Our Greatest Journey Yet

Winter 2014: Follow my footsteps and discover new worlds with me.

Granada Nicaragua

In Search or the Perfect Ceviche and other adventures out soon in my TravelOkcity column, Leisure+Adventure Magazine, and here.

Marshall Islands

Got Wasabi? (A deep sea fishing adventure in the Marshall Islands)

Prairie Dog Town

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Hefner Lake Park

Adventures in the city of Oklahoma and beyond in my travel column, TravelOkcity.

Huahin, Thailand

The warm hospitality of a boutique hotel in the beach resort town of royalty in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My love story

Published by Pinay.com



I once met a Spanish dreamer who said that “travel is a love story.”

My husband and I had just arrived at her little rustic inn hidden by trees from the rest of Little Corn Island, and she had asked me what I did for a living.  I told her I was a travel writer which started her waxing poetic. Watching her looking out at the sea, her eyes reflecting the quiet ebbing of the waves, she got me thinking of what we had to go through to get there.

Sitting on the edge of the Caribbean, Little Corn Island is one of Nicaragua’s best kept secrets. To get there, my husband and I had to get on a 10-seater plane from the city of Managua. After lurching and wobbling through the clouds for one and a half hours, it got us to Big Corn Island in one piece.

At Big Corn, a cheerful Creole drove us to the dock where we waited for our boat at a restaurant by the water, observing dark-skinned fishermen clean their catch on the shoreline. We watched the fish being gutted and its blood streaming like a dream into the water. Our ceviche was as fresh as could be.

The boat was larger than our plane, but we were packed like excited sardines baking under the sun. It rocked uncertainly under our weight. When we finally arrived at Little Corn, the journey was far from over. We walked for 30 minutes, dragging our heavy bags along a roughly cleared path through the jungle.  Coconut trees nodded overhead as if to say, “welcome,” but I hardly noticed. I was thirsty, tired, and my shoes were digging blisters on my heels. I wanted to blame my husband for choosing a place so difficult to get to. Instead I bit my lip, because I could hear him cursing under his breath, having to carry my extra load.
 
Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What’s Missing in the Read+Write Equation of Success



An excerpt from my guest post in Editorial IV, a place for news, opinions, leaders, and intelligent debate. 




I’ve read quite a number of writer’s memoirs not only because they are interesting reads, but also because I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my craft. There is plenty to learn from them in the craft of writing and the art of living. What they all have in common is that they all subscribe to the Read+Write equation for success. According to many of the literati, if you want to be a great writer, then you must read much and write more. It is a tried and tested formula resulting usually to a Pulitzer Prize or a spot on the N.Y. Times bestseller list.


Writing while on assignment at Huahin, Thailand.


Some have even longer equations like read+write+read, read+read+write+write, and several other combinations. Each one promises success. But whatever happened to the variant called “live”, I wonder. What about living? Shouldn’t that be part of the equation too? In fact, shouldn’t it be the most important part of the formula?

One of my favorite writers answers by saying that if you want to be a great writer, you must forget about having a life. And that’s when the equation fell apart for me.    He said that when he waits in line, to buy a ticket for instance or wait at the doctor’s office, his nose is always half buried between pages. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather people watch. I prefer watching the mom with a crying baby on one arm and a phone on the other while a toddler tugs at her leg, and I wonder how she manages it all. I think about how it must be like in the morning when several things are pulling her in different directions. I imagine there is a dog or cat waiting at home too, waiting to be fed. All this visualizing - isn’t that in a way storytelling too? Or at least, the beginnings of a story?

 
The books can wait (Tulum, Mexico).

Pardon me if I fail to mention the name of this royalty of the letters whose words I consider gospel (except for this “not having a life” part). I couldn’t find my copy of his writer’s memoir, and I don’t want to misquote him. What I’m writing about is simply what I remember from reading his book which is like most of his novels- pulls you in and never lets go (if you want to know who this writer is and what the title of the book is email me at www.anaviajera.com).

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe the the reason why I do not have a notable award to speak of yet is because I would rather romp barefoot on the grass than sit inside, forsaking the sun, to read about life although it is out there waiting for me.

Read the complete article at Editorial IV.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Still on a different Time Zone? Here's how to Beat Jet Lag



Ahh...the pains you have to go through to get to paradise (Corn Island, Caribbean).
Published by Action and Fitness Magazine

You’re back in Manila, but your mind and body clock is still in New York. That’s not a good thing when there is a night and day difference between cities. Everyone around you is getting up and at ‘em, while you walk around in a daze, ready to crash any moment. You got the travel bug, and it’s not the good kind. It’s called jet lag, the kind that punishes your body for the 14 hour long haul flight and the 12 hour time difference. There’s is no way you can turn back time, but there is a way to squash the bug. Here are a few quick turnaround tips:


 

Quick fixer-uppers
 
Hydrate – drink lots of fluids before, during, and after the flight. The dry cabin air can leave you dehydrated and can make you feel more tired than you already are. And when we say drink lots of fluids, we don’t mean the complimentary in flight beer or vodka on the rocks.

Rest – make sure you’re well rested before your trip. If you’re tired before you travel, jet lag will even be worse. Get a full night’s sleep before you take off.

Exercise – a no brainer, don’t you think? Staying in good shape in general can do lots of wonders. Stick to your exercise schedule. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your fitness routine should be on leave too.

Stretch - Athletes stretch and warm up before the game. You can benefit from that as well. Stretch out your limbs before the flight. Doing so helps your muscles and joints endure the hours of inactivity. You can also do it during the flight.


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Fly fully equipped – bring a neck pillow, a blindfold, slippers, and earplugs. Wear loose fitting clothes so your body can breathe. Your feet may swell up while in transit; avoid high heels or snug footwear.

Freshen up – while in flight, wash your face, brush your teeth, or even change undies. Freshening up can be rejuvenating.

Go decaf -   After the equivalent of 1 P.M. in your destination, refrain from drinking coffee.  Caffeine can greatly affect your snooze time and will make it more difficult for you to adjust to the new time zone.

Eat up – on the first few days of your trip, eat light snacks every few hours. Doing so will help keep your metabolism cranked throughout the day. It will also help prevent possible food coma from overeating.

Adapt - upon arrival, follow the schedule of the time zone you are in.  Even if you don’t feel like it yet, eat when the locals eat. Same goes for your sleeping schedule.

Shower – take a nice cold shower if you arrive in the morning. A shower after you’ve landed will make you feel refreshed and will help stimulate circulation. If you arrive at night, a hot shower or bath will help you relax before bedtime.



Readjusting your clock

According to the National Sleep Foundation, it will take you about a day to adjust for each time zone travelled.  Adjust your snooze button before your departure.  Several days before your flight:
Westward:  always wake up an hour later and sleep an hour later
Eastward: always wake up an hour earlier and sleep an hour earlier

You can also pre adjust by regulating your light exposure before your departure. If you’re heading:
Westward: expose yourself to light in the late afternoon and evening, and stay away from light in the morning 
Eastward: expose yourself to light in the morning, and stay away from light in the evening

Anti-jetlag diet  



Follow the following diet days before you’re scheduled to leave:

4 days before – start the Argonne Diet by consuming large meals. Opt for a high-protein breakfast and lunch. For dinner, stock up on the carbohydrates. Coffee intake should be limited between three and five in the afternoon.

3 days before – eat small. Total calorie consumption should not be more than 800 calories. You won’t be running a marathon so easy on the carbohydrates as well. Again, limit caffeine intake between three to five P.M.

2 days before – Gobble it all up. Eat large meals. Again, prepare high-protein meals for breakfast and lunch, and a high-carbohydrate dinner. Limit caffeine intake between three to five P.M.

1 day before – eat small and light. Total calorie consumption should not be more than 800 calories. Similarly, limit carbohydrate consumption. If you’re westbound, caffeine should only be taken in the morning. If you’re heading the opposite direction, coffee should be limited in the evenings.

Departure day – If it’s a long haul flight, sleep until breakfast time at your destination. Consume large meals with a big, high-protein breakfast.  

 
To pill or not to pill

Taking sleep aids may help you get a good sleep, but incorrect sleep medication, can only make jet lag worse. Here are some things to consider before popping the pill:
 
-          The National Sleep Foundation does not recommend over the counter sleep aids as they may cause a severe hangover effect.
-          If you are considering melatonin, a hormone produced by the body to induce sleep, take a pill at the time you wish to sleep at your destination, beginning three to four days before your trip.
-          Drink 0.5 to 5 mg of melatonin no earlier than three hours before you wish to go to sleep.
-          Taking melatonin with a light therapy box is known to reduce the effects of jet lag. A light therapy box gives off light that mimics outdoor light. It is often used to treat depression and other conditions caused by exposure to bright artificial light.
-          For a good four hour sleep, consider Sonata.
-          For long haul flights, you may want to take Lunesta. This sleep medication guarantees about 8 hours of sleep.
-          If you’re using Ambien, avoid taking it for a flight that is less than 8 hours long. Also, do not take with alcohol.
-          Remember that taking sleeping pills can cause nausea, dizziness, confusion, headache, vomiting, and dry mouth.
-          You may also want to try antihistamines and motion sickness pills to induce sleep.
-          Consult your doctor before taking any of these medications.
 
Get moving in-flight

If you’re not getting any sleep, might as well get moving. Combat discomfort, poor circulation, swelling, cramps, and lethargy by exercising in flight.  
 
-          Walk around the aisles when seatbelts signs are off.
-          Squeeze a tennis ball or even a balled up sock with your hands until they’re tired.
-          You derrière gets the most beating during long haul flights. Exercise your gluteus muscles by flexing and holding as long as possible.
-          With the balls of your feet planted, raise your legs using the calf muscles. Place your hand carry on your knees for more resistance. Repeat until tired.
-          Do repetitive, head, shoulder, and arm rolls.
-          Stretch your arms and legs constantly. Arch your torso forward and backwards like a cat.

 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Our Greatest Journey - Winter 2014

 
 
 
 

Winter has been so kind to us this year. It has gifted us with many days of sun, days of blissful 70s weather occasionally gloomed by the “teens” (with a pretty dusting of snow as consolation) as if to remind us that winter is still very much present. But then we can’t complain. In a few days we are off to Tulum, Mexico for our yearly winter escape.
 
Wake me up when winter ends.
I know I’ve said this before, but every year, we decorate the foot of our Christmas tree with Christmas books before Santa comes in to replace them with presents. I’ve collected over a dozen Christmas books and was going to feature one of my son’s favorites. But at the last minute, I’ve chosen The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a children’s book, as the winter book for several reasons. First, I’ve been very pleased with how my son has taken to reading. We read every day, twice a day (before naptime and bedtime) at least two books every time. Sometimes he’d try to prolong going to sleep with an emphatic “one more” or “last one” until we’ve read about 4.
  
Our first Christmas in our new home.
There is always a favored one every week, one we’d read over and over again every day and one of them is The Very Hungry Caterpillar about  -you guessed it – a famished insect who ate through the whole week. Written and illustrated by Eric Carle, the picture book is a fun tale for toddlers that teaches them about what happens when one overeats while learning about the days of the week, counting, and different foods. I had gotten a small board book but it got waterlogged when I set it by the fish tank, so I moved the fish down to the kitchen, also because his bookshelf is starting to get really crowded (Because of the flurry of activities, I had failed to mention that we had gotten a dragon scale betta fish last spring for our son and had parked the little aquarium in his bookcase. The fish called Una is almost a year old now. We’re very surprised he survived this long).



One of our new Christmas books is The Night before Christmas

a Little Golden Book specially printed

by my husband’s company for the kids.


 
As replacement for the board book, I found this coloring book version of the Very Hungry Caterpillar. I thought it was perfect, because we’ve been staying indoors a lot this season. Christmas and winter are all about crafts, trying to keep an ever curious and restless toddler busy with paste, paints, and crayons. You will find the book on the banner, opened up to the butterfly page in anticipation of spring.
 
Christmas (and the entire winter) was all about crafts.
 

Also on the desk is a tulip, part of the Valentine bouquet from my husband, because Tulips are very significant to us. Many say that tulips are symbolic of perfect love and eternal life. This spring blossom is also a favorite flower of someone very dear to me, my angel, who was lifted up to heaven a long time ago.
 
Una is surviving winter.
 
Several years back, I had asked St. Therese for a sign to know if my boyfriend then (now my husband) is the one I will be spending my happy-ever-after with. And when I received a bouquet of roses (St. Therese’s sign of an answered prayer), it was wrapped in paper printed with Holland tulips. Call me nostalgic, superstitious, and a romantic fool, but I thought it was almost like my angel was telling me: “go and move forward. He’s the one.”  And so I walked down the aisle to meet my best friend with a bunch of burnt orange tulips held tight. I’ve never let go since.
 
My bridal bouquet of burnt orange tulips, heralds of spring.
 

On St. Valentine’s Day, we renewed our vows in a little chapel along with about a dozen couples, a majority of them were elderly couples, and we were probably the youngest pair. I found it meaningful, to be surrounded with older couples who still strive to strengthen their marriage even after all these years. The Rev. Bishop Patrick Zurek officiated the Celebration and Recommitment of Sacramental Love. For our marriage to be blessed by a bishop no less made the ceremony even more significant. He said that there is something liberating about committing to love, to one person. How ironic but true. It then occurred to me that on the day that I tied the knot, I was freed.
 
With my Valentine and Ever-After.
 

The place card on the desk is from the dinner after the service. Last year, we celebrated valentines on the beach, under the stars, with a Swiss couple. I hope our Valentine’s celebration next year will be another unique occasion (not that there is anything wrong with the usual wining and dining).

A little greeting from my cupid.
 
I usually feature a travel item/gear and for this season, it’s my favorite winter tote. It’s an oldie from Michael Korrs, a metallic silver tote with leather straps. It’s light and roomy enough for my personal effects, my camera, and diapers (which I hope to be rid of in the next few weeks). And because it’s silver, it’s a great accessory to brighten up my outfits this winter.
 
This metallic MK tote brightens up my winter wardrobe.
 
And finally, the paisley notebook is my journal for 2013 as I say farewell to another beautiful year. It sits on the National Geographic magazine to welcome Our Greatest Journey yet: 2014.

 
Here's a to a blessed and beautiful year ahead!

 
     *********

As the seasons change, so will my desktop banner. I will be adding little touches to it, moving the items around, and customizing it for the season. I will archive its transformation on My Desk. 

Read more about how I put the banner together and how my real writer's desk looks like at My Desk. And tell me how your desk looks like, and I will tell you who you are.

 
 


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Better Blocks in OKC

From my TravelOKCity Column



Living in the city, I have always been drawn to creative dynamic districts. Instead of going to the hippest nightspot, I prefer places alive not with blaring Lady GaGa but with folksy local tunes. I love places of diversity where owners of pop-up businesses can share artisan coffee with conglomerates and talk about homegrown art. A thriving place that offers a wide variety of options for the craving palate and the hungry soul seeking self-expression and stimulation. A green society that creatively benefits from the environment without taking advantage of it.

Better Block OKC is in the process of building these communities, street by street, block by block.  A city movement, Better Block OKC is a community revitalization project initiated by Urban Land Oklahoma Institute (ULI), an organization that advocates the responsible use of land and supports in creating and sustaining thriving communities. In alignment with ULI’s commitment, Better Block OKC aims to change the way we live in an urban landscape by temporarily demonstrating how to improve an area with pedestrian and public infrastructure combined with art, culture, pop-up businesses, and street life. I’ve heard a few call it the dream of the Millennials, a place similar to the plazas and markets in Europe where people can lounge, commune, and be inspired. 
 


Indeed, wouldn’t it be wonderful to step out of your home into a block party or a town fiesta? Or to have a buzzing market with fresh produce and affordable crafts just a walking distance away? I’d like to have a used bookstore and a café just next-door where I can take a break from my writing without breaking the bank.

Last month, I stepped into this aspired world at NW7th and Hudson where Better Block OKC launched its first project, transforming an area that would have been otherwise just another region in the city into a hub of activity.
 
 

Trucks lined the streets selling all sorts of food fare from waffles to eggrolls.  Establishments took their café tables and chairs out to join the party. Makeshift stalls sold fresh fruits and vegetables. Shops like OUI showcased handmade and one of a kind jewelry, paper garlands, weavings, and ceramics from independent artists and designers from LA, NY, and OKC.

A pop-up flower shop bloomed with rainforest-certified, free-trade roses from Ecuador. Farm-direct flowers like ranunculus, jumbo hydrangeas, Starfighters, and white Oriental lilies filled the air with the smell of spring and the promise of a blossoming summer.Art installations also decorated the sidewalk, adding to the festivities.  Recycled bottles were used as planters and hung in strings forming a “green” curtain against a brick wall.
 
Add caption
 

While lining up for Belgian waffles, I witnessed street art in the works. Two young men busied themselves with spray paint, one balancing on a small ladder, the other on a bicycle. Their masterpiece expressed the sentiment of the entire state: a bright yellow thunder rumbling over the opposing team.   

The whole process was art itself, including the spectators taking it all in with their eyes and their camera phones. They gathered around in an almost perfect half circle as the artists moved, in sync to the music, sometimes in unison, sometimes in response to each other’s movement as if they were in a standoff. Their agile bodies swayed this way and that, stretching their arms as far as they could reach to bring forth color.
 
 

Better Block OKC was also Better Bark OKC. The 2 day event encouraged furry friends to come by as long as they were on leashes.

 Everything inspired creativity and community to urge the people to get more involved.  An interactive chalk wall encouraged revelers to share their thoughts about community building or simply have fun by making up their own once-upon-a-time –stories by filling in the blanks.
 
 

Little notebooks were handed out for visionaries to write their ideas and suggestions for the city.   “Think big and broad. Now and later. Detailed and big picture. But most of all, remember that your ideas matter,” encourages the first page.  “Be a player in your neighborhood; champion its needs, and help us build a better OKC.” Pages are like worksheets or activity sheets where people can draw, doodle, or simply dream.

I don’t know when the next Better Block party is, but soon as I hear about it, I’ll let you know and we’ll have a party.