Happy Birthday The Same Sky!

The Same Sky - my travel memoir

The Same Sky – my travel memoir

Wow – a year ago this past weekend was my official book launch of The Same Sky, my travel memoir in Tibet and Southeast Asia after a failed relationship.  Looking back on that special night of the launch held at the splendid Tibet House, I feel blessed that more than 115 people came out for an evening of readings from my book, Q&A and stories from other travel writers.  And it wasn’t just any random audience – they were travel enthusiasts coming together to share the love of culture, exploration and self-reflection.

In the past year since the book launch, I’ve held three more events:  two Same Sky Cafe: Evening of Travel Storytelling in New York and another book launch in Vancouver, my old stomping ground.  There has always been a great turnout of interested travelers who come and listen to travel stories by me and other writers as well as view photography from Bhutan and Cambodia.  Wow the buzz and excitement in the room afterwards!

The night of my book launch a year ago

The night of my book launch a year ago

So why do I bother doing any of this?

To me, I want to pay it forward.

I moved to NY in 2000 feeling brokenhearted, lost and vulnerable after a particularly bad breakup.  I wanted to write about my story and how I escaped with just a backpack and journal to far-flung Tibet, Laos and Cambodia for three months to rediscover myself.  I needed to share what happened and to give hope and peace to others who also suffered calamities of the heart.  Now, years later, I finally published my story that has helped me pay it forward to others through my book and the travel storytelling events I put together.  Not only do I share the love of travel but other main messages surface:  you are not alone.  As you travel along your emotional and physical journey, you meet locals who have experienced war and death, and they can inspire you to believe in a strength you never knew you had.

And if those messages can touch someone’s heart whether through my book or at my event, then it has been well worth the effort.

Here’s to another opportune year for The Same Sky!

My book launch last year

My book launch last year

 

Q&A at my book launch last year

Q&A at my book launch last year

Great turnout of 62+ people at the Same Sky Cafe in NY (June 2014)

Great turnout of 62+ people at the Same Sky Cafe in NY (June 2014)

My book for sale at the events

My book for sale at the events

Book launch in Vancouver

Book launch in Vancouver

Most recent Same Sky Cafe event in Feb 2015 in NYC

Most recent Same Sky Cafe event in Feb 2015 in NYC

Panel discussion about the lure of travel

Panel discussion of travel bloggers about the lure of travel

Postcards of Argentina (Part 2)

We were so impressed by the multi-colored mountains near Humahuaca in Northern Argentina.  More than 4000 feet above sea level!

We were so impressed by the multi-colored mountains near Humahuaca in Northern Argentina. More than 4000 feet above sea level!

We were in Argentina to celebrate our 2nd year anniversary and I felt really blessed to be in such an amazing country with my hubby.  On our actual anniversary date (Aug 30), we took tango lessons!  How fun…and awkward as we tried to master a few steps in a 90-minute lesson.  It was great fun!

Another highlight of the trip was traveling north to Humahuaca (5 hours north of Salta) to see these beautiful multi-colored mountains, slowly erroded over thousands of years.   Pretty impressive.

We loved our time in Argentina with the architecture in Buenos Aires reflecting its European roots. The locals were always so generous and friendly, and the markets were alive with handicrafts and odd trinkets like knives with an eagle claw as a handle.  After visiting the northeast and northwest as well as Buenos Aires, we hope to be back one day perhaps to travel south to Patagonia to visit the penguins.

Tango lessons from the professionals!

Tango lessons from the professionals!

We got the hang of it after a while...

We got the hang of it after a while…

Overlooking the city of Salta (Northern Argentina)

Overlooking the city of Salta (Northern Argentina)

Street vendor at bus station (Humahuaca, Northern Argentina)

Street vendor at bus station (Humahuaca, Northern Argentina)

Llama-embroidered hot water bottle as a welcome sight for our beds at night.  Temperature dropped to almost freezing in the Andes Mountains where we were

Llama-embroidered hot water bottle as a welcome sight for our beds at night. Temperature dropped to almost freezing in the Andes Mountains where we were

Empanadas and lemonade seemed to be our daily lunch routine

Empanadas and lemonade seemed to be our daily lunch routine

Postcards of Argentina (Part 1)

image When we first arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina last week, we weren’t sure what to expect.  Then we discovered the explosion of color in the Boca area famous for its working class neighborhood; the friendliness of the locals including those who stopped us in the street to give us directions; delicious grilled meat everywhere; and the melange of European culture found in a fascinating city like BA.

Here are some snapshots of our first week:

 

"Parilla" or grilled meat is the Argentinian specialty and it's so tasty and super cheap

“Parilla” or grilled meat is the Argentinian specialty and it’s so tasty and super cheap

 

We saw some gorgeous series of water falls at Iguazu Park in northern Argentinia

We saw some gorgeous series of water falls at Iguazu Park in northern Argentinia

 

We discovered a string of open-grill Brazilian restaurants in Iguazu which borders Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.  Great to try Brazilian style steaks and people-watch the locals

We discovered a string of open-grill Brazilian restaurants in Iguazu which borders Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. Great to try Brazilian style steaks and people-watch the locals

One of my highlights was watching these kids slide down the hill on flattened cardboard boxes.   Fun!

One of my highlights was watching these kids slide down the hill on flattened cardboard boxes. Fun!

 

 

Eating a Japadog in Vancouver and other food highlights

These mussels are to die for - so fresh and delicious.

These mussels are to die for – so fresh and delicious.

One of my favorite pastimes when I visit Vancouver is EATING at all my favorite restaurants.  I tick off the food on my “to eat” checklist during my limited days in Vancouver.  Plus I pair the eating with meeting family & friends, and voila!  I couldn’t be happier.

1.  Best Mussels Ever – Blue Canoe (Steveston, BC)

When my sister Sharon and I first tried these itty-bitty pieces of heaven last year, I demanded that we come back again.  The mussels in cream sauce melted in my mouth.  We were told that their seafood including their mussels are caught fresh every morning and with the restaurant right on the Steveston dock, you can’t get fresher than that.  The fries were also fabulous.

2.  Best Value for Breakfast – “The Boss” or Dai Ban (Metrotown or Chinatown)

My mom and I have been going to “The Boss” for years, just for breakfast. Where else can you get two fried eggs, a small piece of steak, a breakfast bun, a small bowl of noodle soup & a tea for $6.50? This Hong Kong style cafe reminds me of NYC diners with the multi-page menus serving all kinds of international food 24 hours a day.  To top it off, the food tastes excellent and it’s mine and my mom’s favorite breakfast place when I visit.

I remembered years ago when my hubby Eduardo first went to Vancouver to “meet the parents”.  He must’ve passed with flying colors because my mom pulled me aside after the first day and said “Let’s take Eduardo to ‘The Boss’ restaurant.”  The rest is history.

The famous Japadog food truck in Vancouver!

The famous Japadog food truck in Vancouver!

3.  Best Exotic Hotdog – the Japadog Food Truck!

Admittedly, when I heard that Vancouver now has a Japadog food truck, I found it odd.  So off we went to check it out in Kitsilano, where the brightly colored truck sat on the curb.  I perused the menu.  Shrimp tempura nestled between 2 buns? (My niece Jadyn tried it – not too bad!)  Yaki soba in lieu of the hot dog?  I finally picked the one I did want called “Okonomi” with teriyaki sauce and bonito fish flakes that decorated the juicy sausage.  My sister Sharon tried the Terimayo with teriyaki sauce, seaweed and mayonnaise on top.  Yum!

My nieces and I in front of the Japadog food truck in Kitsilano

My nieces and I in front of the Japadog food truck in Kitsilano

The list goes on and on…chances are you’ll get a fab meal at most places in Vancouver.  Richmond is famous for their Chinese cuisine and it’s also very affordable. Sushi restaurants galore – Ebisu in Richmond and Vancouver is a crowd-pleaser.  I also dined at a tiny local sushi place in Dunbar with my friend Jenny and the fish was so fresh and tasty that I didn’t want to leave.  East is East has the best chai tea and my sister Sharon and I loved their lunch  thali specials.  Ahhhh….Vancouver never disappoints!

 

 

Top 5 Highlights of the Canadian Debut Book Launch of The Same Sky

DSCN3982After a successful book launch in New York of The Same Sky followed with a travel storytelling event in June, Vancouver was next.  My old stomping ground!

At first, I thought a handful of family members and friends would come, but we ended up with 45 people last Wednesday!  Wow, I felt so blessed.

 

What a great turnout!

What a great turnout!

Top 5 Highlights:

Highlight #1:  Great support from family and friends including childhood buddies I hadn’t seen in 26 years!

Susie, me and Lisa - first time in 26 years!

Susie, me and Lisa – seeing them for the first time in 26 years!

It was great to see my family there especially my parents who heard the final reading about my grandmother’s death as part of The Same Sky.  How cool that my loves ones could be there for me.  And that some of my childhood friends turned up for it!

Highlight #2:  Awesome readings from Henry Lee, Jai Yehia and Adelina Wong

I loved how the other readers at my event did a fantastic job sharing their travel stories.  Jai’s wonderful piece called “Should I Take Off My Shoes at Pol Pot’s House?” was about Cambodia with reflections on it’s not-so-distant genocidal past, while also ending on a positive note about the optimism of its people.

Both Adelina and Henry also reflected on questions about home, identity and belonging in their pieces – Adelina about her expatriate life in Budapest and Henry about his contemplations on life while watching a sun set in Chile.  All very touching.

Highlight #3:  Now my mom wants to write a memoir

My parents

My parents

The next morning after the Vancouver book launch, my mom shared how she stayed up late thinking about her own past and that she would like to capture her life lessons and experiences on paper.  I was touched that my book launch stirred up a motivation for my mom, who is relatively private about her tough childhood, to write about her life.

Highlight #4:  I sold 90% of my books!

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Highlight #5:  Fantastic Q&A moderated by Jenny Malcolm

If you can believe it, Jenny first flew out to NY to moderate my Q&A during my first book launch.  I welcomed her back to do it again in Vancouver.  She did great!  The questions asked by the audience were excellent:  will I write a second book?  What has been the long process of writing and capturing my thoughts over time to complete the book?   What are some harrowing lessons learned when traveling?  Thanks for the awesome questions!

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I’m so thankful for all the support from everyone in my beloved hometown Vancouver.  Stay tuned…next year, we hope to run The Same Sky Cafe, a night of travel storytelling!