Live Your Dreams (motivational video)

This is my first Youtube travel video.  I wanted to put the footage I have from our travels into a view-able format.  Wishing to inspire others through our experiences and what we've learned along the way.  Hope you enjoy it and if you do, subscribe and comment so that I'll know I'm on the right track to creating something of value.

Lalu, Nepal: Where Roads Do Not Reach, Yet Humanity Can Be Found; The Modern Model Residential School.

Let us support locals dedicating their lives to help locals.

Past year's events of various shootings, bombings, Brexit and election frauds makes the world seem bleak.  Yet there are still countless people in the world doing good, sharing their wealth and dedicating their lives in helping others. Our trip to the Modern Model Residential School (MMRS) in Lalu, Kalikot, Nepal showed us evidence of the good in the world.

The MMRS put together a program to say goodbye to the teachers for holiday and welcomed our arrival.

What is the Modern Model Residential School?

The Modern Model Residential School was co-founded in 2008 by a former classmate of mine, Prakash Bista and his brother-in-law.  Bista was born in the village of Lalu and have witnessed the turmoil civil war has placed upon his village first hand.  Many of his peers were forced into the rebel group while others fled to India.  Schooling was a luxury and he was one of the few fortunate enough to obtain scholarships for an education in the district head-quarter, then in the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu, and later in the United States at Soka University of America.  At the age of 18 Bista recognized his privileges and wanted to give back to his community by building a school on the site of his abandoned old home that was once taken as a headquarter by rebel forces and was later bombed.  The mission of the school is "to empower mainly poor and disadvantaged students in extreme remote villages in Nepal through free and affordable quality education"
students prepared choreographed Nepali dances for the program

Where is the Modern Model Residential School?

the village of Lalu, Kalikot, Nepal
The village is located in the north-west region of Nepal.  Due to its extreme remoteness (lack of roads in mountainous regions) it became war ridden as it was easier for rebel groups to gather. According to UN Human Development Report, Kalikot is ranked 70 out of 75 districts in Nepal. The region it is located in also shows statistics of 57% of the children below five years are malnourished and 81% of the total population above 10 years of age must perform extreme forms of physical labor to earn a living.
a girl working as a porter to transport goods to the village by foot on a three hour hike 
Children helping on the farm.
The roads do not reach this village.  In order to access it you must take a man powered metal basket across a large river (created by an NGO) then hike three hours up 6,000 ft in elevation to reach Lalu. We have witnessed teenagers regularly transporting 40-50kg on their back and hike between their village and the local market.

The development we have witnessed at the Modern Model Residential School.

We helped in the set up of the only wifi in the village by asking a villager if we can use their home for the service. (the tower is provided by a government program at a fee)
On our way to the village we had a truck load of supplies transported to the school.  The two founders of the school traveled to various cities to purchase and gather items necessary for school facility improvement.  The supplies include a wide range of materials from solar panels and batteries to sleeping bags and rugs.  On our arrival to the village, the school curriculum is on pause with holiday programs available for students who wish to participate.  Most of the time was used to renovate the school and install the new materials from this trip.  Many lower income families pay for tuition by providing services to help the school in these renovations and daily school functions.  In just two short weeks, the school was repainted, the library was created and organized, a basketball court was created, mud walls were freshened, and even the first wi-fi in the village was installed. All of that, just the tip of the iceberg in creating positive changes to the lives of these children.

Organizing books that have been donated to the school into a new library.
Mud walls are refreshed when school is not in sessions by parents with low income to substitute tuition for their children.

Why it is important to support local initiatives rather than creating new initiatives.

Supporting local initiatives is often more effective than to donate to large charity organizations that are aiding as foreign sources.  There are various types of non-profit organizations nowadays. Some create long term changes while others only short term relieves. In our current society there is often times what is called "poverty porn", where people monetize on the sympathy and a need for self identification in first world citizens by providing programs that allows these people to become "saviors" of an exotic group of less fortunate people.  I can go on for days on why that is harmful far more than beneficial, but that is for another time.
Co-founder Prakash Bista encouraging his students at the program.

Principle Rajesh Shahi with his family
We were fortunate to be able to meet with the Minister of Education of Nepal
When we aid local initiatives we are entrusting to the locals for their knowledge of their social and political environment.  These people have a much better understanding of what the people of their community want and how to carry out changes in efficient manners.  By providing them with the resources they require, positive changes can be made adapted to the existing lifestyles rather than imposing on them.

What can you do?

You can choose to donate to the MMRS on their official website through Paypal here.  If you are currently a student in college you can also apply for their fellowships and internships here.  If you do not fit those categories but have something to contribute you can always contact the school here.  The school welcomes all forms of support.  It can come in forms of valuable information or suggestions if you are professionally experienced in rural educational development or sustainability development.  It can come as opportunity for collaborative effort from an organization you may be a part of. It can also come in forms of simple encouragement.  Show the MMRS your support.

This kid does not stop that adorable smile of his, he's just following his older sibling to school.
Showing educational videos to the kids. A movie or two here and there as well.
Chris in a reading class with some of the students.

Tell us your thoughts on the MMRS.  Do you know of other small local initiatives that are worth supporting? Share down below in the comments section!

How I Afford to Travel for 16 months (income edition)

overlooking a rice paddy in Bali, Indonesia

"My parents are loaded and I don't need to work!"

I'm guessing that's what people assume when they hear that I have been travelling for the past 16 months.  The reality is slightly different from that version of the story, just slightly.  Here's all the numbers I have gathered from my travels.

One of the most common reason I hear from those who wish to travel but aren't doing so is the lack of funds.  As someone who has just returned home after long term travel, I feel like I have the obligation to share how I have funded my journey without taking a dime from family.  Given that, I also understand that I am privilege to be able to have the experiences I had without the burden supporting anybody but myself. I'm not saying everyone should take the same path I have, I simply wish to share my experience in obtaining what I prioritize in my life.  In this post I will be as honest and as detailed as I can be, but this has been a long journey and I'm not the most organized person so most numbers will be approximations.

Key1: currencies are marked as AUD (Australia) and USD (United States)
Key2: if you just want to know the numbers look at "summary" tabs (ctrl+F)


Chris and I have decided to go on a working holiday back in March 2014 while I was still finishing my last semester for my B.A. in Orange County, California.  We had a vague plan of arriving in Melbourne, Australia in Feb, 2015 and travel within Australia and through South East Asia (SEA) for a total of six months till August, 2015.  Needless to say, it didn't go as planned and we did not arrive home until Jun, 2016.  

Regardless, we had about 10 months time to save up prior to departure.  I was able to obtain a full time position within two months of graduation along with about $2,000 USD saved up working while studying.  Within the eight months I was able to pay off the little bit of student loans I had left ($2,600 USD) and obtained a room in a house for measly ($500 USD) a month.  During these 8 months and insane amounts of overtime I was able to save up approx $5,000 USD.  I started with $12/ hour and received two raises since then and ended at $16.00/ hour full time.  Needless to say, I barely had any social life and I did work a few side gigs during the weekends when they were available.  (ask my ex-coworkers, I ate everything they didn't want to save money on food, happily!)  Don't get me wrong, you don't have to give up on enjoying life all together, just choose free and fun activities on your free time instead.  

When I left the country I had approx $6,000 USD in my name and was later able to receive a tax return of approx $900 USD.

  • $2,000 USD savings from part time work in school 
  • $6,000 USD full time savings in 8 months
  • $900 USD tax return
  • total: approx.  $9,000 USD

We applied for a working holiday visa for our travels in Australia.  I talk about what the visa entails here and also how to find work with this visa here

We started our work in Melbourne.  I worked in a hotel in Warribee and did fine dining, catering, and room service work.  Lots of holding a tray full of beer praying somebody would come take it and pray that I don't spill all over them.  Neither of us received enough hours in Melbourne area to stay for long so we worked up to the outback where a couple of friend's friends recently left their work in a truck stop for about two months.  I also searched for a second job in town during that time in a cafe. We then traveled up north and settled in a town west of Cairns called the Tablelands at a cafe.  Our last stop was in the sunshine coast where I found retail work that paid lovely amounts but did not offer enough hours.  


  • Melbourne - $21 AUD/hr weekday, $29 AUD/hr sunday, total $ 682.64 AUD after tax
  • Outback Cunnamulla - truck stop $25.05 AUD/hr weekday, $32.56 AUD/hr Weekend, total $3,202 AUD after tax
  • Outback Cunnamulla - $22.52AUD/hr weekday, $27.03 AUD/hr saturday, total $1,444 AUD
  • Tablelands -$16/hr flat, I have no record of the earnings but approx $1,500
  • Sunshine Coast - $23.73 AUD/hr weekday, $25.63/hr Saturdays, total $1,756 AUD after tax
  • Tax return $735
  • Total: $9,320+ AUD in 11 months = approx $6,983 USD
Note:AUD has dropped drastically since our arrival in Australia thus my total approximation can vary up to over a thousand dollars in difference.  


We did not seek employment in SEA since it would take too much time for too little reward.  Instead we spent lots of time researching each place we go for the most affordable options during our travel.  Our average spending was between $500- $600 USD/ person/ month.  I came home with just a little over $1000 USD that was set aside as emergency money.  (I can't stress how important it is to have emergency money! keep a certain amount untouched!)

  • $9,000 USD(savings) + $6,983 USD (earnings) = $15,983 USD
  • Came home with $1,000 USD after all spending
  • total spending over 16 month period approx $14,983 USD, avg $936/month

Australia was the most expensive part of the whole trip, our earnings was barely covering our living plus in country travelling.  If we went straight into SEA we would probably be able to live comfortably without working for over 10 months no problem given we do long travels and don't fly much.  It is cheaper to be travelling as a couple and I have only accounted my own savings, earnings, and spending.  Take all of the above with a grain of salt.  I suggest setting a goal and working backwards on how to get there.  Checking your income and spending should be one of those steps for sure.  You don't need to be a millionaire or have six figure income to travel, in fact I think travelling on a budget has its benefits! To the point where I even wrote a whole blog post about it here.

Given all that, the point of this post is to really show everyone how travel isn't as hard as one might think.  It's just what you wish to prioritize.  I know people who save up all year to go to Anime Expo and buy things that they love.  I also know people who have started a family young and love to stay local and enjoy family fun.  That's all fine and dandy, it's what makes them happy.  

If you are anything like me, I'd suggest that you invest in yourself and in your dreams.  That's what I did and I don't regret a minute of it.  It wasn't all rainbows and butterflies.  I had times where I had to work till 11:00pm and wake up to get to work again at 5:00 in the morning or live in a house with missing window panes and holes in the wall in the heart of winter.  I also had times where I swam among millions of fishes in a coral garden or glided through an ancient rainforest on a zipline.

"Listen to me: Invest in yourself, you're worth it."  

Thanks for taking the time to read my babbles.  I'd love to know what motivates you and what you do to invest in yourself! Share with me in the comments below!

Balinese Galungan Celebration 2016

Galungan is the largest celebration in Bali, Indonesia, the island of the gods.  We are extremely fortunate to be here at this time and participate in the traditional prayer ceremonies.  Galungan is an event based off of the 210 days Balinese calendar.  Due to the shorter calendar cycle, there will be two Galungan days in 2016 (February 10 and September 7).  If you would like to join the celebration be sure to plan accordingly. This day starts off a series of three days in Hindu ceremony and celebration that is unique to Balinese culture and differs from that of Indian Hindu traditions.  Our experience allowed us to peer into a practice that is very much foreign to us; learning a thing or two from the dialogues we hold and the things we see.

Joining in as foreigners
before we delve into the details, it is important to note that there are a few prohibitions that will prevent you from entering the temple and joining parts of the celebration.

  1. you must wear a sarong regardless of gender and age.
    • sarongs are simply a large stretch of cloth that is used to wrap around the waist.  
    • It is optional to wear a sash, but most people will wear a complete set for the special occasion.
    • (note, wet sarongs are worn differently for women if you are planning to go to Tirta Empul, also known as the Holy Spring Water Temple)
    • for men:
    • for women:
  2. Do not go into the temple if you're menstruating!
    • it is deemed dirty to go into the temple during menstruation, so its best to respect the practice and only observe from the outside if it happens to coincide with the day
  3. Don't snap endless pictures
    • we all want to capture memories, but please understand the situation and don't be disrespectful snapping endless pictures during the entire ceremony. This is not a time to go shutter crazy, one of the girls there did not stop since she arrived, not even for the prayer portions.  Locals kept looking at her and trying to avoid the camera, but she simply followed them with the lens.  Don't be THAT tourist.
  4. All temple should be active this day
    • most temples are closed to the public on regular days, but this is the special time to visit them!
    • From our knowledge, any temple you go to will be hosting prayer services.  So go to any that you desire.
The Holiday

Galungan is a celebration of the victory of goodness over evil, the victory of dhrama over adarma. The first day is the day to visit the temples and a day of prayer.  The second and third day are dedicated to visiting family and friends, while the third day specifically marks the day ancestors spirits will return.

The ceremony

Locals will participate in ceremonies with family members first at their own family temple, often a section of the household for religious practices.  The second ceremony is conducted in larger temples where prayers are led and holy water is used to cleanse.  We participated at a local temple called Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud.  It is not a well known temple to say the least, but it was crowded with the residents of this area.

The prayers were led by an elderly man with an MC behind him who spoke into the microphone with guidance through the prayers.  Each separate prayer required a different gesture, placing various items of offerings matching the prayer.  For one prayer participants held up plumeria flowers between their plams and speak their prayers.  Once they have finished speaking their prayers, they use the flower as garnish on their head.  For another prayer, participants held up intricate offerings made of banana leaves holding flowers and coins.  We did not have a tour guide and don't understand the Indonesian language, but we assume that each separate prayer has its own meaning for safety, love, gratitude, etc.

When all prayers ended, everyone received holy water for cleansing. Each person must drink the water from their palms three times to cleanse their inner spirit.  Once they have been cleansed inward, they splash the water over their head and face (some using petals to splash the water, some used leaves and brushes) .  At the end of their cleanse, participants are then given rice to place between their eyebrows to signify abundance.
(in their daily practice they will also place the rice between their collar bone and eat a grain or two of rice as blessings)

Penjor (bamboo poles)

Everywhere we went, we saw large bamboo flower poles called "Penjor."  Penjors are erected during special events such as weddings and holidays.  Each household and business will erect one or more of these large bamboo poles to welcome back deceased relatives coming back as spirits as well as the Gods.  We have been told by locals that the poles represent dragons.  They are composed of a small offering container at the base representing the head and the long thin overhang as the tail.  This is slightly different from some information I have found online stating that the penjors represent mountains, perhaps to different people there are different meanings and symbolism for the decoration.

Beware, Shops and Services will be closed.

If you are travelling Bali around these times, be aware that most if not all shops will be closed.  Certain warungs (local diners) and restaurants aiming at tourists may still be open, so no worries about starving.  Just make sure you don't need your laundry done or bike fixed on this day, or you will be very much disappointed.

Australian Outback Adventures: Yowah Opal Festival (Cheapest Opals in Australia)

Whether you are looking for a cheap opal or a true outback experience, the Yowah Opal Festival should be on your itinerary.  Australia is known for many of its natural resources and opals are probably on the top of that list.  The cheapest way to purchase it would be through a wholesale resource just like any other commodity.

Opal on display at the exhibit
What is this festival?

The Yowah Opal Festival is hands-down the most prestigious annual gathering in the opal trade.  Businesses are looking for opal miners who can provide them quality opal at a good price for their business, opal miners are here to find buyers. Although the festival isn't held for the average Joe, it gives everyone who desires a precious gem a chance to get them at a bargain!
the marketplace 

At Night:

The Festival starts out with a night of bonfire that is taller than all of us.  The firewood required was so chunky, they had to use construction machinery to drive it over.  Everyone gathers around the fire while we wait for the all-you-can-eat BBQ.  We eat to our heart's content with live folk music playing in the background on the little stage.  Most of the participants knows each other since it's not that big of an industry and all the miners, polishers and sellers have some business with one another at any point in time.
Not much lighting aside from these and the fire
A miner looking into the fire

Chris enjoying the warmth of the fire

really good BBQ buffet resembling American Southern food
embers flying high
In The Morning:

The booths are set up before the break of dawn, ready for buyers to have their treasure hunt. You can always try to bargain for better deals than priced.  The more you buy from the same stall, the cheaper it can get.  Often times they sell more than just opals.  You can find all sorts of gems including pearls and fossils around the market.  Walk around, talk to people, don't commit until you're really ready.  Oh and definitely bring at least a couple hundred dollars of cash with you, most if not all stalls are cash only.

Tips on Finding Good Opal:

Many vendors will have buckets of opals sitting in water.  Opals have a crystalline structure that absorbs water, making it easier for light to travel and thus reflect from.  Make sure the opal stone shines even without water.  While choosing your opals, dry the surface and set them aside. Decide at the end which piece of opal strikes your fancy.

The price of a piece of opal is fairly subjective.  There is no actual scale for the pricing and it is fairly flexible in terms of market value.  You look for the value of an opal through three characteristics: the patterns, the color of light reflected through the opal, and the way light reflects off of it.  The rare colors in opals are blacks and reds.  Patterns can range from matrixes (kind of holographic)  to pinfires (dots/ rays of holographic patterns).  Marine opals are mainly blue and green and will cover the whole surface of the gem.  Boulder opals are stones or fossolized trees embedded with streaks of opals through them.  The small moonstone like opals with firepin or matrix patterns through them can be very valuable due to the rarity of pure opals.  Overall, how much you like a piece of opal should be the deciding factor on whether you will purchase it.  There is no point in having some really expensive piece of rock with you if you don't love it.

There are also exhibits set up for rare opals and opals that has been incorporated in sculptures and other art forms.


The bargains are extremely attractive, but the festival is never crowded with tourists due to its geological disposition.  The location of this annual festival is in the heart of the great outback of Australia.  For those who are unfamiliar with the outback, I will try to put things into perspective.  Yowah is a small town/ community.  According to the 2006 census, Yowah had a population of 142.  We visited the town in July 2015, according to the locals we spoke to the population has since then decreased to around 50 residents.  This town is 132 km (82mi) from Brisbane, the nearest city.  The annual festival is the single big event that gathers several hundred attendants to help support the town.
putting things into perspective, Yowah is over 13 hours away from the closest city.


The town is too small with too little traffic over other times of the year for any accomodation.  Your best bet is camping in a tent or sleep in your car.  It's quite nice to be able to chit chat with our neighbors, we learned lots about opals quality and mining.

Our bed in serenity.

A few of our own purchases:

We have purchased quite a few boulder opals that we absolutely love ranging from $5-20 a piece depending on how rare the pattern and colors were.  (the ones shown below were less than $10 each) Throughout our travels we seeked for similar opals to estimate pricing and most were 2-5 times more expensive than our purchases.

If you love the adventure and have the time and money around July, I would highly recoomend that you visit the Yowah Opal Festival.  The opal miners are really hurting at the moment as demand is plummeting.  By visiting, you can support local businesses and people's livlihood.  The opals are cheaper than you can find anywhere else and definitely genuine as experts are all in the area to call out fawks gems.  If you are interested, you might even be able to make a bit of profit by reselling the opals you obtain there elsewhere!

Would you go to the Yowah Opal Festival if you're in the country around July?  Which one of the exhibit pieces did you like most?

Moments of 2015

2015 has witnessed the start of this blog and the start of my first year-long-travel journey.  This past year I have said goodbye to my frist full-time job and went to the opposite of the globe to roam the land down under named Australia.

note: a week into the year and I am finally posting this "year in review" blog post.  Just once again shows that life throws curve balls and you just have to roll with it.  For more of my life excuses scroll to the bottom.  I will also do my best to write posts regarding all the adventure in this past year and link it on here, so stay tuned!

Jan: Houston, Texas

Perks of working in Human Resources for a medium sized company growing national is the occasional travel involved.  I was travelling to Houston, Texas with a coworker doing recruitment.  The sad part is, I came down with influenza after the flight.  Overall, Texas was still a blast( can't say no to the southern food)!

Houston we have landed

Feb: LA, California

Saying goodbye was tough.  It was a cocktail of excitement, fear, hope, and insecurities.  I am saying goodbye to a stable income to welcome something foreign and unknown.  With how uncomfortable everything felt, I knew I was doing the right thing.  We can only grow from pushing our boundaries to new limits.

here's the cinnamon bun larger than my face my coworkers gave me as good bye gift. 

March: Melbourne, Victoria

We arrived in Australia in late February.  March was filled with "firsts".  We saw our first koalas, our firstt kangaroos and wallabies, our first time road tripping on the Great Ocean Road, our first time exploring Melbourne, our first encounter with leeches, our first time going to couch surfing parties, and our first time buying a car together and travelling in it.

April: Melbourne, Australia

We started staying at the first relatively long-term home in Point Cook, Victoria.  We started our job search and we both got into the restaurant industry.  We met some good friends and I even learned screen printing with local teens! ( I think she only took me in thinking I'm still in my teens)
community workshop, learning how to screen print!

May: Melbourne, Australia

We worked a bit and started house sitting for a friend.  Lots of good food involved when you're working with catering events and people don't eat it all!
free food to take home! working perks!

June: Cunnamulla, Queensland

We found work for the both of us in Cunnamulla, Queensland and decided to give it a try.  The outback town took us two days to drive to and it was just an insane experience to say the least.  Probably the lowest point of our Australia travels, but it definitely puts things into perspective. A post will be made for the full experience.

What became our home for two months.

July: Yowah, Queensland

When we have saved up a decent amount, we departed and explored just a little bit more of the outback before heading back to the coast.  We attended the Yowah Opal Festival and found many precious gems at the lowest price in Australia.  The festival was filled with character! From the large bonfire to the people, everything played out under a canopy of stars.  From there we experienced the drastically different weather and scenery Australia has to provide.  It went from dry lands to luscious rainforest to beachy coasts.
mini break on the road. 

August: Northern Queensland

We were passing the Tablelands when we decided that the beauty of this place calls for more time.  The lakes, the waterfalls, the rainforest, and the wildlife all called out to us.  After our exploration in the tablelands we ventured up north all the way past cook town and back.  We visited Elim beach and traversed through Daintree national park, the only place in the world where two world heritage sites (Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef) meet.

rainforest canopy

Sep: Magnetic Island, Queensland

The island life was free and beautiful.  On Magnetic Island off of Townsville, Queensland, we have explored land and sea.  There are some beautiful snorkelling trails as well as hiking trails on the island.  We swam with colorful fishes and fed dozens of rock wallabies.  We even caught our first fish on this island!
Sunset on Magnetic Island

Oct: Cairns, Queensland

We worked a bit before and after Magnetic Island in the Tablelands and decided it was time to continue our exploration once complications arose at work.  (again showing the not so glamous side of traveling)  We spent some time in Cairns exploring the small city/ large town.  The highlight was definitely our snorkeling trip out on the great barrier reef.
Meeting a turtle on the Great Barrier Reef

November: Brisbane, Queensland

We drove down to brisbane in search for our last leg of work.  Aside from the public gardens and lagoon, we didn't enjoy the city too much. So instead we headed a little bit up north to the Sunshine Coast instead. I found work in retail while Chris in construction.  In between work hours we explored a bit of Nossa as well as the beaches and farmers markets on the sunshine coast.
Public Lagoon in Brisbane

December: Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Well into the holiday season, we were experiencing lots of festivities.  Our first Christmas in the summer with our toes in the sand. (check out our Aussie Christmas here)  We then welcomed the new year at Maloolaba on the Sunshine Coast watching fireworks with friends, ending an adventurous year with the booming sounds of firework.

Dog beach in Sunshine Coast

2015 was a very eventful year, a year of many treasured memories.  As I'm writing this, we are actually preparing for our departure from Australia into South East Asia.  We have received news that Chris's boss sold his company over the holidays just a couple of days ago.  We decided that it is more cost efficient for us to leave earlier than we have planned.  As we occupy ourselves with selling our vehicle and organizing the stuff we have accumulated, we are also very excited to feel "uncomfortable" again.  We don't know what 2016 will bring us.  Whatever it may be, I have a feeling it's going to be great!  Happy New Year everybody!!!

How was  your 2015?  Any highlights, regrets, or things to be grateful about?  Leave a comment down below!