Tag Archives: usa

Journey to the east!!

In just about another week, our travels are about to start up again! On May 4, we leave Durham, North Carolina, where we’ve lived for the past eight months, and on May 7, we board a flight for Taiwan once more. To our immense delight, I found a very promising summer internship in Taichung, Taiwan, for a national social service organization. That means Steve and I are gearing up for another few whirlwind months of travel in Asia!!

This summer is going to be quite a different animal from our World Tour, which occupied us for eleven months and almost as many countries. I have a ten-week internship which will keep me largely occupied in Taichung. On the other hand, as a part of my internship, I will be visiting local branches and sites across the island for a few weeks. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to check out different cities and towns in this way, maybe some places we’ve been, but maybe some new and different places too! In late July, we’ll have a few weeks to spend in our favorite places (probably Kaohsiung and Taipei) before flying to Hong Kong for nearly a week in early August, and then it’s back to the States.

I hope to spend some time blogging about the new challenges of traveling and living in Taichung. It seems again a different city from Taipei, which is large and metropolitan, Tainan, which is picturesque and historical, and Kaohsiung, which was industrial but has now reinvented itself as a very livable place and the center of southern Taiwan. From what we’ve gleaned, Taichung is more industrial and gritty, and we look forward to trying it out. Working for an organization is going to be much different than just traveling around Taiwan as well. I’m looking forward to working with the youth capacity-building program at this organization, which should really be pretty interesting. I anticipate the language and cultural barriers to be the most imposing part. While I have pretty much full conversational fluency in Mandarin, I do fall apart and splutter when faced with the challenges of technical and professional language. How do I even talk about policy analysis in Chinese? What are the vocabulary words? I barely remember the words for microeconomics and statistics! It’s going to be a challenge, to say the least.

Meanwhile, Steve and I are preparing the apartment for our subletter, starting to pack away the things we need, and oh, yes, I am also finishing my finals for spring semester. It’s going to be a busy few weeks and a very busy summer! Stay tuned for more details.


A Trip to the Southern Caribbean, Part I.

Your brave circumnavacators have been taking a long, lengthy break in the lovely town of Durham, North Carolina, working on graduate school and being a good dog owner and creating mobile apps. But I came back to traveling this winter with a new partner this time: my mother! As it turns out, traveling is still a lot of fun and filled with new things, so I’ve written a few posts about the week-long cruise we took to the islands of St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Maarten.

All aboard the cruise ship!

We departed last Sunday evening from the lovely city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Most Caribbean cruises can leave from the Gulf Coast or Florida, but since we wanted to see some of the islands that lay furtherest south, we first both took plane trips to Puerto Rico and met up there. We sailed on the Carnival Valor, an incredibly large boat that proved to be a fairly good time. A few words about cruises: they are mostly for people who really want to be entertained all the time, enjoy a lot of food and alcohol, and get tanned. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. That’s not really my parents or me or Steve. However, as they are a large floating vehicle, restaurant and hotel in one, they are also a cost-effective and cost-efficient means of travel between destinations, especially islands. The last time we visited the US Virgin Islands, I was responsible for coordinating renting a car on one island and plane flights and hotel accommodations on three different islands. And I never want to do that again. Hence the cruise.

Our stateroom which had a balcony!

Continue reading A Trip to the Southern Caribbean, Part I.

Completing the circumnavacation.

In case you were wondering, yes, Steve and I are still traveling. And yes, we’re really tired. And yes, it’s about to be over very soon.

About a week ago, Steve and I said goodbye to Steve’s parents in Greenville and lit out for Charleston by the sea for three days. We hung out with many friends, worked some sand into our luggage, and had some spanking good barbecue (along with the most deliciously creamy and tangy coleslaw I’ve ever had in my life) before driving back up north. We stopped in Columbia, in the middle of the state, where Steve went to college for lunch. I had the distinct pleasure of sampling the bibimbap at Blue Cactus, a Korean joint, where Steve used to walk in and ask for “the regular”. We picked up some coffee (Steve) and an iced chai latte (me) at Immaculate Consumption, and were back to Greenville by the end of the day. Saying goodbye to Stella at the airport the next day was so hard! Karen drove us to the airport and brought her along in the car, and she wanted to follow us so badly! Luckily, we’ll see her again really soon.

Continue reading Completing the circumnavacation.

South Carolina summer.

It is a sleepy mid-afternoon in Greenville, South Carolina. The air is thick and warm in the screened back patio, like honey, and in the woods behind the house, insects are starting the eternal hum and drone that will forever sound like summer to me. The dogs were with me on the back porch, lying in the sunshine, but have now decided to retreat into the house and lounge about there instead. This is our treat, after so many hectic days of travel, to wake up and not have anything in particular to do, to eat anything we want and to get an offer to drive us to Bruegger’s or Trader Joe’s. And to stay in a wonderful house which has a backyard and a wealth of air-conditioning. (Really, people in Europe have an inexplicable grudge against A/C and fans.) Steve’s parents Rich and Karen gave us the kindest, most enthusiastic welcome home last Tuesday which was just fabulous. We even got some banners with Stella’s face on them!

And of course, the dogs. Rich and Karen’s charges (better known as the Dogs of Woodstone) are Chudleigh (their grave, older golden retriever), Taco (Steve’s brother’s 3 year-old quiet but rambunctious Chow mix), and of course, our Stella (3 year-old irrepressibly cute and sassy corgi mix). I have been speculating this whole trip about whether Stella will remember us. The answer is: yes! It just took a little while. When we first got back a week ago, Stella barked around and sniffed us and licked us and was quite enthusiastic, but simmered down quickly. Within a few days, however, she came to find us at night and stopped sleeping at the foot of Steve’s parents’ bed! She’s most certainly readapted to having us around, and it is beautiful. I’ve really missed having this dog around, though both Steve and I know she is the most spoiled thing in existence. Expect the reappearance of Stella photos on the Flickr! Continue reading South Carolina summer.

Flying home.

Tomorrow is our last day in the UK, and also our last real day of travel outside the US. I’m trying to take a moment from our hectic schedule and clamorous inboxes to think about what’s going on. We’ve been traveling nonstop, barely sleeping in the same place for more than two nights, since we left Normandy, and I have several entries half-written in a Word document just waiting to be posted about our time so far in Stoke-On-Trent, Cambridge, and of course London. (Oh, and Paris too, can’t forget about that.)

Time however waits for no one to digest, contemplate, reflect, and move on from these experiences! As we reach the end of this trip, each day has become more filled and hectic than the last, right up until Tuesday, July 22, when we will board a plane to Barcelona, and then Charlotte, North Carolina. I must be grateful that the flight will not take us over any war zones, civil or international, to my knowledge.

What will it feel like to be back in the US again? I don’t know. I have been excited to return for weeks and months, thinking about our dog, our friends and family, and everything familiar we are aching and yearning to see. I have been excited about moving to a new place, a new community, starting my graduate degree and learning things again. But at the same time, I think things that Steve and I have come to love about living abroad and dislike about living in the US will come into sharper relief, illuminated by our experiences of different ways of life. I’ve been very impressed with how many people around the world have been easy to talk to, kind and generous of spirit. I have enjoyed the benefits of different systems of taxation, healthcare, social welfare, service and hospitality, transportation, immigration, and the list goes on! Some of those things the US do very well; some of those things I wish they would really change. On a more mundane level, I’m going to be stunned again at how much things cost (cheap compared to Europe, expensive compared to Asia!), how many people drive, how much food I’m getting in a serving, how far away things are, and how incredibly easy it will be to do or buy anything I want. Steve meanwhile has made ominous predictions about how long we may be detained at immigration. Though neither of us have ever been seriously interrogated about our journeys outside the US, the longest conversations we have with immigration officials is undoubtedly with US customs when we come back into the country. Nobody anywhere else (with one or two exceptions) cares; at most, we get asked two questions about how long we are visiting, and less than a minute later, are stamped and sent on our merry way.

Truth be told, I am a little scared about going back home. During the past eleven months, we have traveled to broaden our horizons and become acquainted with more worlds besides ours, and we don’t want to return to find ourselves constrained and caged. For me at least, I’ve traveled to gain a deeper appreciation for everything we have, and I don’t want to go back to using resources and spending money the way we did before. We’ve traveled to get away from the same old same old grind of jobs and weekends, but what does that mean if we’re heading back? Essentially, I am unsure how exactly we’ll be synthesizing the elements of our travel life, which we mostly loved, with our life back in the States.

I won’t stop writing for the moment, however, as we have a bit of travel left to do back in the US. After we arrive back in the States, we will stay with Steve’s parents in South Carolina, then visit my parents in Boston, before going to Chicago and reuniting with our friends there. Finally, we’ll drive to Durham through Cincinnati with all our worldly belongings and settle somewhere before I start school in mid-August. There’s still some travel left for our circumnavacators! And of course, one more day in London. I’ll write again soon.


Train Delays and the People of America.

Steve and I woke up this morning to the flat, red Arizona desert, lit up by the sunrise. It’s a different land out here. I know I’ve already talked about how much I love this trip, but the decision to go by train really gave us a little time to transition away from our lives in Chicago. I’ve had time to mentally put away thoughts about friends, jobs, career interests, etc. over these two thousand miles, and at the same time, start doing things I’ve been hoping to do for a long time, i.e. start rereading the new translation of The Second Sex, learning about economics from a bootleg copy of Mankiw’s Essentials of Economics (thanks, Heta!), and begin doing some photography and writing. It’s given us more time to say goodbye and to begin figuring out our new chapter.

Sunrise over the red desert of Arizona.

Continue reading Train Delays and the People of America.

On the train!

Hello world!

We are posting from a smartphone , so excuse the brevity.  First, I must say that I have always adored train travel from a young age.  Hearing trains go by in the night always gave me a feeling of wanderlust (which is a great word, by the way). It only seemed natural that we would begin our long journey with a train trip. It has been barely for hours since our train, the Southwest Chief, rolled sedately out of Chicago this afternoon. Already, I feel like I’m in a different world. We have been gazing at western Illinois and Iowa, many green and undulating fields flashing by. We also just enjoyed a quiet dinner opposite a Suzuki piano teacher from Lawrence, Kansas, and sipped tea while talking about WWOOFing.

We took the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Continue reading On the train!