Annie and Jon left corporate America to do some world traveling. This blog chronicles their unconventional path and hopefully provides a little inspiration along the way.

Most Recent Updates
On the Kindle
  • Warrior of the Light: A Manual
    Warrior of the Light: A Manual
  • First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (P.S.)
    First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (P.S.)
  • Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age
    Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Shambhala Library)
    Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Shambhala Library)

Entries in Lessons (11)


computer love

We have been traveling for over five months on buses, slow boats, long tailed boats, water taxi's, trains, planes, tuk tuks, rickshaws, and by foot. We have visited seven countries and countless cities, towns, and villages. It has added up to a lot of wear and tear on both Annie and I as well as our belongings. I have pushed my computer hard working on photos and video and it finally gave out. My hard drive crashed last night. We were fortunate to be in Chiang Mai that has a Apple service center and I was up to speed within a few hours with a new hard drive but unfortunately the data on my old drive was lost. 

The good thing is I backed up my computer last week. The frustrating thing is the back up is on a slow boat from Thailand that will arrive in the US in two months. What this means for the blog is that I won't be able to post pictures from Indonesia, Cambodia, and Thailand for at least two months. Laos will be the first update upon departure. When I have access to the backup, I will post the remaining photos. We lost our photos from Chiang Mai and won't have any photos for a few daily details updates. Video updates are on hold until I can get a back up of my software shipped from the US. I currently have no editing software on my computer. This is a little unfortunate because I am 95% done with the New Zealand recap and it turned out great. Hopefully I should be up and running by next week.

The positive from this is that we will lose very little. It will also be nice to catch my breath for a short time as management of the photos and video is a lot of work. The blog post will keep coming and we have some travel tips postings in the pipeline as we begin the home stretch of our trip. As always thanks for the kind messages and support.


kindness without boundaries

The Principles of Thai Cookery from Jon Carr on Vimeo.

Chef McDang and I first met at the California Culinary Academy (CCA) two years ago. The Royal Thai Consulate General in Los Angeles contacted CCA about an opportunity to have a Thai chef come for a week to conduct lectures and demos about Thai cookery. At the end of the week, the students participated in a competition cooking Pad Thai where the winners won a one-week all expenses paid culinary trip hosted by the Thai chef compliments of the Royal Thai Consulate General office. How can any school turn down that kind of an offer?!

I didn’t know what to expect of the Thai chef and just hoped he spoke English well enough for our students to understand him. He showed up promptly at 9am on the first day with his entourage of four sous chefs and said with a British-American twang something along the lines of, “show me my kitchen and I’ll take care of everything else.” From that moment I knew he was going to be a lot of fun.

Click to read more ...


reflections on cambodia

Have you every heard of the studies about the people from Africa that are extremely poor but are happier than most Americans? Their poverty frees them up from the western driven commercialism and consumption and as a result they have closer ties to family and rate much higher than many Westerners on happiness surveys. Well Cambodia is essentially one step up from Africa on a poverty level and we got to see this theory in action. If any people have a reason to be dispirited, it would be Cambodians.

Cambodia has had an incredibly rough forty years dating back to the Vietnam War when the US began bombing the country for its aiding of the Vietnamese along the Ho Chi Minh trail. This created instability in the country and left thousands of dangerous undetonated bombs along the countryside. The instability helped aid the overthrow of the government by the Khmer Rouge and their ruthless leader Pol Pot. Over the next four years the Khmer Rouge executed a mass genocide against the educated class wiping out teachers, doctors, lawyers and anyone else with an intellectual background. Over a four year span the death toll reached three million. In 1979, Vietnam stepped in and forced the Khmer Rouge out of power and to the western border near Thailand where many of the leaders of the genocide went unpunished until the day they died. I can’t imagine rebuilding a nation without any educated people and Cambodia is just now starting to gain momentum in the modern world. 

Click to read more ...


mistaken identity

Native: Hello, welcome to my country.

Annie: Hello!

Native: Where do you come from?

Annie: America.

Native: (looks confused and thinks to himself/herself…really? She looks like an Asian. Better ask again to make sure I understood her.) Where?

Annie: San Francisco.

Native: (in a confused tone) Oh. 

Annie: But I was born in Taiwan.

Native: (Ha…I knew it! And smiles.) 

This is a typical interaction I have with the locals in all the Asian countries we have visited so far. People don’t seem to believe that I’m from America and it puzzles them until I say I was born in Taiwan. Then there’s usually a sigh of relief that the mystery has been solved. Next time they ask I should just say I’m Taiwanese, which would lessen the confusion.

Or my favorite interaction so far is with a tour guide in Battambang. We were on the bamboo train and stopped for a break. I got food poisoning a few days ago and was still feeling the bug. My stomach was hurting and I needed to use the toilet so I asked Jon to find out where I could find one. He approached a tour guide. The tour guide looked at me and said to Jon...”but she’s Asian.” I’m not sure how being Asian had anything to do with locating a toilet. I thought it was hilarious.

I don’t usually get asked this question having grown up in the states since I was seven so I’ve never really thought much about it. Do I consider myself Taiwanese, Taiwanese American, American Taiwanese, or simply American? I don’t know. I am proud to be born in Taiwan and only when someone assumes that I am from China do I make it a point to correct them. To me there’s a difference between those two countries.  

It’s not entirely accurate to say I’m Taiwanese since I grew up in the States and have adopted many American values. Nor am I just an American as that would be denying my heritage. I guess I’ll settle for Taiwanese American if I must chose an identity as that would most accurately describe who I am. So next time someone asks me where I am from I’ll say Taimerica. That will really confuse them.


lessons learned from breaking bad

Over the past week I have immersed myself in an all out Breaking Bad marathon. During our travels, several people had recommended the series and I finally broke down to watch all three seasons. For those unfamiliar with the show, here is the description from Amazon:

Popular water-cooler drama about an unremarkable and uncharismatic chemistry teacher, Walter, who discovers new passion in his life after he learns he has terminal cancer. Once a successful chemist, Walter now teaches apathetic high school students and works part-time at a car wash to help support his family - wife Skyler, who earns a modest income buying and selling items on eBay, and son Walter, Jr., a strong-willed 17-year-old suffering from cerebral palsy. Realizing he has nothing but his family left to live for, Walter's new sense of purpose reinvigorates him into a man of action as he turns to an exciting life of crime to provide for the ones he loves.

These marathons can be trouble for me because it tends to become addictive and many of my important daily activities fall by the wayside (like updating the blog). The series proved incredibly well done and worthy of its recent Emmy nomination. While a bit off topic, I have compiled a list of the things I have learned after my 32-hour marathon. 

10. Never trust a drug addict.

 The story revolves around two main characters, Walter and Jessie. Walter has cancer and is struggling with medical bills. Jessie is Walter’s former student and is struggling with drug addiction. Walter is consistently getting Jessie out of trouble because of his drug addiction. While this trouble is what drives the story lines forward and creates the drama that brings me back, Jessie’s addiction has led to many near death encounters for both of the main characters. Jessie’s actions has led to a consistent string of disappointment. As Gus Fring, the major drug distributor tells Walter when they meet, “Never trust a drug addict.”

9. It is best not to have a brother-in-law who is a DEA agent if you are going to manufacturer large quantities of drugs. 

This one is pretty self explanatory but adds an extra level of tension to the show. 

8. Good writing is what makes this show sing.

Most movies and TV shows are pretty predictable but with Breaking Bad, there have been numerous times I have been blindsided by a dramatic event. It is refreshing. Breaking Bad was created by Vince Gilligan, who was heavily involved in the X-Files. The X-Files was one of my all time favorite shows. 

7. There is a future for all of my time lapse work.

This show is built on a few of my favorite things including wonderful writing, beautiful cinematography (including scenic time lapse), and compelling characters. The show utilizes some beautiful time lapse imagery and makes me feel better about the hours I have invested in this technique.  

6. If you are going to launder money it is good to have someone on the inside.

Walter is seeking out legit businesses to launder his money and it is important to have someone on the inside who can be trusted to look the other way. It is also important to invest in a business that isn’t way out of left field. If it is out of the ordinary, it will raise suspicions with the IRS. 

5. It is alway a good idea to have a clean up man if you lead a life of crime.

Mike is the cleaner for Saul Goodman, the corrupt lawyer for Walter and Jessie. He reminds me of the Harvey Keitel Winston “the Wolf” Wolfe character from Pulp Fiction. Mike has been instrumental in keeping Walter and Jessie safe during their steep learning curve in the drug world. Always good to have someone watching your back. 

4. I love the dynamic between the two main characters, Walter and Jessie. 

Such an odd couple but it seems to work. There are many layers to their relationship and it has been fun to see the characters develop over the three seasons to become king pins in New Mexico. So much drama. 

3. Story is king.

I am one for high production value but it ultimately comes down to the story. If I am engaged in the story, all the other details fall by the wayside. The production value of Breaking Bad is top notch but it is the engaging story that brings me back and keeps me watching. 

2. If you follow your passion, success will come.

While it can be argued that Walter isn’t passionate about drug manufacturing, he is very much passionate about science. He makes a significant amount of money and while it does ultimately come with a pretty severe cost, he does reach the pinnacle of his profession. This is one I struggle with especially as we gear up to return to the States. Do I come back and get a “safe” job with a good salary and benefits or do I follow my passion of filmmaking with no guarantees. 

1. Manufacture and sales of Crystal Meth probably isn’t the best profession.

Crime, murder, and drug manufacturing isn’t a very safe way of live but it sure makes for some fun television. 

Now that I have watched the entire series, I promise to get back to my day to day activities.  I know I can change. I won’t disappoint you this time. You can trust me. I will be more active on the blog after getting over this addiction although I do have three seasons of Dexter in my suitcase calling my name. 

When in doubt refer back to lesson number 10, never trust an addict.  


new australian vocabulary

I have been working on perfecting my Australian accent over the last month. I am getting better and even had a bartender in a pub tell me I had an Australian accent. This has been an activity I have been working on from my early days of enjoying many late night Crocodile Hunter marathons. Cricky!

Here is a list of our favorite words and phrases we have picked up on our Australian travels. Remember when using them to embrace your inner Paul Hogan. 

  • Boot - in Australia this is what they call the trunk of the car.
  • Good on ya - meaning well done, good for you.
  • How ya going? - one of my favorites, the translation is how are you doing?
  • Good as gold - this would translate to “that is classic.”
  • No worries - this has gained increasing popularity in the US over the years but is claimed by Australia. The translation is don’t worry about it.
  • Brekky - breakfast in Australia. 
  • Take the piss out of someone - this is to make fun of your mate. 
  • Budgie smugglers - a speedo swimsuit.
  • Bogan - redneck without guns.
  • Bush - dry wilderness.
  • Woop Woop - out in the bush. “It is out in the woop woop.”
  • Esky - ice cooler.
  • Bugger/Stuffed up - this means you missed up.
  • Hey - they use this instead of “what”, when something isn’t heard. 
  • Bikkie - cookie or biscuit.
  • Smoko - morning tea.
  • Arbo - afternoon.
  • Winger(winja) - complainer. 
  • Rangar - this one is a little mean but I am told pretty common. It refers to a red head like a orangoutang.
  • Pisser - to get drunk.
  • Tracky Dacs - sweat pants.
  • Thongs/pluggers/jandels - flip flops.
  • Ta - thanks. 
  • Jumper - sweater.
  • Singlet - tank top.
  • Crook - feeling sick. 
  • Heaps - this is the most common and we have started using it quite a bit. You substitute heaps for a lot. For instance, Annie and I are spending heaps of money on this trip.

We have many others but we are trying to keep things PG rated. We hope you enjoy and incorporate a few into your daily conversations. 


hitting a speed bump

It had been 17 days and 13 hours when Jon and I hit our first bump in the road. We were leaving Taihape after visiting Gumboot Day, which only comes around every two years. Since it was getting close to dinner time we were looking for a campsite to stay for the night. I was driving and the winds were really picking up. When a big truck would pass us on the opposite side of the road, our hippie van would rock back and forth as if we were going to tip over. I was a little nervous about the wind but also anxious to get to a site for some dinner so I was driving pretty aggressively. 

We had been driving 200 - 300 kilometers each day, which can be quite a bit considering you are doing it day in and day out. We had enough. I was stressed and tired from the drive since I can’t reach the pedal comfortably and my shoulders get tense. Jon was feeling queasy from my crazy driving and exhausted from being cooped up in the van.

To make matters worse, we played scrabble that night to pass the time and it didn’t go so well. Jon had been winning all the games while we were in Fiji but New Zealand was my territory. Needless to say, we went to bed that night in our cozy full-size bed feeling each other’s cold shoulder.

The next morning when we woke up I told Jon we just passed our first bump. He laughed and asked if that was what it was. We agreed for our sanity that we would stay in a hotel that night in Wellington before we boarded the ferry to the south island.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to have cold and hot water coming out of the same pipe in the sink and to not have to carry my clothes and shampoo when I showered. Plus, Jon got to use the internet for free and they had unlimited usage! You can bet we were downloading stuff all night. It’s really the little comforts of life that we miss.

I’m glad we passed our first but certainly not last speed bump and now know what to look out for on our path. I think next time we’ll just go around the speed bump and stay at a hotel. We’ve also switched to reading more and playing cards.

Speed limit: you define it as you go along.



When we started our journey one of the goals was to not plan too much and be open to opportunities that crossed our path. Hence, one of the meanings behind our blog’s name.

An overwhelming consensus we got from people was to head to the south island of New Zealand. Spend three fourth of your time in New Zealand visiting the south.

So our plan was to stay in the north island for just a few days until we met Danielle and Pete. We were waiting for the ferry to Waiheke Island when they sat down next to us and we started chatting it up. They are an American couple who live three months out of the year in New Zealand and the rest of the time between Virginia and Vermont. Within 20 minutes we decided to rent a car together to drive around the island and they had also invited to stay at their home for a few days up in Mangonui, a town in the northland. When people think of Mangonui they immediately think of fish and chips. And were they delicious! Danielle and Pete even had a guest cottage for us with a real bed that Jon could comfortable lay out on. It all sounded too tempting for could we say no?! But it was going against the path that we had set our eyes on...heading down to the south island. We were only in New Zealand for 18 days and already that didn’t seem like enough time.

However, we are so glad we took them up on their offer. They showed us some great sights such as St. Paul's Rock (oh, what a hike), Ninety Mile Beach, and the beauty of the northland. We went over to their friends’ house for dinner and stayed in our last night to watch a movie together. It was as if we had known them for years. We kept thinking is this for real? Who invites total strangers to come stay at their place only after meeting them for a few minutes? We’ve learned it’s part of the Kiwi hospitality as we have received similar offers along our journey.

Thank you, Danielle and Pete, for reminding us that detours can lead to unexpected good surprises. We hope to see you again somewhere in the world and pass your hospitality and generosity forward to someone else.


fiji time

It is our last day in Fiji. I am currently watching the sunrise from the beach, which is only a few feet away from our bure. Fiji is the first stop in our unmapped adventure and it is a bit surreal. I feel like I will be returning from vacation and back to work shortly. Instead, we are off to New Zealand tonight for our 18-day camper van excursion. 

Fiji is a beautiful place. The people are incredible, always smiling. Bula is Fijian for hello and whenever you encounter a Fijian they give you a warm welcome and a big smile. Things move pretty slowly around here and it can be attributed to "Fiji time." Annie and I definitely feel it. It is probably a combination of humidity and an influence from the natives but we are moving very leisurely these days. My day consists of three meals, three naps, and a little poolside scrabble. 

I think Fiji was an important first stop for us to unplug after a grueling February of boxing up our lives. I initially had the urge to check email every half hour but Comcast solved that problem. Since I am no longer a paying customer, I lost my primary Comcast email address. It feels a little strange being so unplugged with my phone number shut off and losing my email but also a little empowering at the same time. 

One of the main things I will take away from Fiji is something we learned when we attended the Fijian history talk at our resort, Treasure Island. In Fiji, the natives have a practice of letting everything go from the day every sunset. If something happened or someone wronged them on any level, they forgive and forget by sunset. At sunrise, it's a fresh start each day. It think it is a great philosophy and something I will work to put into practice a little more in my own life. The people are always smiling and so friendly and I'm sure this can be partly attributed to their sunrise philosophy. 

On a final note, we have had a really positive response to the blog and we encourage and appreciate everyone's comments. It makes us feel connected to friends and family. I am sure there will be a little homesickness on the trip so keep the comments coming. 

All for now. I am headed back to our bure. The very short walk will probably take much longer than expected. "Fiji Time."


the real housewife of san francisco

This past week I got a little taste of what it was like to be a housewife. My last day at my job was last Friday so I have officially been out of a job for a week and one day. I chose to quit my job so I guess there's a bit of a difference. Jon is wrapping up some video projects so I've been busy packing up our apartment and prepping for our trip. This housewife stuff isn't all fun and games. I have found that it's easy to wear the same clothes day in and day out and then all of a sudden realize you haven't showered. My excuse is that I'm getting mentally prepared for our trip since we are each only taking two carry-ons. But it might be due to fact that I have packed up all my clothes already and left very little to be worn. I have my glasses on rather than contacts and my hair is in pigtails, which Jon says makes me look like Pocahontas.  

Also the days just fly by. I am up by 7:30am everyday and before I know it lunchtime is here. We've had sandwiches all last week since I'm trying to use up everything in our fridge. And then it's 5pm so I better start thinking about dinner. I lose track of what day it is and hardly talk to anyone since everyone is at work. I do miss the people interaction so I'm glued to my email and facebook. Now I know what Jon means when he says he gets a little stir crazy when he works from home all day and doesn't leave the house.

When I told Jon I might not be cut out for being a housewife he was glad to hear that we will continue to be a DIF (double income family). I guess I have to put things in perspective considering it's only been one week and technically I'm not even really a housewife. My version of a housewife could be distorted.

For all the housewives out there, I have a new found respect for what you do so don't ever let anyone tell you being a housewife isn't a full-time job. Looking back, helping a student reenter is a piece of cake.