Monthly Archives: August 2015

Koh Tao (Part 2)

Each place I visit feels similar to the one before but they all have a different energy—their own unique spirit. Walking through the streets of Koh Tao I pass stray dogs, chickens, tattoo shops and fruit stands, while a concoction of incense, massage oil and burning garbage waft through the air.

IMG_8000

IMG_8009

IMG_8014

IMG_8005

The smells in Thailand are distinct and ever changing, intensified by the intense humid heat. A stray puppy sunbathes in the middle of the road, inches away from speeding motorbikes and I drop my bag to carry him to safety. You’d think with the lack of rules, structure and safety measures in this country there would be constant chaos but somehow, in some divine some way, it all just works.

IMG_8007 IMG_7997IMG_8004 IMG_8001A day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t found myself lost at some point. Being lost here is nothing like being lost back home. All of my senses are bombarded with everything foreign—the buildings, the people, the writing, the sounds and smells, the heat, even the roosters look different and cats don’t meow the same. And even amongst the other tourists I am still a foreigner.

IMG_7989

IMG_7984This new environment is a lot to adapt to. I walk past the same places each day and still get lost on the way back to my bungalow. The dirt roads have no structure to them at all—it’s a giant maze of pathways winding and intersecting around the most random mix of homes, bars, markets and bungalows (usually I can’t even distinguish those from each other) with no signs or markings anywhere. Picture someone shook up a bag of buildings, dropped them onto the earth and wherever they landed is where they stayed.

IMG_7897 IMG_7899

IMG_7901It’s as if the thick, humid air is created by the abundance of positive energy emitted from every soul on the island. We’re all riding the same higher wavelength here, existing in this alternate universe apart from the rest of the world. In the past two weeks I have not seen a single angry, sad or upset face… have you ever gone one day without encountering that in some form? It’s fascinating how our mind, thoughts and actions change in the absence of all negativity.

IMG_7928Here there is no concept of time. We’re all just suspended in it—living in the moment, making decisions as they come our way. No schedule or structure.

IMG_7975Before leaving I’d always read how important it was to have theft-proof everything—backpacks, purses, locks, wire mesh bag covers, money belts, even personal safes. From what I’ve experienced so far… it’s all completely unnecessary. Maybe it’s because I’m not living in fear but I feel very safe on this island. The only moment of panic came while running from an angry feral dog down a dirt road in the middle of the night, and I’m sure that I’m often moments away from death on these motorbikes, but the people are friendly and kind and I trust my intuition. If I hadn’t been vulnerable and placed myself in uncomfortable situations, I wouldn’t be here right now. Everything you want is on the other side of fear…

IMG_7894

After getting my henna tattoo on the second day on the island, I made friends with an Austrian diving instructor who told me about another snorkeling spot with baby sharks and even better coral reefs. We hopped on his bike the next day, made our way down to the crowded Aow Leuk beach and jumped in with our snorkel gear. This experience blew away the first one. The reef was deep and plentiful with new colorful species of fish, coral and life forms I’ve only seen on Nat Geo. I got a lesson in free diving, we found nemos and yes, even swam with baby sharks… unforgettable.

IMG_7466The rest of my days consisted of one or more of the following events: Wake at sunrise. Walk next door to the dive shop in hopes of a good wifi signal, drink coffee, chat with the crew and work on my laptop. Walk over a bridge across the bay, past bungalows, bars and markets to an authentic french cafe for iced coffee and the most buttery, delicious croissants and muesli I’ve ever tasted. Use their wifi signal to work for a few hours, chat with more new people. Walk back to my bungalow and grab my camera to take photos and/or edit them. Snuggle my adopted kitty and nap in the hammock. Go for a swim in the ocean. Shop at the markets. Meet up with new friends I’ve met that day and go for a drive around the island, or find a new restaurant or bar. Return back to my bungalow in the wee morning hours. Repeat the cycle.

IMG_7775
IMG_7836 IMG_7992 IMG_7994

IMG_7816 IMG_7986 IMG_7980

At dusk, the beach bar next door to my bungalow lights torches and candles in preparation for the night fire show. As the sky darkens, bars and restaurants all along the bay begin to illuminate in every color, initiating the islands distinctly different night vibe.

IMG_7871 IMG_7861 IMG_7863

I met a couple Germans who told me about a Castle Party they have weekly here on the island and went to check it out that night after dinner at an amazing Indian restaurant. We walked into a dark entryway, up a set of winding concrete stairs and pathways to find ourselves at the top of what seemed to be an abandoned castle. There were seating areas scattered about with two bars playing drum & bass mixed with trance/pop music. Definitely an environment I could never imagine existing back home—foreign in every sense. I’ve been dropped into an Abercrombie catalog—surrounded by tall, slender and sculpted, cultured multilingual interesting Europeans and I’ve been missing out on this new world. There’s something in Europe’s water, I’m telling you… a breeding ground for perfect specimens. Sometimes I don’t want to go back to America.

IMG_7487The crowd grew denser as the night went on and people sipped on Thai beer and rum and inhaled nitrous oxide balloons (yes, they dispense them at the bars here). Below our feet was a ground was of wood slats which bounced and swayed as we danced, all moving together, riding the same wavelength. It began to rain and we embraced the water as it purified the sticky air and cooled our bodies. Rain turned into a downpour which only increased the energy level and turned the night into magic for those of us alive in that moment.

IMG_7485Thailand has a 12am sound curfew, so around that time the party switched to a “silent disco”—everyone has headphones on with two different music channels and they danced together in silence. I’d never heard of such a thing but apparently it exists in other parts of the world and it was interesting to witness—like watching a night club scene in a movie on mute. The Castle Party was an experience… a night I’ll never forget.

IMG_7977What I’ve learned in the time I’ve been here is that our lives, ways of living and thinking and doing, may be polar opposites but the one thing that brings us all together is music. It’s crazy how you can be struggling to communicate with someone in the most basic way but then Beyoncé comes on, and you’re singing the same words and dancing the same moves and sharing that same feeling and experience. Music is the common denominator in all of us.

IMG_7858It’s interesting being surrounded by people who grew up in completely different conditions and cultures than you. They often can’t relate to or understand references that are so ingrained in your upbringing and formed your thoughts and opinions about the world. It can be an isolating feeling sometimes but I crave these new interactions and soak up information like a sponge. I feel fortunate to have been let in to a circle of friends on the island. They teach me German words and phrases and I help with their English pronunciation and attempt to explain funny jokes. We laugh at meanings that get lost in translation and I think of all the new souls I have yet to meet who will forever change me.

IMG_7535

Geographically I couldn’t be farther from California, but here on the other side of the world I’ve never felt more at home.

IMG_7967On Sunday I said goodbye to the islands and this afternoon I’ll be on a plane to Chiang Mai in the north. There are a few more stories to tell before the next leg of my adventure… it’s been hard to keep up in real time with so much happening. I’ll check in very soon with the final installment of my southern Thailand experience…

73c1d-signature


Koh Tao (part 1)

I’m suspended in a hammock outside my bungalow above a canopy of fruit trees and shallow pastel waters, a stray cat snuggled in my lap and giant butterflies passing through the breeze. The air is warm and dense—a soft wind travels off the ocean, delivering a dose of Thailand’s intoxicating air with every breath.

IMG_7767

There’s something in the air, the water, the food, the land and people here that change the chemistry of your brain. It’s a natural high that leaves you in a state of mental and physical euphoria. If only I could bottle this drug and feel this way forever…

IMG_7724

Everything is intensified here. The energy, the climate, the feeling of joy and happiness and love and elation—I could never recreate this at home. Only now am I realizing that the past 30 years of my life I’ve simply been existing… now for the first time I am truly alive.

IMG_7771

Thailand has me under a spell that I never want to come out of. Each day I reflect and write and capture photographs and video so that when I’m 80 I can close my eyes, go back to this moment and feel it all over again… and know that I didn’t just exist, I lived.

IMG_7678-2IMG_7818

There’s so much to say about Koh Tao but it’s difficult to put into words. I’m living in a fantasy world, straight out of a book or movie and it doesn’t feel real.

IMG_7801I arrived on the island by ferry Saturday evening with my American friend I met in Koh Samui a few days earlier. After disembarking I knew immediately that this place was more my speed. The streets were much calmer and atmosphere more laid back—the perfect place to relax and recover from the first island.

IMG_7685We dined on tacos and beer before unwinding with an oil massage then heading to bed. Our new hostel made the last one look like a five star resort—one toilet/shower for the entire dorm, outlets that didn’t work, lights that didn’t turn off, beds that felt like concrete and no wi-fi.

IMG_7687

I have no problem roughing it but the no wi-fi part is non negotiable, so I checked out first thing Sunday morning and found a coffee shop to get some work done. There I met a German who told me about a bungalow he had booked for a month for $15/night down the island. I hopped a cab there and after laying my eyes on the most beautiful beach I’d ever seen plus the idea of privacy for the first time in days, I booked three nights without hesitation.

IMG_7802The ocean was calling so I walked to a beach called Shark Bay which was recommended for snorkeling, rented a mask and fins for $6 and spent the afternoon under the surface of clear blue waters admiring coral and neon rainbow fish.

IMG_7703

IMG_7705IMG_7716
I found a rock to catch my breath, napped there under the sun and sipped my first (delicious) coconut shake before heading back to my bungalow.

IMG_7709

IMG_7714

IMG_7700IMG_7694Koh Tao is world renowned for diving, which I discovered my first night there. I really had no desire to try—I’d never even been snorkeling before that day—but my bungalow was right outside of a dive shop where everyone hung out so I spent some time there getting acquainted with new faces.

IMG_7825IMG_7794While the scenery is breathtaking, it’s the people who have made the biggest impression. There are tourists that rotate through the dive shop each day, and then there’s the crew and regulars—the people that came here on vacation and never left. One girl from Spain was visiting two years ago after a breakup… she fell in love with the head dive master and now lives on the island. Another came to dive on a whim and decided to become an instructor, living here for nearly a year with no plans to return. Most of the dive instructors have been here for months—they live and work in Europe, save up to come here, stay until their money runs out then return home and repeat the cycle.

IMG_7799There are around 70 diving schools on this island… you can’t walk down the beach without passing one. It’s so interesting to hear everyone’s stories and witness the dynamics within this group of strangers who’ve come together from around the world and formed a family, all because of a shared passion. While I’m not part of their diving circle, they’ve been kind enough to let me in and I feel a connection with them as kindred spirits, as we’ve all abandoned our society’s normal path and ended up here together.

IMG_7806

IMG_7820

Each day I wake up at sunrise to the first rays shining through my window, gecko lizards chattering in the trees, and the puttering of the first fishing boats exiting the harbor. The bungalow is rustic and weathered from years of salty air—built with wood and nails and resting on a boulder above the water.

IMG_7730

It is paradise but not by western society’s standards. There’s no air conditioning, hot water or flushing toilet. The bed is nothing more than stiff springs wrapped in cloth and a mosquito net. Most people go barefoot everywhere so sand makes it’s way into every surface… the floor, the bed, your clothing and body… I got used to it fast after my first bathroom experience in Bangkok. Most of the toilets here are nothing but bowls on the ground, no toilet paper, and if you’re lucky there’s a hose nearby. If you’re unlucky there’s a large bucket of water which I’m still not really sure what you’re supposed to use it for. Fortunately I remembered to bring hand sanitizer.

IMG_7805

It’s basically camping in paradise, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

IMG_7777

I’ve been lucky enough to avoid any major illness so far, but infections are another story. The hot and humid climate teaming with foreign organisms and bacteria will wreak havoc on your body. The smallest cut, scrape, bite or open skin of any kind can easily and quickly become inflamed. I’ve met people with infected mosquito and bug bites who look like they have chicken pox and even the natives are often covered in bandages and scabs. Yesterday I woke up with half of my tongue swollen and tender (thankfully it’s better now) and areas of my feet are and legs are red and itchy. Lest you think I’m living it up like royalty… these are the realities of backpacker life in Southeast Asia.

IMG_7788

IMG_7828I’m hoping my body will adapt to the environment, but on the flip side, after just one day in the water in Koh Samui I emerged with golden bronze skin and I’m loving my new island glow.

IMG_7827

Back home I had to blow dry and/or hot iron my hair to look presentable but I’ve embraced my crazy wavy locks—the ocean water and salty air are my new beauty routine. Going au natural is just another part of eliminating my first world possessions and I’m slowly learning to let go.

IMG_7808

I’ve been on this island for five days now and each morning I open my eyes feeling as if I’m still dreaming. I actually haven’t had or remembered a single dream since I left home… perhaps because my awakened state is better than any experience my subconscious can imagine, so I no longer need them to escape. I’m actually living my dreams now.

IMG_7853-2

On the second day while wandering around looking for a good wi-fi signal (not easy to come by here), I wandered into of the many bamboo tattoo shops, fell in love with thai writing and figured out a translation for one of my favorite quotes. An hour and $6 later I had my first henna tattoo… Not all who wander are lost…

IMG_7850

I call it my practice tattoo. I don’t have any real tattoos and never had the desire to get one, but now I’m a little obsessed and wouldn’t be surprised if I had permanent ink somewhere on my body before I leave (sorry Mom…)

IMG_7822There are many more stories to tell but the day is wasting and it’s time for an afternoon swim… I think I’ll be on this island for a couple more days before finding my next adventure, so there will have to be a Part 2. Soon. La kon and pob kan mai from paradise…

73c1d-signature


Koh Samui

Koh Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, an hour flight from Bangkok. I hadn’t researched the area before arriving and didn’t know it existed until it was recommended by my hostel mate in Bangkok.

IMG_7669

IMG_7667

24 hours after first landing in Thailand, I touched down at Koh Samui’s airport (some have called it the most beautiful airport in the world even though it’s nothing more than a landing strip… picture flying into Jurassic Park) and booked a cab to my hostel.

IMG_7344

After being dropped off at the wrong hostel on a crowded street packed with motorbikes, party vans blasting techno and muy thai fight announcements, food carts, massage parlors and more backpackers than I’d ever seen in one place in my life, I began scanning for a sign that read “Hello Backpackers Hostel.”

IMG_7656

I finally found one but it was in front of a tour booking office which didn’t seem right, and as I passed by someone ran out screaming and mooned everyone. This can’t be it… I thought. Eventually I realized that this office building was in fact, tonight’s fate. What on earth did I sign myself up for? Little did I know I’d end up meeting some amazing people and staying on the island for four days.

IMG_7672

As soon as I settled in, I headed straight for the beach to catch my first sunset. The nicest beach I’d ever been to until this point has been in Florida, so I was complete awe of the beauty.

IMG_7626

I didn’t have my bathing suit but the warm water and salty air left me intoxicated so I ran in with my clothes on.

IMG_7628

IMG_7616

IMG_7648

IMG_7645

I didn’t intend for this experience to be a wild party as is the goal for most of the other 20-something backpackers in this country, but I know that’s just the hostel demographic and I’d have to make the most of it to afford this trip.

I was pleasantly surprised to meet my first American, a girl my age with a similar story, along with five other English speaking solo backpackers who weren’t straight out of college. We all made dinner plans and after the first hour I decided I couldn’t leave the next day.

IMG_7415

 

The next three days were a blur of dancing, swimming, dining, more dancing, motor biking, waterfall hiking, laughing and bonding. We all knew how lucky we were to have found each other as the other beds in the dorm rotated nightly with groups of the same northern European college kids on holiday.

IMG_7657The beaches and interior of the island are breathtaking, while the main area of Chaweng is nothing but tourist shops, bars and restaurants. And scooters—you need one to get around. The roads, like Bangkok, are insane. Every bike, car, taxi and pedestrian is out for themselves. No license needed, no rules whatsoever.

IMG_7404

The people watching is also unlike any other. Stand on a street corner and you’ll hear at least ten different languages and observe ethnicities, gestures, mannerisms and clothing styles from across the world (although probably 80% European on this island to be accurate). One big melting pot of people coming to party on a remote island in paradise.

IMG_7654

When night falls, Chaweng Beach comes alive with lights, music, fire dancers on the sand and lanterns in the sky. We sat around a hookah while locals walked around with monkeys, iguanas and even an eagle trying to make money, while children jump and pull at you, trying to force you to buy their flowered headbands and glow sticks.

IMG_7651

By the third night, I began to feel like I was simply vacationing. I left the club alone and began walking back to my hostel when the street began to look unfamiliar. Hundreds of backpackers soon became just a few, the neon lights slowly disappeared and the symphony of techno and dance music was reduced to a soft rumbling bass in the distance. All that remained were a few flickering lights, local shop owners and food cart disposing of the day’s waste in the streets and Thai girls in front of seedy massage shops. The street was pungent with musky egg-sewage smell and I began to feel ill. Nothing looked familiar. I pull out my phone to GPS the hostel address—my screen shattered to pieces from the first night here—but I can’t get a signal and my battery is about to die.

Being lost and unable to communicate with anyone wandering alone through dark streets at 3am is not exactly my idea of finding myself. That was my last night in Koh Samui.

While this island adventure was more about indulgence than growth, I truly enjoyed the company of my new friends. On Saturday, my American friend and I decided to head to our next destination together as we both had plans to visit the island of Koh Tao next. When we all said our goodbyes at the hostel, we joked about how much it reminded us of the Real World finales where the roommates go their separate ways. Our paths crossed for just a few days but we’ll have memories that only we can share forever.

IMG_7618

I can replay the stores all I want but no one else will really understand this journey like a fellow backpacker. There will undoubtedly be lonely times ahead but I can’t help but wonder how much of an outsider I’ll feel like once I return home. I’m beginning to believe home is not a geographical location but rather a feeling of belonging when I arrive somewhere I know I’m destined to be at that moment.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 2.33.33 PM

I’ve been here less than a week and life will never be the same. I don’t want this feeling to end. Only time will tell what will come of it all, but as of this moment I can’t imagine doing anything else forever.

IMG_7619

There’s so much more to dig into here but each day my eyes open a little more and my thoughts and feelings evolve… so I’ll end this now. There’s a new island in front of me waiting to be explored and strangers waiting to become friends.

73c1d-signature


Questions answered

I know last week’s announcement brought up many questions. I also realize I’m not obligated to answer them but they are part of this story… and for those of you invested in this new journey and future of the blog, it’s only fair you should know more of what’s going on behind the scenes.

As part of my growing desire to digitally capture as many moments in time as possible to preserve these memories, I spent Saturday evening soaking up every last drop of home…

IMG_7435

IMG_7429

IMG_7465

And one last sunset in the city of my birth, saying goodbye to the Pacific Ocean before boarding the plane.

IMG_7519

 

IMG_7512

 

IMG_7527

IMG_7546

IMG_7529

IMG_7560IMG_7530

IMG_7573

IMG_7576

Q: How long will this journey last?

Absolutely no idea. Maybe I’ll have some sort of epiphany and realize I want to go back to my small town surrounded by family and friends and live happily ever after. Or perhaps I’ll decide I can only be fulfilled by exploring the world and constantly finding myself in new environments, and I’ll be a nomad forever. After these first few days I have a feeling about which is more likely but only time will tell.

Q. Why Thailand?

It actually wasn’t the first place that popped into mind when deciding to take the leap. Originally I’d pictured Europe, probably because that’s just the most common place people run off to… but there’s so many options I’m unfamiliar with and I didn’t want to plan and overthink it. It’s also quite expensive… which made Southeast Asia (known for being extremely inexpensive) a great place to start. I’ve always wanted to visit the area and the more I read about it, the more I realized how perfect it was. Tropical weather, beautiful beaches, diverse cultures, easy to get around, and dirt cheap. It was destiny.

Q: What about your house(s) and cats?

I contacted a property manager and found a lovely tenant to move in and take care of the cats. It covers the mortgage and I’ll continue to rent it out for the duration of my trip, knowing the home and pets are cared for. My family and friends also live nearby and can step in if needed.

Eventually all three homes will have to be sold. Our first home in LA went under contract last week and is scheduled to close in less than two months if all goes well. For the Florida house, we’re still debating on whether to sell or split the equity. Our current house will need to be put up for sale at some point in the near future too, but I haven’t decided whether I want to finish remodeling it first to maximize the equity. It’s all up in the air.

Q: How are you financing this?

As most of you already know my business is online, so fortunately I can operate remotely. I’ve outsourced my printing so all I really need is my laptop and a good internet connection. Because of this my profit is also much lower, but as long as I can cover my expenses that’s all I care about right now.

I’ve always planned for the future and placed priority on saving vs spending, taking measures towards financial security and independence. Of course I didn’t anticipate this turn of events, but thankfully I worked hard enough in my 20’s to build a business and produce enough equity in our homes to make this possible. If it was somewhere in Europe I’d be blowing through money at a much faster rate, but a little goes a long way here and I can live off much less than what I do in the states.

At this point, my focus is not on building wealth. I love my home but I’m not attached to it—to me there’s no value in things. If I stopped working right now and traveled until my money ran out and had to start all over, so be it. I’d have a life rich with experiences and memories—that’s all that matters in the end.

If I decide to keep this lifestyle indefinitely I know I can figure something out. When you really want something… you’ll find a way.

If there are any other questions, please feel free to reach out. I’m still debating on whether or not to open up and share the experiences that have led to this point and how I made it through the lowest days in my life. I know there are many of you out there struggling the same way and need to connect with others who have navigated that road and found a much better path, and I know I can help.

That may come in time but for now there’s places to explore, people to meet, stories to tell and photo to share. More from the first few days of my trip very soon…

73c1d-signature


And so the journey begins…

When I set off on this voyage I knew it would be transformational, but I had one primary goal in mind—to become more present and start living in the now.

IMG_7283

A recent discovery of Eckhart Tolle (if you haven’t read The Power of Now… it’s a total game changer) has initiated this shift in consciousness and turned the lowest point in my life into a contentment and wholeness I didn’t know was possible.

IMG_7523

Yesterday while floating 30,000 feet above the earth, catching the first glimpse of my new home, I’d never been more present in a single moment. Time stopped, my thoughts disappeared and I became one with the universe.

IMG_7295

I know this all might sound a bit out there, but once you’ve experienced this oneness, it can change you forever. I feel it in my bones. I’m a different person. This transition began a few months ago but right now, right here in this moment is exactly where I’m meant to be. Everything in the past has lead me here. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and pure joy and will do whatever I can to never wake up from this dream.

IMG_7520In Southeast Asia the air is thick and heavy with moisture, which you can sense right away as the plane windows fog upon touchdown. I’m one of the few that loves the humidity—I like to think of it as a warm, welcoming hug that greets your body when you step outside. It’s one of the things I loved most about Florida, and experiencing the same tropical air here is comforting.IMG_7584

After leaving for the airport Sunday afternoon and a six hour stopover in Manila, I finally touched down in Bangkok Tuesday afternoon.

IMG_7589Eager to begin my journey, I carefully navigated my way through customs and immigrations, traded my USD for baht, and made my way outside to hail a cab. The driver didn’t speak a word of English and didn’t seem to recognize the destination, but after five minutes of hand gestures we agreed upon a price (450 baht—that’s $13.40) and began our 40 minute journey to the hostel.

IMG_7336Once we exited the highway and made our way through the cramped and chaotic city streets, I was glued to the window, taking it all in. Street vendors and shops and businessmen and women in suits with umbrellas and tuk tuks and babies on motorbikes. It was just how I’d pictured it to be and I was anxious to explore it all up close.

IMG_7596After settling into my hostel with a much anticipated shower and change of clothing, I stepped outside into the sweltering heat to find a SIM card so I could make contact with the rest of the world. Immediately I was struck by the smells of the city, which I can only describe as an ever-changing concoction of deep fryers, stagnant water, eggs, sewage, cooked meat, fruit and sweat. The sounds and sights were just as random and foreign—my only reference point is San Francisco’s Chinatown which is significantly smaller and laid back compared to Bangkok.

IMG_7592After aimlessly wandering for an hour, ending up inside a 7/11, embassy and Muslim hotel (?) having no luck finding anyone who spoke English, I ended up inside a mall where a ladyboy finally directed me to a cell phone store. I still have no idea what my plan entails or how it all works (it’s all in Thai) so I guess I’l find out on my next billing statement…

With business matters out of the way, I took refuge in an air conditioned coffee shop to let the rest of the world know I was alive and well. Then it was back into the sun to continue my stroll around the city (thank goodness for Google maps!)

I’d been dreaming of the street food since my ticket was booked so I bartered for some fresh coconut water, fried bananas and fried balls of who knows what. It was delicious.

IMG_7595My body was aching after two days of travel and carrying a backpack weighing almost as much as I do, so I headed straight for the next Thai spa. An hour of bliss for $4 proved to be my best decision yet, and I headed back to my hostel to regroup before dinner.

IMG_7600I soon made friends with an Italian hostel mate who had just returned from Thailand’s southern islands and raved about the experience. I saw one photo and 20 minutes later had a flight and hostel booked there for the next day.

Hungry for more Thai food, we hopped on a couple motor taxis and headed downtown to Bangkok’s most famous pad thai as recommended by the locals. Bangkok driving is nothing like the US… that’s for sure. But I loved every second of it.

IMG_7310-(1)

And the pad thai… so so good.

IMG_7321

The night was young so we found a rooftop bar to enjoy the scenery then went for a stroll to check out the architecture (sadly I forgot my SD card and accidentally deleted the rooftop photo… so this is all I have):

IMG_7323We flagged down a tuk tuk and hitched a ride to Cowboy Roi, otherwise known as the red light district. Just to people watch… of course.

IMG_7331

After a few beers it was closing time, so we finally called it a night and headed back to the hostel for some much needed rest, which ended up being all of three hours before I had to wake up and catch up on work. But I haven’t slept more than a few hours at a time in nearly a week yet feel invigorated… there’s an internal energy source that I’ve been running on and it’s fueled the best two days of my life. I’m living in a state of pure bliss with no end in sight. I can’t even put it into words… so I have many photos to come. And videos. And I can’t wait to share them all.

I’m currently in a small island in southern Thailand called Koh Samui and think I’ll stay a while. I’ve found my paradise… physically, mentally, spiritually.Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 2.33.33 PMMore to come soon. In the meantime, you follow me on instagram for more frequent updates! Off to go make some memories…

73c1d-signature


Not all who wander are lost

In two days I’ll be on a plane to Asia and life will never be the same. I’ve been keeping a secret from you guys that I haven’t been able to share until now.

IMG_2229

Brad and I have separated. He’s been living in Florida since June and I bought a one way ticket to Bangkok to leave this life behind and start over. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make—one I’ve struggled with for years. But all you saw on this blog was a facade of a seemingly happy, perfect life. And it was, on paperI had almost everything I’d ever wanted and dreamed about. So why couldn’t I be happy?

I’ve debated how much to open up and share with the world. This is just a DIY blog, everyone only wants to see pretty pictures and tutorials, right? For those of you in that camp, I apologize for the sudden turn of events, and no hard feelings if you want to move on. I have no idea what will become of this blog, because my entire life is up in the air right now. For the very first time I have no plans for the future. I’ll be landing in Bangkok with nothing but a backpack and my camera, no itinerary or familiar faces. Hoping a solo trek across Southeast Asia will allow me to find clarity and discover myself, on my own, without any crutches to fall back on.

A year ago I would have been terrified of the idea. But I’ve been going through a profound metamorphosis for months. The layers of my cocoon have been peeling away and Thailand is the last phase where I can finally break free and spread my wings, seeing the world through completely different eyes. Every fiber of my being is pulling in this direction. I’m not scared at all. This is the new Jenna Sue.

I’ve been journaling and documenting this entire process, feeling compelled to record every thought and emotion. It’s the most defining era in my life and I don’t want to forget a single moment. My goal is to be as raw and honest as possible throughout my backpacking journey while working through this personal transformation and finding real meaning in life. I know there are so many others out there with similar feelings but they’re too afraid/unsure/unaware to voice them… and I truly hope you continue to read this blog as I share more of my story, and find value and inspiration in the path I chose.

You are the designer of your destiny. You are the author. You write the story. The pen is in your hand, and the outcome is whatever you choose.

IMG_4468

My next post will be live from Thailand. I hope to have you on board with me and sincerely appreciate every uplifting word and thought sent my way. Here’s to a brave new life…

73c1d-signature


Budget Boy’s Room Makeover: The Reveal

It’s room reveal day for my budget boy’s room makeover! After a month of planning and DIY’ing, I’m so thrilled to show you the full transformation and prove how much you can really change a space on a tiny budget. I wasn’t 100% confident I could accomplish everything I wanted within the $250 limit, but I really challenged myself creatively and almost couldn’t believe the final numbers! But first, let’s get reacquainted with how the space looked before.

Here’s the view from the door:

IMG_6389

And the far corner of the room:

IMG_6636

Then the bed wall:

IMG_6635

And looking back to the front and closet doors:

IMG_6638

As you can gather, it’s a very small room. Smaller than it looks in the photos with even shorter ceilings—which meant I had to plan carefully and maximize the space without making it feel too heavy.

The room belongs to a sweet 5 year old boy named Cruz, and his mama and I thought he would love an outdoorsy/woodland/camping theme. That happens to be one of my favorite styles, so I loved every second of the planning process.

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

 

Figuring out how to accomplish all of this within a $250 budget was another challenge, however. It required a decent amount of research for each project and I had to choose my materials wisely, starting with these DIY fabric roman shades…

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The RevealFollowed by this rustic wood headboard & lamp for under $45…

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

And a DIY shelf and desk that cost far less than expected…

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Along with this no-sew canvas teepee

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

And a few last finishing touches like a handmade toy box, coat hook from scrap wood and this $4 felt pennant

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

And now, the grand finale! Introducing Cruz’s woodland/camp style bedroom makeover on a budget…

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

 

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

 

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

And my favorite part… the room reveal!

After I left his mom said he was lying in bed with a huge smile on his face… *tear*. Love this boy!

Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The RevealBudget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal Budget Boy's Room Makeover: The Reveal

Let’s break down the materials and costs. Everything not listed here is either something that was already owned or that I made/gifted them.

Fabric for roman shades: $37 / Joann

Headboard wall lamp & wall box/plate: $33 / Lowe’s

Wireless remote for wall lamp: $11.50 / Amazon

Utility light (by door): $5 / Lowe’s

Wood for desk & shelf: $15.32 / Lowe’s

Desk legs: $7.60 / Ikea

Stool: $5.39 / Ikea

Drop cloth for teepee: $10.50 / Lowe’s

Grommets for teepee: $4.26 / Joann

Teepee legs: $5.80 / Lowe’s

Hooks for coat rack: $5.90 / Lowe’s

Rope for toy box handles: $1.30 / Lowe’s

Felt for pennant: $3.50 / Joann

Art prints: Gifted / (16×20″) jennasuedesign.com and Ikea frames

GRAND TOTAL: $146.07

That’s almost $104 under budget! Can you believe it? Happy dances are definitely in order. This just goes to show that you don’t need an unlimited supply of cash to transform a space into something you love. In fact, I believe it’s so much more meaningful when there’s a story and personal touch behind it.

And on that note… this is the last room makeover you’ll see here for a while. I have some life changing news to share on Friday and I’m not sure if this blog will ever be the same. I haven’t been able to talk about it but I’m finally ready. Two more days…

73c1d-signature


DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag (for under $5!)

Stopping in today with one last quick and easy DIY project before the final budget boy’s room makeover reveal tomorrow!

So far I’ve completed a handful of significant upgrades to the space (roman shades, rustic wood headboard, shelf and desk, teepee) but I also wanted to add a small, personalized touch and had the perfect blank wall in mind…

DIY TeepeeIt’s the first thing you see when you walk into the room and I thought something cute and simple would be nice behind the teepee. Since we’re going with a woodland/camping/outdoorsy theme, I couldn’t get these vintage style pennant flags out of my head…

il_570xN.608463826_fgff

 

As this is a budget makeover, buying one was not an option and I knew it could be a super easy and cheap DIY.

I stopped by Joann’s and found sheets of felt that were perfect. They carry mostly 9×12″s but there were a few 12×18″s that were stiffer, perfect for the flag size and easier for cutting letters. So I bought one in dark green and one in white at $2.5/ea, and a 9×12″ in dark brown for the edge for 50 cents. After a 30% off coupon, my total came in at under $4!

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)The only other tools needed were scissors (and/or an Xacto knife) and hot glue.

Step 1: Cut your 12×18″ sheet into a triangle for your flag.

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)

Step 2: Cut strips for your border and ties.

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)Step 3: Measure your flag and decide on your lettering.

I set up a quick template in Illustrator and chose a bold font for easy cutting.

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)Once I had my letters to scale, I arranged them on an 8.5×11″ sheet and printed them on adhesive backed paper:

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)Step 4: Cut out your letters (I found an Xacto knife to be much easier).

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)Step 5: Peel the adhesive backing off and position each letter on your felt (or pin them down, trace the letters, or use temporary adhesive).

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)

Step 6:  Cut the letters out of your felt.

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)

Now you have all of your pieces ready to assemble.

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)Step 7: Hot glue everything together.

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)

Step 8: Step back and admire your creation:

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)

For less than five bucks, you really can’t go wrong here. To mount to the wall, I used a couple staples (with my hand stapler) hidden underneath the felt.

Here’s a sneak peek from tomorrow’s reveal…

DIY Personalized Felt Pennant Flag tutorial (for under $5!)

I can’t wait to share more! Editing those photos now. Stay tuned for the After photos along with a complete budget breakdown, grand total and source list!

73c1d-signature


A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

You remember our guest bathroom reveal back in May, right?

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

I can’t believe it’s only been three months… feels like a lifetime! Anyway, I went over each step of the renovation and broke it all down for you, but there’s just one project I haven’t talked about… the tub!

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

For weeks I was on the fence about how I wanted the tub to look. I was sold on a clawfoot, but wasn’t sure if I should paint it black or leave it white or something else entirely. This is the model I bought:

The company had an option to paint it at a very reasonable price which I considered… but I was nervous about the color matching the space once it arrived, so I waited to see it in person. It would have looked just fine in white, but I wanted this bathroom to be more than just fine. There was so much consideration put into everything else and the tub should be the focus of the room, so it had to be extra special. It sat in the garage to await its’ fate…

IMG_6267

In the end I decided black was a bit too dramatic and would compete with the floor so I wanted a soft warm gray, similar to the warm gray walls. Before anything was applied, I made sure to cover the surface with a good water based primer:

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

Once dry, I gave it a coat of the wall color (Valspar’s Gray Silt) just to see how I liked it.

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

I loved how it turned out but knew it would be too much next to the walls. After running through several visuals in my head, I got the idea to lighten the color and create a subtle patina so the tub looked aged. It seemed like it would be a perfect fit next to the classic cement tiles.

Not sure how to do this, I reached out to Maison Blanche Paint Company to stock up on several options so I could experiment.

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paintFor this project I used the lime paint in White Pepper, which is a very pale warm gray and chalk paint in Vanille. I also ordered a can their lime wax in white which would protect it and add another layer of texture.

I began by mixing both the lime and chalk paint in a bowl with a bit of water and applying it to my painted tub.

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

I used a brush at first but didn’t like the brush strokes so switched to a microfiber cloth.

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paintIt left a subtle white haze when dried which looked interesting, so I kept going, continuing to add layers until I had the color I wanted.

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paintThere was really no method to it… I just continued to add paint to specific areas and then buffed out others to reveal the darker colors underneath, creating a layered patina effect. You can see a bit of the texture here:A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

Once I was happy with the overall look, I applied a light coat of the lime wax to give it that finishing touch and added protection.

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paintHere’s a good look at the end result:

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paintI also had to figure out what to do with the legs…

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

After thinking it over, black seemed like a good bet. I had already ordered a can of chalk paint in Wrought Iron just in case along with Le Dirt, which is an antiquing dust you apply to cracks & crevices to give something a super authentically aged look.

This part was my favorite. The chalk paint really did make the feet look like wrought iron, and the Le Dirt made it look like they’d been around for centuries (or, at least decades…)

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paintOnce the tub was done and the feet were mounted, the tub was brought into the bathroom…

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

And the plumbing installed…

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

(I also gave the drain a coat of Wrought Iron chalk paint to match the feet, and it still looks great today).

The tub was a perfect fit but after being brought into a new lighting situation, I decided it was still too dark, so I repeated the paint and wax application process until it was just right (only on the visible side of the tub though… shh, don’t tell!)

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

And I’m still very much in love. So glad I rent this route.

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

It’s the icing on this room’s cake, don’t you think? Small details matter.

A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

Now don’t you want to go out and patina something? It’s a lot more exciting than just painting, and it was nice to delve into my artistic side again even if just for an afternoon. Huge thanks to Maison Blanche for letting me explore new products and test them out—they’ve been such a huge help in pulling this space together.

And with that, the guest bathroom tutorials are complete! If you missed anything, you can find a list of each week’s projects along with the sources in the reveal post.

A few of my blog friends also have some Before & Afters to share today… off to check them out now!A new tub turned vintage with lime & chalk paint

1: The Wood Grain Cottage

2: Liz Marie Blog

3: Jenna Sue Design

4: The Golden Sycamore

I’ll be back tomorrow with a final DIY project for my budget boy’s room makeover, and then the big reveal on Wednesday! Really looking forward to this one…

73c1d-signature


DIY Dropcloth Teepee (for around $20!)

The last major project for my boy’s budget bedroom makeover is complete! I had no idea how this would turn out since I wasn’t following a specific tutorial, but it’s now my favorite thing in the room (and I have a feeling Cruz will love it too!).

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

I’ve been making forts as long as I can remember—I keep vivid memories of our living room furniture draped in blankets and shadow puppets in the dark with flashlights. There’s something very nostalgic about makeshift hideaways and if I could relive my childhood, it would be the first thing I’d want in my room. So when it came time to plan Cruz’s woodland/rustic styled space, a teepee just made sense. What five year old boy wouldn’t love that?

Of course, this had to be done on the cheap (with a $250 budget for the entire room) so I headed to Pinterest to explore the possibilities. I found a handful of no-sew tutorials using canvas drop cloths, but the other challenge is the small space I was working with. There’s only a 36″ clearance from the wall to the door so I had to come up with an arrangement to fit inside these constraints and also maximize the space.

I ended up with five 1x2x8 furring strips ($5.80), a 6×9′ canvas drop cloth ($10.50) and grabbed some twine rope I had lying around (free).

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

 

To add some flair and secure the top, I also picked up a packet of eyelets from Joann’s ($4.26, not pictured) bringing the total to just over $20 (I used my Lowe’s credit card for 5% off and had a 30% off coupon at Joann’s).

The first step was cutting down the furring strips to 6′. You can leave them 8′ if you’re making a larger teepee, but I’m also working with 7′ ceilings so cutting them down was a must.

I grabbed my boards and tried arranging them into something that made the most sense. It’s a little tough balancing them on your own so I tied my twine around the tops to help hold them together before securing them (this part isn’t necessary though).

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

 

Using trial and error, I came up with a suitable layout and began tying them all together—looping in and around each board until they could stand on their own.Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

 

It’s important to note that they aren’t going to be 100% secure. This is actually a good thing so that 1) the teepee can be folded up if it ever needs to be moved 2) I could fit it inside my car, and 3) I could arrange the wood correctly once the teepee was in place.

I brought everything inside to a corner of the room I could recreate the layout and finish assembly.

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!After washing/drying and ironing the folds out of the drop cloth, I found the horizontal center (there’s a vertical seam going down it) and lined it up with the back leg of the teepee. Then I used a hand stapler to staple it in place at the top.

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!On the same leg, I added another staple in the center and one at the bottom for safety (the staples aren’t very visible but this is also the back and won’t be seen).

Then I wrapped each side around to the front, securing with a staple at the bottom of the next two legs.

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

There will be some extra cloth at the bottom which you can either trim with scissors (at the very end, once it’s in place!) or simply tuck underneath. I chose to just fold the excess inside.

Now that the cloth was in position, I folded the teepee back up and began to attach the grommets at the top where the two pieces came together.

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!I bought the kit that comes with the little attachment tool so I could simply hammer them into place. Easy breezy…

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!Then I lifted it back up into place, repositioned my legs and used twine to tie the top closed.

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!Cute, right?

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

With everything looking good, I brought the teepee over to Cruz’s room for reassembly. Once the legs were in the proper position, I added a couple more staples at the bottom of the remaining two legs.

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

 

I also brought some extra pom pom trim I had lying around and secured it to the opening with liquid stitch.

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!Another fun DIY project, in the bag…Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

I found my makeshift sheepskin “rug” (cut from fluffy fabric, used underneath our Christmas tree last year) and thought it would be perfect inside the teepee.

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!Cruz won’t see it until Monday… and I’ll be there with my camera to capture his reaction. I can’t wait!

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

Step by step tutorial on how to make a simple, no sew dropcloth teepee for around $20!

Now it’s all about the finishing touches. I have a few small projects in the works and plan to finish setting everything up Monday before Cruz sees it. Hopefully I’ll pop in Tuesday with one more quick and easy DIY before the big reveal Wednesday. And now that everything has been bought, I’m happy to report that I came in way under budget. Can you believe it? I thought for sure we’d go over. I’m looking forward revealing the price breakdown on Wednesday to show you how a little creativity can go a long way.

Have a fabulous Friday & weekend! Next week will be jam packed with 4 days of posts, and one week from today I’ll be dropping a bomb of an announcement. You definitely won’t want to miss it…

73c1d-signature