turned out to be delicious and came with free use of their beach chairs!

I had two big milestones this week.  On Tuesday, June 12, I completed my 1,000th chat on Cambly. When I sit down to think about it, it’s quite a large number! During one of these chats, I was interviewed by a lady in advertising/marketing about what questions are inappropriate to ask a tutor. She will be compiling multiple answers and will create a promotion video targeted towards new students.

My second milestone of the week was Wednesday, June 13, marked eight months on the road for my solo traveling journey. What’s next you ask? I have decided to stay in Bali until the end of August and just enjoy living in my favorite place. I’ve met some really awesome people; I get to play soccer and volleyball on a regular basis; the weather is almost a perfect 80 degrees daily. What more could I want?!

I was able to get another video made this week: The Philippines

Canggu Sunset 1

Sunset view over the rice fields from my house

New Things

I started the process of extending my visa two and a half weeks ago. I could have completed the visa extension on my own for 350,00 IDR ($25.11 USD), but it would have required me to drive an hour down to Nusa Dua three separate times and to navigate the immigration office which is primarily in Bahasa Indonesian. Instead, I hired a visa agent to handle everything for 650,000 IDR ($46.64 USD). On Monday afternoon, I headed down to Nusa Dua to get fingerprinted for the visa extension. My visa agent had arrived a few hours earlier to wait in line for me so that by the time I arrived, I only had to wait 10 minutes in the line. I was in and out of there within 15 minutes which was awesome! Other foreigners who took on the process by themselves had been in line for over two hours. WELL worth the money spent on the agent! How has it already been 30 days?! I feel like I just arrived here yesterday!

Last Sunday Layla and I created a Fun Things To Do checklist because during the week we talk about different things we should check out, yet we find ourselves doing the same things – eating at the same few restaurants, going out to the same bars, lounging around the same beach, etc. So for this week, we decided to check some items off. Some were a success, while others were total letdowns.

Item #1: Play pool at a different location. We’ve been playing some games of pool the last few weeks and our running tally is split even. We were pretty excited to try out a new place Tuesday night that we had seen from the road a few times. Upon arrival, we found out it was actually a billiards table. FAIL.

Item #2: Find a place to play soccer. This item was solely for me as Layla doesn’t play any sports. I’d seen some locals playing soccer on a nearby field on the nights when I was driving back from volleyball. There seemed to be three different groups that would rotate using the field throughout the five weeknights. After some stalking, I’d pinpointed which group I wanted to play with.

On Wednesday, I headed out to the field which was super nice for Indonesian standards – grass field, 11v11 sized, pennies, one ref, and LIGHTS. When I got there, I told one of the guys if they needed an extra player, I would love to play. “Um, yeah, maybe”, he replied as he sized me up. “Cool, I’ll just sit over here and you let me know.” After talking with some of his buddies, he came over and told me I could play with them. In the beginning of the game, they didn’t pass me the ball once. They don’t think I can play…that’s fine. You boys just wait. My team was awarded a PK and since we were already ahead by two, they offered to let me take it. They’re just being nice. Oh, this is going to be good! In true fashion, I placed the ball in the lower left hand corner which the goalie was unable to stop. I turned around with a big smile and all their faces were in complete shock. “Bagus! Bagus!” my teammates said which means Good! Good! After that, they frequently played the ball to me for the rest of the game. At the end, the few who could speak decent English approached me. “Wow. You have good skills! You should play with us tomorrow?!” And that’s exactly what I did! I haven’t played since I was back in Colorado this fall and it feels good to get back into it. I just need to get my legs back into soccer shape… I could barely walk on Friday after back to back nights of playing.

Item #3: Eat at a new warung. A warung is a local restaurant that usually seats between 5-20 people. On Thursday, Layla and I drove around scoping out new warungs. For lunch, we ate on the beach and for dinner we settled on Padi Padi Cafe which both turned out to be complete fails. The portion sizes were tiny… I’m used to Asian serving sizes, but these were on a whole new level. For lunch, I was given a single piece of bread for my mango guacamole – mango yogurt mixed with avocado… interesting combination. For dinner, the single piece of fish from my Fish and Chips order was smaller than my palm.  Lesson learned: stick to our few rotating restaurants.

Items #4: Spend a day in Uluwatu, the southwestern section of Bali. Uluwatu temple is a highly regarded Hindu temple so we drove down in time to catch the sunset. The area was supposed to be beautiful and the temple magnificent. When we arrived, there were easily 100 tourist buses and 300 cars and scooters. Ok! I’m excited! This is going to be awesome! After paying the $2 entry fee and putting on sarongs to be compliant with the dress code, we headed in only to be greeted by an abundance of monkeys. I absolutely hate the monkeys  here. They bite/scratch people; they can turn aggressive; they’ll snatch anything in sight; they’re just gross. Not exactly the welcoming committee I had envisioned. Then we found the actual temple which was tiny and we were only allowed to see it from a distance. This it it?! This is what everybody talks so highly about? What’s so great about it? I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of beautiful places and temples during my travels, but this was definitely not one of them. I still don’t get what the hype was all about. Maybe my expectations are really high for something to blow me away these days. Either way, Uluwatu temple is not a place I would recommend.

Uluwatu Temple (2)

See the triangle shapes on the edge of the cliff? Yep, that’s Uluwatu temple.

We stayed the night down in Uluwatu which felt a bit like a vacation. The excitement of heading out of town on Friday after work….  Did I just take a mini vacation from an already long-term vacation? We woke up bright and early Saturday morning which probably had something to do with our electricity being out since 2am. No running water, no charging of electronics, no air-con… might as well get on with our day.

Remember back in January 2017 when I tried to see Nyang Nyang Beach, but turned around because I was too scared about getting lost in the cliff-side forest???? I decided during this trip to Bali I would revisit it. This time, I brought Layla along and we successfully made it down to the secluded beach! It was a bit more developed than last time as they cut a wide path through the cliff which looks like cars will eventually be able to drive down. There was also a sign off the main road advertising the beach so I’m guessing within the next year or two, Nyang Nyang Beach will no longer be a hidden gem. Luckily for us, it’s still pretty unknown because we only saw four other people during our three hours there. It was so beautiful, quiet, and relaxing which was just what Layla needed after her stressful week of work.

Nyang Nyang Beach 1

Now THAT is a beautiful sight.

Nyang Nyang Beach was the fifth item we checked off this week. We had planned to check one or two items off each week during our time left here, but we were a bit aggressive with the list this week so we may need to add to it. It was nice to get out of our routine and check out new things. I’m realizing it’s a bit different to work while traveling as I can’t just fly by the seat of my pants. It takes some of the spontaneity out of it because I have certain hours I’m committed to working and I have to have a certain internet speed and quiet background that not all places offer.  I feel like my day to day life isn’t as interesting or exciting as before. While I’m adjusting to this different way of traveling, I definitely feel privileged to be able to call Bali my home for the time being.

Good Deeds

The owner of the house that I’m renting also has a warung (local restaurant) at the start of our lane. I eat there at least once a day, if not for both of my meals. While I was eating lunch on Tuesday, she kindly informed me they would be closed for the next two days for Galungan, a national holiday. Even after she tried to explain it to me twice, I still don’t understand the national holiday. All I know is that they spent their time in the temples and dancing in the street to music.

“Wait, how am I going to eat? You feed me everyday!”

“And your maid not come two days.”

So this means I have to cook and clean for myself for 48 hours?! I don’t know if I can handle that kind of lifestyle again. I hurried to the grocery store to grab some ingredients to tide me over. Turns out, I wasn’t the only foreigner scrambling to pick up some food before most of the island shut down. The staff could barely restock the shelves before we cleared them out.

After working on Friday, I headed into town to buy some jewelry. When I stopped for gas, the girl in front of me asked where she could buy a sim card. I told her there were plenty of shops on the main road in town that would sell them. “And… where is town?”, she asked. I told her I was heading there and that she should just follow me. After getting back on the road, I noticed she wasn’t driving more than 15 kmph (9 mph) and she looked terrified. This is going to take FOREVER! I quickly pulled over and asked if she wanted to hop on the back of my scooter. “Yes! This is my first time solo traveling and first time on a scooter.” I spent the next two hours helping her exchange money, buy a sim card, and shop for some clothes. How she even made it up to Canggu on her own is a miracle. 

That night I went out with some friends and what a night that turned out to be! After saying goodbye to Layla as she was the first to head back home, I noticed a commotion by her Go-Jek driver (Go-Jek is the Indonesian version of Uber). When I got to them, Layla informed me the local taxi drivers were threatening to hurt her Go-Jek driver if she got on the back of his motorbike. I’d heard stories of Go-Jek and Uber drivers getting beat up by the local taxi drivers before but never witnessed it. After realizing they were serious (no wonder these taxi drivers are referred to as the mafia), Layla and I rode four deep on a scooter to an area where the mafia didn’t have control over. How in the world did we fit four Westerns on one scooter?!

Once Layla was picked up by a different Go-Jek, Linda decided it was time for her to go home as well. While waiting for a friend to come walk her home, a drunk guy from New Zealand crashed his scooter in front of us. I helped the guy up off the road while Jay pushed the scooter into the convenience store parking lot. Not realizing the scooter was still running, his hand slipped on the accelerator which caused it to pop a wheelie while moving…. and hit Linda in the face. Her eye and cheekbone were instantly swollen so after taking the keys out of the ignition, I ran into the store to grab some ice. After quizzing Linda’s friend on his ability to safely walk her home and keep ice on her face, I made the New Zealand dude drink water to sober up… while I sat with the locals drinking arak, the local home-brewed alcohol. Am I really the best person right now to decide when he should get his keys back? Did I just go into “Mom mode”? Once I was ready to go home and my ride had arrived, I gave the dude his keys back and told him to wait 10 minutes before driving as I didn’t want to be on the road at the same time as him.

While I was eating dinner Sunday evening, I noticed a girl walk past on the dark road with just her cell phone. That’s an odd sight this late at night. A few minutes later, she walked by again, a bit frazzled, and asked me if I knew how to get to Hideout Hostel. I gave her directions and then quickly asked if she just wanted me to drive her there since the road wasn’t lit and there weren’t any sidewalks. “Oh my gosh! That would be amazing! I’ve been walking for over an hour trying to get back to my hostel.”

In reflecting on this week’s good deeds, I think it was just my time to give some good karma back into the world after some of my own experiences – when the two guys in the Philippines helped to fix my flat tire on the remote road, getting my wallet back in Kuta with all my money still inside, the stranger in Malaysia that gave Kuzain, Kuzac, and I a ride back into Penang when no Ubers, taxis, or buses were available from Frog Hill, etc.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… There are more good people in this world than bad and the world is much safer than we think.

Annapurna Sanctuary - Day 4 Deorali 9

Flashback picture to Nepal. Catherine and I with Bastian, the French dude whose 14 person tour group adopted me into their family for a few days while on the ABC trek.