I've been traveling through Southeast Asia for a few months now, and I've learned how to be a minimalist and carry only what I really need. I thought I had reduced my backpack down to the bare essentials after a few months, when a RAOK opportunity presented itself to me and proved me wrong. It was laundry day in the mid-sized Indonesian city I happened to be in, meaning I was down to my last shirt, the least flattering shirt of my seven day collection: a ratty conference t-shirt of a well-known American company I've worn a hundred times. It's a shirt I don't feel particularly flattering in, so I try to stay indoors and use it as an opportunity to have a quiet, indoor day. I hadn't thought anything of the shirt until a young Indonesian man staying at my guest house saw me and immediately took notice of the corporate ... Read Full Story >>
Ten years ago, my mom gave me a peculiar but welcome gift: a fancy blood pressure monitor. My doctor told me I had high blood pressure and she wanted to make sure I was keeping track of it. Being in my early twenties at the time, this situation should have shocked me, but it didn't; I had long been suffering from nameless anxiety and stress that ended up being a decade long struggle. It's only been in the last few years that, through lots of meditation, self inquiry, exercise, and diet, I've slowly unwound it, day by day. I'm happy to say that I no longer need my blood pressure monitor. My mom is healthy and doesn't need it, but I know she spent a decent amount on it back when her finances were not the best. I decided to put it up for sale online for a nominal fee, and ... Read Full Story >>
For years and years going home for the holidays has been bittersweet. My mom works hard to make me feel loved year around, and the holidays are no exception. She loves to cook and take care of me during my time at home. Of course I’ll never stop cherishing the opportunity to spend quality time with her. But it’s also painful for me because her house is littered with stuff. Clothes bought but never worn, craft projects started with good intentions but never finished, boxes packed years ago but never open, and plenty of new items in their original packaging carelessly purchased and never used. It’s evident how much seeing the stuff on a daily basis reminds my mom of a time when shopping was her coping mechanism for so much loss. It’s something I’ve tried to see but ignore during my time there; the lingering elephant in the room. I didn’t ... Read Full Story >>
It really is true that when you give, it comes back to you: I recently gifted my favorite sun hat to a friend who had been looking for one like mine for months. I found it online and had it sent to him for his birthday. A few weeks later, I lost my own. I was bummed! That hat had traveled everywhere with me. But then a few days later, a different friend had come back from his trip to the Philippines and what did he give me as a souvenir? A sun hat! I hosted my first meditation circle earlier this week, which involved cooking a dinner for the large group. I had never cooked for a large group of people in my life. I loved shopping for the food, cooking for them, and even learning a few new recipes on my own. Just today, I hiked with a friend and when we ... Read Full Story >>
This year has been a busy year of travel for me, and the end of the year is no exception. I booked an early morning flight that had me up at 4:30am to get to the airport. The thought of such an early flight made me groan, but then I starting to think about the chain of people who would make that early journey possible for me: my Lyft driver, check-in agent, security staff, gate agents, flight crew, etc. They all do their jobs at an early hour so I can get to my destination safely, often for low wages. When the trip came, I realized I had a choice: I could be grumpy about having to take an early flight and hold this negativity with me, ultimately putting it on display for everyone to see. It’s so easy to take this choice, the choice most passengers end up taking these ... Read Full Story >>
My close childhood friend spent the last eight years attending night school to get his bachelor's degree while working a full-time job. Last month, after years of late nights and weekends of doing course work and studying, he finally graduated. He remained in our hometown after high school, but most of his friends, myself included, left our hometown long ago to other states for university and employment. Over time, newfound responsibilities, families, and other engagements have made it rare that we're back in our hometown at the same time. One of our mutual friends hatched a wonderful idea of kindness: plan a weekend that we'd all be free to have us fly back to our hometown to surprise him and celebrate his accomplishment. It was so much fun planning the behind-the-scenes! The bait: his mom told him that he was going to have dinner with just his grandparents to celebrate. Little did he ... Read Full Story >>
My mom received a large box of mint cookies from her property management company for Christmas. It was a lovely gesture, but neither she nor I eat cookies so we decided to pass along the gift to someone who would really enjoy it. It ended up being a fun exercise of figuring out who to give the cookies to! Airports are decidedly a busy place during the holidays; I figured, why not give them to a busy airport worker? I put them in with my stuff and brought them to the airport. I waited in line at the check-in counter for my flight home. I had plenty of time to assess the line of agents, and I started wondering who would be assigned to me and unknowingly become my gift recipient. When it became my turn, I approached the agent with my bag. He was pleasant but I could tell he was a ... Read Full Story >>
Recently I found a bunch of foreign currency in my closet I had accumulated after years and years of travel, from over ten countries.
Most of it was spare change and bills, nothing worth more than about five dollars in a single currency. It would have been impractical to exchange such small amounts from so many different sources, so I decided to bring it with me and find people who were going on trips to the places from which I had currency.
It took several weeks to find people with trips matching the currencies I had, but it was so fun to give it to them and invite them to have a cup of coffee with it at their new destination. I couldn’t find anyone going to Mexico anytime soon, so I decided to leave my leftover pesos at a taco stand where I could hear the workers speaking Mexican Spanish. Perhaps they or someone they know will make use of it.
It made me smile to make money flow, in any currency. :-)
I had the privilege of participating in Karma Kitchen in Berkeley for the first time today. I had a wonderful time washing dishes in the back and doing other tasks to keep the kitchen running smoothly. I entered the dining area only a few times to clear the bus bins but I could feel the community energy and saw only smiles on diners’ faces. But it was actually after the event was over that was the most impactful for me. We had a few boxes of leftovers after our volunteer family meal so we decided to pass them out to homeless people on the streets of Berkeley. I had so much fun running down the streets of Berkeley to find people to give boxes to! Although I was tired from a day of dishwashing, passing out these meals at the end of the day gave me a second wind of energy. One ... Read Full Story >>
I stopped to fill up my tank at the gas station. I saw a man walking around to people at their cars while they filled up their tanks, asking them something to which everyone shook their head no. I wondered what it was until he approached me at the end with a look on his face like he was assuming my answer would be no. “Sorry to bug you but I have to get to work and I am a few bucks short to make it all the way. Can you spare me some gas?” Due to skyrocketing housing prices in the area where I live, many people do live 2-3 hours away from work, so I didn’t doubt him for a second. After I filled my tank, I filled the rest of his. He smiled and thanked me a few times. I handed him a Smile card and asked him to ... Read Full Story >>
Last week, I did something simple yet extraordinary; I sent my dad a father's day card for the first time in my life. From being a little kid until recently, I had a troubled relationship with him that culminated in a several year stretch of no communication. Anger, resentment, and worst of all, waiting for apologies for perceived wrongdoings, blocked my heart so much that I could barely acknowledge him at all, much less celebrate him. Long story short, years of transformative inner work opened my eyes to all the good things he provided me from birth, even if they weren't in my preferred love language. I am finally able to see him with compassionate eyes as an imperfect human being who brought the best fatherhood he could bring to the table, despite lacking the tools he needed to heal from his own trauma. Love managed to sneak around the yells, punches, ... Read Full Story >>
I was with my friend at the store shopping the other day, helping him find a shower curtain and bath mat set. He had been a long-term caretaker for his grandmother who had just passed away and he was trying to revamp his place to feel better and try to move forward in his life. We finally found the section containing the shower and bath sets. There were many colors to choose from. My friend had his heart set on a particular shade of blue but unfortunately, the store was out of that color. We discussed it for a bit, wondering if we should check another store. A woman nearby heard our conversation and approached us. “Here,” she said. “There was only one blue bath set left but I don’t need it. I’ll get one of a different color,” as she tossed her blue set into our cart. We were floored! My ... Read Full Story >>