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!

Wanderlust: America’s Heartland


Every couple of months or so, I hop on a plane and make the 5-hour journey out west back to California. I’ve been flying cross-country for several years now, to the point that the whole process has become something of a ritual. Packing usually happens the day of the flight. Emptying out my pockets, undoing my belt, and removing my laptop from my backpack as I head through security are all perfunctory. Upon boarding the plane, I make my way to my seat, store my backpack, shut the window shades, slip on my headphones, and fall asleep or watch some movies. Several hours later, I arrive at LAX and am on my way.

So, this past weekend, when I made that trip yet again, I expected the journey to be like any other. But it wasn’t. Throughout the flight, I couldn’t help but peer out of my window, looking at the never-ending landscape below. The endless forests of the East gradually giving way to endless flat farmland of the Midwest, then abruptly ending with the Rockies, then hundreds of miles of desert before touching down in Southern California. This whole region, Middle America, or what’s sometimes referred to derogatorily as flyover country, was never on my radar of places where I’d consider visiting. As someone born and raised on an island, I couldn’t imagine living more than a couple of hours away from the Ocean.

However, after reading Joel Kotkin’s book, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, I’m intrigued by what life could be like to live in America’s Heartland. Kotkin argues that although there have been growing concerns that America is in decline, he believes America will maintain its role as the world’s preeminent nation, in part, due to the nation’s abundance of land and natural resources. As coastal cities become increasingly unaffordable, Kotkin argues many Americans, both immigrants and citizens, will opt to move to America’s interior. While I have no intention of giving up my bi-coastal lifestyle, I do think it’s kind of ridiculous that, despite living abroad, I’ve never visited nor spent a single night anywhere in America beyond the Coasts. This needs to change. Hope I can make it out there someday.

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.

Winter ’11: Taiwan in Review


Today marked the last day of class for the winter term at Taida. I can’t believe my three-month course is already over!

Ever since coming back from Shanghai, I’ve always wanted to return to Asia to further improve my Chinese. I yearned to live in the Middle Kingdom. Everything seemed so fascinating. I had the option of returning to Asia for a summer to improve my Chinese, this time in Taipei, at the International Chinese Language Program. But, because I had a firm start-date in mid-June, coming back one more time became a non-issue. I never forgot about my goal to come back, and three months ago I finally returned.

Well, it’s been three months! It’s definitely been an incredibly amazing experience. I mentioned in an earlier that I had mixed reservations about my course. After staying for the full course, I can honestly say that my opinions haven’t changed. However, I don’t think I can fault the CLD for this. My teacher was fantastic. Since I was the only non-Japanese in my class, the focus of the course was on primarily speaking (which is what I wanted) than on writing.

While increasing my speaking, listening, and reading fluency was the primary goal, my goals in coming to Taiwan weren’t solely to study Chinese. Rather, I also wanted to:

1. Learn traditional characters

  • Did this every day: ordering food, watching the subtitles on TV, and of course during class

2. Get a different perspective of cross-strait relations

  • Hard to say whether this was accomplished or not, but certainly got a read on this during the 2012 Taiwan Presidential Elections

3. Climb some mountains

  • Climbed two mountains near Taipei: Elephant Mountain and Seven-Star Mountain

4. Visit the beaches

  • Went to Kending, Nanwan, and Baishawan – renowned beach areas in the south of Taiwan

5. Use the island as a base for traveling throughout Asia.

  • Went to Hong Kong
  •  Will be going to Singapore and Malaysia

Looks like I accomplished everything I wanted to get out of while here. Success!

One unexpected surprise that makes this experience abroad unique from my previous experience in Shanghai was getting to know and befriend people from all over the world.

Unlike the program in Shanghai, which consisted of only American college students, the people I’ve met here are incredibly diverse, both in terms of age and background. Some students here are still in college. Others, like me, have just graduated relatively recently. Others haven’t even started college, or have been out of college for years. I’ve gotten to meet folks literally from all over the world: Australia, Iraq, Honduras, Hungary, Japan, and the UK, just to name a few. All this diversity has taught me so much about the world, some trivial, some fascinating:

– Knowing what words like bogan and woop woop mean to Aussies
– Getting a first-hand account of being buried-alive after a bomb blast in Iraq
– Realizing just how intense the desire to migrate to America still is for many

Overall, I’m incredibly glad as well as thankful that I’ve been able to (financially afford) putting a hold on my professional career for this language program. Besides doing all of the things aforementioned, this “career-break” has really given me the time to re-evaluate what I want most out of my life, both personally and professionally. Moreover, this experience has affirmed my belief that it’s the people you meet, not the place, which makes a city feel like home.

That’s a lot of writing. If you read this far, thanks!

I’m still going to be in Asia through the end of February, but this weekend is the last I’ll be spending in Taiwan. So, if you excuse me, it’s time for me to log off and make some last-minute memories before heading back home!