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Coffee Table Book is Here!!!

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Finally, two years in the works, my coffee table book is ready to share!

After all my travels in the past few years it was important for me to memorialize my trip not only for my own enjoyment, but for friends and family who supported and encouraged me, helping to make this ‘trip of a lifetime’ possible. This book is part of my legacy, something I want to share with loved ones. Let it liven up your living room or put it on a shelf somewhere and let it collect dust. Either way I hope some of the photos inspire you to take your own adventures and see the world as the beautiful and wondrous place I discovered it to be.

Other Oceans is available in two formats.  Large Format best showcases the photography in BIG sizes. Standard Format is a high quality yet more cost effective option.

Please buy either, or both, or multiple copies for  your friends and let me know what you think!

Order Details:

Standard Format (10″x8″) Hardcover for $83.51

Standard Format (10″x8″) Softcover for $69.74

Large Format (13″x11″) Hardcover for $138.81

Use the Promo Code: BLURB2014 by June 30th, 2014 to get 15% off your order!!!

Other Oceans is self published through Blurb, who will take your order, print, and ship the book directly to you. The price of the book reflects Blurb’s printing costs.

All the photos included in the book can be found on my Flickr profile here:




Coming Home!!!

I thought to myself… ”I can be anywhere in the world. Where do I want to be?”

So I came home for July 4th after 15 months traveling abroad and caught Mom completely by surprise. See her reaction, looks pretty happy. (iPhone video)

Getting Settled and Why I am Learning Spanish


I am in Buenos Aires taking language classes.  My new year’s resolution this year was to become fluent in Spanish.  For whatever reason I decided to pull my high school Spanish skills out of the attic of my mind and polish them off.  I’m trying to get over a hump.  I finally want to be able to definitively and with complete confidence and no reservations know that I speak Spanish.  I want to reach the point where I don’t have to think about it.  I want it to just come naturally.  Quiero hablar español.  But why?  What’s the big deal?  Why is this my new year’s resolution and why am I spending my time and energy pursuing it?  

I’m learning a language because of the possibility.  I’m learning Spanish because I’ve realized that the possibility of your mind far surpasses your physical ability to go places and see things.  I want to experience travel and the world and relationships in a completely different way.  I’m learning a language for the sake of it and for the romance of it.  

Today I finished my sixth week of class at Academia Buenos Aires.  I study five days a week 9:30am to 1:30pm and I endure a hellish 45 minute commute in a subway car packed full of Porteños during the morning rush.  I come home to a share house with one Argentinean guy named Nico, three French girls; Pauline, Morgane, Amelie, and two British girls, Daisy and Rosie.  We have an asado, we drink mate, and we speak only Spanish at home.  I spend a great deal of time with my Argentinean friends.  I switched the language setting in Facebook to Spanish.  I’m watching movies only in Spanish and tonight I’m even going to the theater.  Bars, restaurants, clubs, busses, subways, taxis, parks, cafes, music, emails, texts, avenues, shops, museums, concerts- everywhere I’m speaking Spanish.  I have friendships and relationships with people whom I’ve only spoken to in Spanish. 

I’m getting better for sure.  In school I’m level 5 out of 9 and there’s lots more left to go, but I’m at the point where I live my days completely immersed in a foreign language.  I’ve gotten settled into an apartment in one of the world’s great cities.  This year I’m trying to see fewer places and spend more time in each place.  Buenos Aires and I are currently in a monogamous travel relationship and I’m falling in love with it.  The world seems new and I’m learning purely for the sake of learning. 

I’m lucky to be able to do this.  It’s one of the happiest times of my life.  I’m going to try to update this blog more… the thing is I’m just having way too much fun speaking Spanish.

Connecticut, U.S.A.

No good can come of a citizenry armed with modern semi-automatic killing machines. I can’t think of a single sane reason why any civilian should be allowed to possess one of these weapons in light of the destruction wreaked if used by those who would harm us.

Real strength would be to band together and voluntarily melt down these firearms and create a memorial for all those who’ve perished or suffered as a result of senseless and preventable gun violence in our great country.

My heart sinks with Connecticut’s, the place where I grew up and keep so many peaceful memories.

Oman Off-Road

What did I know about Oman?  Nothing.  Had I been to the Middle East before?  Never.  Was it safe for a Westerner?  Absolutely.

Once I discovered that driving a 4×4 vehicle off-road was not only considered okay in Oman, but often necessary and also regarded as the best way in which to experience a country said to be the jewel of Arabia – I was already on my way.

An exotic land of desert, mountains, canyons, wadis, coast, forts, souks, and mosques – Oman was a place where the adult-traveler-in-search-of-rewarding-cultural-exchange in me experienced the Middle East for the first time while my inner sixteen-year-old-boy-doing-donuts-in-dad’s-car-in-the-snowy-high-school-parking-lot got to go off-roading for two weeks in a Jeep in the Arabian desert and drive as fast as possible through the sand.

Turn off the main road, find the dirt track of your choice and follow it off into the wilds outside Salalah towards an empty beach by the Yemen border.  Drive twenty five miles over the colorful dunes of the Sharqiya Sands to spend the night contemplating the stars and sleep in a tent at a desert camp in the land of nomads.  Traverse mountain tracks in search of forts, tombs, and ancient village ruins that date back to biblical times.  Descend steep winding roads through the canyons to get to one of Oman’s many riverbed wadis to spend the day swimming and hiking in a lush oasis.  Get your 4×4 stuck in the sand dune and flag down two friendly local Omanis to help dig you out so you can keep on going.

Exploring Oman by four wheeler was just simply a great adventure.

[Link to full FB photo album]

Next stop: Jordan and Petra


Long at the Mountain

This wasn’t Walden or Goa.  Nor was this an abandoned bus in the Alaskan woods or the American Dream.  This was a life that he had imagined and he was living it.

It was long into his time in the mountains when he finally realized that he hadn’t gone there to conquer anything.  That would be the fool’s way, he thought, for the mountain had permanence, and as a man he would continue getting older and die, like all others, and the mountain would endure.  Rather, he was there to lose something of himself, the fat off his soul.  The mountain had stripped him of pride, ego, and vanity.  The altitude had drained his blood of oxygen, the physical exertion focused his mind on only the most essential things; warmth, shelter, and food.  His body kept in motion out of necessity.  Forward – up and down, stopping for rest, for breath, and sometimes to take in the devastating view.  He took a guide for direction but otherwise he was traveling alone on his own path, as he had been now for seven months.

Up there on the ridge he could see the Annapurna Range, just as he had been able to see Everest weeks before.  In the rain shadow of the Himalayas there wasn’t a cloud above him and in the other direction he could see deep into Tibet.  On the mountain he could see out far and clear and long into the physical space all around him.  But that was when he knew it.  That he had reached a point in his journey where he had lost so much of his previous self, shed so much of the life he once knew so well, that he was then at that very moment looking out and seeing nothing from the center of a place he couldn’t know.  His vision of his life in the future was frosted over like a ship on a foggy sea.  All he had was resolve and decisions he was yet to make.  That was when he knew he was completely free.  And the loneliness gushed over him like the cold river in the valley below.

Years before he had been able to see it.  Everything was carefully pieced and laid out before him like it was supposed to.  He and his girlfriend were finished moving into the two-bedroom apartment they rented together near the waterfront after she completed her degree from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  She was smart and beautiful, a natural blonde.  Caring and idealistic, she wanted to do something that mattered in the world and he loved her for that.  His job in hedge funds was going well and he went to an office every day with views of the San Francisco Bay.  Together they hosted dinner parties for their couple friends to show off the new digs.  She’d cook something healthy like turkey meatloaf with spinach and he’d open pinot noir they bought together at a vineyard in Sonoma.  Their guests talked about how they got engaged or about their new jobs in private equity or pharmaceutical sales.  He knew with certainty that his girlfriend wanted to be married yesterday and that the black lab she had brought into the relationship was scared of its own reflection.

Then he could see it vividly; the mortgage and house in the suburbs, the wedding invitations, the year-end bonuses, daily walks from the parking garage to his office in the early mornings, more dinner parties with wine, and coming home to feed a dog she had raised which didn’t particularly like him that much.  He could see it long and far and clear.  His life was being baked like that turkey meatloaf.  The ingredients were set in the mold and when he realized that this was all his own doing the inertia of getting old had never felt so thick and suffocating.

But he had unalterably changed the course of his life and there he was alone on the mountain.  Gone was the office with the view, finished was his relationship and the dog that was never his dog.  The flat went back to the landlord and the dining table that once hosted their couple friends had its legs screwed off and was sandwiched vertically between his mattress and couch in a storage unit on the other side of a city in which he no longer lived.

Looking out from that solitary place with an infinite view he could no longer see it.  But that’s when he knew why he had come to the mountain; to strip himself of the memory of his past, clear out from the thick inertia of that old life, and to stand in the center of a new place.  His mind floated with the endless possibilities that lay before him as he would come down from the mountain.  Without a net, he could no longer see it and it was then that he was free.  Where he would go from that point on was limited only to his imagination and the choices he would inevitably have to make.  He knew with certainty he would soon disappear from that place and the mountain would endure, forever.

Links to full FB photo albums:


Everest Base Camp

And some memorable quotes from the books I read while trekking for six weeks in the Nepali Himalayas at Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Circuit, and Upper Mustang:

But in the meantime all the life you have or ever will have is today, tonight, tomorrow, today, tonight, tomorrow, over and over again (I hope), he thought and so you had better take what time there is and be very thankful for it.

– For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemmingway

After all, the grand tour is just the inspired man’s way of heading home.

– Catch-22, Joseph Heller

When you’re surrounded by endless possibilities, one of the hardest things you can do is pass them up.

– Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami

When he has obtained those things which are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain the superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life now, his vacation from humbler toil having commenced.

Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.

– Walden, Henry David Throeau

Taking Stock of the Stamps

I was at the U.S. Consulate in Osaka today getting more pages inserted into my passport, which had run out of room for any more visas and was full.  Sitting there waiting, I reflected on all of these stamps marking my entry and exit to and from various countries and I thought about what it all meant, where I was, and how I was feeling about my trip so far.  It seemed like a good time, after five months traveling, to take stock of things and report back the significant or insignificant findings to this blog’s vast international readership.

People have asked me if I am still enjoying myself, how my trip is going, and whether I still like being on the road.  I’m pleased to report that the  resounding answer to these questions is YES; I am having the time and experience of a lifetime, I enjoy being a backpacker, and I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of adventures I dream of having.  The mindset is still good, spirits are high, and physically I am feeling great.  The hair is a few shades lighter and a few inches longer, I’m outside more than I am inside, I’ve taken about 3,000 pictures, and I have been able to read tons of books and meet so many other people.  Naturally there are times that I’m lonely or wondering “what the hell am I doing?” “what the hell am I going to do?” or “where in the world am I?”  I stick to my convictions and remind myself that adventure is a worthy pursuit and that my original plan was to leave everything behind and travel the world, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Moreover, I emphatically encourage everyone who has followed in any way my travel photos and exploits, young or old, to get out and travel whenever and wherever you can.  Let yourself go.  Go somewhere you never thought you would visit or go somewhere you’ve always wished you could see.  Just do it.  If you really have the desire to travel, the possibility is there and the only limiting factors are the ones you’ve set for yourself.

Okay, so five months traveling in Asia – the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia, Japan – where do I even begin???

It was important for me to start a trip like this in Asia because it was a part of the world I knew very little about but somewhere I felt connected to on a very personal level.  I am half Filipino but aside from visiting family in the Philippines frequently throughout my entire life I had never been anywhere else in Asia aside from a short work trip to Hong Kong, and I had never come here on my own.  Part of me needed to go and see for myself what the rest of the continent was like.  I felt that spending time here as a solo traveler might give me a different perspective or a better understanding of what it means to me to be an Asian American.  Anyone who knows me might cough when they read that last sentence, because I look about as caucasian as they come, but I assure you that being half Asian and coming from an international family but looking white and growing up in America “as white” has been a part of my identity I’ve struggled with my entire life.  Part of me sometimes felt like a puzzle piece that didn’t always fit , like there was this palpable dissonance between how I perceived my identity and how it was portrayed outwardly to others.  While I didn’t discover the holy grail or the meaning of life and I still don’t look like I’ve got a drop of Asian blood, at least now I know I did it.  I came here to Asia and explored; gained a deeper understanding of the place, and somewhere in these travels I’ve hopefully grown a little and developed greater appreciation for Asia’s vastness and diversity.  It’s been unforgettable.

So what have I learned???  If I had to boil it down, I’d say my travels so far have helped me learn more about patience, compassion, and self reliance.  Patience in that things take time and the best strategy sometimes is to stay calm and let things play out.  The world doesn’t work on your schedule so sit back, be a part of it, and smile while you wait.  Compassion in that meeting and seeing so many people from different walks of life, with backgrounds, circumstances, and world views apart from your own makes you appreciate and value others more.  Travel humbles you when you recognize the things you have, how lucky you are, and makes you care more about people in general.  Self reliance in that no matter what it is, where you are, if you keep a clear head about you, when faced with a problem, you can figure it out.  No one is going to do it for you, so be confident in your convictions, stay focused on what’s important, and don’t be afraid to make a decision and go with it.

Other things I’ve noticed…

“I haven’t seen too many other Americans” is something I’ve heard a number of times.  It’s true- in the grand scheme of things, compared with our European and Australian counterparts, Americans don’t really travel that much.  Everyone seems to have heard the statistic that only a small minority of Americans possess passports.  My experience anecdotally confirms the fact that America as a country is underrepresented on the travel and backpacker circuit – at least in Asia.  There are probably a myriad of contributing factors – maybe Americans just travel inside America or stay closer to home.  Maybe the corporate culture in America is prohibitive to extended travel and Europeans with their four and five week work vacations will always be able to see more of the world without having to leave their jobs.  Maybe Americans just don’t like or see the value in travel.  Who knows.  Again, if you are reading this – I encourage you to commit to taking that next vacation.  Go see a different part of the world and you’ll be better for it.

America doesn’t have that negative stereotype that I think it once did.  At least that’s what I’ve noticed.  Back in the late 90’s after high school when I first backpacked around Europe, I noticed it a little more – that small disdain for the “ugly American” traveler.  This time around I haven’t really gotten that vibe, and for the most part people tell me they like America and say that they’ve met other Americans “who were cool.”  I don’t know what to attribute this too, but it seems that our standing abroad has gotten a little better.  Sure, people abroad like Obama more than Bush.  But I think it also has to do somewhat with the overall growth in technology and a new generation of young people that view America more positively in general.  So to you Canadians who still rock the Canadian flag patches on your backpacks, really for the main purpose of saying “Not American” – I say remove the flag or we’re confiscating your Facebook account.

One more thing I’ve noticed.  China is like a scary big red octopus with tentacles all over Asia.  They’re building pipelines down into Burma, laying railroad into Laos, they’ve closed off the Tibetan border to tourists, they beached a military vessel on a Philippine shoal in a territorial dispute, and have just recently sent more war ships to claim islands from the Japanese.  They’re flexing their muscles and it’s important that we all take notice.

In Japan now, up next Korea for a bit then off to Nepal and hopefully Tibet (if China starts issuing travel visas again).

That’s about it- I’ll try to write more frequently if I can.  Thanks again everyone – keep your notes, comments, and emails coming!

As I said, adventure is a worthy pursuit; I set out to travel the world so that’s what I’m going to do.


Philosopher’s Path – Kyoto

Macau Bungy

My friend JJ took a break from opening Apple Stores in China and met me for an extended three day weekend in Hong Kong.  I took a red eye over from Colombo and he came in from Beijing and we met at the airport where we took the time to FaceTime our friend Tom, whom I hadn’t had a chance to speak with since his recent engagement.


Congrats Tom and Tessa!!!

After two crazy nights in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district…


We took off on the ferry to Macau (deciding that taking the helicopter was a little much) and discovered the world’s tallest bungy jump at the Macau Tower.  Of course we took the 61 story plunge – it’s what my trip is all about.

Easy to tell which one of us is deathly scared of heights.



Sri Lanka – my tour of the ancient Buddhist world continues…

Sri Lanka is 9,000 miles and a 12.5 hour time change from California.  It’s essentially half a world away and so different that it may as well have two moons.  Somehow, everyone here seems to know that California is the “best city” in the United States and that Arnold Schwarzenegger was our governor, even though our restrictive visa laws virtually guarantee that almost no Sri Lankans have ever had the chance to visit where I came from.  My lack of knowledge about this country before arriving was somewhat embarrassing.

[link to full FB photo album]

I’m not sure what compelled me to visit.  Part of it was the fact that my dad had lived “in Ceylon” circa 50 years ago at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo when he was a child.  It’s where he developed a love for swimming and took surf lifeguard training.  Part of it was the compassionate family email my uncle George wrote about the country following the tragic 2004 tsunami.  Part of it was Air Asia’s cheap fare and relatively new route between Kuala Lumpur and Colombo.  The thing that finally struck the resonant chord and pushed me over the Indian Ocean was learning a little more about Theravada Buddhism after my recent visit to Myanmar.  This is the branch of the religion that came down most directly from the Sanskrit language and the Pali text from India down into countries which now include: Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand – all places I’ve visited for the first time in the last four months.  While I’m not imminently considering a personal Buddhist awakening or a stint with the Hari Krishna (as my uncle Willy did, temporarily disappearing on his world travels years ago) I do find that the Buddhist countries have a certain beauty about them, which includes the temples, stupas, monks, joss sticks, and people who are generally very warm, welcoming, and happy to have you visit.  It was fortuitous then that my visit happened to coincide with the Esala Perahera, the country’s biggest annual religious festival celebrating the Buddha tooth relic.

The ancient cities of Sri Lanka – Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, and Dambulla – may not be as visually spectacular as Bagan in Myanmar or Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom in Cambodia, nonetheless as far as historical significance goes, they hold their own.  In combination they are more than enough to spark the fancy of any casual tomb raider or Indiana Jones.  Take for example, the fact that Anuradhapura dates back to the 4th century BC while Angkor Wat wasn’t built until the 12th century AD.  Anuradhapura also has the oldest continually cared for tree in the world, which is 2000 years old and was grown from a sapling taken directly from the Bodhi tree in India under which Siddhartha Gautama achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha.  The ancient rock fortress at Sigiriya is one of the most impressive sights I’ve ever seen, combining awesome natural, historical, and spiritual significance in a way that very few other sights in the world do (maybe Petra in Jordan does but I’ve still never been).  Dambulla and Sigiriya have some of the finest ancient cave paintings anywhere.

And it’s not just about the history.  Sri Lanka has gorgeous hillside tea plantations, marvelous train ride views, inspiring national parks, a million elephants, incredibly tasty food, and in the crashed out/chilled out surf haven of Arugam Bay one of the best and most consistent waves in Asia.

I’ll let my photo album speak the rest, but if you dream about colorful islands half a world away with the history and beaches to justify the jet lag, it’s time for you to put this little island nation that packs a big punch on your travel wish list.

Next up on the ancient Buddhist world tour: Borobudur, Indonesia – but not until after meeting friends in Hong Kong and beaching it up in Bali.

Ruwanwelisaya stupa in Anuradhapura (2nd century BC)

Esala Perahera - "festival of the tooth"

Malaysia – Other Oceans



Many thrash about like fish in a pond that is running dry
Swim in other oceans

Free yourself from what that scares you makes you complacent  
Be bold

Choices are yours so either sit still or go
The move is yours anytime

Be a character in the world and live life uniquely and earnestly
Chose to be whatever it is and go pursue it relentlessly
Let possibility happen

You are the only catalyst
Change can’t tell time

Meet me at a table in the banquet of wounded souls