This Time Last Year

This time last year I was frantically packing in the most minimalist style possible: pair of shorts, seems to weigh too much, just roll up the cargo pants instead, is a long sleeve shirt really necessary or should I just be liberal with the sunscreen, do I need a camera or will my phone zoom be miraculously in reach of everything?

This time this year I am packing up everything I own – which like my horizons, is now exponentially bigger (than my bag). 
For a year I rolled around a small backpack and a “suitcase” (it transforms into a big backpack – but really, at my age, anything with wheels is useful). 

My bag and I had a ton of adventures, we’ve ticked off enough countries to fill out a Bumble profile and seem “worldly” (don’t worry, I will not be touting that information).

I’ve had a year of going from ocean depths to mountain heights, of meeting people from all walks of life, who made me laugh and made me cry, and made my life infinitely better. 

And now I am packing heavy boxes full of “clothes” and “kitchen equipment” for a place I don’t have yet. 

At the end of the week, I’ve got a flight to Los Angeles, where, after a year of my heart expanding, it’s time for my stuff to expand. 

Happy New Year Everyone, here’s to brand new adventures! 

Luggage: Green Bag awaiting to board

Why Things Have A Year Long Warranty

Ever wondered why almost anything you buy comes with a year long warranty?

I mean, it’s clearly not the most reassuring part of buying a product – yes, I’ll buy this flat screen TV, would I like the one year warranty? Why? Do you expect your product to go bust or maybe fall off the wall in a year?

The logic of buying a ONE year insurance policy on an expensive piece of equipment has always mistified me, so I’ve never bought it. Consequently, everything usually “mysteriously” dies around 11 months (looking at you old MP3 player who broke me heart, also, computer – you better not be thinking of giving up the ghost). 

On the flip side, I’m sure if I did pay $55.99 for a warranty, everything would start to die around the 357 day mark. 

As my year comes to a close, so many things have started falling apart it’s like my luggage knows it needs to lose a few pounds in anticipation of carrying Christmas presents (selfishly, mainly to myself) back. It automatically put itself on Weight Watchers and at the same time signed up for a class in Minimalism and is just shedding things like a golden retriever in the summer. 

THE “THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, YOU’LL BE MISSED” LIST

  • Sunglasses: I’m not sure what happened, we’d been together for years, your big funky yellow and purple frames made people think I was “slightly cool” and also “unaware of my head size,” but last week you collapsed. Your frame gave up and said, “our time together has been great, but you need to see out of someone else now”
  • Cargo Pants: I know what happened to you, you weren’t quite prepared to handle my proportions over such a long distance. I tried stitching you up (three times!) But now it’s time to face facts, you seem to have self-sacrificed yourself so that people won’t make fun of me for wearing cargo pants back in the States, it is very thoughtful of you – RIP. 
  • Leather Hand Bag: The other night at dinner you tried to make a run for it, your strap just broke. I’m not writing you a thank you letter yet, because I refuse to believe that this is the end – I’ve sent you to a repair shop, our parting is only temporary. 
  • Sneakers: You literally got filled with cement and buried yourself, I’m not sure anything has left me so definitively. 
  • Hiking Shoes: You are hanging on by a bare thread, you might as well be sandals for the amount of socks I can see. I’m really hoping you can make it another week because unless I find a replacement I’m flying home to Seattle, in the winter, in a summer dress, a pair of socks and flip-flops. If you can’t make it, I cannot thank you enough for getting me through a whole year of (thousands?) miles. You’ve been the best.

If I believed in signs, everything breaking would be a sign that it is time to go home – see you soon mulled wine and cookies. 

Stitching up the old cargo pants on the night train
RIP sunglasses

The Fog: A Car Ride Into The Afterlife 

They say that before you die, your life flashes before your eyes. I would like to say that perhaps before, before you’re going to maybe die, your future life flashes before your eyes. 

Take for instance, the last hour of my life, half of which was spent actively thinking it was the last hour of my life. What flashed? Besides light bulbs? The end of decisions. A vast chasm of thoughts like, “I wouldn’t have to worry about getting a job, or finding a health care plan, or having to sign up for dating apps – or dating, or finding an apartment, or a couch” – a complete end to decisions. 

The “End of Decisions” flash was brought on by the decision to get in a car. A car that had to drive an hour to the train station, because the railway tracks were not brave enough to come up that high in the mountain that was covered in so much fog you could literally only see white, and it was dark outside. 

There was zero visibility and there were no seatbelts.

The car wound itself around the turns as though it were a rollercoaster on a set track, expertly, like it had done it a thousand times before, but also a little jagged, like it was surprised that mountain turned. 

“At least we have our passports so they can identify our bodies” my friend said as it looked as though we could have driven off the side of an unmarked cliff. Her next thought, as we went into on coming traffic to pass an 18 Wheeler, was about where her zip lock bags were – in case she needed to throw up

For one reason or another (mostly skill and a lot of luck) the End of Decisions did not come, damn you Real Life still making me face you in the mirror. 

Only three weeks to go before I am back in the US and need to start making decisions again. 

For reference – if anyone goes to Sapa, Vietnam and does the same route back to the railway station, just consider it an amusement park ride without a waiting line. 

The day before, ten times worse the day after

Vietnamese Coffee: The Paranoia-Enducing Drink that Governments Should Investigate / Use

You know when you can’t sleep at night and you just toss around like a lumpy sack of potatoes? And then you realize that you probably shouldn’t have had coffee at 3pm? Especially not when you’ve been a tea drinker for years and this entire year has been such a caffeine-lessened year your body might as well just be full of water?

Well, after Vietnamese coffee (which is delicious) the experience of being a lumpy sack of potatoes gets hightened into being a lumpy sack of potatoes that knows it’s destined for the slicer and the frier. 

It was 3am, we were waking up early to ride motorbikes from Hoi An to Hue, an 8 hr journey, “the same one the Top Gear guys did.” It would take us around the Marble Mountains, through the 32 km of gorgeous Da Nang Beach and then way, way up into the Hai Van Pass (ocean-cloud pass).

It was 3am and my brain was telling me not to get on the bike. To be clear, I wasn’t even driving the bike. I was merely riding it while someone else, someone very experienced was driving it. My brain was envisioning itself being flung off the Pass, my body rolling down the hill like that sack of potatoes. My brain was saying that if I don’t die, tomorrow will definitely be the last day that I walk. 

Good thing whoever was reading those coffee beans did a bad job, because I didn’t get flung off the Pass, and I am still walking, and except for about an hour where I kept saying to myself, “try and remember what walking feels like in case this really is the last day,” it went great and I loved it.

So everyone, face your fears (even the nonsensical ones) and to all the governments out there, if you’re looking for a new torture device, I’ve got a cheap method to sell you. 

PS – I did this trip with my parents, and they had none of these fears, A) they are (mostly) immune to the effects of coffee and B) they are way cooler than me

The top of The Pass
On the way up The Pass
See, everything worked out great
The Culprit