Monthly Archives: September 2014

Big Trip Weekly Status Update – Less Than One Week

Coming down to the wire. As of right now, I have four whole days to finish planning. Good thing I started my leave of absence so pretty much every moment of my waking life will be planning.

  • I think technically, I can pack up what I have and go. But I would be scrambling a lot during the trip and do more worrying than enjoying it.
  • I made very minor progress with accommodations as different things took my attention through the week and I got very tired when I got home.
  • I made some progress with “at home” stuff, like stopping my mail and adjusting my annual rent hike while I’m out. I still have to pause whatever subscriptions I have and tell my credit card companies I’ll be traveling and all that jazz.
  • I had been really lagging behind on my language work. There is this list of vocabulary that I made that I thought will be useful, but was not taught from the Pimsleur stuff I learned. I had been meaning to fill out the list for each language and learn it. That’s one of the things that I may have to either do very hastily or just abandon all together and rely on the stuff that I learn.
  • I made some progress with the digital part of my trip, where I finally backed up my photos on my computer so I can feel safe deleting the photos on my phone and make room to upgrade to iOS 8 as well as for photos and videos on the trip. I also set up a bunch of clouds to hold my backup documents for emergencies. Let’s hope 1) I don’t need to access them, and 2) they would actually help when I need it.

(4 days)

(Stuff’s happening in a city that I’m familiar with, and what’s happening is somewhat similar to Ferguson as well as an event that happened 25 years ago. It’ll be interesting to see how it develops.)

(George Clooney got married in Venice. Would’ve been nice to be in the area.)



_ __ ___________ ___ __ ____.

_ __ ___________ ___ __ ____.
I make decisions for how to live my life.
I ask for what I want.
I have control over my decisions.
_ __ ___________ ___ __ ____.
try my best to accept the consequences of my decisions and actions.
I accept the events in my life that are within my control and know I can control how I should react.
I accept the events in my life that are out of my control and know I can control how I should react.
_ __ ___________ ___ __ ____.
I and only I can make decisions for myself and only for myself.
I can only give you advice through the lens and biases of my unique experience and it may be different for your needs.

_ __ ___________ ___ __ ____.
I decided to start.
I decided to make it up as I go.
I decided to live my best life.
I decided to live numbers and puzzles.
I decided to run the marathon, not the sprint.
_ __ ___________ ___ __ ____.
I decided to ask for a leave of absence.
I decided to travel alone.
I decided to use this airline alliance.
I decided to take this route instead of adding a few more from my list.
I decided to take a shorter trip so I could be home for both my parents’ birthdays.
I decided to take more time to contemplate and to book the RTW ticket, resulting in a few sold-out flights and paying the next price tier to keep my itinerary.
I decided to learn a little bit of all these languages, even if I can probably get by with English.
I decided to bring only one piece of carry-on-sized luggage for my entire trip.
I decided to get a new set of clothes for the trip.
I decided to stay mostly in hostels and splurge with a hotel once in a while.
I decided to purchase a few tours instead of self-guiding the entire way.
I decided to let my planning obsession take over and create spreadsheet after spreadsheet, even if they get slightly difficult to keep track.
I decided to skip weekends of socializing to plan this trip.
I decided to let myself off for the night and procrastinate and resume planning the next day, or maybe the day after, or the day after…
I decided to start a whole new project two months before my trip and have it eat into my planning time, like right now.
I decided to test my clothes and gear weeks in advance, as dorky as it may look and feel.
I decided to insist on traveling with one bag and leave behind a few things that I bought just for the trip.
I decided to completely change my mind and agree with my friends that bringing six weeks worth of cash is dangerous and to have to quickly find an alternative within two weeks.
I decided to tell my family about this trip less than two weeks before I leave.
I decided to keep my leave of absence at work on the down low.
I decided to have a crepe outing instead of a drinks outing with my coworkers for my send-off.
I decided to try the peach and Nutella combination this time.
I decided to take and eat that free cookie.
I decided to pay for my coworkers before my boss intercepted partially too late.
I decided to bring my new rain jacket to work, unknowingly that I would be highly satisfied with its water repellent ability on my way home in heavily drizzling rain that evening.
I decided to listen to the advice of my friends, reviews, blogs but retain the power to make the call.
I decided to plan and take this trip the way I want because this is my trip.
I am responsible for my life.

My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment. —Oprah Winfrey


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 22, 25.

Big Trip Weekly Status Update – Two Weeks Left

This Week

  • Got my Chinese visa. So now I can legally do the entire trip.
  • Bought a few more things for my trip, mainly for security of my stuff.
  • Booked two more places I’m going to stay. Now I know where I will spend the first 16 nights, and 24 overall of my 45-day trip (I recounted: it’s 45 not 47 days), which is becoming more comforting.
  • Booked another tour: zip lining near Cusco.
  • Got some initial currencies for each country.
  • Rushingly signed up for an account with a debit/ATM card that offers no foreign transaction fee nor ATM fees. Still need to finish the process.
  • Started to test drive and practice living out of my luggage. Transformation isn’t complete yet, but it’s getting a little bothersome, partly because I have habits of using my regular stuff at home.

Next Week

  • Really need to book at least the majority of where I’m going to stay. That’ll make me feel much better about the state of my planning.
  • Get that debit card.
  • Get my emergency/contingency plan together.
  • Tying up loose ends for things that I’ve booked (arranging pick-ups, etc.)
  • Start prepping for “at home” tasks while I’m away (stop mail, pause subscriptions, etc.)

(11 days)

(Scotland is staying in the UK. After brief research, at least now I sort of understand the differences between England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. It still confuses me though when I look up the “country” in a drop-down list, I had to look three times with mix results.)

360º Selfie Around the World

About three months ago, I came upon this video of a world traveler named Alex Chacon doing a 360º selfie around the world.

When I first saw it, I couldn’t help but watch it again and again. It’s so much fun and inspirational. After watching the video diary series on his YouTube channel where he traveled by motorcycle from the tip of South America to Alaska, it sort of neutralized my feeling about travel. Recently, I rewatched the 360º Selfie video a few times and I’ve become desensitized. It’s still impressive, but I feel like I’m ready for another inspirational story.

For me, in the time that I’ve started planning for this trip, I’ve been thinking about how I want to document my experience. Photos? Written journal? Videos? I have a few ideas I want to do, but I wonder how it’ll affect how I travel. I certainly want to avoid taking this trip just to make a photo album or a video. But as a creative person, I find that there’s something fun to create something to share. It’s almost inevitable, as much as I want to shake it out of me and just enjoy the moment instead of trying to capture it. So how much time should I spend capturing the moment and how much on experiencing it. It’s a delicate balance I have yet to find.

Here is Alex’s video diary playlist:

(14 days)

(iOS 8 is out. It’s funny how everyone’s frustrated because they need to delete apps and photos in order to install it. And because I’m going on this trip, I had already done some cleaning to make space for photos and videos (in case I want to document it 😉 ), so I can kill two birds with one stone.)

Big Trip Weekly Status Update – Three Weeks Left


  • Kept buying more stuff, but haven’t yet had a chance to re-pack after the first time I did it two weeks ago and noticed MOST of my clothes took up 3/4 of the space already.
  • Two purchases arrived that I’m excited about: 1) a old-school digital watch that I will use mainly to tell time without taking out my phone in public and to wake me up, again without leaving my phone out while I’m unconscious. I’ve started wearing it to get used to having something on my wrist and also to test-drive it. And 2) a tiny little indulgent purchase, the Joby tripod adapter for my phone for photographing the aurora (or try to at list). It’s very lightweight and folds flat.
  • Travel/Hostel sheets arrived. I’ve been testing it on my own bed for past few nights. Very thin (almost too thin) but still warm (my room’s warm anyway, though).
  • Finally bought my daypack…s. I got the packable version and a theft-proof version. I honestly can’t decide, partly because I don’t know if I have room for the larger theft-proof version. I’m going to decide near the very end and return the other one.
  • Started reading up on money and currencies. Let’s just say there are a lot of currencies.


  • Finally started going through the cities and booking places to stay. So far, I’ve only done Johannesburg and half of Lima. It’s still somewhat difficult to decide the hostel that’s right for me when I’ve never stayed in a hostel before. At this point, I’m relying a lot on reviews, and there always seems to be something negative said about each hostel. It is what it is.
  • What I realized that I also need to do is arrange airport transfers to and from the hostels. Having traveled in the US, I feel lucky to rely on public transportation or different types of private transport services. But when I go to a foreign land, airport transfer services are really useful, and I get why it’s important now!
  • So right now, for the first fourteen nights of my trip, I know where I will sleep for twelve of them. Progress.

Digital Preparation

  • I started setting up my devices and apps for traveling. Cleaned out a bunch of space on my devices and my Dropbox and downloaded the apps that people recommend.
  • WikiSherpa/Wikivoyage, while super basic, has been really useful. And it can be used offline once you downloaded the pages for the city!
  • Word Lens is also really cool. It’s the one where you aim the camera at a sign in a foreign language and it translates it for you. It was featured on an Apple commercial but was recently bought by Google. And I think that’s why they offered all the language packs for free “for a limited time” whatever that means. So I downloaded all the languages and tested out French both ways. It works pretty well.


  • Submitted my application for Chinese visa this past week. The process was much more efficient than I thought. Just a lot of prep work. So once I get that visa, I can technically travel all the way around the world.


  • I forgot to mention in the past two weeks because it’s been such a passive activity now for the past five months. I’m reviewing all six languages that I will be trying to speak on the trip. I had planned to review 10 lessons from each language over six weeks, and I will be starting week five. With every lesson review, I realize how much I forget. Let’s hope I can get by.

Next Week

  • One thing I’m still really concerned about is my luggage, especially when I still haven’t gotten everything I “need” for the trip and my luggage is probably full. So I really need to do another packing test and make some tough calls on what to and not to bring.
  • Accommodations. Gotta get those booked, at least most of them, something at the start of each city.

(18 days. WHAT?!)

(The sun just had a giant solar storm and triggered really strong aurora borealis that even northern US can see. I’m sort of jealous. Hopefully there’s some residual material leftover in the next month so I can see it in a little over a month.)

Big Trip Weekly Status Update – Four Weeks Left

Lots of progress this weekend (and this week).


  • Still a lot of things I feel like I need to get, but my bag is practically full already. So I need to decide which will make the cut.
  • I did finally got the two pairs of shoes I’m bringing to the trip (one hike/walking and one nice/night out) that I have started breaking in.

Tours and Accommodations

These things kind of go hand-in-hand. I had to figure what I’m going to do at these destinations to figure out where I should stay. And some of these activities I’m purchasing tours for and they need to know where I’m staying so they can pick me up. I had already booked the Machu Picchu and safari trip, but they were multi-day and took care of accommodations.

So this weekend I’ve finally started looking at the three day trips that I needed to do: Get admission to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, going out to “chase” the Northern Lights and visiting the Great Wall. It’s also when I finally began relying on TripAdvisor, however confusing to navigate. After hours of shopping and agonizing over price and tour features, I’ve:

  • (Albuquerque) bought the tickets and confirmed an Airbnb request to stay near the event pickup/dropoff location
  • (Tromsø): booked a tour that should be a good deal and started looking at Airbnb spots near the pickup spot.
  • (Beijing): booked a tour for the Great Wall and reserved a spot at a hostel near city center and public transit.

If it wasn’t for my “Advanced To-Do List” I wouldn’t have been this organized to finally just suck it up and do it.

Flight Seats

I thought it was about time I select the seats on all my flights before all the good ones are taken. Well, the bad news is that because I made the reservation through the airline alliance and not individual airlines, I was only able to select seats for United and Lufthansa, which sort of heads the alliance. And also, I’m beginning to realize that more airlines are only allowing you to select your seats 1) if you pay extra, or 2) when you check-in. This is going to take more pre-planning and looking up Seatguru to make sure I get good enough seats for me to sleep on the longer flights. So for now, that’s almost everything I can do.


This coming week, I have many things I need to tackle:

  • Apply for the China visa now I have an address for where I’m staying to put on the application
  • Really buy as much of the stuff I need as I can online so they arrive on time; otherwise, I’d have to go out and buy potentially inferior and unreviewed products in person.
  • Start looking at places I want to say for the rest of the places. I heard Europe has more options and can be done later but still.
  • Start figuring out how much money I need in each country and go get at least some of that money before my trip.

(25 days)

(I heard recently that Lufthansa’s worker’s having a strike.)

(Hodor and Bran won’t be in Season 5.)

One Month Until Start of (Little) Big Trip

I already did a progress update so I will keep it short. But there’s still a lot of stuff on my list that I’d like to get done.

In thirty days, I will be on a plane to Albuquerque. In forty days, I will have seen an ancient Incan site in person. In fifty, I will have stepped foot on six of seven continents. In sixty, I will have fulfilled my dream from half my lifetime ago and visited the City of Love. In seventy, I will have learned more about the ancient and current history of my people. In eighty, I will be back in my apartment wondering what just happened.

The constant switch between excitement and nervousness continues.

In a previous post, I mentioned how four months ago, I was so concerned with booking flights and reserving tours for this trip, and now, those things feel trivial. I sense that, if all goes relatively well, I will feel the same about this trip when I return. It will be another thing that I’ve done, and I will be ready for the next thing. This trip may not be, and I should not have any expectations for it to be, a life-changing experience.

Then why should I go on this trip? Because if I don’t, the idea of traveling around the world will still stay with me, and I will always wonder. Because if I don’t, I won’t be able to get to the next thing. Because if I don’t, I cannot grow.

(30 days)



15 11 15 21 8 13 23 12 1 8 18 19 4 13 3 14 23 26 26 11 8 19

  1. I’ve always loved num_ers.
  2. They _onsistently make the most sense to me and bring order to my life.
  3. I love how such a simple concept creates so many _ifferent properties (Primes, Pythagorean, Pascal, just to name a basic few).
  4. Numbers equ_lizes _nd democr_tizes society.
  5. The more one understands powers, the more power and opportunities they get in li_e.
  6. Numbers connect with nature and science, like chemistry and physics, a_ain, to name the very basic few.
  7. It’s practically a universal language, as in a language of t_e universe!
  8. So is g_om_try, which is pack_d with numb_rs and probably how I got int_r_st_d in graphic d_sign.
  9. I’m a _unkie of numbers, and I’ve got time, quantities, rankings, lists, etc. on my mind.
  10. I group life’s moments in bus arrival estimates, the lunch hour, tabatas, wee_ends, seasons, birthdays, Olympics, anniversaries, etc.
  11. I design with screen reso_utions, tab_e ce__s, pixe_s, dynamic spacing, etc.
  12. I _onitor weights, sets, reps, percentages, and averages, etc.
  13. I ask i_ my head, “How old will I be/was I whe_ they’re my age?” a_d “How old do I _eed to be to be twice, or thrice, or half, or a third of their age?
  14. I com_are gains and losses against inflation and tax rates.
  15. _t’s an As_an stereotype that _ fully l_ve up to.
  16. Similarly, I l_ve puzzles.
  17. They work my brain and make me feel _uite smart.
  18. I enjoy the jou_ney f_om total myste_y to “It all makes sense!”
  19. Puzzle_ are ju_t a form of problem-_olving.
  20. Being a UI/UX designer is an excellen_ example of _ha_.
  21. And life is all about problem-sol_ing.
  22. I naturally try to solve life’s problems _ith numbers as much as I can.
  23. I often s_spect that I might be a robot.
  24. At the same time, I know that some things e_ceeds what math and formulas are capable of.
  25. And _et I still tr_.
  26. I just have to find the balance between numbers and pu__les.


11, 14, 15.

Big Trip Weekly Status Update – Five Weeks Left

Ever since my “Advanced To-Do List” where I consolidated all my tasks into one, I had gotten a little more productive. Also, having a three-day weekend helped as well. I had made copies to most of my important documents. I had just went out and bought a bunch of things I had been putting off in “research mode,” including the two pairs of shoes I planned on wearing that need to be broken into and could not wait until the last minute to be purchased. And I have officially started packing.

The okay news is that I started test-packing my clothes, and it already took up 3/4 of the only luggage (carry-on size) that I plan to bring, and I haven’t finished getting the clothes I’d like to get, but that means I have to make cuts already. The good news is that I have a month to figure out what to cut. With all the other stuff I’m packing, I’ve divided them into categories of how frequent I need them so I can group things accordingly. Everything’s laid out, so it’s hard to tell if they will all fit. But something tells me I’m going to have to make cuts in that department as well.

The outstanding items on my Advanced To-Do List (basically just a spreadsheet of tasks with dates and priorities) that are heavy on my mind right now are booking places to stay, getting my Chinese visa (which requires me having a reservation at wherever I’m staying), and getting tickets for the events and tours that this trip was planned around. I made good progress this past weekend, but I have a slate of other things that I’ve scheduled myself to complete this week as well. One thing I’ve learned about this whole experience this year is that planning something this big pretty much occupies my life where any spare time I have is devoted to it, meaning my social calendar has to compromise. But I still try to find a balance when I can.

I also just rewatched A Map for Saturday. It’s given me stronger feelings about what I had already felt. The fact that the travelers’ lives both change and didn’t change is interesting, and it’s good to know how I would feel after the trip and what I should expect.

Based on my notes, I watched it just under four months ago. Defeatedly, it doesn’t feel like that long ago, and it also doesn’t feel like I’ve progressed much with my planning. The only major things I’ve done are buy my remaining plane tickets, booked the two major tours I’m taking, bought the clothes I was going to wear, and made a visit to the travel clinic to make sure I’m taken care off health-wise. They felt like such major tasks at the time, but now they’re just things I had to do and didn’t think much of it. Finding a place to stay or being able to legally enter a country are clearly important to me right now, but I’m sure once they’re done, they’re also just things I had to do. I don’t know how I feel yet about this experience in particular. Maybe it has to do with how I’m always chasing the next thing and it’s difficult to stay satisfied.

(31 days until start of trip.)

(19 work days left.)

(iPhone 6 coming out in a week… and maybe more. I wish they could say more. 🙂 )