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T minus 4

Leaving in less than 4 days. Most of my carry on and check-in suitcases are empty. I guess I travel light even with my sweaters, work-out clothes (aspirational thinking), and my endless collection of Sephora samples so I don’t have to lug around bottles of creams, serums, etc. The one heavy thing is my backpack with my work laptop and personal laptop and all the peripherals, wires, batteries, etc.

Embarking on a “Digital Nomad” (I’m starting to find that phrase annoying) life for the next few months.

How am I feeling? Excited? Adventurous? Yes…but more like “it’s about time”. Been stuck in a Houston, Tex-ass rut for too long. Vowed I’d only try living in Houston for ONE obligatory year to show my parents that I’m trying to live close to family. It has now been almost FIVE long, hot, muggy, gun toting, strip mall filled years. Before, I took off to the Pacific Northwest age 17, then to Asia,  NYC, Miami…then Houston? That can’t be right. But it is. But not for the next few months…!

Here goes nothing…!

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(The picture above is a canned photo from WordPress and I was too lazy to change it. It is kind of fitting. Whatever. )

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Double Trouble.

I travel with two laptops. One is a super heavy, outdated work laptop and then I have my own personal, thinner macbook.

I really don’t like doing personal things on my work laptop like checking bank accounts, blogging or facebook. I also don’t like to stream netflix on my work laptop. Basically, I don’t do anything but work on my work laptop in case Big Brother is watching. T

his has been a royal pain because I’m always concerned my hotel will get burglarized  or I will be robbed (as I’m a solo female traveler) and it makes my backpack bag insanely heavy when flying.

I also carry tons o f cables (2 laptop chargers, 2 laptop cable locks, 2 iphone charging cables (one long one for my room and one short one for my power bank), 2 micro chargers (one long one for my room and one short one for my power bank), bluetooth earbuds, backup earbuds with regular jack in case my bluetooth work jabra headset farts out, backup earbuds for iPhone 7 lightning jack in case my bluetooth earbuds fart out, small charger for my waterproof ipod for the beach destinations, charger for my sonicare toothbrush, and charger for my portable water pick. So that’s A LOT of wires.

I haven’t ever been stopped in US if I’m traveling domestically (or even when departing internationally) but I did have problems in UK and Europe if I didn’t take all the wires in all the different bags out. It’s a pain in the butt.

I’ve also scoured Amazon and Ebay for travel cable organizers but they either have superfluous pouches or slots and are way too big or they’re just way too small because of the two different laptop power adaptors I lug around.

Anyone have any recommendations?

Amazon for Yucatan, Mexico.

I’m going to start posting blogs about specific things I have purchased for specific trips (based on what I know, what I’ve crowdsourced, what I’ve read, and what my friends have recommended).  I’m not going to talk too much about gear or tech since that’s on almost every website, so I’m just going to assume you’ve got your basics purchased already.

So, for the Yucatan (I’m first headed to Playa del Carmen), in addition to the essentials, this is what I have specifically purchased:

  1. Crocs Isabella Sandals.

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These are super cute and comfy. The only thing is that if you are a half size, they might not fit. I ordered down and they were just a tad too small. I ordered up and they are loose but with the ankle strap, they will work. I also have ordered two sizes of the Croc Sexi Flip sandals too just to try out though I don’t like them as much.

2. Water Shoes.

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If you’re going to travel up and down the Yucatan peninsula and run in and out of the water, go hiking or even to a water park, I’m told these slip on Aleader water shoes are a must have. They look like street shoes and based on reviews are comfortable enough to wear daily. I did a lot of research and found the style and reviews on the Aleader water shoes the best. However, with these shoes, I’m a half size and I ordered up and they were too large. The felt like they would slip off if they got full of water/sand so I reordered them the next whole size down.

3. Sarong

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At first I resisted. I’ve always been one to throw on a dress because it’s like an adult onsey. Having to wear a bathing suit and figure out to tie this thing seemed like a hassle. However, the overwhelming feedback was to get one of these as they work as a cover up, a towel, a sheet in case your hotel room is a bit sketchy, etc. Many digital nomads recommend a sarong to be used as curtains, room dividers, etc. I remember seeing someone wearing a sarong the thermal baths in Budapest in January and thought how nice it would be to have this wrapped around me while I was running back and forth from bath to bath in the freezing cold outside.  And it takes the place of a bathrobe too! And with free returns from a lot of merchants on Amazon, you can order several in different colors and sizes until you find the one that you like (since you’ll probably be looking at it alot during your travels!).

4. Maclock for Macbook

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I might be paranoid but better safe than sorry so I bought a laptop lock for my Macbook from Maclock.  Be sure to check out which model mac you have because the newer Macbook pros have screws in different places to mount this. Also, the reviews have said that the screw is soft so be careful not to strip it or you won’t be able to get this off (though  not sure you need to). This comes with a combination cable lock. Yeah, this is technically gear but when I was in Europe, I was in an apartment and not a sketchy hotel so I didn’t think to get one. Also, I might actually use a coworking space in Mexico so this will come in handy.

 

5. Mosquito Repellant

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An American friend who owns a house in Merida told me that I am going to need this.  You can buy wipes so that you can save your airplane liquid allowance for other things. You may also want to pick up a coil too for your AirBnB. While there is mosquito repellant in the stores, they contain as much DEET as in the US. If you’re deathly allergic to mosquitoes like me, it’s worth it to get those pests to bugger off even if it means potentially poisoning yourself with DEET. My friend recommended Deep Woods.

6. Pepto Bismol

This was recommended by my doctor over Immodium since it has some antibacterial properties and it eases nausea also. You can get it in a tablet for to save on liquid allowances. However, the same friend who told me about getting Deep Woods Off said that the Mexican version, Treda, works a lot better than Pepto. So if you have time to visit a store, grab some Treda instead. If you are just going to be in and out, at least pack some Pepto.

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7. Nalgene

If you don’t already have one, you should pick a Nalgene or water bottle up so you can always carry clean water with you. I recommend the standard 32 ounce one with a splash guard.

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8. Miscellaneous

I saw the Lifestraw on another website and thought it would be good just to have with me just in case. It filters 1000 liters of contaminated water and gets rid of both bacteria and parasites. I got giardia once in Beijing–that was not fun.  It’s not cheap but I figured it was one of those things that if you needed it, you REALLY needed it so I thought, why not? It’s small and light .

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9. Adaptor

I also picked up these cheap 3 prong to 2 prong adaptors since my livelihood depends on being able to use my laptop and not all places in Mexico have 3 prong outlets so in a jam, I wanted to have these handy. Since this is Mexico specific (this wouldn’t be helpful in Europe), I thought I’d mention it in this post.

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10. Reef Safe Sunblock

If you plan on taking a dip in the cenotes, then reef safe sunblock is required. This one comes in carry-on size bottles and had good reviews.

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And then of course, bikinis, microfiber towel (unless you want to use your sarong), goggles (just in case), sunglasses, shorts, etc. in addition to your traditional digital nomad gear.

AND THAT’S IT! Go have fun!

Sarong.

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Apparently a sarong is a “must have” when you are traveling and living remotely because you can wear it, use it as a room divider, a sheet, a curtain or a towel. I bought one for $9.95 (but with FREE returns) but then realized–when am I ever going to need it as as curtain, room divider, etc.? At the risk of sounding entitled, I’m not a poor 20 yr old backpacker going from hostel to hostel and I’m glad this is happening in my (late) 30s! There are alot of “digital nomads” in their 20s or 50s (kids out of the house).

There are tons of 50 yrs old that are still in great shape (likely better than me!), but I’m glad I’m getting to explore while I’m “relatively” young.

My mother, however, wants me to hurry up and marry a rich doctor–because, you know, there’s a bunch single male doctors just standing somewhere in a market and I’m just too lazy to go “get one”–I always imagine the self-service area at Ikea filled with single doctors on the shelves and me pushing one of those flatbed shopping carts trying to pick out a doctor all the while my mom is yelling at me 

Domestic Nomad.

I’m not sure why we think that in order to be a digital nomad, you have to go abroad. I’ve had alot of fun living and working in different cities in the U.S. Here’s a list of cities I’ve worked and lived in for at least 12 months at a time:

  1. Austin
  2. Portland
  3. Seattle
  4. New York City
  5. Miami
  6. West Palm Beach

(not all cities are on the list because I wouldn’t recommend them. For example: Houston…)

NYC was my favorite place, though it’s very expensive and cost prohibitive. Miami/West Palm have their charm but it wears off. You can, however, get alot of medication and beauty treatments here that you wouldn’t be able to in the rest of America (mainly because some are illegal…!) West Palm is what you think it is like. Superficial money and alot of fakeness. Miami is what you think it is like too. If Vegas were on the beach, it would be Miami.

Austin is getting to be just as expensive as NYC.

Portland is one of the best places to meet people and make friends. It’s beautiful, like Austin, and has plenty of nature everywhere. It does get a bit ridiculous (Portlandia is a pretty realistic description) and it is a bit small so if you want to expand a growing business, not sure if Portland is the best launch pad.

Seattle is a strange one. It’s in the PacNW. But it’s not very soft and friendly like Portland. The “Seattle Chill” is a real thing–people are superficially nice but to make real connections with new people is a bit more difficult. It’s also filled with alot of right wing yuppies and racism (especially implicit racism) is big there. While pot is big there, they’ve got a huge crack and heroin problem. It is beautiful though. You can see Mt. Rainier form your office window, you can walk along the beach (though it’s too cold to go swimming without a wetsuit), and there’s islands you can visit. You’re also close to Portland and Vancouver, B.C if you need a break from the Seattle Chill, right wing yuppies, or crackheads.

Athens.

I did not get to spend as much time as I wanted in Athens in order to visit the islands, but what I saw of the city, I’m so glad I went.

Of almost all the places I’ve visited, Athens was the most welcoming to tourists and foreigners. It might be because so many tourists flock to see the ancient ruins and the tourist economy is a huge thing that Greece depends on. Whatever the reason, it is incredibly welcoming. Everyone was at least polite if not overtly friendly.

The ruins, of course, were the reason I went. Athens has been on my bucket list since I was old enough to read the travel section on Sundays. I became obsessed with Greece during the seven years I learned Latin (yes, that’s Roman but it has its roots in Greece culture). I found old tapes at a bookstore to teach Greek for $5 (I didn’t get very far though). After taking a humanities class in undergrad, I was completely obsessed with Greece.

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I won’t bore you with tons of pictures of the ruins. I’ve seen a million pictures and they all kind of look alike. There’s really nothing like being there in person and one of the most amazing things was being at Acropolis and looking down over Athens–you can see the ocean and the mountains. It was amazing.

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Now, let’s talk about the city. First off, there is ALOT of graffiti. It’s EVERYWHERE. But I didn’t find it like the graffiti in Austin, where it’s pretty much art. The graffiti in Athens was just that–graffiti. Though I thought this one was funny:26112385_10154920009651300_1957453305748852347_n

I also thought just the keys to the AirBnB were pretty cool. There was one that was a strange shape that went in horizontally. It’s kind of cool to have these little experiences because you don’t read about stuff like that and can only know about it if you’re there (or if you just read my blog 😉 )

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I did also visit the place where they keep all of the Olympic torches and that was actually pretty cool because the torch design and the host country’s posters were really interesting to see as they were influenced by both the culture of host country and the time they were made. For example, there’s this one:

26113980_10154922146586300_450927890910804949_nand that was interesting… 🙂

There is also no lack of bars, lounges, and restaurants. I went to a few bars and they all had a really interesting interior. Much like Budapest, the bars all had their own unique character (unlike the pubs at London–they all look the same).

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(cool sink in a bar)

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(this bar was called “The Dude Bar” after the Big Lebowski and had Kill Bill sugar skulls on the walls in the bathroom)

I also ended up in a very commercial, shopping area of town that was packed. I guess this would be the Athens’ version of 5th Ave in NYC or Oxford Street in London:26001292_10154922148961300_111572297567628000_nAnd there were the cutest little balloons with lights around them that gave a magical feel to the night:

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The food was… well, amazing. And not just gyros, but even the sushi.

All in all, I found Athens a magical place. It was affordable, was very friendly, and had everything you would want. That’s probably why all these people wrote love notes to Athens and posted them in this bar:

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Yucatán.

After winter in London, freezing in Budapest and Warsaw, eating more sugar that I have in a year in Amsterdam, seeing ancient ruins in Athens, and running around Germany and Italy… I’ve decided my next trip will be to the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico.

Other than wanting some sun and missing the beach (one of the only fond memories I have of living in S. Florida), having to keep US hours really does tether me to this continent. While swinging a 6+ time difference in the EU was okay… it was tiring. And it rules out Asian (sigh… Thailand, I’ll have to save giving my heart to you.).

After scouring the internet, facebook, discussing with other Digital Nomads (that name really has tired itself out), I just bought my one-way ticket to Playa Del Carmen in mid-March. I was also considering Medellin and Nicaragua (Guatemala, a distant 4th) but since this will be my first time staying for an extended period of time in Latin America outside of resorts and business trips, I took the advice from other people about easing into LatAm life.

Despite growing up in Texas, taking 7 years of Latin and working for 3+ years in Latin America while in Miami, my Spanish is basic. I can read it (very well if it’s formal/legal Spanish) but it’s hard for me to speak it and harder to understand it spoken very quickly. I thought that easing into LatAm was probably a good idea.

I selected the Yucatán because there are tons of vacationers, English speakers and expats that if I just want to shut my brain off, switch to English, and be a stupid American again, I can. But it also has some areas where I can really get out of my comfort zone around locals in a relatively safe area. (If you read my post on experimenting on myself and my implicit biases, I’ll circle back to this idea to see if I was right or wrong about this belief!).

I take off in approximately 4 weeks. So far, I’ve spent the last hour buying pepto bismol tablets, sunscreen packs, mosquito repellent wipes (I’m trying not to have to check a bag), a sun visor and other beach gear. I’ve made an appointment with my doctor to get antibiotics to take with me, one with my dentist for a cleaning, and one with my eye doctor for another supply of contact lenses.

I’ve also scoured the internet and facebook trying to connect with other remote works in Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, Puerto Morelos, and Cozumel — it never hurts to know someone even if that someone is a stranger now 🙂

To be continued….

 

 

Experiment.

I just took a course at work that discussed and examined our preconceived biases and implicit biases (biases we don’t even know we have). This was around race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. The responses were great–some people were offended about being told they were bias, some were offended about their belief systems being challenged, and others were vindicated because we were giving a voice to the bias against some groups of people. You can take some implicit tests at implicit.harvard.edu) and you may or may not be surprised at the results.

I thought I would experiment on myself and see what kind of biases I might have (implicit or otherwise). Mainly, I’m going to include some judgments in my posts and then revisit them to see if I was 1) right, 2) wrong, 3) too biased to know 🙂 especially while I travel the world as an Asian woman. I might point out some of the biases I feel from others around the world and some that I might feel towards others. This will likely incite some pissed off readers to leave pissed off comments but if we can’t push ourselves to be uncomfortable and talk about the things that are uncomfortable, we’re always going to be stuck in our own Plato’s cave.