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Happy Holidays from Utah

Happy Holidays from Utah

Happy Holidays from Utah! Like I do almost every year, I’m spending Christmas and New Years in my home state of Utah, where I usually share a plate of turkey with my small family of four (plus husband). Unlike previous years, however, there is a big difference in 2020.

I didn’t just fly in for the holidays. I have been in Utah for the last four months — almost half a year.

The Full Wrath of 2020

At least I have a cat to cheer me up in Utah

Saying that 2020 sucked is an understatement. Similar to many others out there, I was also hit by a storm of misfortune. Most notably, the decline in my father’s health in spring 2020. read more

3 Day Itinerary for a Yellowstone National Park Trip (with some tips and tricks)

3 Day Itinerary for a Yellowstone National Park Trip (with some tips and tricks)

Despite living in Utah for 22 years of my life, I had never once visited Yellowstone National Park.  So when all of my bridesmaids (minus one) flew in from China and Japan to be in my Utah wedding, I wanted to treat them to something special post-ceremony: a three day trip to Yellowstone National Park.

I won’t lie.  It was extremely stressful to plan both a wedding and a Yellowstone trip.  A mere day after my wedding, I hauled three Chinese and Japanese girls into an SUV and drove five hours to Wyoming.  It was a whirlwind, but I also knew that having all of my Asia friends in Utah was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.  If we were going to do Yellowstone, it was now or never.  (For more logistical tips and tricks, scroll to the bottom)

Our trip was an absolute success.  Here are the hot spots we visited on our short, but wonderful journey:

Day 1: Mammoth Hot Springs & Lamar Valley

Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone
It’s hotter than it looks
Looks like another planet!

Going to Mammoth Hot Springs felt like stepping into an alien world.  You can physically feel the heat of the bubbling hot springs, hear the roar of the waters and..

“Oh god,” Jean held her nose.  “What’s that smell?”

“Euch,” Z gagged.  “It smells like rotten eggs!”

“Oh my god!” I faced Tohko.  “That sulphuric smell reminds me of an onsen (Japanese hot spring)!  This makes me want to hop in!”

“You’re right!” Tohko jumped toward me and grabbed my hand.  “This smell.. ahhh… it makes me want to dip in a hot spring and eat onsen-tamago” (eggs boiled in an onsen).

Z looked at us, horrified.

“You Japanese people–I’ll never get it.”

Cool rock formations made from the hot springs

Afterwards we went to =&0=& approximately one hour away from Mammoth Hot Spring.  The tourist office said that it was a great spot to see wildlife, but when we got there we just saw more Bison.  If you camp out all day (like some photographers did) you might see some wolves… but yeah.  We were happy photographing the bison and called it a day.

Wildlife refuge in Yellowstone
River near the refuge

Yellowstone Bison
So many bison!
We’re obviously way too excited to see bison

Day 2: Artist’s Point (Grand Canyon of Yellowstone) & Yellowstone Lake

I won’t say much about Artist Point (also aptly named ‘the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone’), because the photos do all the talking.  It was my favorite spot in the whole park and, honestly, it really does feel like you’re in a painting.  We did a few trails that gave us both a high and low vantage point of the falls.

Artist Point Yellowstone, Grand Canyon Yellowstone
Gorgeous or what?
Nothing says “tourist” more than matching t-shirts

Yellowstone Artist Point Observation Deck
Hiking down to the observation deck
Up close and personal with the waterfall

“Look at this view!” Tohko pointed to the waterfall as we stood on the observation deck.  “It’s so beautiful… it makes me want to do Acro yoga!”

“Do what?” I repeated, thinking I misheard.

“Acro yoga!  Feel that fresh air, hear that water, look at the view–come on, we just gotta do it–it will make this even more unforgettable!  Come over here Mary, I’ll lift you.”

“No way!” I jumped back.  “I’m too fat, I’ll fall over on you.”

“I’ll do it!” Jean raised her hand.  “I’ve never done it, and I’m scared shitless, but it will make a great photo!”

“Oh my god,” I put my face into my palms, embarrassed. “I can’t believe we’re doing acro yoga here…”

It was a bit weird and drew quite the crowd, but I must admit that Tohko was right: it made the moment even more unforgettable.

Yellowstone acroyoga
I think Jean’s face says it all here

Later we did a hike nearby Yellowstone Lake, in bear country.  When we realized we were the only ones on the trail (and we heard constant rustling around us), we were spooked.  Nearby signs told us to make noise so the bears would stay away, so Tohko taught us a Japanese song about bears and we chanted it the whole hike.  We laughed nervously while walking out of the park, singing the Japanese bear song, scared shitless that a bear would pop out at any moment.

So yeah, rent some bear spray.  Don’t be stupid like us.

Relaxing at the lake

Singing to stave off the bears

Day 3: Old Faithful, Lower Geyser Basin and Old Faithful Lodge read more

Why 2017 Was the Craziest Year of My Life… With a 2018 Surprise

Why 2017 Was the Craziest Year of My Life… With a 2018 Surprise

I just have to say that 2017 was undoubtedly the craziest, yet also most unforgettable, year of my life.

My aunt told me that I had more life events happen in 2017 than people have in their entire lifetime.  She’s totally right, because…

I Had Lots of Big Life Events…

Getting married on a mountain… no big deal

In 2017, I planned and executed a wedding while concurrently completing an intensive graduate degree in international relations.

Graduate school, as I mentioned, was really hard but worth every penny.  Learning about international relations changed my life for the better, and now I suddenly see the whole world with a new lens.  I don’t regret grad school one bit.

Planning a wedding while going to graduate school, on the other hand, really sucked.  I not only had a strict budget to stick to, but I also had to coordinate a Utah wedding from California.  Yet thanks to my friends, family, husband and the best maid of honor a woman could ever ask for (shout out to you, H!), I survived my wedding.

I had my perfect dream wedding.  I got married in the mountains of my home state with the man I love.  I couldn’t ask for more.

Some of my favorite bloggers (Marta and Learn to Love Anywhere) were even more hardcore than me and coordinated two weddings on two continents (and with no complaints)!  Autumn of East Dates West had not one, but ALL of her groomsmen drop out of the wedding!  Props to you girls–and here I thought my wedding was tough!

….Lots of Moving….

Summer in Utah
Newport Beach for Thanksgiving
Fall in Minnesota
…and winter in Portland.

In addition to marriage and grad school, in 2017 I moved a total of ten times.  From Socal, to Norcal, back to Socal, to Salt Lake City, then Minnesota, San Francisco, and now Portland–I’ve been goddamn everywhere.  Honestly, looking at my suitcase makes me feel physically ill.

My husband thought taking short-term contracts around the country would give me flexibility to look for a job anywhere in the USA.  I thought it was a great idea, but in the end, our nomadic lifestyle put an immense amount of strain on our well-being.

In 2017, I realized just how important it is to have a home and some sense of stability.  I never thought I’d say this (especially since my blog is called the Ruby Ronin ((wanderer)) but; dear, god, I just want to settle down.

…insane amounts of traveling..

Hello Nagasaki, Japan!
Now I’m back in L.A.!?
Now we’re in Vietnam!? Wha?

In addition to visiting way too many cities and states in the USA (Minnesota, Washington DC, San Diego, Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Portland), I also went on many trips abroad.

I thought I would have few opportunities to travel after leaving Asia.

Oh, how wrong I was.

This year alone I went to Ireland, Japan, Vietnam and China–with the last three vacations happening in the span of one month!  I’ve already written up some posts about my journey through Northern Ireland and Northwest Ireland, but more posts will follow chronicling our trips to Kyushu, Hanoi and Saigon.

…as well as many interviews on the road…

…I even had one interview in Utah at H’s house, with her cat providing moral support

As I moved and traveled around the USA and world, I was also looking for a job.

I conducted an interview over Skype in a hotel in Fukuoka City, Japan.  I completed another interview in Ho Chi Minh, City, Vietnam.  Another interview was done mere hours after my landing in the USA from Vietnam.  Two interviews were done in hotel rooms on the road.

If I have advice to anyone job hunting, it’s this:

Don’t travel (too much) while you’re job hunting

It was REALLY stressful to coordinate across different time zones, find a stable connection, and most of all secure a quiet place to conduct the interview.  There were at least three instances where I spent money in Japan and Vietnam to book my own private hotel room to execute a Skype interview.

Don’t do what I did.  Stay in one place when you’re job hunting.  It helps… a lot.

Which, Finally, Leads to My Big Surprise of 2018

I’m pregnant.

 

 

 

Just kidding!  But believe me, this news is almost as shock inducing…

 

 

….I’m moving to Texas.

You know that platitude about “you never know where life will take you”?

Well, holy hell, coming back from China I could not even imagine that I would move halfway around the USA and end up in Texas.  None.  At.  All.

Although I experienced some inner turmoil with the decision to take the Texas job, I went with it.  I won’t go into details, but I will be working for a huge private firm in their Japanese business department.

Texas was definitely not high on my ‘places to live’ list, but I’m trying to be positive with the move.  I think Texas will pleasantly surprise me and give me a kick start to a new beginning in 2018.

More than anything–after all these months of being a nomad–I’m particularly looking forward to one life change in particular:

Having a permanent home.

Happy New Year Everyone!  明けましておめでとうございます!新年快乐! read more

Merry Christmas from Salt Lake City!

Merry Christmas from Salt Lake City!

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For the first time in five years, I’m spending Christmas at home.   I’m not flying in on a 13 hour flight from Tokyo or Shanghai.  I’m not spending Christmas in China and Lunar New Years in the states.  I’m actually home during the holidays, and it’s a wonderful feeling.

I flew into Salt Lake City on Christmas eve and was greeted to a white blanket of snow on Christmas morning.  It was the perfect Christmas present to my morning.

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Although I’m spending the holidays in the United States, the month of December hasn’t felt much like Christmas because of Los Angeles.

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Brrrr…?

Los Angeles is 75 degrees and sunny everyday, and I’ve been wearing the same jeans and t-shirt since August.  Until my trip to Utah for the holidays, my coat was still packed up in my suitcase from Shanghai.

Surprisingly, I miss bundling myself up in a coat, mittens, scarf and boots.  I like feeling the cold against my face and the crunch of snow beneath my feet.  I like having seasons.

I guess for me, Christmas is about taking the coat out of the closet.  It’s about escaping the cold with a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate inside.  It’s looking outside at the snow and feeling the serenity of winter’s silence.

Honestly, it didn’t feel like Christmas until I stepped into Utah.  It made me wonder if people in Southern California have a difference perception of Christmas compared to others?

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Yup. Mid-December in Los Angeles

My family is but a small group of four.  We only have each other here in Salt Lake City, but sometimes that’s all you need.  I spent my Christmas day much like I spent it when I was eight years old–in my pajamas, opening presents, eating, and watching movies and playing games.

Although celebrating the holidays in Utah has been amazing, I miss my “Shanghai family.”  I used to feel very lonely and isolated when spending Christmas in Asia, but last year I had assembled such a close and wonderful cast of friends, I found myself with another family outside of the United States.  At my humble apartment in Shanghai last year, I had a room full of Italians, Russians, Japanese, Chinese, Americans–it was a smorgasbord of cultures all convening together for one purpose: to enjoy Christmas together.

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That’s the worst part about being an international traveler, an ex-pat, a wanderer.  You leave a piece of your heart wherever you go, and you constantly feel the pain of that empty space full of the memories of your loved ones, of the family you made in that land far away.

To my Shanghai family, to my Japan family, and to everyone all around the world–Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

And last but definitely not least: Happy Anniversary to my lovely boyfriend.  Today marks our one year together and I couldn’t be happier.  Although he’s slaving away on Christmas and this entire week, he has been my new family and life here in the United States.  Thank you for helping me keep my sanity in Los Angeles, for listening to me complain about work and SoCal traffic, and for being the wonderful, kind, caring, and hard-working boyfriend you are.  I’m lucky to have you, and here’s to many, many more years together.

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