Hacking where to find the Deals: 3 Solid tips

•March 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

To whom it may concern the blogs will be intermittent at best while we await a country with reasonable internet. That being said, here’s to catching up!


WAIT!! I see a break!!
Ok. A breaking point. We have landed in Thailand and after 2 weeks on the ground we have decided as a team that we love it (and the affordability factor) enough  to hunker down for a month. We’re all hungry for a semblance of reality and routine again but no one wants to turn back.

It’s been 12 weeks on the road today. We’ve enjoyed; planes, trains and automobiles….taxis and Ubers…..tuk tuks…. ok, if it moves we’ve boarded it. Lessons we’re learning about transportation include but aren’t limited to: if it gets you there it’s good, if it gets you there with air conditioning it’s great and if it gets you there with all of that AND it’s reasonably affordable than it is priceless.

The best car deals by far come from Uber when you are overseas. Although, the more research we do the less pleased we are with the management style of Uber. We recommend that if you have options available in your location you first utilize your local Lyft or taxi company. Alas, there are rarely opportunities for us to follow that algorithm out “here.” While there are taxis available, on average, they run you double the cost. So, we utilize the local tuk tuks, have the locals call a friend that they know who is looking for work and use local transport before caving to Uber usage.

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We have found that when booking flights we can generally rely on the use of the Skyscanner application on our phones for the most cost effective and rapid booking of a flight. This works especially well when we have no certain next destination and we can utilize the fly everywhere search. One notable exception to this is when you are making a small local jump , say from island to island, then it is always best to check your local flight agencies as their prices are very rarely listed. There are lots of sites that we are being driven toward that will alert you when there is a breaking or accidentally listed flight special although those have not been particularly useful to us thus far. We will of course direct you to those as we seem them become useful. We have also benefited from the added benefit of three of us being able to use the Space-available for flights assuming that we are in the right quadrant for access.


We’ve stayed in: Airbnb, friend’s homes, with family, in DOD lodging and of course in hotels. We have had experiences where the house was literally alive with ants and reptiles. We have experienced hotel suites that have redefined both luxury and skyline view. Lately we are relying heavily on the http://www.alltherooms.com site for a compilation of our favorite room types to include; Airbnb, booking, couchsurfing, expedia, jetsetter, hostileworld, hotwire, priceline, and BRBO.  With the availability of DOD lodging for the four of us when needed we do find ourselves utilizing those resources when we are backed into a last minute corner. Those have proven to be definite cost savers when we are in the right countries.  The only consistent thing is that our definition of home has most definitely morphed. The cliche of, “home is where the heart is,” has a very real meaning to this pack. No matter how many homes, how many beds (or even if the home is missing something as essential as toilet paper,) when we all snuggle up at the end of the day THAT FEELING is HOME.


We have visited just about every kind of; street market, river market and grocery set up that you can imagine and so many more that you probably can’t imagine. We’ve seen live fish in water bottles and baskets. We’ve seen HUGE bugs eaten as a main dish. Grapes are the size of a child’s rubber ball that you’d exchange a quarter for in the United States. And we’ve eaten it ALL. Our family rule is that we all try at least one bite of every strange thing as a team. We’ve had drinks with Chilli powder, with rotted fruited and (my personal favorite) drinks from cooked off animal droppings.

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We’ve officially seen more countries than my children have seen years on this earth. We have visited; Indonesia for over a month, Singapore, Japan (for almost a month,) the Philippines and Thailand now for a month. They have both also visited Mexico and Costa Rica. And let us not forget where this all kicked off, the great United States of America (New York.) Totaling 8 countries in their short 5 and 6 years. When I ask about this travel excess Betababy responds: “This is SO COOL!! Let’s NEVER stop!” And BetaBear says: “I just LOVE this so so so so much!!! I can’t wait to SEE more! There are so many more places than I ever knew! Even when we find a forever home can we still keep traveling?!” I think it’s safe to say that we are ALL equally enamored with the prospects, tastes and sights that are inundating us everyday.


We do a morning Bible study and worship daily and have (almost forcibly) grown so much closer as a team. My cohort and I place equal emphasis on staying healthy which makes food choices on the road a bit easier but the perpetual roaming means we are always without a gym and find ourselves coming up with creative at “home” and on the road workouts. The adults however are learning that we are both independent alphas. Traveling with a team mate is an unbelievable blessing BUT we are both so used to having time with our “other” friends and this travel has placed us in each other’s metaphorical laps for four months. Luckily we both have amazing teams outside of ourselves that have served us well reminding us of that fact and encouraging us to create space breaks for one another as well. With each day that passes we; laugh, grow, struggle and experience our way into a stronger bond than I think either of us has experienced or had anticipated. I won’t speak for him but I am learning about something deeper than that “I love you” that comes a couple months into dating and instead leaning into the type of partnership that roots its self in the promise of a friendship and an “I’ve got you.” There are certainly days that I’m the weaker (and more emotional) of the two of us. But his patience always astounds and his leadership never ceases to surprise me. He receives my angst and meets it with an empathy instead of acceptance and encourages me into growth without demanding my compliance for his happiness. We are both learning to be extremely flexible and compromising. Not in the, “fine let’s eat pizza,” kind of way rather in the, “this IS my sleep routine. I DO take this many pictures and I DO think this is a good monetary decision,” type of ways.
On this topic we are constantly learning and readdressing how to live on our new budget. Sure, we traded our “western bills” for travel but the travel definitely comes at a very real cost. And just because you take your budget into consideration doesn’t always mean that there isn’t a trade off. For instance; we chose to hover in Thailand for its beautiful weather and affordable housing/dining opportunities HOWEVER the house we are renting (through Airbnb) will also be charging us for the water and electricity bill upon our departure, the nearest grocery store is a 20 min round trip drive and the internet doesn’t work without first purchasing a SIM card and internet service. Even the purchased internet doesn’t work consistently enough to be productive at work unless you intend to camp out at a coffee shop or restaurant all day, and I do mean ALL day. All of these excess utilities (that you don’t usually consider while traveling) sure add up fast and almost exchange exactly for having pressed through to a more Western civilization. Don’t get me wrong, we all love it here and have no complaints about the 2 minute walk to the beach and beach view bars. We aren’t complaining about the condo with a pool view to splash in when we aren’t feeling the mess of sandy beach play. We ARE NOT complaining about the DELICIOUS hamburger and drink joint right on the corner. We just want to draw the random travelers attention to the potential budget hazards of the Vagabond’s wallet hassles.
So there you have it. A quick run down of where we stand and what we’re experiencing as we get settled. I hope to write you more but as I mentioned earlier we’re up against some poor internet out here in Asia. I’ll do my best but know that I am not disappearing even in my silences. We love you all! Moving forward you all know how much I love your feedback and direction. I look forward to the continued shares, likes and emails! Thanks for journeying with us!!

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6 Countries and 5 AirBnB reviews

•March 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Have you been considering using an Airbnb for the first time but you’re on the fence about using a strangers home? Uncertain if it is for you? Well here are 5 reviews with pictures from 6 countries to hopefully help you narrow in on your decision.

From us in New York: 1 week stay…”This home was obviously very recently renovated and updated. It was very nice and well kept. We arrived late but the keys were waiting. The communication was fantastic. Our family of 4 stayed comfortably for a week and would recommend it happily.”

From them: “all good.”

From us in Bali, Indonesia: We stayed 2 weeks…”This is a great weekend getaway home. I would not recommend more than a 3 day stay though. When we arrived the driver was at the airport promptly and easy to find. He was friendly. Upon arriving at the villa Made met us at the top of the hill and escorted our family down to the villa carrying our things on her scooter. She was warm and welcoming.
As for the house there is a 1 foot gap between the top of the wall and the ceiling that leads to the outside. Due to this fact there were many many ants and spiders inside the house. We sprayed and kept all food outside but the 1foot ceiling to roof gap allowed for both bugs and reptiles to enter abundantly. At one point we cohabited with a foot and a half long lizard. This is not an insurmountable problem if you are comfortable with nature. For the most part they ignore you if you can ignore them. It’s only worth noting so that you know what to expect.
The wifi was spotty at best. The ceiling gap mentioned earlier also made it impossible for the single air conditioner to cool the top floor it was located on much less the lower level. Additionally, the staff turns off the ac daily when they come to clean so you start from square one to cool the house every time you come home. The water and power both alternated which was working and we constantly had to go next door to flip a water or circuit switch. At one point mom took a shower in the kid’s bathroom and was shocked by the shower handles. It is also worth noting that the following day we read a review on this very matter stating that a local blogger was killed by electrocution in her shower. As for the kitchen: the fridge worked but could barely keep things cool, the water dispenser didn’t come with potable water and the kitchen was closer to a traditional Balinese kitchen then the western look presented in photos. The rooms were nice and roomy but the 3 beds only came with 2 bedspreads and were not laundered in our 10 day stay. Additionally, there were only 2 towels provided to our family of 4 for both swimming and showering and those were not laundered either. We were able to get a ride to town and buy some additional towels at a reasonable price.
For the most part the host answered efficiently and was kind when she did it but hours (almost a full day) with out water or power and no communication was too much for our family of 4.
The homes location is its saving grace. It is within a 50,000 ($4.12 USD) Rupi ride to the center of town. Great taxis drivers wait at the corner of the street to bring you in and out of town. There are many diners, spas and cafes on the strip between you and taxis. That is also where we laundered our clothes. The villa itself is within 200 feet of a reasonable cafe and a fantastic artist.
It is worth mentioning that when we finally left it was after a ten day stay but we left three days early willing to incur the cost loss. We ended up paying the same amount a night for a compound twice the size that had; an upgraded outdoor kitchen, 2 very separate and very air conditioned rooms with reliable internet, a cook and a hands on daily staff. At the second home we were greeted by a team for the house (driver included) and 2 scooters.
All in all the issues at this villa were resolved one by one. The host did give what I believe was her best effort. The pool was a plus. The home is a more traditional Balinese home and I would only recommend it for a maximum of three days and an awareness of what you were getting yourself in to.”

From them: None

From us in Bali Indonesia: We stayed a little over a month… “Sandy was an incredible host and responded to her messages within the hour every time we sent them. There were two or three very minimal problems over our month-long stay that she addressed immediately and to satisfaction. She allowed us to check in four days early in order to accommodate our schedule. Her team on site was amazing and available daily. We had two scooters available to us at check-in and her staff was available to us daily to clean and answer questions. The pool was a nice bonus. The security and seclusion was nice. It was a little tricky directing a taxi to the residence as there is no sign. We just instructed them that it was directly across the street from the soccer field and cemetery. That seemed to help. The house staff took our children to the temple one day of the week and even brought them ‘costumes’ that fit them. We highly recommend Sandy and her get away!! Thank you Sandy, Wyan and Made!!”

From them: “Ariel was a great communicator through the whole experience. It was a joy to have such a positive guest. The whole family treated my staff with dignity and respect. Thank you all the family. I would highly recommend Ariel and family, especially for long term stays.”

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From us in Singapore: We stayed 1 week… “This home was amazing! A home away from home that we were lucky to find. Lots of small little touches and extras to make it feel like our very own. We loved the decor and we loved the charm. The communication was spot on and they were always available to resolve any issues we stumbled upon or answer any questions we had. The home was within walking distance to the metro and multiple eateries. We landed late and entrance was easy. Definitely a high recommend.”

From them: “Ariel and her family have been very pleasant guests to host. She has been very easy to communicate with despite that we were both traveling before her arrival. We are still trying to figure out some technicalities in regards to payment for their extra night stay, however, this seems to be a challenge from Airbnb’s system side. I absolutely got a good, trustworthy and friendly vibe from Ariel and her family and we would be more than happy to host them again in the future!”

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From us in Osaka Japan: We stayed 1 week “We loved our week long stay here. We are a family of 4 (a 5 and 6 year old.) We were able to walk with packs on our backs from the train station to the apartment. When we got lost the host responded immediately and with GREAT directions. We met a local shop keeper while we were lost and we’re able to dine at his restaurant (Italian) also within walking distance. The home was cozy and stayed a consistent temperature despite only having one Ac in one room. The washer is also a dryer so you can dry indoors (huge plus!) The toiletries and utensils were all available for use. We had zero complaints and would stay again.” 

From them: None

All in all we have learned to:

  • Try NEVER to stay longer than a week. Refunds are IMPOSSIBLE and timely contact with AirBNB is futile which means that you relinquish your deposit no matter what. I recommend arranging a week and if it is successful then attempting to extend. Worst case scenario there isn’t time available at your current location but there will be a SURPLUS of others in your surrounding region.
  • All most each home is well organized, has the essential toiletries and the host is courteous as well as prompt with communications .
  • If the post isn’t listed in English DON’T DO IT! Although they try the ads are tricky to navigate and very rarely present as described.

I have yet to leave a review of our current accommodations but you’ll find my primary arrival email below to give you an idea of our situation. The on site staff (our host lives in Russia) has done a phenomenal job ATTEMPTING to resolve our issues but since it’s neither the man on site’s home nor is it his primary language (his is Russian) we have struggled here too.

Email: “Hi. We are checked in and while the home is lovely I have some significant issues that I feel need to be addressed. 1. Your add advertises “free internet IN THE APARTMENT.” And also as “great WIFI.” We just had to pay for it and then found out that it is awful!! It has low bandwidth and shares among 7 BUILDINGS! My boyfriend works from his computer and can not continue his work from here with the low bandwidth. 2. Your add does denote that we have to pay for WATER and ELECTRICITY but ONLY In the fine print of the “house rules,” hidden after a sentence written in Russian AND in a very incomplete and confusing manner, “….At us don’t smoke. Are in addition paid electricity 5 baht for kilowatt and water 50 baht for kilowatt.” This was only made clear after having payed you completely for a full month. 3. There is no drinking water available. Not even to tide us over until we get to the store. 4. There are NO toiletries, none. Including the fact that there is NO TOILET PAPER! Not a roll, again, not enough to get us to the store. Your listing feels incomplete at best and deceitful at worst. I’m happy to take this up Airbnb but wanted to first give you the opportunity to acknowledge the issues and make them right. We suggest that we receive a full and immediate refund and we will leave promptly if there isn’t another mutually achievable agreement. Please let me know with haste how you wish to proceed. Very respectfully, Ariel” *Note worth mentioning: We did not receive a refund or cancellation. We were able to go find a local SIM at the grocery store and use strict data but not inexpensively or with any sort of ease.*

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So, is AirBnB worth it? Absolutely hands down and no doubt about it in our humble opinion. First off it is extremely affordable. It covers more of the utilities and essentials than a hotel and you can put a family in an entire home with their own rooms etc. for a fraction of the price. With your own kitchen you can either hit the local grocery store or have Amazon Prime Grocery delivery for FREE which is what we did for our homes in the states. If you have a hankering for room service just call your local delivery service (whose menu will be far more encompassing than the small hotel menu)  Being a family of four on the go consistently and living out of backpacks it has been invaluable to rent a home with a washing machine and not have to pay the exuberant washing charges at a hotel or laundry mat. There is never any “hotel noise” from the random party down the hall or at the pool. You can filter your search meticulously to show you all your desires and then some to “personalize” your “hotel” choice. We particularly love the idea that we are helping a “John Doe” or “Jane Smith” with their bills as opposed to a “Mr. Marriot.” More importantly we have found that it is by far one of the best ways to embed with the local culture and become part of the environment that we are trying to explore.  That being said you do lose some of the hotel perks such as built in childcare and hotel points as Airbnb doesn’t {yet} have a frequent flyer program of any kind but for the most part we find our Airbnb to have much more space, better toiletries and bedding and of course location location location. More than once we have found ourselves at a beachfront property because of the filter and map option on Airbnb.

I hope this helps shed a little light on AirBnB use if you were on the fence. If you are deciding to give it a try go ahead and use this link so we can BOTH benefit, youhttp://www.airbnb.com/c/ariels1925. We are of course open to answering questions based on experience if you have them. Just leave your questions in the comment section or email them to alphasoscarmike@gmail.com. We LOVE hearing from you and heeding your guidance. Thanks for sharing the journey with us!

1 Update and 2 Countries

•March 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

As we enter week number nine and country number three it may be a miracle but we’re all still standing. I realized this morning that we are officially on day 60! This trip around the world has always been a dream of mine. Or maybe not a dream as much as it was a goal and if there is anything consistent about me it’s that I always bring my dreams to fruition. So I knew that this trip would happen. I just didn’t know when and I definitely didn’t see it unraveling in this context. Hindsight is always so much more enlightened then the present. This is a peculiar predicament for someone who values the ability to relish in the present and not be lost in the things that have come to pass.

A few weeks ago I found myself in a cafe staring across the table at my travel cohort and thinking, “How? How on earth did we end up pairing and how the hell did we take that pairing to Bali, Indonesia?!” Almost as soon as the thought crossed my mind he looked up and said, “Is it okay that, when people ask me how we got together, I answer with “I have no idea.”” There was nothing I could do but chuckle. When we left it was easy for me to feel like my best friend and I were heading out on an adventure with my Littles. Then, somehow and quite suddenly, my ‘boyfriend‘ and I were traveling. And finally, there I was, wondering how much we really knew about one another before jumping the metaphorical ship. I have always known that travel is a g-force awakening into the get-to-know you game but this was on a whole new level. We went from virtually single and independent types to rapid fire living together, traveling together and yes, being a family together.

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Just a few weeks into our World-Wide Tour W got up from the lunch table, marched up to Adam and asked if he could, “call him dad.” W had not discussed it with me prior. It had no roots in our world yet save for the ones that were currently choking the words and the breath out of me. “If it would make you happy. I’d be good with that.” The words hung there in the air as if I could smack them away. Then without missing a moment R hoped up to declare to anyone who would hear it that she too would be calling him dad for the foreseeable future. I’ll admit, I had to let it all sink in. That night we had the talk as adults about what it all meant. The feelings it elicited in me. The feelings it certainly elicited in them. The feelings it elicited in him. We decided emphatically that it meant Adam would always be a part of their life regardless of how our situation changed and that there would be no endorsement either direction of titles. We would just allow it to play out the way it played out. I NEVER imagined my kids calling anyone “dad” ever again. And now all of a sudden I was hearing the words, “I love you daddy!” and “I love you daughter.” “Dad can you throw the football with me?” ” I’d love to son!” And never mind the words but… the follow through!

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If you’re reading this and you know me well then you know the commita-phobic nature that the last four to nine years has bred into me. Let me just say that his matches and perhaps surpasses mine so these realizations are equally captivating and enthralling. For the inherently open book that I am he is a locked up vault about most things. I am a lover. Period. I am verbally, physically and action-ably compassionate. He [was] not a cuddler or a talker. He communicated via time. The only way we determined this was with a ten minute, “Love Languages” test (that he very graciously took to bring me joy) and quite a bit (read excessive in his world) of uncomfortable communication. We have had to make some compromises…many in fact. He cuddles often and makes a point to be more open. I have to dial in my emotions a bit and appreciate the time he offers. I am learning to share and appreciate that this parenting thing is a team effort and that I am no longer the final say. Actually, his parental research puts mine to shame. I am learning to listen and to relieve my control over that which I fought to achieve and maintain over the last four years, the most important things I have ever invested in, my children. At this point it’s safe to say that we are a study-able model of relationship phenomenon. And yet here we sat, happily among one another, working in our together alone fashion that we have come accustomed to. Everyday brings us closer to synchronicity. Every debacle finds us with a bit more understanding and compassion for one another’s perspectives. One thing is for certain, we are here (together) for a purpose and as the weeks flash before our eyes the underlying bond is both cemented and tried but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So there it is, the family update. Now down to the good stuff. I wrapped up Bali in the tightest bow I could for you in the last blog but here we are two countries deeper. Let me give you a bit on our adventures in Singapore. Some of you have asked why it is that we only spent a week in Singapore and there are quite a few reasons:

  1. Singapore was a much needed reset in a First-World environment after spending over a month in the Third-World setting of Indonesia. We had been hot. We had been technologically marooned and we had been living on minimal everything for well over 4 weeks. Singapore’s only job was to recharge and reboot us for what came next.
  2. Singapore is stunning! But it’s only a small island that you can cross in under an hour and aside from the tourist stops there wasn’t much to see or get invested in.
  3. The prices were much more First-World if not overachieving. As a country they import a majority of their goods which drives up costs on just about everything. Additionally, it’s important to note if you’re traveling during the Chinese New Year, that costs are driven up another $2-$3 USD per item. BEFORE THE NEW YEAR: A cup of coffee cost an average of $6USD. A beer averaged $10USD! A cocktail cost an average of $18USD! And a family dinner ran us around $100USD. The lodging was impeccable but it showed in the final cost, our highest yet, of around $1900USD for a WEEK!

Then what are the reasons to visit you may ask:

  1. The people are extremely helpful and kind. We never met a stranger and everyone was anxious to offer us extra tidbits on where to visit and what to try.
  2. Sentosa Island was a Westerner’s playground. There was Universal Studios, the Largest Aquarium in the World and all kinds of other shops and activities to explore. This is where you; made your own pancake batter, bungee jumped on trampolines and had a decent cup of coffee while perusing the western-nature mall.
  3. We fell in love with the City Hall train station where we found some of our favorite shops. Adam had the flour-less chocolate cake of a lifetime and our vitamin deficient bodies all fell back in love with protein smoothies.
  4. Metro passes are unlimited and invaluable. Hop on, hop off, it’ll take you anywhere for right around $60USD for a week. It’s worth the mention that the kids were free but we had to bring them to City Hall (4 stops away) with their passports to get their metro card. The city officials did allow us the free passage to secure these tickets.
  5. Cock and Balls! This was a chicken and beer sports bar (hence the name) where we became all but regulars there as it was around the corner from our home. We highly recommend it and it’s staff should you have the chance to pop over. A drink will take an average of 20 minutes to make but it is well worth the wait when it’s perfectly curated ingredients finally hit your mouth.
  6. Singapore really does have the largest Ferris Wheel in the world. It takes about half an hour to get around the full circle and travels so slowly that it’s movement is virtually in-perceptible on the ground. The view is notable since your in country but it wasn’t inspiring to any of us as much as it was a nice break from the chaos of the Chinese New Year happening in the streets down below.
  7. Lastly we all enjoyed the Sky hotel. The prices were as high as the rooftop view but there was no better place to watch the laser show on the bay then from the comfort of a blanketed couch that had a direct line of sight to the entire bay. When the show finished we enjoyed New Years entertainment on the roof and the expat company was remarkably warm and great conversation.

That wraps Singapore for us. As a country it’s unlikely to make our top 50. It was unanimously a country that we’d return to for a wedding or 3 day family adventure but nothing more. All in all we were mutually neutral on this, the most expensive, Asian country.

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Japan!

We came to Japan because:

  1. The flight price was right from where we were located.
  2. I used to live here and have always had an infinity for it.
  3. We were ready for affordable First-World
  4. The weather looked phenomenal

Only 10 days in and this country, Japan, has not been disappointing. We have already taken the nostalgia tour of where mom used to work and play. We have all but worked out the kinks on the metro and we have made a few friends. We are supremely blessed to find ourselves in the position to utilize military assets and have chosen to use DOD lodging for the first leg of our stay. There is a gym, great food and a cafe always available. The gate check can be a little cumbersome but we are ideally situated by the metro and securely tucked in behind the well trained guard crew that I have been continually impressed with. We were spoiled by an intimate, no kids allowed and in-hotel, 6 course Valentines banquet dinner this week. We watched the Superbowl live and with a buffet of phenomenal food and drinks.We shared a Sunday banquet hall brunch with the Littles to the tune of an eagle ice sculpture, an impeccable pianist and some of the best food either of us has ever sampled at a buffet like brunch. And all of that was just in the hotel!

A week in to our Japan journey and we have focused on the most local hubs. We explored Tokyo and did some minor shopping for things like jackets! When we left Bali it was a steamy 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Today it is 30 degrees Fahrenheit in Japan and snowing! A jacket was a must and the gear put us on the fast track to snowboarding later this week. Today we will adventure in Kamakura where I intend to have my pack rub the inside of Buddah’s belly the way that my best friend Jessica and I did more than 15 years ago. Still later this week I will get to experience Yokohoma through my children’s eyes. Yokohoma was the city of play even as a teenager (yes, I said teenager) when I was here last. There is another Ferris Wheel with a city view and multiple roller coasters. I am truly enjoying watching my Littles explore and experience the nuisances of Japan with the same fervor and joy that I had so many years ago. Just the other day they broke out dancing in the street with this reckless abandonment and adoration for their surroundings. My heart swam.

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Every few weeks we touch base on how all this travel is effecting each of us. We have a family meeting around the table and talk about the things and people that we miss as well as the things that we are finding to be blessings. We discuss who wants to call it quits and who wants to roll on. We verify that this is an asset to all of us or what it is that we are in need of before we move forward to the next location. I am happy to report that currently we are ALL overjoyed to be on the road. We miss you ALL very much but we are enjoying this deluge of ubiquitous education and culture.R, who would be enrolled in pre-kindergarten in the states, is currently working through 1st grade workbooks. W, who would be enrolled in Kindergarten back home, is currently working through 2nd grade workbooks. Both worked through the three books prior to their current status. W has began reading and R isn’t far behind him. The independence and strength just seeps out of these kids and I couldn’t be any more proud.

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As always we look forward to your feedback and leadership. We are enjoying all of the emails and travel suggestions. We would love to see you all posting your photos and adventures with us on your social media platform with the tag “alphasoscarmike!”Please keep it all coming and THANK YOU for sharing this journey with us!

Indonesia the 10 Must Knows: Electrocution included

•January 24, 2017 • 4 Comments

Okay, we made it. It’s our last few days in Bali and admittedly we’re all equally ready to get out of here. Yesterday my six year old asked me when the next plane ride was going to happen. My 5 year old wasn’t far behind with the follow up statement, “I miss staying in a nice house like a hotel.” Of course she was referencing the First World commodities that our team is beginning to miss. It’s not for the paucity of beauty or culture. It’s not for deficit of experience or even because of poor accommodations. Indonesia was our first countries together as a team of four on this wild ride and we have spent exactly a month here. I could spend an hour typing up a list of all the ways we are functioning or giving you a fun tourist friendly travel blog but I am not going to do that. I’m going to take the liberty of assuming that I know you my fellow Searchers and break it down realistically. So here it is, in no specific order. The down and dirty, the nitty-gritty, the actual and useful truths that we experienced from our first of many months on the ground.

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Humidity the Must Know #1: For starters this country is gorgeous! No one is allowed to build higher than 5 stories tall which means that the views are perpetual and everything is an endless horizon of breathtaking sunsets and movie screen coconut trees. The trees in Bali are an epic green and the jungle colors are so lush they look like they are straight out of a magazine article. Of course they are only this vibrant because of all the unmentioned water in the air. Due to the year long rice harvests and the consecutive months worth of unrelenting rain the humidity is as surreal as the view from whatever hill you have landed on. Feel free to take a shower in one of the many resort-like outdoor showers or even a traditional in door sauna-type shower in the unconditioned, indoor-outdoor, bathroom. In effect your choice wont hold any merit as the humidity will have you soaking in your own perspiration the second the shower shuts off. The showers here, when they are showering you in clean water and not muddy rice patty water run off, are more of a luxury spritz to escape the heat for a few minutes than they are a vessel of cleanliness. But since I’ve walked us into this topic let me just give you my “feet on the ground” excerpt:

The house cleaner was over to care for the upstairs room so I decided to take a shower in the downstairs shower (read in my children’s bathroom.) These household showers are reminiscent of a locker-room shower in the United States. Imagine an open bathroom, tiled and no stall for the shower. All the water drains into the room and eventually out into the yard. * See below for photos of the shower head mounted between the toilet and sink* I reach for the knob and *ZAP!* I successfully turn on the water but not without first being electrocuted thoroughly enough to send pain tearing up my arm and through my shoulder. Naturally, being of curious nature and bravado, I reach out with my pinky to see if it was a fluke or a repeat upshot. DEFINITELY A REPEAT upshot! Now I’m standing naked in a puddle of water where there is most certainly electricity pulsing through the walls and the metal of my shower. There was no wise action to execute on my part without embracing impending electrocution and risking being found butt-a**-naked in a bathroom of my choosing in the middle of the jungle. So I did what anyone would do, I hollered out for whoever the closest dry body was to come and shut it off! Safely out of the shower I stand in all my exposed glory in front of the house cleaner and notify her of the problem at hand. “Again? She responds. Don’t use again until tomorrow. We fix.”

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“Again?! We fix?!” I can’t help but feel like this is the kind of information that should have been relayed in the brochure for this place. Needing to shake it off I head out with the crew for a jazz night in town hosted by an artist with rave reviews from the (Bill) Clinton administration. While awaiting our food we peruse a local newspaper where, what to our surprise would catch Adam’s eye but, an article titled, “Blogger dies from electrocution in shower!” What in the actual F**k?! At what point does this become an epidemic that the board of tourism feels is a notable mention? I’ll admit, we did choose to stay in Air BnB as a way to live a little more like the locals do but where the hell is the heads up for this OBVIOUSLY reoccurring problem?! The underlying irony being this, anyone that has ever met me or that knows a fraction of my story knows that I have lived through my fair share of close calls and would-be deaths. I am certain that my demise will come at the hands of some random and almost hilarious scenario not unlike the one above. So this one felt a little too close to home and I was audibly grateful for my squeaky clean escape *pun intended*. So there it is, Electrocution in the shower, Must Know #2, arguably a Must Know #1 for my book.

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This could have been me 😅

Must KNOW #3, The houses are NOT SEALED and the “rodents” are better considered as family pets. When I went to Iraq I heard all of the same rumors that everyone else heard. One of the most familiar rumors that come to mind was that of the camel spider. You hear about how it’s as big as your head and can take an actual bite out of you. In reality it is a large spider but it’s no where near as large as your predecessors would lead you to believe. Hear me clearly, that IS NOT the case in Indonesia. They are ALLthat big.” House number 1 was built with a 1 foot gap between ceiling and roof which allowed for 2 foot reptiles to cohabitate with our family. We would wake up at 2 am to spiders the size of a saucer running across our ceiling. Ants were less of a nuisance and more of a pet in spite of the avid use of ant spray to the entire home and patio. We never ended up ant free but we may have very likely contracted some sort of Agent Orange equivalent while attempting to rid ourselves of their company. Let’s just say that there is a reason, that one foot gap, that the first house offered bug netting on the beds and house number 2 did not. The cockroaches are an easy inch and a half long by half an inch wide and….wait for it… THEY FLY!!! All of the lizards make this strange bird-like sound that any one who has heard it will tell you sounds an awful like like a high-pitched and drawn out, “fu** you.” But don’t let this deter you family friendly types as this nerve wracking noise is usually reserved for the middle of the night to break the unsuspecting silence. Nervous that we might bite off more than we could chew we were at least cognoscente of the fact that a month is a long time to stay put in one domicile so we broke it up and spent half of it in one home and the next half in the second location. Thankfully, the second host was willing to receive us early so we left the house of animals and electrocution almost a week early.

 

A welcomed improvement with the second home was the air conditioner! Don’t let me lead you astray. This is by no means the United States. The homes inability to seal and the indoor-outdoor bathrooms that are combined to the main compartments of the home mean that your living space never really cools below an average 77 degrees which is some how a formidable reprieve from the wet hell fire that is the outside. All of the air conditioners used in town are the exact same. They only go as low at 18 degrees Celsius/64 degrees Fahrenheit which would be sufficient IF the machine were capable or blowing with more than 1 horsepower OR if the home didn’t have direct air vents, gaps and doors straight to the inferno of a 90 degree average temperature. But I digress, we welcomed the new internal average of 83 degrees at the second home and will leave you with this little travel hack and Must Know #4, Air conditioned Hotels are a once a week Must! But be warned because even this vacay from your vacay can be deceiving as everything in Bali seems to photograph well but only for that solitary shot. For instance, while Padang Padang Beach is known for surf and beautiful beaches you’ll note that everyone takes the exact same photo. Why is that you ask? Because what you aren’t seeing are the miles of beaches covered in the locals trash or that the surfers are also literally swimming with hygienic waste. So, be prepared to see the snapshot you’re expecting but drag out your hazmat suits for maximum enjoyment.

Seminyak Beach Advertised as:Seminyak Beach Actually

Padang Padang Advertised as: 🔻

Padang Padang Actually:🔺

And for our next hack or Must Know #5, hotspots and internet are useless, bring preloaded entertainment and phones. We’re talking about a special kind of 3G suck when it comes to internet which wouldn’t sting as bad if we; a. didn’t work from home on our computers or b. could use data. The truth is that even after adding an additional $250 to our already $200 Verizon phone plan, keeping our phones in airplane mode and using all things online app friendly we could find we are still going to be paupers annihilated by the addiction of web access and connection. All of the local restaurants do offer some sort of that 3G internet for you to connect to but it is still lackluster and you shouldn’t expect to actually accomplish anything. Best hack to apply here is to get a prepaid phone with SIM card and come with the expectation of unplugging for the entirety of your stay. The upside of that is that it allows for plenty of family connection time which, depending on which day you asked us, was either a massive positive of a painstaking negative. I’ll give it this…

The lack of outside contact allowed for us… or rather forced us… to learn more about one another. Realizing that the “other friends” that you spend the majority of your time with are not only not there to grab a drink with but they are also not on the other side of the phone was a rough realization for both of us. We were essentially cut off from the equilibrium of our extended teams and thrown into a bubble together. This brings me to our Must Know #6: Know your travel companion. I am now a firm believer that you must unconditionally LOVE the person you are travelling with or you both have to have a will to compromise and a firm grip on the concept of semper gumbi (always flexible.) Luckily, we’ve got that. There have been maniacal highs and mutually certifiable lows but he and I are equally familiar with compromise and, dare I say it, I think that we may be coming to a reciprocal position of agreement with our new normal. I am a; lover, dreamer and a cuddle ninja with a zest for life, adventure and experience. He is a; loyal, realistic, cornerstone of a man with a zest for life, adventure and experience. We learned what we can and what we absolutely can not compromise on. We had our first real fight after a year of friendship….great news…we survived. And if this month was any indicator we will continue to survive and more than that THRIVE for a long time to come. Adam is the balance I knew he would be to me but he is also that small gentle nudge that I’ve been missing in my life.

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Must Know#7: Scooters are your friend. They are also the equivalent of a ticket to the Hunger Games.  The streets in Bali are the carbon copy of an ill-paved bike lane in the States that you would question the width of but balls-up for because hell, it’s just a mountain bike. But it’s not just a mountain bike! It’s a motor scooter with all the maintenance qualities of a rental from a company that is on the run from government accountability. A car and scooter can not share the road, as there is not enough space, so whoever’s lane is majorly obstructed yields by parking on the side of the road and allowing the other driver right of passage. You drive on the left side of the road not the right. At least you are supposed to but the locals just drive wherever the hell they feel comfortable and make whatever lane available that they choose. No lane available? No worries! Just blow your horn and navigate to your destination by driving through the shop laden sidewalks. The pot holes can be the size of a small ditch which would be less concerning if you weren’t attempting to avoid the actual ditch or ravine to your immediate left. That ravine leads to most certain death as it falls dramatically into the abyss of the jungle with no verifiable base in sight. It is suggested upon rental that you avoid these pot holes or risk ruing the bike. The thing is with the amount of ferrel dogs, running the streets like unitimidated drug lords,  being in the multiple dozens your options begin to limited themselves. The dogs here will actually settle in for a nap in the middle of the street lane knowing that the local traffic will just drive around them. These are just the highlights! I haven’t even scratched the surface of the elephants or monkeys in the middle of the road to avoid depending on your location. Or the fact that you can not park certain places or else the monkeys will vandalize your seat just to try and break in with the INTENTION of thieving you! So, there it is, your fair warning. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer relates directly to scooters in the heart of Indonesia.

Must Know #8: There is no such thing as a vegetable. Despite what your parents may or may not have taught you there is actually no such thing as macro or micro nutrients what-so-ever. Okay, I may be over exaggerating just a bit but not by much. Searching out a vegetable, outside of a tomato, out here is a futile quest with better odds of finding the holy grail and eternal life. Need a vitamin or supplement?  Go ask Alice. She has a better likelihood of finding you a pill then you do of finding a supplement in this country. For two adults who have learned to eat well and supplement  every day, outside of week one, has felt like macro/micro torture to our bodies. We are both jonesing for a cleanse or fast at this point and not because we have feasted like kings on the garbage of gluttony but because we are relying on tomatoes and avocados for nutrients. Smoothies full of sugar, yogurt and avocado have become a staple. I’ve never been so thrilled to add avocado and banana to so many many things! This leads me to Must Know #9: The meat here is lean  and not in the healthy way but in the lean pickings kind of way. They raise cattle (read that as a question,) goats and chickens. None of these animals ever get fat enough for the slaughter. Even the animals presented at Temple offering are malnourished and lacking effect. They are never provided for well enough to even make milk. The milk is imported in from Australia. The safest meat to order or buy at the super market is the chicken but even that has limited mass and a lot of undefinable skin or fat to cut away. BUT every meal that you eat in country WILL consist of meat and rice. Adam and I have each lost a respective 10 pounds and my working assumption is that it is all muscle due to lack of protein. If I gave you a travel hack to accompany this Must Know it would be to purchase a flat of eggs on arrival, they will go into every meal you eat. Bring lots of vitamins and supplements…..and maybe even a stool softener. Your colon will thank you.

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And for the Must Know we’ve all been waiting for….. Must Know #10: Your expedition for Whiskey is futile. I know! I can hear you through the computer, save the snark, it’s a wonder I made it. Seriously though, they can’t grow the ingredients to produce it and import costs are so high that on average you can find 2 types of whiskey; yuck and yuckier, and both cost you a month’s worth of salary. Don’t fret though. There are plenty of watered down Bud Light type of beers, look like a Hineken but called Bintang, that your grandpa drank to offset your desire for anything that would actually tantalize your taste buds. This isn’t really a terribly large problem though as there is only 1 place on the ENTIRE ISLAND that we could find to watch sports so the need for consumption dramatically decreased. Not to be dissuaded we assumed that this would inadvertently increase our water intake BUT the water here is not potable and you can only consume pre-bottled (relatively expensive) water. None the less it’s water or bust so we made it happen and if you’re coming to the equator of hell you should consider excessively increasing your aqua intake too. Lord knows the monkeys do.

So, what are our takeaways? Ready to embrace life we jumped ship knowing a limited amount about one other and even less about our destination. This trip is a perfect example of our finite research due to impatience. Bali would have been an amazing one week stay. Hell, we probably couldn’t have fit all that we did or all that we wanted to do into just one week and we would have been pining after what we felt we had left inexperienced. But that wasn’t the case. We came. We saw. We conquered. We got complacent. It’s safe to glean that will not choose to expat here in beautiful and culturally rich Bali. We need to have more creature comforts of the First World and we’re not afraid to admit it. All that to say, throwing ourselves into this specific location was no mistake. It opened the doors to communication and made us a more functional team. It forced bonding for all four of us and we were able to really nail down some things we would change for the upcoming locations; creature comforts (internet availability, air conditioning, a blow dryer etc.) as one example. We will never book lodging unseen for over a week again. We will always have a flight in and never a flight out to allow for maximum flexibility. And we will ALWAYS check the weather projection for our upcoming destination.

 

All in all Bali was incredible. Don’t let my diatribe fool you. I want to present you with an honest account of all things that we experienced. The truth is that our photo roll will often show you the glam while our blog lays down the value. Make sure you are following both so that you never end up with a one sided view of any place we adventure to. You can find us on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/alphasoscarmike or at http://www.facebook.com/alphasoscarmike. We are already pleasantly surprised with people’s feedback and willingness to network for us. We have many future dates and places on the calendar with people and we are looking forward to meeting you or your suggestion contact on the road in the future. Please email all; suggestions, ideas, locations and meet requests to alphasoscarmike@gmail.com and we look forward to seeing you all out here!!

Humility: A grain of rice

•January 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Well, here we are. We’ve been on the ground a little over a week now and, two houses in, dare I say we might be adjusting to what we have bitten off.

I am Ariel. I have been known by many titles but this year, 2017, finds me pushing the edge of each of those names and redefining who I choose to be. Last year took my breath away in both a positive and negative connotation. I made and solidified friendships that I would have never in my history been able to identify or embrace. I came to the realization that I was still carrying the hurt and anger that I had previously believed I had sloughed. I was able to take inventory of the walls that had become common place in my daily routine and lay down the burden because of an indefinite amount of love and accountability from so many of you beautiful people in my life.  Because of this unconditional love and acceptance I was able to spend 2016; healing, building and for the first time in a long time I was able to just lean into being me when it called on the wind.

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At the end of 2015 when happenstance found my little tripod in Texas a whim would see us into purchasing a home. I wasn’t sure then what brought me to Texas and I can’t stand with a hundred percent conviction currently and tell you that I know that reason now. I was in my California real estate purchase for almost a year to the day. Then I was in the Texas purchase for almost the exact equivalent. I made story worthy friendships in both locations that will last a life time but with those relationships out of the picture neither of those moves have any clarity of purpose for me. For this reason I am attributing the most beautiful things of my life, my relationships, to the most self defining year of my life, 2016.

But now, now it’s time to take the self actualization and put it to good use. This year, 2017, will find me embracing my freedom and purpose. I want to be the hands and feet. I want to reach people. I want to bring my contagious and notably excessive love to the far reaches of the world and embrace my mantra, “don’t talk about it, be about it.”

My core has always stayed true. I am a woman of mercy and love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “The three most important things to have are faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love.” I have often felt as though my compassion and abundance of love was a curse. But through this last year I have witnessed the effect that it has had on others and more importantly the effect that it continues to have on me. My desire has always been to use that love to “save them all.” Recently, very recently, the veil seems to have been lifted. I still need to share the love. I want to embrace uninhibitedly and unequivocally anyone and everyone that is willing to receive the love that I have to share. I want to reach. I want to teach.

This New Year, January 2017, found me in Indonesia beginning my journey of an undetermined amount of time reaching the seeking. I watched the fireworks exploding without rule or authority over a soccer-field surrounded by my newest definition of community. In Bali the people live as one. Their community truly is a networked one. Every home in connected by waist high walls so that when you need to run out to the market you just holler over the wall and request your neighbor watch the children. Leaving town? Not a problem. Your neighbor will watch the house inadvertently and with pleasure. Throwing a party? Expect the entire village in attendance but not to worry because they can see you preparing over the hip-high walls and will join you with joyous hearts for the preparation otherwise risk becoming social pariahs and never having an invitation to another event in the village! They stick together here. Marital strife? Your neighbors know. But they will offer an offering on your behalf as part of their twice DAILY ritual of handmade living offerings. Want to be a wife? Start practicing the fashioning of your offerings now as there will be a test by your potential father in law and perspective husband. Inability to create a masterpiece displays your lack of preparedness to be a wife. They believe in balance. There is always a good for the bad and a passion for the boredom working in unison. A fluidity. The island works in song believing that all pieces of the island are like a human body. The homes have multiple separated  quarters. There is a living quarters to the east for the most senior. The south holds the lodging quarters for the 2nd generation. The west houses the most juvenile of the family and to the north is the families’ temple. Only the family has access to this temple as they believe that it needs to be cleansed of the evil that the people carry in daily. The center is a common space for the multiple ceremonies that they enjoy yearly. The kitchen is communal… to an extent. The children are welcome to wander any kitchen in the village and eat anything they would like. Every kitchen has a fresh pot of rice made first thing in the morning that will last all day and for every meal. But, the woman will NEVER share a kitchen as it is believed that this is what creates “danger of death.” As extreme as this may seem it isn’t that large of an issue as woman only cook one protein a day and every other meal is a combination of rice and fruit or rice and vegetable. When the day is done and there is remaining rice in the kitchen it is given to the cats and dogs in the street. Cats are considered good luck and never executed but dogs are, devastatingly in my humble opinion, a useless nuisance and therefore euthanized often.

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As I walk through the streets and observe the villages I am struck by the love and care these people display for one another, and to everyone for that matter.Strangers stop to offer us scooter rides and to carry our things on their scooters to our home. The shoe-less toddlers roam the streets safely accounted for by their neighbors. The grade-school children being scolded by elders as they whiz by one another on scooters. I am taken aback by the unison and concurrency of the people here.

I ventured out for a downhill mountain bike adventure with my love the other day and we came upon a rice harvest. I was offered to partake in harvesting the rice and never one to turn down an experience of course I accepted the invitation. I took the stalk firmly in my hand and beat it just three times against the steel drum. The grains flew up into the air and landed on my arms like a tiny army of dust mites. I itched like I had spent a week in the grass. I looked up at the six sun-withered and hunched woman in the field next to me. I couldn’t help but be struck with the modesty of the facts. These woman spend 13 hours a day in this field; ripping up the roots of the stalk, sheering the base of the stalk with a sickle and smacking rice stalks on an impossibly hot metal barrel. All of this to “finish” the task at hand and move the rice grains up the street to spread flat for sun drying. This, the beginning of their literally back-breaking lifetime labor. I would have cried but for what purpose? How selfish could I be. Instead I stood humbled and aware. Aware of it all. All the abundance. All the blessings. From my generation to my foothold. Just awe-inspired meekness in the reality of the grace I do not deserve.

I wish diffidence was contagious because I travel with 2 of the cutest kids this world has ever had the privilege of receiving but truth be told the actualities of their stature are still sailing well above their heads. I have them act in service. Working at churches, scrubbing bathrooms and squat potties, working with homeless and serving the animals of the community but that still hasn’t seemed to root into them the depths of the favor that has enveloped us. The other night at dinner my daughter was brought to tears by the fact that her LED shoes hadn’t charged. That meltdown was followed by my son’s tearful woes of a tablet restriction. As I pulled them to the side of the street to talk it through my heart was yanked across the street to the woman and her child sleeping on the street. I reminded the kids that we are the 1 percent of the 1 percent. I had them bring her any money that they had remaining from the souvenir money in their wallets. I wish I could say that this had been enough. I wish I could report that this action broke through the barriers and melted hearts but the truth of that matter is that they handed it to them with joy and reckless abandonment because they knew that there was more for them where that came from. I have work to do. But the fact that I am in a position to NEED to teach this lesson and to HAVE the MULTIPLE opportunities to work on this lesson just plant in me even more ferociously how SPOILED we are and make me ache that much more to pay it forward. To love endlessly. To appreciate appropriately. To be a resource. I may just be starting this adventure but this will only be the beginning of what I can vow will now be my perpetual objective. I WILL embrace the love that I have received. I will help my children to recognize our immense blessings and crave the ability to spread that advantage the way that I do. I promise that if I have something to give I will give it; emotionally, fiscally, laboriously and in all facets of my life.

As usual I am looking forward to venturing forward with you. I am anxious to continue growing with and learning from YOU! YOU are a MASSIVE part of this journey. You have helped to bring me to this point. YOU have inspired me. YOU have loved me. YOU are a piece of this very experience. I bring you with me in all these things and remain VERY HUMBLY your happy conduit. THANK YOU! And cheers to 2017 the year of forward giving.

Growth isn't stagnant and we're growing fast

•January 2, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Hello friends. It’s been much too long. I’d apologize for being an absentee blogger but that would insinuate that I intended not to repeat the action. Although I’d rather not go long lengths without reaching out the truth is that I have some adjusting to do.
These last few months have been a whirlwind. So much has changed in my life. We rented ALL of my homes and closed up shop on so many administrative things that my social calendar has either thrived like mushrooms in the rain forest or withered like grapes in the desert. In the span of one month my team and I successfully emptied and, essentially gutted,  SIX HOMES in two separate states. One thing is certain, there have been no compromises or happy mediums in the past eight weeks. All things in my household have been on fire. All in. Full throttle.

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So, what has changed? For starters, and likely most pertinent, our team. By now many of you have seen an added face in our photos for the last few weeks. Let me shed some light. What began as a discussion quickly advanced to action when Adam decided to join our team….in a big way. Like us Adam functions in absolutes. He has been a welcome addition to our tripod on the road in the past, having visited 5 states with us this year, and has officially decided to continue forward with us on this journey. There’s no telling the adventures his balance will lead us to over the coming months but we are very happy to have him. So Searchers, I’d like to formally introduce you to the Alpha Packs newest member, meet Adam.

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Next up, our nomenclature. We have shifted from the use of, “Searching not lost” and moved to using “Alphas Oscar Mike.” What does this mean? Well, the term Alpha is self explanatory. This entire crew considers itself to be a leader among peers, an alpha in the pack. And “Oscar Mike” is a term utilized by military personnel to mean “on the move.” After a year of light prep and a few months of buckle down and hold tight we are officially, and happily, alphas on the move.

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The change in branding also means that we can be found on Insta, google, Facebook and twitter as “alphasoscarmike.”

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Another notable change, for you as well as us, is that this is NOT a vacation. It is a LIFESTYLE CHANGE and most importantly a CHOICE. We are moving forward with no solid plan to wrap this in any specific location or at any specific time. We have completely redirected our focus and output and have chosen as a team to repent our sedentary life style and go experience life without boundaries or expectations. We can’t wait to have you join us in whatever facet you chose to do so moving forward. You are a HUGE part of this for us.
With all the change surrounding our team let me assure you that the fundamentals have not altered. I am still, true to my nature, hoping to sow love and an adventurous spunk for life everywhere that I go. I still intend to devote a third of my time on location to service, my entire team has a heart for this. I am still hoping to network with my friends and their friends to connect people through love and close the distance gaps between great people.
Our adventure will begin with Christmas in New York. We hope to share; Rocker fella Square, ice skating and other quintessential New York Christmas experiences with the kids before leaving the United States….indefinitely.

Then it’s on to Bali, Indonesia for ALL of January. We intend to regroup and strengthen our team bond while in the sun and absorbing the slower pace of the island. After Bali our life adventure is still up for debate. We anxiously anticipate your suggestions and directions on where you think we should go and why. We are all set to receive this guidance via email at alphasoscarmike@gmail.com. We welcome both location suggestions and service opportunities.
Certainly the only thing consistent in life is its change and we have been abundantly blessed to be able to embrace such valuable and malleable changes. While our hearts and personalities remain steadfast we are finally prepared to embrace this next book of our lives with open arms, readied hearts and a complete team. Thank you for your; love, support and flexibility as we adjusted into this new lifestyle. We are anxious to hear and heed your suggestions for our adventures and we’ll see you out there!!
*Pictures to follow. Wanted to get this posted. Love you ALL!! As usual we’d love your feedback and suggestions*

6 open hands, 3 open hearts and 1 WIDE OPEN WORLD

•November 21, 2016 • 4 Comments

*Update:  My gracious! I wrote this two weeks ago and it never got posted. The chaos in our life is abundant but so are the blessings! *

What a crazy few weeks! Not two weeks ago I was in Denver with a house full of things. Now, I am residing with a friend (shared space is an entirely different blog for this independent) while I wait to further my journey and my home is 100% empty. My head however is still reeling.

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I suppose I should begin with the process of emptying the home. I had originally intended to sell off a few things but it took on a life of its own. I firmly believe that we all live a life of abundance. This last few weeks has shown me exactly how tethered to things we have become and in turn how anchored into our trauma we can become. I realized, as I let go of things, that some of it has traveled with me for more than a decade. It seems so silly to me that I would’ve held onto something for so long. At what reward and at what cost? I can tell you that having emptied that house feels undeniably liberating.

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We did sell some items. But for the most part we freely gave. There was nothing altruistic about this act. In fact, it was quite the contrary. The reward of letting go of things and re-gifting them to homes where it was a genuine need is something I could never express with the proper language. The feelings of relief from the tangible items and joy from sharing are untouchable and unmimicable.

We had the privilege of donating 1000-or-so books to Peru and 1000-or-so books to Honduras. We were allowed to gift to a women’s shelter and a victim’s advocacy program. We got behind missions trips and supported them by sending toys and clothing to MULTIPLE countries. We reached out to some homeless and let them take anything that could help them in any way. And perhaps one of the best ways we were able to outreach, because it’s close to my heart, was to be honored enough to give to single moms and dads ANYTHING and EVERYTHING their hearts desired. To allow them to just walk through my house and take what they needed and then at times even what they just wanted.

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Being able to freely hand off what was so freely given to me from the get-go was enough to awaken my heart. But watching my children give up their things so uninhibitedly and watching their desire grow to reach and serve people completely, changed and molded my heart. We are called to have a childlike faith but I’ll be the first accountable and say that I’m not sure I could EVER come alongside the selflessness that I witnessed in these two in the last two weeks.

As we continued to empty the home an underlying similarity grew through the people who were coming for resources. They all had similar histories and ailments. This gave me the desire to start a journal. We took down all the names and all the information of the people that we reached that were willing to stay in touch. Then as a family we decided that for the next year we will pray over them for an hour a day. AND, as though the blessings had not multiplied enough, our visitors began calling their friends and family overseas and setting us up for visits and events over the next year!

Something else I have learned throughout this journey is exactly how deep many of my friendships run. No time and no distance can separate me from the people that I love.  So many support me unabashedly. And others protest me with the same fervor . BOTH are loved by me. And as I empty this home, next to the friends and the people who love me, I am moved to know just how much they don’t want me to go but how ecstatic they are to watch me GROW.  The support and the help that I received from so many during this endeavor was life-changing. Not everyone is pictured below but if you were there, and you know who you are, your impact will be lifelong for me. I have a love and gratitude for you that I cannot begin to express. I am very much looking forward to coming alongside you again on the road of my journey.

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img_2760I cannot be 100% sure what is next in our lives. I do know that it will entail a lot of travel and a lot of outreach. I do know that we are going to be allowed to be the hands and feet that we were called to be. And I do know that nothing is by coincidence. We were gifted this opportunity and we do not intend to squander it. Because what can be given can also be taken away.

As always I LOVE hearing from you and sharing this journey. Your feedback is invaluable. Please continue; writing, suggesting and sharing. Looking forward to the coming year with each and every one of you!