Posts in Daily Origami
The Origami Life: The Story So Far
 
moon-2041738_1920 (1).jpg

Ivan here. 

That was a cover by the Chromatics of an old song called ‘Blue Moon,’ a song that's been sung by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, and the always wonderful Billie Holiday.

I like the opening notes. Reminds me of the tune that plays over the intercom in department stores before every announcement. 

This is appropriate, as Jennie and I have a couple of announcements to make of our own. 


What is The Origami Life?


It’s been a little over a year since this blog went live, with little to no explanation from Jennie and I on what this is, why we’re here, and what we stand for. 

Part of this is because we’re more into showing than telling, but I think the more honest answer would be that we were still trying to figure it out.

Here's what we know so far. The Origami Life is:  

  • A record of Jennie and Ivan’s marriage and life together
  • A way of keeping ourselves accountable to our financial and travel goals
  • A place that celebrates the process over the result, the journey over the destination
  • A place to convey stories and observations in a personal, interesting and useful manner
  • A place to connect with like-minded people

Subscribe To Our Monthly Origami Letter!


Our first letter went out to subscribers on September 16th, you can read it here to see if it’s worth your time and space in your inbox. 

The next letter goes out Sunday (October 8th), where we’ll be giving an update on a trip we’ve been planning for the past five months. 



 
 

What Is The Daily Origami?


Daily Origami is a weekly series we publish based on an experimental theme, where we try to strike a balance between the personal, interesting and useful. 

Needless to say, we don’t always succeed. 

But more importantly, it’s a creative exercise that gets Jennie and I used to the cadence of posting five times a week when we’re on our round the world trip. 

I think travel writing is one of the hardest genres to do well. Not because there’s a lack of interesting, exotic destinations to write about, but because it’s hard to make people:

a. Give a shit about you
b. Ground stories in ways that are relatable to a reader's everyday life

We have at least 50 more Daily Origami entries planned after this hiatus, and we'd appreciate any feedback you might have at origamilifeblog@gmail.com.

In case you missed a few posts, here is everything we’ve written to date: 

See all the latest Daily Origami here.



Financial Priorities: The Origami Master Plan & Blueprint

Ivan here. 

This is what the average person’s life looks like:

Always playing catch up, always reacting to one situation after another. Never realizing what was truly important.  

I look at this trajectory and ask myself: did these people ever make any real choices at all? Or did they just end up accepting the choices that had already been made for them? 


An Origami Blueprint


This gets at one of the core tenets of this blog: our refusal to accept the results that most people get. It’s about setting priorities and making sacrifices in order to live deliberately, to create a life we can look back on that’s truly our own. 

If we had to design our own origami life, what would it look like? Obviously, a lot of it would be dependent on choices we haven’t made yet. 

But here’s a rough sketch: 

The Origami Life Blueprint. The plan so far.


Our 20s - Asking the Right Questions


pexels-photo-297755-2.jpeg

1. Build a Fuck off Fund

It’s not enough to simply pay off our debts to society (i.e. student loans). We need to build a fuck-off fund to ensure that society will always owe us

With a 6-12 month fuck-off fund, employers owe us better compensation, banks and credit card companies owe us better bonuses. Basically, we need financial leverage over everyone who might otherwise have leverage over us. This means that before we spend a single dime on anything that’s not essential to our survival, we first buy the option to tell someone to fuck off. 

2. Be Done With Retirement

Retirement sounds like a terrible idea. Hanging out by the beach, sipping mai-tais, with no purpose or meaning besides “enjoying your old age” is not our idea of a good time. Who wants to wait around to die? 

This is an advantage Jennie and I have over most people because it makes our retirement number far more attainable: we simply need to make sure we have “enough” by the time we’re too old and decrepit to work (not by some arbitrary age of 65). 

Our minimum number happens to be $700,000. Working backwards, assuming a 6% annual return for the next 35 years, this means we need to have $90,000 ($45k each) invested by age 30. After 30, even if we don’t invest another dollar, the magic of compound returns will ensure that we’ll have at least $700,000 by age 65. 

This is why we lived in shitty basement apartments in Toronto and a room the size of a closet in Boston - to make this minimum number happen. 

3. Build a Travel Fund

This is where readers find us today, as we track our progress through our Money Diary. Keep in mind that this came after a considerable amount of pain moving through steps 1 and 2. But what better time is there to take our lumps than in our 20s? 


Our 30s - Finding Answers


1. Insure Ourselves Against Loss

At age 30, we’ll be purchasing 30 year term life and disability insurance to protect ourselves against catastrophe (i.e. protecting our downside). Also, the younger you are, the cheaper the premiums are. 

2. Build Our Own Freelance Business & Pursue Creative Projects

Start traveling and take some major creative and professional risks. 

3. Have Kids (maybe)

We're still on the fence about this. See our blog posts on the subject. 


Our 40s - Expansion Phase


1. Grow Our Business & Creative Projects

It's too early to say how this will play out. 

2. Save for Child’s Education

Taking a cue from Ivan's parents, no expense will be spared for their education. After that? They're on their own. 

3. Support Our Families

At the end of the day, family's still family. No matter how terrible their life choices were.


Our 50s - Consolidation Phase


1. Continue to Grow Our Business and Creative Projects

Again, too early to say. 

2. Invest in Other People  

We'd like to eventually be in a position to employ other people or help them start their own projects

3. Pay for a House With Cash

We covered our rationale for this in The Hidden Cost Of Home Buying. 


Our 60s and Beyond


1. Never retire

Retirement is basically tacit acknowledgement that you can no longer add any economic value to the world. 

2. Give 90% of our wealth away

We'll leave our potential offspring with the remaining 10% and hope they don't squander it. The rest goes back into society. The only things Jennie and I hope to leave behind are a few ideas, not a burdensome estate that our beneficiaries never earned. 



Financial Priorities: When to Take Risks vs. When to Play it Safe

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


Challenges and risks
 
Investing is the one sphere of life where victory, security, and success is always to the minority and never to the majority. If everyone agreed about its merit, the investment is inevitably too dear and therefore unattractive.
— John Maynard Keynes
 

Ivan here. 

Here’s a list of things most people find risky: 

  • Asking for a raise ("What if my manager says no?")
  • Talking to a stranger ("What if it gets awkward?")
  • Moving across the country ("What about my family and friends?")
  • Moving abroad ("What if I get homesick?")
  • Starting a business ("What if I fail?")
  • Joining a startup ("What if it doesn't work out?")

And here’s a list of things most people find safe: 

  • Buying a new designer bag or pair of shoes ("It's an investment in myself")
  • Taking a vacation abroad ("It's a once in a lifetime experience")
  • A $26,720 wedding and $5,978 engagement ring ("It's for the rest of my life")
  • Financing a new home with credit ("Every grown-up has a mortgage")
  • Financing a new car with credit ("I've had my old car for ages")
  • Pre-spending your paycheck with credit cards ("I can always pay it off")

This is just my way of illustrating the obvious: most people seek comfort and social acceptance and avoid discomfort and rejection. 


What Safety and Risk Mean


‘Safety’ is code for what most people think. ‘Risk’ is code for what most people aren’t willing or able to do. Aspiring to be like most people is to accept the results that most people get.

In some instances, the cost of not taking risks can be greater than taking risks, just as the cost of doing a ‘safe’ thing can be higher than the price we pay for safety. 

There are those who prefer not to live with so much uncertainty. Those who may be content with their lot in life, surrounded by family and friends, doing ordinary things that most people do and living safe, ordinary lives. This is totally fine. 

But what if the safety we’ve come to rely on is no longer safe going forward? What if safety is a more expensive illusion than we ever imagined? 

The coal miners in West Virginia thought they were safe. Just five years ago, accountants, pharmacists, lawyers, journalists, and taxi drivers felt like safer professions than they do today. 

In a market system, the more people there are seeking safety, the harder it is to come by. The fewer people there are seeking risk, the more cheaply it can be acquired. 

Safety is always expensive. Risk is always on sale. 


When Should We Take Risks?

and

When Should We Play it Safe?


Jennie and my position on this question has always been:

We should never hesitate to take risks so long as we ‘safely’ plan around those risks, focusing 75% of our energy on upside and growth, while using the last 25% to protect our downside. 

To summarize: 

  1. We should be taking risks in areas where most people aren’t willing or able to take risks. 
  2. We should be safe in areas where most people have been taught to be reckless. 

 


Financial Priorities: Should You Earn More Or Spend Less?

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


Stocks

Ivan here. 

This dude makes $600,000 gross salary with $2M in assets, but the prospect of a market correction “scares the shit out of me.” 

 
I wish I could just sit back and enjoy being the top 1 percent, but not a day goes by without me worrying about something bad happening to my family, my job, my savings, or my country.
— Mr. Anonymous, The Billfold
 

I’m not trying to single out Mr. Anonymous here or judge him. This is simply his experience and what he feels. 

But it does raise some interesting questions: if this guy still worries about his financial future, where does it leave the rest of us? If a $600,000 salary can’t buy you security and a life free from worry, then what number is sufficient? Will any number ever be “enough”?

At some point in his career, Mr. Anonymous was part of the bottom 99%. Back then, he probably never imagined that he'd become this guy.  But I guess in his hunt for more, he never arrived at a point where he felt like he’d “made it.” Or if he did, it was a feeling that never lasted. 

The thing about want is that you always find yourself wanting. 


When Is It Okay to Stop Worrying About the Future

and Start Living in the Moment?


I happen to know that Mr. Anonymous isn’t an isolated case. 

I know this because I attended a private high school in Taipei, a school that educated the children of some of the wealthiest and most privileged families in Taiwan. 

And I know for a fact that the richer you are, the more you feel you have to lose, so you never stop worrying. Ever. A lot of these families are frickin’ miserable. I’d go so far as to say that the level of misery among the top 1% is probably higher than the rest of the population. 

Which leads me to ask: If that’s what rich is, what’s the point? 


What We Sacrifice Chasing a Future That Never Arrives


money
  1. Time spent worrying about money 
  2. Time away from family and friends
  3. Time spent commuting
  4. Years (or decades) working jobs we actively hate in order to “retire” or “retire early” 
  5. Time spent recovering in the evenings and on weekends from said job
  6. Time spent reacting to whichever meaningless task pops up first
  7. Time spent chasing the “next” thing and not being present in our own lives

A Rhetorical Question:

Should I Prioritize Earning More or Spending Less?


There are only two paths to financial freedom: 

  1. Earn more
    OR
  2. Want less

Frugality gets a bad rep because change is painful, but if “earning more”, above and beyond our most essential priorities means that we’ll never feel secure again - then what other option do we have left? 



Financial Priorities: Should Millennials Value Experiences over Things?

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


 Experiences...

Experiences...

...or things?


Ivan here.

I’m always glad whenever the internet figures out the secret to happiness. I mean, whew! What a load off my mind. One less thing off the old checklist to worry about - right beneath fame, wealth and success. 

Now if only I could attract any woman I want by projecting confidence, making her laugh, making her win ME over, creating an emotional attachment while simultaneously being completely unattached to the outcome, then by golly, like Hershey meets Kisses, my life would be complete. 


The Secret to Millennial Happiness:
Buy Experiences, Not Things


There’s a kernel of truth to this statement, as is the case with every over-generalized piece of bullshit that loses any real meaning in its conveyance. Sure, travel may broaden the mind. Jennie and I would be hypocrites to suggest otherwise.

But it’s also not entirely fair to ask: do you want to travel the world, expand your horizons, and open yourself up to everything this magical world has to offer you - or buy avocado toast? 

It’s like asking you to choose between a meeting with the Dalai Lama or an iPhone X. Of course we'd all pick the Dalai Lama (right?). 

Here’s a better comparison: you want to be a painter. What should you prioritize: your first paint set or a meeting with the Dalai Lama? 

Again, probably still not fair, but the point is that this is a question of framing. 

Which leads to my larger point. 


What should we prioritize: experiences or things?


In my opinion, we’re asking ourselves the wrong question. The real question should be: what enables us to create and what enables us to consume? 

And we should be prioritizing the experiences and things that enable us to create over the ones that enable us to consume.

 



Financial Priorities: Should I Pay Off Student Loans or Save for Retirement?

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


Ivan here. 

Recently, this Oprah quote has been floating around the financial blogosphere: 

 
You can have it all, just not all at once
 

I’m going to do my best to ignore the survivorship bias of a multi-billionaire telling her followers they can (eventually) have everything, and focus on the finer point she’s making about financial priorities. 

Source: xkcd.com/1827/


What Should I Prioritize First:
Debt, Savings or Retirement?


Companies selling retirement products tell you to prioritize retirement. Student loan refinancing companies tell you to prioritize paying off your loans. Mortgage lenders tell you to save for a down payment because real estate values always go up, and nothing we’ve experienced in the past decade would suggest otherwise. 

What I’m telling you is this: run the numbers yourself. 


Here’s What You Can Do Right Now / Are Doing Already: 


But first, nothing in this series is going to make sense until you’ve done the following:

  • Have / Create a budget and are living within your means
  • Make minimum payments on your student loan
  • Have a 2-3 month fuck off fund
  • Ensure you’re paying the lowest possible rate on your loans
  • Contribute to your company 401k up to the employer match (if available)
  • Avoid other high interest loans including: credit cards, personal loans, new car loan

Should You Pay Off Students Loans First Or Save For Retirement? 


pexels-photo-267885-2.jpeg

As I’ve covered in my Daily Origami post True Value of Money, the cost of a financial decision is the value of the next best alternative. This is called opportunity cost. 

So the question of “should I pay off my students loans first or save for retirement?” could be rephrased as:

What return am I giving up
when I use my money to pay my student loans first? 

In other words, you weigh the expected return of investing for retirement against the interest you pay on your loan. 

Now before I get into the nitty gritty, I have to make the following assumptions:


Figuring Out the Market Return


Since we already know what interest rate we’re paying on our student loans, our only unknown is the market return we’re giving up. 

But first, a primer: The market is composed of companies. Companies make earnings (or profits). Earnings can either be distributed to shareholders in the form of dividends or reinvested back into the company to grow future earnings. 

Thus, in the long term, say over a decade, the annual return of the market can be boiled down to the following formula: 

Market return =
Dividend yield + Future earnings growth

Since the future obviously hasn’t happened yet, we can only look back on the data available for the last twelve months: 

And when I say valuations, here’s where we are today. 

  Source: http://www.multpl.com/shiller-pe/

Source: http://www.multpl.com/shiller-pe/

This is the Shiller cyclically-adjusted price to earnings ratio. Without going into too much detail, the higher the ratio is, the more overvalued US stocks are. The highest point on this chart was during the height of the dot-com bubble in 2000. 

Notice we’ve gone eight years since the 08-09 recession, and valuations have moved past the levels seen in 2007. 

This suggests that future earnings growth over the next decade will be at the low range of 3-5%. Let’s use 3% to be conservative. 

Our estimated market return will be as follow:

Dividend yield (1.89%) + Future earnings growth (3%) = Market Return (4.89% )


Conclusion


Daily Origami Week 9-LOAN DEBT-2.png

Assuming a $40,000 student loan debt, your answer is pretty clear when you do the math. 

Even if the numbers were roughly equal, debt affects your life today in ways that not saving for retirement right away wouldn’t - especially if you’re still young:

  • Debt severely limits your options and prevents you from taking risks that could grow your future income (e.g. starting your own company or taking that lower paying but bigger upside job). 
  • Paying off debt gets you into the habit of saving, which can only benefit your retirement goals in the long run.

By running your own numbers, we can conclude that in 2017, it’s probably never made more sense in all of financial history to prioritize paying your student loans (and other debt) off as quickly as possible. 



California Weekend Trips: Nature, Interrupted

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


Travel Planning, sort of

LOS ANGELES > SAN FRANCISCO > YOSEMITE

Last weekend, Ivan and I headed up to Yosemite with two of our oldest and closest friends. We thought it might be meaningful to share moments with you that were important to us this week. Traveling isn’t about the end destination, but about the journey and moments you experience along the way.

This will be a five part series to share moments from our weekend trip to
Yosemite from Los Angeles. Check out Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 here. 


Jennie here. 

We spent a lot of time in crowds or traffic at Yosemite. It took us close to one hour to go less than 1 mile to entrance of the park, and that was considered “light traffic” by the forest rangers during this summer/fall season. In fact, half of our time in Yosemite was spent driving around in our car to get to different points / hikes.

There were only three real takeaways that I had from the entire Yosemite trip:


1. Yosemite National Park has a Grocery Store


When we finally got into the park and paid our $30 (per car) entrance fee, we trekked over to Yosemite Valley, parked our car, and walked into a grocery store. Look, I’ll admit, I don’t know much about Yosemite National Park but, what the fuck? How could there be a huge grocery store with prepared hot foods, fresh produce, and brand name snacks? What happened to being one with nature?

 
 

When everything is so carefully labeled and curated, is it worth it anymore? How is it any different from a metropolitan city?
 


2. Crowds at Yosemite National Park...kind of ruined the experience.



I felt a little suffocated by the whole experience. I wasn’t sure if it was the smoky air from the nearby wildfires or the sheer amount of people at the park.

  Source: eBaum's World. The crowded felt a lot like this...

Source: eBaum's World.
The crowded felt a lot like this...

I suppose it should have been a red flag for me. There were so many people around. I had hoped that with the wildfires happening intensely all around Yosemite National Park, that it would have deterred many people from coming out to the area. Although it’s great that huge portions of the park are accessible, I think it’s also a downside of tourism. Traveling is great and it can help broaden your horizons but when too many people come together in one area, it just spoils the experience - especially when one wants to “commune” with nature.


3. I’m out of shape and the waterfalls weren’t gushing.


OUR EXPECTATIONS

THE REALITY

Our reality versus expectations. 

We had time for one hiking trail so we did a portion of the Upper Yosemite Fall. It was a strenuous hike upwards, with a steep elevation gain of 3,323 feet. It was painful. And when we got to the base of the waterfall...it was underwhelming. Was it worth it? No, because in the end, I descended so quickly that I got sick and ended up throwing up that evening.

On the way to be one of the falls, you get a fantastic view of the famous Yosemite Half Dome. 

 Note: A little smokey from the recent wildfires.

Note: A little smokey from the recent wildfires.

In the end, my favorite moment at Yosemite was when we went stargazing at night - it was quiet and no one was around when we went to a viewpoint 45 minutes from our campsite. 

*

In the end, I felt conflicted because I didn’t think I gave Yosemite a fair shake. However, this time around, I wished we had actually stayed at Bass Lake, because at least it felt personal and private. It may have been less "popular", but at least there were no interruptions there. 

Anyway, so that was Yosemite. A bit of an anti-climax. Kind of like this ending. 



California Weekend Trips: Yosemite With Friends

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


Travel Planning, sort of

LOS ANGELES > SAN FRANCISCO > YOSEMITE

Last weekend, Ivan and I headed up to Yosemite with two of our oldest and closest friends. We thought it might be meaningful to share moments with you that were important to us this week. Traveling isn’t about the end destination, but about the journey and moments you experience along the way.

This will be a five part series to share moments from our weekend trip to
Yosemite from Los Angeles. Check out Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 here. 


Jennie here. 

My favorite part of our weekend gateway to Yosemite was the time we spent hanging out with our two oldest and closest friends. They know us better than most people and actually end up tolerating (or complementing) our imperfections (e.g. Ivan is usually useless when it comes to campfire cooking).

Here were my favorite moments with them:

 

1. Driving through traffic together.

 
 

We made the mistake of leaving from San Francisco around 3pm...on Friday. So, instead of a typical three hour trip to our first campsite...it took five hours to get there. But the fantastic thing is that we got to catch up and chat. We hardly see our friends and it made me feel better that we were suffering (through traffic) together.
 

2. Shopping for groceries together. 

 
 

So, shopping for groceries with friends is actually one of the most intimate things you can do. Think about it, when you shop - you show all of your character flaws / how picky you are. When we were trying to pick up bread to make some easy sandwiches, our friend Alec basically vetoed it and was like, “I hate sandwiches” Everyone eats sandwiches, am I right? Turns out, our friend was uber picky with foods - more so than I last recall. And what did I learn about myself? That I am an idiot sometimes and love creepy costume wear.
 

3. Cooking meals together.

 
 

Okay, I don’t care about what anyone says. The best moments are when we’re cooking together. In particular, bacon. Bacon is possibly the best thing to cook over an open campfire (or in our case a make-shift bunsen burner). And okay, the other best part is that...Ivan and I are pretty useless when it comes to camping cooking. We sort of just let our friends take the reins on cooking and harassed them with our camera and questions around “when is breakfast going to be ready?”

Over the course of each activity together, we kind of just relax and shoot the shit. We had a chance to reminisce about the past and even joke about the future (e.g. our friend wants five kids - crazy).

There’s less pressure to perform or act a certain way when you’re with close friends.



California Weekend Trips: Waking Up At Bass Lake, California

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


Travel Planning, sort of

Los Angeles > San Francisco > Yosemite

Last weekend, Ivan and I headed up to Yosemite with two of our oldest and closest friends. We thought it might be meaningful to share moments with you that were important to us this week. Traveling isn’t about the end destination, but about the journey and moments you experience along the way.

This will be a five part series to share moments from our weekend trip to
Yosemite from Los Angeles. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 here. 


Jennie here.

After a late drive into our campgrounds at Wishon Point Campground, we all passed out immediately in our cozy sleeping bags. It was the perfect temperature, the area was quiet and dark; the only thing I could hear were the sounds of crickets chirping nearby.

 
 

On Saturday morning, I abruptly woke up at around 6:00 am because I had been dreaming about bears. Half-conscious, I knew I had woken up in the middle of nowhere. We had talked at length about bears and bear mace so I guess there was some anxiety there.

Anyway, when I woke up, I stepped out of the large tent so I wouldn’t wake the rest of the group. I grabbed the keys to the car and took out my jacket and camera. And I just started walking towards the nearby lake. The fresh summer air lingered into September and I felt myself feeling at ease for the first time in the last couple of months.

When I arrived at the lake, there was no other presence there except for myself. I had forgotten how quiet the world was when you stepped out of a city; it felt great to be almost alone, almost liberating. I stood for awhile, watching the ripples of the lake come towards the short against the rocks. I could hear myself breathe and think.

 
 

Note: Wishon Point Campground costs $22 per evening if you're camping outdoors.

When I looked up the sun was rising and I realized that there was another woman at the lake in a distance. She was watching the mountains, the lake, and the sun rising; she did so with such intensity that I ended up watching her for a few minutes. Yeah, I creeped, but her concentration (or meditation) never ceased for a moment. She stood there, motionless, for a very long time.

Watching this woman raised some questions for me:

  • Did I ever have that level of intensity and concentration on any single thing?

  • Why don’t I feel this liberated when I’m in a city with all the hustle and bustle (which I love)?

  • Is there comfort in waking up alone and being alone in nature?



California Weekend Trips: The Anticipation Of Travel

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


Los Angeles > San Francisco > Yosemite

Last weekend, Ivan and I headed up to Yosemite with two of our oldest and closest friends. We thought it might be meaningful to share moments with you that were important to us this week. Traveling isn’t about the end destination, but about the journey and moments you experience along the way.

This will be a five part series to share moments from our weekend trip to Yosemite from Los Angeles. Check out Part 1 here.


Jennie here.

Here’s the thing about travel for us…

It’s not the idea of travel that gets us excited. Rather, it’s the idea of leading different lives. We don’t really care where we’re going so long as we enjoy the process along the way.


Wednesday & Thursday:
Traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco via Megabus


We hadn’t travelled in awhile so I was really excited Wednesday evening when we showed up at Union Station, waiting for our bus. We arrived early and sat in our favorite part of Union Station and watched people passing by - either heading home or back from a Dodgers game that evening. It really built up the anticipation that we were going on a long weekend getaway.

Note: Total cost (for two) for Megabus tickets from Los Angeles to San Francisco - $25.00

 
 

We took an overnight Megabus from Los Angeles and arrived in San Francisco the next morning at 6:30am. During the day, I got to hang out around the Embarcadero, eat good food, and watch the waves crash against the pier.


Friday:
A Quick Run To Twin Peaks & Traveling to Yosemite


The morning we left for Yosemite, Ivan and I woke up early and decided to go for a “quick” 5 mile run to Twin Peaks. Again, I let Ivan plan this entire route.

What he didn’t account for:

  • San Francisco has HUGE hills.

  • A fully charged cellphone. He didn’t charge his cellphone...so we didn’t have any means of communication to our friends in an unfamiliar city.

  • The cruelty of his actions.

Clearly, we didn’t have photos for this because we had no phone or camera. Although we got lost and mustered the strength to go up all the SF hills - when we made it to Twin Peaks, we were the only ones there. And it was perfect. We couldn’t see any part the city from the top because the fog was too thick but it was an amazing view regardless. It felt like we had been transported to a completely different place.

Jennie's Note: Too bad we can’t share our photos with anyone.

Ivan's Note: If a couple travels someplace and there were no smartphones around to take selfies, did the couple ever exist?

 
 

We managed to find some online to share with you though. Ignore the trippy soundtrack and mirrored landscape. This place is still breathtaking. I can't believe we had it to ourselves.

 
 

When we got back 2 ½ hours later to our friend’s place, we showered, worked for a few hours, and then grabbed some Mediterranean wraps.

It was the perfect day in San Francisco.

By 3 PM, we left and headed into the traffic towards Yosemite National Park.



California Weekend Trips: An Unplanned Trip To Yosemite

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


Travel Planning, sort of

Los Angeles > San Francisco > Yosemite

Last weekend, Ivan and I headed up to Yosemite with two of our oldest and closest friends. We thought it might be meaningful to share moments with you that were important to us this week. Traveling isn’t about the end destination, but about the journey and moments you experience along the way.

This will be a five part series to share moments from our weekend trip to Yosemite from Los Angeles.


Jennie here.

Let me begin this by saying that Ivan (haphazardly) planned the entire Yosemite trip from Los Angeles. And (unfortunately) we have two very different travel philosophies, so much so that it can be enraging at times.


Our different travel philosophies:


  • Ivan enjoys slow, random, oftentimes unplanned travel.
    Translation: He plans everything last minute and only thinks/plans two to three days in advance. A painful way to travel when you’re going to an uber popular destination.
  • Jennie enjoys slow, thoughtfully planned travel; often plans deviations in a plan but always prepares for the worst case scenario.
    Translation: Type A personality that needs to have shit planned out weeks, if not months in advance. IMHO - the best way to travel.


So what happened last weekend en route to Yosemite National Park?


I let Ivan plan our entire Yosemite trip because I had been so busy with work. Both of us figured that the weekend after Labor Day weekend wouldn’t be so crowded. So we booked a bus ticket up to San Francisco, met with our friends, and drove off to Yosemite National Park.


What was the end result?


Disaster is the word that comes to mind. It turns out that Northern California was having an unseasonably warm late summer so people were still camping up a storm in the area. All of the nearby Yosemite campsites had been reserved. We were desperate for a campsite and on the day of - Ivan finally booked a campsite two hours away from Yosemite Valley.

This week, we’re going to share moments/confessions/disasters that happened along the way in our very short trip (perhaps, too short) to Yosemite.

Check in tomorrow for our next Daily Origami.



Meeting Strangers: A Stranger On Life & Death

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


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Ivan here. 

Back in my consulting days, I remember sitting in a rental car next to Betsy (my project manager), as we drove two hours from Toronto to London (Ontario) en-route to a client site. The weather outside was overcast, and the world seemed grey and hopeless.

It was just the two of us in the car, which made small talk unavoidable. But honestly, I wasn’t very excited about “getting to know” Betsy. It was nothing personal. It was just that Betsy had been working for the company for the past two decades, the same company that was making me miserable . In my mind, two decades was simply too great a divide for us to have anything in common. 

But talk we did. The conversation meandered at first, as is often the case when both sides are grasping at straws, searching for something to say.  In the end, I learned three important things from Betsy, things I still remember to this day.


3 Things Betsy Taught Me


  1. Vernors is the best tasting ginger ale in the world. Way better than Schweppes or Canada Dry.
  2. The 2013 Toronto revival of Les Miserables is the best production of the musical since the 1986 West End London production. Betsy has seen every show since 1980, and attended both the 10th and 25th anniversary concerts. She goes as far as to book her vacations based on the musical’s touring schedule. 
  3. She’s already paid for her own death and funeral. 
“Hold on,” I said when she broke this news. “You can do that?” 
“Uh huh,” she said. “There are companies you can go through. It cost me $2,000.”
“But why?”
“Because funerals are expensive,” she said. “And I don’t want to put that pressure on my family to pay for it. If you do it early and prepay, you can get it up to 75% off. Plus, I get to plan it exactly the way I want. I know every detail down to the song playing during the ceremony and the hor d'oeuvres served at the afterparty.”
“Wow,” I said. I was speechless. Never in a million years did I think we’d end up here. 

For the rest of the drive, it was all I could talk about. Over the next hour, I got a play-by-play of Betsy's funeral program, set to the song of One Day More


[VALJEAN]
One day more!
Another day, another destiny.
This never-ending road to Calvary
These men who seem to know my crime will surely come a second time...

It’s liberating to live in a world where we can choose how we want to live and how we’d like to die.
— Betsy



Meeting Strangers: A Stranger On Love & Divorce

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


Editor's Note:
This is Part 4 of our Daily Origami series
"Strangers You Meet Between Places."
Here's Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

Chocolates

Ivan here. 

You know what they say: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But when it comes to matters of the heart, it’s like we all live in the same asylum. Time and time again, like moths to a campfire, we offer up our prayers to the open flame, before making graceful swan-dives into the same mistakes. 

The most recent marriage data from the National Survey of Family Growth is not encouraging:

  • The probability of a first marriage lasting at least a decade is 69%. 
  • The probability marriage makes it past the second decade drops to 54%.

If I’m interpreting this data correctly, the average marriage lasts long enough for you to run out of options, but not long enough for you avoid dying old and alone. 

On the bright side, we do have slightly better odds than a coin toss. 

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1. Before the Honeymoon

(October 2016, Taipei Tao-Yuan International Airport)


Jennie and I were in line checking in for our flight to Okinawa, where we were looking forward to some much needed R&R after our $10,000 international wedding.

The wait was long, but we both lived for those moments, engulfed by the excitement and anticipation of a new adventure. 

The only thing missing in my life was a string of Buddhist prayer beads. It's a bracelet I like to wear around my wrist, so I can take it off every now and again to rub when I need to count my troubles. 


2. Fate Intervenes


I mention the beads because the stranger standing in front of us in line happened to be wearing exactly what I was looking for.

So I tapped him on the shoulder and struck up a conversation by asking him where he got them from. 


3. He Tells A Sad And Familiar tale


The stranger turned out to be a Frenchman in his forties, hair cropped short and prematurely grey. He looked like a California surfer: complete with a tan, a Hawaiian shirt, and forearm tattoo. We learned that he was a chocolatier and former pastry chef in Europe, who now consults for major hotel and restaurant chains in Asia. 

At some point, we mentioned we were on our way to Okinawa for our honeymoon. At this, he chuckled.  

“That’s funny,” he said. “I’m on my way to Okinawa because of my divorce.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. 

Turns out he recently went through his second divorce with his second Taiwanese ex-wife, which put his visa status in jeopardy (again).

“I fly over to Okinawa, smoke a few cigarettes outside the airport, fly back here, and get my visa stamped for another six months,” he explained. 

Jennie and I looked at each other, temporarily overcome by his Frenchness. 

The wait in line took nearly forty five minutes. In that time, he told us about his two ex-wives. They had an awful lot in common: both were Taiwanese, loved their shopping and designer labels, and lived under the thumbs of two overbearing mothers, who may as well have been the same person. 

Towards the end of the conversation, he told us he was dating his third Taiwanese girl now. 

What a Greek tragedy, we thought. All roads seemed to lead to divorce.

Taiwan is for lovers?

After we received our boarding passes, the three of us walked together through security and said goodbye for the final time. As he was putting on his prayer beads, he hesitated, and then held them out to me.

"Here," he said. "You can have these."  

I shook my head. I told him he needed it more than I did. We shook hands and wished each other luck. 

When it comes to love, we’re all just operating on a hope and a prayer. 



Meeting Strangers: How A Stranger Became My Husband

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


Editor's Note:
This is Part 3 of our Daily Origami series
"Strangers You Meet Between Places."
Here's Part 1 and Part 2

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Jennie here.

One morning in late December 2008, I burst into the university cafeteria in Kyoto, and started looking frantically for my USB stick, the one which contained the only copy of my East Asian studies term paper. The paper was due that very day. It was worth 50% of my grade. 

Right before I went into full-on panic mode, I noticed a familiar figure sitting alone by the window - a classmate from the class I was about to flunk. He was eating a light breakfast, reading a book, and (smugly, I thought) sipping a cup of tea. He had his term paper printed out and it was sitting in a manila folder on the table. He seemed like he didn’t have a care in the world. Cautiously, I walked up to him, looking for an empathetic ear. 

Me: Hey, you're in East Asian Studies with me, right?
Him (looks up): Oh, yeah. Hi. 

He knew who I was. I was one of only seven people in that class. I was the slacker who always came in late and hungover, and would promptly fall asleep five minutes into the lecture. I also had a strange feeling that this guy didn’t really like me. 

[Awkward pause]
Me: So, what are you up to?
Him: Eating breakfast. Reading a book. 
[Another awkward pause]
Me: Oh, ha. Yeah, I can see that. 

He looked pained as we spoke - I could tell he felt obligated to reciprocate my friendliness. 

Editor’s Note: I don’t care if you’re Scarlett Johansson, if you interrupt me when I'm reading, I’m 100% going to be short and unresponsive. 

Him: So, what are you doing here so early? Class doesn’t start for another hour. 
Me: I lost my USB stick. It had my term paper on it.
Him: That’s too bad. Good news is, you still got time to bike home and get another copy. 
Me: I don’t have another copy. That was my only copy. 
Him: What? What about your laptop? Email? 
Me: I used the school computer to write it up.

He paused, almost in disbelief. 

Him: That sucks...I don't know what else to say. Most people would've saved another copy. 
[Awkward pause]
Him (getting up): Well, I better get going. Hope you end up finding it. 

USB lost

I never did find that USB stick. Nor did I find the empathy I needed in that moment. In the end, I had to write the entire paper from scratch that day and turned it in later that afternoon. It was complete gibberish and my final grade reflected it. 

But I did manage to find my husband that morning - even though neither of us knew it at the time.



Meeting Strangers: How a Stranger Helped Me Land My First Job

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


Airplane

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of our Daily Origami series titled Strangers You Meet Between Places. Here’s Part 1


Jennie here. 

Some of the most fortuitous events in my life happened while I was traveling between places. When waiting in transit, my philosophy has always been: what’s the harm in striking up a conversation with a stranger? It’s basically a super low stakes game, with virtually no downside. 

Besides, if the conversation doesn’t work out, the chances I’ll ever see them again are slim to none. 

But first, some context: it was February 2013 and I was at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto, waiting to board my flight to Boston. A few weeks earlier, I’d finally decided to move to Boston and begin my job search there. I was anxious because I’d been unemployed and living with Ivan in Toronto for the past six months, getting nowhere in phone interviews. It was clearly time to put some boots on the ground and start hustling. 


How a Stranger Helped Me Land My First Job


At the airport lounge, I decided to move over to the “business section” to start my next batch of resume submissions. I saw a friendly-looking, well-dressed woman in a business suit, so I sat near her. Randomly, the television by us was showing footage of ski-jumpers, which sparked a conversation:


Her: I can’t believe people are willing to do stunts like that! 
Me: There are a lot of adrenaline junkies out there. Chasing the next high.  
A few moments later…
Her: So, where are you going? 
Me: Boston. 
Her: Me, too! I work in Cambridge. 
I started peppering her with questions about Boston: What is it like? How do you like it there? Are the winters as tough as people say? 
Me (offhand): Oh, and I forgot to mention - I love your dress. You look fantastic. 
...and that was when she burst into tears. 
Her: Thank you so much! I was actually feeling really self-conscious. To tell you the truth, I just found out I’m pregnant, so you caught me at an emotional time. I was just thinking about how I was going to deal with work and maternity leave, how I was going to tell my boss... 
She was bawling at this point. It was mega awkward. I’m sure the people walking past us thought I’d been bullying her.
After a few moments, she finally calmed down. 
Me: Congratulations on the wonderful news! I’m sure your boss will be understanding. And you shouldn’t feel guilty for such a wonderful life event. 
Her (still sniffling): Thank you. So, why are you going to Boston?

I told her the truth. I’d just graduated from a state school in New Mexico and was looking for my first job in Boston. I had no friends or connections, but I felt like this was a move I had to make. 

And that was the moment my entire life changed. 

Turned out this woman worked as an account executive for a major tech research firm in Boston. We kept in touch over the next couple months, as I struggled to stay afloat with multiple temp and retail jobs. Eventually, she was the one who referred me to my first salaried position. 

Even now, I’m stunned by the ripple effect of this one encounter. Had it not been for a total stranger, I probably wouldn’t have a job in the high-paying tech industry. Without that first role, I wouldn’t have met my current mentor who hired me to lead his marketing team when he moved to a LA start-up. 

In fact, I wouldn’t have any of the privileges I enjoy today: flexible work hours, excellent health benefits, the very idea of going on a round the world trip. 

It’s experiences like this that make me think a year or two abroad might not be a vacation; it might turn out to be the opportunity of a lifetime. 

All I have to do is reach out my hand.
 


Meeting Strangers: Strangers You Meet Between Places

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.



Ivan here.

Last April, I took two weeks off to bike around Taiwan with 300+ high school students and my dad, the school principal. As father and son, we biked 965 km (or 600 miles) over 12 days. Here’s the route we took:

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Naturally, I trained for zero hours beforehand and flew into Taipei the night before we were supposed to leave. I figured I could just work off my jet lag by pedaling faster, right? 

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The heat, elevation, and the literal butt-hurt of sitting on a bike for 6-7 hours a day turned out to be excruciating. You should’ve seen the looks on the faces of these kids by the end of each day. It was as if they just found out that the family pet had been euthanized. 

Along the roughest legs of my journey, I sent Jennie several (unsolicited) texts updating her on my status: 

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Despite the self-inflicted emotional and physical abuse, I met several interesting people on this trip. It’s one of my favorite things about travel: conversations you strike up with strangers while you’re both between places. 

By the time you part ways, you'll find yourself ever so slightly, but irrevocably, changed. 


Part 1: A Stranger In Taiwan


1. Train Journey Down Eastern Taiwan

Because of roadwork along a section of our route, we loaded our bikes onto trucks and took a train into Hualien Station, a welcome relief for my sore butt and the health of my future offspring. 

The east coast of Taiwan is rural, with miles upon miles of idyllic rice fields overlooking mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.
 

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On this journey, I also got to meet the official mascot for Hualien City: the unfortunately named Oh Bear (aka Orgasm Bear). In this video, he looks like he’s having the time of his life: 

2. Old Man Looks Back on His Life

I was seated next to an elderly man in his seventies, on his way to see his grandchildren in Hualien. We struck up a conversation when he asked me where I was taking the students. I told him the kids were turning sixteen this year. The plan was to bike around the island before they held their coming of age ceremony, which would mark their official transition into adulthood. 

This was when the old man told me about a similar trip he’d made in his youth. 

3. Challenges of Adulthood

This was back in the eighties - before I was born. He and a few college buddies set out on spindly village bikes, with a single gear, held together by wire and string. At one point in the story, they couldn’t make it down the mountain before dark and got caught in a typhoon. They were trapped in the mountains for two nights, surviving on limited rations and rainwater. When the storm passed they had to walk their bikes for miles down muddy, washed out roads. 

“It’s good to experience things like this while you’re young,” he said. “It’s the tough times you overcome that matters most in the end.”

4. our Struggle Matters

I don't know who to attribute this quote to, but I think it's true: pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. 

Which is to say that our struggle against adversity make up some of the best parts of who we are. 

In the end, despite all the pain we've experienced and the pain we've yet to face, a stranger aboard a train taught me to focus on creating good memories with the people I love - even from the wind and rain. 



Money Questions: What's Our Personal Definition of Success?

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.


What is your personal definition of success,
and do you consider yourself successful?


JENNIE:

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Recently, I had talked about growing complacent and aimlessly wandering, without any real goals. 

Planning to travel the world.

For me, the definition of success changes, depending on where I’m at in my life. And I think it should be fluid because nothing lasts. There are always new challenges to conquer.

If you had asked me four years ago, what did I consider success? I would have said that a well-paying full-time job and being independent of my family. 

Now? It’s about leveling up and living my life for myself. Specifically, I want to:

  • Finish my first (and only) half-marathon next year. 
  • Be able to generate revenue while I’m traveling abroad with Ivan in 2018 and 2019.
  • Travel to at least 50 countries by the time I’m in my mid-30s. So far, I’ve only been to eight countries in my entire life. 

Success doesn’t happen overnight. And the definition of success changes with who you are and what you’ve accomplished. The way I see it, today’s successes are tomorrow’s stepping stones. In the end, life is about the pursuit and journey, not necessarily the end result. 


IVAN:

There’s a line from Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited that has stuck with me ever since:

“My work had nothing to recommend it except my growing technical skill, enthusiasm for my subject, and independence of popular notions.” 
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The third point is important. Independence of popular notions. While I can empathize with the impulse to value something based on how popular it is, I can’t bring myself to respect it. It tells me that person has no idea what he/she values or wants. 

Success to me means carving out a piece of the world for myself, doing exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it, and as much as possible, hanging out with people I want to hang out with. Fame and fortune are totally unnecessary. I can think of more ways that could sabotage me than it would add value to my life. 

That being said, I’d be sad if after years of work, doing whatever was necessary, I didn’t pick up at least a modest following. This would mean I was never cut out to work on the things I liked, that I wasn't as good as I thought I was.