a gift to myself

before I get to the meat of things here, I want to say thank you to everyone who sent well wishes for my birthday. I had a fantastic weekend celebrating - my 10k race went great and there was much wine and laughter with friends that evening.

I also should mention that today is the 4th anniversary of my first post on Ink and Adventure. not everyone has been reading since then [before we even moved to Taiwan] but I appreciate all of you who have been along on this journey. that news may make what follows seem odd. but if you've noticed a certain lack of activity and enthusiasm [and instagram posts] on my part lately - it won't be much of a surprise.

for about six months, maybe more, I've been debating with myself over what to do with this blog. to shift the content away from so much travel, or to change the way I write about traveling. to write less often, or not at all. to chug along with the formula that works to produce pageviews, or to write solely for myself.

I've come to what feels like both a shocking and inevitable conclusion:
I need to press pause on this blog. 

I've revised this post over and over, with excuses and melodramatic statements. but the simple truth is that I need to focus my energy elsewhere right now. on writing my book, on living a healthy life with running and yoga, on preparing for this summer's travels, on managing my food allergies, and on growing as a person. I know that this blog has and will continue to help me develop as a writer, but at this point the future of how exactly is unclear.

maybe this is the birthday gift I give to myself: a release from the self-constructed obligations I've been holding myself to. from having to post at certain times or with enough frequency, from writing on particular topics and keeping up with the blogging world around me. once upon a time, and even on this blog, I simply wrote what felt right. I think that's what I'd like to get back to.

the truth is I never intended to be a travel blogger. my life lends itself to the niche, and once I found my way there it was a safe and wonderful place to belong. I don't regret that move or the friends and opportunities I found because of it. I'm proud of the content I've produced - the stories and the photos I've created. this blog has been a way to document our travels, share our struggles and joys, help and connect with others around the world.

but the label of travel blogger has protected me from having to say "I'm a writer." and I hate to admit, from the embarrassment of having to explain that I am an unpublished writer. with an unfinished manuscript and three other half-begun projects. these past four years when people have asked me the question I dread the most - so what do you do? - and this blog has been something I could point to as a concrete and tangible answer.

it's a scary thought to peel away that layer of self-definition and find what's underneath. but it's time for me to see what kind of person I can be without that label to hide behind. it's time for me to see what kind of writer I can be without those constrictions. and I'm hoping with time and a little perspective I will return here and find what feels right for me.

until then - be well, keep wandering, keep wondering. this might seem a bit like a goodbye but it isn't. in fact, I have a feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful new journey.


we are always more afraid than we wish to be, but we can always be braver than we expect.
- Robert Jordan


when your parents visit taiwan

for the first time, ever, my parents came to visit Taiwan. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxious about it. that I didn't spend too much time worrying and trying to plan how to share my city in the best light. it's a biological impulse I think - wanting your parents to be proud of the life you're living, to understand it and to actually like it. I'm sure my parents would prefer that I lived a lot closer to home than 12 time zones away. but I think I did a good job of showing them why we love Taipei. even though things didn't all go according to plan [or maybe because of it] their Taiwan experience was pretty close to my everyday life. right down to the moment in a Juifen tea house where everyone else received cakes and jellies with their tea, and my drink came with a bowl of Doritos.

a good way to gauge how someone will react to Taiwan is to take them to a market. lots of people - people who have a very different idea about personal space than Americans - and a rainbow of strange sights and smells. my parent's first morning in Taipei we walked down to the Shidong Market in Tianmu. I admit that when we first moved to Taipei I was a bit intimidated to do my shopping here. but the produce is so much better, and the prices are reasonable. we walked in and took a lap before grabbing our groceries. there were a lot of questions about "what is that fruit/vegetable?" and some I couldn't answer.

on the way out, my mom turns and asks "what are those things? some kind of root vegetable?"
and my dad says "no, I think they're chicken feet."
we all had a good laugh, and I knew that things were going to be just fine.

my first plan to show them the best of Taiwan was derailed when I had my allergy testing done. as much as I wanted to take them everywhere delicious in Taipei [and there are a lot of delicious places] I knew that me sitting and watching them eat while I wasn't would not be enjoyable for any of us. so we cooked at home. we packed lunches and snacks for our adventures. a few times we grabbed food to go and brought it home where there was something for me to eat. and I managed to find a few places to ask my million questions [shellfish? peanuts? soy sauce? egg? etc?] and figure out what was safe for me to eat.

my parents were awesomely adventurous about trying things - and about trying to use chopsticks. they had heard us rave about Din Tai Fung for years [and my brother after his visit] and since I had safe things to eat there, we went back for 3 visits. we took then to the Aquatic Addiction Development where my dad could eat his fill of crab legs as big as an arm. and then there was Juifen Old Street. every 5 feet my dad was stopping to try some thing or another. because, as he said "it's only 40 NT!"

one of their first days here we did the ultimate Taipei 101 viewing - hiking Elephant Mountain first then going up in the 101 observatory. [which, I realize now I have never blogged about though I've been 4 times.] we lucked out with the weather, because the pollution that rolled in that afternoon only became worse as the week went on. it was pretty gross. but at least it was better than rain.

we did a lot of the touristy Taipei things. and during most of them, I put my selfie stick to good use. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, the Taipei Zoo, the National Palace Museum. Mom and I visited the local cat cafe. we took cabs and buses and youbikes and the MRT. originally I had wanted to take them to Taroko Gorge - we had to cancel due to landslides and road closures. 

so instead I tried to take them hiking in my backyard: Yangminghsan National Park. but the weather forecast was not accurate for the mountain. by the time we reached the start of the trailhead for Mt Qixing it was literally inside of a cloud. we couldn't even see the mountain, let alone ten feet in front of us.

after spending nearly 2 hours on 3 different buses to get there... well, it was definitely a Taiwan moment. but I suppose it just made thier visit all the more authentic. we ate our lunch and grabbed some warm drinks from the park center. even though we didn't get to do the hike it was still a fun experience. we took the bus back home then went for dumplings.

their last night here, we took the high speed down to Taoyuan to see a baseball game. my parents are big fans of American baseball, but I don't think they were ready for the level of fanaticism that is live Taiwan baseball.

going to a game here is a crazy experience - the crowd chants and sings the entire time their team is at bat, cheerleaders in jerseys and tutus prance on top of the dugout, and fans have all the dances memorized. there's even flame jets and fireworks every time the home team scores a run. after you get over the shock of how loud it all is, it's a lot of fun. watching the crowd is so entertaining that you occasionally forget there's a game going on.

we certainly didn't see everything in Taipei - and barely left the city limits. but my parents kept talking about "we can do that next time" so I think that means they liked it enough to come back again. seriously though, it was great to have them here. and despite a few hiccups I loved sharing my city with them.

for every summer since I moved to Taiwan, I've experienced the weird and wonderful feelings of what happens when you go back home to visit. but now I can say I know what the other side of it feels like: strangely normal. and hopefully I'll get to feel that again soon.
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