Hello 2015! It’s been a crazy last year, from a bustling beginning in Saigon to a blue-drenched month on Syros, Greece, to last summer in London, Berlin, New York, and San Francisco. Several weeks of family time, followed by a ship across the Pacific, from Vancouver to Toyko. Three weeks in Japan, a conference in Bangkok, and then two months in my home away from home, Saigon. Oh, and the photo in the header is from Chiang Mai, where I ate a lot of grilled chicken. You can see why when you look at the picture. It was blindingly delicious.
Given the snail’s pace with which I post on this site, I’ve still got plenty to share from 2014, especially from Syros as I’ve been excited to write about it since I left. These posts are coming, fear not. But first some 2015 plans and where I plan to travel in 2015.
Where to Travel: My 2015 Edition
Before I dive in: I’ll be completely offline for 12 days time starting tomorrow. No phone, no laptop, no internet. It’s unprecedented for me, but I’m curious to see if my brain eats itself. I’ll resume posting later in January.
This is one of my favourite photos from my beloved Saigon, a place I just left for the next many months. I would like to think that the realization of return would be sufficient to maintain my happiness levels, but it is never the case. Christmas in Vietnam was spent in great company, eating and smiling. I rang in the new year sucking down snails on the streets of District 3, with spicy lemongrass clams, coconut snails, and my favourite, scallops grilled with pork fat and scallions, served with peanuts and Vietnamese coriander. I was melancholy leading up to leaving, and I am readjusting to clean air, quiet, and lots of birds in New Zealand while still dreaming of soup.
I always say it’s a privilege that we location independent entrepreneurs can build a life like this, a privilege we should never forget. To show up to Saigon for two months and have them brimming with work meetings and food meetings alike is a special thing. And to leave for a place like New Zealand is a lucky thing indeed. I am always sad to depart from a place I love, but I still feel grateful that I’m able to leave it if I so choose.
Or my health chooses for me.
As I said in my long Japan post, I left Saigon because the air was proving to be an issue for me, my lungs sputtering in protest. But many of you have written to ask where I am heading next, and for later into 2015.
I tend to update my Instagram very frequently, but given the emails I thought I would share them here. It is the year of returns, visiting places I got to only briefly prior but now circumstances are bringing me back.
January to Early April – New Zealand
As you may recall I spent two weeks in the North Island of New Zealand last February, a fairly last minute trip to help my friend Jana celebrate her wedding on Waiheke. I am back, but this time for three months. Two weeks was insufficient and there was only a small part of the country that I tasted and saw.
For this visit, more weddings and time with friends. I’ll be in the Bay of Islands for the next while, and then heading to Wellington to visit Meg who just moved here. We met in New York, then crossed paths in her new home of Turkey and then she went back to the US only to move with her husband and daughter to Wellington. I’m excited to add a new country to our ‘ate here’ list.
I’ll head to the South Island toward the end of my visit, but it seems quite possible that I will need to come back again another year to keep exploring. While egregiously lacking in soup, this country is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
April – Portugal
From New Zealand, a hop to one of the most antipodal of places: Portugal. I’ve been invited to keynote at the 2015 World Food Travel Summit in Lisbon, and will be making my way there near the beginning of April. While the conference starts on the 6th, a few days to adjust to jetlag seems prudent if I don’t want to fall asleep on stage.
I plan to spend the rest of the month in Lisbon, as I have never been to the city.
Early May – Lloret de Mar, Spain
Near the end of the month I will hop over to Costa Brava, in Spain, to speak at the TBEX Europe conference. I have previously spoken at TBEXes (TBEX-i?) but not during the last year as I took a hiatus from travel events to focus on food and entrepreneurship conferences.
We’re still ironing out the specifics, but I look forward to re-visiting Costa Brava and seeing old friends in the travel world who I have not crossed paths with in the last few years.
Rest of May to Mid June – Portugal
After TBEX, it’s back to Portugal I go! I would be remiss not to get as much time in this country as I can. For the rest of my visit, I will likely find myself a beach and a low-season rental apartment to write, walk, and eat.
Mid-June – LA
In Mid-June I cross coasts again and fly into LA in order to attend my cousin’s wedding. I’ve missed a few of the other cousins’ weddings this winter, so I wanted to be sure to show up at one of them. Thankfully they are all on the same side of the family so, while not a substitute for missing out, I still get in hugs as many of them attend this LA extravaganza.
Rest of June to Mid July – New York and PDX
It wouldn’t be a summer in North America without time in NY and Portland. Plans as of yet uncertain, but it’s on my calendar.
Late July – Toronto
The last two weeks I will spend in Toronto, writing out of the G Adventures offices. I’ve been working as a brand ambassador with them for several years now, and it’s always more effective to have in-person meetings than via Skype. With a flexible summer, I thought a few weeks in town would be good. Plus! More cousins in Toronto (other side of the family), as well as some seriously good Vietnamese food and people who love to share it with me.
After that, we’ll see! Montreal for at least several weeks to see my parents and friends.
Back to Asia come the fall, likely just at the breaking point between “total withdrawal from bun rieu soup” and “might make it if she gets soup in the next few weeks.”
* * *
I never post these kinds of summary plans here but I realize that the nature of the site has changed and a few things have been altered with it. What used to be a place for my mum to see photos has turned into a great wider community, one that still does include my mum, but also over a million others who come through each year. And while I update my Instagram daily — just, uh, not during the coming 12 days — I realize I rarely demystify the nitty gritty. If your emails are any indication, this is something you are curious about too.
I constantly say that my life seems completely unstructured but in reality I merely build it around anchor points of weddings, conferences, family time, and soup. As you can see from this year’s schedule, that’s not inaccurate! I do love that I can write from anywhere, which makes maximizing time with family so much easier than many realize. And while I joke here about eating soup all day long, the truth is that most of my days are spent working hard, but I can pick the hours and the place.
I get asked often if I miss having a home, but I feel at home in so many places. Suffice it to say that I have nothing to prove by continuing if I did not want to; were I to tire of this flexible life I would see no shame in standing still. The lack of ‘a home’ in the traditional sense is thus not a lacuna, it is just an option I choose not to take right now.
It has been almost seven years of Legal Nomads, and every year feels like a brand new experience because of how much I learn during the last one. As with all of these life choices, they are deeply personal. For me, the thrill of structuring work around places and people and food has remained. I have truly enjoyed meeting those of you who have come through Saigon on a food walk, and learning about your own stories. I have also been working on some bigger projects for the site. Soon I will be posting to hire someone to help me here, and will also announce the full shop for my typographic maps.
It looks to be an exciting year.
Thank you, as always, for being a part of it.
Back in a few weeks time!