Day 630 OUT OF Beijing: Break Time.


Jill and me celebrating my birthday and enjoying our ride on the SVT Salsa and Rueda Party bus.

Jill and me celebrating my birthday and enjoying our ride on the SVT Salsa and Rueda Party bus.


All I can say, is that after 630 blog posts over 630 days, I’m ready for a well deserved break.

I’ve loved sharing Jill’s and my adventures with all of you and will write more when I feel like it.

I have no idea when that will be.

I want to thank everyone that has enjoyed my blog posts and read them.

I’m incredibly grateful for the comments, responses, and care you sent me while I was living overseas with Jill.  She is also.  It meant more to us than I can ever relate to any of you.

Thank you.  Seriously, THANK YOU.

Now it is up to you to write your own story.

Most of all, I have to thank Jill.

My darling, I will do my best to never let fear stand in our way.

Thank you, Jill.

You saved my life.



Day 622 OUT OF Beijing: Happy 46th Birthday to Me!


Jill and me celebrating my birthday and enjoying our ride on the SVT Salsa and Rueda Party bus.

Jill and me celebrating my birthday and enjoying our ride on the SVT Salsa and Rueda Party bus.


Jill and I are getting ready to have a major party this weekend at the 7th Annual Salsa Rueda Festival.

The party started last night, when we hired a few private party buses and drove all over San Francisco.

My friends, Nick and Serena, run the whole event and it is one of the biggest in the USA.

Some of the best teachers, performers and fans of Cuban music and dancing come from all over the world just to be at this festival.

Luckily, it is always on the same weekend as my birthday so I get to celebrate with loads of friends and pretend as if this is my birthday party every year.

Jill, always willing to try something new, went on the party bus for the first time last night and seemed to have a great time.

She was able to meet a lot of my friends that she had never met before, and was able to do a little salsa dancing also.  It isn’t really her scheme but she’s a trooper and danced with me a few times.

Most my friends are new to her since we met only 8 days before I left for China.  Since we’ve been back we’ve been working non-stop since we got back to update San Francisco Tourism Tips, she hasn’t really had a chance to meet a lot of my salsa community.  That is going to change, BIG TIME, this weekend.

Since I won’t be around my immediate family on my birthday, I will be around mi familia salsa.

A wonderful way to start the party and to begin my 47 year of being alive on this little blue marble we call Earth.


Our friends, Nick and Serena, watch as their team practices for their performance.

Our friends, Nick and Serena, watch as their team practices for their performance.


Day 618 OUT OF Beijing: Valentine’s Day, Love and Carnaval San Francisco.


Page 3 on Carnaval San Francisco's DRUM BEAT!

Page 3 on Carnaval San Francisco’s DRUM BEAT!


Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and Jill and I both got a wonderful surprise that helped us celebrate our love courtesy of Carnaval San Francisco.

If you remember, Jill and I met at Carnaval almost two years ago.

That was 8 days before I was going to leave for China.

I was meeting my buddy, Jon-David, to hang out and watch the parade.  It was going to be my last Carnaval for 3 years since I planned to stay in China for the duration of my contract and wanted to see other places instead of coming back to the bay area.

Little did I know I’d meet the love of my life, Jill Loeffler.

I posted about our first date, the next day, and how we had a “First Date Re-Dux” when we got back to San Francisco about 2 months ago now.  By the way, we are leaving San Francisco in 14 days.  Time really does fly in so many ways!

I tagged Carnaval San Francisco in my blog because I wanted them to know how much we appreciate them and how important they are to Jill’s and my story.  BiancaEstella de la Rocha, noticed my blog post and how we met at Carnaval.  She wrote to me and asked if we’d like to be featured in the Valentine’s Day edition of DRUM BEAT.

DRUM BEAT is their official newsletter and we were both blown away and humbled at the same time.

Bianca told us that she would put us in contact with Valencia Newton and she would do the interview.

Valencia contacted us, about a week or so later, and we set up a time to meet.

We met at a coffee shop on Market Street and had a great time.

Valencia is someone that we instantly took a liking to since she is so happy, gregarious and outgoing.

She is also the current Queen of Carnaval San Francisco!

How cool is that?  Jill and I got to be interviewed by the Queen!!!

Valencia told us this was her first time she had professionally interviewed someone and we were quite surprised as she had a lot of questions, seemed at ease, and was very professional and concise.  I, on the other, tend to babble and Jill rolled her eyes more than once and said, “Yep, this is Aram.  He gets excited and tends to talk a lot.”  Jill worked in journalism, and on the radio, and so she knows how to do interviews and how to be interview. I tend just to talk and want to have people “raised up” by my excitement.  I think, in looking back, it is another reason why we do so well as a couple since we balance each other out.  She grounds me when I need it, and I ground her when she needs it (which is not that often.  Jill’s a rock and I’m constantly amazed by her stability and ability to know what is the right choice in almost any occasion).

The interview took about an hour and we talked about everything from falling in love, blogging each day, running San Francisco Tourism Tips for the last 5 years (and the last 1.5 years in CHINA!), minimization, getting engaged in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey, what we have planned for our new website and also what Valencia’s dreams and hopes are.  It was like we were friends that had known each other for years.

Valencia is going to be a natural at this and I see someone that is ready to take the world by the horns!

We were told the edition would come out on Valentine’s Day and Valencia let us know we could read through and do corrections with the different drafts.  About 2 weeks later, she sent us the first draft and it was almost perfect.  She had done an excellent job of getting the facts straight, making a very coherent and exciting article, and almost being 100% correct.  We were really pleased and excited to know that our story was going to be in print sometime soon.

Another exciting part was the photograph that Valencia chose for the interview: It was of us in Santorini, Greece, at our friend Vassilias Micheal Chryssos‘ bar and restaurant, Palia Kameni Cocktail Bar.  It was a very romantic night and we met up with Vassilias here in San Francisco as he and his girlfriend, Soneth, are traveling (and working) in California for a few months.

I’ve posted the interview below.  Please do me a huge favor and go to the Carnaval SF Facebook page and “like” their page.  Also, go to the Carnaval and support them with your patronage, your money and you joy.  This is an organization that does so much, for so many, with so little.  Along with allowing us to meet and fall in love, it is one more of the reasons that Jill and I love Carnaval SF.


Click here to see the PDF version of the Valentine’s Day DRUM BEAT featuring Jill and me!  We are on page 3 and 4. Valenica, who interviewed us, is in a photograph on page 2 dressed as the Queen and standing with the King.


Page 4 of Carnaval San Francisco's DRUM BEAT!

Page 4 of Carnaval San Francisco’s DRUM BEAT!



Day 577 OUT OF Beijing: New Year’s Eve.


Happy New Years!

Happy New Years!


Jill and I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Singapore last year with our friend Dipesh.

It was an 8 minute show of fireworks and then a very delayed walk home to our hotel because they aren’t used to crowds of that size in Singapore and they forced everyone to walk down the same route which led to massive people jams and nowhere to go for a long time.

The day before, we did the same walk home in about 30 minutes.  That night took 3 hours.

We prefer smaller, and more intimate, parties with just our friends.

Luckily, our friends Alvaro and Kelly have their New Year’s Eve party most years and had it again this one.

We were in San Francisco and the party was in San Leandro, over the bay, so we had to figure out a way to get there on mass transit since we are going carless from now on.

We hopped on the Muni train, then moved over to BART and then Alvaro picked us up at the BART station near his house.  We were going to grab a bus to his place but he was nice enough to offer and we accepted.  Muni was free from 8 pm that night until 5 am the next morning so our trip only cost us about $6 bucks each way which was a steal as far as we were concerned.  Jill hasn’t had a car for over 5 years, and I haven’t had a car since I left for China, and the savings are amazing.  I mostly rode the bus the last two years I was in the states and took carpool whenever I could.  It is also a nice way to meet with people I may not have met in any other circumstance.  It is also part of our drive (pun intended) towards minimization and being more frugal.  We find we don’t make as many frivolous trips when we don’t have a car and plan out our days to be more efficient in regards to what we do and when we do it.

We arrived at the party and said hello to Kelly, her parents, Alvaro’s parents and their twin daughters.  They are incredibly cute and love to dance around.  Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of them.  Simply stated, they were wearing princess gowns with tiaras and are about 3 years old.  We were having a great time just watching them run, dance and play with each other for a bunch of the night.

People started arriving, many who didn’t know I had returned from China, so we were able to catch up with many of them and update them on our adventures.  It was wonderful to see so many happy faces at our return and to realize that we are part of this small salsa community that seems to grow and add people but still stay close and like a family.

We danced a bit and mostly talked and ate delicious food while talking and catching up.  As 12 pm arrived, we all gathered by the tv and started to countdown the seconds at 10…9…8…7….6…5…4…3…2…1…HAPPY NEW YEARS!!!!

We had a great one.  I hope you did to and wish you the best 2015.




Day 572 OUT OF Beijing: Happy New Year’s Eve!


Goodbye Airpocalypse!

Goodbye Airpocalypse!


Jill and I have started our new life and are moving along swimmingly.

Today is New Year’s Eve and we are going to be celebrating with friends and doing a little salsa dancing.

We will probably drink a lot of champagne, eat amazing food, and have a truly incredible time since we are back home and things just feel “right” again.

We are definitely missing our friends back in Beijing and wishing them a wonderful New Year’s Day since they will have crossed the New Year’s Eve dateline before we do here.  We love you all and wish you were here to celebrate with us.

I have posted before about the Airpocalpyse app on my iPhone.

This will be the last time you, or I, see it since I deleted it.

I don’t plan on ever going back to Beijing, and I don’t want to be reminded of the pollution and conditions of living there, anymore.

Neither does Jill.

We are moving on to bigger and better things and want to focus on that.

I will be, however, writing a book about our experiences so we will be looking back at it.

But not right now.  Today is for the future and for enjoyment.

The air is clean in San Francisco and not a cloud in the sky.

Our website SF Tourism Tips is doing incredibly and we are working on our new site to help others live the life they want and figure out how to change what is in their way to being more content.

So, say goodbye to the Airpocalypse App.

Give it a good send off and a huge, “Thank you” for the laughs and the information that allowed Jill and me to figure out if we would leave our apartment on certain days or just stay home, order in, and watch Breaking Bad, 30 Rock or some movie that we’d have downloaded.

Happy New Years to all and I hope 2015 is the best year of your life so far.

I am sure it will be for Jill and me.


Day 563 OUT OF Beijing: Greece Comes to San Francisco!


Our first drink at Palia Kameni.

Our first drink at Palia Kameni.


Jill and I spent a few nights in little town of Fira on the island of Santorini, Greece after we got engaged.

We had been to Mykonos, Naxos and Paros and were worried Santorini would be too crowded and expensive.

Imagine our surprise when it was actually about the same price as the lesser known islands and not crowded at all.

We walked around Fira and found this amazing bar named Palia Kameni Cocktail Bar.

It was facing towards the caldera and where the sun would set later that night.

We decided to sit down, have a drink and hang out.

One of the waiters, from the UK, talked to us for a bit and seemed like a nice guy.

After our drinks came, the owner, Vassilias came up to talk to us as the waiter told him we had just come from China and were engaged.

We talked for about 1-2 hours and discussed how he came to own this bar at such a young age (he was 28 years old), how to live the life we want to live, and how to achieve financial freedom as soon as possible to be able to travel and see the world.

Vassilias told us that he took the bar over from his dad and he is slowly making changes. One of the changes was to pay his staff enough that he, and they, could shut down for the 6 month winter break, and be able to live without fear of running out of money.  For Vassilias, that also includes going to visit his girlfriend, Soneth, who is a speech therapist in San Francisco and Los Angeles this winter.  We told him that we will be back in SF and wanted to meet up with him.  He agreed and we came back the next night to watch the sunset again.

We just got back to SF on December 15th and Vassilias told us he was leaving on the 20th for LA and we decided to meet up at the Squat and Gobble in the Castro Area.  We had a wonderful time talking and figuring out future plans and how we can support each other as he builds his business and we build ours.

It is everything we love about owning our own business, being able to travel, and living a life that is less structured and more independent.

It is not for everyone, but there is no way we want to live any other way, at least not at this point in our lives.

I’ve include pictures taken from his restaurant in Fira.  If you ever go to Santorini, please say hello to him and enjoy the sunset from there.  It is life changing.


Day 559 OUT OF Beijing: The Flight Home.


The clouds above Seattle.

The clouds above Seattle.


Jill and I finished up saying goodbye to our friends and did the last bit of packing up.

We ended up giving away a lot of stuff and have decided to be as minimalist as possible.

We never really had much so it was a pretty easy decision.

We both came here with 2 check ins and our 2 carry on.

We are leaving with 1 check in and our 2 carry on.

Yep, after 1.5 years we only have 1 check in bag (less than 50 lbs) and one carry on.

I’m actually writing an ebook on how to minimize what you own and maximize your life and it should be out within the next two months.

It will be self-published and our the new site we are working on currently.

However, at this moment, we were focusing on getting to the airport, checking in, flying home, and starting our new life.

Our friend, Sarah Ting Ting Hou, set up a driver for us and it cost about $32 USD to drive us to the airport in a van door to door.  It takes about 45 minutes to get there so it was a great deal.

We then checked our bags, went through customs, and immigration and had our bags searched at three different locations (hey, I guess it is a good way to keep employment high in China if you have 10 people to do one person’s job).

After all that, we went to the vending machines and bought a few semi-cold beers.

We brought along our new gift from Peter and Gabrielle.  He is a statue that they bought us and we decided he would be out “gnome” that we’d go everywhere with and photograph him as if he is a real person. We decided to name him “Niubi Geme’r” (which means “Awesome Homey” in Chinese), and our two teddy bears, who were a wonderful surprise gift that the administrative assistant at my company, Emily, gave to us when we flew to Singapore.  We’ve named them “Pijiu” (which means “beer”) and “Bing” (which means “cold”) so we always have a “Cold beer” with us when we travel!


As you can see, Niubi Geme’r also likes cold beer so it is a perfect fit.

The flight took about 11 hours and it was a short lay over in Seattle.

Well, it was supposed to be a short lay over in Seattle.

However, the storms that have been pounding the West Coast made sure that our lay over was longer than anticipated.

It ended up being a 4.5 hour lay over and we had time to grab some nachos and beer.  It was perfect actually.

Our flight was then diverted into Oakland, into of San Francisco, because of the storms.

Our friend, Alethea, said she didn’t mind and would pick us up there instead of SFO and we just relaxed and flew on down.  We happened to sit by a very nice young man named Rafael who had just spent 6 months in China and had flown on the same flight as we did from Beijing.  We had a bit of conversation and then we all passed out for a a bit.

We landed without event and grabbed our baggage.  Alethea picked us up and we bought some wine, and a fantastic carnitas burrito at El Pueblo in Petaluma (where they live) and celebrated with her, her husband and my dear friend, Randy and their son, Cyrus.

It was, in my humble opinion, a perfect way to end our time in China and start our new lives here in SF.

Soon we are onto the rest of the USA, and after that, the rest of the world.



Day 558 OUT OF Beijing: The Last Supper (and breakfast).


Austin, Alex and Patrick and the rest of us doing a final cheers at Jing A Taproom.

Austin, Alex and Patrick and the rest of us doing a final cheers at Jing A Taproom.


Jill and I made so many friends during our 1.5 years in China that it is still hard for us to fathom it.

We were really lucky to be around such amazing people and have such a fantastic support system.

Living in Beijing is really difficult and it can be quite overwhelming.

The company I worked for has one psychotherapy department and it is in Beijing.

That says it all for me and Jill.

We were able to have a few goodbye dinners, and parties, and I am grateful for everyone that came.

I’ve decided to post a few pictures of them and our friends.

FYI, I gained about 20 lbs in the 1.5 years were we there.  I believe this happened because we ate and drank, a lot, with a lot of friends.  We also chose not to join a gym because we didn’t want to deal with going through the pollution to workout and then have to deal with it again to get home.  I stopped running because, after a day or two of nice weather, we’d have horrible pollution and it would basically set me back to the beginning and I just gave up.  These were our choices, and we own that, but it was a very difficult place to live.  If not for our friends, both at work and outside of work, it would have been even tougher and I doubt we would have stayed as long as we did.


Day 556 OUT OF Beijing: Bye Bye Beijing.


Jill, the cake, and me.

Jill and I are ready to have some Bye Bye Beijing cake!


Jill and I are somewhere over the Pacific Ocean right now.

We are flying home and hopefully we are peacefully asleep as you all read this.

We are out of Beijing and on to our continued adventures as mobile vagabonds.

In the last 1.5 years we have had so many amazing experiences, made so many friends, and seen so much that this blog barely touches the surface our our time abroad.

I will be, in the future, writing a book about it and going very deeply into what it is like to live in China, be a therapist here, and how it has affected both Jill and me.

However, at this moment, I just want to thank all my amazing friends who Jill and I have met here in Beijing and in China.

This also includes our friends we’ve met on our travels to Malaysia, Singapore, Mongolia, Greece and Turkey during the past 1.5 year here.

We decided we’d have a little Bye Bye Beijing party and it was fantastic.  We had it at The Local and it was a perfect way to say goodbye and start to move on.

Being an expat can be difficult because people are constantly moving and appearing or disappearing from your life. We know this is part of the joy and the sadness.  I had to say goodbye to a lot of clients also and that is a tough part of being a therapist.  You help people through their most difficult times in life, see them change, and then have to say goodbye.  It is both a joyful experience and a loss.  Maybe that is why I’m okay with being an expat and seeing so many people come and go.  I can accept that they will leave, I enjoy the time I have with them, and then I know that something else will appear and I’ll learn more or see a new way of thinking.

I also hope that these friends, and the many others we’ve made, will come visit us wherever we are and keep in contact.

As for plans, we expect to be in San Francisco Bay Area for the next 3 months.  Jill has an amazing website, San Francisco Tourism Tips, and we need to be there to support it and our livelihood.  If you haven’t see her site, please click the link above and subscribe or like it on Facebook.  Also share it with anyone you know that might be interested.  It is made for travelers and locals and Jill has done an amazing job.  I’m absolutely amazed at how hard she works and how professional she is regarding this business.

During our stay in San Francisco, we will see my sister Stacy’s family, and my dad, in Walnut Creek.  During this time, we will visit my brother Dave’s family in Portland.  After that, we will head down to Los Angeles to see friends and family for about a month.  During that month, we will make a quick jump down to Cancun to see Jill’s sister Julie and her family.  Then over to Santa Fe, NM to see my mom Judy and her husband, Phil.  Lastly, we will hit Nebraska to see Jill’s parents, Emma and Bill.

After that?

We are thinking we will live in Costa Rica or possibly Colombia.  We have a lot of options and it could even include moving to Turkey or Greece.

It is a hard life but somebody has to live it.  🙂

We are also building a new website that will be unveiled in the next month or two.  It will focus on helping others live their dream life, figuring out what that exactly is, how to plan it, deal with problems that come up, and then inspire others to do the same.  Keep your eyes open for it because it is a life dream for us to help others make their dreams become reality.  This includes you, our dear readers!

Thank you for being a part of this journey as we’ve reached 556 days in Beijing.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have.

We look forward to seeing everyone back at home, or wherever you are, and continuing to write the story of our lives as it moves ahead.

Enjoy our final post from Beijing and pictures of the party.


Day 538 In Beijing: Sunset Over Goreme, Turkey.


The view from the platform above Goreme.

The view from the platform above Goreme.


Jill and I were excited about watching the sunset over Goreme since we had heard so many wonderful stories of this city at night.

Jill had been here before but hadn’t been here with me so it was new for her also.

We went up to the platform overlooking the city and just hung out, with other people, and enjoyed the beauty.

It is truly a magical place and it will always be remembered as the city where I asked Jill to marry me and she accepted as we flew across the sky in a hot air balloon.

One of the nice benefits of watching this video is you finally get to hear Jill speaking instead of me!