Hspiaw

Bettlenut spit stains the ground like blood from a grusome murder or perhaps the junta violently shut down another protest. What little sidewalk there is is badly broken. Cracks as large as a foot wide are not uncommon. The gutter smells like sewer and pollution. The air smells like diesel.

The road is half paved and half  mud. Traffic runs both ways on both sides. Honking. There is lots of honking. Large trucks move slow with cars honking as they pass on the left. Scooters pass both cars and trucks on both the right and left. They lay on the horn as they go.

The town is surrounded by farms. It’s green here. The greenery on the roadside is mulched with liter.

Despite all of these negative points the people here smile. They wave and say “minglaba” as you pass. They may not know much English, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to help.

In the coming years this town will be filled with nicer hotels and more backpackers. Trekking is the thing to do here. But, for now it’s pre development. It’s cheap. And, I like it.

April 23, 2017
Hspiaw, Myanmar

Advertisements

Why I Signed Up For Chase Sapphire Reserve

I just took a big step in maximizing my saving and money earning for travel. Tuesday, November 29th, I went into a Chase Bank and demanded they sign me up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve! Well that’s technically not how it went down. I asked nicely. 🙂

And, I was approved on the spot.

I was hesitant to sign up for this credit card because it has a $450 annual fee! That’s a big chunk of change. I’m a cautious spender when it comes to my money. So the Sapphire Preferred card with the waved first annual fee and only a price tag of $99 seemed more appealing.

But, after calculating all the benefits of the Reserve Card and talking with my brother to confirm this was wise, I got Reserve. And here is why:

Signup Bonus

The sign up bonus for this card is the largest in the market right now and the largest in travel credit card history (I believe).

This card has a signup bonus of 100,000 points! If you redeem these through Chase Ultimate Rewards it’s worth $1500. Essentially I am getting $1500 for free, just for signing up. All I have to do is spend four grand in three months.

 

$300 Travel Credit

Every year the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR), gives you a $300 credit. Yes that’s right $300 for FREE. This credit is good for travel purchases.

Now you may be wondering what counts as travel credits. I know I was. I found this pretty well maintained list of purchases that count. Click HERE.

I plan to buy $300 in airBNB credits because I know I will use them to rent a place to stay in Taiwan for a month or more in March.

 

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck

Chase will reimburse you $100 for the purchase of a Global Entry or a TSA PreCheck. Global Entry is $100, TSA PreCheck is $85. Global Entry comes with PreCheck. Both last for five years! Hell yes!

Sign me up for free shorter line!

To learn more about Global Entry and PreCheck click HERE.

 

3X Points on Travel & Restaurants

Even though I am not going to be spending much at restaurants since I am trying to save money. It is great to know that I will be earning 3 points for every dollar.

Travel on the other hand I am really excited about. I will be buying a handful of plane tickets that should help me get some really good points! I’m also going to be taking the Greyhound from Arcata to San Fran at the end of February.

If you’re going to be spending the money anyways you might as well get paid to do it!

 

No Foreign Transaction Fees

This is pretty standard with travel rewards cards. But it’s great to have.

What this means is that if you use the card in a foreign country and charge it with a foreign currency Chase is not charging you for that transaction. Other than whatever you are spending of course.

 

Movable Points

I have the Chase Freedom Card. The Chase Freedom card offers 5% cash back on certain types of shopping throughout the year. They have four separate quarters.

January-March is gas stations and local commuter transport. April-June is grocery stores and wholesale clubs. July-September is restaurants and wholesale clubs. And, October-December is department stores, drug stores, and wholesale clubs.

The 5% cash back is great if you are shopping at these places. But the rewards points are worth less with the Freedom Card. However, you can move these points over to the CSR Ultimate Rewards increasing their value.

The trick here is to use the Freedom Card to score 5% when the CSR would only give you 1% (3% for the restaurants).

The Chase Freedom Card has no annual fee and they have a signup bonus of $150 dollars when you spend only $500 in the first three months. Cake!

Knowing that I was going to be getting a better rewards card from Chase soon I started to only use my Freedom card to get as many points in my Chase account as I can.

 

Do The Math

Okay let’s do the math here now. For the first year you pay the $450 annual fee but with the travel credit, global entry rebate, and signup bonus ($1900) you profit $1450. This can be more though!

At The Points Guy there is a post about transfer the Chase Ultimate Rewards points to their partners to increase their value. They claim it is possible to make the sign up bonus worth $2100. Read the post here.

So that’s a lot of free money and I am more than happy to get it.

 

P.S.

“Do the math” reminds me of Chris D’Elia’s drunk girls skit. I think it’s hilarious! Here it is for you to enjoy.

Walden On Wheels ~ Book Review

I recently finished Ken Ilgunas book Walden on Wheels. I was really inspired by his story. The way that he thought really resonated with me because we have very similar opinions on a lot of things. He just has a much better ability to showcase them beautifully.

His story is this: He was a recent college graduate and had $30,000 in debt. But, society wasn’t right with him. He spent some time in Alaska and longed for that lifestyle. However he couldn’t just drop out because his mom was the co-signer on his loans. Determined to pay off the loans he takes a job in Alaska that pays for room and board. This allows him to use all his earnings to pay for his debt.

I don’t want to talk to much more about it because I want you to read his book.  However, I do want to share some experts that I really appreciate.

We can only miss what we once possessed. We can only feel wronged when we realize something has been stolen from us. We can’t miss the million-strong flocks of passenger pigeons that once blackened our skies. We don’t really miss the herds of bison that grazed in meadows where our suburbs stand. And few think of dark forest lit up with the bright green eyes of its mammalian lords. Soon, the glaciers will go with the clear skies and clean waters and all the feelings they once stirred. It’s the greatest heist of mankind, our inheritance being stolen like this. But how can we care or fight back when we don’t even know what has been or is being taken from us. (page 72)

This paragraph is a perfect description of why some people simply just do not care to protect the environment.

I remember when I was starting to learn about climate change, more than ten years ago now. It was around the same I started go camping and hiking. I would go back to the same meadow a few hours from my home for more than a decade.

In that time, I watched the ecosystem change. I watched the changing climate affect a place dear to me. There used to be two lakes. One seasonal and one three-times-as-big-year-round laek. I remember wading out to rocks and catching frogs in the seasonal pond. But over time it stopped showing up. Then a few years later the year-round lake dried up completely. I haven’t seen water there in over a year.

Other people suffering from nature-deficiency disorder can’t understand what they are missing. They can’t understand the negative impacts of their actions because they live life inside.

My relationship with nature was changing. No longer did I think of it as something to conquer, like a mountain summit. Nor was nature something to be glorified, which we tend to do at scenic road pull-offs. Nature, to me, was no longer beautiful. Nature, I realized, is only beautiful when you’re at a safe distance from it. Watching a setting sun from a windshield can mean romance, serenity, beauty. On the water, though, it was a warning for mosquitoes, storms, and the cold. When I was mesmerized by nature before, I was merely disconnected from it. After more than forty days on the voyage [paddling in a canoe]. I no longer saw nature and myself as independent entities; rather, I was nature…” (Page 117)

This backs up my earlier comment. People who don’t spend time in nature cannot come to terms that we are from nature. We are nature. To harm nature is to harm ourselves.

Dave Foreman, one of the co-founders of Earth First! talks about how the current trend to save nature as a playground for humans is wrong. Nature, the wilderness, he argues should be protected because it is wild. It should remain wild.

The yuppie lifestyles of Outside Magazine and Backpacker use nature as a playground. They protect National Parks so they have something pretty to look at. These two men see nature as so much more. Nature should be wild!

From my home, I could see suburbs in all directions. When I was a boy, at least there were pockets of woods to stoke my imagination. But now all I could see were endless rows of cookie-cutter homes, bland corporate parks, vast retirement complexes, all separated by a grid of loud, fast, angry roads. The suburban landscape, before, had never produced any thoughts in me or incited any ire, but now, having roamed the Brooks Range, the Canaduian wilderness, and the Mississippi jungle I could imagine the terrible genocide of trees and swamps and fields that took place here years before. We got rid of all that for this.” (Page 149)

Up until now I was never anything but a worker and a student. When I looked up at a dark arctic night sky, I thought I could be something else. I didn’t want a job, a salary, a home. I didn’t want to be a bold in the consumer-capitalist machine. Or a boring Ph.D student. When I looked up at the stars, I could see my path. I wanted to be a comet hurtling through the sky, governed by no one’s laws or expectations but my own. (Page 89)

Me too.

When we are raised by institutions, we are fashioned, in ways big and small, to be like everyone else. But, when we go on a journey – especially a journey that follows no one else’s footsteps it has the capacity to help a person become something unique, an individual.

While Western society never had anything quite like the vision quest, we do have a heritage of journeying laced into our cultural DNA. In the 1930s, Americans hopped trains. In the 1950s, beat poets wrote about road trips. In the 1960s, we hitched rides. Today, however, it seems like the whole “coming of age” adventure has been abridged from a young person’s life experience, leaving no gap, no bridge, no moment of real freedom in between school and career. (Page 116)

I’m lost. I’m in a crossroads in my life. I don’t know where I should go next or what I should do.

I’m constantly comparing my life to the life of my peers. Wondering if I should follow their footsteps. At least they are doing something! But this life is my experience and mine alone.

In order to live the experience that a human life is to it’s fullest potential I must live mine to my fullest potential. Only I can decided what this means for me. And, only you can decide what it means for you. It’s just hard though.

“Our relationship was kind of like our hitchhike adventure. It wasn’t supposed to last forever. It was simply a means of getting from our past selves to our future selves. And like the hitchhike, we’d take from it, learn from it, say good-bye to it, be better for it, and think back on it fondly.” (Page 163).

Sometimes I have a hard time not getting sentimental for past experiences. Great times I once had. I wonder why this moment right now isn’t as amazing as that moment. But, they can’t all be.

Good or bad experiences, I am learning to appreciate them all. Friends and lovers who are no longer in my life, I forgive for our drifting. I look back on the times, good and bad, and learn. All of my mistakes, my fucks up, the time I was an asshole, the times I was taken advantage of, I’m okay with them now.

I have learned.

I must keep moving forward.

“When I thought about my hitchhikes, the voyageur trip, Duke – I was happy to have suffered; i was happy to have been miserable; i was happy to have been alone… That’s because it was in those moments, when I was pushed to my limits, that I was afforded a glimpse of my true nature.

I learned such a glimpse cannot be gotten with half-hearted journeys and soft endeavors. Nor could I hope for such a graphic feature, like getting to the top of a mountain. Rather, I knew one must confront the very beasts and chasms that haunt our dreams, block our paths, and muffle the voice of the wild man howling in all of us, who calls for you to become you – the you culture cannot shape, the you who is unalterable, uncivilized, pure. You.” (Page 272)

As plans are coming along for my own great adventure Ken Ilgunas words give my heart the encouragement I need. He tells us that the only way to become the best you, the true you, it to suffer. Suffer while thriving for what you most desire.

I am terrified of being alone. Lost in thoughts that take me down dark places in my mind; self-loathing. I want to overcome these beasts. I want to struggle my way through my great adventure and come out alive strong than ever on the other side.

Thank you for writing such an amazing book Ken! I look forward to reading your other works soon! Safe travels.

 

Ken Ilgunas recently walked the entire length of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. You can head about here.

Graduated

I graduated from San Diego State University in May of 2016.

It cost me  my sanity, my friends, and my girlfriend of seven years. But, I did it!

I broke down from too much stress. I am writing about it on another blog. It is my attempt to sort out my thoughts and progress as a human being. Check it out if you like (currently unpublished).

I’ve done some traveling since being in Taiwan. While I was there I spent some time in Hong Kong, the Philippines, and had a long interesting layover in Guangzhou, China.

When I got back to the states I worked my ass off for a month and then took off again. I went to Cuba, illegally through Mexico.

Then it was nothing but school.

After graduating, I was luckily enough to get out to travel a bit more. I spent some time with my Aunts in Wisconsin. I explored Glacier National Park in Montana with my dad and brother. I helped some friends move from San Diego to Arcata, California. I met up with old friends, new friends, family, and more in Chicago. And, last weekend I went camping for four days in Sequoia National Park.

I am going to write about all this. It will be coming soon. Stay tuned!

I’m Back?

So this was been a failure so far. I didn’t write anything on here since I started it at the beginning of 2015.

I went to Taiwan on an exchange. Boy, was it an adventure.

But when I got back my life sort of fell apart, for various reasons. I’m piecing it back together slowly.

I have traveled since Taiwan. I want to write about. I have pictures to share.

I enjoy writing. I might not be the best, but I do enjoy it.

Here’s to me sticking with it! (Or else looking dumb in this post.)

Goals For 2015

I meant to get this up on the Internet a long time ago but I was busy then I went camping. Anyways here it is!
It’s 2015! Happy New Year everybody. New year new resolutions. By the time I got around to posting this January is already half over. But nonetheless, I’ve got a few goals for this year one is already lined up, a for sure thing, and ready to be completed. My New Years Resolutions are:
  1. Get Out of the United States
    This is my goal that is already lined up and ready to go. Spring semester 2015 will be in Taipei, Taiwan. I was able to set up an entire semester abroad at no cost. In fact, with all my scholarships, grants, financial aid, and exchange rates I will probably be making money by going abroad.
    I’ve already got my plane ticket and my VISA to The Republic of China, Taiwan! I will be there in mid-February. Nervous and excited.
  2. Make More Friends
    I am hoping that this one and the first one will kind of go together. I am hoping that I can expand my social circle and make some new friends. It’s crazy how over the years friends come and go. Right now I have some really great friends, honestly the best. However, I think it would always benefit everyone to have more. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
  3. Learn AdWords
    My last goal is to learn how to use Google AdWords but also learn other Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising sites like Bing and Yahoo. This resolution is part of a larger life goal to somehow create a location independent job. PPC just is a small part of that that I think I can focus on while studying abroad.
  4. Constantly Update This Blog
    I started this blog to keep track of my travels and my goals. I want to share with people who are interested where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. I am hoping that 2015 will be a big year for all these things and this blog is the place I share I’ll my adventures.
The reason that I am sharing my resolutions is to hold myself accountable to myself (and anyone who may be reading this). At the end of the year we will see where I am!

Looking Back on 2014

At the time of writing, 2014 is over on most of the Earth already, but not on the West Coast of North America. I am still in 2014 reflecting on everything that happened this year. I have to say, 2014 was actually a pretty big year for me. A lot of transformation took place. While it was happening it didn’t seem like much but looking back it was huge. Where do I even start.

I finally finished at community college. Two Associates Degrees and a too many years later and I am done! I was held up by a budget cuts cutting a required course for my degree to every other semester. I was pretty upset about it at the time. Looking back it worked out not so bad. That was the semester that I started all the business courses to transfer. I was able to power through all the required business classes in a year. 2014 was the year that I transferred to San Diego State University’s College of Business Administration. That wasn’t the only transfer I made in 2014 though.
Years of not having a enough money to afford rent in San Diego kept my girlfriend and I at our parents house. This year we rented a room together with some good friends of mine from community college. It’s been working out pretty well. I’m glad we finally did it. There are rabbits, chickens, cats (including the most adorable little kitten), and a dog.
Screech and Lagunitas

This my friend Screech. He drinks too much.

Transferring to, what I consider a “real” college has required some changes to. I had to quit my job at the golf course in order to focus on studying. There was just no way I could wake up to go to work at 4 a.m. after going to bed at 2. I thought this would allow to me spend more time getting involved with campus organizations. Regrettably, it did not as my actual class schedule got in the way of that.
One group I was able to get involved in was Toast Masters. If you don’t know what Toaster Masters is an organization that is all over the world that helps people become better public speakers. I finished the program and received a Certificate. But, the Toaster Masters program is not something you start and finish. It’s something you continue because in order to be good at public speaking you need to constantly be practicing. I plan on continuing to be active in Toast Masters moving forward.
There is something else too that I would like to mention that had some amount of importance to me. I read The Four Hour Work Week. This changed the way I think about a lot of things. There were lots of things I never would have thought I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to travel and travel extensively but I was not sure how people were paying for it. The Four Hour Work Week  showed me that it was possible. That book inspired me an I opened up my first online business retail store. More about that in a later post.
Maybe I had a great year because I was born in the year of the horse and 2014 was the horse. Maybe I had a great year because because the digits of my birthday and year add to twenty three, the age I was for most of 2014 (Numerology). Or maybe I just kicked ass this year, because I don’t really believe in that stuff. Regardless I have plans to make 2015 even better! Stay tuned.
Happy New Year Everyone! Make it a great one!