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 629 OUT OF Beijing: Austin, My Buddy from Beijing.


Gao Jie, Austin and me at the salsa festival.

Gao Jie, Austin and me at the salsa festival.


Austin and his friend, Gao Jie, were visiting the states from Beijing and we happened to be in San Francisco at the same time they were.

We were also at the 7th Annual Salsa Rueda Festival and so they both got to see a bit of what that festival was like but mostly we hung out, caught up with each other, and just relaxed.

Austin and I met through a friend on Facebook who knows both of us.  He suggested we meet up and hang out when I got to Beijing and Austin and I hit it off immediately.

He later met Jill when she came over and we bonded like brothers and sisters and made sure to help each other out when we needed it.

That is a big part of being an expatriate: Taking care of each other because most of the time your family is so far away and can’t help you out when you need it.

One tends to have incredibly close friends, when living overseas, to make up for this and it almost feels like one has a new family every time that you move or change locations.

This is both positive and negative because you make lots of friends, and build amazing communities, in a very short time but you also have the negative where so many people you love move away and you have to say goodbye way too often and way too soon.

Luckily, we knew that Austin would be coming to SF and we’d be able to see him and we were incredibly happy to spend a few hours with him and Gao Jie here.  Their travels were starting in Los Angeles and then going all the way up to Seattle where Austin has to do some work.

It sounded like an amazing trip and we even set him up with information from our website, SF Tourism Tips, and gave him ideas on where to stay in Healdsburg where I grew up.

It is nice to have friends, and stay in contact, when it is so easy to lose that connection, by being an expatriate.


Day 623 OUT OF Beijing: Minimizing to Maximize our Travels and Life.


Jill beside our luggage to show perspective.

Jill beside our luggage to show perspective.


Jill and I are getting ready to set out on another epic trip all over the world.

We know we are hitting Los Angeles, Cancun, Santa Fe, Nebraska (Jill’s parents live there) and then we are off to parts unknown.

We are expecting to go to Costa Rica to start our travels outside of the USA.

However, we might go and hang out with my cousin, Michele and her husband, John, down in Mexico if that works and they want us to come.

We also have invites to stay in Colombia, Spain and so many other places that it is hard to even comprehend what wonderful and exciting adventures are coming our way!

In our year and half together we’ve already visited China, Mongolia, Singapore, Malaysia, Greece and Turkey, where I asked Jill to marry me (yes, she accepted).

Being that Jill and I have figured out we really don’t need much when we travel, we have decided to minimize to a massive extent.  We only had one carry on each for a month when we were in Greece and Turkey.  We know we don’t know much and hate having extra weight or unused gear.

Here’s where it all started. When we moved to China, we both had 2 full sized pieces of luggage, 2 carry on and a backpack.  I had basically sold everything else I had and Jill had a small storage area.

That was for 1.5 years and the only reason we needed so much was because I needed to buy gifts for people, bring my therapy books over, and we would be faced with major temperature changes and be prepared to have all deal with all kinds of issues that might have come up.

By the time we had left, we had minimized down to 1 check in, 2 carry on and 1 extra bag each.

Even though that is much less than most people we know, we knew that there is no way that would work for us if we wanted to keep cruising and be as mobile as possible as we travel all over the world.

So, we’ve been whittling down our luggage and our clothes over the past 2 months.

Today was the day of reckoning.  We got Jill’s backpack from her friend Leslie, and started packing again.

We gave away 2 more bags of clothes to Goodwill and both of our large check pieces of luggage were emptied.  They will either be used by Randy, since he travels so much playing with different bands around the world, or they will be donated.

We also will donate two of our smaller bags that we don’t need.

So, we are down to 4 bags total.

1 check in piece of luggage.

One 45 liter backpack.

1 15 liter day pack.

1 5 liter mini day pack.

We plan to buy a 30 liter backpack and get rid of the check in piece of luggage.

It isn’t that the check in piece, which has wheels, isn’t useful, it is that we want to be more mobile and able to adjust to our travels.  Backpacks give us that.

Our plan, when needed, is to wear the 45 liter backpack on the back and the 5 liter backpack on the front.  This will balance our load and will allow us to carry everyone.  Jill will wear the 15 liter day pack and wheel the carry on until we get the new backpack.

Less than two weeks from now, we head off on our Megabus to Los Angeles and then the fun begins.

By they way, about 1/5 of the 45 liter backpack is taken up by my cycling gear.  This will be dropped off at my friend Christopher’s house as we want to do a some cycling when I get there and hopefully when we return.  That is why we will be able to survive with a 30 liter backpack instead of another 45 liter one.  The beauty is that both of these don’t have to be checked when we board a plane so it is faster, easier and safer.  We still are able to fit both our computers, our kindles, and our phones since we will be working from wherever we are.  We don’t feel we are going “without” because we have what we need.

Our view on life is simple:

Own your things.  Don’t let your things own you.



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 617 OUT OF Beijing: Precis and the very early days of my blog.


Issue 6, Edition 1 of Precis.

Issue 6, Edition 1 of Precis.


Jill and I woke up, checked our email, and had a very nice surprise this morning: Some of my first few blog posts were in my friend, Chris Stecher’s, online magazine, Precis.

Chris is a rather amazing fellow: He’s traveled pretty much everywhere, is an incredible photographer, lives outside the box in more ways than I can ever imagine, just got married to the woman of his dreams (shout out to Kat Tosi!) and lives in Beijing.

We met both he and his wife, Kat, in Beijing about a year ago. They are two wild and crazy people, which Beijing seems to bring out in expatriates, and really are fun to hang out with and discuss life since we have a lot of the same views and the conversations are always lively and go on very strange tangents.

When Jill and I were about to leave China, Chris told me about Precis and I told him about my blog. Somehow I had forgotten to tell him, early on, and he said, “Dude, I need to have that in my magazine!”  I was honored and humbled  that he would want my stories and I immediately accepted.

Precis is now on its 6th issue and it is getting more and more press.

There are stories from people all over the world, including another friend of mine who runs an eco-resort in the Dominican Republic, and so much more.

I suggest you have a look at it, and my blogs, and you can see where my trip to Beijing started and how much I’ve changed, learned, traveled and realized about the world, myself, and how I was before Jill and I truly became a couple since we had only met about 2 weeks before these first few blog posts were written and I was still trying to get my bearings as I started a 1.5 year journey in a new country, at a new job, and with very little expectations or ideas of what was going to happen.



Day 616 OUT OF Beijing: Anchor Brewing Company Tour.


Jing A in the Anchor Steam Brewery!

Jing A in the Anchor Steam Brewery!


Jill and I knew we needed to leave the City Guides tour to make the Anchor Brewing Company tour in time.  We seriously have the best “jobs” in the world doing research for San Francisco Tourism Tips, right?

We hopped on the bus, got spit on by some guy with a serious mental illness (He also pretended to shoot at us after he got off the bus. Oh, San Francisco you are a city of dichotomies) and arrived at Anchor Brewing.

We were a bit early so we had lunch and hung out until our scheduled 1 pm meeting time.

At 1 pm, we went upstairs into the tasting room and Stephen showed up to introduce the tour and what would be happening for the next 90 minutes.  FYI: The tour cost 15 bucks and needs to be rsvp’d for at least a few weeks in advance.  It used to be free but people would have to reserve their spots 6 MONTHS in advance and, if they didn’t show up, the tour time and space was wasted.  Trust me, 15 bucks is more than worth it for 45 minutes of history and to taste 6 different beers!

Stephen poured us all a beer and told us that it would be the last beer we get, while on the tour, so to savor it.  I did my best but finished it within about 5 minutes.  He gave us a tremendous amount of history regarding Anchor Steam, including that they were the first craft brewery in THE USA opening in 1871.  They survived not only the 1906 Earthquake and also Prohibition.  All of the beers are made in the copper brewhouses.  They also have 6 different beers, which most people (including me) didn’t realize as they aren’t as widely distributed.  The company also almost died, as it was very close to being bankrupt, at one point but is now doing better than ever and they will even been expanding to a new location in China Basin near ATT Park that will hopefully open in 2016.  It will also double their total output.  The current building, which will stay in operation, was built in 1937 and is beautiful.  The tasting room looks like a 1930s or 1940s tasting room and is quite stylish.

However, this is definitely a craft brewery at this point. They brew 22 hours a day and work three shifts to make sure they can produce enough product.  That may sound like a lot but think about this: Budweiser produces 51% of all the beer consumed in the USA.  I went to one of their tours, with my buddy Nate Pile, about 4 years ago and it was insane how much beer was being made.  And that was only one of 11 breweries that they have around the USA.

I’ll stick with the little guys and keep drinking my local beers.

Stephen also stated that there are now about 17 microbrews in San Francisco proper.  That is just now up to the same level before prohibition so it is pretty obvious that San Franciscans always liked their beer but it took a long time for us to get back up to speed.

By the way, Anchor Steam is called that because of all the steam that would come off the top of the building as it brewed.  It is a special beer, which is only made of the best ingredients with no adjuncts, pellets, rice or corn.  They are the real deal.  Surprisingly, since it seems like they’ve been around forever, Anchor Steam only started bottling their beers in 1971.  I guess I was only 2 years old at that time so it has been forever for me.

As you can see in the pictures. the employees are allowed to drink some beer, from time to time, and they seem to love their jobs and their beer.  We were told they get one beer after 4 hours of work.  Sounds like a great job to me!

Stephen allowed us to hang out afterwards, as we told him we were trying to get information for the SF Tourism Tips page and we discussed life, beer and traveling as he, and many of the employees that talked to us, seem to be very fun, slightly goofy, and adventurous people.  No matter if you are a tourist, or a local, I’d suggest this tour because there is so much information, and so much beer, that it is a trip down memory lane…if you can remember it afterward.

By the way, if you notice, I’m wearing my favorite shirt from Beijing.  The front of it has the Chinese character for “JING” and then A.  This is the brewery our friends, Kris Li and Alex Acker (and his amazing wife, Ashley. Hi Ashley!) own and where we spent much of our time in Beijing hanging out. They are two of the sweetest people we know and like family to us.  Without those guys, and their AMAZING beer, we’d not been able to survive that city.  We miss you guys and hope you come visit us and visit Anchor Steam when you do!

Ps.  Click this link if you want to go on an Anchor Brewery Tour.


Day 610 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 4.


The Wild Turkeys of Petaluma.

The Wild Turkeys of Petaluma.


Jill and I are trying to lose some weight, get in better shape, and not be stuck in front of the computer doing work for San Francisco Tourism Tips all day long.

In that vein, we are making sure to do walks each day that we aren’t out in San Francisco getting more information for the site.

Petaluma is such a wonderful little town and it is so easy to get out in to the countryside and away from traffic, cars and noise, especially compared to places like Beijing, where it is almost impossible to find silence and solitude, even in parks and nature since it is so polluted, packed with people, and dirty.

For that reason, alone, we need to be out and taking advantage of what we have been given here and we are doing that.

On the days where we don’t walk, I’m trying to run or do something else to continue getting in shape.  I’m definitely not where I want to be at this point and so I’m doing something about it.

As we walked over a rather large hill in the outskirts of Petaluma, Jill said, “Hey, look at that!” and pointed out a few turkeys that had just finished crossing the road in front of us.  No, I didn’t ask them if a chicken had crossed the road before them or why if it had.

We stopped, watched them walk around and realized, once again, that we are in an area where there is lots of life and nature and that we almost never saw birds in Beijing.  We both mentioned this fact to each other, a few times, when we lived in Beijing, but it really comes to life when you see so much flora and fauna in its natural environment.

The only place we really saw that was at the Beijing Zoo and that was a truly horrendous event of which I will only say that that there were people feeding cheese to the monkeys, gazelles and zebras. I’m sure that is exactly what those animals diets are supposed to be, right?

A friend of mine said he saw people hit the pandas with apples in the head so the pandas would look at them and be more active.  Suffice to say, NEVER go to the Beijing Zoo if you care about animals at all.

We, on the other hand, were able to see these amazing animals, treat them with respect and let them live their lives, and then see a few tiny quail walk out of the blackberry bushes as an added gift.

If we had just sat at our computers, working all day, we’d have missed this wonderful gift.

That is why we walk.

Day 604 OUT OF Beijing: Fort Point.


The Golden Gate Bridge as we get closer to Fort Point.

The Golden Gate Bridge as we get closer to Fort Point.


After we finished the Golden Gate Bridge tour, Jill and I head down to the Warming Hut for some lunch.

We took the back way, through the beautiful nature preserve that leads down to Crissy Field.

It is amazing how, just about 100-200 feet away from the Golden Gate Bridge, you no longer hear any cars or trucks or anything but wind, birds, and nature.

It is so relaxing, and wonderful to be able to have places like this after living in Beijing for the last 1.5 years and having to travel for an hour to get to some place that should be peaceful but is full of people blasting music, bumping into you, and horrid pollution in the skies overhead.

One really doesn’t know what it is like to live in a city of 25 million people until one does.

And then one can only be content and happy about pretty much any other place where one lives for the rest of their life.

We know we are and won’t take one minute of it for granted.  It is a luxury that we no longer take for granted.

We sat down in the Warming Hut and had a nice little hummus sandwich.  We did, in fact, get warmed up inside the old barracks as it was nicely heated and just the right temperature for us to enjoy.

After a nice 15 minute rest, we put back on our jackets and headed out to Fort Point.

We knew it would be closed, since it is only open Friday through Sunday, but we wanted to get some landscape pictures and just enjoy the view.  It isn’t often one can see the Golden Gate Bridge from below and we didn’t want to miss our chance.  Just another reason we love being car-less is it forces us to value our time, and choices, much more carefully and think them out since we know it takes a lot more effort to get to many places that others easily drive to each day.


Fort Point is only about a 10 minute walk from the Warming Hut and it is right beside the bay so we were able to watch the waves crash and the fisherman fish as we walked.

We arrived at Fort Point, took some pictures and marveled at the super structure underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, which we had just walked upon, and also at the base of the bridge, which our San Francisco City Guide Dan Tussey had told us actually went about 11 stories down into concrete to hold the cables so they won’t shake loose from all the wind, cars and waves.  By the way, the towers are able to move about 12 feet towards or away from each other and the bridge can sway about 27 feet from side to side when it is really windy.  That is some amazing architecture and engineering.  Especially when you consider it was built in only about 4 years and 32 MILLION dollars.  Consider it took 20 years to build the new Bay Bridge and almost 6.5 BILLION dollars.

We got ready to leave when one of the fisherman, who seemed to be new to the sport, was having a bit of trouble.  Another fisherman came over, showed him the right way to cast out, and then practiced with him.  I was able to get a bit of video of it and it was nice to see such camaraderie among people.


Day 602 OUT OF Beijing: SF Tourism Tips and SiteSell.


Jill's Success Story on SiteSell.  Picture by yours truly.

Jill’s Success Story on SiteSell.


Jill has been building her SF Tourism Tips website, and business, for about 5 years.

It has become successful enough for us to do it full time and for me to quit my job as an “office based psychotherapist.”

I may, at some point, start doing psychotherapy, over the internet, but I doubt I will ever work in an office again.

After working for a few major corporations, Jill also doesn’t want to be stuck in an office anymore.

The company that hosts her site, and her business, is called SiteSell.

From what she’s told me, using their website, and learning all about SEO, how to build a site, and how to find succcess, has been invaluable to her.

There have definitely been tough times, and times when she did want to give up, especially while we were in China and the internet was almost impossible to use, but she didn’t.  I made sure she knew that this was her future and that she had spent so much time, and energy, that to quit now would have been a loss and going back to the corporate world, working 80-100 hours a week, just to make money to accumulate things we don’t want, was a major step backwards in our future plans together.  I was working and making enough money for use to survive in Beijing so even if she didn’t make any money, it would have been okay with me.  As long as she believed in what she was doing and kept at it.

Luckily for both of us, she did.

Actually, luck had nothing to do with it.

It was 100% perseverance, determination and a desire to not fall into a past routine that would have made both of us miserable and unfulfilled with our lives and choices.

Jill has also been using SiteSell’s forums to help other people achieve their dreams and figure out how to better their business/website models.  This is something she does for free and one of the true benefits of using SiteSell: They have a massive forum that is very lively and people really try to help each other succeed.  I haven’t seen this on the other web hosting sites and I’m glad Jill decided to use SiteSell when she started.

According to her own knowledge and experience, she jokingly states that she has almost achieved a Master’s degree in building a business online without having to go to college and have massive student debts.

The beauty is that anyone that wants to do this can do the same.  It does take a lot of hard work, and effort, but most goals worth achieving do.

Jill’s hard work is really starting to pay off.  She had her first $5,000 month in December.  Not only that, but after she posted that on the forum, she actually ended up making a December total of $6,600!

Consider that in February, she only made $150 and yet 12 months later, she was not at $6,600!

The owner, Ken Evoy, noticed this and decided to write a blog post about Jill.

After writing the blog post, he decided to feature her as a “Success Story.”

Jill is now featured on their Facebook page!

Jill is now featured on their Facebook page!

This all happened in just the past few weeks and it was because Jill decided not to give up, to keep working hard, and to be okay with some failure as long as the long term goals are still in focus.

That is what it takes to run an online business and not give up.  Lots of perseverance.

There is still a long way for us to go to get to our dream level of “success” but we are on the right path and will continue to do whatever we need to get there.

If you are interested in learning more about how Jill was able to do this, check out the article linked below and feel free to contact us.  We want to help others live their dreams and figure out what is right for them and how they can achieve it.

Jill’s Success Story on SiteSell.

And if you want to sign up for SiteSell and start your own website, click on this SF Tourism Tips – About Jill page and it will take you directly to the information page for SiteSell once you click it.


Jill at the Golden Gate Bridge for SiteSell’s Success Story article.  Taken by yours truly.