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 619 OUT OF Beijing: How to kill a Hard Drive.


After I used the claw hammer to kill Jill's hard drive.

After I used the claw hammer to kill Jill’s hard drive.


Jill had an old laptop and since we are trying to minimize as much as possible, we decided to donate it to charity.

However, I know enough about security, and security breaches on hard drives, that just wiping it clean wouldn’t be enough.

Data are left on the hard drive that can still be recovered when you reformat it.

There are programs that can wipe this clean but I’m still not 100% sure that I trust those either.

Consider that Anthem Health Insurance just had 80 MILLION clients’ information stolen and that is a serious breach in my humble opinion.

I learned, in one of my legal and ethical continuing education classes, that there is a “minimum” number of clients that have to have their information compromised before they report it to the public (and this means you).  If I remember correctly, that number is something like 10 MILLION clients.  That means, if it is less than that, the corporations don’t have to tell anyone and that is 100% legal.  Pretty scary.

By the way, if you are interested in knowing more about security breaches (and as someone who worked in the medical field for the last 10 years, trust me, you want to know more) check out this website and just scroll down the home page to see the constant data breaches: privacy rights.

According to their research there have been 1,012,730,026 records breached since 2005.  Those are just the ones that have been publicly admitted.  That is over 1 BILLION records in just under 10 years.

To put it simply: 1 out of every 6 people on the Earth have had their data breached in the last 10 years.

Look around at your 5 closest friends.  If none of them have reported it, look in the mirror.

Now, this isn’t to make people paranoid, it is just good information to know and for you to think about what you want out there on the web and in your records.

In that same seminar where I learned about this, the presenter stated that about 10 years ago, one health care company, which understood the rules perfectly, would dump their their servers, and the hard drives, in the dump because the total number of each hard drive held just under the minimum amount of client data that would force them to report.  So, they realized they could save a bit of money by basically all of your, and my, information at risk because they knew how to get around the rules.

In regards to privacy, I don’t really trust agencies to have my best interest at heart.  I’m glad to say that everywhere I’ve worked has been as professional as possible.

These companies also include hedge funds, health care, mortgage companies, chain restaurants and so much more.

Yep, restaurants like Chik-Fil-A was breached through their payment system so all of your credit card information, and social security numbers, may be used by someone else.  Of course, if you eat at Chik-Fil-A, maybe that is karma since they are a fairly immoral company from their actions towards equality for all and the LGBTQ community.

All I know is that it is worth being as safe as possible and there are a lot of ways to do this.

I chose the most simple: I let the business side of a claw hammer go to work on Jill’s hard drive.

Yes, I could have recycled it but she has sensitive business information on her hard drive and we weren’t willing to take that chance.

We did recycle the computer, which was in perfect working order, but just too old and bulky for us to use, so that a school or someone else can buy it, put in a cheap hard drive, and have a working computer system.

We also then recycled the destroyed hard drive so that it would be taken apart and reused in whatever way was possible.  It isn’t the most environmentally friendly practice, but it is the best of a cost vs benefits in regards to someone stealing our information.


Day 609 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 3.


Bill and Rosemary with their Land Rover.

Bill and Rosemary with their Land Rover.


Jill and I were hanging out, working on SF Tourism Tips, and decided we’d go to lunch in Petaluma.

We were going to walk to Lagunitas Brewing Company, have a beer and some food, and then walk back to Randy and Alethea’s home since it was a gorgeous day, we wanted a break from work, and we like getting out and about.

As we know, the best laid plans of mice and men…

We started walking down the main streets and saw Lombardi’s Gourmet Deli and BBQ and decided to take a detour.

We bought a sandwich, some macaroni salad and a bottle of red wine since they had a huge deck and we wanted to enjoy the view.

As we ate our food, we noticed a rather impressive Land Rover in the parking lot.

It was covered with stickers from countries all over the world and we had fun trying to guess which sticker was for each country and where the owners had traveled.

After about 15 minutes, a man walked out and started towards the car.  I told Jill, “I want to go ask him what they are doing and where they are going.”  She said, “Go for it!”

I walked over, flag the man down and asked him about their travels.

Bill told me that they had bought this Land Rover in the UK and then driven it all over Africa for a few years.

In opposition to the news we hear of Africa, they loved the Sudan and said that the people are very friendly and that there is very little crime.  It was interesting because I’ve found that the media very often lies about conditions, here and abroad, to keep people in fear and from experiencing new places and meeting people.

They were in Petaluma on their way down to Joshua Tree, after being in Canada for a few months, and were looking for a good campground.

That is why Jill and I travel and talk to people.  We think almost everyone has something to offer and we can learn from them.

Bill’s wife, Rosemary, came up to us and I invited them to sit down with Jill and me and share a bit of time and share each other’s stories.

Bill and Rosemary had traveled all over the world, starting long ago, by using their professions to get them where they wanted to be.  Or, in one case, not where they wanted but then decided to stay for 10 years.    But that is their story and I’ll let them tell it on their blog if they decide to.  By the way, they probably have only half of the stickers from countries they’ve visited because they weren’t for sale or available while they were there.  I would guess they’ve been to somewhere between 75-100 countries.  I’ve been to 16.  It gives me incentive and inspiration!

Jill and I were intrigued by their choice to sell their house and hit the road.  Their idea of minimalism is very close to our’s, except they have a car, and they live inside their Land Rover almost all the time.  They do use other services, like TrustedHousesitters, to find homes to house sit, but they are also very frugal and financially smart so they can travel for as long as they want to.

This trip started about 2 years ago after they had returned back to the the UK to see their daughter and her family.  They shipped their Land Rover to Uruguay and then started driving all over Southern and Central America from there.

After moving into North America, they went through Mexico, the southwest of the USA, and up to Canada.  They stayed in Canada for a few months and are now heading across the USA to the East Coast where they will ship their car, and themselves, back to the UK.

They aren’t sure if they will settle down when they get back home and are trying to figure out what to do next.

After listening to their story, and be totally amazed by their willingness to take chances, live a different life, and not be tied down to possessions and places, we told them more about our plans and beliefs.  They seemed to appreciate them and were impressed that we could do all this traveling without a car and just walk, bike, bus or take mass transportation to get around.

The next day they were planning on going to San Francisco so Jill gave them some ideas and told them she would email them a plan later that day so that they could have more specifics if they wanted to use them.

After a few hours of talking, they needed to get on their way to  their campsite and we needed to get home.  We gave them some directions and they decided to go food shopping.  After we parted, Jill and I decided to skip Lagunitas entirely, since it would be dark before we headed home, and we decided to go shopping also.

We walked about 1 mile to the grocery store and saw their truck in the parking lot.  We smiled as we knew we’d get to say hi one more time and walked in and saw them immediately.  We all started laughing and talked for a few more minutes before we parted and went our separate ways.

In case you want to see their travels, click the links below:

Africa Road Trip

Latin America Road Trip

That is why we walk.

Day 587 OUT OF Beijing: Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder.


The two sets of Jamela eye and face masks.

The two sets of Jamela eye and face masks.


A bunch of our friends were very sweet and gave Jill and me wonderful presents as we left Beijing.

Our dear friend, Kean, gave us a gift of Jamela face and eye masks.

We haven’t been able to use them, yet, because we’ve been so busy running around and wanted to wait until we were more settled down.

We decided we’d start with the eye masks and see how it worked on our faces.

Jill has a lot of skin sensitivities so we wanted to be careful and wait on the full face mask to see how it went this time.

The eye masks are full of all kinds of wonderful natural ingredients and also have 24k gold in them.

When we put them on, we immediately noticed how cool and calming the eye masks were on our faces.

The recommended time is from a minimum of 30 minutes to a maximum of 5 hours.

We choose to wear ours for about 2-3 hours and it really did seem to make a difference.

Jill and I still feel as if we are having some trouble adjusting to life here in the USA and we are trying to sleep a lot, while exercising, to help out with the readjustment.

Using the eye masks allowed us to hang out, relax, and just stay calm while watching a little tv during the night.

Jill said she definitely felt better after using them and I also did.

We will continue to use them and then try the full face masks in a few weeks.


Day in 573 OUT OF Beijing: NSFWCF: Not Safe For Work Chinese Fashion.


Is this really what you want to wear out in public?  I guess so.

Is this really what you want to wear out in public? I guess so.


Happy New Year’s Day and I thought I’d start the year off with a laugh for everyone.

As you all know, a lot of people get tattoos with Chinese, or Japanese, characters on their bodies.

Most think they know what they are saying and think they are probably pretty macho or existential.

I refuse to ever get one since it isn’t my culture and it doesn’t really seem appropriate.

To each their own.

Also, I know people who have gotten script tattoos and then found out they don’t mean what they thought they meant.

There is way too much of a chance for that to happen and be stuck with something on your body that it incredibly painful to remove.

In China, from what I’ve seen, they tend to wear shirts that proclaim their inability to understand English and what is appropriate.

Now, I’m just guessing that these people, in general, have no clue what their clothes are trying to state.

I’ve also noticed it is almost always women wearing clothes with swear words.

The one guy I photographed spoke perfect English and knew exactly what his shirt had written on it.

Same with the woman wearing the, “Gay Okay!” shirt.  I told her I’d be putting in on social media and she said, “No problem!” I was pretty impressed with her speaking out and willingness to be heard.

Jill and I loved wandering around, seeing shirts like these, and just laughing at the absurdity of it all.  No matter how bad of a day we were having, little things like this made us smile and forget our troubles.




Day 524 In Beijing: Blue Tour In Cappadocia, The Hall Of Rugs.


The Hall of Rugs.

The Hall of Rugs.


After seeing the women weaving the rugs, our guide took us down a long corridor best described as the “Hall of Rugs” sort of like the Hall of Fame.

They were incredible.

He told us more about the history of rug making in Turkey and the conditions the women used to work in and how they are better now.

He also told us that he loves his job and enjoys being able to show people this amazing art each and every day.

When he spoke, you could hear the pride in his words and see it in his eyes.

This is someone who had found a job that he loved and was very proud of doing when he woke up.

As we walked into the Hall of Rugs, Jill and I noticed a rather obvious sign stating that “No pictures and no videos.”

We looked at our guide and asked, “So we aren’t allowed to take pictures in this hall?” in hopes that he’d let it slide.

He looked at us, smiled, and said, “Oh, you can take all the pictures you want.  We just don’t allow Chinese people to take pictures.”

Jill and I guessed the reason why, as we’ve been living in China for just over a year, but wanted to hear what our guide’s reason was just in case we were wrong.

He added, “They come on the tour, take pictures, and then copy them with inferior quality and material.  It has happened so often that we can not allow them to take pictures anymore.  We have no problem with anyone else taking pictures.”

Jill and I laughed at the absurd reality of the situation and started taking a few pictures just to document our trip through the Hall without being obvious or rude.

It is about fitting in, for us, as we like to be tourists but also want to be the kind of tourists that aren’t that noticeable all the time.

There is no way I can show, through pictures, the incredible detail and exquisite workmanship of these rugs.

You have to visit Turkey yourself to see, and understand, them and how the culture informs their artwork.



Day 518 In Beijing: Blue Tour In Cappadocia, Sultan’s Ceramics.


Step by step painting.

Step by step painting.

Jill had been on a few of these tours before and knew that they would take us to showrooms.

These showrooms would have demonstrations of how different textiles, and art, is made and then we’d be able to buy them.

We are both very frugal, and since we plan to be traveling for most of the rest of our lives, we didn’t have any plans on buying anything but wanted to see the demonstrations just the same.

The first location we went to was Sultan’s Ceramics.

They have been in business for many years, as some of their craftsmen are 6th or 7th generation potters and painters.

I say craftsmen because women don’t do pottery in the shops.

They do the weaving.

It is very defined, even now, and it seems it will that way.  That is neither good nor bad but something specific to the culture.

We first met our guide from Sultan’s Ceramics and he explained how they first started the business, how long they have been around, and how they make the pottery.

They then invited us to watch the artists at work and were mesmerized.

I don’t know if I’d want to be doing this, hour after hour, because I’m thinking my eyesight, and my body, would wear out.

They are so exact, so perfect, and so repetitive that I can only imagine one must love what they do beyond belief.

Looking at the faces of the men working, which alternated being serious to utter joy, makes me think that they do.


Day 470 In Beijing: A Carrefour By Any Other Name…


And, as mentioned before, the desserts were to die for.

And, as mentioned before, the desserts were to die for.

Jill and I have a Carrefour near us in Beijing.

If you don’t know, and if you are from the USA you probably don’t, Carrefour is a French supermarket.

They actually have about 3 or 4 here in Beijing and we love going to them because the food is fantastic and they have an excellent selection of wines.

They are actually the 4th largest market conglomerate in the world.

One of the other reasons is that they have an “all you can drink” 4 day wine tasting party every 6 months.

The latest one was just in April and we met a bunch of wine makers, mostly from France, and partied with them for about 4 days straight.

Although, after 4 days of partying, we were pretty crooked and straight it not the word I’d use for any of us.

Anyway, Andac lives right near a Carrefour and we decided to stop by and pick up some wine, cheese and bread for our dinner one night.

We also bought some desserts as the Turkish desserts are out of this world.

Baklava is a famous one but there are so many and they are all amazing.

Just so you can see some of the delights that we had to choose from, I took some pictures.

If anything catches your fancy, let me know!


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Day 469 In Beijing: The Grand Bazaar, Part 2.


People mingling and rugs hung on the wall outside The Grand Bazaar.

People mingling and rugs hung on the wall outside The Grand Bazaar.

Jill and I kept walking around, feeling like we were in Wonderland, and starring at all the beautiful creations that humans have made and have on display.

However, there is something that we noticed after living in Beijing and traveling to massive cities.

We get worn out.

I guess we are getting older, Jill at 41 and me at 45, but I don’t think it is that.

If it was, we definitely couldn’t deal with Beijing, and we can deal with it pretty well, all things considered.

We just realized that we wanted a little down time and a little quiet.

We’d seen so much in the past 2 days, after flying for 12 hours, that we would need a break.

So, we didn’t stay as long as we would have usually stayed but we still felt quite satisfied in what we saw at The Grand Bazaar.

It is an amazing place and one could easily spend a full day in it and just get lost wandering around, talking to the salespeople, and seeing pretty much anything one desires, on display.

Speaking of salespeople, that is another thing we are tired of after living in China: Bargaining.

It is also what happens in Turkey and we just aren’t fans of it.

Just give us a fair price and we will pay it.

It just becomes so tiring to bargain for something, especially when you just want to look and take your time, and the salespeople jump on you and start telling you prices when you don’t even want anything.

I’m sure they make a lot of money but, for us, it just makes us want to leave and not even look at something we might want to buy because we don’t want to deal with the drama.

That is another reason we didn’t spend a lot of time in The Grand Bazaar since all the salespeople immediately call to you and start telling you to come in, try their goods, and whatnot.

It is just tiring.

So, we ended up taking off after about 1 or 2 hours.

It was still amazing and definitely worth the trip.

We just needed a little quiet and thought it would be nice to go back to our friend, Andac’s apartment, enjoy some yummy Turkish white cheese, bread and wine.

And we did just that.

And it was nice.

Just as we guessed.


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Day 385 in Beijing: A beer so nice they had to name it twice!


The Chinese version of Pabst Blue Ribbon?

The Chinese version of Pabst Blue Ribbon?

A beer so nice they had to name it twice!

And so, for some reason, they did and the label specifically states this is “Specially Beer SPECIALLY BEER” just in case you missed it the first time.

As you can see from the red and yellow signs behind the beer, we went to Wal-Mart in China.

Yep, I’m a hypocrite.

I rip on Wal-Mart, and its destructive habits on the workers of the world, but I actually did shop there.

Crucify me as appropriate.

I ended up buying a bucket, since our air conditioner’s hose isn’t long enough to reach out the window, and leaks, to catch the leaking water.  It is a long story and worth another blog post.  One of the cute weird little details of our apartment and we find it endearing actually.

The best part of the trip was looking at the different beers here.

In the USA, Blue Diamond is a almond company in California and, I’m guessing, Diamond Blue is not associated with them in any way.

Things seem to happen that way here and it isn’t just because of Chinglish.

This SPECIALLY BEER, by the way, can’t be that special because it only costs about 40 US cents for a tall boy.  Then again, 2.50 for 6 tall boys, if you just want to party, is not a bad deal.

By the way, they had cases of Budweiser here also.  I haven’t seen any Coors or Miller in Beijing but Budwesier seems to have a good handle on the local economy and how to sell their beer here.

I guessing the taste isn’t that special either as Jill and I had tried some of the cheaper beers here in China and they are fairly similar to the cheap and terrible beers in the USA.  Luckily, craft brews are really taking off and some of our closest friends are brew-masters.

Of course you’ve seen my Jing A posts and pictures of me drinking their beers through the year.  Trust me, it is as good as anything you can get in the USA.