State of Limbo



Why do people travel? It’s an easy enough question to answer. For new experiences, to expand their horizons, to meet new people. But what about the expat question: Why do people choose to live in a foreign country? Of course I can’t answer for everybody, but after speaking to a number of friends it seems there may be common threads which bind all expats together.

Escape is often a big factor. Whether that means escaping the everyday mundane life of their hometown or getting away from something or someone, many expats long for a fresh start in a new country.

Then there’s the opportunity factor. I was speaking to a long-term expat friend the other night who said there is nothing in his home country for him apart from family. He then went on to explain that here in Japan he is special. Here he can be someone and do things he doesn’t believe would be possible in his country of birth.

I understand what he means. People are amused by our normal, but very foreign behavior and the things we do that would ordinarily be insignificant in our home country are highly praised. This includes things like singing in a band or writing a blog. Of course, attempts to master chopsticks or to speak a few words of Japanese are seen as evidence that we are attempting to make this our ‘home’ and so we are praised even further. Then of course there is the fact that we are sometimes given opportunities simply because we are foreigners. Case in point: my Native English friend who became an acting sensation overnight just for being himself. On the flip-side though, many expats comment on the fact that sometimes they feel more like something in a zoo or a performing circus animal than a person.

All this talk got me wondering about my own situation. Apart from my mum and my cats, I have no desire to return to Australia. I once told her I never really felt I belonged there. I felt like a fish out of water. When I was living there all I wanted to do was be somewhere else. Somewhere in Asia specifically, because that’s where my heart has always been. The other day I was asked when I was coming back to Australia and the person didn’t specify whether they meant for a holiday or to live. Either way I told them I had no plans at all to do anything of the sort.  To me, it seems that they think this is just another holiday, albeit an extended one but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here I am making my own life, living on my own two feet and immersing myself in a culture I deeply admire and respect.

A close Japanese friend of mine asked me last week if I saw Japan as a sort of dream, just a place to fill-in time while I waited for something ‘better’ to come along. As someone who works in a café, she meets lots of foreigners, mostly tourists who are there only temporarily, but she had to wonder for those who live here; do we really consider Japan ‘home?’ I looked at her and said that for the first time in my life I feel I belong. I feel as though despite all my excuses for not wanting to come back earlier (I was first here nine years ago), I have accepted that this is where I should be. It has taken many years, but it finally happened and it was worth the wait.

I suppose as expats we exist in a state of limbo, so to speak. We don’t belong or don’t identify with our home country, yet we will never really be fully accepted and integrated into our new and chosen society either. We always exist just on the edge. This isn’t the fault of anyone or anything; it’s just the way it is Even if we learn to speak the language, we weren’t born here, we can never fully understand what it means to be a native. Despite this, we thrive and forge our own lives, our own communities and we survive. Living in a foreign country can be a daily challenge, yet most expats would agree that the rewards far outweigh the hardships and perhaps this is why we choose to do it.





Why Travel?

I woke up from a vivid dream turned detailed daydream about me being back in Salt Lake City, Utah with my friends. I laid in my bed for probably half of an hour imagining scenes where I see my friends and family in familiar places again.

Eventually I walked out of my dark closet sized room that I’m renting for 6 dollars a night in small-town Myanmar. A room so small the door doesn’t even open halfway before hitting the corner of the bed; a bed that my toes dangle off of on account of me being too tall for it.

I poured myself some hot water on top of my 3-in-1 CoffeeMix, a coffee substitute that is insanely popular all throughout Myanmar, and I sat on the balcony overlooking the street.

I had just time-warped out of Salt Lake City via my closet room and suddenly reappeared in Hpa-an; a Burmese town where it is common place for monks dressed in deep red robes to ride motorbikes and women with root paste on their cheeks to carry woven trays of watermelon slices on their heads while smoking cigars.

The contrast was so startling that it compelled me to get out my keyboard and write about it here and now.

Where am I? What am I doing?

With thoughts of my friends and family back in the US so fresh in my mind, I can’t help but wonder what they would think of all of this, seeing me, or themselves in a town lost in time.

To read this blog and view my photos is one thing, but to be here is entirely another.

The panoramic view of tin rooftops, golden temples, trees, mountains and a distant lake; the sounds of the market chatter, motorbike horns and loudspeakers chanting in Burmese; the smells, familiar now but still unknown, a strange mix of sweet, foul, and fresh; and the bead of sweat currently dripping down my thigh from the humid heat. These can only be described in words, and words are unfortunately not the reality.

Pictures come closer to getting you there, but there will always be that disconnect.

I know that many people might take this as bragging, however, this doesn’t actually make me feel superior to anyone.

“Oh I am here, and they are not. Haha.”


I spent half an hour daydreaming about my hometown for a reason. I miss it, I long for it, and I realize that family and having a place to belong is a very beautiful thing.

So what is this post about then? Importance of home? Inspiration for others to experience more of life? If that’s what you want to take away from this, please do.

My reason to write in this moment is the change I’ve noticed.

A deep yet subtle change within myself that travel has caused for me. I cannot place it, I cannot coherently put it into words, but it is there.

In this moment, the change is why I wish to explain the contrast of home and here.

A person cannot walk through such different worlds without it changing them a little. This is a funny little fact about travel.

Whatever it is that I am doing, I’m enjoying it. I am proud of the things I’ve seen, I am happy for that little change inside of me.

Whether that change means anything significant, or if any of this has any real purpose, I don’t know. But I do understand that change is the flow of life.

I am living, experiencing all sorts of contrasts and angles that life has to offer. I am currently happy because I cannot say that I am wasting my experience of consciousness.

I’ve found a great love for my views of trucks over piled with boxes, produce, and people; of men and women wearing colorful traditional clothing and hats, powerlines in knotted messes, rickshaws that look as if they’ve come from the 1920’s, babies riding on the front of motorbikes, clothes hang-drying on lines in the sun, old women cutting down bamboo stalks with machetes, and women monks in pink robes walking the streets with silver bowls collecting alms.

There is a simplicity here that I crave in life, and it brings me happiness knowing with my eyes that it exists in the world.

But I’ve also gained a greater respect and appreciation for a home. Friends to call up, family that knows you like no one else, real coffee, familiar roads, a familiar bed, comforts from childhood, a language you know and understand, and a place to belong and build a life around.

So, do I stay or do I go? Life is not about choosing one or the other, it’s not about which experience is best, it’s all life.

But I would like to advise everyone to try travel at least once. Let it broaden your perspective, teach you what you truly appreciate in life, and let yourself embrace that flowing blood of life for a moment and let it change you. Because it is all life, why not experience as much of it as possible?

Letting go is inevitable, experiencing something new is inevitable, change is inevitable, and travel helps you understand that. It teaches you to handle it, and if you embrace it, you can learn to really love that unstoppable movement.

Mut Mee

What is it about some places that bring people together? It’s almost as if there is an energy that attracts like-minded folks to a particular place.

I cant help but wonder, “Is it the place, is it the people, or is it a beautiful combination of both?”


Nong Khai, Thailand took me by surprise. The reason could be described in two words, Mut Mee, A lovely garden guesthouse right by the Mekong River.

I had expected a quite time alone for a week to work on my blog and podcast. I got everything that I had hoped for except for the bit about being alone.


The people of the internet would have thought me a nutter if I had attempted to do an interview-style podcast with myself.


Sitting in the beautiful gardens across from the river, I found myself quickly swept away in interesting and stimulating conversations with the people around me.

I was also happy to find that my company was diverse and often wiser or smarter than myself in many subjects. I don’t mention this in order to stroke egos or to impress anyone, but as a reminder to myself to mix up my socializing often.

A great way to learn is by surrounding yourself with intelligent people and listening to them.


Mut Mee did something else that was fantastic for me.

It reminded me of the importance of gathering.

Like Meccas for pilgrimages, meeting points are important for human connection and passing of ideas and information.

I am reminded of the old use of the word, “salon.”

Good ol’ Wikipedia defines a salon as,

“A gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.”


So what was it about Mut Mee?

It was the people, it was the location, and it was the host and owner, Julian.

He not only created a beautiful environment on a riverbank to have people spend the night, he hosted his guests. He got involved in and struck up interesting conversation and made people feel welcome.

I apologize for turning this post into a guesthouse review, but something was done well here.

I encourage others to run businesses this way.

In a world where salons are now known for stimulating hair follicles instead of minds, and most social gatherings are to celebrate intoxication amongst music too loud to talk over, we could use more Mut Mees in the world.

Sharing political opinions, social concepts, groundbreaking theories and ideas are important for society. How are we to make any kind of positive change in the world without talking about it first?

Check out the website for Mut Mee at

We’re All Alone in This Together

As you may have noticed, I’ve created a website.

Why did I do this?

Well, I’m not going to lie to you beautiful people, it was for a selfish reason.

No, not for money and not for glory. To be honest, I’m currently amazed that you are reading this at all right now. I hold few expectations or delusions of grandeur stemming from brain-dumbing this pseudo-philosophical travel website.

Existential Travel Zazz, (Meant to be spoken while waving spirit fingers) is a title worth rolling your eyes at.

“Here is yet another young traveling blogger, out to inspire the world!” C’est la vie.

If you’ve been following my posts at all, you’ll find that I’m a bit of a fromagerie. I’m here trying to get to the heart of it all, and sometimes that heart is made of cheese. And cheese is delicious so you all should have little to complain about.

The heart of the matter here is, I do hope to inspire the world. But this real hope, stems from a selfish desire to not feel so lonely.

(A question for later: is the desire to not feel lonely a selfish desire?)

While on the road, I’ll meet people. We’ll connect on a deep yet rushed superficial level and then they’re off in a week or two. It’s how it is.

It’s kind of sad being around so many people but having none of them really know you.

Often when I attempt to connect with friends back at home, they think I’m bragging about my travels and wish not to engage me. I don’t really blame them for this, but the reality is that I’m just a lonely human, and humans need to share.

I feel I have much to share and I can’t keep it in for myself, it’s almost painful. I want to share and inspire people around me.

So there, I said it. Now get your eye-roll over with and join in on this with me. Because I know you actually want connection too.

So what makes my website different from most inspirational travel blogs? Or a more accurate question, what do I hope makes my website different from other travel blogs? Existential involvement of course.

So what does existential actually mean?

Existential adjective

– Of or relating to existence.

Travel with awareness. Awareness of existence, life, living, and the present.

And it’s not just travel in the conventional sense.

I know not everyone is stupid enough, or able, to sell all of their shit, quit their job, and buy a one-way ticket to Asia. As much as I wish to shout, “you can travel the world too!” I realize that not everyone out there can.

But I’m not creating this website to reach out only to the nomad.

You see, I have a confession. I’ve always loved traveling, but I’ve never loved following travel blogs or travel magazines before. The reason being that I often found myself unable to travel and those beautiful traveling blogs only rubbed that depressing fact in my face.

(Apparently their inspiration worked, however, because here I am.)

Ultimately, My hope is to make a community that everyone can enjoy and take something useful or helpful away.

After all, we’re all travelers.

There’s that cheese again, but it’s true-blue and stinky too. It’s a simple reality of life which is obvious because realities of life usually are.

We are all on a personal journey in life; we are all travelers of life.

And that’s why I made this website. To connect that simple reality with the world, the traveling community, and my lonely self. To inspire creativity, forward thinking and movement in our lives.

The nomads of the world often see it clearly, it is full in the face of their existence; we are on a very literal journey through life on the road, life itself is a journey too.

That’s what makes travel so invigorating. Travelers are living in the moment, everything is new and unpredictable and it makes us think about ourselves and our place in existence.

And we have to live in that moment or we run the risk of getting hit by that bus going down the left side of the road instead of the right.

So! I hope you follow me and my adventures. But most of all I hope you join in, leave comments, give feedback, and submit your own existential travel zazz stories and opinions.

I don’t want to end up just being on a lonely pulpit. I want to talk, connect, engage in discussion, and reach out to anyone else who feels lonely on this road of life.




Last month I spent 10 days in silence learning an ancient meditation tecnique called Vipassana.

It was one of those types of experiences that are so influential you don’t even know where to begin.

It wasn’t impressive just because of the silence, which suprisingly turned into an odd sort of comfort, but it taught me golden lessons which I can carry with me always.

Vipassana in a nut shell:

Nine full days in silence, only speaking to the managers for technique advice and other necessities. Four a.m. wakeup, 9 p.m. bedtime, ten hours of meditation a day, no electronics, no writing, no music, no distraction. I snuck all photos on the last day before packing.

First 3 days you focus on nothing but your breath, how it is, no altering it. This sharpens the mind to notice the small movements and changes occurring within.

The first three days are the hardest, some people drop out and don’t finish the course.

From there you continue to observe the rest of your body while keeping in mind the reality of change. Everything within us and around us is in constant movement, from our cells to the particles of solid objects.

The cause of all misery is craving and distain.

Distain for anything which is impermanent, which everything is impermanent. Craving for the unknown, the unattainable, the past or the impossible. One or both of these things is at the core of all misery, so in the practice of observing the body you are meant to remind yourself of this constant change.

I cheated on one of the rules, I took notes. This was for you lovely people as well as myself. Because this experience was so life changing and in depth, I’ve decided to simply post my notes. Below are my exact notes as I wrote them in the moment.


Day one:

  • Never fully submit. I want to be a strong person, not a submissive one. It’s impossible to have one or 100 teachers to have everything right. Submitting yourself to complete submission of an idea allows little to no room for your inner and innate wisdom to come out.
  • How is a person to come up with new innovative ideas if they only follow tradition?
  • This is hard.

Day two:

  • Be like Batman.
  • Saved the girls by chasing off a black snake with a broom. Maybe they wouldn’t go near it because they knew how dangerous it was.
  • Remind self, look up snakes of Cambodia.
  • Smuggled a cookie into my room.

Day three:

  • And another girl bites the dust.
  • Can’t focus on meditation, daydreaming too much. I wonder if Batman daydreams.
  • Found forgotten playing cards in my bag. Solitaire anyone?
  • Part of what makes being completely in the present and not in a fantasy daydream so difficult, is because sometimes we don’t like where we currently are.
  • Reality of our location and the reality of our minds can be scary to face.

Day four:

  • I missed breakfast today, slept through both bells. So sad when it’s the most exciting thing about the morning.
  • I had bed bugs last night. The manager didn’t know what they were and didn’t believe they excisted in Cambodia. Awkward insisting to switch mattresses.
  • Sad today, I’m feeling a deep feeling of loneliness. I’m completely alone in Asia, no one here to hold me.
  • I’ve just realized that I miss music more than internet or books.
  • Just got “scolded” for wearing capri pants in the meditation hall. I thought this wasn’t supposed to be dogmatic?

Day Five:

  • Learned today that meditation can make me horny. I might file that away for a rainy day.
  • It’s getting easier to sit in one spot for an hour straight; perfect for future movie watching.
  • Getting a little more excited for the next five days.
  • Broke another rule, killed a bed bug, zero regrets. That sonofabitch will drink my blood no more!
  • Got bored playing solitaire, started playing a two person game against my two feet.
  • Aaand right foot lays down a king for the win ladies and gentleman! That’s the game, left foot loses.
  • … Maybe I should actually use this alone time to meditate…
  • It sounds like there is a little dinosaur outside my room.

Day six:

  • I woke up this morning from a series of bad dreams. The freshest one leaving me too scared to fall back to sleep. Meditation helps with misery, what do you do about fear?
  • Just realized the majority of these Khmer (Cambodian) women are over 50 years old. They lived through genocide. I don’t know fear…
  • With no one else to talk to for 6 days I’ve realized something, I make pretty decent company.
  • Back to solitair.
  • I heard children singing today while letting the sound of rain enter my ears. People walked past me that weren’t there.

Day seven:

  • This morning I watched a little beatle roll a little rat poo around in circles seven times on the pavement. I counted 8 rounds. I wonder if this is how we look to the gods when we go to the gym.
  • My deodorant stick has reached its end. Fuckmylife.
  • Our emotions and physical bodies are connected. When we feel sad we keep asking the mind why we feel sad. Almost never do we ask our bodies where this emotion, this physical and often painful sensation, comes from within us.
  • In a world where a person is encouraged not to talk or even make eye contact with the people around them, it’s fantastic and surprising how a stolen, spontaneous, and knowing flash of a glance can brighten the whole day.
  • My god, I miss Del Taco… Why do I miss Del Taco?

Day eight:

  • A day for some serious meditation.
  • The path of Dhamma, the path of Dhamma, I keep hearing about this great and wonderful path from the Vipassana guy. Yeah, I agree it is great. Yeah I agree that everyone could greatly benefit from knowledge and an experience like this. However, is it THE path? Can there be only one path for everyone? I think not.
  • We are all biochemically different, why wouldn’t our paths be?
  • During lunch they serve this “drink” of which I’ve dubbed, “cup-o-fish eyes.” An uncreative name because it looks like a cup of little fish eyes, which I assume are actually seeds surrounded by a mucussy membrane. These tasteless goodies glop down smoothly like a cup of gelatinous fish eyes. Being tasteless, they are served with spoonfuls of sugar. Ah, what a joy! Goopy fish eyes- an excuse to drink sugar.
  • My addiction to sugar is deep and unsettling.
  • I met a bug today that went around collecting particles to put on its sticky back. I watched it for about a half hour.
  • I believe myself and I are becoming pretty good friends while we work out this ego thing.

Day nine:

  • When did I get so many freckles?
  • I’ve reached enlightenment.
  • Just kidding.
  • One of the men in the meditation hall keeps making this sexual sounding groan in the middle of meditation. In times past I’ve tried ignoring it, but today I looked over to see a group of young guys silently laughing. We made eye contact and the laughter grew to dangerously disruptive levels.
  • No words are needed for sex jokes.
  • I think a woman just thanked me for the snake incident by using a worm as pantomimed representation. She stopped me as I was making my exercise laps around the garden, not unlike the poo bug.
  • Just realized that maybe she was mocking my recent obsession with critters…
  • I disagree with Vipassana’s teachings of ridding oneself of passion. Passion is human, passion is beautiful, raw, and yes, sometimes filled with mistakes and sadness. But passion is liveliness and liveliness is life.
  • If passion is a flaw, it’s one I’d like to have.
  • “Don’t create more sankaras, retain perfect equanimity.” I realized that this advice was making me more upset. I can’t be perfect, I’m upset sometimes, let me be upset!… ah, that’s the teaching. It is what it is.
  • Perfection is a silly illusion.

Day ten:

  • This morning as the sun rose I looked out at the rice fields and was filled with such joy and beauty that it made me sad. I wish I could box it up and ship it to my friends and family.
  • The key to a proper Cambodian toilet flush is to create a swirling vortex of water, only then will the poo go down.
  • Today I get to talk!
  • I had forgotten that these woman around me don’t speak English. A barrier I felt between myself and them has dissolved, we are all in this together.

It was a difficult but extremely rewarding experience.

In the ten days I spent there I learned about an important connection between mind and body. I rid myself of a few pet peeves, including my distain for smacking. I learned to sit still, observe, and how to better focus my mind and attention. I learned techniques on how to better handle sadness and anger, I worked through many emotional problems and learned the skills to continue to do so.

And something I didn’t expect in this course, I found a best friend in myself.

If anyone is curious to learn more about Vipassana, or would like to take a class, check out the official website for more information.

All classes are by donation only. Yay!

Guess who else took a Vipassana course?

Macklemore. Do take a listen.

Lets Connect

Human connection.

“Ugh gross, Zazz is going to be gooey and cheesy again in a post.”

Maybe, but my goal here is to be honest. If soft delightful fluff excrete from my brain mash, down and out through my fingertips to this keyboard, so be it.

Being in Asia, halfway across the world in a foreign land, I’ve found that my butt has been in a chair a lot lately. Reading, drawing, listening, eating, and berating myself for this.

Sure, I’ve finished a book and have gotten halfway through another one, (a person could describe that as productive) however, I can’t help but feel a little bit guilty about this.

“Why all of the facebook time Zazz? Shouldn’t I be exploring more? Maybe chatting up every person I meet who speaks English?”

After all, being surrounded by almost nothing but Cambodians for a week, I lack many opportunities to speak these days. Why would I not seek out that opportunity?

A good question, self.

But there is something beautiful about getting to know myself on this level. Mass quantities of self-reflection tend to bounce those shiny reflecting thoughts outward and all around. Like mirrors sporadically placed around me, I’m able to see multiple views from all different angles.

This is a good thing, a form of meditation, healthy for the mind, and a fantastic ingredient to begin talking to oneself.

Though a problem I’ve worried about is the distortion of the reflections causing views that are too oddly angled that I’m not seeing things clearly. After all, I am still the only viewer in this meat capsule.

Hence my rationalization for mass facebooking as well as a reminder of the importance of human interaction. We are, after all, the center of our own universe. There are only so many windows you can look out of yourself and into the world with. Human connection is not only emotionally satisfying, it’s also intellectually stimulating, world-broadening, and good for reality checks.

A personal balance of all things is important.

Time to stop berating myself for being antisocial for a while as well as stop being so frightened of lending out smiles to new people. After all, soon I will be personally subjecting myself to solitude at a ten day meditation course, I won’t even have Facebook there, (gasp) I need all of the human connection I can get.

New friend, little Likena- master of human connection

P.S. To all concerned and asking, my friend from the flood recovered fully. Warm hugs to Vanessa.