Monthly Archives: January 2012

Young Man Went West #32: And Then I Met Jenn

I had veered off my post-college life plan. What happened to that goal of moving to different cities purposefully without purpose? Teaching English in a foreign country is, by no means, a cop-out from an adventurous life; quite the opposite. That plan, however, was in lieu of another plan about which I was more passionate, yet had postponed because there existed no factor–apart from sheer desire–leading me there. In last week’s post, I had written, “If I have nothing leading me to New York, maybe I should let this idea [of teaching abroad] lead me to another country.”

Well, now I don’t have nothing.

I met Jenn shortly after coming back from my road trip. Despite having just been rehired at Bubba’s, and therefore being damn near broke, I took her out to a somewhat pricey wine and tapas restaurant. Fiscally, the date was a bad decision, but in the grand scheme of my life, it has been one of my best so far. The specifics of that first date will be doled out in gloriously embarrassing detail in next week’s post; what’s important right now was my discovery of two, eerie similarities between Jenn and me: 1) she not only had plans to teach English in Korea, but had already sent in her application; and 2) while waiting to hear back about Korea, she was looking into grad schools in New York. The grad school part was less of a reason and more of an excuse; she has been obsessed with the City for years.

When our relationship started, Jenn agreed to help me complete my teaching abroad application. However, the closer the two of us got, the less interesting Korea seemed. If some real, life-affirming experience was developing here, what was I trying to obtain out there? Teaching abroad was just a means to an end, something to do so I wouldn’t do nothing.

Well, now I don’t do nothing.

As I started having feelings for Jenn, my imaginative mind began crafting another plan: move to New York with Jenn. I wasn’t abandoning my new desired path. Instead, I was realigning with my actual desired path, this time with a reason in tow. I waited until I knew Jenn had similar feelings for me before springing upon her this idea. How quickly would I have scared her off if she didn’t?!

We’ve set the end of September as our target date for the big move. In the meantime, Jenn is helping me learn all about the camera I just bought. I am looking into grad school for Photojournalism in New York City.

Change #5: Apply to teach English in Korea, stay in Honolulu until I’m accepted, buy and learn to use a good camera in the meantime, use the teaching money to pay for grad school for photojournalism after I return –> Learn to use my camera well before moving to New York with my girlfriend, where I’ll apply to grad school for photojournalism

By the way, I never got around to applying for Korea.

My photography teacher has, by default, become my main photography subject. I was fiddling with exposure settings while she battled the wind for control of her hair.

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Young Man Went West #31: Evolution of an Escape Plan

And now what?

The road trip is over and I’ve been on this island for nearly two-and-a-half years, which is a year-and-a-half longer than I had schemed. My original game plan for life after college was hopping from one city to the next, a year here, a year there. Repeat ’til fully jaded or satiated. I wanted to know several regions–inside and out–before settling down in one of them. While I’m still on the first stop of that master plan, I can assure you the travel bug has not vanished.

Had I no upcoming plans around the time of my first kama’ainiversary, i.e. my first full year on this island, I’d have made some to move elsewhere. However, several months before that one-year marker on September 16th, Ian proposed his idea for the cross-country road trip. Obviously, I wasn’t going to go through the hassle of moving back to the Bay Area and finding a new job, so I stayed put way past September. The road trip became, for me, not only a chance to see the country with my own eyes, but also an opportunity to scout out that next stop.

Change #1: Move out of Hawaii after one year –> Move out of Hawaii after 21 months, before the road trip

Regardless, I had a candidate picked out: the Emerald City. I left my heart in Seattle when visiting my cousin Avery for her graduation from SPU. It looked and felt and smelled like San Francisco, but it was, at the same time, completely new. That fascinated me, and I was dead-set on relocating there. I planned on moving off the island, driving around the country for a summer, then starting anew in Seattle.

Then I realized I was going to be crazy broke by the end of the trip and decided I should return to Honolulu for three months and save up a bit of cash before heading somewhere else. Seattle was still my target destination, unless something on the road changed my mind.

Change #2: Move to Seattle right after the road trip –> Return to Honolulu for three months, go home for Christmas, then move to Seattle

Of course, something did change my mind, I just didn’t expect it to be Seattle itself. Upon my arrival in that familiar, rainy wonderland, it hit me: I knew I could live in that kind of city. I knew I could fit in with those types of people. Growing up near another progressive, West Coast city, I knew I’d be immediately comfortable in Seattle, and that goes against the whole point of moving to different places. I wanted to learn, I wanted to adapt. Seattle was out of the picture.

As we journeyed on eastward, I kept my eyes open for new opportunities. I’d have considered Minnesota for its mix of big city feel and small town friendliness, but the weather blows on both ends. Chicago is undoubtedly a great American city, but after the food opportunities, there’s little charm left. Madison and Ann Arbor seemed like delightful college towns, but I’m not in college anymore.

Then, we stumbled across the border.

Toronto offered the same laid-back, big city vibe as do San Francisco and Seattle, but because it’s in Canada, it’s inherently different. Despite its proximity to the border, there are still enough cultural difference to learn about between the US and Canada to keep me intrigued for at least a year.

I was researching dual citizenship all the way through Boston. . . until we hit New York.

Change #3: Move to Seattle after three more months in Honolulu –> Move to New York City after nine more months in Honolulu

As soon I stepped foot in New York, I knew where my next stop would be. The promise of burgeoning opportunity oozed out of every crevice. The City moved in a million different directions, none of which would be a dead end. It activated my curiosity, my imagination, and all five senses. It was certainly a place one needs to live in once, but can only move to before a certain age. I was set on making that move before the opportunity passed. Of course, I’d need to save up a lot more money to make such a big move, so I figured I’d stay put in Honolulu until the following summer.

All the way down the East Coast and through the South, I told every new friend that I was moving to New York.

Then I met up with my oldest friend in New Orleans: my sister. She’s been a fountain of helpful advice my whole life–from preparing me for my first school dance to guiding me in picking a college–so when she has something to say, I listen. She liked my decision to move to New York, but wondered aloud if I should utilize my youthful freedom, i.e. lack of responsibility, to pursue an opportunity and discover where that led me, instead of the other way around. It made sense. She sister’s advice always does.

As we roamed Canal Street, I pondered on my wide, open future a bit more, then was struck by inspiration. My first and last nights in the Crescent City were spent with my old college buddy, Josh, who relocated there after graduating to work for Teach For America. I come from a whole family of teachers, and everybody says I’d be a good one, so why shouldn’t I teach, too? And it doesn’t have to be for America; countries around the world are constantly seeking English teachers. If I have nothing leading me to New York, maybe I should let this idea lead me to another country.

Change #4: Move to New York City after nine more months in Honolulu –> Apply to teach English in Korea and stay in Honolulu until I’m accepted

After a bit of research, I discovered that because Japan is the number one destination for foreign teachers, Korea offers plenty of benefits to lure potential teachers away, including cheap living and a good salary. On top of that, Korean food and movies are amazing.

I had planned my future. Again. From New Orleans to the West Coast, I told every new friend that after I returned to Honolulu, I’d apply to teach English in Korea. By the time I got to LA, I started thinking about what to do with all that money I’d save. The website said teaching abroad is a good way to save up for grad school. I had never considered grad school because I didn’t think I had a passion. Well, after I moved to Honolulu, I discovered I liked to write. And during the road trip, I discovered I had an eye for photography. Put two and two together, and you get another plan: grad school for photojournalism!

Addendum to Change #4: Apply to teach English in Korea, stay in Honolulu until I’m accepted, buy and learn to use a good camera in the meantime, use the teaching money to pay for grad school for photojournalism after I return

So, my near future plans set. They were peer- and parent-approved. They involved travel, teaching, money, and school. That’s all that matters, right? I returned to Honolulu and told everybody I had everything figured out.

And then I met Jenn. . .

No more need for Roxy Models at the end of the posts

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Young Man On The Road #22: Trip Stats

I know I mentioned that I was going to write about California, but eh, don’t feel like it. California wasn’t an adventure, it was a homecoming. It was full of reunions and revisits, not new discoveries. I will, however, briefly recap what I did in Cali:

I crashed at four different places: Ian’s family’s place in Covina, Olivia’s place in Santa Monica, Felicity & Taylor’s place in West Hollywood, and Leslie’s place in West Hollywood. I revisited the few places in LA I enjoy: Venice Beach, Santa Monica (Esplanade and Pier) and the Farmer’s Market. I watched the first game of the Golden Bears’ 2011 season at an unofficial Berkeley bar. I saw lots of friends and ate lots of food. It was awesome. Now you know.

Take a look back at my second “Young Man On The Road” post. You can see that right off the bat, we’d already strayed from our target cities list. A late start meant we spent our first night in Eugene, Oregon, instead of Portland. Let’s look at a condensed look at how our trip shaped up after that.

CITIES/PLACES (italics indicate a day trip city, a “>” indicated a day trip within the span of the previous stay)

  • Eugene, Oregon (6/20 – 6/21)
  • Portland, Oregon (6/21)
  • Mountlake Terrace and Seattle, Washington (6/21 – 6/24)
  • Boise, Idaho (6/24 – 6/25)
  • Salt Lake City, Utah (6/25 – 6/26)
  • Littleton, Boulder, and Denver, Colorado (6/26 – 6/29)
  • Fort Collins, Colorado (6/29)
  • Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota (6/29)
  • Deadwood, South Dakota (6/29 – 6/30)
  • Twin Cities, Minnesota (6/30 – 7/2)
  • Madison, Wisconsin (7/2)
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin (7/2 – 7/3)
  • Chicago, Illinois (7/3 – 7/6)
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan (7/6 – 7/7)
  • Detroit, Michigan (7/7)
  • Mississauga, Brampton, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (7/7 – 7/12)
  • >Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada (7/9)
  • Plainville and Boston, Massachusetts (7/12 – 7/16)
  • >Plymouth, Massachusetts (7/15)
  • New York, New York (7/16 – 7/24)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (7/24 – 7/27)
  • Atlantic City, New Jersey (7/27)
  • Washington, DC (7/27 – 7/30)
  • >Baltimore, Maryland (7/29)
  • Charleston, South Carolina (7/30 – 8/2)
  • Columbia, South Carolina (8/2)
  • Atlanta, Georgia (8/2 – 8/5)
  • Savannah, Georgia (8/5)
  • Orlando, Florida (8/5 – 8/7)
  • Kennedy Space Center, Florida (8/7)
  • Miami, Florida (8/7 – 8/9)
  • Gainesville, Florida (8/9)
  • Tallahassee, Florida (8/9 -8/10)
  • New Orleans, Louisiana (8/10 -8/15)
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana (8/15)
  • Houston, Texas (8/15 – 8/16)
  • Austin, Texas (8/16 – 8/20)
  • San Antonio, Texas (8/20)
  • Lubbock, Texas (8/20 – 8/23)
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico (8/23 – 8/24)
  • Flagstaff, Arizona (8/24 – 8/25)
  • Grand Canyon, Arizona (8/25)
  • San Diego, California (8/25 – 8/28)
  • Los Angeles, California (8/28 – 9/6)

BY THE NUMBERS

-Those 44 locations spanned 31 US states and one Canadian province. A “province” is the Canadian version of a state, just like “curling” is the Canadian version of a worthwhile pastime.

-Of those 31 states, we only spent the night in 22 of them. Of the remaining states, one was a day trip (New Jersey) and eight were drive-through states (Wyoming, Indiana, Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi). You couldn’t pay me to spend the night in some of those places.

-Of those eight drive-through states, we only stepped out of the car in six of them for gas or food. No love for Indiana or Delaware.

I spent 80 days on the road. Ian spent 79. The difference is because I went up to Sacramento the day before we officially started (June 19th) and spent the night at my sister’s place. Ian picked me up the following day. Bottom line: I win.

-I brought with me around $3,400 on the trip. Of that paltry sum, $1,800 was put into a joint account that we used solely for gas and split meals. That, plus the $100 my gracious sister gave me in New Orleans, was all I spent for three months. Thank god for free housing!

-Speaking of free housing, I crashed in 39 different places. 22 of those places were with friends and family, 12 of those places were found through CouchSurfing.org, one of those places was found through Reddit (go figure), and one of those places was a room in the New Orleans Sheraton that my sister paid for. The remaining three places were motels that Ian and I gave in and paid for (Eugene, Deadwood, and Tallahassee). Why give in to paying for motels? No free Wi-Fi in Ian’s car.

-By the way, Ian’s car–a blue 2008 Honda Civic–was just the reliable steed we needed for our trip. We drove it over 13,000 miles and it didn’t break down once. Ian takes care of his car; he treated it to two oil changes. It was towed once, but at least it was never broken into or stolen. I think with the bug-covered exterior and all our blankets and food boxes in the back, it looked like bums were living in it.  Grade A security system!

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM!  Live musical acts I saw on the road (click the links!)

Fitz and Tantrums @ Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI

Dangermuffin @ Surf Bar in Folly Beach, SC

Lee “pLink” Floyd @ Musical Legends Park in New Orleans, LA

Yojimbo @ Maison in New Orleans, LA

Los Lonely Boys @ Blues on the Green in Austin, TX

The Airborne Toxic Event @ Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in San Diego, CA

PHOTO OP LANDMARKS Sometimes, you just have to play the tourist.

Top of the Seattle Space Needle

-Mount Rushmore

-Top of Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower)

-Top of Toronto’s CN Tower

-Plymouth Rock

-The Statue of Liberty

-Top of New York’s Rockefeller Center (“Top of the Rock”)

-Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell

-Top of the Washington Monument. . . and pretty much everything else in DC

-The Alamo

-The Grand Canyon

EPIC LOG

I guess I should wrap up my last Young Man On The Road post with some sort of declaration about life-changing lessons and finding myself on the road. That’s how all big adventures end, right? But I still feel like the same guy who partook on this road trip in June. I may have a few less dollars, a few more friends, and mental images to associate with cities that were no more than names on a map before I left, but did it change me as a person? I don’t know, I don’t think so. It didn’t change my outlook on life. If anything, it reaffirmed how I’m living it.

It also narrowed my focus on what could be my next big adventure, but I’ll save that story for my next Young Man Went West post.

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