My International Travel Promise To Myself

Copyright : Sebastien Decoret

Back in 2014, I made a promise to myself that I would visit a foreign country, preferably one I had not visited before, every even-numbered year. I designated every even year primarily as a means to give myself enough time to prepare my schedule and my finances to be able to travel every other year, and I also chose that interval because I felt a strong itch to visit a foreign country in 2014.

Why was I struck with this idea in 2014? One reason was that I suddenly realized that year that I had not taken a bona fide vacation since 2007. The second and more compelling reason stemmed from deep conversations I had with my dear friend and meditation teacher, who was quickly succumbing to a very aggressive and deadly brain tumor. On more than one occasion during my visits with him, he told me, “Don’t wait to do the things you have always wanted to do, because you might run out of time to do them.”

What Rob told me really got me thinking. I thought of how my mom had a number of big dreams dashed because she had always pushed them to the side, believing that she either didn’t deserve to pursue them, or that her dreams would never come to fruition. For example, she had entertained a strong interest in travel, but she always made excuses for why she couldn’t go on vacations or getaways. In fact, the only “vacations” she ever took were when one of her siblings fell ill or died, and she had to fly to Hawaii to visit. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t think such trips should ever count as vacations, especially since they are so emotionally difficult. It’s not like my mom went to Hawaii and had a grand time at the funerals she attended.

Though I had traveled to various destinations for reasons other than the death of a relative, I knew that I had also fallen into a similar trap of making excuses about being too busy to take a vacation. So in the Spring of 2014 I decided to travel to Prague to compete in an IFBB Pro event, and figured that I would also visit Hungary, which was on my bucket list of destinations to visit.

My friend Rob passed away on April 29, 2014. After spending several weeks grieving for him, I decided to act upon my proposed travel plans to Eastern Europe. As I was planning the trip, I realized that since I would be in prep for a bodybuilding show, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Prague as a vacationing traveler, and also realized that I would only have a couple of days to explore Hungary. I ultimately decided not to compete, and instead booked a 7-day trip to Hungary which I completed in September of 2014.

Hungary turned out to be just as magical as I imagined it to be, and I honestly felt like I was honoring my dearly departed friend Rob when I was there. By an incredible stroke of luck, I was able to travel to Sydney, Australia and Bali the following month. Satisfied with having traveled to 3 new countries, I resolved to go somewhere new in 2016.

In March of 2016, I flew to Costa Rica, adding to my list of foreign destinations and keeping my promise to Rob and myself to travel internationally in an even year. After my Costa Rica trip, I wasn’t able to save money consistently for a trip in 2018, but whenever I had a chance to set something aside, I did.

I’m proud to say that I have fulfilled my promise yet again this year, when I traveled to the Maldives in September, and to Thailand earlier this month. Both trips were absolutely amazing, and I feel spiritually richer because of those experiences. I love the fact that I am able to say that I added six new countries in the last 5 years to my foreign travel roster, and I have every intention of adding to the list in 2020. My goal is to save up for a trip to Japan in 2020, but if I am unable to save enough money to travel to that destination, I will select a more reasonably priced excursion so that I can stay on track with my travel goals.

For those of you who are curious about what foreign countries I have visited, here is the list:

England (1980)
France (1980)
Switzerland (1980)
Italy (1980)
Germany (1980)
Austria (1980)
Greece (1980)
Turkey (1980)
Hungary (2014)
Mexico (1986, 1989, 1992)
Costa Rica (2016)
Australia (Sydney) (2014)
Bali (2014)
Maldives (2018)
Thailand (2018)

It will be exciting to think about what countries I will visit in the future. Some of the countries on my list include: Fiji, Bora Bora, Spain, Egypt, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Kenya, New Zealand, Nepal.

For those of you who dream of traveling, but who always seem to find a roadblock when trying to plan a trip, how about setting a similar goal to the one I have set for myself? You would give yourself at least a year to save up money between trips, and you would be able to travel to destinations you’ve always wanted to see.

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Wood Working In Bali

I recently was blessed enough to go to Bali for several days, and was able to visit Seminyak and Ubud for a number of shopping excursions. Ubud is known for its wood working factories and silver factories, so it was a dream come true for a wood carving and silver jewelry freak like me to visit. There are factories all over Ubud, most of which not only display the finished works of the artisans, but also feature the artisans at work on pieces.

One thing I did NOT like was how much the salespeople would hover over me as I walked through the stores. The best thing to do is to walk through a store without indicating interest in any of the pieces until you have determined which ones you are truly interested in purchasing, otherwise you will be asked incessantly, “You like this one? Give good price, not final price!” until you walk out of the store. The majority of stores will have what is called first price, which is the price they quote, but you are expected to haggle with the salesperson until you arrive at a price which is usually about 25% to 40% of the first price. Even so, whenever I would hear “6 million rupiah” ($500 US) for a 20 inch Buddha carving, I would think it was way too expensive and walk on.

One salesperson took the time to educate me on the different types of wood commonly used in Balinese carvings. I learned how to distinguish between hibiscus (which is always two-toned and has a slight reddish hue), coconut (a lighter, greenish, variegated wood), ebony, and mahogany.

Hibiscus wood

Hibiscus wood


Coconut wood carvings are in foreground here

Coconut wood carvings are in foreground here


Ebony wood carving

Ebony wood carving

He also informed me that there were three different levels of wood carvers: Student, Teacher and Master. Master carvings command the highest prices since the skill level of the artisan is the highest, followed by the Teacher and then the Student. I was thankful for the information because I discovered that a 24 inch Balinese Buddha wood carving which I have had for about 7 years was created by a Master out of a beautiful piece of hibiscus wood. Later in the day, I saw strikingly beautiful and ornate carvings like this life-sized horse:
Life-size horse carving

When I saw the gorgeous woodwork in Bali, it me wish I had a huge home with a real need for wooden sculptures and furnishings. If you love hand carved wooden sculptures and furniture with an ethnic flavor, you really should visit Bali.