Three Years Later


While clearing out my inbox this evening, I stumbled upon an email from my website’s host server — my site had been renewed for another year. When I created onefootonsand, three years ago, I never imagined this site would still be around. I created this website in part to keep my friends, from college, from study abroad, from home, an opportunity to follow my life beyond the facebook statuses and pictures. Over the past three years, I’ve used my website as a medium to set goals, log my travels, and jot down my thoughts on development economics, politics, and my other academic interests. A lot has happened in my life over the past three years since I first created my website:

  • I’ve created a life here in DC. When I first created this blog, I lived in a studio in Rosslyn and knew literally a handful of people in DC. Today, I still live in Arlington, but in a house with some great friends. Moreover, I’ve been fortunate enough to have met dozens of people throughout the DMV area. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, people truly make the place, and I’m so glad that I can share my life and experiences here in DC with others.
  • I’ve traveled far more than I could’ve dreamed. I’m no means well off, but I’ve always placed traveling as a priority in my life. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on rent in over-priced DC, I’ve scrimped on my housing expenses (paying $300/month for rent for the past two years), to save for travel. Since creating this blog, I’ve jumped into the chaos that is uncertainty and spent time backpacking throughout Taiwan and Southeast Asia, vacationed in Istanbul, Athens and all over India, as well as throughout North America including Toronto, Chicago and New Orleans. Our 20s are meant for a time of exploration, right? I can honestly say, I’ve done a whole lot of that. Truly grateful.
  • I’ve figured out what I like, and don’t like, when it comes to a career. At the end of the day, I want a career that offers opportunities for international travel while giving me the opportunity to conduct qualitative and quantitative research. I want a career where I am not a cog, where I can clearly see my impact on the business. I’m so glad and fortunate that my current position at Flat World affords me most of these dreams.

There are countless people and experiences that have made the past three years and unforgettable journey. My early 20s were certainly one of growth and self-reflection. I can only imagine what the rest of my 20s will have in store for my life.

Thanks for reading!

Reflections on Uncertainty

Me atop a mountain on Thanksgiving day, 2012, during my 5 month sojourn around Taiwan/Southeast Asia.

Me atop a mountain on Thanksgiving day, 2012, during my 5 month sojourn around Taiwan/Southeast Asia.

Several months ago, I willingly plunged head first into a period of uncertainty. I knew what I wanted to do and was willing to risk everything to follow my gut, but I feared the consequences my decisions would entail.

Last days always leave me with mixed emotions: excited and anxious for what is to come, reflective and appreciative of what has passed. As I look back on the past months, the three things that I’ll take away from this unique period of my life are:

The people met, places seen, and experiences had. Novelty to anything, both concrete and abstract, is something that I constantly seek. I enjoy being stimulated and challenged. I knew my experiences abroad would enable me to achieve a high degree of stimulation, I didn’t expect to be just as deeply stimulated and engaged once I returned.

Dealing with uncertainty. Being comfortable with discomfort is truly a skill. I don’t think I’ve totally succeeded, but my tolerance for the unknown has increased exponentially throughout my travels and time back in the States.

Beating to my own drum. Societal pressures and perceived obligations might make fulfilling our own dreams seem unrealistic, risky, and an endeavor that only the wealthy can pursue. Living life on your own terms is truly a liberating feeling. I hope everyone can learn how to address the fear and risk involved in order to self-actualize.

Capturing Life’s Moments


Several days ago I came across this commercial by HTC. It featured a photography student trying to capture someone freefalling during skydiving using the new HTC 1. As an owner of an HTC phone myself, I loved this ad. Earlier this week, I then stumbled upon this article by HBR on capturing life’s moments. The article argues we’re obsessed with capturing, rather than savoring, moments. Social media has encouraged this behavior even more.

Social media has certainly influenced my desire to capture more of life’s moments. I’ve always had a desire to travel to new places, experience new cultures, and interact with local people. I think this urge stems in large part from growing up in one of the world’s most isolated places: Hawaii. I love the fact that I was born and raised in what many call a land of paradise, but my aptitude for geography at a very young age made me yearn to leave and visit the places that I’d read about for so long.

Over the past decade, I’ve visited many places that I would’ve never dreamt of experiencing as a kid. In the eighth grade, I placed in a competition that enabled me to go to Washington DC. For most people from Hawaii, traveling to the East Coast is often a once in a lifetime experience. At the time, it was certainly the case for me. (I never thought that a decade later, I’d be living in this city.) I don’t remember taking many pictures during the trip, but I vividly recall the experiences I had at the time:

  • Riding the metro, my first subway experience, ever.
  • Seeing so much green everywhere while flying into BWI. I’d never seen so many trees in my life!
  • Touring around The Mall. It was definitely an eye-opening experience to visit monuments that I had only read about or seen on TV.

I had a similar mindset when I won a scholarship to spend a summer in Japan. I remember:

  • Visiting the Eternal Flame Memorial at the Nagasaki Peace Park
  • Bathing at an onsen (hot springs) in Hakone
  • Jogging along the Yokohama waterfront around Yamashita Park.

The list of memories goes on.  The point is though, at the time, I never really bothered capturing these moments on film. I just wanted to soak it all in.

As I reflect on my more recent experiences, I can’t help but to think that while I tried my best to savor every new experience, I also had a strong urge to capture every moment: the aspects of daily life, the surrounding landscape, the people, the nightlife, etc. I wasn’t the only one though. Whether abroad or in the States, wherever I went, it seemed like everywhere, everyone was taking a picture of everything; e.g., what they saw, what they ate, what they did, etc. My actions during the new year countdown at Taipei 101 most demonstrably captures the shift in my attitude towards capturing versus experiencing life’s moments.

When the countdown began, I remember seeing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of arms being raised, cameras grasped, in order to capture the fireworks show. The show must’ve lasted for only five minutes. Even though the event took place only five months ago, experiencing the awesomeness of the whole event isn’t the first thing that I most vividly recall. What comes to mind is what I just described – the masses intent on capturing the moment, hoping to get a great shot.

In retrospect, I’m glad I captured the event. It’s quite likely I’ll never experience it ever again. Even with my earlier memories of DC and Japan, I wish I had photos available that accompanied my memory of those events. It’d be nice to have a collection of photos to revisit those experiences. I’ve realized though that there’s a tipping point that exists in capturing life’s moments. Capture too few and your left with nothing but the memory of the moment. Capture too many and the memory may be tainted by the desire to capture, not savor, the moment.

I believe that life’s moments should be savored, not captured. Learning how to balance the two, especially in this world of always-on social media, is an ongoing challenge that I’m working to find. Everything in moderation, including capturing moments, I suppose.

Surfing the Sea of Uncertainty


The world is a chaotic place. Plans provide a guide amidst the chaos. In reality though, it’s impossible to control for life’s uncertainties. Uncertainty is scary, at least for me. How do you overcome uncertainty? Through planning. Not just one plan. A Plan B is an absolute must. It’s also worth thinking about a Plan C.

For most of my life, I thought plans were necessary in order to accomplish anything. Not just rough guidelines, but the whole works. Tasks. Checkpoints. Deadlines. All crucial to ensure goals are achieved. Sometime over the past year though, I’ve come to believe that plans, while helpful, should at best serve as a guide, not followed verbatim. Why?

Life happens. Current actions certainly influence the likelihood of future circumstances, but the future is never a sure thing until it is the present. As much as I’d like to believe, it’s impossible to ensure everything will run according to plan (or plans).

I haven’t completely thrown out the usefulness of planning. I still do it all the time. I still believe it’s better to have a plan than no plan at all. One of my favorite bloggers wrote recently,

“We are not walking a path, but surfing a sea.” Leo Babauta

I completely agree. Plans help us navigate the sea of uncertainty. They provide a path, at best a sense of direction, to our goals; however, life has a habit of throwing us off our compass. It took me a long time to realize this. It took even longer to figure out how to overcome these unforeseen challenges.