Wherever You Go…

…there you are. Expat diary August 3, 2018

I’m now two-thirds of the way through my current stay in Bali. I’ve spent a great portion of that in my villa, working on laptop projects to sustain myself.

That process is going quite well. In July I made my main income goal for the first time – though owing to a lot of extra expenses it only covered about 70% of my nut for the month, unfortunately.

August looks to be the first month where I actually take in more than I spend…a big benchmark for sustainability and something I wanted to see happen before I went back to the U.S. I’m excited about that. If I can keep that up, a lot of things become possible for the future.

On that tack, one thing was really disturbing: the degree to which I got into a U.S.-style funk for a few days, feeling bored, lonely and restless – the exact same feeling that I left the states to avoid and which has never happened to any great degree the whole time I’ve been in Asia. I thought about that famous phrase “wherever you go, there you are” and wondered that if by refocusing myself on sustainability and getting down to business, I’d managed to rebuild a virtual cubicle around myself.

That funk gradually lessened this past week, but the physical toll got worse because I wound up doing six days straight behind the laptop doing things that were necessary but generated little or no income — two days editing a video for Mod Hippie that is probably still unusable in its current form and needs more work, and four days trying to sort out my lodgings in the Philippines.

It should have been three, but literally the minute that I went to commit to the key place I wanted, Air B’n’B took a dump for the entire night and when I woke up, after waiting four hours for it to come back, it of course had been booked by someone else and I had to make an entirely new plan. More on that in a minute. Today, at least, I will be taking a break. I’m updating the blog – because I owe everyone that – but then I’m off the computer for awhile.

The thing that I did realize in the past week was that, even though I have to some degree recreated my life in the U.S. here, that’s not entirely a bad thing (I always enjoyed the work, and it’s good to see that I now physically can do two weeks on a laptop, even if it’s not very good for me).

I don’t like these long bursts of sustained effort, though short ones are fine…but even if I find myself in a focused place where I can’t recreate much, I still can shut the laptop and go look at a beautiful beach for awhile, get my neck massaged for $7, or have a really good meal for about $5.

Likewise, there are people who check on me regularly via text message and that even will come keep an eye on me if I really get in trouble. As many friends as I have in L.A., they are all so busy and focused on their own lives that I probably have a better, or at least more consistent, support system here (which is not meant as a diss on my friends in any way. That’s just how life is in our town).

Part of my uneasiness also was that I found myself looking forward to going back to the United States in certain ways. There are some musical things going on, which I will announce later, that are interesting and rather exciting. I’m really looking forward to playing with my band. I want to record again. With luck and renewed energy in my business I’ll be on better financial footing for when I return – and hopefully I’ll be able to sustain that to some degree here.

But in that frame of mind, I began to wonder if there was as much of a difference between my life in the U.S. and my life in Asia as I thought – if it wasn’t just an illusion fostered by being in work mode vs. vacation mode.

On reflection while there is some truth in this – a lot of the trick has always been getting the right balance of all the aspects of my life (and that’s true for anyone) – mostly, this is nonsense.

The more I thought about what I have going on in the U.S., the more I realized it was exciting because I was only going to be there for a limited amount of time. Since I was the moving part that wasn’t always available, things were going to need to be arranged around me, and I’d have a lot to keep me busy and focused.

If I moved back to L.A. full-time, this wouldn’t continue. Without new dimensions to my life – the kind that I’ve already found here – I’d be back into no-growth boredom mode pretty quickly. As interesting as the stuff I’m going to be doing back in California is, it’s exactly the same stuff I was doing before I left, just it will probably get more attention because I’m not always around. What was taken for granted becomes special.

I shouldn’t mistake it for some amazing life I gave up and didn’t appreciate. I always appreciated how amazing my life was. It was just, for the last several years of it, about 40% of a life. In the course of two months, that’s a lot to cram in. Over the long term, it isn’t enough.

The question then becomes – when I get back to Asia again, will I have a sustainable life and lifestyle? I don’t know yet, but at this point, it’s looking good. A lot depends on my ability to attract new clients for my promotion and recording business, but I’ve definitely noticed more folks express interest as I’ve made my intentions clear and started making moves. It should work.

The biggest issue is finding some kind of stable physical base to plant my stuff; I can’t be lugging 30kg of bags all over the world forever, and I need even more than that to do the things I need to do properly. That’s going to be the focus of my final month in Asia before my brief return to the U.S. I’m looking strongly at the Philippines for my base of operations, for various reasons I talked about in previous blogs, plus the ease of travel from Los Angeles to Manila.

After AirB’n’B took a dump while I was trying to lock down a place in Manila that would allow me to check in at 5 a.m. and wasn’t too expensive, I decided that God just didn’t want me to hang out in Manila too much, and decided to go with a backup plan I’d originally rejected as being too exhausting.

When I land at NAIA, I’m going to hire a car (I’m being strongly encouraged to take a bus, which is much cheaper, but on no sleep and with so many bags it introduces more logistical uncertainty than I’m comfortable dealing with) to drive me to Angeles City, which I will check out for 6 days before returning to Cebu for 2 1/2 weeks, then back to Manila for the final week.

Angeles City is a bit notorious. It’s basically the Tijuana of the Philippines…ground zero for sex tourism and what I’ve been told is one of the most off-the-hook red light districts in Asia. I’ve only been there once, during the daytime, so I haven’t experienced this, though other expats have told me it’s something I need to see at least once.

I’m fine with having a look (provided I leave my valuables back at my rental place), but this isn’t really my thing and to the extent I might be tempted the strict budget that I am adhering to will probably put the kibosh on that. It’s not something I really need to dabble in, anyway. There are other more fulfilling possibilities elsewhere. So other than mild curiosity about something new, that’s not a factor in why I’m going to Angeles City.

The main reason I decided I wanted to try out Angeles is that the more I think about it, proximity to an international airport is going to be key. In the Phils, that brings us to Manila, Cebu, or Clark…Angeles’ former U.S. military base turned airport. Likewise, the American-made infrastructure of Angeles makes the city attractive for expats looking for more first world surroundings.

I also really like northern Luzon, the area Angeles is in. I’ve only been up there once or twice, but it’s much more open country, not so crowded, and there are mountains in the distance. I’ve enjoyed living by the beach, but I am by nature more of a landlocked kind of guy. It’s also the only part of the Philippines I could envision being comfortable owning a car and driving in. All taken together I decided that, even though the all-nighter getting there combined with the extra destination during my month in the Phils would kick my ass, I should probably have a look and see if it would suit me.

And then, it’s back to the U.S. I will leave Asia (and arrive home, owing to the national date line lying on my path) on September 11th – nearly a year to the day from when I first left. I expect that to be a long, grueling day and night, and reassembling my life and living situation will probably be similarly difficult and jarring.

My stay back in Los Angeles, barring any unforseen circumstances, will be just over two months…long enough to get a lot done, but short enough that hopefully I won’t be financially overexposed on the trip. My hope is that I will get a ton of recording done (and projects to promote) that I will then be able to fuss over at length when I return to Asia – but that, of course, all depends on my clients. So far, it’s looking good, but I take nothing for granted.

My feelings about going back overall are decidedly mixed. Getting from Asia to the U.S., and back again, is a big hop. When you are in one place, you’re definitely far separated from the other, not just physically but mentally…and a lot of the things I left the U.S. to avoid are just now seeming to come to a boiling point. Asia’s going to seem very sadly distant to me while I’m there. I’m not looking forward to that.

I am happy, though, I will have an already paid-for return ticket to comfort me.

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