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.

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



balance, family, gratitude

Ten Day Hero

Recently I learned that a lot can happen in the span of nine or ten days. In March, I traveled to the other side of the world. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip, but it taught me that I can take on challenges and gain some life changing perspectives in less than two weeks. 

On Memorial Day, my father died unexpectedly. The initial stage of raw grief went on for over a week until the final formal farewell. It just so happened that his funeral and burial fell on the ninth day after his death. The nine days that led up to it were the toughest days of my life, just waiting to say that final goodbye, ready to transition to the gone but not forgotten state of mind. It was more proof that you can do anything in nine or ten days.

Since then, I’ve been living life nine days at a time. Mentally, it’s a manageable increment. I can set goals and appreciate the good in life. I can do what needs to be done while acknowledging that the new void isn’t going to go away or ever be filled. Living in the now is ideal, but in the current circumstances, looking forward and looking back in nines and tens seems like a good approach at this time. 

Throughout this journey, there’s been one true hero who has helped me power through this new life without dad. 

Mom. 


She has helped me organize and reorganize my thoughts and my things. She’s been there for my kids and my husband, helping us with what we may need day to day. She gives the kids daily doses of spontaneous laughter and silly sessions that only grandma can provide. She’s taught me how to enjoy going to the gym.

Similar to our adventure back in March, she decided to embrace a travel opportunity that was bittersweet. She decided to still go on an Alaskan cruise that she and my dad had booked last year. The decision was a challenging one to make, but she did it. She left home for a bit and saw the sights. She enjoyed the time with other family members, all in the spirit of my dad. Ten days later, she came back, even stronger and more positive than ever.  

Everyday, she shows me and reminds me that I am brave, just like she is, even as we stand at the edge of the deepest type of sorrow, when the tears just flow during those odd spontaneous moments. 

I told her I was proud of her, and I admire her for how strong she is. She responded by saying it’s because of me. I’m not sure if she knows my secret. I’ve just been following her lead.

She’s the true ten day hero.

Grandma returns home after ten days at sea.


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?

balance, gratitude, health and wellness

The Furthest Point Away from FOMO

My mom casually apologized to me after we settled back into our beach view villa for a mid afternoon break from the day’s activities.

“I’m sorry we never really traveled like this before”.

Before meaning perhaps during my childhood, early adulthood, or anytime before this current situation of approaching  40. She had somewhat of an upbeat tone as we both enjoyed fruity cocktails and the feeling of true vacation relaxation, 4 days into our Thailand adventure. It just clicked at some point. International travel is a life changer. It’s amazing and incredibly fun. It is especially fun and life changing when you witness your own young child taking it all in while learning, enjoying, and melting down (only once during the whole trip) every step of the way. I didn’t follow up my mom’s apology by asking why we never traveled like this back in the day, because now as an adult, of course I get it.

Taking a journey to the other side of the world was expensive. Between transportation, accommodations, and in my case, unpaid time off of work, this was definitely a big financial chunk of my year. The fear of the unknown and the fear of missing out took my anxiety levels and emotions on a crazy roller coaster ride. I also left other family members at home for 10 days, including my husband, my toddler son, and my dad. However, in some circumstances, and for this particular opportunity, it was worth it.

The lead up to the trip dates back to almost a year before our departure when my cousin, (my mom’s brother’s daughter, who is like a sister to me), called me and informed me of her destination wedding plans. Thailand. Not just mainland Thailand, but for the big event, a remote island in the gulf of Thailand by the name of Koh Kood (known to the locals as Ko Kut). One of the least populated places in the country. I’m pretty sure that she strategically chose her wedding date and made these plans about  the same time that FOMO officially became a thing and was at the peak of trending on social media.

After a few think alouds and productive conversations with the family members who would be directly affected by the endeavor, (and on that note, SO supportive), we decided to go for it.  My mom, my daughter and I traveled to Thailand for 10 days with the company of our other extended family members, and had the experience of a lifetime. As stated before, it was all worth it. I can’t wait to officially write about the amazing experiences and small moment stories that support this claim.

Thailand is about to takeover the blog for a bit. And for the record mom, no apologies needed. Ever.

On The Tuk Tuk:
The Faces of FOMO no More

Until Then,

Where was your first and/or favorite international travel destination?