Day 592 OUT OF Beijing: Frugal Eating Habits and Mi Pueblo.

 

buritto1burritoJill and I continue to hone our skills at being frugal and living the life we want to live.

This includes eating out and having food that is delicious and adds to our enjoyment of life.

As we stay in Petaluma, there is a wonderful Mexican restaurant about 1 mile from our house.

Mi Pueblo is a privately owned restaurant, at about 5 locations, and the food is very fairly priced.

Jill and I are also trying to get in better shape, and being around guacamole and sour cream, which we love, is not the best way to do this.

Luckily, as most of you know, in the USA, serving portions are HUGE.

This is especially true at Mi Pueblo.

They also give you free chips and salsa when you sit down.

I can not say enough positive reviews about the chips and salsa.  There are also about 6 different types of salsas you can choose from and tempt yourself with before your meal arrives at your table.

My favorite is an avocado mix that is utterly delicious.

Since we know that the burritos are massive at Mi Pueblo, we ask them to cut it in half so we can share it.

They were more than  happy to oblige and even served them on different plates with the extras smothering our carnitas burrito.

It was more than enough food for both of us and Jill wasn’t even able to finish her burrito.

The total for all this food?  About $12 USD.

We didn’t have to eat for another 5 hours because there was so much food and it was so tasty.

It also gave us time to slow down, relax, and enjoy the meal and the freshness of the food and quality of the ingredients.

This is another part of being healthy, mentally and physically, that we are working on each day:  Slow down and accept what is given to you.  And, if you don’t like it, move on and make a change.

We are accepting and making changes at the same time.

We will also be teaching people how to do this, with our new website, when it is ready to show to the world in a month or so.  Our books will be a part of this and also using online seminars and groups.

We are excited and can’t wait to share it with everyone in the near future!

Day 589 OUT OF Beijing: Upwardly Vagabonding.

 

A longer shot of the bridge with the new movable divider on the left.

A longer shot of the bridge with the new movable divider on the left.

 

As most of you know, Jill and I are traveling around and only staying with friends or family.

I’ve titled this new way of finding a place for us as “upwardly vagabonding.”

A vagabond is someone that is essentially homeless and is just trying to find a place to live and survive.

We are more Upwardly mobile about our vagabonding so I’ve joking called it just that.

We are staying in nice places, with good people, and don’t have to worry about shelter or really being homeless.

As Jill continues to build her site, SF Tourism Tips, and we are now building our new website together (to be released to the world in a month or so) we want to stay as frugal and with as little limitations on us as possible.

We also are traveling by plane, train or bus wherever we go unless friends are driving and we can hitch a ride.  We also use uber or taxis if needed to get around.  It saves us money and saves us mental strain as we don’t have to worry about driving and possibly being in a car crash, paying insurance or worrying if we are going to get lost.  We leave the work to the driver or pilot.   We also then have time to enjoy the scenery or work on projects while we travel.  Win-win.

We have gone through another round of minimizing our stuff and donated all our winter clothes and whatever we think we won’t need.

Our plan is to be down to one good sized backpack and one daypack each by the time we head off for Los Angeles on February 28th.

It is rather amazing we’ve been home for a month already because it seems like we just arrived and are still settling in.

Part of that is the reverse culture shock after being in China for 1.5 years but it is also that we have stayed in 4 different places in one month so we didn’t really “settle” down in any one place and feel at home.

We will be staying at our friends, Randy and Alethea’s house, for most of the the rest of our trip in the bay area so that will make life more comfortable and easy on us.  Hopefully it will on them also as they are being incredibly generous letting us stay and hang out with them.  Randy is like a second brother to me so it is wonderful to spend time with him and his family and just be “home.”

Here are a few pictures from the Golden Gate Bus as I was upwardly vagabonding home to Randy and Alethea’s recently.

 

Day 585 OUT OF Beijing: Frugality, Fitness and Minimization.

 

Two pair of shoes for $54.99.

Ready to run.

 

Jill and I love to go running.

Sadly, because of the pollution in Beijing, we were not able to run nearly as much as we wanted to each day.

It became a struggle to be motivated since we’d have 3 or 4 days of decent weather and air quality and then a week of deathly pollution.

We ended up giving up and knew we’d get back into it once we arrived back in the USA.

We are now getting ready to get in shape and start our working out.

Part of this endeavor has also been to minimize as much as possible.   We are close to being down to one suitcase each, and maybe a day pack, for our travels.

Therefore, when we buy something, we need to get rid of something else.

This includes running shoes.

I’ve had the same pair of running shoes for about 2 years now and they are in horrible shape.

We walked over to the Petaluma Outlet Mall and went to the Adidas store.  They are having a buy one get half off the second sale and so we took stock of what we have, and what we can get rid of, to see if it was worth having two pairs of tennis shoes.

I knew I’d dump my old tennis shoes when I bought these so there is one piece gone.  I also won’t really need my dress shoes after a month or so because we won’t have much business that requires us to dress up by the time we leave for Los Angeles to stay with my friends Christopher and Tina.

I also got rid of one backpack, full of clothes, 2 days ago that was full of winter clothes I’d no longer need.  I also donated my winter jacket to a friend who will give it to one of his social work clients.  We could probably sell some of these things but it is just easier to give them away and help the needy at the same time.

Therefore, my pack has gotten much lighter and I could afford to have two pairs of shoes.  The sale also allowed me to buy one pair for 39.99 and the second for about 15 dollars.  Adidas is also having a 5 dollars off promotion when you donate your old pair of shoes.

The sum total for 2 pairs of brand new shoes for me?  $54.99.

Jill and I ran home, me wearing one pair of my new shoes, and carrying one of the pair in one arm, while Jill wore her shoes she bought 3 weeks ago and carried the other shoe to my pair in her arm, about 2 miles.

A good work out, a good lightening of our load, and a good start to be more fit and frugal at the same time.

By the way, I’m off for a 2 mile run right now.  The weather is perfect, the air quality is fantastic, and I just had a nice healthy breakfast of yogurt and fresh strawberries.

It is so nice to be home.

Day 584 OUT OF Beijing: Moving Around.

 

A view of downtown San Francisco from the deck from where we stayed one weekend.

A view of downtown San Francisco from the deck from where we stayed one weekend.

 

Since Jill and I have started to live the “vagabond” life, we’ve had to adjust to moving around already.

We’ve house sat for two different people, stayed in 4 different houses, and taken care of 4 different cats or dogs.

We will be heading back up to Petaluma, to stay with our friends, Randy and Alethea, and their son, Cyrus, for the next month or so.

It will be great to be able to relax and settle in more, go for runs in the morning, and just be in nature for a little bit.

We are giving a huge, “THANK YOU” to everyone that has allowed to us to stay at their place and will allow us to stay at their place.  It makes our life so much easier and hopefully we can repay you in some way.

We love staying in San Francisco, as it allowed us to get a lot of work done for Jill’s site, SF Tourism Tips, but it is also very stressful and hectic as she is on 24 hours a day since there there is always something more she can research, see or do while she is in SF.

We are planning on coming into SF about once a week, and if needed twice a week, so that we can continue to build the website but it won’t be as stressful or as hectic.

It will be a fantastic little break as we are still finding our way, and going through re-entry into the USA after being in China for the last 1.5 years.

It has been challenging, and yet great, to be back home especially without a car and without a home since we have so much freedom.

We didn’t realize how having this much freedom, mentally and physically, would be challenging and difficult.

It seems like it would be so simple but it isn’t.

Having to be your own boss can be very difficult and very freeing.

There are many options available to us and that can be confusing and frustrating.

Luckily, we work together to figure out what is best and when we start getting burnt out or feeling lost, the other brings us back into balance.

Off to catch the bus to Petaluma.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Day 581 OUT OF Beijing: Being Carless.

 

The bus stop in Petaluma.

The bus stop in Petaluma.

 

Jill and I have made a conscious decision to be carless.

Jill became carless about 4 years ago and I became carless when I moved to China.

I had previously lived in Japan and was carless there and loved it.

I also was “primarily” carless when I lived in San Francisco because I used the bus and BART to see my clients instead of driving around and dealing with the parking and traffic woes.

My agency was nice enough to pay for my transit tickets each month in exchange for not having to reimburse me for my gas for my car.

We have also decided to remain carless and see how we can survive on our trips around the world.

It definitely slows things down, and makes us figure out plans more efficiently, which we like.

We also tend to walk more and spend more time doing what we really want to do and not just running around because it is easy.

It also allows us to save a load of money not having a car, repairs, insurance.

We also don’t have to worry about someone crashing into our car and dealing with traffic other than what we sit in when we ride a bus, train or subway.

Things are quite easy.

We do have to ask friends for help, once in a while, but they don’t seem to mind and we pitch in for gas.

I was just up in Tahoe and my friends drove me up and down as it was a group getaway.

I was dropped off in Petaluma, about 45 minutes north of San Francisco, and then waited for the 101 bus to San Francisco.

It costs $10.25 to get into town (the toll for the Golden Gate Bridge is $6.00 alone!) and so it seemed to be about the same price if I drove.  I think hopped on the MUNI service for $2.25 and got home.

It took about 30 minutes longer than if I had been driving but I was able to sit in a comfortable seat, look out on the world, and just relax.

It also didn’t have wi fi so I spent my time just watching and resting.

If possible, I’d suggest more people try it.

 

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 570 OUT OF Beijing: Murals, Murals and More Murals!

 

Fantastic.

Fantastic.

 

Jill created and owns a website called SF Tourism Tips.

It is our business since I’ve decided to take a break from being a psychotherapist.

I may go back to it but I think I’d rather start coaching people on living their dream life and understanding what is getting in their way instead.

It is similar but Jill and I both want to change up our lives and want others to know that they are also able to do it if they want to.

It is something that will be happening in the near future and we are quite excited by the possibilities and what we have to offer since we have such a varied amount of knowledge and experience and people seemed to want to learn more about how we were able to do so much with so little.  We are big fans of minimization and travel, as if you couldn’t tell by my blog so far.  🙂

We were walking around San Francisco, on another gorgeous day, and decided to take pictures for SF Tourism Tips so that she can update her site and let people see some of the beautiful pieces of art that people have created all over the Mission District.  She has a page dedicated to seeing them and learning a bit about the murals and the artists that created them.  It is at SF Tourism Tips Mission District Murals.

It is truly a wonderful way to spend the day, just walking around, snacking on whatever we want (since we have so many choices in the Mission), and people watching at the same time.

I can only say that it is wonderful to have fresh air, uncrowded streets and friendly people everywhere we go when we are cruising around San Francisco.

It is also wonderful to be able to walk through so many parks and bits of nature, even in the heart of the city, and feel like we aren’t stuck in a cement jungle.

At least for the next few months, we are home.

 

Day 560 OUT OF Beijing: Back in San Francisco!

 

The rainbow crosswalk in the Castro District.

The rainbow crosswalk in the Castro District.

 

Jill and I were supposed to fly into San Francisco on December 15th.

However, our flight was diverted to Oakland because of the storms and we weren’t able to land back in our “home” town.  We had some turbulence on the way down and yet the overall flight was fine.

This was actually a fitting end to our travels in, and out of, China as it has been an incredibly bumpy ride for the last 1.5 years.

Some of the high points:

Jill and I are engaged.   Hell, we met only 8 days before I moved to China so the fact that we even made it there is amazing enough.  But engaged?  Truly incredible.

I was able to help a lot of people in need of therapy and coaching.  I worked on some of the most high profile cases in Beijing.  If you look at the news of what happened, with expatriates living in China during the past 1.5 years, there is a decent chance I worked on the disaster and tragedies as a psychotherapist and a trauma specialist.

I worked with the most amazing co-workers and staff.  I was able, at any moment, to get support, knowledge, and whatever my clients, or I, needed to make sure the client had the best care possible.  The knowledge level at my company is amazing and the professionalism is beyond compare.  I’m honored to have spent 1.5 years with them and could not have wished for a better group of people to work for and with.

We made an amazing amount of friends and connections.  People inspired us to dream bigger and not settle for the norm.  It takes a special kind of person to survive, and thrive, in Beijing and our friends do that.

We were able to save a nice little nest egg for our future plans to travel around the USA and build our business at San Francisco Tourism Tips over the next year or so.  We are also going to be building a new website to help people live their dreams and take the road less traveled.

We were able to visit parts of China including Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Tianjin and see places out of history like The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, and The Terracotta Warriors.  These and many others will live on in our pictures, this blog, and our memories for the rest of our lives.

We also were able to visit Singapore, Malaysia, Mongolia, Turkey, and Greece.  Not a bad way to spend a year and a half.

Some of the bad points:

RAB (Richard Arden Bermudes) passed away while we were gone and we were not able to say goodbye in person. This will haunt me.

Jill’s grandmother passed away while we were gone and she wasn’t able to be there for the funeral and memorial.  She seems to be doing fine with it and was able to say her goodbyes before we left but I’m sure this still is upsetting to some degree.

As mentioned above, I worked on a lot of the major disasters that happened in Beijing during my stay.  This was incredibly positive because I could help a lot of people but it was also difficult because I saw so much grief and death in my 1.5 years.  From what I’ve been told, the 1.5 years I worked at my company saw as much emergency situations as anyone can remember.  And I always volunteered to help because I enjoyed doing it but it did wear me down.  However, I don’t regret one second of it.  I know I helped save peoples’ lives and helped them find a way out of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, psychosis and other very painful places.

Jill had a breast cancer scare and needed to get a biopsy.  This can be scary enough, living in the USA, but living in a foreign country makes it 10x worse. Everything turned out fine but it was still not an enjoyable experience.

Jill fell and hit her head and had a huge bruise for quite a while.  The amazing thing about Jill is that almost nothing gets her down.  She was able to laugh about what happened and let me write a few blogs and post pictures.  She is truly amazing.

This is just a short list of things that happened and I’m going to be writing a travelogue about them and others in the next year.

Jill and I sort of forgot all of these events as we drove into San Francisco with our dear friend, Alethea Bermudes and saw the Golden Gate Bridge rise out of the fog and clouds.

The Grateful Dead once sang, “What a long strange trip its been” and they were partially right because our long strange AND AMAZING trip has just begun.   It is past, present and future tense.

We both hope you continue along with us as we travel around the USA and then off to some foreign country to see what the future brings us next.

 

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 553 In Beijing: Kocabag Winery in Cappadocia.

 

Jill and me enjoying the wine.

Jill and me enjoying the wine.

 

After seeing the Agzikarahan Caravanserai, Jill, our crew and I all went to do a little wine tasting.

Jill is a big time wine lover and so am I so we thought this would be fantastic.

We’d been quite impressed with the wines from Turkey, so far, and were looking forward to checking out Kocabag Winery.

They are rated as one of the Top 5 wineries in Turkey and we had tried a few bottles of their wine in the previous week or two.It was very beautiful and the wine was excellent.

Sadly, because of the government and the Muslim influence, alcohol is very highly taxed in Turkey so an average bottle of wine costs around $15 USD.  This isn’t really nice wine so the type of wine that Jill and I like to drink is up there in price.  Therefore, we did some tasting but didn’t buy any of the wine at the winery because we continue to be on a budget and need to stay frugal no matter how much we want to party and have fun.  FYI, winery tasting rooms usually charge more for wine so we usually buy them in the stores.  Again, it isn’t as romantic but it is frugal and we can afford to travel more often if we do that.

However, Andrea bought some and it came in a beautiful bag.

We took our time, walking around the tasting room, and talking to the attendants.

There are a lot of different varietals, most of which we had never heard of, and it was nice to try new grapes and new wines to help us learn more about the world and open our palates to new experiences.

That is what traveling is about for Jill and me.