If there’s one lesson that traveling has taught me over and over again, it’s that life is generally more fun, more interesting, when we say “yes” rather than “no”. Saying yes we risk the unknown and open up ourselves to the possibility of being surprised, to having our boundaries expanded and our points of view changed. Maybe it’s because, on the verge of saying no, our expectations for the experience are lower, or maybe it’s because opening ourselves up to “yes” primes us for other great things that are headed our way. All I know is that it has been exceedingly rare during this trip that I have wished I had turned an opportunity down.
Were it not for these Chewing the Fat interviews, I’d probably never know what day of the week it is anymore. Instead, to brighten your Friday and send you off into what will hopefully be a delicious weekend, we’re sitting down with Talon Windwalker, the man behind the fantastic family travel blog, 1 Dad, 1 Kid as well as a new food-centric travel blog, Travels 4 Yum.
From 10¢ glasses of local drafts sipped on tiny stools on street corners in Vietnam to $2 1.5L pitchers of ice cold lager in Cambodia, Asia has developed something of a reputation amongst budget-conscious travelers who enjoy a tipple or two. By and large, Asia’s reputation as the land of low-cost liquor is well-earned, but there are a few places where booze will break the bank, Singapore being chief among them. Though you can stuff yourself for a pittance in the Lion City, washing down your meal with an adult beverage will see you hemorrhaging money at a worrying pace.
By far the worst-kept secret on this blog (and perhaps the entire internet) is just how far behind this site is in chronicling our trip. This is the worst kept secret, in part, because I routinely state explicitly just how woefully behind we are, but I also figured that since our last post was about how we spent Christmas 2012, the cat was really out of the bag: try as we might, 20YH is months behind.
Maybe I’m lucky, but despite what anyone tries to tell you, I haven’t found the notion that “marriage changes everything” to be true. If Tony’s and my relationship has changed in the four years we’ve been married (and surely it has), I credit that more to simply having been in the trenches with one another that much longer than I do to a piece of paper. If anything has caused the most upheaval in our relationship, it’s undoubtedly been uprooting our life to travel long-term: When we left on this trip, neither Tony nor I once doubted that we would love our new lifestyle, and while I don’t think we were wrong, it has definitely taken us time to get to this point.
One of the things I struggled with most when I first moved to Nashville was how white-washed the city was. Coming from one of the world’s multicultural epicenters, Toronto, I certainly felt for a long time like I had fallen into a bit of a cultural void. I longed to be in a place where it was possible to have dim sum on the weekends and my choice in Indian restaurants was more extensive than “the vegetarian place or the place with meat”, but it was about more than food, too. As I did, Nashville grew and changed a lot while I was living there (it has FOUR Indian restaurants now!), but not once did I see posters around town heralding upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations, or warning that West End Ave would be shut down that weekend for Caribana, or even—least threatening of all— a “Taste of Little Italy” festival. Of course, the key behind these kinds of celebrations is the people and populations they represent, and so while Nashville’s entertainment and events schedule may have seemed a little drab and one-note due to omissions of this sort, this merely reflects the absences in the city’s demographics. I didn’t necessarily notice this consciously while I was in Nashville, but some part of me certainly processed and took note of that loss.
After an unexpected hiatus (what can we say—internet access (along with several other things) has been pretty rough here in Indonesia) we’re back with a super-sized edition of Chewing the Fat. If you’ve read through our posts on Taiwan, you probably guessed it was only a matter of time before we featured two of our very favorite bloggers on the planet in this space and finally that time has come. Today I am so happy to share with you our interview with the amazingly kind and adorably kooky Dale Davies and Franca Calabretta of AngloItalian Follow Us!
“Next time, use a blue pen or a black pen.”
We’ve already been through five of these checkpoints in as many months and by far the stentorian greeting that awaits me at immigration in Singapore is the least welcoming of any place we’ve been. Far from a warm welcome, I think I’ve just been issued a warning, and a frigid one at that.
After spending nearly two months in the Philippines, we were positive that we’d visited the friendliest island nation on the planet. There was no way we could possibly find a country to rival hospitality and warmth that Filipinos displayed, a place we’d never been but that immediately made us feel like we had come home.
And then we visited Taiwan, and boy did it ever prove us wrong.
I’d go so far as to say that of all the places we visited in Taiwan, we ate the very best and enjoyed the food the most while in Hualien. And just like the kofta from New York City that haunts us in our dreams, many of these meals were ones that if we were ever to return to the city on our own, we’d have a hard time replicating.
I’m sure that most of our loyal readers have come to this post expecting it to be a rundown of five amazing things we ate while in Taiwan. After all, when I first began relaying our stories about Taiwan, I shared that the primary mission for our visit was to eat our way through as much of the country as the non-elasticized waistbands on our clothing would allow, so that would be in keeping with our raison d’être as travelers.
One year ago, we followed our bliss and a one-way ticket to the other side of the planet. We landed in Tokyo, Japan with about 95% of our worldly possessions strapped to our back, and little else other than a bank account flush from years of hard saving and a head full of dreams that it was finally time to make real. Fast-forward 365 days and, well, not much has changed really! Our bank account is certainly a lot leaner, but every morning we wake up with hearts, if not heads, full of dreams and do our best to make some of them come true. Though there have absolutely been bumps along the way, it’s a pretty fantastic way to live.
When it comes to the rain, there is no escaping it. Nearly every day since landing in Taiwan, rain has been dogging our every step. Fleeing as far south as Tainan bought us a brief reprieve, but now that we’re back up in the north, the miserable, cold drizzle has returned with a vengeance.
It’s another installment of Chewing the Fat, and this week we’re so happy to be doing so with the delightful Sarah of Sarah Somewhere! Sarah was a flight attendant for a major Australian airline for eleven years before deciding to quit her job and travel the world with no plan, agenda or foreseeable end date. She and her partner Tyrhone sold everything they owned, including their home, to travel and create a simple, fulfilling life of creativity and adventure. They write about the journey at Sarah Somewhere and Tell Them I Said Something. After a year of travel through South East Asia, China and India, they are currently based on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, swimming, writing, creating and of course… eating.
I have a sneaking suspicion that if I asked you to tell me the first food that you think of when you envision Asia, I would be hearing an awful lot of “noodles” and “rice”, maybe some “fish” and “curry” as well. But, I’ve got to tell you that those are all the wrong answer. It doesn’t take too long here before you realize that by far the culinary craze that is sweeping the continent is a dish that goes by many different names, but which we tend to call hot pot. Involving a simmering cauldron of heavily spiced broth and generally some of the more creative cuts of meats we Westerners are more likely to toss in the trash, you can think of hot pot as Asia’s answer to fondue: diners are responsible for cooking their own dinners—thinly sliced beef, earthy mushrooms, nutty pumpkin, raw eggs, crunchy leafy greens, squishy blood cubes, tofu skin—if you can eat it, into the roiling pot it goes.