I really like Octopress. It builds on top of Jekyll to address certain rough edges, and provides ready to go lighting fast blogging platform. It’s easily extendible if you know how to code (thanks to a rather clean and well organized code base), and posts are just plain Markdown files.

One issue though - I need to be near a computer to publish and preview the article. This becomes difficult if I’m traveling with, say, a tablet.

I have a low end AWS Lightsail instance I use for writing and publishing, but it’s not always fun to write when SSHing into a server, and I often write offline - making it even more difficult to move files between where I write and where I publish. And managing images is a nightmare. To resolve this, I set up a few directories I use in Dropbox, and wrote a few scripts to move things around when needed.

Here’s a directory structure in Dropbox:

- blog/
  - posts/
    - 2017-11-20-automatic-octopress-publishing.markdown
  - img/
    - input/
      - a-picture-of-a-flower.jpg
    - output/

I put Markdown files in Dropbox/blog/posts/ (and numerous offline editors sync with Dropbox - I’m writing this with StackEdit, and I use iA Writer on my tablet). I add my images to Dropbox/img/input/. I tend to strip metadata from my images and resize them to fit the maximum page width (I don’t really care for high resolution pictures, speed is preferred over ability to zoom into a picture). For this, two tools are needed:

sudo apt-get install imagemagick exiftool

When I’m done writing or want to preview an article, I SSH into my AWS Lightsail instance and run sync.sh, a small script which moves posts to a proper directory, processes images and places them in the desired location, as well as starts Octopress instance (this way I can preview my blog on the AWS Lightsail instance). Contents of sync.sh (don’t forget to chmod +x):

#!/bin/bash
cd $HOME/Dropbox/blog/img/input
mogrify -resize 832x620 -quality 100 -path $HOME/Dropbox/blog/img/output *.jpg
exiftool -all= $HOME/Dropbox/blog/img/output/*.jpg
cp $HOME/Dropbox/blog/posts/*.markdown $HOME/blog/source/_posts
cp $HOME/Dropbox/blog/img/output/*.jpg $HOME/blog/source/images/posts
cd $HOME/blog
rake generate
rake preview

I run the above script every time I want to preview the site. I’m sure it’s easy to set up a daemon to watch for changes in the Dropbox folders, but I don’t see the need for that yet. Also, I just statically resize images to a particular resolution (832x620) since all of the pictures I upload have the same aspect ratio, I’m sure there’s a way to calculate that number on the fly for this script to work with different aspect ratios.

Lastly, when I deployed and committed my changes (still commit and deploy manually out of a habit), I run archive.sh:

#!/bin/bash
mv $HOME/Dropbox/blog/posts/*.markdown $HOME/Dropbox/blog/published
rm $HOME/Dropbox/blog/img/input/*
rm $HOME/Dropbox/blog/img/output/*

It’s not much, but enough to save some manual labor involved in publishing to Octopress.

This article is a collaboration between my partner and I.

Since moving into a studio, I have missed the freedom of taking off randomly, getting to know a different city or state and overall not being tied down to a routine or a location. I love the idea of trivializing travel, so it was only natural to have a random trip at the end of the week.

My partner watches The Bucket List Family on a weekly basis and caught the traveling bug as well. Unfortunately, we are not yet at the level where we can afford a 5 star trip to international locals or have companies pay for our travels (one day!). Our goal was to spend a few days going out of state to break the work week and avoid living for the weekend.

We decided to leave Northern California on Thursday afternoon for Salt Lake City, Utah as soon as we were done with work. Roughly 800 miles each way, if one counts exits and driving around sightseeing. Inspired by an acquaintance who travels the world with a folding bike, my partner and we took our bikes with us: a borrowed Brompton folding bike for my partner in the back seat, and my ZycleFix Prime mounted on the rack in the rear.

Driving through California, Nevada, and Utah on I-80 was always one of my favorites - and it was nice to share the wonders of the world with my partner. She clocked in a lot more international travel than I did, but only been to a handful of states. It was her first time in Utah and each stop on the way to the Salt Flats exposed us to all kinds of people, different from the type of individuals we typically see inside the Silicon Valley tech bubble. We saw people with different lives, habits, hobbies, and worldviews, which to be perfectly honest, was refreshing.

Throughout the trip, we made it a point not to make any plans and go with the flow – be it our driving pace, entertainment or food options, or cities we decided to stay the night in. Traveling that way removed the stress associated with finding the perfect location and planning a fun trip. Don’t like the town we stopped at? Let’s keep driving. Enjoy a specific city? Let’s spend the night there. Having issues at a hotel? Back on the road we go.

We found a hotel while driving on the I-80 and settled there for the night. Unfortunately the place did not have a strong enough WiFi, which led us to drive to the next town over for coffee and internet to work remotely. We ended up spending 6 hours in the coffee shop making sure that we kept ourselves well caffeinated and the servers well tipped. After a somewhat productive day, we decided to explore the city’s downtown and save the Salt Flats drive for the daytime.

Our Super 8 Motel in Wendover cost us around $70 for the night and was more comfortable than expected. We ended up passing out as soon as we got to the room, exhausted from the day. We tried to stay at cheaper hotels/motels, while avoiding shady looking places. We would most often pick the 2nd or 3rd cheapest option. We never stayed in one place for more than a night and lucked out every time we got ourselves a room. Every room we slept in was clean and we even managed to squeeze in a daily workout before the start of each day.

Keeping a healthy diet on the other hand was a whole other challenge. Between cafes, restaurants and late night cravings, we failed at maintaining proper eating habits and saving on food. We spent around $300 on food alone. Eating is definitely one area for improvement, especially as we decide to travel more. Dieting is hard and dieting on the road is even harder.

On Saturday, we finally headed to Utah and stopped at a rest stop by the Salt Flats. The view was marvelous and cold for an October day. We left the Salt Flats for a mall, City Creek Center, in Salt Lake City where we had another amazingly delicious and unhealthy lunch. To feel better about our life choices, we used our bikes to get some cardio and discover the city on two-wheels. We biked through Memory Grove Park, crashed a wedding, and biked almost to the Capitol. Almost. Due to Salt Lake’s incredible, deadly hills. Next time, SLC, next time we shall conquer you.

After a day of biking and testing each other’s patience, we decided to go for a date night and talk through our attempts at making life on the road work. Traveling solo is a very different experience than traveling with a partner. We chatted over Brazilian BBQ, another unhealthy choice, and agreed that we needed to include time alone as part of our travel routine and constantly check in with each other.

We headed to the hotel and decided to leave back for California after breakfast on Sunday. Oh, and on the topic of car, the subject of staying in the Prius or camping came up a few times. We even prepared our tents in that event but the cold weather and the thought of a hot shower took priority… Oh well, hotel Prius will get more use some other time.

In one day, we drove from Utah back to Northern California. We have different memories of the road back. For her, it was long and slow. For me as a driver, it passed within a blink of an eye. Overall, our trip to Utah was a success and we learned a lot:

  1. Nothing can replace the freedom associated with the absence of a plan. When there’s no agenda or times to be at specific places - you’re never late, never in a hurry, and you’ve always seen more than you planned for. It allowed us to be surprised and delighted by places we encountered without imposing our pace on said locations.
  2. Taking time for oneself is a necessity when traveling with someone else. Time alone does not always mean actually being alone. It can be whatever works for you as a couple. For us, it’s spending time on our devices while sitting next to each other.
  3. Approaching each location with an open mind. You are not always going to get to travel to exotic places like the Bahamas, but the opportunity to fall in love with a place or its people is always there.

Living in a car for nearly a year made me pick up number of travel-related skills, here and there. Having limited available space forced “less is more” philosophy on me, and it’s something I carried over into more stationary life. Right now I’m taking a break from car dwelling and living in a small apartment in Bay Area. It didn’t stop my love for travel though, as I’m writing this entry on my flight to Nassau, Bahamas. 5 days at the destination, leisure. One of the many weekends I’m not home.

I’m not traveling alone this time, and my traveling partner has a similar outlook on travel.

Him

Less is more. Every trip starts with packing. I use my eBags Motherlode Weekender backpack, which is about the perfect size for me when it’s compressed tightly. I can probably fit in double the stuff I packed in the backpack, but I love having room in case I pick something up at the destination.

I never have to check in my bag, and it’s light enough to carry on my back without any strain. I can explore my destination as soon as I arrive, without the need to find arrangement for my bags.

I pack minimally, only having two-three sets of each type of clothing. I hand-wash the clothes I wear before I go to bed. I cycle through a total of 3 pairs of undergarments - most dry overnight as I sleep.

Furthermore, all my outfits can be mixed and matched together, so I don’t have to worry about pairing tops, bottoms, and shoes. I like to think I have some sense of style to, for those wondering. Most people I meet won’t likely see me for more then one-two days in a row, and those who do are not likely to pay attention to my small wardrobe - as long as it looks clean and sharp.

Here’s what the clothing items for this trip look like:

  • Business-casual dress-shirt.
  • Two T-shirts.
  • Pair of shorts.
  • Icebreaker merino underwear, 2 pairs.
  • Darn Tough socks, 2 pairs.
  • Jacket.
  • Swimming trunks.
  • Travel towel, for the beach.
  • Flip flops.
  • Workout outfit:
    • Tank top.
    • Shorts.
    • Sports underwear.
    • Running sneakers.

All of the above is contained within a single packing cube and a travel shoe bag.

Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s plenty (add the outfit I’m wearing on the plane - pants, T-shirt, sweater, shoes, pair of underwear, socks). The above lets me have outfits for all kinds of events, activities, and anticipated weather at the destination.

My personal hygiene stuff fits in a dettachable bag which comes with the backpack. Not much special here:

For entertainment and downtime I have my trusty Google Pixel C (with attached keyboard) and a pair of cheap apple ear buds. Bonus point for USB C standard - I only need to use a single charger for my tablet and a phone.

Her

Traveling with a space obsessed partner (him: Hey!) has forced me to look at packing in a different way. I first experimented with the idea of minimalism after watching The BucketList Family and avoiding airline fees is always a bonus. With every trips, I refined my set up. While I am not as lightweight and nimble as my partner, I have made significant improvements to my travel routine and picked up a few tips and tricks from him.

For example, the eBag Weekender was my first real travel purchase, which I made sure to always have ready for use, meaning that it’s always stocked with toiletries, travel documents and packing cubes. Given my propensity for sweating, I upgraded to a clean/dirty packing cube and a charcoal odor remover for my workout outfit.

For this trip, this is what is inside my bag including the clothes I am wearing to travel:

On me:

  • A tank top.
  • A hoodie.
  • A denim jacket.
  • Lululemon leggings.
  • Bra and underwear.
  • Sandals

In my luggage:

  • Button on shirt.
  • Tank top.
  • T-shirt.
  • Pair of pants.
  • Pair of shorts.
  • Rain jacket.
  • 5 pairs of underwear (one is never too prepared in terms of underwear, and this is where I refuse to become a minimalist).
  • Workout oufit:
    • Leggings.
    • Dry fit T-shirt.
    • One pair of socks.
    • Workout bra.
    • Sports sneakers.
    • Bikini

Toiletries:

  • Foundation.
  • Makeup brush.
  • Travel-friendly lotion.
  • Natural oil for face washing purposes.
  • Feminine hygiene soap
  • Ingrown hair serum.
  • L’Instant de Guerlain perfume (while the current bottle takes a lot of space and adds weight, I have yet to find a travel friendly way to carry it).

If you haven’t noticed, my backpack is bigger, and my setup is a bit heavier. To be perfectly honest, I am not yet fully on board with this whole minimalistic travel but I have got to say, my shoulders are thankful.

Making Yourself at Home

We’ve learned from the bucket list family that it’s really important to unpack as soon as we get to a hotel. Especially since it’s easy to do when there’s little clothing in the bags. This way we feel at home whenever we go, even if we’re just staying at a hotel for a single night. Every item is in it’s place, and there’s no digging through the bags for clothes or gadgets.

We’ve also found that we really value downtime, every day we travel. Taking time to unwind (however long it needs to be) in the hotel room, a coffee shop, or anywhere else helps take the edge off flying and booking accommodations and the subconscious pressure to have fun as a pair.

We’ve learned this the hard way on our first trip together. Our days were packed with activities and sightseeing stops, and we were at each other’s throats by the end of the trip. Lesson learned.

For the past year or two I’ve been working in the cloud. I use Chrome Secure Shell to connect to my machines, and it works rather well. In fact, I moved away from my work Linux/Mac laptops towards an HP Chromebook, which fullfilled both requirements I had: a browser and a terminal. One thing I missed about a Linux machine though is lack of notify-send-like functionality, especially when working with long-running builds.

Yesterday I pinged hterm team for assistance with this matter, and turns out recent release of Secure Shell supports Chrome desktop notifications! Furthermore, two amazing engineers (thanks Andrew and Mike!) crafted an hterm-notify script, which propagates notifications to Chrome, and by extent to desktop!

I made a few tiny changes, mainly since I don’t use screen, and tmux sets my $TERM to screen-256color for some reason:

#!/bin/sh
# Copyright 2017 The Chromium OS Authors. All rights reserved.
# Use of this source code is governed by a BSD-style license that can be
# found in the LICENSE file.

# Write an error message and exit.
# Usage: <message>
die() {
  echo "ERROR: $*"
  exit 1
}

# Send a notification.
# Usage: [title] [body]
notify() {
  local title="${1-}" body="${2-}"

  case ${TERM-} in
  screen*)  # This one's really tmux
    printf '\ePtmux;\e\e]777;notify;%s;%s\a\e\\' "${title}" "${body}"
    ;;
  *)        # This one's plain hterm
    printf '\e]777;notify;%s;%s\a' "${title}" "${body}"
    ;;
  esac
}

# Write tool usage and exit.
# Usage: [error message]
usage() {
  if [ $# -gt 0 ]; then
    exec 1>&2
  fi
  cat <<EOF
Usage: hterm-notify [options] <title> [body]

Send a notification to hterm.

Notes:
- The title should not have a semi-colon in it.
- Neither field should have escape sequences in them.
  Best to stick to plain text.
EOF

  if [ $# -gt 0 ]; then
    echo
    die "$@"
  else
    exit 0
  fi
}

main() {
  set -e

  while [ $# -gt 0 ]; do
    case $1 in
    -h|--help)
      usage
      ;;
    -*)
      usage "Unknown option: $1"
      ;;
    *)
      break
      ;;
    esac
  done

  if [ $# -eq 0 ]; then
    die "Missing message to send"
  fi
  if [ $# -gt 2 ]; then
    usage "Too many arguments"
  fi

  notify "$@"
}
main "$@"

Throwing this in as ~/bin/notify (not forgetting to chmod +x and having ~/bin in the $PATH) I can get a notification when a particular long running command is complete:

sleep 30 && notify Hooray "The sleep's done!"

A close friend of mine has a story similar to mine. She wanted to share it for a while now, and I’m humbled she chose my blog as a medium for telling her inspiring story to the strangers on the Internet:

I can’t count the number of times I have attempted to tell this story on paper. It all started 8 months ago when my then-husband, let’s call him Carl, told me that he no longer loved me and was in love with someone else. There are a few moments in life that seem to happen in slow motion and this was one of them. Until then, my life had been being Carl’s wife and in the blink of an eye, I had to figure out who I was in a world without Carl. I forced myself to write every thoughts I had, dark, depressed, once a day but it didn’t stick. I bought various domain names hoping that it would give me the final push to start writing all this down but all the sites remained “under construction”. So here is my final attempt to write this up, organize my thoughts and hopefully let someone going through this know that they are not alone. How did I get here? Well funny you should ask, pull up a chair and listen to my tale.

Carl and I met when we were 22 and 18 respectively. It was far from love at first sight but he intrigued me. I had just got out of an unhealthy relationship and wanted something different and Carl was that, unapologetically himself. Up until then, I had always felt pressure to conform to the idea of who others wanted me to be and meeting Carl, who let’s be honest was a straight nerd, was surprisingly refreshing and attractive. We dated for 5 years before getting married. We struggled with money throughout the first years of our relationship so when the opportunity to make more at a job I was unqualified for presented itself, we jumped at the chance. We packed our bags and moved for my job. Thus started the beginning of the end. I was so focused on keeping said job that I overworked, became a ball of nerves and lost all desires to do anything outside of work. While I struggled with the demand of the job, Carl found refuge with his younger, funner coworkers. We started living separate lives, which eventually led up to the fateful day when my husband told me that he loved someone else.

I will not bore you with the details of my attempts to become a stable, contributing member of society. It included a lot of sleepless night, Nutella for dinner, and lies. I would smile everyday as I got to work, joked with co-workers and call family members and friends to discuss everything and anything when deep down all I wanted to do was to crawl in a dark place and wallow in my sadness. This period led to a lot of physical and mental changes. I lost 20 pounds in 2 months due to stress but the vain person in me was happy to see myself get skinny. Mentally, I had to come clean to my family and explain to them how I became the first divorced person in a deeply catholic family. I created a smaller, more dependable community of friends, most of them divorced or separated who could provide me with a different perspective. I had to admit to my manager that I could not continue work as is. Maintaining the lies became exhausting and emotionally draining. One had to give and after a heart to heart with my manager, I decided to cash out all my vacation hours and head out to Southeast Asia for a month.

Prior to Southeast Asia, I had never vacationed alone. For the first time in my life, I was in charge of my itinerary and my own entertainment. It was overwhelming. After discussing the trip with veteran solo travelers, I only purchased one ticket. All I knew was my departing and arrival date from and to the US. I arrived at my first stop, Ho Chi Minh City, at midnight on a blazing hot night. The bustle of the city took me aback and made me question the trip in its entirety. I was running away and I knew it. I have always thought of myself as a strong person but dealing with this separation made me feel like a scared kid. Just as I was going through this mental exercise, my cab driver hit a motorcyclist and the impact broke one of his side view mirrors. The driver angrily got out of the car and argued with the individual he had just hit. They spoke in Vietnamese for what felt like hours and came back without explanations. At that point, I was sure that this entire trip was a mistake and if I had spoken the language, I would have asked the driver to turn and drop me back at the airport.

The rest of the drive to the hotel was much calmer with the occasional surprise looks from locals seeing a black tourist through a taxi window at midnight. Blame it on stress, jet lag or even regret but for the first time in months I slept for more than 4 hours. Somewhat invigorated by the night of sleep, I decided to venture into the city to find food. After multiple failed attempts to cross one of the main traffic arteries, I gave up and sat down miserably looking at a bowl of pho from a restaurant located in the same block as my hotel. The Ho Chi Minh City traffic had won once again. I sat by a window seat, staring into the street, dreading the rest of this Southeast Asia trip. To travel Asia required an adventure spirit and it only took me 2 days to recognize that this was not one of my hidden talents. I told myself, only half believing it, that my second stop might be different but deep down, I knew I was on my way to yet another disappointing time.

Bangkok was a life changing stop for my trip and myself as a person. I had contacted a Turkish-based traveler on CouchSurfing visiting Bangkok during the same time. I was excited to meet up with someone that could understand the struggles of being in an unfamiliar country. This guy learned English by watching American sitcoms but did not let his basic knowledge of English or his lack of Thai stop him. It led to some interesting conversations about the meaning of “Netflix and Chill” and other American colloquialisms. Seeing him tackle the challenges of navigating a foreign city showed me what my journey could look like. Not only did he help me see the wonders of being open to the world, but he also inadvertently started my process of self love. Let me explain. To avoid having to carry a heavy suitcase and pay airline fees, I limited my wardrobe to whatever could fit in a carry-on backpack. As a relatively fashion-focused person, this decision was uncomfortable. With that in mind and the unforgiving sun, I was either dripped in sweat or looking like a lost 1920s explorer. Having someone still think that I looked good in those conditions did wonders for my broken self esteem. We spend 4 adventures filled days and parted ways. We still talk to each other and I am grateful to have encountered him so early on during my trip. I finally embraced the lack of structure and decided to thrive through it. Remember this word “Thrive”, it will come back later on in this story.

After Bangkok, I headed to Chiang Mai for the Lantern Festival. Given my positive experience with CouchSurfing, I decided to continue using it to meet locals and travelers throughout my stops. I used all the lessons learned in Bangkok and forced myself to open up to people. I had a heart wrenching conversation with an American girl trying to find herself in the world despite familial and societal pressures. We quickly bonded and within minutes were sharing our deepest darkest fears. In addition to looking differently at people, I started focusing on things that made me happy. I took a Thai cooking class, a skill I desperately lacked in, and learned Muay Thai. With each new activity I undertook, I felt a change inside of me. I was slowly starting to fall in love with myself.

Next stop: Singapore. A few coworkers happened to be there around the same time and I had always been intrigued by the country. I experienced the country’s renowned cleanliness, mix of cultures and wide array of food options. It was in Singapore that I learned another fact about myself: I loved meeting new people. I struck conversations with random people in elevators, buses or hotels. Not having an itinerary turned out to be a blessing. I ended up extending my time in Singapore and enjoyed some retail therapy from one of the cities’ amazing malls.

My goal for this trip was not only self discovery but also to be fully emerged in each country’s history and culture. So that meant that I purposely landed in each new locations not knowing anything about religious beliefs, language and social norms. It worked in my favor up until I arrived in Kuala Lumpur. On my first day in the country, I had planned to follow my typical plan and visit the national and art museums to learn about Malaysian culture. Unfortunately, I arrived during yellow and red shirt protests. All local attractions were closed and I ended up smack in a protest. While I am sure I was never in any real danger, being stuck in the middle of a screaming and upset group of people was scary. I took refuge in a nearby mall and ended up being stranded there for 4 hours. No taxis or Ubers wanted to come to my location due to road closures and fears of property damages. With each hour, I got more and more scared and worried. When I was finally able to get to my hotel, I made arrangements to leave the day after to go to Cambodia. I am hoping to go back to KL and get a chance to see all the city has to offer.

After my failure in Malaysia, I landed in Siem Reap defeated. Cambodia was breathtaking. It was the first time that I saw real poverty and luxury in the same location. It was in Siem Reap that I realized how small my problems really were. I saw and talked to people struggling to afford day to day life and here I was suffering from a broken heart. Siem Reap helped me refocus and gave me a different perspective. It wasn’t about what my problems were but how I approached them. I was not as powerless as I thought I was. I could make the choice to not let my situations impact me and move forward. There, I met some of the most life-loving individuals. As we were exchanging travel stories and tips, we all realized that we were into the same type of music. One of the members of the group ran to his hotel room and brought back his turntables. We had an impromptu dance party in the middle of Siem Reap. I sang and danced my heart away to familiar songs in a an unfamiliar land with unfamiliar people. At that time, I realized that I was happy. For the first time in months, there were no hidden emotions behind my smile, it was pure happiness and I never wanted it to end.

I went to Angkor Wat at sunrise and felt lost and transported to a different world visiting all the cultural sites of the country. The Tuol Seng prison and the lives lost there forced me to put my life into perspective. I realized the following facts that I knew deep down but up until then was unwilling to accept: 1) I was getting divorced, 2) I was deeply hurt that I wasn’t enough for my husband , 3) I still loved Carl and needed to respect his choice, 4) This was not the end for me. Weirdly, coming to these realizations made me calmer. I knew what I had to do. I had to use the remaining days of this trip to try to discover as much as I could about myself.

Along with self discovery and adventure-filled days came the not-so fun ones. Thanksgiving day landed while I was in Phnom Penh. As an immigrant, Thanksgiving meant spending time with Carl’s family. Up until Thanksgiving day, I thought about Carl during my trip but never more than “Carl would have loved eating this, or visiting this area or enjoyed talking with this individual”. But as I was staring at my plate of mashed potatoes and turkey, I not only felt a overwhelming sense of loss but also felt shame. Only a few hours prior, I was reveling in the country’s history and congratulating myself in having a fresh new perspective on life. I could not finish my plate and walked back to my hotel room beaten. For the first time since I started on this adventure, I was happy that I was traveling alone. I spent the rest of my day watching TV locked in my hotel room.

After 3 weeks on the road, I headed back to Vietnam for my last week abroad. For convenience, I reserved a room in the same hotel I had checked at the beginning of this trip. I suddenly realized that the person who checked in 3 weeks ago was not the person who was walking in. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was specifically but I felt more confident and more at peace with myself. A former coworker traveling in Ho Chi Minh City at the same time reached out and we connected for dinner. His first words to me were “… so, what is going on, where is your husband?” We hadn’t seen each other for 4 years and apparently, my social media accounts had become a “Eat, Pray, Love” tribute. I explained my current situation, no longer ashamed of the fact that I had a failed marriage, and we traded travel stories. He had not left his hotel room until our meeting because he was overwhelmed by the city, especially the traffic. I can’t put into words how satisfying it was for me to be able to teach him how to cross the road. I fondly remembered my old self, seating defeated in front of a bowl of pho. I couldn’t have engineered a better end to 4 wonderful weeks in paradise.

Of course I glanced over many more experiences, people and locations visited. It would take days to write it all. I came back to the US on a high that I knew would not last but I was determined to keep it as long as possible. I had felt true happiness and connected with new people for the first time in 7 months. I was accepted even after I showed my true, deeply flawed self, but most importantly, I met myself. I discovered the foundations of who I was, what made me smile, happy and tick. I realized that I could survive, not just survive, I could thrive in a foreign environment and to commemorate it, I tattooed “Thrive” on my shoulder to always remind myself of that feeling. Told you that word was going to come back.