Posts tagged simple living
5 Things We Do When We're Feeling Unmotivated

Ivan here.

Having spent all of my life in a big city, I never pictured myself moving to some remote village in the countryside to raise kids and grow a vegetable garden. In this fantasy, Jennie and I would adopt a pair of cats - one black and one white. We’d name the white one Tofu, and the black one Mu, the Chinese character for nothing, or nonexistence.

 
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Mu, said the cat.

Mu, said the cat.

 

That way, when the white cat jumps on the black cat, they'd essentially be canceling each other out. A block of tofu plunging into the abyss.

This desire to “escape” pretty much sums up Jennie’s and my mood over the past few weeks, and is the reason why we haven’t published anything. Don’t get me wrong - we tried. We must’ve written 3,000-4,000 words between the two of us, each word as fucking meaningless as the next. Words tinged with cynicism and frustration with nameless “people” and you know, “society,” and claims about “the world” not backed by any sort of data. 

But I guess readers are looking for a more concrete explanation. I wish I could put my finger on one thing, but I think there are multiple factors at play.

In no particular order:

1. Immigration: Detainment and Bureaucracy

Following my detainment at the border, I scheduled an appointment at the LA immigration office to sort out my expired green card. This was when I learned that the "normal processing time" for new green cards had doubled to 24 months (from 12 months). This means Jennie and I are guaranteed to be interrupted on our RTW trip, and will be forced to fly back to the U.S. for (yet another) round of interviews.

2. Complacency: We Are Ready To Embark On Our Next Adventure...

We just hit our two year mark in Los Angeles. For readers that have been with us since our first post, 24 months is pretty much our limit for how long we like to stay in one place. These days, we’re restless, irritable, and frankly, a little too safe and comfortable.

3. "Meritocracy": BULLSHIT and EGO As A Substitute for the Work and Ability

You don’t need a Pulitzer Prize to know that the tech industry can be a pretty inhospitable place for women. Even so, we sorely underestimated how clique-ish and fucked up Silicon Valley could be.  To quote the iconic monologue from the movie Bladerunner: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”


5 Things We Do When We’re Feeling Unmotivated


1. Step away and listen to music:

Music is a reminder that no matter where you are in the world and how you’re feeling about humanity at the moment, there are people who exist “out there” who have the ability to create beautiful things, and if you’re able to appreciate and be moved by that beauty, then maybe, just maybe, that ability to create something beautiful exists inside of you too.

Then, all of a sudden, you’re not just some mindless cog in the machine, slaving away at a 9 to 5 when you should be on your RTW trip already. You’re a human being who can still feel something that transcends your current surroundings. And this is a wonderful thing.
 

2. Break from your everyday routine:

After my appointment at the immigration office, where I learned that the normal processing time had doubled, and that some beaten-down public servant in Nebraska was still processing applications submitted under a different President, while the portrait of the sitting one leered at her from a gray and hopeless wall, I decided that instead of retreating back to my apartment and stewing over it, I needed a beer. Now.

That’s how I ended up eating mediocre Chinese food at Grand Central Market and knocking back watered down Budweisers at 11 in the morning. The Brazilian brewer who now owns this iconic American brand had cut so many corners that it was now impossible to get drunk off of this beverage. But it didn’t matter. I was drunk on rebellion.
 

3. Exercise (strenuously):

I haven’t done this yet, but I will have by the time this post is published. The best way to get rid of frustration and/or complacency is to find a track or open field somewhere, and just sprint until your lungs give out and your legs are so sore you just want to curl up into a fetal position on the field because you don’t have the energy to make your way home.

This is also a reminder that there are people out there who actually have to physically work for a living, and that whatever perceived injustices you think may have befallen you is not only insignificant, but borderline imaginary.
 

4. Let go of aNY expectations

One of the main things I learned after spending a month writing in the Taiwanese countryside is that it’s absolutely possible to work and produce without motivation. It’s actually one of the hallmarks of being a professional. First, you just have to let go of any hope or expectation that the work will be any good, or that you have any semblance of an image or reputation to protect, and the words will gush out of you like groundwater.

Just remember to filter out the raw sewage after it’s all said and done.  
 

5. Remind yourself that everything is temporary

Here are some photos I took from my antique iPhone 4 during my month-long stay in Chishang Township in Taitung county, a sparsely populated region on the southeastern seaboard of Taiwan.

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I plan on writing a detailed post on the things I did there (in Tatung), but I can say with certainty that I’ve never felt more creatively rejuvenated by an experience. So rejuvenated in fact, that I thought I could carry that feeling of lightness and productivity with me when I returned to Los Angeles.

But of course, the exact opposite happened: I completed my backlog of client work with excruciating difficulty, I missed two blog post deadlines, and wrote zero more words of fiction. The time I spent in rural Taiwan seemed like a whole lifetime ago. How could I ever have been so relaxed, productive and spontaneous? To use the military slang, Jennie and I now find ourselves firmly “in the shit.”

But then again, won’t this moment be temporary too? In the grand scheme of things, won’t this final stretch be something that quickly fades in memory?  If so, then what’s the use of complaining and acting as if things will never change?

It’s better to remind ourselves that all the good or bad things that have happened to us, as well everything that has yet to happen, is all temporary. The most important thing is to stay focused on our long term plans and goals and to navigate this rough patch with at least some semblance of patience and dignity.


All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
— Roy Batty, Bladerunner


Why Should We Care What People Think?

“But how will this look?”


Ivan here.

Thanksgiving is coming up, bringing families together to celebrate the anniversary of when a boatload of immigrants crossed the Atlantic to settle in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where they proceeded to take jobs and land away from ordinary, working class Americans.

But I’m being petty - which is the opposite of what this holiday is supposed to be about.


The Least Productive Question In the World


For obvious reasons, my family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. The closest Taiwanese equivalent is the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is held in August or the eighth month of the lunar calendar. On this holiday, we Taiwanese like to take our flip flops and plastic footstools to the river to stake out spots for an impromptu, hobo-style barbecue.

But no matter what the holiday season, it’s always stressful when extended families come together. We’ve all got our own ways of dealing with this. I can’t speak for Jennie’s side of the family, but there’s one thing my family does that I have no patience for, and it starts with a single question:

“But how will this look?”

This is the question that sets most people off on a path to making one bad decision after another.

Here are some examples taken from our life:


1. What Will People Think

When They See My Wallet?


Here’s a picture of my wallet.

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I’ve had it for almost ten years. It looks like it'd been chewed on by a dog for at least that long. It’s too bulky for most of my pockets and I can’t keep coins smaller than quarters or they’ll fall out of the ever-expanding hole.

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But it’s my wallet, and I like it.

While I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m both stubborn and a cheapskate, those aren’t the reasons why I still have this wallet. I have this wallet because Jennie bought it for me in Kyoto nearly ten years ago for 1,000 yen ($10). I like the yellow-checkered pattern (or what’s left of it). I like that when I showed it to an old friend from our Kyoto days in Chicago last month, he laughed and remembered the exact store I got it from.

Why should I apologize for the things I like?

A few years ago, I was in the Toronto financial district, about to pay for lunch with a few co-workers. I whipped out my wallet from the inner pocket of my Brooks Brothers jacket.

“That’s your wallet!?” said the sales guy in the Hugo Boss suit.

“Yep,” I said.

“No offense buddy,” he said. “But that’s disgusting. You should invest in a Louis Vuitton.”

“I don’t know,” I said as I paid the tab. “I like it.”

There was no point in arguing, but if I had to explain it in sports terms so that he might've understood - here’s Odell Beckham Jr on Twitter:

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2. What Will People Think

Seeing Us At a Bus Stop?


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Jennie got rid of her car recently, which means we’re back to using public transit and ride-sharing. This is strange for Los Angeles. Very few people here ride public transit unless it’s the only thing they can afford.

But the neighborhood we live in is actually perfectly situated for public transit. There’s an express line running right past our apartment that takes us to Venice Beach in 20 minutes, Jennie’s office in 30 and downtown L.A. within the hour. There are also four grocery stores and a farmer’s market within a five mile radius - more than accessible by a $5 Lyft ride. We are very “lucky” because early on, we made conscious decisions about where to live and how much space we actually needed.

It was early afternoon on Friday. Jennie and I were waiting at a bus stop in front of a run-down Carl’s Jrs. We were planning to run some errands and get some camping gear for our upcoming trip to Joshua Tree.

Weekend traffic had already picked up. An obnoxiously loud sports car inched by. All that horsepower, no room to run. I watched the middle-aged man in the driver’s seat, and fantasized about sitting across from him at a poker table. His psychological profile must be practically childlike. It’d be like taking candy from a baby.

“I wonder what people think driving past us,” said Jennie, interrupting the royal flush I was on the verge of making.

Here, I saw my opening to quote my favorite character from Game of Thrones:

“A lion, Jennie, doesn’t concern herself with the opinions of the sheep.”

Editor’s note: I rolled my eyes.


3. What Will People Think When

We Turn in Empty Bottles at CVS?


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Tap water is completely safe to drink in Los Angeles, but has a strange aftertaste that lies somewhere between chlorine and rust. Our apartment is also a pre-1970s structure and has lead pipes. For those reasons, Jennie and I started buying bottled water from Costco since moving from Boston.

This leaves us with the problem of getting our $0.05 deposits back for our bottles. We drink a LOT of water, so that’s about $10 a month worth of deposits.

Luckily for us, there’s a CVS right next to the Japanese grocery store we shop at that takes bottles. Perfect, I thought. We can get our deposit back without going out of our way.

Jennie was more hesitant. The thought of standing in line at CVS just to get $10 triggered some flashbacks of growing up in poverty.

“I’d do it myself,” I said. “But the limit is 100 bottles a person and they only take bottles on Sunday.”

“It just brings back bad memories.”

“Okay, so what do you want to do? Just throw away $10? Not a great message to send to all the poor kids out there: Ten dollars? No thanks. Too embarrassed.”

“Why aren’t you embarrassed?”

“Because I’m going to do what I want, when I want. What everyone else thinks is irrelevant.”

“Besides,” I added. “Most people are just like you and me - they’re too busy thinking about themselves to worry about anyone else.”


So, What’s the Right Question?


I used examples from our life to illustrate something that we all struggle with. That is, understanding the fine, virtually indistinguishable line between:

  1. What we want

  2. What we think we should want

Do I want an expensive sports car because I enjoy driving and appreciate fine automotive engineering? Or because I think chicks will dig me in this car and that an outward symbol of my success will compensate for my inner feeling of inadequacy?

Do I want a big house because I plan on raising a large family and the price tag is well within my means? Or because I always imagined myself as an owner of a big house that’s the envy of my family, friends and neighbors?

And on and on it goes. For everything.

This is just my personal opinion, but I think the more we think about “how something looks,” the less likely we are to end up making the optimal decision.

Because the right question should always be:

Does this add value to my life
and the lives of those I care about?”



What It's Like To Live In Los Angeles Without A Car & What I've Learned

Reverting back to a life in Los Angeles where I use public transportation every day.  


Jennie here.

As you know, Ivan and I spent most of last month traveling across America by train. At the tail end of our trip, we stayed in Boston for a week. And you know what I realized? In just seven measly days, I saw more interesting people and things riding public transit in Boston, than I ever did in a year and a half of driving in Los Angeles.

So I did the logical thing: I called my older brother in Denver from Boston Logan Airport, and told him that if he booked a ticket out to LA, my 1995 red Toyota Corolla, the car my grandfather gave me before he died, the car with only 45,000 miles on it because he only drove it to and from church, could be his - for the price of free.

You sure you don’t want money for it?” he asked.
Nope. Just promise me to take care of it and keep it in the family,” I said.

A week later, I found myself standing in the driveway, waving as I watched its tail-lights disappear around the corner. It was a long drive back to Denver.

Bye car,” I said.

Hello public transit.

***

One of the first people I met on the bus was a chubby kid. He looked about 15 and spoke with a lisp that got noticeably worse whenever he got excited.


This was what I had been missing. I could learn more about this city and what it values by riding public transit than I could ever could getting stuck in traffic.

The moment the chubby kid got on the bus, he saw his friend, ran up to him, and started chatting enthusiastically. He was wearing a beat-up Trader Joe’s canvas bag for a backpack and a pair of Under Armour sneakers that was so old and worn out you could hardly tell what the original color was. His clothing was frayed and a little too short for his arms.

He looked so happy.

I recognized this kid instantly. That kid was me back in the day. I was that chubby kid who in spite of all obstacles was excited and positive about life. And even as my heart went out to him, I realized something:

This was what I had been missing. I could learn more about this city and what it values by riding public transit than I ever could getting stuck in traffic.


Here’s what I saw and learned through

four separate encounters on Los Angeles public transit:


SOURCE: http://www.mingasson.com/features/los-angeles-by-bus
These gorgeous photos belong to Gilles Mignasson. And I think he did a fantastic job at capturing the essence of the Los Angeles cultural fabric and people. 

1.     Most Angelenos who rely on public transportation come from low-income households and are predominantly people of color.

I’d see nannies going into the westside to take care of children from wealthy families, restaurant line cooks headed into Santa Monica’s tourist district, and other laborers at the end of their two or three hour work commute.

My key takeaway: All it takes is a conscious effort to look up and around at your surroundings. In my case, I saw buses full of people that I could have been or could still become. It really puts “shitty” weather in LA and the traffic and all the little things that we like to complain about into perspective. You realize most of these things aren’t problems at all - they’re weaknesses. Things we’ve allowed ourselves to grow accustomed to.

2.    People with disabilities (either mental or physical) and seniors often use public transit and you don’t always know what you’ll encounter.

During my first month in Los Angeles, I didn’t have my car yet and used the bus everyday to commute to and from work. One afternoon, I somehow found myself pushed over to an inside seat by a tall and extremely obese African American woman. She began heckling a teenager sitting across from us, throwing handfuls of granola at him. When it came time for me to get off the bus, I politely asked her to let me out and she replied with, “If you want to get off this bus, you have to climb over my dead fucking body”. I had no idea what to do and there was a bus full of people. So, what did I do? I climbed over her body; the entire back of the bus watched in disbelief as she heckled me, called me a racist, and threw fistfuls of granola at me until I got off the bus.

My key takeaway: It was one of my first experiences on the LA Metro system and I was scared shitless. I was uncomfortable and unsure of how to deescalate the situation with this woman who seemed mentally unstable. But at the same time, I understood that these people were on the bus for a reason: they had nowhere else to go.

3.    People who don’t choose to use public transit...are well, choosing to ignore what’s right in front of them.

The great thing about mass public transit in large cities like San Francisco, New York, or Philadelphia is that you can to see a good cross-section of the city, of people from different social classes mingling. And that means that whether you like it or not, you’re exposing yourself to different walks of life. This is a huge reason why I don’t think a lot of middle class Angelenos understand that they’re part of the problem in America, one that ignores a lot of harsh realities the average Americans faces, simply because they don’t have to (or don’t want to) think about it. These same people then turn around and wonder what happened to our country.

My key takeaway: Even though public transit is ultimately safer, more environmentally friendly, and better for the community - most people in LA still choose their cars because there’s “no alternative” or because “it’s unsafe” (which is statistically untrue). The real reason is because being confronted by reality and hardship is something that makes people uncomfortable.

4.    I can be a judgemental asshole.

If I’m being honest, I’ve written Los Angeles off long ago as a shallow, false-genuine city that's borderline illiterate. One morning, I was headed into the office and as I got on the bus I noticed a guy in his mid-twenties reading (what seemed like) an interesting book. And in that moment, I realized that I was an asshole for writing off people that I barely had any exposure to.

My key takeaway: Most of the people I know at work live on the westside of Los Angeles, which happens to be the more prosperous area of town. I mean, only out-of-touch, over privileged millennials could call a rent-controlled $2,000 a month one bedroom in Palms a “steal”, right? Because of my exposure to such people at work, I had a certain notion about Angelenos - and that kind of makes me part of the problem too.

***

Riding a city's public transportation tells you a lot about its people, cultural fabric, and overall values. What does yours look like?



6 Things We Learned Travelling Across America by Train (10/13 - 10/28)

Ivan here.

It’s been a while.

Over the past two weeks, Jennie and I travelled from Los Angeles to Boston - by Amtrak rail. We spent nearly 100 hours on trains, making 24 to 48 hour stopovers in the following cities: San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston.

We’re calling this Part 1 of our “Goodbye America” tour, before we leave for our round the world trip in 2018.

Here are just some of the things we learned travelling across America:


1. Life In Prison Reflects Life Outside Prison


April (not her real name), our Uber driver to Los Angeles Union Station, once worked as a mental health practitioner at one of LA’s largest prisons. During her two year internship, there were five suicides in her ward - or “pod” as she called it. Pods look something like this:

Prisoners with mental illnesses wear yellow jumpsuits and live together in one pod. The handicapped wear brown. Child molesters wear red. Celebrities (like Chris Brown) get their own separate pod, away from the ‘general population,’ a term which applies to your garden variety inmate, who wears blue.

Jennie and I learned that life in prison is very similar to life outside.

The politics in prison is the same as the real world: knowing whose hands to grease to use the phones or to buy a bag of Doritos from the vending machine. With prison overcrowding and budget cuts lowering the standard of living for guards and inmates alike, everyone tries to do more with less. Social tensions run high. While the State segregates inmates by crime for easier management and control, the inmates self-segregate by race just to get by.

In other words, America.

I was trapped in a windowless cell, same as everyone else, from 8 AM to 6 PM. The only difference was that I got to go home every night.
— April

 2. Light and Shadow in Salt Lake City


 
 

In Salt Lake City, a city which by the way, has the cleanest Taco Bells in America, Jennie and I witnessed an obvious case of unconscious bias. It was Sunday morning. We were leaving Temple Square after a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Maybe I’m just a bad guy, but I found every Mormon I ever met to be...creepily nice. It’s like the cameras were rolling and I was walking through the set of The Stepford Wives.

Anyway, like most other affluent cities, things got noticeably “less nice” once you stepped onto public transit.

At the light rail station, a young black male was making his way along the platform, asking strangers for a light for his cigarette.

I saw people visibly recoil as he approached them - and it wasn’t my imagination. You could see the frustration on his face. In the end, a student couple lent him a light. As the light rail pulled into the station and we all got on the train, I saw him slip the couple a $5 bill before disappearing into the crowd.


3. How Productive is the Term ‘White Privilege’?


I’m going to tread carefully here.

On our way from Salt Lake City to Denver, we met a woman in her late fifties/early sixties from Austin, Texas. A lovely human being. Jennie and I ended up having a long conversation with her in the cafe car over canned wine, cheese and crackers, talking about her experience volunteering for disaster relief in the States and Central America. We talked about our plans for 2018, and bonded over our shared love of travel.

 
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At times, the conversation turned serious. Without going into detail, she shared with us very real and personal struggles she’s had in her relationships and finances.

I suppose that’s what they call white privilege,” she said.

It was only a passing remark, but it got me thinking.

Does America need to have a serious, prolonged, and uncomfortable conversation about race? Yes. Are there systematic and racial injustices in this country? Absolutely. But as a minority, one who would never want assumptions about my race to define who I am, why wouldn’t I wish the same for all races?

Is it better to feel ‘woke’ educating the West Virginian coal miner about their privilege, or is it better to practice the empathy we wish to see in others?


4. What’s in Omaha?


 
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Not the golden-breasted starling, apparently. Did you know that according to TripAdvisor, Omaha has the best zoo in America? As recently as 2014, it was ranked above the San Diego Zoo for the top spot.

While we have mixed feelings about animals in captivity, the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo seemed well run, spacious, and definitely worth a visit if you somehow find yourself in Nebraska.


5. There Will Be No Napping at the Chicago Public Library


Harold Washington Library, Downtown Chicago

Harold Washington Library, Downtown Chicago

While waiting to board a late night train from Chicago to New York, we decided to get a few hours of work done at the Chicago Public Library. At some point, Jennie dozed off at her table, only to be woken by a security guard making the rounds.

“You gotta wake up,” he said. “No sleeping.”

“Is that library policy?” I asked. “Staying awake is mandatory?”

He shrugged. “I don’t make the rules.”

Fair enough. I know we all like to follow orders around here. So we left the sleep police alone to do his job.

Liability issues aside, how is this not a policy that obviously targets the homeless? But I get it. The library is for readers - all twelve of them. It’s a place for the respectable taxpayer to while away an afternoon with his $1,000 Macbook, leaving the unwashed masses and their stench to freeze out in the Chicago winter.

I mean, aren’t there homeless shelters for that? The state of Illinois being on the verge of bankruptcy and all. 


6. $300 Rent in New York City


Chinatown, New York City

Chinatown, New York City

A friend of ours lives in a studio above a restaurant in New York City’s Chinatown. Including utilities, he pays $300 a month in rent.

I know what you’re thinking: Fuck that guy, right?

Here’s the thing. Five or six decades ago, when his grandmother signed the hundred year lease on the property, $300 was a lot of money. In fact, it was practically highway robbery when you considered the gang violence that was happening in Chinatown at the time.

His grandmother passed in 2012, after raising her family (of seven) in that studio. And now, one of her grandsons gets to live the high life in New York City for $300 a month.

I don’t know about you, but I think this woman was a true visionary and long term investor.

She represented everything that was great about America.



Marriage Is A Relay Race: Why It Works & How We Support Each Other

Jennie here.

Before Ivan moved to Boston, he was working full-time as a management consultant. Money was great but he was also miserable for more than three years. Being entrenched in a corporate culture had driven him further away from his big dream. Fortunately, he saw the big picture of our lives (together and independently) early on and saved 60% of his take home pay every month. For three years, he built up a nest egg of personal assets/equity. He’s earned his freedom.

Ivan now works as a freelance writer for various financial investment sites but it’s all in the hopes that he’ll be able to fulfill his ultimate dream: become a writer and publish his fiction.

That said, the trade off is that these days his income can be sporadic - but it wasn't always that way.

While he was working as a big wig consultant, I was just starting out and my income was so low that I was eligible for low income housing. I even had to borrow money from Ivan just to move to Boston. I was barely making ends meet and could only set aside a meager amount for my savings.


It’s not about traditional gender roles for us.


Now, for the last two years, I’ve been making more money than Ivan. Does it bother us?

The honest answer is: occasionally.

The truth is, money can take an emotional toll on couples -- no matter how great your relationship is. But with us, it’s not about traditional gender roles. As two hyper-independent people, both of us find it incredibly hard to rely on other people, even if that other person is our spouse. In an ideal world, we’d prefer to be completely financially independent from one another - not necessarily because we need the money, but because it means we’ve both found ways to create value and credibility in our own way.


How We Make It Work


Since the end of 2016, most of our earnings and savings have come from one consistent revenue stream -- my salary. When Ivan moved to Boston, we decided that for the next two years, he’d pursue his dreams, while I held down a steady income for the both of us. It made a lot of sense and continues to be the most rational decision.

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We’re both taking turns and
shouldering the pain together in what feels like an ultra-marathon race.


So here’s our deal:

Until we go on our round the world trip, I will continue working at my tech startup and bring home a consistent salary. In turn, Ivan will continue to work on his craft (paid and personal). By the time we leave, we both expect that he’ll be generating a specified amount per month from freelance writing.

From that point on, we’ll switch roles. Once we leave next year, I can choose to work remotely...or best of all, I can take some “me” time to figure out what’s next on the horizon for me, what my passions are, and what meaningful contributions I want to make in the near future.

The way Ivan and I see it -- our financial journey together is a relay race.

We’re both taking turns and shouldering the pain together in what feels like an ultra-marathon race.
 


Advice for any couple looking to achieve your own dreams in a sustainable way:
 


1. Talk about your goals, [both of] your dreams.

I’m not just talking about kids or a new home, but I’m talking about what YOU want.

  • What are your dreams and goals?

  • How can you support those dreams and make them happen?

This should be something that both of you can answer. Oftentimes, I see couples settling in their lives because responsibilities become too overwhelming and it eventually becomes too late to make changes. Do you want to be that person who says they wanted travel across Europe or change careers but never did? Don’t be that person that declares half way through life that they “...had dreams of their own too” but didn’t get a chance to make it happen. Life is just too damn short for that kind of nonsense.

2. Make a short-term and long-term plan.

If you have a goal in mind -- like changing careers -- then have a short-term (1 year) and long-term (3+ years) plan in mind. Make a commitment to yourself and your partner. Take a hard look at what the consequences are and make sure that it’s a fair trade. For example, if you or your spouse decide to change careers (e.g. become a graphic designer) but need to build up credentials  (e.g. create a portfolio or go back to school, etc.) -- then understand the key factors: the timeline, potential sacrifices, finances, and your options.

Finally, you need to have an end date or deadline to hold each other accountable.

Don’t get me wrong, regardless of our arrangement, there are still stressful things that happen between us. But the key here is to communicate and be open about how you actually feel.

Isn’t this the whole point of a partnership? To help each other get to exactly where we want to go.

 


What To Do When You Don't Know Your Purpose

Jennie here.

When I was younger, my dad used to tell me something that’s stuck with me ever since.

"Life’s not about passion,” he would say. “It’s about providing for your family and then making sure your kids have a better life than you do."

From that moment on, I let go of any notion that I could be an artist.

 

Prosperity vs. Purpose

I understand the mindset of my parent’s generation. As refugees from the Vietnam War, merely surviving in America was a daily struggle. I remember when I was younger, my mom waking me up at five in the morning and dropping me and my siblings off at my grandmother’s house on her way to a sixteen hour shift at a jewelry manufacturer. My dad worked the late night shift at a factory which meant he and mom would never see each other during the week.

Who had time for passion when you could barely make ends meet?

Poverty locks you into a mindset of scarcity, into thinking that because money rules over your life, there will never come a time when you’ll have enough.  

But that’s simply no longer my reality today. In a sense, my parents have already done their part. I’m living better than they ever could’ve imagined.

So now what? What’s my job? How do I make sure my (hypothetical) kids have a better life than I do?

What does “a better life” even mean? Does it mean if I end up making half a million per year, that I should make sure my kids make a million? Is that all there is to it?

Of course not. It turns out that my dad was only half right.

Yes, it’s important to take care of your essentials, to pay your bills and put food on the table, but life IS about passion. Passion is actually the whole point. What most people miss is that everything which comes before is just preparation for it.

A better life to me means having a purpose, and a purpose means having the freedom to dream.

 

Next Steps: searching for my purpose

With our round the world trip departure date slowly creeping up on us, I’m beginning to wonder…

What do I want my path to be over the next few years and what are the steps I need to take today to get there?

In a year from now, I technically don’t have to work because of our extensive financial planning and savings goals. Now I have to reassess what my life after my current job will look like. And that’s a strange feeling and place to be in because I’ve had a job in some shape or form ever since I was 15 years old. The thought of becoming stagnant and simply depleting our savings is not my idea of a good time. If I’m giving up a steady paycheck, then I’d best be working towards something of real value to me.

Prior to L.A., I thought that being a well-rounded person meant having a healthy social life with several close friends, being intelligent (enough), financially independent, and occasionally introspective. Now in L.A., with no friends and no distractions -- I came to the realization that there was creative void that had been largely tossed aside in my life/identity for the past decade.

I had been living my life by father’s words instead of defining my own rules and conclusions.

So what does this mean for me?

  • I need to find a new purpose after the 9-to-5 life that will make me happy.

  • I need to start developing skills that I want to explore, not out of necessity or survival.

I’ve reached a point where I can stop being so practical and start finding more ways to fail.

 

Courage To Start Over

I didn’t think I’d say this but in an effort to re-vamp and rediscover old and new passions, I’ve started the learning process all over again. Things I’ve been recently exploring include drawing, painting, filming/video editing, and photography. Oh, and I’ve also started running as well -- mainly to hedge against my growing physical complacency in a car-crazy city.

Yup, this is me, Jennie. I enjoy getting back to the basics and pursuing the creative void that I've left untended for over a decade. I'm not an artist but that's okay. We've all got to start somewhere.

Yup, this is me, Jennie. I enjoy getting back to the basics and pursuing the creative void that I've left untended for over a decade. I'm not an artist but that's okay. We've all got to start somewhere.

Fortunately, I’m leveraging every tool at my disposal including:

  • Free classes all over YouTube

  • Inspiration from those younger (and older) than myself

  • Signed up for 3 months of (again, free) classes on Skillshare.

 

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Life / Just Do It

In the end, it doesn’t matter how much I learn if I don’t actually do something about what I want. So, little by little, I am start working on what my engineering coworkers would call a MVP (minimum viable product). I need to start building by creating the cupcake and slowly work my way to a full cake.

The idea of “ starting with a cupcake ” is metaphor for how product managers at Intercom approach scope. Source:  The Inside Intercom Podcast

The idea of “starting with a cupcake” is metaphor for how product managers at Intercom approach scope. Source: The Inside Intercom Podcast

Just like running, I need to start small.

Step 0. Stop the bitching.

Step 1. Commit to waking up and getting dressed on “running” days.

Step 2. Run (or slow jog) for as long as my weak mental and physical state can handle.

Step 3. Finish, even if it’s not that great.

Step 4. Slowly, iterate.

What will happen next? I’m not 100% certain, but I do know that I can’t squander this window of opportunity.

A purpose is too precious a thing to waste.

 



Our Favorite Donut Shop (or How We Do Breakfast)
 
A couple that breakfasts together, stays together. At least that's what Jennie says.

A couple that breakfasts together, stays together. At least that's what Jennie says.

Ivan here.

And now for something completely different.

This is breakfast. We’ve got two coffees with half and half and a two second pour (each) of sugar. A ham, egg and cheese croissant, lightly toasted, with a side of jalapeño peppers. And a plain cake donut.

Notice how OCD Jennie was about arranging the napkins to be perfectly parallel to the paper. Was this necessary? This is the kind of image-crafting that goes against what we’re trying to do here.

But no one cares what I think.

***

Outside of appreciating the abstract quality of the circles and rectangles, the point of sharing this photo is to provide a glimpse into what we value. Jennie and I talk a lot of shit about showing versus telling, so the least we can do is try to live by it.

The total price of this breakfast comes out to $8.45. The donuts and croissants are made from scratch every morning before the shop opens at 4 am. The owners are a Cambodian husband and wife in their early forties. They took over the shop from their aunt, who built up a loyal following among the early morning working Hispanic crowd: construction workers, gardeners, cleaners and nannies who make their living taking care of the privileged classes (hence the shop’s hours, the jalapeno peppers and low prices). When the couple isn’t taking turns pulling sixteen hour days, they’re raising their son, who drops by every now and then for chocolate milk on his way to elementary school.  

The place isn’t much to look at. Shabby even - located in a small Mexican strip mall with limited parking. I imagine it doesn’t look much different from when it first opened nearly three decades ago. But as a staple in the local community, it’s managed to attract a diverse clientele: young and old, families from all racial and economic backgrounds.

I mean, who doesn’t love a fresh donut?

Whenever we set foot through its doors and take our seats in one of the four orange booths staring out at an LA intersection, we get the distinct feeling that this is real life. No one’s pretending to be anything they’re not. Human beings who aren’t worried about growing their fucking brand, expanding their social media presence or maximizing their overall return on capital.

I’m not trying to romanticize this place. It’s not perfect, but you live with those imperfections. The consistency of their coffee varies from day to day. When the wife makes the coffee, it’s dark and strong; when the husband does it, it’s weak and watery.

Source: The Mar Vista

Source: The Mar Vista

But all things considered, this might be the only place we’ll miss when we sell our things and go abroad. Although we don’t know this for a fact, we’re not expecting it to still be around the next time we come back. Our neighborhood of Mar Vista is one of the last in Westside LA to gentrify. Earlier this year, a restaurant called The Mar Vista opened a couple of blocks down the street. On their website under “Our Passion,” it reads:

The Mar Vista is a chef-driven, food-first experience with farm-to-table ingredients, rare-label wines and an eclectic lineup of live music.

That kind of place. One of those establishments where you walk in and as a minority, you feel immediately uncomfortable, regardless of what income bracket you’re in.

Look, we’re not the types to be all up in arms over progress. Saying that you’re anti-globalization is as stupid as being anti-gravity. I just wish that the majority of “progress” wasn’t so fake and empty - clean and pretty without ever really standing for anything.

As an outsider, I have no illusions about America. Jennie and I choose not to write about politics because it really doesn’t matter. Not Trump. Not Obama (Google his record on deportations). Not Republicans or Democrats. Both sides are so preoccupied with telling us what they think we want to hear, when the real solutions are almost always unpleasant, uncomfortable, and worst of all, unpopular with everyone.

Maybe I’m reading too much into things. Maybe breakfast is just breakfast and I should get a life and stop whining about things that don’t affect me -  just be thankful for all the privileges I've been blessed with.

Maybe I have no point to make. If that’s the case, I should end this post here.

***

Years from now, when Jennie and I are traipsing through some remote part of the world, a stranger might ask us (for some strange reason) what our favorite donut shop in the world is. If that time ever comes, one of us will say:

“There was this place called Donuts USA.”



5 Small Occupying Moments of Our Week (05/07 - 05/14)

Ivan here.

This post is late and it’s all my fault. Just know that Jennie and I are grateful to all the readers who’ve been checking back daily for updates. In our attention deficient world, that’s about as rare and precious as true love. Thank you. Our hearts are aflutter.

These days I’ve been up to my ears in finance prepping for my third and final CFA exam in June. There’s something about derivatives and credit default swaps that brings out my inner sociopath. I may be one failing score away from cranking up the chainsaw and chasing a hooker down a flight of stairs (see: American Psycho)

But it wasn’t all work and no play (Jack would be a very dull boy). Last week, Jennie and I managed to spend a few quality evenings out on the town. We saw real people doing real things that had nothing to do with helping textbook millionaires select the most tax advantaged vehicle for their investments.

Editor’s Warning: Reading over my moments in the edit, I was also more irritable than usual.
 

1. Don’t Just Play For Yourself  

Last Thursday, Jennie and I went to Blue Whale Jazz Bar in Little Tokyo to see a jam session featuring students from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. These were young musicians hand-selected by the great Herbie Hancock to study jazz on full scholarship for two years.

So, how were they? If you want my honest opinion, it was like listening to an old man fall down a long flight of stairs. Lack of talent wasn’t the problem. In fact, there was probably too much talent on the stage all at once. Every musician in the ensemble (especially the drummer) was too busy showing off how great they were that they forgot to play for each other and have fun.

At least that was my takeaway. It’s also a personal reminder to get over myself and really pay attention to the people around me. To live in the moment.
 

2. Give a Damn (or GTFO)

I have a love-hate relationship with The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. On one hand, they have a decent selection of pulp sci-fi and mystery books. On the other, it’s always packed with tourists who are just there to take selfies in front of the book arch. Because apparently that’s what people think books are for nowadays - decoration.

The arch of who gives a shit? Get out of my way.

The arch of who gives a shit? Get out of my way.

The staff are also some of the most disinterested, too-good-for-this-place, Jack Keroauc-type wannabes I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. If they’re really that bored and world weary (from World War 2 presumably), they should go bake on a beach somewhere until they develop a personality. Life’s too short to move through it without ever giving a damn about anything.

Some would call what you did typing.

Some would call what you did typing.

 

3. Lalala [Can’t Hear You] Land

Most people in Los Angeles refuse to take the bus. I’ve heard many excuses for this, ranging from not enough routes to long unpredictable wait times. All of which are fair - but it’s also a Catch-22. There’s not enough funding for new routes because everyone drives, which causes congestion and leads to slower buses and longer wait times. So you end up with a clownish situation where everyone is always in a hurry and stuck in traffic at all times.

But I think there’s also an unspoken reason why people don’t ride public transit: poor people. They're dirty, they smell funny, and most of them are minorities. No one comes out and says it. Everyone just drops hints about how “dangerous” public transit can be and won’t fess up to what they actually mean.

What gets on my nerves the most is that the majority of these people would self-identify as liberals, which these days seems to mean having the right opinions and saying the right things. Which goes to show that it’s prettier to think so than to do anything about it.  

This only strengthens my opinion that what you say you believe means jack squat. Why don’t you show me?
 

4. Scorecards

Last few weeks was a rough patch for Jennie. She had a product and website launch at work and for 3-4 nights in a row she was up until 4 in the morning picking up the slack for other people. She’s an expert at this by now. I've given her eight years of practice.

Warren Buffett says there are two types of people in the world: ones with inner scorecards and ones with outer scorecards.

The type of scorecard you have boils down to a choice of:

  1. Being the world’s greatest lover, but having everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover

  2. Being the world’s worst lover, but having everyone think you’re the world’s best lover

You’d think everyone would pick the first option, but that’s not the way our world works. There’s a good percentage of people who would rather look the part than be the part.

So you always end up with a “group project” situation where for every person who does the work there are four others who will be busy making themselves look good. Next thing you know, one of them gets a promotion or becomes President of the United States. All because they sipped the right cocktail (there's a pun intended here) or can relate to how well Tom Brady throws a football.
 

5. Time Horizons

But time is the great equalizer. You can always tell how full of shit someone is just by waiting a while. Same goes for this blog. We’ve got big plans for it. Jennie and I know it’s not even 1% of where it needs to be, but rest assured that we plan on still being here in five to seven years. 

We’d love for you to stick around.


If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people. But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that. Just by lengthening the time horizon, you can engage in endeavors that you could never otherwise pursue.
— Jeff Bezos


 

 

 

 

Why A House Is Not A Home
 
5 Reasons Why A House Is Not A Home - The Origami Life
I don’t want to own anything until I find a place where me and things go together.
— Truman Capote, Breakfast At Tiffany's

Ivan here. 

Conventional opinion can oftentimes be very stupid - a natural consequence of decades (sometimes centuries) of people never questioning their own assumptions. Let’s take this statement for example:


Real estate is a safe investment.


Sounds accurate, right?

Now here are some cold, hard facts: 

  • The average return for US real estate was 3-6% per year from 1968 to 2009. 
  • Inflation averaged 4.5% during that same time period
  • This was achieved amidst a historic (and virtually continuous) fall in interest rates, from 20% in 1982 to 0.75% today.

This begs the question: what happens to the value of assets when mortgage rates have nowhere to go but up?

Of course for most millennials, all of this is academic, as very few can afford a home in the first place. Even for those who are lucky enough to be able to, the price tag is usually far higher than they expect:

But I think even the affordability problem is missing the point. The question that millennials should be asking themselves is: should you buy a home even if you could afford one? 

Here are my five arguments against. 


5 Reasons Why a House is Not a Home


1. You’re Not Building Equity in Anything

Your first home is almost never an investment - whether its value goes up or down is completely irrelevant. As a Canadian who’s witnessed the Toronto and Vancouver housing bubble firsthand, it’s always baffling to me why people care how much their home is worth in any given year - when they clearly have no intention of moving out of their neighborhood. 

I may be in the minority, but I think “building equity” is just a euphemism people use to make themselves feel better about living with debt, all while fantasizing about the day when they’ll finally get their life back. 

2. A House Costs More Than The Mortgage

Opportunity cost is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen, and it's something that rarely gets factored into the buy vs rent decision. Yes, moving can be a pain in the ass, but progress and career mobility tend to feel that way too. 

Whether or not you decide to travel the world is beside the point. Given that most of a millennial’s net worth is tied to his/her future earning potential, doesn't it seem insane to tie your fortunes to one neighborhood for the next 30 years?

3. Security is Risky (and getting riskier every day) 

The thing about the world we live in is that no one has any idea what’s going to happen a year from now - let alone thirty. For millennials to place our bets before we absolutely have to smacks of hubris.

4. We Never Own Anything Anyway

We just borrow it for a while. The sooner we realize this simple truth, the less of a rush we’ll be in to lock ourselves down. Instead of the buy vs rent decision, it’s better to frame it in the form of a question:

At this stage in your life, are you prepared to sign a one year lease or a thirty year lease

5. Home is a State of Mind

Jennie and I worry that a lot of people are making life altering commitments simply because they think that it’s what they’re supposed to do to feel “secure” and “established.” In reality, security can't be bought or sold - it comes from our choices. What about feeling established in your relationships and secure in the things you want? In the person you want to be? 


Our Takeaway


People get hold of ideas about how their life is supposed to turn out. It makes them think that they have to play the same game as everyone else, even when it doesn't suit them.

Do you know where you want to be for the next thirty years? If the answer is yes and a thirty year mortgage is your way of doing that, then don’t let this stop you. All we’re saying is that it’s okay to say you don't know - and act accordingly.

After all, a house is a house, while a home is something entirely different. It isn’t confined to one place; it can't be borrowed or bought. 

Home is the feeling you get when you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. 

I remember a man in Salinas who in his middle years traveled to Honolulu and back, and that journey continued for the rest of his life. We could watch him in his rocking chair on his front porch, his eyes squinted, half-closed, endlessly traveling to Honolulu.
— John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley


The Lifelong Emptiness of Living For Appearances
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
— Kurt Vonnegut

Jennie here.

I have a friend whom I’ve known for a few years and she is constantly posting amazing mouth-watering photos of food on her Instagram and Facebook. And everytime she visits me, we always end up eating out at 3 to 5 different restaurants in a single day because she “loves” food.

Source: Instagram

Source: Instagram

The strange thing is, I’ve been with her for several of the “Instagram worthy” moments but she always seems to enjoy taking share-worthy photos more than the actual food or experience itself. I even recall her being disappointed or unimpressed with the food on several occasions, but oftentimes the very next day -- I’d see some fantastic photos on social media with commentary (and a million hashtags) about how satisfying and mind-blowing the food/experience was.

So it got me thinking: why the facade? If the food was mediocre -- why not just say, “It looked fantastic but the food was mediocre. Don’t waste your time here”.

But then I realized, the more likes she got, the happier she seemed about that shared moment/experience.


Three Observations
On Living For Appearances And Approval


I noticed these types of incidents more so in the last few years. And I’m not talking about just social media but this general lack of authenticity and contrived appearances are weaved into various parts of our lives. 

And it’s led me to the following observations about how living for appearances and approval can ruin our lives:

1. Some people use social media to feel validated. They live their lives through the eyes of others and not themselves.

Social media has turned us into performers. Every moment is carefully curated, filtered, captioned, and tagged to enhance their personal brand. But in reality these “moments” are simply being captured for how they’ll be perceived by their peers or community. Instead of living your life the way you want, you end up caring more about the attention and love derived from those so-called “shared moments”.

Moments should be shared, but likes and the number of comments should not validate you as a person or be the highlight of your experience. Living your life through the eyes of others will only make you unhappy because your happiness is dependent on other people's approval.

2. People are "sharing moments" but end up missing out on the actual moments.

Real Simple did a survey on Instagram users and found that 65% of users say their feeds only focus on the good, Instagram-worthy aspects of their lives—not the real-life moments. It seems like a lot of people are spending a huge chunk of their time curating their online social identities instead of enjoying a moment for what it is (e.g. great food, conversation with friends, new experiences, a gorgeous sunset, etc).

In the end, while searching for the right angles and emojis, they end up missing the actual moment -- where happiness should be found.

3. People are afraid to say what they mean.

The reality is we live in a culture where online personas/perceptions and stories are valued and most people only want to share the best highlights -- the superficial portion of their lives. People are often scared to put out into the universe what they mean to say or what they really want to share. It’s likely because if you say what you really mean, you won’t necessarily get the response you want or expect. In the end, what some people create is contrived perfection made to get attention and pander to a general audience. Isn’t that exhausting?

And look, I’m not hating on the idea of posting/sharing happy moments and thoughts, but are you: (1) sharing what’s real, (2) saying what you mean, and (3) doing what you preach? Life is also about the in-between moments -- the struggles, the mundane, and the crazy.


We're Doing Our Best To Live Authentically


These observations bring me back to a fundamental question that Ivan and I try and center ourselves on every single day: are we being authentic to who we are?

This post isn’t meant to be an I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong post but I wanted to share some thoughts around what we see online and how we want to present ourselves. Whenever we’re with other people, with each other, or putting any new content out into the world, we try to live by the following motto: Live simply and authentically.

So what does that look like for us? We tell ourselves the following constantly:

  1. State who you are and what you stand for.

  2. Understand why you're doing what you're doing.

  3. Never falter, pander, or apologize.

In Haruki Murakami’s case, when he opened a jazz bar -- he realized that if he only got 1 out of 10 customers liking and coming back to the bar, he’d be okay. And that’s the type of attitude that we want to approach this blog, our life together, and what we share with you.

For us, we want to be true to who we are and what we’re trying to share -- crafting our lives authentically and achieving that simple life. This blog isn’t about gaining millions of readers, it’s really about reaching out to the 1 or 1,000 loyal readers and finding our type of people. We know The Origami Life isn’t for everyone and that’s okay.

 



4 Everyday Essentials We've Learned to Live Without

Jennie here!

Since moving from Boston to Los Angeles, I’ve taken a hard look at the things I once thought were essential to my well-being. After careful introspection, it turned out that most of the things I owned and some of the ideas I had were really just weighing me down. Once I got rid of them and simplified my life, I realized I didn’t miss them at all.

Another added benefit to this mentality is that it has helped Ivan and I create a more open-ended and flexible lifestyle, one where we can move wherever and whenever an opportunity pops up. Even more importantly, it’s put into perspective what really matters to both of us. 

Here is a list of things we've come to realize we don't "need" anymore:

1. “Enough” space

What constitutes “enough”? Oftentimes “enough” is the point lying just beyond what we already have. It’s kind of like “tomorrow” - a day none of us will ever reach (#itsalwaystoday #deep).

When it comes to our living space, we know “enough” is whatever we make of it. We’ve been living out of <400 square ft studios for the past five years and this has never stopped us from making do with what we’ve got. One of us needs privacy? A walk by day, a coffee shop by night. Hosting parties? Invite less people: more friends and fewer acquaintances. Guests spending the night? Two words: sofa bed. We’ve hosted my parents, my siblings and our friends on multiple occasions. It was cozy. 

Having “enough” home at this point in our lives simply means a clean, well-lighted place with good company.

2. Furniture as self expression

It's better to express ourselves with what we create than what we buy. It’s exhausting enough having to curate our whole lives online. We own five pieces of furniture in total: bed, sofa, desk, kitchen table, and bookshelf, which cost us under $1,000 and fulfills their basic functions as an effective workspace, reading space, and relaxation area for our tiny studio.

3. The latest gadget

We’ve never owned a television and our phones are always at least two years out of date. I've got a Google Nexus 5, which came out in 2013. Ivan still uses an iPhone 4S which cost him $75 used. They work just fine.

We also have our back-up phones ready: an LG phone and an iPhone 5, which were hot commodities back in 2015. They were free hand-me-downs from my family who chose to spend hundreds of dollars to upgrade to the latest gadget with specs that make absolutely no fucking difference. For our personal laptops (outside of the Macbook Pro issued by my company), I’ve got a $600 Macbook Air from 2013 and Ivan has a ASUS laptop, which after trading in his old Toshiba at Best Buy cost him a grand total of $50.

4. A “complete” wardrobe

No wardrobe will ever be “complete.” So why bother? Ivan and I shop for clothing twice a year and in the meantime, we learn to live with what we’ve got: which is half a wardrobe each - around 7-8 changes of quality but versatile pieces. This is where living in LA comes in handy. Since moving from Boston, we’ve only really had to dress for one and a half seasons.



On the flip side, here are the four things we can’t live without:

1. A walkable neighborhood

We love taking long walks together. It's just our way of chatting (or really, verbal sparring), getting some exercise, and changing up our routine. We love living in areas that have a distinctive personality and a bit of commotion. It's stimulating to be able to walk around the neighborhood and helps us generate new creative ideas while spending time together.

2. Used bookstores

I've found this to be the hardest part about Los Angeles but it turns out that we love a great, non-pretentious, and affordable used bookstore. It's a priority mainly because Ivan enjoys browsing and cycles through books constantly.

3. A bowl of pho

Being able to find a decent bowl of pho in a neighborhood means there’s a diversity of food in the area; it matters to us that we can get different types of food and interact with different people. If the neighborhood doesn't have a decent bowl of pho...Ivan and I start having Vietnamese food withdrawals. Believe me, it's not pretty.

4. A local farmer's market with cheap produce

We started going to the local farmer’s market when we lived in Boston; every week (before winter), we’d head over to the Haymarket Farmer’s Market, and it was truly affordable for the community. With $10 or $15, it was easy to feed a family of two; we like being able to buy locally but not at Whole Food's or worse, Erewhon prices.  

 

We’re Just As Insecure About Life As Everyone Else
It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
If you don’t know by now.
— Bob Dylan

Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright  


Ivan here. We experienced a spike in readership lately. For most sites, this is a 100%  positive development, but for someone like me who can’t look a gift horse in the mouth, this only raises new, troubling questions. 

For starters, how authentic is this blog? By that I mean, how much of what we write are things we actually believe and how much of it is image crafting? Do we try to appear more confident or certain than we really are? At what point does our “honesty” become a heightened form of pretend? 

The last thing I want to do is pander to an audience. Or as Kurt Vonnegut puts it, “to open the window and try to make love to the world.” But then again, isn’t the opposite of this just lonely masturbation? 

Life can be confusing sometimes. 

My point is: even as Jennie and I decide to leave everything behind by September 2018 and build a life together around the world, we’re often plagued by the same doubts and insecurities like everyone else.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list:  
 

7 Insecurities We Have At The Origami Life


1. Are we being too naive? 

It’s the classic case of not knowing what we don’t know. Jennie and I are 28 years old, which means at best we have 6 to 8 years of experience living in “the real world.” Not a great sample size. 

2. Are we cutting through the noise or creating more of it? 

The world certainly doesn’t have a shortage of millennials starting blogs. If we’re not coming at it from a fresh perspective, is there a point in doing it at all? 

3. Are we the typical case? 

Two millennials quitting their jobs to travel the world. How original. Is this just a phase we’re going through? A quarter life crisis? 

4. Do we know ourselves as well as we think we do?

We seem pretty sure about what we can and can’t live with, so much so we’re ready to drop everything and embrace maximum uncertainty. Will 35-year-old me look back at the things 28-year-old me aspired to be and think “geez, what an asshole”?   

5. Are we romanticizing life abroad? 

Isn’t it pretty to think so?
— Ernest Hemingway

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking something is true just because it sounds good.  Is that what we’ve been doing all along?

6. How can stable lives be overrated when we were the products of stable lives? 

By stable I mean a job, mortgage, savings, and kids. I’m using my parents’ argument here, and I must admit they’ve got a point. 

7. How much control do we really have on our lives? 

While we like to think we decide our own destinies, there’s ample evidence to suggest that people don’t change events, events change them. 

 

Why We Keep Going ANyway


Jennie and I have a hypothesis on what life can be. It’s a hypothesis which rests on the assumption that we live in a society with a lot of baggage full of stale ideas, routines, and opinions. For us, staying put means having to constantly stave off the emptiness of living on somebody else’s terms. 

Leaving, on the other hand, is a blank sheet of paper, full of uncertainty and the opportunities that come with it. Here’s a life we might create from scratch, one fold at a time. One where we can focus on things that actually matter, and in doing so, we make sense of the world and our place in it. 

The Origami Life isn’t for everyone. Page views and audience numbers don’t interest us very much. What we’re looking for is our people. Those who’ve experienced similar things or see the world in similar ways.  An audience we can look out at and say, "maybe we’re not so crazy after all."

And that's worth more to us than anything in the world.  

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