Can I get fries with that? Last day in the USA!

Holy shit, it’s happening. Today was our last day in the US — tomorrow morning we take the Amtrak up to Vancouver, where we will board our flight to Tokyo.

M and I rounded out our week with his parents here in Seattle, and we caught up with some of his old friends as well. We stopped by Deception Pass State Park on the way  into Seattle:

And we indulged in a touristy visit to the Space Needle. Ivar’s Salmon House had an amazing seafood menu — I highly recommend if you’re into that kind of thing.

Finally, we just chilled. And then there were two…

For lunch today, we thought about food we would really miss when we left the country. We couldn’t think of anything we wanted badly. Maybe we’re ready for this trip after all.

Courage to speak: learning a new language

Hello from Seattle, Washington!

The past few weeks I’ve been using the Memrise app to learn some Japanese before we fly to Japan later this week. Learning languages is something I really enjoy: it’s like a road map to a different culture. I hope to pick up a bit of the language of each place we travel to before we get there, even if it means just saying hello and thank you.

The biggest hurdle for me when learning a new language is speaking it. I hear again and again that people appreciate when you try to speak their language. But when I’ve traveled in the past, the first thought in my head when interacting with someone local is “I don’t want to sound stupid! It’s probably better if I just speak English.” I get shy. I think that they’ll judge my poor speaking skills or think that I’m stupid. I don’t speak out loud because I’m not confident that it will come out perfectly. But then I don’t get any practice speaking, and I don’t improve. So already I’ve not only judged how I’d do, but also how they would react to what I would hypothetically do. Man, that’s a whole conversation in my head that’s based on zero evidence!

It’s the way I’ve felt stepping into a yoga class where everyone seems to be on another level: super lean-yet-muscular, casually hopping into handstand (adho mukha vrksasana) or flying pigeon (eka pada gala asana) before the practice starts, hair and makeup on point (how?? Why??), and a gracefully draping outfit. I automatically start comparing myself to the others, wondering if I belong in that class. It’s part of being human: noticing new surroundings and gauging them based on quick and simple judgments. I used to spend classes like this glancing over at others, pushing myself to the furthest extent I could, holding my breath and tensing my muscles, willing myself to get “better” at yoga. I still feel intimidated in some yoga classes (especially if they begin with “advanced”). But now when this happens, I can notice my breath and come back to why I love practicing yoga in the first place. I love it because you can do it any time, anywhere, no matter who you are. This is what I encourage in my students, and I’m grateful for these moments when I feel intimidated because it helps me become a better teacher. It helps me meet each of my students where they are, for them to listen to what they need that day, and for them to practice the courage  to speak their yoga.

So on this trip, I’m going to be in many different countries where I don’t speak a word of the language. But I promise myself that I’m gonna try. It may not sound pretty, it may not make much sense. But damned if I let that keep me from opening my mouth and seeing what comes out.

Kiona Winery tasting, GPS updates

Yesterday, M, his parents and I went for a wine tasting at Kiona Vineyards and Winery. This particular winery was recommended to me by a fellow yogi back in Champaign, IL; his cousin owns the place. Coincidentally, it’s only a 10 minute drive from where we were staying! Small world.

It was a gorgeous afternoon. Sunny, temp in the low 80s with a balmy breeze — feels great in this dry east-of-the-Cascades climate. The winery wasn’t busy, and we got a private tasting with our friendly and good-natured sommelier. M and I ended up buying a bottle of Carménère to open on the patio. M spent a few years serving at a fine dining restaurant in college, where he took a weekly wine class, so I enjoy trying new wines with him. I learn so much!

Today we spent the day with M’s parents’ pups. M and I took turns watching the pups and running along the Columbia River. I’m really loving the dry climate! No hot-and-sticky here.

We also set up M’s SPOT gps to send messages to our close friends and family during our trip. I’d never heard of it before this trip, but it’s pretty neat: you can send emergency and non-emergency help requests as well as location updates to people on our list via satellite. How cool!

Today we drive to Seattle, going from desert to rainforest in 3.5 hours. I’m mentally preparing myself for the change in weather: from high 70s/sunny/dry to mid 60s/drizzly/humid. Good thing I brought my rain jacket 🙂

It’s official: Christmas in Bangkok!

Yesterday morning, I came across a View from the Wing article about a  buy one get one free deal at select Conrad, Waldof Astoria and Hilton hotels. I looked into the details, and it turns out Conrad Bangkok has rooms for $160USD/night while we’re in Thailand. We plan to spend most of our time in northern Thailand (hello Wild Rose Yoga), but we both decided that it would be nice to have some time in a big city around Christmas– especially at a discount.

Since we started the trip, M and I have been sliding into budgeting mode. We have X amount for this one-year excursion, so we want to make it count. Now that we’re one week away from our flight to Japan (!!), we have a better idea of how much we’re leaving with.

Anyway, we did the award-points math, and found this: M gets 10x Hilton points if we pay with his card, plus there’s a promotion for double points till the end of the year. In addition, the deal gets us $75 gift card and a $25 room credit for food and beverage. So we had our answer: we will be spending Christmas in Bangkok!

I’ve never been to Bangkok, only flew through it. But I’m looking forward to check out a new city. Time to re-watch those Anthony Bourdain Thailand episodes!

Hello Washington!

Last night we made the flight from San Francisco to Pasco, WA to spend some time with M’s parents before we head to Japan, our first destination abroad in our round-the-world trip.

I’ve never flown up the Pacific coast from California to Washington, so it was cool to watch the view during the flight:

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Plus, I love seeing how the cloud cover changes as I fly and seeing features like mountains and buildings poke out of the clouds. The sun set about halfway through our first leg (SF –> Seattle), so I didn’t get to see much of the landscape like I did when I flew down to Charleston, SC from New York a couple years ago for a wedding ( which had a great view of the Atlantic coastline). However, when we drive back to Seattle in a few days, we’ll take Snoqualmie Pass through the Cascades, so I’ll get a feel of the terrain then.

When we arrived to M’s parents place, three packages awaited us:

The first was our Japan Rail Passes! We’ll take these bad boys over to the train station to exchange them for the actual passes when we arrive. We ordered 7-day passes for our week in Japan, which will give us access to bullet and local trains/buses in the country. At $279 USD a pop, this will save us a bunch of money since we plan to see Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nikko, and Hiroshima during our stay (for comparison, a 1-way bullet train ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto is 13,910 yen, or about $135 USD). We also rented a pocket wifi which will essentially give us a hotspot for our devices during our trip.

The second package was a keyboard case I bought for the iPad that I’m taking on the trip. It made sense to me to get one for the blogging and trip cost tracking that I’ll be doing throughout the trip. I’ve used it this morning to write this post, and so far so good! Having a tactile keyboard makes typing a lot easier.

The third package was a surprise: M’s diploma! He was finishing up his Master’s degree at University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana this summer, and he is definitely ready to complete that process. This is a good sign.

I’m looking forward to a pretty low-key week here in Pasco. After we leave Washington, we’ll be on the go for the next 4.5 months. Wooooooosa.

A week in San Francisco: How do I practice yoga when traveling?

Clear, distinct, unimpaired discriminative knowledge is the means of liberation from [ignorance].

—  Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 2.26

I’ve been in travel mode for the last month: east coast, midwest, and now west coast to say goodbye to friends and family before M and I take the big trans-Pacific flight for our round-the-world trip. The biggest challenge so far is creating routine in the non-routine nature of traveling. How do I create time, motivation, and money to do things that are important to me, such as maintaining a regular yoga practice, continuing to grow as a yoga teacher, exercising regularly, and spending time thinking about and writing in my blog and website?

With all the new and stimulating sights and sounds around me (see below for our San Francisco adventures), it’s tempting to go explore, walk around, get out there, go go go. And I know once we leave the country, this will be even more so. But there’s a side of me that says “Soyee, don’t forget about me! I need to  — go for a swim or bike ride. I need purpose — dedicate time towards long-term goals. I need introspection — ponder and check in with yourself.”

There’s also a bubbling soup simmering on the inside. Factors like exciting surroundings, my partner M and I sliding into woohoo-vacation-adventure-together mode, and more time to sit and ponder add up and make it challenging to create and stick to a routine.

Yoga Sutra 2.26 says discernment is the key to getting unstuck. To use a Buddhist analogy, getting unstuck is like a lotus growing out of mud and muck and rising above it to the surface of the water it sits on. I’ve realized these past few weeks that this is a great opportunity to practice discernment, because I will need to become aware of what’s going on around me and within me as I continue to travel. I think it will help me stay conscious of my needs as well as help me process and enjoy what’s happening as I go from place to place. Like a diamond hard blade (the mythical vajra), discernment cuts through avidiya, or ignorance. By practicing yoga off the mat, I hope to get myself to practice more yoga on the mat, on-the-go!