Sunday, September 16, 2012

Find me on Tumblr!

Hi friends! In case anyone still looks at this or is wondering whatever happened to me...
Feel free to visit my new blog:
Also feel free to visit my new website:
 Would love to keep sharing with you there!


Thursday, March 3, 2011


Hello world!

9:ish on a Thursday night. I overnapped and woke up a little too late for yoga. I actually could have made it, maybe a few minutes late, but my memory foam miracle mattress was giving me too much love and back support. Just ate some dinner and mochi ice cream for dessert. It's pretty quiet and pretty early, so I started blasting my iPod and thought I should write some, in this neglected blog of mine! Sorry again to my big fans. How will I ever become famous if I don't keep the world updated with my life?!

Just kidding. But I know from the blogs that I follow, I am always attracted by these 2 things: (1) Frequent updates; (2) Photos. Oh, and of course I guess number three would be: (3) Valuable content.

I've been thinking lately about how all these "social networking" things we have these days are actually really popular because they are a method of letting people talk about themselves and feed their own ego. I don't really like that too much, but I think it's true, for the most part. Really though, with all the status updates and tweets and whatever else... And all linked to each other so if you update one thing, it updates every other thing you have. Ugh! Overload! Many of these things satisfy the first two of my qualifications of grabbing my online attention (frequent updates and photos), but perhaps most of the time not the third (valuable content.) Sure, here I am posting publicly on my blog, because for whatever reason, I feel like my thoughts need to be shared... And who am I to judge others for doing something similar? But! I guess my point is... We should all take a look at the intention we have with updating our status bar. In many ways, I feel like this world of social networking can actually make us a little less connected to each other, and a little more connected to feeling like we need attention to validate our existence.

Next topic! Still kind of on the same topic. I was this close to creating a tumblr account. I was about to call Ana to consult, but realized she's in class. Why is it that I feel like I consult her for a lot of not-that-important and sometimes important decisions? I think part of it is because we ventured off to foreign lands together, stuck beside each other for so long that now that we're kinda far apart, a part of me still thinks she's always within a 5-foot range of my own personal being, available for consulting of every part of my life. Just a theory! I think Ana is the only one who understands how my heart sometimes hurts when I think about Isara and Thailand and backpacking and vagabonding. In a good, heart-wrenching way, if that's possible. What sparked the tumblr urge was first, the urge to delete my travel itinerary on this blog, since it was meant for while I was still traveling around... Which led me to thinking maybe I should just keep this blog as the time capsule that it is and start something new. I'm still thinking about it-- I'll have to consult Ana first.

Anyway, here are some pictures!

Three years ago I decided I would spend my birthday somewhere far away each year. This year... Hawaii :)


Decided to jump off a rock to celebrate the day of my birth. Scawie!

Diana never stops reading. Never.

Here's to 10+ years of slow jamz, getting into and out of strange situations, wedding planning, and more recently, drinking wine. =)

Auntie Lana + Auntie Lara <3 Big M

I miss these beauties!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Shopping!

I was actually shopping for myself when I came across these two website gems... But just wanted to share!
Type the description of what you're looking for into the search box (for example: "purple bag"), and matching items from everywhere will pop up! Amazing!
While searching for "red wallet" on ShopStyle, I found the red wallet love of my life from this cute Chicago boutique, Lori's Shoes. Cute stuff! Everything on here ships for free in the continental U.S. Plus!! Use the coupon codes: survey5 (for $5 off) or iloveloris10 (for 10% off $30).

Happy shopping :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I’m starting to freak out a little because I just booked a trip for my 26th birthday. You might wonder what aspect of that causes freaking out. It’s the part of it that proves that I’m turning 26 and I have no idea where this past year has gone or how it’s flown by so fast. What the hell!? It seems like just yesterday I was ringing in the big 2-5 in Hawaii on the last leg of a long trip abroad. I know 26 is still a few months away, but I really can’t believe I’m almost there.

Again… What the hell?!

I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to be “grown up” and how we get there. I’m still far from being the wise master of life that I’d like to eventually be and still have a lot of things to accomplish. But in the past couple years, I’ve witnessed a lot of changes in myself and those around me that signal signs of adulthood. And sadly, a lot of it is in the form of anxieties we had never experienced until this mid-20s stage of life. A lot of my girlfriends experienced the quarter-life crisis and I stood beside them with empathy as a fellow victim of its wrath. We all truly questioned, “What am I doing with my life?” with follow up questions being, “Should I go back to school? Should I change careers? Am I in the kind of relationship I want to be in at this point in my life?” and then feeling unsure of the decisions and realities and answers to these questions. I don’t think we ever worried like this before. My point is not that this kind of stress qualifies adulthood. But I would say that it shows a definite wear on our carefree spirits of youth.

I’ve also been thinking about how I’ve never really known what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” I used to think I wanted to be a dentist, but that was way off the mark and I probably just said that to have something to say when the question was asked. I also majored in Business Administration for whatever reasons, yet I couldn’t tell you the key points of Finance, Accounting, or Economics that I was supposed to learn. Unlike myself, there are some people out there that just know. Some people grow up knowing that they want to be a doctor or a teacher or whatever, and that’s what they become. But I don’t think I’ve ever really known, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’ve been more concerned with doing things that mean something to me, and it’s led me to where I am and to satisfaction with my decisions.

What amazes me about not having had a clear sense of my future is that many aspects of my current life would not have been predictable to me even just a year or two ago. In my youth, I don’t think I ever would have imagined that I would eventually become a yoga instructor. I didn’t even know what yoga was. When I was in college, I never would have thought that I would end up quitting my first “real” job so I could volunteer abroad and travel. Even a year ago I wouldn’t have guessed that moving to LA would become a reality, even though it might have crossed my mind during my frequent visits to sunny So Cal. These were all things that manifested organically and are things that I look back at and make sense to me in the course of my life now, but at the same time remain to be things that I would not have necessarily expected before they came about. When there’s so much good that happens without having to know and without hefty consideration or subsequent stress, it makes me wonder why we’re so worried in the first place. Maybe that thought can let us all breathe a little easier!

I’ll leave you with a list of some dream jobs…
-     - Cupcake tester. I want a cupcake!
-         - Ice cream tester. I want the ice cream in my freezer! But I’m also really warm in bed right now… Lazy.
-         - Pizza and/or french fry taster
-         - Any food taste-tester!
-         -  Beach bum
-         - Luxury resort approver
-         - Interior designer
-         - Housewife with cute kids and enough money to support them all
-          - Model
-         - Full-time yoga instructor
-          - Writer
-          - Owner of any independent business based on inherent talents, allowing freedom from corporate America and having to request vacation time based on accrued hours =)
-         -  Whatever I eventually become when I grow up

Someday we'll know.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Home, sweet home

In the past year, I've probably been on more plane rides than all the plane rides from the previous years of my life all added together. While I was traveling, plane ride days were usually also waiting days, because we'd try to make it to the airport early "just in case," or it just seemed a better option to sleep in a chair at the terminal instead of staying another night in a hostel. Plane ride days were also always exciting for me, for the obvious reason that I was going somewhere new.

This past weekend I was really excited to get on a plane heading to San Jose, not because it was going to be new and different, but because it was old and familiar. And it was home. And it was missed.

I moved to LA in such a blink and have been so busy getting settled with everything that I haven't really even had the time realize how much I missed everyone and everything about home. If you already know me and know how I'm a crier, then you're probably not surprised that I sat and cried tears of happiness at the local DNBs while surrounded by some of my closest friends. (Ummm... Embarrassing!) It's just that I missed them so much! Given, I had extra menstrual hormones running through my body at the time, which only added to my emotions... Nonetheless, I didn't expect to let so many tears fall while sipping on my happy hour cocktails.

I guess going home made me realize that I really did move away. That was what didn't hit me before. I don't regret it at all, and everything has been working out in my favor since I decided to relocate. But visiting home just affirmed the decisions I made and reminded me that it can be difficult to escape the comforts of familiar faces and surroundings.

Things I appreciated about San Jo:
* My Mom + Dad.
* The way my Mom always finds ways to cater her cooking so that no meat is involved, just for me.
* My girlfriends from forever and beyond.
* Good Viet food!
* Driving in un-congested streets.
* Knowing where I was driving (for the most part!)
* Being able to teach yoga at Cindy's studio, seeing my old students and getting to catch up with them =)
* Getting to see my old roomie Alicia! This usually only happens once or twice a year!
* Going to a hella cute and fun wedding!

It was fun while it lasted... Hopefully I'll be back soon!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Putting the L.A. in LARA

I've neglected this blog for so long. I apologize to all my big fans. Haha just kidding...

If you've actually been following my blog since it started almost a year ago, you may have been wondering what the hell happened to me since I got back from my trip. I wonder the same thing! It's now August, 2010. I've been back in California for about 5 months-- just  about the same amount of time that I spent out the country. In that time, I don't think I've done nearly as much as I did while traveling, but it's led me to where I am nonetheless.

Brief overview of things that happened since I got back:
* Didn't get into grad school program I applied for.
* General mental turmoil due to settling back in America and wondering what I'm doing with my life.
* Caught up and spent time with the best friends and family in the world that never felt like they were far away from me when we were on opposite ends of the Earth.
* Went to Vegas with my cousins. I'm not 21 anymore and it's kind of lost its charm.
* Worked at a yoga retreat center for a week.
* Started subbing, and eventually teaching as a regular at Cindy's yoga studio.
* Lots of resume blasting and some interviewing.
* Went sky diving.
* Got a job and moved to L.A.

I guess when I look at this and even when I go through my planner, in which I write down pretty much everything I do, I realize that a lot of things have happened since I've gotten back. But because I felt so uncertain about things and because I'd rather not take the time to explain my unconventional way of living and everything going through my head during a time when I was just trying to figure things out for myself, a lot of times I just haven't felt like talking about it. Part of me thinks that's sad. I love writing and sharing my thoughts, but I stopped when I felt like I had "nothing to show." I couldn't even give myself a break for trying not to settle. I tell people to do the things they love when they're feeling low, but I fail to take my own advice sometimes. When I look back, things started to come together like magic when I decided exactly what I wanted, got back into my yoga practice, and meditated every day for a week straight. No joke-- being good to yourself is the best medicine for any kind of ailment.

Two weekends ago I moved to L.A. and started a new job at USC. It's strange to me to return to the whole "working world." It makes me even more anxious to figure out what I really want to do with my life. But I actually do enjoy being at work, so I am very thankful for that =)

One of my Resolutions was to "Get accepted into grad school." When I didn't get into the program I applied for, I wasn't really upset about it, but I did think about the fact that for the first time since I started taking the whole Resolution thing seriously, I wouldn't be able to accomplish one of my goals that I set out to do. But now I work in a grad school program, so I'm just gonna tell myself that I did get accepted into grad school, just not the way I originally intended. Funny how things like that work out...

This is my first time on my own, paying rent by myself and such. I would put up pictures of my first own place, except that I drowned my camera in my purse when I failed to close my water bottle properly. RIP Canon SD780is. I loved that cute, red camera... I'm buying a new one with my first pay check!

I feel blessed that I've gotten what I wanted, once again, as I've realized is usually the case in the happenings of my life. But I have to acknowledge every moment it took to get back and realize the work it's taken too.

Thank you to everyone who's supported me. Cheers to new beginnings!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Travel tips!

This is for all of you who think you need tons of money to travel. The truth is, you don't! I was gone for 5 months, traveled to 5 different countries, and spent less than $4,500 total, including plane tickets, lodging, food, and shopping. I'm positive that this is less than some people spend paying for 5 months of rent.

Tip #1: Know people!
Ana and I were lucky because we were provided housing while volunteering at Isara for 2 months. We also got to stay with her relatives in Australia and both of our families while in the Philippines. We even got to stay at the Westin in Sydney for NYE because Patricia is ballin' and she loves me. If you can take a trip with a friend who has family, or if you have family in foreign lands, they are usually more than happy to have you as a guest. And it's so, so friendly on the pocket. Just don't forget to shower them with treats and thank you cards for being so hospitable!

Tip #2: Be willing to stay at guest houses and hostels.
Sure, these places are nothing like luxury hotels or resorts, but let me run some numbers for you:
* P.P. October Guest House in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand: 500 baht (about $12)/ night. One big bed. Private bathroom and shower.
* Both guest houses we stayed in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, Laos: 200 baht (about $6)/ night.
* JGH Hostel in Tokyo, Japan: $18/ night for cozy room, shared bathroom.
* YHA in Airlie Beach, Australia: $26/ night for a dorm style room with shared bathroom and access for kitchen use.
* Sugbutel in Cebu, Philippines: 250 pesos (about $5)/ night for a dorm style room and shared bathroom.
Split these costs between two people, and you are paying less than a fast food meal at McDonald's and you get a place to stay! It's not like you'll want to spend the day cooped up in your room anyway. You just need a place to store your things and sleep.

Tip #3: Travel while you're already traveling!
Round trip tickets from CA to Thailand, Laos, Australia, Philippines, or Japan probably would have been around $1,000 each. But since we were hopping from place to place from closer locations, we saved so much money!
* One-way San Francisco, CA to Bangkok, Thailand = around $550
* One-way Bangkok, Thailand to Melbourne, Australia = around $330 Jetstar
* One-way Cairns, Australia to Tokyo, Japan = around $270 Jetstar
* One-way Osaka, Japan to Manila, Philippines = around $180 Cebu Pacific
When looking for tickets from one country to the next, try to fly from the airport that is located closest geographically to your next destination. You can usually get there by land or an inter-continental flight for a low price and then save a bunch on your flight to the next country.
The most expensive flights were leaving America and coming back to America. My advice for these long trips is to book them as early as possible!

Busting some more expensive travel myths:
* I'm hoping that you can already see that traveling doesn't have to be expensive, but in case you're still not convinced, I'll tell you that we would spend $2-3 a day on food everywhere we went in Thailand. 25 baht (less than $1) can get you a full plate of pad thai, fried rice, or pad see ew. Thai iced tea was 15 baht (about 50 cents).
* Japan is not expensive!!! Maybe if you live there and if you submit to buying all the cute things you see, it's expensive. But hostels were way cheaper here than in Australia. Also, food was significantly cheaper than in Australia. While most average meals in Australia were about $10, in Japan, you could eat at a ramen noodle shop for a couple of dollars, or buy prepared fresh meals from the supermarket for a few dollars as well.

Other travel tips:
* It will take your own experience to learn this, but I'll say it anyway: Pack light! You don't even need to bring toiletries really. If you're going anywhere in Asia, you can buy shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and toothpaste for less than a dollar. You also will not wear all the clothes you want to bring with you! And you can wash your undies-- no need to bring a month supply. I didn't bring any makeup with me, and I am still alive. I also chose to bring my flat iron, and only used it once. Simplify as much as you can!
* Bring lightweight clothes that dry quickly. Lightweight cotton or spandex blends dry super quick. These make for lighter packing, and are convenient for when you wash your clothes. Speaking of which...
* Hand-wash your clothes. If you don't bring a lot with you, this is easy and you can also save on getting your clothes washed. (Although getting your clothes washed isn't expensive either...)
* Invest in a Tek Towel. This microfiber towel will run you about $30, but will save you lots of space because it folds up tiny. And it also dries quickly!
* If you want to stay connected through the web, invest in a cute netbook. Almost everywhere you go, you'll be able to find a spot with free wi-fi. That way, you don't have to pay to use internet cafes. These are so light and easy to carry. Brand new netbooks are around $300. I got mine used off of Craigslist for $250 with all necessary software and programs already installed, and also a sleeve to protect it.
* Bring a sleep sack (lightweight sleeping bag). Some places charge you for linens, but you won't need them if you bring a sleep sack with you! Plus, you might prefer to sleep on your own sheets if you're staying in frequented hostels or guest houses. You can make one easily by sewing together 2 edges of an unused flat sheet! I guess you could also bring a Snuggie.
* Splurge every once in a while. Don't go crazy, but allow yourself to stay at a nice place or eat at a nice restaurant when you feel like you need a break from roughin' it.

These tips I give are for anyone up for a no-frills adventure. (This is not for your honeymoon... But I guess that would be fun too? Haha!)

These are ways to save on spending, but never forget that money flows like energy. If you hold on to it and are afraid to let go, you don't allow for more of it to enter your life. You have to let it flow both ways. Enjoy it coming in, spend it go on meaningful experiences, and it will surely come back to serve you again.

I highly encourage everyone to get out there and take an extended vacation. Being in the presence of different cultures and unfamiliar surroundings will give you priceless memories and life lessons that you simply will not get by staying in your comfort zone.  You don't have to wait until you're aged and retired to enjoy travelling. Make a decision, set a goal, and hop on a plane! You won't regret it!

Even though I'm now experiencing reverse culture shock and sometimes feel lost about what to do next, I am forever thankful and can never regret my decisions about my trip. Sometimes, you just have to do things for yourself. If I listened to what other people expected of me or wanted me to do, I would have closed myself off to a lot of meaningful experiences and growth.

I wish everyone all the blessings and magic on your own travel adventures through life!