WL Reflections: May and June 2018

How much can you change in a year? It’s been more than a year after my reflection in May 2017. I have my journal and blog to thank for keeping track of my reflections and goals of in the past, present and future.

As with a lot of things in life, less is more. Here are some things I did the past couple of months!


I moved to Atlanta!

Since last May’s reflections, I have moved out of NYC and onto Atlanta. I have also taken a lot of time to travel and worked remotely in between. I spent 3 months in Vietnam in 2018, and recovered a little bit at home before launching my new adventures in Atlanta.

So I feel like my life is a bit of a mess right now, but at least it’s my mess. I’m doing the things I like to do, and following my guts to get me there. So far, so good. Except for initial panic of being alone.

For the first time in a long time, I was by myself. 

Having no pre-aquainted friends or family in the city, the strange new city was intimidating to me. I was afraid of the crazy traffic, and the notoriously highway I-85 with a horrible accident rate of at least 1x/day. The summer heat of high 90 degrees also didn’t help. I wanted to give up and run away, back to the safe haven of my small mountain town.

Thankfully, with plenty of encouragement from loved ones, I calmed down. I spent the 1 month rent money; if worse comes to worse, I will just pack up my car and drive home. I stayed.

Things I learned in my solitude:

The importance of making connections

I was elated to find out that my classmate, from studying abroad in Singapore, happens to live 20 minutes away from my apartment. I also have relatives going back generations, also living 20 minutes from me. Great news! They want me to move in with them until I can find a job that can support me!


A time to self-reflect

Being alone allows time to reflect on the things I want to do and my goals in life. I started pursuing my hobbies again- something I haven’t done since HIGH SCHOOL. There’s a good 8 years washing along the waves of life. These days, I have been spending a lot time reading, writing, up-keeping photography, listening/playing music, and exploring the city.

greenisthenewblackOn a Hedonic Treadmill

At this point in life, I’m finding many things I do or want to do quite confusing. Chasing after things will get boring after awhile, as happiness comes down to equilibrium. It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. I’m struggling with what I want to do.

A Proud Sister and Daughter!

While I enjoy living on my own, I also learned to appreciate my time with family a lot more. I particularly appreciate my parents for their support.

My 12 year old sister and 10 year old brother are animators on Youtube now! I’m so, so proud of them!

Please check it out and I would love to know what you think!

Winthanh, my 12-year-old sister is borderline obsessive with her artwork. Her DeviantArt contains amazing digital art, so proud of how far she’s come!

10-year-old brother takes after his artistic sister, creating his own style of animation. I don’t get the music they’re into these days, but the talent is real!

My parents are taking more time to relax and travel, which I’m very proud for. They have been working too hard in life, and it’s time they let loose a bit and relax.


Trying New Things

  • Volunteered at a refugee assistance program, something that I’ve wanted to do since coming to the United States.
  • Made artichoke for the first time. It’s so delicious, my favorite method is roasting them! This is the recipe I used for roasting.
  • Gardened for the first time, which is a big deal, because I have a deep-rooted fear of earthworms. I’m now thinking of starting my own hot compost pile!
  • I now have a fitness tracker! At first, I resisted, for fear of becoming too reliant on having fancy technology attached to me at all times. After 2 months of use, I disabled most of my notifications, and now loving the sleep tracking, step tracking, calling/messaging, and waterproof feature!
  • Audiobook of the MonthDante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an amazing audiobook read by Lin Manuel Miranda, and talks about philosophies of life in the eyes of a teenager.

Inspirational Thoughts:

Studies show people who their deathbeds’ 5 top regrets in life

  1. I wish I’d the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life that others expect of me. 
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings. 
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 
  5. I wish I let myself be happier. 


Habits Retained:

  • Writing my thanks every night.
  • Writing my goals every morning.
  • Reading every day (books, audiobooks, Quora).

Some useful resources:

  • Blinkist (read/listen) – a great site/app for book summaries
  • Quora– general curiosity
  • Medium– my new Quora, coming up with thoughtful articles on life, personal development

Best Quote;

By fighting you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected. – from this amazing book by Dale Carnegie

Thoughtful question for YOU:

What do you want to be remembered for in your Eulogy?

Recent Blog Posts:

Next month’s goals:

  • Find work that I’m passionate about
  • Write 2 blog posts/week
  • Work on 2 more chapters of my book
  • Passive Income Projects


Travel Blogging Challenge- Week 7 (Inspiration for Traveling)

There are three types of people: those who travel, those who want to travel, and those who don’t, can’t, and never will.

At 23, I’m not quite a kid and not old. People around me are getting jobs, making families, buying houses, etc. I often think to myself… what have I done with my life? What brings me satisfaction?

I would like to share my philosophy and story on why I started traveling and what nudges me to keep doing so.

Life’s too short. Optimistically, I estimate I will live another 80 years (haha, bear with me). That’s not a lot of time. My family always tells me that that’s a weird outlook on life. I grew up in a small, majority-whites town where people go to retire. People are born, raised, and live their lives there. Unfortunately, a static life not a life for me. I left. Moved to Asia, traveled the United States, backpacked Central America, moved to New York. I feel that being stationary wastes what little time I have left, which leads me to my next point.


I want to see and  do something new everyday. Like many other parents of travelers, my parents want a stable, happy, safe life. They were 110% against my traveling. They were refugees from Vietnam, fleeing the country from oppression and seeking a better place. I understand that they would want me to go to school, get a stable job, and live my life happily. I am forever thankful for what they’ve done and proud of how far they’ve come since leaving Vietnam. I can’t say how much I respect them for their decisions. If I had lived in my small town forever, I would know nothing. There’s a million and infinity things I don’t know out there, and I want to change that.  

Beneficial to my mind and body. Travel relieves my stress. It tells me my troubles aren’t that significant in the grand scheme of things. It shows me different sides to myself that I never knew, food that I never thought I’d like, people I’d meet, ordeals I’d surpass. I pushed my body to do crazy, amazing things while traveling more than I ever did while I was at home. It’s amazing.


What am I saving money for? Nobody knows when they’re going to lose it all. When I lost phone and wallet on a rickety bus in Guatemala, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I realized that no matter how much I save, it would still be for naught if life takes it away in a whirl of wind. I save more money, pay more bills, save more, spend more, pay more bills. The cycle is never-ending! In my life, the only thing I’ve been happy to give my money for is to travel. I never regret spending anything on a trip out of town. Now, I save my money for travel and cultural foods around the world. 😉

If I don’t do it now, I might never do it! Goals change all the time. Today, I might love traveling, tomorrow, I might not. I might lose motivation, get lazy, change directions unexpectedly, die, etc. A few years ago, my bucket list had included going to the Amazon Forest. Today, I want to go on a cruise. I changed, because I don’t want to risk getting eaten by a giant snake, a fear I didn’t have a few years back. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just a small missed opportunity. I just hope what I replace it with is a bigger jump for great adventures.

Share my travels. I’ve always loved traveling, even if alone. When I met my boyfriend, I experienced what it felt like to travel together. My horizons expanded. When I see/eat/go/read something great, I want to share it with my loved ones, and traveling is on the top of my things to share. It’s amazing to come home after a travel and cook the crazy dishes from around the world for my family to experience. I want so much to take my siblings to New York and show them how big the world can be.

My list of inspirations are endless. But that’s all for today, what are your inspirations in life and travel??? 

Hope to connect with you soon! Peace!


Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

These awesome people are also doing the challenge!!! Click to see their stories!


Excuse Me, Life Passing Through

2017 has been a year of revelations for me. The year where I finally understand all the things my parents tell me when they say, “I’ll tell you when you’re older.” Things that had once been so clear to me aren’t what I had expected them to be. People have changed. My perspectives have changed. My desires and interests evolved. I don’t understand the world as much as I used to think, and now that I have scraped off the tip of the ice berg, there is still so much to learn. 

Because of these discoveries, my path in life has changed. It’s not a bad thing, because I am wiser. The light may be fading, but what I do see shines brighter with intensity. 

Statue of Liberty

Photo Challenge: Evanescent

Guest Post: The Rewards and Challenges of Quitting Your 9-5 to Travel

I’ve always been fascinated by people who quit their jobs to live in another country, and would like to share stories of people who have created this path for themselves.

Today, we have Ares‘ honest reflection on how he quit his job, moved to another country, and found work.

At some point in our lives, we decide that we need to make a change. Whether that be work, lifestyle, diet, living accommodations, life choices – the list is endless. Some of us decide we need to completely immerse ourselves in another world, forgetting the past, and looking forward to find what we are looking for. That’s a fancy way of saying “we travel”.

In 2015, I decided I needed such a change. I wanted to experience something different. From climate, to work, to food. I wanted to immerse myself in the complete opposite of my day to day living in a big city. I didn’t just want to travel temporarily, I wanted to live it.

Portugal, here I come.

After months of planning (I’ll spare you the countless details that’s involved in an undertaking such as an international move), May had come, and I boarded a plane. All I had to my name was the clothes on my back, my laptop, and a credit card. I had quite literally sold everything else I owned, quit my job, bought out my lease, sold my car – I mean you name it, I sold it.

Now, before you think I am a complete loon, I should mention I have family here. Although I have only met them a couple of times. So I had a place to go, but that was it. I started by learning how to farm. We live in a small farming community, where we produce everything we need to survive. Going to the market only for carbohydrates and toiletries. The land is quite acidic, so we can only grow certain foods. Unfortunately, potatoes and rice simply do not take.

Farming under the hot sun was something completely new for me, and I took it in stride. By the end of the summer, I was loving it. Just me, the outdoors, and hard work. No phones ringing, no cubicle, no boss blowing up my inbox with issues. For the most part, I had unplugged.

When you come from a developed country such as Canada, and go into a more reserved part of the world, you truly get to see the differences. Not only between your country of origin and the destination, but how cultures differentiate from city to city.

After the summer, I took the train and starting hopping around the country doing day trips. Taking the first train at dawn, and returning on one of the last trains in the evening. When you arrive in a more modern city such as Lisboa (Lisbon), it is a completely other world. Yet, I was only 3 hours from home. Everyone speaks English, fiber internet, IMAX movie theatres, and fast food. It’s what we of today consider a modern society. So what about back home?

In my small town, just outside Viseu, you get a completely different take on things. Technology is almost non existent, as a result it is mainly elderly workers who are completely removed from the outside world. Most of them still use an 11” TV with satellite. It gets about 8 channels. All of Portugal’s infrastructure is shovelled into it’s two major cities, and tourist areas. The rest of the country gets left in the dust. The smaller towns are stuck in the proverbial 1980’s.

But these reserved farmers don’t seem to mind. At least, on the surface. Most of them want out of the EU, wishing to go back to the Escudo. Where as (frankly) the more educated people in the major cities, realize being part of the EU Alliance saved them. Slowly, Portugal is making its way out of crippling financial debt and corruption.

As a native English speaker, finding work was an ongoing challenge. You may be able to find seasonal work, but long term employment without speaking Portuguese is borderline impossible. The unemployment rate is not as bad as Spain or Greece, but it still proved difficult. In these smaller towns, they do not require resumes. All they want to know is if you say you attended X school, provide the certificate of completion. They don’t care where you worked before, or how much experience you have. Why?

Contracts are given out on a 1.5 year term. After 1.5 years, most are let go as the law requires they get paid a significant amount more. So the work is always available (for the Portuguese) but you never have job security. Again, this is something I discovered only resonates within the smaller towns. Porto and Lisboa all operate with a CV and you can work somewhere for life once hired. Much like the rest of the world.

I attended university instead to work on my communication and grammar, but the Latin language threw me for a loop, and I had a hard time grasping its concepts. When a language such as Portuguese does not directly translate to English, it’s most difficult. I can understand Portuguese now, but speaking it is an ongoing challenge.

After living the life of a Portuguese citizen (and becoming one), I recently landed back home in Canada. I got what I needed out the experience, but I realized it was time to come home and continue on the path of a Canadian. Maple syrup, bacon, beer, and poutine.

They say travel broadens the mind, and I would say that is true because you are forced to see and live through other cultures. You simply cannot travel, and remain in your comfort zone. If you board a plane and land in a 5 star resort, I’d say you’re relaxing. Travelling works in conjunction with the experience of a new.

Thanks for reading!! I’m always searching for inspirational & informational travel stories to feature. Please leave a comment or send an email to tell your tales! <3

Not Good Enough

I’m not good enough. 

There are days where negativity bullies its way in to haunt my mind, jabbing at my frustrations of things that I can’t control. It leaves me helpless, my thoughts trapped in a never-ending cycle of discouragement. My inability to do things with my life that I want to because I am restrained by society’s expectations. The incessant need to prove myself. The words that I can’t speak elegantly enough. The constant questioning of whether I’m a productive member of society. Whether I have become lazy. One thought after another, weight added onto my shoulders.

I fight to push these thoughts back. Watch a movie. Read a book. Talk to family. But it’s still there- lurking in the back of my consciousness. It doesn’t work. Gray as a heavy thundercloud right before a storm. The tension builds up so heavy with so many thoughts in my head that I want to explode.

I read somewhere that to be happy, one should write down 10 things they’re grateful for everyday. I’ve been doing that on and off for years. The first time I wrote, I only came up to six. The more I practice, the better I get at remembering the things that I’m thankful for. It’s easy to take for granted the things that you have and should appreciate. So, to cheer myself up today, here are 10 things I’m grateful for:

  1. Loved ones who are always supportive of who I am and what I do. Whether they know it or not, talking to them always makes me feel better. Supported. Loved.
  2. Independence and freedom to do the things I want to. I am not being forced to do anything I don’t want to.
  3. My health. I’m able to get up everyday. I’m healthy. I’m happy with my self image.
  4. Books and online educational resources that allow me to improve every day.
  5. Beautiful weather. I love seeing the flowers blossom in this time of year. I love hearing the rain prattle softly outside.
  6. A roof over my head, a bed to sleep on, and public transportation to get around.
  7. Food. Today, strawberry and rocky road ice cream, topped with a sliced banana.
  8. Music. Lately, it’s been slow jazz and classical.
  9. Coffee. I love drinking coffee on early mornings, with a book in my hand. <3
  10. This Blog gives me a sense of purpose. It gives me room to vent and think things through.

Regardless of how unfair it is, there are people out there having worst. Finally, I hear it. All the negativity… pouring from the sky like a torrent. The sky lightens up. All the pent up anger dissipates. The pouring of rain hides the tears of relief on my face. I’m free. 

So, let me ask you this. Can you come up with 10 things your thankful for in your life? 

Daily Prompt: Gray

Finding Closure: Returning to my Birth Country to Say Goodbye

I left my life, my school, my friends, and everything I knew behind when I was eleven. My parents were refugees from Vietnam, escaping the mistreatment of the communists. They snuck away on a small boat and sailed for seven days on the open water of South China Sea. I was born in a refugee camp in Philippines with poor conditions and corrupt camp officials who pocketed donation funds for themselves. My parents were struggling to feed themselves. At the time, my entire life revolved around getting out of the ditch. Most Vietnamese refugees around us were leaving the camps with an opportunity to seek asylum somewhere brighter, better. United States, Canada, Australia, it doesn’t matter, anywhere was better than the camps. It usually took 2-3 months, our case took 15 years.

When my parents escaped the refugee camp, we created a life for ourselves. We joined a small and close-knit community of Vietnamese refugees in a city called Ilo-Ilo. That city is everything I knew in my life. Slowly, we gave up on the idea of going anywhere else. I made three close Vietnamese friends and all my classmates. My fondest memories were made here. We would take weekend trips as a group to go to the beach, the zoo, the mountains, etc. We slept outside on the sand, listening to music, and looking up at the starry night sky. We had birthday parties where all my friends attended and gave me presents! I was in a dance group and sang in competitions in school. Christmas was the best time of the year, because we would all go to the central park to look at Christmas lights. Everything I knew was here. 

We received notification of our case status approved to immigrate to the States. My parents were overjoyed. They said our lives will be better, that we will have a future. I looked around me, what was so bad about our lives?  I don’t remember much of what happened during the weeks after that. I was eleven. I didn’t fully realize what was going on. Before I knew it, we were on the plane on our way to America. I missed my friends, my teachers, my school, my life.

Fast forward ten years. I graduated college. I made closer friends. I made a set of brand new memories. I have come to love the United States. I also became a traveler, but the Philippines still held a magical place in my heart. I wanted to return, see my friends,… and to say goodbye. When I had the chance to go back, I didn’t hesitate to but the ticket. The country where I was born and raised was something like a mystical dream to me. I was so nervous on the flight there. I spent my life thinking about what I would have done if I had the opportunity to say goodbye. Now that I was coming back, I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Sitting by myself on the beach we used to visit yearly. Same country, different people. @Boracay Beach, Philippines

The air was the same, the food, the landscape, the school, the beaches were the same. Same country… but different people. Our close knit community broke apart after we left. People moved, went to school, got jobs elsewhere. I revisited my old schools, my old home, stores I used to buy snacks from. People whom I used to bond deeply with are now completely different. The playground I spent so much time on was smaller and emptier. I realized the country has moved on without me. Overwhelmed with nostalgia and sadness, I could only wis that I had appreciated my childhood more at the time. I struggled to keep my mind in the present, reminding myself that I had my friends with me. I needed to be in the now. I had wanted to show my friends my home country. The past is the past, and I can’t change that.

I made my peace and goodbyes with my past. I met new people, made new memories, and learned to love my birth country all over again in a different light. Filipino people are the kindest, most adventurous people I’ve ever met. Having only met for about ten minutes, we had jumped on a pickup truck of a group of Filipino backpackers and had the ride of our lives! What adventures? … to be continued another time. 🙂