This week, I just traveled to my nation’s capital for the very first time. Despite traversing most of East Asia, I have yet to explore much of my own country–in fact, my trip to DC was only the second time in my entire life I set foot on the East Coast.
Although I was only there a mere five days, I have to say that I enjoyed the city immensely… and here’s why:
- The architecture
The West Coast is ugly. I’m sorry, it’s the truth. Much of the American west looks post-apocalyptic with its vast swaths of deserts, strip malls, and architecture that makes a Soviet commune look beautiful. There are few, if any places in the west where one can take a city stroll and honestly say it’s charming.
Years ago, my boyfriend (now fiancee) approached me and said: “Let’s go to Costa Rica in December 2016.”
Knowing absolutely nothing about the country, I said “Sure. Why not.”
Since boyfriend planned our previous trip, he said Costa Rica planning was up to me.
As I mentioned before, I knew jack shit about Costa Rica. To be perfectly honest–I had to look the country up on Google Maps.
Where does one go in Costa Rica? How do we get there? How do we get around? Do we rent a car? Can we drink the local tap water? What’s worth seeing, what’s not? How’s the weather?
In high school, I worked at the only Chinese restaurant in my very humble town called “Hunan Village.” I neither knew what, or where, Hunan was at the time.
Fast forward six years later, and I meet the inspiration for my foray into China: a man named Chen. Through our friendship, he inspired me to not only self-study Mandarin in Japan, but also to study abroad in Beijing and later take the plunge and move to Shanghai. Honestly, without Chen, China wouldn’t even be a part of my life.
J and I were descending one of China’s greatest treasures: the National Park of Zhangjiajie.
Every corner we rounded presented us with a new jaw-dropping landscape of carved sandstone valleys poking through a sea of lush green trees. J and I took a deep breath, inhaled the clean air of the countryside and lost ourselves in the sea of clouds swirling in between the mountains.
That is, until Avicii arrived. You know, the Swedish DJ. The Chinese tourist who came bouncing down the trail behind us was blasting him full volume from his iPhone speaker.
How in God’s Name did I hear about this virtually unknown trail, the Kumano Kodo?
Well, I first stumbled upon this off-the-beaten-path pilgrimage when I worked for the Japanese government and found this photo on a pamphlet:
Something about it captivated me. Maybe it was the bizarre costume/pilgrimage outfit that is so ancient, even my knowledge from four years of Japanese language and culture classes left me in the dark. Perhaps the fact that it was one of only two UNESCO recognized pilgrimages in the world appealed to me, and I was dying to check ‘pilgrimage’ off the bucket list.
I stepped off the train platform at Takamatsu station, awash in nostalgia. Five years ago I found myself at this very same bus and train station housed in the city’s harbor. I was struck first by the smell of crisp and raw ocean air washing over me. The brilliant blue sky reflected the ocean surrounding the island. Unlike the streets of Tokyo, the people here walked at a slower pace, a smile on their face, with a peaceful calm floating over the city.
I was so grateful to return to one of Japan’s most charming small cities: Takamatsu.
So, my life has been flipped upside down. I am now kinda, sorta, living in Northern California.
A month prior to my Asia trip, my boyfriend told me he wanted to take a job offer in Northern California. Although I’m kind of itching to get out of California, we both knew that taking this job was the right thing to do.
So when you get back from Japan and China, boyfriend said, we’re moving up North.
And… here I am. North of San Francisco in a place I never, ever expected to find myself in.
I woke up to cloudy skies. I wanted sunshine for my final day here, but I knew a clear day was a rare blessing in Shanghai. The weather reflected the feelings in my heart: uncertainty, haziness, fear.
I walked out of Z’s room to find she was already in the living room, staring out into the sea of Shanghai’s skyscrapers from her 25th floor window. Her apartment wasn’t big, but it was cozy. My suitcases were lined up neatly near the door, my entire life packed into two large bags and one carry on. My heart winced as I looked at them.
Way back in January, my boyfriend surprised me with a lovely present: a cruise vacation.
Richard loves cruises. Whenever I get my new issue of Travel & Leisure in the mail, he skips all of the articles and looks at the cruise ads. He’s already sailed on dozens of cruises from countless lines on various continents.
So it was no surprise that this cruise fiend was hellbent on taking me on a cruise.
Between his 100 hour work weeks and my limited vacation time, we were only able to go on a three day cruise to Ensenada, Mexico. It wasn’t my dream destination, but I was happy to get out of the house, go somewhere new and finally get some nice R&R time with my lovely boyfriend.