Archive for December, 2010

Amidst the Chaos

Room full of clutter

I’m sitting on the floor of the study surrounded by stuff.  I wanted to get in one last post before take off, showing what we’ve been living with for weeks.  Granted, my opinion of ‘clutter’ is a little beyond most people, but I’ve had to literally shut the door of this room.

Boxes of clutter part one

Desk full of clutter part 2

Ok, it’s time to recharge the computer one last time and finish packing my carry-on.  Then off for a New Year’s dinner with friends before a fitful journey tomorrow.  Until Asia…

P.S. Dropped Basil off today – I got choked up driving away.


Read Full Post »

Still Booking Stuff…

    I know that technically we leave for Hong Kong in just 65 hours, but there is still planning to be done, people!  Yes, all the major stuff is all taken care of, but a nagging item is still on the list.  We’re traveling precariously close to Tet (the Chinese New Year) when basically everyone in Asia goes somewhere and you can get stuck easily with no transportation options.  Therefore, instead of booking most of our overland travel when we’re in-country, we’ve started doing some planning  ahead of schedule.

  I’ve been focusing on our train travel in Vietnam, because we’ll be there later in January (closer to Tet, which offically begins February 4th), and it is actually possible to book in advance.  Some things, like buses, are just not available online. 

  The Man in Seat 61, an amazing train-centric travel site, has a lot of information about train travel in Vietnam.  They specifically recommended one local travel agency that can pre-book (for about $10 extra than doing it in-person at the station), and will deliver tickets to your hotel.  I contacted the agency to get some information, and they have been very helpful!  I guess we’ll see for sure if our train tickets show up successfully in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) or not, but so far, so good. 

A typical train schedule

The descriptions on the Seat 61 site and instructions on the travel agency site made choosing a train and a time pretty painless.  I know the picture above looks complicated, but really, it was no big deal.  As of this morning, I have officially booked our two overnight train trips in Vietnam (one is 16 hours, one 12 hours), at roughly $50 per person for each trip. 

Drew and I also decided that for a shorter trip within Vietnam (Hoi An to Hue – about 4 hours by train), we’re going to take the scenic route and have our hotel in Hue pick us up by private car in Hoi An and take us on a sightseeing tour of the area between those two cities.  This will take about 6 total hours, including all stops, but we won’t have to deal with public transportation at all!  Here’s the hotel, – they just got a new site and it looks fabulous for only $35/night (plus is is ranked #1 on Trip Advisor, my go-to ranking system!).

Read Full Post »

Photo Fail

I was in New Jersey for Christmas and I brought my nice camera and two lenses with me to capture all the Christmas joy – plus, there aren’t a lot of designated photographers in the family, so I thought I’d get the critical shots.  Five hours into our drive, we stopped in Manhattan to pick up my bro-in-law, and I saw an amazing photo opportunity.

Well, actually, the amazing photo was an inappropriate sign, but I grabbed my camera to take my first vacation shot.  And then I realized that I left my memory card in my computer at work!  And just like that, no photos of Christmas (so, no photos for this post either!).

Sad.  And, of course, someone asked during the weekend whwhy I wasn’t taking pictures and I had to say, ‘well, i have the camera…’

Read Full Post »

2010 Goal Review

For the past few years, I’ve taken the last week in December to set real, measurable goals for the following year.  I originally picked up this idea from this website…there is a ton of info there about this process if you’re interested.  But, basically, during the year, I keep track of my progress in an intense spreadsheet.  I reviewed my progress this morning, and I’ll work on setting some new fun goals during the rest of the week. 

All together, of the 24 goals I set for 2010 (in the Categories of Career/School, Health, Family/Friends, Hobbies, Financial and Travel), I officially completed 14 (or 58%).  My completion rate wasn’t nearly as high as it’s been in previous years, but that’s due to the fact that I took two items off the list completely, and part of the way through the year, I stopped tracking my progress on three other items.  I officially DIDN’T complete five goals that I really wanted to finish.

Some of the big highlights for me in 2010 were:

  1. Graduate with my MBA
  2. Read or listen to 52 books (I’m almost done with #68, which I expect to finish this week)
  3. Visit Acadia National Park
  4. Visit Laura in Ithaca and Lisa in Meadville
  5. Complete four upgrades to our house
  6. Make an amazing graduation gift for Alice

The items I took of the list completely were a trip to Central America and selling our house (each for various reasons).  I also stopped tracking three items: my alcohol consumption, my bedtime and how much I workout.  Unfortunately, tracking these things on a daily basis is a huge pain and makes me a little OCD, so I decided to just do my best and quit stressing.  During the months I was tracking these items, I did fairly well, averaging 1.13 drinks per day, and working out 4 days a week about 80% of the time. 

Finally, the items I didn’t complete.  I have had a goal for the past two years to take Basil to a fun agility class, and I still haven’t done it.  The classes are plentiful around here but they’re in the evening and I’ve always had at least one evening per week tied up with school.  I’m keeping this item on the list for 2011 because I really think I can do it this time!  I’m working on my list of 2011 goals, which I’ll share later in the week, but that’s a wrap for 2010!

Read Full Post »

Hi from New Jersey

Christmas Day is here.  After the unwrapping frenzy, the leisurely breakfast, and the obligatory Seaman family movie outing, Christmas is a day where I am usually wistful about summer.  It just seems so long ago that I went outside in short sleeves, and didn’t have to warm the car up every day.  Note to self: look into a remote car-starter. 

Since photos aren’t ready yet from today, here’s a few of summer.  Because it will be summer once again someday…

Fresh Flowers - at their cheapest in the summer!

this table was outside. Only in summer...

Lobster can be enjoyed year round. The basket and the view...only in summer!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Read Full Post »

Bulky Items

Drew and I are each bringing blessed few pieces of clothing on our travels (which begin a week from tomorrow!!!!), but we’ve put a lot of thought into each one.  Actually, the pieces of clothing that have weighed most heavily on our minds are the pieces that will most heavily weigh on our backs – jackets, jeans and pants.  We don’t expect to need long-sleeves for more than maybe 20% of our trip, but if we’re going to bring a jacket, it should be waterproof, windproof, lightweight but warm, and on and on.  Oh, and not too expensive because we’re only gonna need it for a week.  It has to be the perfect jacket. 

With this incredible combination of requirements, we’ve searched high and low for the perfect, squishable, raincoat-like overcoat that will work for a myriad of weather possibilities…with no luck.  We found some nice coats that cost a couple hundred bucks (no thank you!), and cute options that are bulkier than my sleeping bag coat that I waddle around in during winter months stateside.

Finally, last weekend we figured it was do or die time.  We decided to take a gamble and see what TJ Maxx had in stock – you never know, right?  Fortunately, the gods were in good moods and we each found a suitable jacket for under $25 that will work for unexpected weather. 

These jackets are not perfect.  Mine isn’t perfect because it has no hood (and we’re not bringing an umbrella), and Drew’s isn’t perfect because it’s super lightweight with no insulation.  But Hong Kong has stores (we keep reminding ourselves), so we can always upgrade if we’re desperate. 

My cute, weather-resistant but NOT rain resistant jacket!


Drew's rain coat with no lining!

Read Full Post »

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in our final moments leading up to our travels worrying about being sick while we’re away.  I don’t want to waste a perfectly good day feeling uncomfortable, or worse, being sick while on a 12 hour train trip!  I’ve done a LOT of reading on the subject about how to avoid getting sick from the food and water in this area of the world, and I’m not sure if I’ve learned much other than to be very careful and very scared.  Thank you Internet for uplifting posts like this and this.

In addition to bringing an arsenal of over-the-counter and prescribed medications, I plan to follow some basic guidelines:

I just bought one of everything...

1. Don’t drink tap water.  There is bottled water everywhere in the world, and even though most people say the water in Singapore is up to Western standards, I might stick to bottled just to be on the safe side.  Note: It’s funny that people are so worried about the water source in SE Asia when I know plenty of people here in the States who filter the living daylights out of the perfectly safe water coming out of their taps. 

2. Go to street stalls that have lots of people and freshly made food.  This is a no-brainer, of course.  Long lines usually mean good food, and freshly made means not standing around gathering germs and slowly rotting in the hot sun.

3. If something doesn’t feel right, just don’t eat it.  Now that I’ve lived on the East Coast for 7+ years, I rarely eat seafood in the Midwest.  It’s just not fresh, and I’d rather eat the real (unfrozen and transported) versions locally than risk it.  Similarly, I won’t eat sushi in a food court (American food courts that is – those in Asia are MUCH different).  Enough said.

4. Do my best with fruits and veggies.  Some people say not to eat fresh fruits and veggies unless you can peel them, or can ensure they’ve been washed in purified water.  I feel like if I only eat cooked food for over a month I’ll probably go crazy, and papaya salad is such a specialty in Thailand that I’m definitely going to try it even if I can’t view the cleaning process of the ingredients with my own eyes.   

5. When in doubt, take one of the many medications we’re lugging with us halfway across the world.  We didn’t get prescription-level AND over-the-counter meds for nothing!  Plus, it will make a good blog post if I’m suffering in a hotel somewhere, right?  I’m kidding, of course, and I hope that writing that sentence didn’t jinx me!

Pills, pills, everywhere...

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »