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Well, I'll be Amsterdam'd

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My Christmas trip to Amsterdam reminded me why I love traveling and how the flame still burns between myself and Europe. I was expecting just another Western European country, but I was surprised at how unique Amsterdam is with its honeycomb of canals, rich diversity, and interesting history.


The Anne Frank House
I spent my days exploring solo, wandering the city's wide assortment of museums. The Anne Frank house tied in with past trips to Israel and the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. The Van Gogh Museum's works on exhibition also took me back to the Parisian streets of Montmartre.

Vincent Van Gogh Museum 
I spent Christmas day surrounded by passion for film at EYE, a museum and arthouse cinema. On my final day, I assessed my life as a soldier as I observed Banksy's anti-war art at the MOCO Museum for modern and contemporary art.

EYE
Graffiti art by Banksy
Nights in Amsterdam were wondrously spent with fellow travels from the hostel I stayed at. I enjoyed trading t…

Pre-Amsterdam and the Dark Side of Traveling

I'm going to Amsterdam and I'm honestly not excited about it. My sister was supposed to make the trip with me, but couldn't so I'll be spending Christmas there alone. Normally, I don't mind traveling alone at all. I often prefer it. But I've already had to cancel a ticket (the one with the reserved window seat, meaning I get stuck in the middle) and will have to renegotiate with the hostel in the morning. The only way to salvage this is to round up a squad in the hostel like I did in Dublin.

The competitive dark side of traveling is starting to take hold on me. Amsterdam feels like nothing but a checked block. I'm expecting it to be like any other Western European city but with super cheap public transportation. Everyone's been there. The things that it's infamous for within the Red Light District, I plan on refraining from. I'm starting to ache for something more exotic. I long for something even more unique than the eleven day backpacking trip …

Putting Costs in Perspective

Taking a short trip to Germany next week for Oktoberfest. I felt like complaining when I saw that 3 days of parking at Stansted costs $103, but then I remembered that I paid $35 for the flight. Two nights Air BNB in central Essen: $121. Total: $258 for three days in Germany. That's less than a flight from Texas to California. I'll take it.

Travel Poetry

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One of my first poems about traveling was written in my cousin's Manhattan apartment. That trip to New York City changed the course of my life because until then, all I wanted to was to settle down in Texas and establish roots. But the stimulation of New York City overwhelmed me with inspiration and I realized that I much of the world left to explore.

This summer, I wrote less on this blog and focused on my poetry while traveling. I was in Essen, Germany when I submitted a 5 poem manuscript to a publisher. Unfortunately, didn't get past the first round of the competition. Despite how much I travel now, inspiration for poetry doesn't always come as easily. After a while, one European city seems almost the same as the next and it becomes a little work to find what makes each unique. NYC was unique: the city itself felt alive and like its own character. For most other places, it's my experience there that becomes the focus of the poem: who I am with and what I've done…

How Do I Do It?

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Usually after a trip, someone asks me how I do it. How am I able to balance work and travel and have the funds to travel anywhere at almost anytime I want? I suppose after being asked this question as often as I have, I should answer it with a blog post. However, many people might not like the answer, even if I try to minimize the political undertones. The truth is that I owe my ability to travel comfortably while maintaining a career to conservative values.

When I say "conservative," I don't necessarily mean Republican or pertaining to any religion. But really, I played the game by the rules and it paid off. I haven't always been as fortunate as I am now. I grew up in inner-city San Diego for a large part of my youth. Other years, I lived in rural Texas with my dad and we sometimes had to fish for our dinner. These humble circumstances shaped my family and our plans for the future. As the son of poor Vietnamese immigrants, life was laid out simply for me at a young…

Traveling Brings Out the Best in Me

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It's been a busy summer. Since May, my travels have allowed me to spend entire weekends in Ireland, France, Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Germany, Finland, Estona, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. Throughout these journeys, I've discovered that traveling brings out the best in me.

The practice of travel has become the perfect compliment to my personal balance of planning and playing it loose. In many ways, it takes me back to being an Army officer ever-concerned and proactive with logistics and timelines. Flights need to be booked, same with lodging, and reservations made when necessary. Bars, top restaurants, and shows usually warrant reservations. In short, traveling brings out the side of me that is assertive and unafraid to take charge of a situation. At the same time, I always make room to explore and discover serendipitously. Often these discoveries take form in the fascinating people I meet along the way.

Traveling also allows me to explore my love of the arts with new and in…

Imperial War Museum Duxford

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One of the world's few remaining Spitfires about to take off. 
My parents divorced just before my 11th birthday. While my single mother was at work on Saturdays, I'd spend the morning doing house chores with my siblings. We vacuumed rooms, did dishes, and folded laundry during the commercial breaks of Saturday morning cartoons. We were a team. When the cartoons and the chores were done, I'd walk two blocks to the Oak Park Public library and spend the rest of the afternoon there. This carried on for years.

There was a series of World War II books that I treasured and checked out repeatedly. Each volume was tall, about 3/4 of an inch thick with a beautiful navy colored hardcover, and covered a specific battle in the war. One volume especially captured me: The Battle of Britain. Characterized as almost entirely an air battle, the Royal Air Force, short of pilots, had to defend against the German Luftwaffe in order to prevent a German invasion of Britain. During those afternoo…