7 Essential OTC Medications to Carry When Traveling

I am a big fan of natural medicine and have more than once found that a natural form of medicine has healed me permanently where the traditional Western doctors could only dull my pain. That being said, everything has its place and when you are traveling, you want to get out and see things, not stay stuck in a hotel room or hostel, miserable. In these situations, an over-the-counter (OTC) pill might just be the answer to giving you enough relief to get out there and take that picture of you holding the Eiffel Tower between your thumb and forefinger. I do not have a strong stomach and Sara is allergic to everything, so, over time, we have developed our little kit of OTC medication that we do not leave home without on long trips overseas. Please keep in mind that we are not doctors, so please consult your own physician before embarking on your dream trip. We usually like to bring along our own meds because finding its comparable version in a foreign language, or explaining your symptoms to a pharmacist who does not speak your language is sometimes challenging. Below is a list of the best OTC medications that we take with us without fail. Obviously, if you have a specific medical condition or problem, you should take any normal medication with you that you might otherwise need at home, such as allergy or asthma drugs. Read More

Congratulations, Gary!

Gary Ryals - UCLA Top 100 AlumnusIn the mid-90's, I was fortunate to be able to work and travel at the same time. I spent four and a half months traveling around South America with a group of guys and we had our share of adventures. I lost touch with all of them over the years, but recently ran into my closest friend from that trip, Gary Ryals (I have mentioned him in a previous post). We have since spent some time together catching up and it turns out he has gone on to become a U.S. Navy officer and earned his MBA from UCLA. Not only has he been incredibly successful in his career, but he was also named by UCLA as a Top 100 Inspirational Alumnus. Congratulations, Gary! We had quite a few good times together and hopefully have many more to come. Read More

How You Can Help Japan

Sara's first travel experience was to Japan. That trip changed her life and gave her the passion that she has for travel today. I proposed to Sara in Japan and our younger daughter's first trip other than to Taiwan was to Tokyo. I found the country to be at the top of my favorite places to have visited. The recent tragedy there is heart-wrenching for our whole family. If you are not sure of the best way to help the Japanese, a fellow blogger, Todd of Todd's Wanderings has put together a list of trustworthy support agencies based in Japan that have English websites. He was in Japan at the time of the quake and his wife is Japanese, so he knows firsthand the devastation and the relief efforts that have the greatest effect. Please go to his site, pick an organization and donate what you feel you can to help out. Read More

Dreams, Passion, Loss

For the last two nights I have had dreams about an I.T. client of mine whom I have known for over 10 years (according to my dream, Hurley from Lost was his personal chef). I found out two weeks ago that he passed away in December after a battle with stomach cancer. I have been fortunate over the years to have a lot of clients, but I can safely say that Dr. Dana Launer was pretty unique. He was a colo-rectal surgeon by trade and you would think that a lifetime of looking up people’s rectums would make someone surly, but this man had a zest for life, always a smile on his face. Dr. Launer found out in August that he had developed cancer and subsequently had his stomach removed. I did not find out about this until just before Christmas when he called me to help him set up a computer in his house downstairs because he could no longer climb his stairs. I normally do not go to a client’s house, but with Dr. Launer I have always made an exception. When I was over at his house, we talked of travel. He told me of taking a trip to Lake Tahoe with his kids when they were very young. I shared with him some stories from our latest trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway (he knows Sara very well). He looked at me and said, “I always wanted to take Elaine and travel once I retire. Now it looks like I might never get that chance.” That statement stuck with me and gave me quite a bit to think about. At first, I felt bad for him, because he never got a chance to follow his dream to travel. He had worked hard his whole life, becoming Chief of Surgery at the same hospital where our younger daughter was born. He never had time to play. Then I recalled an earlier conversation I had had with him in the elevator at his office. I was headed to my car, tired after a long day of visiting clients, and he seemed his normal, chipper self. “Why are you so happy?” I asked him. “Because I’m headed to surgery.” I was confused. Of course, he was going as the doctor, not the patient, but to me, surgery meant a long tedious process that would exhaust you even further and was not something to which I would look forward. So I asked again, “So…why so happy?” He answered, “Because this is my favorite part of my job. I am going in there to change someone’s life. I am going to take away their pain. This is why I became a doctor: to help people.” I do not feel bad that Dr. Launer never pursued his dream of travel. He pursued a lifetime of his passion. I will miss him. Good-bye, Dr. Launer. The secret to enjoying your life is simple: Find your passion. Don’t postpone it. Pursue it. Not next week. Now.   Read More

How to Eat Your Way Through Chinese New Year in San Francisco

Last year I got to experience diverse culinary delights from many different Asian cultures during the traditional Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco. We went there to celebrate with Sara's extended family. Unfortunately, her immediate family could not make it from Taiwan and China, but we did get to see almost everyone else on her mother's side...dozens. As individuals, Sara's family members have many different interests and specialties. As a whole however, they only have one: food. When everyone gets together for a meal, while traveling, or just visiting, the topic of conversation over lunch is always what's for dinner. Dinner always revolves around what tomorrow's meals will bring. I knew ahead of time that we were in for a treat on this trip, but, once again, I was blown away by the quality of food that we were able to consume in one (three-day) weekend. If you are going to San Francisco any time soon and want some good authentic Asian food, read on... Read More

How To Use a Squat Toilet

If you travel overseas enough, you will eventually run into a squat toilet.  "What is a squat toilet?" you ask.  They come in many varieties, but essentially, it is any toilet which requires you to squat instead of sit in order to conduct your business.  From my experience, they are very popular in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America.  Don't be afraid, though, once you get the hang of them, they are not that bad, and actually offer a much more sanitary experience that a lot of public sit-down toilets.  I know that as a guy, I have gone into many bathrooms, even here in the U.S., looked at the toilet and thought, "Man, I'm glad I don't have to sit on that!"  Women, however are not as fortunate, so they might especially appreciate the squatter.  Sara, raised in Taiwan, much prefers the squat toilet to the sit-down variety in a public situation. So, what is the best strategy for using this toilet?  Read More

Excuse Me, Can Someone Direct Me to the Great Outdoors?

I have just finished listening to Bill Bryson's book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, which is a memoir of his childhood growing up in the 50's and 60's in Des Moines, Iowa.  That combined with a recent serious illness of one of my favorite teachers from high school really got me thinking about my own childhood, growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, not quite middle America, but at the time a small Southern town with its own charm and quirks.  It has since been invaded by Yankees (yes, Southerners still refer to them as Yankees, although it is usually preceded by a more colorful adjective) seeking better climate, cheaper living and a more relaxed atmosphere and has consequently lost a lot of its original appeal, but I digress.

I remember as a child of the 70's and 80's all of the pleasures and pains of being a kid, and now that I have a thirteen year old girl, cannot help but compare them to today's world.  I do not want to turn this into a typical my generation vs. their generation debate, but there are some startling differences in what our experiences were to what the child of today's experiences seem to be.

One thing that I have noticed since starting this blog is that my most interesting stories involve some form of problem, pain, discomfort or mistake on our part.  They also can involve some great pleasure or adventure.  I have noticed that my memories of childhood are similar, in that, the ones that really stand out involve the same thing.  We were a very outdoorsy bunch growing up.  Don't get me wrong, I loved watching TV and did more than my fair share of it.  However, I also spent an inordinate amount of time outside investigating, playing, exploring, poking, prodding and generally up to no good.  Some of my fondest memories are things that, at the time, were quite uncomfortable:  a chipped tooth on a neighbor's head playing football, being trapped in a tree house by a rabid opossum (at least in our minds it was quite rabid), the first time I ever got in an actual fist-fight, catching a gallon of gas on fire in the middle of the woods because we dropped lit firecrackers next to it by accident, and I could go on.

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Taiwan – A (very) brief history for us Non-Asians or Why Taiwan and China do not get along

It is fairly well known here in the US that Taiwan does not really get along with its larger sister, China, but most of us do not really know why. The common belief is that Taiwan is a renegade province of China, trying to gain its independence, while China tries to hang on. This is far from the truth. Did you know that the reality is that Taiwan (or about half the Taiwanese at least) think that it is the mother country and China is the renegade? They believe that the true rulers of China reside in exile in Taiwan and it is only a matter of time before they return in triumph to take back control of their country. Taiwan is merely a temporary home for them.

You do not have to go very far back in history to understand this belief. During World War II, China was ruled by Chiang Kai Shek and Taiwan was a province of Japan. The Taiwanese citizens had a choice to be considered Japanese citizens or to remain Taiwanese, but either way, they were treated well by the Japanese. The Chinese, however, were ruled with an iron hand by Chiang and they rebelled. Because Chiang was an ally of the US during the war, most US citizens do not know the brutality with which he ruled, but some would compare him to Stalin or even Hitler. During this period, Mao Tse Tung successfully converted enough of his countrymen to Communism that they were able to drive Chiang and his close followers further and further south, until he was forced to ask Taiwan for refuge. Taiwan does have older ties to China and being the kind and trusting people that they are, invited Chiang and his army into their country. It was not long before he took over and made himself the permanent President, declaring martial law and foregoing any proper elections.

As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of unrest amongst the Taiwanese who had so generously offered up refuge for their brothers. One example of a bone of contention that caused a stir was the fact that Chinese do not have a problem with eating dogs and cats, whereas the Taiwanese keep dogs and cats as pets. I am sure you can imagine the outrage when people's pets began disappearing and ended up in their neighbor's crock pots.

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Why It Pays to Plan…


Sara and I had been together for almost two years when my stepfather gave us a wonderful Christmas present. He offered to take the two of us and my daughter, Mackenzie, along with my mother and the rest of his family to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas for Spring Break. Needless to say, we were very excited. We had been on several trips together up to this point, but nothing this luxurious. Normally we get very involved in the planning of the trip, but both Sara and I were busy with work and everything here was already planned for us. All we had to do was to show up, play in the pools, bask in the sun and eat in the many fine restaurants at the resort. Living in San Diego, we had been to Mexico several times for camping, or just a nice lobster dinner, so we were very familiar with traveling so close to the U.S. and not really concerned with anything more than packing the night before we left.

Our flight to the Bahamas was a red-eye from San Diego, with a layover in Atlanta, departing at 10 pm and arriving in sunny Atlantis around noon. This was my then four year old daughter's first trip out of the country and I was nervous as to how she would handle the long flight. To help her sleep and to prevent any potential air sickness, we decided to give her Dramamine.

We arrived at the airline counter in San Diego with plenty of time to spare and proceeded to check in. Both of our jaws dropped when the airline attendant asked for our passports. "But we go to Mexico all the time without passports. Surely we can go to the Bahamas." Alas, no. This was post 9/11, and they were very strict about requiring a passport both to get into the Bahamas and to return to the U.S.

The biggest mistake we made, however, was one that occurred a few years earlier. I was in the Navy when my ex and I had my daughter Mackenzie. We were living in Virginia Beach, Virginia at the time and when she was born, the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth issued us a 'Record of Birth' in lieu of a Birth Certificate. We were told that we would need to write to the office in Richmond that handled Birth Certificates in order to get a copy of Mackenzie's. Of course, that never happened. Not very important, until it was made clear to us that Mackenzie needed either a passport or a Birth Certificate to get back into the country. We had neither.

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