Monthly Archives: May 2015

May 28 (cont.): Yes and …

Put down the deposit on our new house (yay!) and headed back to Hubud (where I logged into Paypal without my VPN on and created a whole whirlwind of Paypal drama). One of our new friends, ½ of a digital nomadic couple, Tess, tapped me on the shoulder in the afternoon and asked if I wanted to go to an improv class with her that evening. Yes, Tess, why yes I do.

Improv was a bit of a walk away, but we definitely got to see a new part of Ubud (a more high-end touristy part, but whatever). We ended up walking down this somewhat sketch alley that led to a row of houses. One of the gated houses had a footpath leading to a massive villa, which we just wandered into and sat (we just assumed it was where improv was as neither of us had been before). Thankfully we were correct.

— No pictures, because I didn’t want to seem like a noob in front of Tess …

Improv was fun, but also over 2 hours (that’s a lot “Yes and”). Apparently it happens every week. I will probably go back but likely not every week.

Half the group wanted to go to dinner after, but we all know how I feel about dinner. Instead I walked home, bought some, what turned out to be, some pretty bad frozen yogurt, and happened to run into Joel at a restaurant near home (really need to start writing down names of places ).

He was almost done, but we split a raw beet cake dessert (actually it was pretty good — next time pictures!).


May 29: Lock the doors

Woke up early to go to Wild Health again, this time with Joel. Sadly I caught Koming before and my room at Adi House is booked starting Sunday. Which means I will need to find another place to stay until 6/7 when we can move into Gilles’ place. Koming said he would find me a place. I am going to put all my eggs in his basket. Will keep y’all posted on how that goes.

Wild Health was HARD today. Circuit training with sprints up and down the soccer field between each set (even Joel said it was hard). Sadly, if a sprinter returned back to the circuit training area before the last runner, they had to pickup the last exercise and keep doing it until everyone was finished. In other words, everyone in that class should thank me for helping them build even more muscles!

Here are my legs covered in leaves and sweat:

Legs after Wild Health

After showering, I walked back to Hubud where, like a good little hobbit, I had second breakfast (this time raw pumpkin cheesecake, don’t ask). The view by the café is pretty amazing though:


Then I had a pretty productive day. Finished tweaking some short stories and sent three out to some friends ( not as easy as it sounds — getting feedback on creative work is so hard amiright?)

In the evening, Hubud was hosting a happy hour at a restaurant just on the opposite side of monkey forest. Of course I took more pictures (On the left: I promise they didn’t look afraid of me until I took the picture. On the right: Yeah I just couldn’t resist taking a picture of *whatever* these guys were up to)

Monkey Family Monkey Fun?

The Happy Hour was fun, but I actually have a really hard time in big groups of strangers. I felt pretty drained and really strained to make interesting conversation. Three highlights of the night:

    1. Frankie: A graphic designer originally from the UK, but has spent most of her adult life in Australia. She started a company in Oz that helps students studying graphic design connect and network with industry so they don’t have as much trouble finding work when they graduate. Frankie had just finished a road trip through New Zealand (they hitchhiked the whole way!). Her whole adventure is on film (see below). One night on the roadtrip Frankie and her friend squatted at an abandoned hotel. The squatter who lived there (and let them have a room) “offered” to visit them that night … I am glad Frankie is still with us …
      The Design Kids – 2015 NZ Roadtrip from The Design Kids on Vimeo.
    2. Caroline: A life coach who just seems awesome. Her teaching is all about NOT making you amazing, but showing you how you are ALREADY amazing (all about confidence boosting). She is planning a 4 week (once a week) workshop / support circle thing. I am not usually one to go for this type of thing, but she did make it seem pretty compelling (I mean if she didn’t it wouldn’t be her job right?). She is giving a talk at the Onion Collective on June 8th. I’ll check it out with Frankie before deciding whether or not to commit to something paid.


  1. Shae: My future roommate (with Joel)! We ended up talking for over an hour about some pretty personal things. I am really glad he is living with Joel and meand I think will really balance us out. Shae is a web developer and a total yogi. Website here:

Came home pretty immediately after and just passed out.


May 30:

Had a bit of a lazier morning and took my time getting up. Then decided to check out Yoga Barn, a yoga compound in Ubud where LOTS of yoga happens. The path to reception once you enter the place is pretty magical:

Path to YB1 Path to YB2
Path to YB3 Path to YB4
Path to YB5

I took an Iyengar class (level 1 of course) which started soon after I arrived. The class was mostly focused on posture and stretching (I did things with my back I had no idea I could do!). The room was incredibly peaceful. We looked out to a small, green, swampy area:

Yoga Barn

Fifteen minutes into class it began to rain pretty hard which only added to the ambience. We were so zenned out that, at an hour in, when a mouse ran across the room and out the door, no one even seemed phased (yeah … normally that would have probably at least made me jump a little).

After class the instructor offered to drive me back home when she saw I was walking in the rain. She (whose name I don’t know! Ah! I’m horrible!) moved to Ubud from Japan 15 years ago and teaches yoga on the weekends. She was incredible.

Unfortunately I was so focused on our conversation, I kind of lost track of where we were and when she asked if we were close to my place, I felt bad for being lost, lied and said we were, and smiled as I waved her goodbye from a street corner in a part of town I had never been before. It took me another 40 minutes of walking to find my way home …

But, I made it in time for lunch with Joel and Shae! We went to a vegetarian place, Warung Sopa? (Godammit Sydney, just write the names of the restaurants down!). I dropped off some laundry and then returned back to Adi House for some “work.” Okay, so I didn’t work (I read and slept), but it’s Saturday so I think I can be forgiven this once.

At 5p, Joel and I left to meet Shae at the Green School for a movie. After an hour in a taxi (the Green School is only 30 minutes away, but all of us were lost), we made it just in time for the film.

The Green School is actually amazing. It is a private pre-K through High School near Ubud where most ex-pat parents in the area seem to send their kids. The school uses all recycled material, all the buildings are made out of bamboo, and is powered by solar energy. The students play a part in designing their own curriculum and much of the education has a sustainability bent. One interesting note though: I met the husband of a Green School teacher at Friday’s Wild Health class and he seemed to indicate that his wife’s experience was mixed …. Hmmmmmm (maybe more to be investigated here?) —- anyway, for now I am impressed:

Green School

The film we watched was a screening of a new documentary called Planetary. Film’s official description:

PLANETARY is a provocative and breathtaking wakeup call – a cross continental, cinematic journey, that explores our cosmic origins and our future as a species. It asks us to rethink who we really are, to reconsider our relationship with ourselves, each other and the world around us – to remember that we are PLANETARY



Film Screening

The movie’s strategy was all about pulling on your emotional heartstrings. Right after it finished Joel and I both commented to each other that we wished there had been more data (like even one piece of data) or interviews with the actual scientists running some of the peer-reviewed experiments pointing to environmental catastrophe (versus, ya know, only “Zen Priests” and “Meditation Instructors”). We both believe there is obviously a major environmental problem, but we just aren’t as affected by emotional content alone.

Of course, pretty immediately, we realized we were basically the only people in the room that felt this way and, at the very least, I felt like an asshole. Particularly when we shared our view openly with Shae and his friend Lisa (who I had also done improv with and who remembered me). I think we officially marked ourselves as not one of the good guys (:(), but we pushed through the awkward conversation and made it to Ubud-general-small-talk. Win?

Lisa’s friend / boyfriend (unclear) Nick told us about a pool party / open mic night at the Onion Collective that evening and we said we’d probably go, but on the cab ride home, Joel and I realized, we’d waited too long to have ribs. So we went to Naughty Nuri’s instead for some expensive (but good) ribs, fries, and margaritas (clean eating?):

Shout out to Kate for the recommendation!

I do think, having spent now a few weeks (gosh maybe over a month) without having had a sip of alcohol, that one margarita got to me a little #Joel&Sydneyrealtalk. And then I pretty much immediately passed out at home.

Things on my mind:

    • + Moving tomorrow (to Banana Homestay) – need to remember to give Adi House a good review on trip advisor


    • + I’ve finally been convinced to just get a local sim card (it would appear Joel’s patience is running a bit thin with me being entirely unreachable without wifi) — thank goodness I brought an old phone that I’ve already unlocked


    • + Joel keeps telling me about all this cool stuff around Ubud / Bali happening – I need to start figuring out what I want to do and start contributing ideas



I cannot believe it has only been a few days since moving to Bali! A brief recap of my days here so far:

May 26: Koming home

After a bit of waiting, Koming, the owner of a homestay called Adi House in Ubud, came to pick me up and take me to his homestay. The drive from Denpasar to Ubud had some pretty cool sights and Koming even taught me a few phrases in Bahasa (Terima Kasih!).

Drive picture

Adi House is great — I highly recommend it for the budget traveler. It is in Central Ubud, ~$11-13 a night, private bath, free breakfast every morning (good breakfast), and it feels perfectly secure. There is even a giant fan in my room that, when I turn on high, makes the room chilly (++ Adi House!)

Check out Adi House here

My friend Joel was also starting his time here at Adi House. So we quickly met up and (in Joel and Sydney fashion) immediately went to find food. Joel has been in Ubud ~2 weeks and had a pretty impressive lay of the land, a local phone, and some seriously good food recommendations (we ate pork belly for dinner!)

Pork Belly in Ubud!

Thank goodness we had a big dinner because, even though I was wiped from traveling, I only got a few hours of sleep and spent most of the night awake and jetlagged.


May 27: An anGilles

When I woke up the next morning ( / just exited my room after being awake for hours), Koming was up and cooked Joel and I breakfast. The eggs were A+.

Eggs for breakfast

I also made a new friend (he is a puppy and his name is Blacky):

Blacky the puppy!

Then we went off to Hubud, the co-operative workspace with community, free media, and fast internet. Really, if you are ever in Ubud working, this is the place to be. The people are wonderful, it is super easy to get setup, and they have a TON of community events (feels like one a day). My new office:


At 10a we had a very important appointment to visit a house we could potentially rent longer term (think: 2 months). The place is in Central Ubud, 3Br/2Ba (our new friend Shae could take the third), a full kitchen and living room, plus a giant private garden. Right now we’re thinking 2 months is perfect as we may want to travel some other place at that time (the digital nomad community is massive and there are so many places to go throughout Asia and Oceana!)

House in Ubud

At 4p we went back to Gilles’ place to meet the landlord and locked everything in! It is a great location. Yay for successful house-hunting in <24 hours of being in Ubud.

We ended the evening with Game of Thrones at Adi House. Apparently there is a movie theater here (Parardiso) that plays the newest episode every Wednesday (good call Shae!) and has dancing on Mondays (thanks Gilles!).

The plan was to go to dinner afterwards, but I was totally conked out from my lack of sleep the night before ( / as most of you know I also hate eating dinner). I went back to my room around 7 and was out before 715. Joel, like the incredibly nice guy he is, gave me bananas in case I woke up in the night and got hungry. He’s a hero, but I was actually okay. Didn’t wake up until after 5a.


May 28: Free Chemical of the Day

Woke up early morning to a delicious sweet crepe from Koming (Dadar Gulong?):

Breakfast Crepe

Joel talked me into going to this outdoor fitness class called Wild Health at 815a (guys’ class is at 715a so I can’t really complain). If you know me at all, you know I probably wasn’t too excited to go to a morning exercise class that reminded Joel of crossfit, but Joel made a good case for doing what the locals do. So I went.

Cool news is the fastest way to get to Wild Health is through Monkey Forest (literally Monkeys):

Monkeys Monkey Forest

Apparently they also have antelope (or reindeer?) — anyway I’ll be going back to explore soon so expect more on that at some point!

The fitness class was ultimately great. I am desperately out of shape, but you know, after doing this 3 times a week and yoga on the off days when class isn’t being taught, I shouldn’t be out of shape for too long (here’s hoping!).

Wild Health

Quick shower at home (ahh! Weird that I already think of my place at Adi House as home), then off to Hubud for some work.

Pillow Hubud

We just finished lunch at a local café (with a sign listing the free chemicals for the day?) and have an hour or so until we go back to Gilles to pay our rent for the two months (~$200 a person per month! Crazy!)

Tonight, Joel wants ribs. Will keep you posted!

Things on my mind:

    • + Ways to spend even less money (not spending a lot but think I could be spending less)


    • + Exercising in front of Joel tomorrow is going to suck (Wild Health on Fridays is gender-mixed)


    • + How to communicate to Joel that my perfect eating schedule does not involve dinner ….


    + Finding more time to focus on writing (I want to crank out one more short story to send around to my review committee before jumping back into my novel)

I’ve landed in Bali!

But, as anyone who has traveled across the world probably knows, the actual getting to the destination is never completely uneventful.

This is the story of a girl and her airports ….

It all began in Orlando. I said goodbye to my family (extended and immediate) and kissed my love goodbye (pictured below):

Syd & Keno
(she’s definitely frowning because she is going to miss me …. definitely)

Then I finished my last packing touches (spoiler alert: which I would later learn almost immediately upon touching down in Bali were for the most part a small portion of the much larger category of items entitled: “things I overpacked”):


Anyway, first airport: Orlando (airport code MCO)
Subtitle: Disney World: Remember your moneybag

Who would have thought the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend would be a busy flying day? Aha! It would be for those that don’t celebrate Memorial Day — aka our world travelers! Orlando is not a city unfamiliar with the visitor from abroad; as you might guess, Disney and Universal (among other park families) draw tourists from everywhere. And today I saw a bunch of them. For me the most surprising takeaway was that, like many Americans who travel abroad, these foreigners are just as concerned about getting their passport and monies stolen; there was almost a 100% hit rate of secret money patches being removed by folks as they walked through security. Weirdly enough, this actually made me, more than perhaps any other element of my 2 day journey to Bali, feel connected to all my fellow men. Everyone is concerned of getting their things stolen abroad: We are the world, We are the children.

Anyway, another important finding I realized early on into my travels (that would only get reinforced throughout the journey) is: if you have the miles (award points) to upgrade to business class for international travel, just do it.

I had been pretty sick leading up to my departure date. My mother, concerned and aware of how many leftover miles from consulting I had, encouraged me to use 40,000 of my 80,000 remaining miles to upgrade. I fought her for a few days, but then my illness (proving how resilient a cold can be) decided to hang around a bit longer than invited and I caved, purchasing the upgrade. What they don’t tell you is that, for international flights, these upgrades also buy you access to the business class lounges at many of the airports across the world. Think: warm meal, hot shower, free wifi (#clutch).

Here’s me on my Lufthansa flight from Orlando to Frankfurt:


Second airport: Frankfurt (airport code FRA)
Subtitle: You can’t just walk into any shower you want

What fun to land at a European airport midday! For some reason, I always end up in airports abroad at too early or too late of times to have any interesting (at least in a painless way) interactions. Really: ask my sister or me about the time we ended up in the Beijing airport at 2a with no visa at the front of the only customs line where the agent spoke no english.

Frankfurt security does mean business though. Apparently toothpaste counts as a liquid (but the agents were nice and let me keep the only toothpaste and hygiene supplements I was bringing with me abroad).

The Lufthansa lounge was luckily super close to my gate, so I was able to camp out for a couple hours in a pretty nice location with very little stress about making it onto my next flight:

Lufthansa Lounge

Things I learned from the Lufthansa lounge in Frankfurt:

      + Giant grapes probably have seeds in them


      + Good internet does not always play nicely with VPN services


      + You should ask to use a shower (“you can’t just walk in there”)


      + If you start a sentence with “this might sound racist but” it 1) is probably racist 2) is not something you should be yelling at your colleague in a very packed lounge with a lot of people sitting around who don’t know you


    + Try not to look lost while choosing what snack to take back to your seat, friendly Europeans will try to “help you”

Off to Bangkok:

Thai Airways

Third airport: Bangkok (airport code BKK)
Subtitle: Thai Airways is the winner

Thai Airways. You. Are. Amazing. Yes, an 11 hour flight is no joke. And, true, your movie choices weren’t fantastic. BUT, best sleep I ever got on a plane (you could really lie completely flat!) and your service was exceptional. Also, and to be fair, I am only 60% sure y’all planned this for me, but I sat next to the cutest baby (and how often do you hear someone compliment a BABY after an 11 hour flight).

We landed in Bangkok early (just before 6a). Not my first time at the BKK rodeo, but I have to admit, this go-around I was a bit grouchy. I de-boarded with a pretty bad headache and the airport felt 1000 degrees (I may be exaggerating). Thank goodness the Thai Airways lounge was right outside of security.

Royal Silk Lounge

I have never been to a lounge with so much good looking free food. We’re talking pork buns, we’re talking orange cake, we’re talking hot dog soup (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it), fresh papaya, creme tarts, a help-yourself-bar with pretty much anything you could want! Sadly, I did not eat much (maybe only time I’ll ever say this: but thank goodness for a tight layover). Showered quickly and grabbed what I could carry. Next stop Bali:

Thai Airways 2

Fourth airport: Denpasar (airport code DPS)
Subtitle: Order the fishballs / What do you mean by “clubbing”?

NOTE: I will always have a special place in my heart for Denpasar’s airport. DPS is the sickest airport code; as someone who always plays a melee DPS in video games, I (probably like an idiot) nerded out a bit too much over this, but I yam what I yam.

I also should mention, if you are ever on a Thai Airways flight and a food option is “fishballs,” just say yes. Amazing! Also, crazy that we got a hot meal on a 4 hour flight! American airlines, take note.

Pretty easy flight. Admittedly I passed out when we were landing so no cool pictures from the plane … next time? Customs was a breeze (the visas we got ahead of time worked! <— not not worth celebrating if you knew the pain it took to get these).

Koming, the owner of the homestay we are staying at while looking for a more permanent housing solution, was late to pickup. Good news though: I got to experience first hand how friendly (/ aggressively friendly) the Balinese people are! Not only did a complete stranger let me use his phone to call my ride, but another cab driver (just chilling in the airport) sat and talked with me for the hour I waited.

Mana (sp?), my new friend, told me all about Kuta and Denpasar. He thought we’d be bored in Ubud (central Bali), but I also quickly learned he thought I was here to paaaartaaay. Hey, at least now I have a friend in the Denpasar area. Even though, I was a little concerned about his comment that, “We could go clubbing together and you can meet my family” (his family including his 10 year old and 5 year old) — chalk this one up to “clubbing” being a lost in translation word.

Map of Bali


Well that’s it for my travels. Stay tuned for an update on my first few days in Bali soon!

Almost six months ago I turned 25. Early on my birthday, I joked with a colleague that my days of rounding down to 20 were finished and now 30 was in-sight. My friend, twisting the knife as fair punishment for my feigned age-anxiety, pointed out that, actually, I now also rounded up to 50.

By no means did this make me feel old, but I did pause and think: I am halfway to 50 …. and what have I achieved? I looked to my resume:

      + High school valedictorian


      + WashU undergrad with College honors


      + Internships at Teach For America and Goldman Sachs


      + Business Analyst at McKinsey with offer to return after b-school


      + Fellowship at Khan Academy


    + 760 GMAT

Great … right?

But then I thought about what wasn’t on my resume (and things that my resume could not reflect)….

      + I had never lived abroad and my travel abroad had been limited


      + I never finished that book I started in high school and worked on in college


      + My physical health and fitness never took priority


      + My last visit to the doctor revealed I was low on vitamin D (not enough sun, she said)


      + My longest romantic relationship didn’t even stretch a year


    + AND, I felt tired and stressed all day, all the time (with an 8+ hour night of sleep feeling like a miracle rather than a certainty)

At what point had the destination eclipsed the journey? At what point did accolades and jobs and diplomas and bragging rights become more important than personal enrichment and happiness? And, most important, what could I do to reset the scale?

A friend of mine, maybe having reached a similar impasse (?), had already chosen to make his goals and his happiness his guiding star. His plan: quit work in January, move to NY for Hacker School, then move to Bali in May and work on a project of his own.

Like a good friend, at first I felt raging jealousy at the choice he’d made. And then, like a better friend, I began to talk to him more seriously about the path that led him to his decision. Realizing that his rationale was the final evolution of how my own thinking was taking shape, I asked if (or maybe I assumed? – sorry Joel!) I could join him in May.

So here we are: < 1 week before I move to Bali. Joel is already there (championing the way!). I cannot wait to follow his lead and kickoff my next quarter-life with an adventure all about the journey, self-fulfillment, and the lines that won’t be on my resume.

Bring. It. On.