family, health, health and wellness, live in the now, travel

Free to Move About

Almost exactly one year ago today, I was about two-thirds of the way into a 12 hour flight to Beijing; the first stop on a family trip to Thailand. School was very much in session, so as a teacher and a mom, I had all the plans in place. I prepped for a 10 day substitute teacher for my third graders. I also made sure I followed the rules and guidelines to apply for and set up my daughter’s independent study for learning abroad while she was on vacation halfway around the world with her mom, grandmother, and extended family members. 

My husband and two-year-old son stayed home and held down the fort. My father was still alive. He stayed back too, mostly at peace with the ladies of his life embarking on this big life-changing travel adventure.

Now it’s March 18th, 2020. Since then, dad passed away nine months ago. Other family members and friends have also become ill or died. And of course, most recently, and unrelated to the loss of those loved ones and purely by strange coincidence, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

I’ve spent the last four days scrambling, collaborating with colleagues, and piecing together “remote learning” plans for another group of third graders who I’ve had to leave, this time with no real date of return, due to school closures. 

 Over the course of the last 365 days, my family and I have been through a journey of travel and grief; life changes, hope, and social distancing. I’ve lost track of how many versions of “The New Normal” I have lived through to this point since March of last year. 

I still bring myself back to that Air China flight from SFO to Beijing. I was scared and anxious. I didn’t know what to expect. Things that happened around me were already so different from what I was used to, and I hadn’t even set foot on new land yet. I had to adapt right then and there. 

Currently, I continue to move freely about this airplane cabin of life, confined to my own home, hours on end. Fear of the outside. New ways of navigating the interior, and forced to adapt. There’s nothing to do but make the most of the situation, meet basic human needs, find entertainment value in things, and keep the blood circulating. Eventually, I’m hoping that I and everyone else will land.             

A year ago, I had one of the most beautiful life experiences that ended up helping me through some of the most difficult ones down the road, and I am thankful everyday for that time in my life. Even though at one point I was anxious, and wasn’t sure it was going to end, I wouldn’t have gotten there without that long flight.

gratitude, health and wellness, travel, working mom

The Astro Friday

I like to think that the Instagram posts of date nights with my husband are largely sponsored by my mom and the kindness of her heart and free childcare. I apparently missed the train on monetizing my social media presence, but the gift of time is a real thing. I’m just as accepting and grateful to enjoy opportunities for “extra time” to have fun and reset the soul. 

My husband and I took a quick overnight getaway to Santa Rosa one weekend, an hour away from where we live. The place where we chose to rest our head was called The Astro Motel. It’s a gem that was recently renovated into a beautiful mid century modern themed roadside inn. We were in vintage aesthetic design heaven during our entire stay. All of the interior and exterior color, decor, and authentic pieces from the 1950’s and1960s made my heart happy. 

Our little trip also included an unnecessary 4 minute Uber ride to a brewery that was pretty much just around the corner. We enjoyed live music, beer, a food truck dinner, Saturday brunch, and an unplanned couple of hours of antiquing.  I was inspired by creative people, small businesses, and a part of the Bay Area I know very little about. I’m glad that I could enjoy it exclusively with my husband because it’s nice to have a break from having conversations in the presence of little ears.     

 The weekend getaway brought on the same type of renewed energy that our precious phones or devices obtain when they’re left plugged in overnight to achieve the coveted 100% charge. 

Sometimes the bonus minutes that are gifted to us in life allow us to focus on less things all at once. Those moments hold so much value. Maybe it’s seven extra minutes of awake time in the morning that was traded out for another round of snooze, allowing less of a rush out the door. Other times, it’s a rare random half hour when the house is empty or quiet and there’s time to actually gather thoughts, read, write, or do something creative. Twenty four hours or so of uninterrupted one on one time with your spouse is also a pretty nice token of time to treasure. 

So this is another thank you to anyone who has ever helped others or helped yourself with the gift of time, the extra minutes, an extended stay, or even more time with a beloved borrowed library book by means of a renewal. The truth is, the time we have has an unknown limit, but when we feel like we have some to spare, we should enjoy it.

https://www.visitsantarosa.com/

declutter, family, favorite things, travel

Temporary Treasures: Midwest Thrifty Wardrobe Challenge

 I will be traveling to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan soon. It’s time for our annual summer trip to visit my husband’s side of the family. 

Packing for this trip used to be a bit stressful. However, I’ve figured out a different approach that allows for packing light (aside from the kids’ items).

Two summers ago, my husband and I took on the challenge of traveling with just the essentials (underwear, swimwear, footwear), and the outfit that we wore on the first day of travel. Then we purchased all  of the rest of our clothing at St. Vincent’s De Paul and Goodwill. To make it even more fun and interesting, we set a budget of $20 each. 

We did pretty well. I found some fun items that I thought were cute and fit my style. Some were worthy enough to keep and bring back home to California. Other pieces were stored at the in-law’s house for the next summer, and the rest of it was donated back to the thrift stores before leaving town.  

This year I would like to level up the challenge. I plan on sticking to the $20 budget. However, at the end of the trip, I intend on donating all of the items back to the thrift stores before we leave, passing on my temporary treasures to someone else who may enjoy them next. This is also a preventative effort to not add new items to my closet back home.

The fabulous new (and temporary) wardrobe for my Midwest vacation is waiting for me in the thrift shops of Menominee, Michigan, and Marinette, Wisconsin. I’m beyond excited.

I must choose wisely. I have to feel comfortable enough to wear the clothing, but not get too attached. I will let go of my personal style expectations, and perhaps take on a new style for a week or so.

As stated in my previous post, anything is possible within nine or ten days. Photo gallery to follow. Obviously.

Until Then,

Enjoy some photos of the last two rounds of my Midwest Thrift Challenge



family, favorite things, thailand, travel

Always Travel with Unicorn Glue

It’s a good feeling when the first “real day” of travel adventure begins during an international vacation. Roughly 24 hours after our arrival in Bangkok, the family was ready for our first outing beyond the resort hotel property lines. Our mission was to locate unicorns.

Unicorn Cafe was our destination. My cousin’s wife Anne spearheaded the endeavor, and I was all for it. We were vacationing with four young ladies ranging in age from 5 months to 8 years. The quest to find a place that had cute, unnaturally colored desserts, sparkly unicorn decor, and toys and gifts galore was a fun tourist goal for us. It was a quest for buried treasure to locate this establishment in the busy city of Bangkok by means of multiple modes of transportation.

We rode the complimentary hotel shuttle boat that took us along the Chao Phraya river to the nearest BTS Skystation. Here, we accessed the city’s rapid transit rail system. The trains were crowded, but very clean, and easy enough to maneuver through.

After we disembarked, we spent about half an hour learning the lay of the land on foot. I was thankful for Anne, the leader of the pack, who kept us motivated and on track with our route. Along the way, we stopped in a McDonald’s for a restroom break and GPS calibration. Then we pushed on and passed by various street vendors, powered through the thick heat and humidity, and walked up and down flights of stairs on pedestrian bridge walkways.

Finally, after walking down a few more narrow alleys as scooters and tuk-tuks zoomed by, we rounded one last corner and arrived. The storefront had department store style glass windows from floor to ceiling that really featured the over the top unicorn theme. It visually welcomed the weary tourist with energizing tones of pink fluff, pastel baby blues, and mixed patterns of plush and pleather. A white unicorn statue was on display by the front door. It was a life-sized version of some toy that I may have owned in the 1980s.

The family took over the Unicorn Cafe for a good hour or so. Desserts were consumed. Toys were purchased. Ice cold water was chugged. The all important photos were taken to document the experience and post online. I definitely discovered a new travel tip. Sometimes unicorns and sugar are the glue that holds families together during international travel. It makes for good photos too.

How do you keep family vacations enjoyable when you travel with extended family?   

Check out Unicorn Cafe on Facebook

gratitude, health and wellness, thailand, travel

A Little Bit of Travel Scents

Ten weeks ago, I was in Thailand. I was taking it all in, pushing myself to live in the moment, but excited about archiving my experiences through writing. To keep the memories alive, I’ve been relying on photos and random rounds of reminiscing with my daughter and my mom.

The one thing that instantly brings me back however, lies at the bottom of a an up-cycled Zipfizz tube. I “borrowed” a small amount of body lotion from the Anantara Riverside Hotel in Bangkok. Every time I flip the cap and take a whiff, the memories flood back. Then I realize how silly I must look, standing in my closet taking a hit of jasmine-scented lotion aroma from a pink plastic tube. My face before and after this ritual is ridiculous, I imagine. I dare not apply any of it on my skin anymore. A very small amount remains in the tube.

Currently one of my most prized possessions.

I tried tracking down the lotion and other bath products through the hotel spa, and I was even willing to pay for an actual bottle of it. However, it cannot be ordered or shipped out of the country. Bummer. Whatever remains is still enough to keep the memories and travel archives going with sights, sounds, and scents.

Until then, how do you keep your travel memories alive?


Below are some snapshots from Anantara Riverside Bangkok. It is located along the Chao Phraya River. It was our “home base” for the start and end of our Thailand travels. Yes, it is a very pleasant smelling hotel. In addition to that, the staff and customer service is superb. The hotel grounds are beautiful and family friendly. The food is delicious, and the pool and amenities are fabulous. The riverboat ferries that dock right from the hotel were fun and convenient for exploring around Bangkok. I would love to go back someday and take my whole family so we can discover even more around the area.


https://www.anantara.com/en/riverside-bangkok

balance, gratitude, travel

Moving Walkways

In September, we made the purchase. I clicked confirm for round trip tickets for one adult, one senior, and one child from San Francisco to Bangkok and back. Fast forward to mid March, and there we were: three travelers, two carry on roller bags, and one backpack each between the three of us, standing curbside on the passenger unloading zone. My mom, my daughter and I walked through the automatic glass doors of the International Terminal at SFO. I felt strange and hopeful. I felt calm and collected, but I already felt like I had stepped into a time-warp portal that didn’t quite feel real yet. The need for the restroom was real, however. We had already started our preemptive hydration efforts before we left the house, so that was the first order of business.

A few hundred steps later, we checked into the flight, checked our bags, and met up with our other extended family members. My aunt and uncle, cousins, and nieces joined us for step one of the adventure, and they would be with us for the remainder of the trip. The reunion was sweet, and we became a team of 10.

We completed the non-negotiables as a group. We went through security. Personal items were re-organized, and shoes were put back on. We purchased light snacks in addition to having lunch. Two more family members me us; my cousin and his girlfriend found us as we were finishing up our meal, and it became the ultimate family gathering in the airport. Any travel anxiety, or “hurry up and wait” feelings seemed to fade at a regular rate because we were enjoying each other’s company, especially the kids. My daughter and her 3 younger girl cousins were about to begin their own unforgettable childhood travel memories.

However, our Waiting To Board the Plane Celebration resulted in almost missing the final boarding call.  In this particular part of San Francisco International Airport, the stores, restaurants, and amenities are located at the upper level, (quite comfortable and fun for hanging out), and the actual gates, boarding area, and jet ways are located downstairs. We had a substantial route cut out for us to actually get to our gate.

The young world travelers

Luckily, we hustled down to where we needed to be. Scooping up my four-year-old niece just before setting foot on the down escalator will always be a moment that I’ll be proud of.  It required balance and maneuvering on my part to prevent us from both toppling all the way down to the bottom, backpacks, snacks, and all. The two of us and the rest of our party arrived safely just in time to the entrance of the jet way, and with the turn of events actually in our favor, we found ourselves immediately on the plane. I think we could all safely say that this was an exciting way to start our adventure, and it was even beneficial to be able to board the aircraft ‘right away”. The positive outlook that my family had on particular travel moments during this trip will forever be ranked high in my memory banks. The fun definitely continued, and I’m hoping to continue watching the replay through my writing (and photos the that are on my phone).

Until Then,

What are your most memorable family travel experiences?