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 621 OUT OF Beijing: How to pour an Imperial of 1998 Mauregard down the Drain.


As close as I'll ever come to having a kid.

As close as I’ll ever come to having a kid.


Jill’s friend, Leslie, knows a lot about wine.  She also had some extra wine that she needed to drink in case it was getting past its prime.

One of these bottles was an imperial of 1998 Mauregard of Chateau Camarsan from Bordeaux, France.

It was ranked in the top 5% of wineries in the world according to vivino.

Now, it has been in the bottle for almost 17 years so we were hoping it would still be drinkable and not have gone off.

For your information, an Imperial is 8 bottles of wine and not the 4 that I thought it was originally.  My good friend, Suhneel, let me know when he saw this video.

My friend, Lisa, who I used to work with at Bay Club Marin, was invited to come over and hang out with us and she wanted to try it also.

Well, first things first we had to open it.

The cork seemed okay as I pulled it out but when we looked at the bottom of the cork, there were a lot of crystals.

These are tartrate crystals, and are harmless and tasteless.

However, they are crunchy so we decided to decant the bottle since we didn’t want to bite down on one while we were drinking the wine.

After decanting it, we all tried a little taste and agreed, sadly, that it had gone past and didn’t have much taste at all.

We really didn’t have much use for 8 bottles worth of vinegar (which is what we could have turned it into) so we just poured it down the drain and moved on to a couple of bottles of Armista since Jill and Leslie love Armista’s wines and are friends with the owners.

I guess the moral of the story is always be prepared because you never know when you’ll need more wine!


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 615 OUT OF Beijing: North Beach and San Francisco City Guides.


View from the parking lot.

View from the parking lot.


Jill and I headed off to San Francisco to check out another San Francisco City Guide walk as we continued to update San Francisco Tourism Tips.

We took the bus in and then walked from the drop off point up Columbus Avenue to North Beach.

We were pressed for time, since we had a tour at Anchor Steam Brewery at 1 pm so we knew we’d only be able to stay for about half the 90 minute tour.

Our guide did a great job and introduced us to a lot of the old San Francisco and how North Beach started up with lots of Italian families moved in and started to incorporate their favorite parts of Italy into the USA.

We started at Saints Peter and Paul Church which is located at 666 Filbert.  Jill mentioned this to me and I thought it was rather humorous and a bit of classic San Francisco craziness.

One of the facts that we were told was that Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were actually married at City Hall, since the church wouldn’t let them marry there because she had been married before, and then they took pictures at the Peter and Paul Church because they wanted their families to think that they were married in a church.

There has also been a lot of movies filmed here and it has become quite famous.  It was almost empty and we took our time walking around and enjoying the gorgeous interior.

After we left Saints Peter and Paul church, we walked into Washington Square.  There were a lot of Chinese people dancing and exercising here, at 11 am, because they have started coming here to enjoy the day since Chinatown is so crowded and many of the older apartments have very little room.  So, it was fun to watch a bit of Chinese culture that had been transported here and remind us of something that we truly loved living in Beijing.

We saw one man, in particular, doing his exercises alone and then he hugged a tree for about a minute.  It was so comforting and he seemed so happy as he was enjoying his day.  As we walked by, he smiled and waved at our group.

We then moved over to Liguria Bakery, which is famous for its focaccia.  They are also infamous for their family being rude, abrasive and pushy.  It is all part of their way of being and I hope they never change it because San Francisco would lose some real characters.  And amazing focaccia!

We then walked by Joe DiMaggio’s family’s old house and passed a woman who ran a day care company and her little “bus” of kids that were so cute.  Just in case you wonder, we asked permission to take their picture and she agreed.

Last but not least, we went to the parking lot above a police department for some of the best views of San Francisco.  It is also located above the parking lot for one of the mortuaries in San Francisco and I just loved the perspective that this view gave to the shot.  Sadly, we had to leave so we could get to our Anchor Steam tour but we want to go back and do the whole thing as soon as possible!


Day 614 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 8.

Take a book/Leave a book.  A wonderful little free library.

Take a book/Leave a book. A wonderful little free library.


Jill and I took a side road, after passing the off-leash dog and human park, and noticed this interesting bookshelf near an intersection.

As we walked closer we noticed the sign on top, “Free Library”.

We kept getting closer and then saw the “Take a book/Leave a book” sign underneath it.

We love walking around, seeing little surprises like this, that would bring together a community, and how people are always thinking up something new and surprising.

It is part of what we want our new website, to be unveiled soon, to help others do.

We want people to be inspire, and then inspire others, to be more, do more, and live more.

We’ve seen how wonderful it is to travel, experience new cultures and people, and hope to help others do the same.

This may not mean giving up your job and becoming minimalists like we have, but it may allow you to change something that you’ve always wanted to change, or visit somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit, or think about yourself in a new way that allows you more peace and contentment.

I’ve been working on an ebook to help people change their attitude, and life, at this very moment and it is almost ready.

My mom, who is an excellent writer and editor, has been helping me figure out exactly what I want to have come across in the most clear, simple and most useful format possible.

It is a combination of all my years of being a cognitive behavioral therapist, my dabbling in Buddhism and use of acceptance and gratitude, and my sense of humor and joy of living a life that is truly wonderful.

It is exciting to think that I’ll be putting this out into the world and what the reactions might be from the people that read it.

It is also a little bit scary.

I’m hoping that most people will like my book, and give me good reviews while also suggesting other points that they would like clarity or more support on. If so, I can then write more sequels or even do personal online training with them to help them achieve their goals more quickly.  It is an exciting new part of our lives!

However, I’m sure there will be people that will give me negative reviews and it will be hurtful.  However, if this happens, I will be able to use the tools that I’ve taught so many others to help me figure out how to adapt, learn and not let that become a set back to a new adventure and way of life that Jill and I want to achieve.

When we actually arrived at the little free library, we noticed the basket for free hollyhock seeds nailed to the side of it.  The little bit of randomness made us smile and laugh.

Maybe someday, if enough people buy my book, it will end up on a little free library like this and reach many more people than I can even imagine.

That is why we walk.

Not just books but hollyhock seeds are available.

Not just books but hollyhock seeds are available.

Day 613 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 7.


We didn't see any on-leash humans when we walked by the park.

We didn’t see any on-leash humans when we walked by the park.


After Jill and I passed by “The House of Bliss” we started downhill and back to our home.

There is a gorgeous little park, right after the peak of the hill where “The House of Bliss” is located and we noticed a woman sitting there, relaxing and reading a book, who smiled at us as we sauntered by.

There was a fence set up around a part of the fence, and the quotation on it made me laugh.

I’m pretty sure that the off-leash humans would be welcome and I’m wondering if there had been some issues with on-leash humans walking around.

This is, after all, the San Francisco Bay Area and we are known for being different and fun.

I’m guessing what the author of this sign meant was actually, “Off-Leash Pets, And Humans, Welcome” compared to what was printed.

I’m a big fan of using commas, and probably over use them, and this made me smile because it might have been the intention of the author to make it comedic and humorous.

I’m guessing that he or she did intend it and I appreciate subtle punctuation and grammar humor wherever I can find it.

That is why we walk.

Day 612 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 6.


This house definitely looks blissful.

This house definitely looks blissful.


After passing the truck, Jill and I continued up the little hill in Petaluma.

Jill noticed this beautiful house, and then said to me, “Do you see what that house is called?”

I didn’t see any sign so I wrinkled my forehead and said, “I don’t see anything.”

Now, I’ve been tested and I have 20/10 vision so I can see just about anything, anywhere as long as humans can see it.

Jill has better vision than I do, if that is even possible.  And, since she does, I guess it is.

She pointed to a sign that was hanging over the doorway.

The words on the sign stated that this was the “The House of Bliss.”

Looking at the cool blue paint job, accented with teal/light blue trim, the house did look quite blissful.

Everything around it was manicured perfectly and it seemed as if the owners take a lot of pride in their home.

I was guessing this was a bed and breakfast but, after searching online, I found it is just someone’s home and they obviously love it.

I’m guessing that when the owners arrive home that they feel quite relaxed, calm and full of bliss.

Isn’t that the way a house should be?

By the way, “The House of Bliss” was about 150 feet away from the truck with the anti-Obama and Stars and Bars bumper stickers.  In reality. this blissful little home was a world away from it.

That is why we walk.


The House of Bliss. Just in case you missed it.

The House of Bliss. Just in case you missed it.