The Adventures of Fat-Ass Begins

It is a new day, a start of my final chapter. In 89 days, I’ll be homeless and off to live a life of adventure.

Today, though, I’m a woman who’s stiff, bloated, and sore, who’s gained back 74 of the 85 pounds she lost, and who’s also on the verge of living on a continent without a lot of elevators, where hauling a 40-pound duffel bag along cobblestone streets will be a regular activity.

I’m starting a new plan in hopes of getting a little fitter, more energy, and having less fear about the new chapter. I cycled 8.1km before work, it took me 35 minutes, and was a reality check that I’m not the cyclist I once was.

And that’s okay, because we start somewhere. I remember when it used to take me 1 hour and 14 minutes to cycle 12 kilometres (more than half uphill) to get myself home from work, back in 2008. By the time I was fit just 3–4 months later, that same ride took 37 minutes.

Luckily cycling here is not without its rewards. Dallas Road Sunset last Saturday Night.

Luckily cycling here is not without its rewards. Dallas Road Sunset last Saturday Night.

Taking stock without guilt

I can’t hate myself for the weight I’ve gained back. It’s been 6–7 years since it started coming off. I blew my back out catastrophically in that time not once, not twice, but three times. I had two knee injuries. I rode my bike into a road sign the week I moved to Victoria — stopped myself with my face hitting the metal pole straight-on, screwing up my entire right side for 6 months.

Somehow, I’ve overcome all that, all while earning more money than I could’ve dreamed. By the end of next week, July 10th or so, I will have earned more money so far this year than in any year previous to 2014. In October, I’ll likely become debt-free as I begin travelling the world.

If I’d taken my foot off that work-for-it pedal even a little bit, my trip wouldn’t be happening. If I’d eaten out less, if I’d had more fitness, if I had more friends/social time, I would NOT be leaving for five years of travel.

Every drop of effort I put into my career is resulting in a massive return on my investment.

My fat ass? Part of the price I’ve paid to take my life into a place that most people barely even get the chance to dream about, let alone do.

Today, and I suspect the day I step off that plane, I think I would pay that price again for what I will soon get to live every single day for about 1800 days.

Journey of 1,000 miles starts with 1 step”

But today, I’ve done what I’ve needed to do and now I need to get myself into a position where a travel life can’t hurt me. I need to increase my cardio, improve my energy, take a couple inches off my ass so the plane isn’t unbearable, all while staying focused on my finances and earnings.

I think I can do this now. I hope I can.

Making this choice, though, that’s the easy part. The hard part is getting up every morning and being excited about taking an 8-10km bike ride, eating well, and not giving up. The hard part is saying it’s as important to my day as breathing or putting on pants.

But I know hard. I’ve done hard. I’ve beaten hard. “Hard” ain’t got nothing on me.

Whether I change myself here, or it happens abroad, I guarantee you — a lot more awesomeness, a lot more change, it’s on tap for me in the months ahead.

Because I work for that shit. It is a choice. It’s a choice I have made every single day. Now it’s just a new choice I need to make, that’s all.

And so it begins.


PS: There are healthy “heavy” people out there. I am not one of them. When I am “fat,” I am out of shape and it affects every part of my life. This isn’t fat-shaming of others, it’s accepting that I’ve really done a lot to upend the health and balance of my life, and it’s showing outwardly. That needs to end. I will likely never be a size 6, and I really don’t care about that. I’ll be fine being a plus-size size 14 or 16, as long as I can kick your ass on a bike.

Travelling: The Writer’s Master Class

I wrote this late last Friday night and have only gotten around to editing it now. As of today, the numbers below are right — 90 days until I’m homeless and a world traveller. If you’re not following my travel blog, you should.

It’s hard to find great movies on writers. Funny, that.

But I guess it’s such an internal experience that it’s very hard to relay that visually or in any other way. It’s why a movie like Eat Pray Love can suck so hard while the book is a delight to read.

So it’s with great enjoyment that I’m watching Jane Campion’s biopic on New Zealand author Janet Frame, who I’d never even heard about, despite read. Don’t let my ignorance dissuade you of her import; her list of writing awards spans nearly six decades and would be intimidating to nearly any writer. An Angel At My Table is the name of both the film and the corresponding books.

Frame was unique, to put it lightly, and suffered mental illness in varying (but it turns out manageable) degrees. She was due for a lobotomy when word came that her first book of poems was an award-winning publication, and some wise doctor realized her malaise was also the source of her brilliance.

I’m at the point where she’s coming into her own as a writer but is still troubled by the demons of anxiety and other illnesses, and like any proper writer, she is only her complete self when writing.

 

London, England, by Unsplash on Pixabay. Creative Commons. My first stop in my travels.

London, England, by Unsplash on Pixabay. Creative Commons.

Doing what a writer’s born to do

It makes me think that a writer who isn’t writing is a person who can never be happy. Without writing, we’re haunted. If we can’t do what we are, then what are we to be, if not cursed?

I write. Boy, do I write. I can’t say I don’t write. Know how many words I’ve written since April 1st, about 90 days? Over 70,000. Maybe over 80K. Until this quarter, I never knew how much a writer I am. I set a goal, then I blew way past it, so much so that I’ll be the writer anomaly when I travel, as I’ll be completely debt-free.

Strangely though, with all that production going into paid blogging and other professional endeavours, plus some unpaid personal blogging, I have to tell you… I really wish I had some time to write.

There’s writing for the dollars, then there’s writing for the soul, and there’s very little of the latter I’ve been able to execute, only because I’m so riddled by the chase of the almighty buck that I’m too full of emotional holes to really write what I wanna.

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Creative Commons image from Sobrecroacia.com. Ilica Street, Zagreb, my second stop on my travels, and near where I’ll live for three weeks, except for a short stint in the next town — which is… see the next picture!

 

Stealing back my time

In the movie, Janet Frame has just launched herself on her first international voyage. She’s told, to be a better writer, she needs to travel and expand her horizons.

It calls to mind what I wrote about how my travels are, even if others don’t say it, essentially most writers’ dream life. Go abroad. Travel slow. Soak in the world. Record it. Process it. Love it.

That’s writing for you, it’s a writer’s master class — travel.

I’m 90 days away from that life. Travel. No appointments, no obligations, no friends, no family, nothing but a schedule to meet for work, the ability to be in some exotic place for a month or so, and enough time in the day to write for an hour or two EVERY SINGLE DAY. Maybe more! Tee-hee-hee!

Ask me if I’m more excited about the distraction-free time to chase a writing-first life or the opportunity to see the world for five years, and I would honestly struggle to choose. I love the idea of both so completely that it blows my mind I’m getting both at the same time.

Ljubljana, Slovenia, from PopSugar.com's list of 23 places to visit. And stop number three for me!

Ljubljana, Slovenia, from PopSugar.com’s list of 23 places to visit. And stop number three for me!

Writing is not a “hobby”

I’ve been through a lot in my life. It’s all gone whizzing past in a blur of survival and perseverance. Seldom have I had a chance to percolate and absorb it. I haven’t processed half the emotions I’ve felt over the years.

To some, they might say I need therapy. But the writers, they know. They know I need silence, a phone that doesn’t ring and a door that doesn’t knock. They know I need a window with a view, a desk at a good height, and fingers that won’t weary from a day or a year or a life of pounding out the truth.

It’s better than therapy, writing. It’s more honest, and it’s less selfish, in a way.* Put it down, push it into the world, and watch it resonate with others. When one taps into how fucked up they are, shares it with the world, resulting in a cacophony of voices rising to say how much it resonated with them — that’s the original therapy group session.

Something tells me, though, that landing on the far shores of the Atlantic isn’t going to be when and where I realize what a mess I am — it’ll be where I realize how together I’ve got it.

Motovun, Istria, in Croatia, where I'll be spending 4 weeks this fall -- stop number 4. And this photo's from Sobrecroacia.com.

Motovun, Istria, in Croatia, where I’ll be spending 4 weeks this fall — stop number 4. And this photo’s from Sobrecroacia.com.

Choosing passion

It doesn’t matter how I think I’ll do. My expectations don’t matter either. In about 105 days, after I’ve whirlwinded through Vancouver and London, UK, it’ll be my chance to see exactly how it unfolds. But there are no doubts in my mind about travelling improving me as a writer.

There haven’t been many opportunities in my life to spend 10 or 20 hours a week just writing for myself, let lone more, but the few times I’ve had that, my writing has been top-notch and I’ve been enormously proud of it. It’s a whole ‘nother writing level when you’ve got the time, focus, and dedication to achieve consistency.

This is what I hope to experience again. A chance to become more plugged into words and flow. I want the noise and distraction of life to evaporate, and the cadence of something exciting and new to fuel what I write.

What’s that they say about asking and receiving? 100 days.

*But therapy is awesome if you can afford it. For real.

Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down

My friend Sean Cranbury shared an article on Facebook earlier, and a comment debate ensued. Here’s my takeaway.


In my youth, I was a huge U2 fan. For a long time, my listening trifecta were Joshua Tree, Rattle & Hum, and Achtung Baby. That was my “era” of U2.

One song I played a lot back then was “Acrobat.” Something about it spoke to me, because I knew I was an angry person. I was angry then, I’m still a brand of angry now.

And you can swallow or you can spit
You can throw it up, or choke on it
And you can dream, so dream out loud
You know that your time is coming round
So don’t let the bastards grind you down.

I wanted to live a life where the bastards didn’t grind me down, but I also wanted to be of those who shouted at the wind to evoke change.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, it did grind me down. I lost my soul for a while. I was angry about everything. I was the trodden. I was the one looking for the crumbs of hope and choking on any I dared to swallow.

I’m 41 now. I’m tired of being angry. I’ve learned something along the way — nothing will ever be perfect. Nothing will ever make us all happy. Whatever victories lift me up are the same that leave others crestfallen.

We live in an imperfect world. That’s just the way it goes. There are no flawless heroes. No perfect souls we can hold up as an example to all.

But every now and then, we have a great day. Like when marriage equality was finally doled out by the Supreme Court in the USA. That was a fine, glorious day.

Then someone turns around and says “But we need more! There are injustices left! Don’t stop! Don’t breathe! Keep going! Fight, fight, fight!”

Here’s the thing, though.

In the United States, more than half of the states still have being gay as a fireable offense. Show up to work gay and you can be fired for it. Really. “Sorry, Bob, we’re in a no rainbow zone here. Pack your knives and go.”

And yet, in plenty of those states, gays lined up for the opportunity to put their love on display and get married on the least-subtle day EVER to be married in gay history. Some said, well, the strange thing is, I can get married today but on Monday I could be fired for celebrating a right given to me over the weekend by SCOTUS.

But still they married. Why?

Because Monday would be a new battle. This weekend? It was for joy. It was for celebrating. It was for saying that in one brief moment we all had a little more love, equality, and hope in our lives.

Those moments — they’re truly rare. That instant of glorious togetherness, where we don’t have to sing “We shall overcome,” because we overcame. In my life, there are a handful. Berlin Wall toppling. The Quiet Revolution in Egypt. Obama’s Inauguration.

I’m 41 and I’m struggling to remember more moments of true joy, laced with the feeling that comes from witnessing change in the making. The good change.

If you don’t stop to enjoy the feeling of victory, then what is it that sustains you? It’s certainly not hope for a better day, because you just had one and you didn’t savour it. No, what sustains you is anger and frustration.

I can’t hate like that. I can’t be angry all the time.

Love wins.

Love wins.

Choosing your moments

Do you know what I did on the night that thousands died on September 11th, 2001?

After a day spent in horror and fear and lost in the coverage on TV, I went for a bike ride. I wanted to find a moment in time somewhere that reminded me what life was like before planes crashed into two buildings that morning and killed so many.

Remember that first night? We knew over 50,000 people worked there. We didn’t know how many were killed. I’d thought over 10,000, easy.

But I went cycling. I found some kids playing in the street. I stood there and watched them battling out over street hockey supremacy, laughing and giggling and shouting and disputing each others’ goals.

For just a moment, I was in a world that hadn’t changed beyond recognition. I was terrified of the loss of innocence we’d had as a continent just hours before. I guess, like me, these children’s parents were trying to make sense of that loss and death and hate, and they’d not yet spoken to their kids about it. I’m grateful they took a pause because that laughter helped me sleep that night and for many thereafter.

Whatever else the terrorists took that day, they didn’t take my hope that we’d one day move past it.

For one brief, beautiful time, this happened. Did you enjoy it? Or did it pass you by because you were too busy worrying about Monday?

For one brief, beautiful time, this happened. Did you enjoy it? Or did it pass you by because you were too busy worrying about Monday?

All this and so much more

The world is filled at once with unending beauty and undeniable evil. We hate, we love. We contain multitudes.

I guarantee you: On every good day you ever have, there are horrors happening elsewhere. Not just bad things, true horrors. They happen daily. This is humanity, for good or ill. It’s nature, too. Animals eat their young. They kill the weak. We are not so different. We are nature too.

Moments. That’s all life is. Snippets joined together. Vignettes.

The good times, they won’t last. Your righteous rage does you much wrong if it robs you of the ability to find joy and celebrate the small victories that punctuate our banal and fleeting lives.

I, for one, would rather have my world and my values cobbled together by those who can see great moments when they come, not those who brush aside victory because the world is not yet perfect.

All I want from the world I live in is more good than bad. I want leaders who call out injustices but jump to ring the bell of victory the loudest when the good wins pour in.

Tomorrow is Monday. We will have stories of those fired for embracing their love. We will have a new fight. But this weekend, I chose love. I chose gratitude. I chose to sleep in with the warm fuzziness of knowing there was one less injustice in the world this weekend.

And tomorrow, my rage will rise in support of those who show us that there is a new day to fight for. Either way, I won’t let the bastards grind me down.

choice signs

The Life I Chose: Thoughts On Manifesting Destiny

I should feel guilty about being a loser and staying inside on a sunny day like today, but I don’t.

I should want to go out and soak in this amazing world, feel gratitude for living here right now, but I don’t.

Instead, I’m 100% tired, dreading my Monday, and knowing that I’ve got to Make It All Happen for another five days. It’s the same feeling I’ve had just about every Sunday night since January, 2013.

Fact is, I’m two years and four months into “working overtime.” When I started this whole journey of Working More, it wasn’t with a dream of seeing the world. Hell, I didn’t even know if I could get enough scratch together to live abroad for a year. All I knew was, I needed to claw out of my unending financial desperation so I could finally do things others took for granted, like maybe get some takeout dinner and buy a $15 wine instead of $9.

But back then, I thought I’d be working so hard so long to get what I want that I’d have to move abroad just so I could pay down my debt. Somehow, I kept finding new gears. I kept working more, finding different clients, trying out different writing jobs.

I valued myself more, I charged more, I earned more, I paid down more.

When the first two weren’t getting me anywhere, I finally doubled down on the third.

Faking It Like a Pro

Somewhere along the way, I started thinking more about Anywhere But Here. What would living abroad mean? How could I do it? What model of nomadic life might be the right fit for me?

Next, I became a classic case of Fake It Till You Make It. In fact, I’ve developed a superhero power for my ability to, no matter what the conversation is about, mention in the first three minutes that I’m on the verge of “selling everything and travelling the world for five years.”

One could easily assume I’m just being a braggart and a jerk, but in reality, I’m still so much in disbelief that THIS is what I’m doing that I’m telling everyone in an attempt to make it more real for me. Sometimes it even works and I believe I’m that girl. I try to tell someone new every day or two.

It’s weird that I can undertake such a massive life-change while being completely unable to tell you when I actually decided to DO IT. The idea just kept evolving.

The more I learned about long-term travel, the more empowered I felt that I, too, could be a nomad. The more I learned about the stuff I owned and the unavoidable emotional pull it all has, the more I started to think minimalism and Owning Nothing might be the best crash-course of psychic healing I could ever get. The more I learned, the less I felt like it was a life for Other People.

wpid-img_139641969635076Choice Happens

Eventually, I decided I was brave enough to say I, Too, Will Travel Like Them. Eventually I thought I was exactly that kind of person, even though I spent my life thinking I wasn’t. So I told other people this was my audacious plan.

Then a funny thing occurred when I started to think about what it would take to do what I’d need to travel: I just started to make it happen.

It’s like I wrote for my friends on Facebook this past week:

It’s real weird when you say, “Self, this is what I need. Now go get it,” and then, like, you DO. You go get it!

Sometimes life is all about making choices. Nobody said what comes after those choices is EASY.

The choice is the easiest part.

But you just gotta choose to pay that price. Then, poof. Sometimes magic happens.”

Every time I’ve gotten more specific about what I need to make happen in order to Leave On A Jet Plane, I’ve gotten exactly what I outlined. Is it just a matter of knowing what’s needed then pursuing it? It is some mystical law-of-attraction aka “The Secret” thing?

Meh, I don’t care, I don’t need to know. It’s kind of like writing. I don’t need to understand what different clauses and phrases are called — all I need to know is how to get it done.

And hey, I’m getting it done.

choice signs

All The Drops Count

With 13 weeks left in Canada, it’s amazing how everything is coming together in the final weeks. Financially, organizationally — it’s all coming together better than I could’ve hoped. So much so that the prospect of leaving the country 100% debt-free is a growing likelihood rather than the faint hope I pegged it as just three months ago.

Leaving debt-free was never part of the dream. It wasn’t. I’d have scoffed if anyone suggested it could be done.

That was then. Now, I’m a believer.

And here’s the thing: If I hadn’t been antisocial and a workaholic, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in. I wouldn’t be leaving in October. I’d have more debt. I’d be less tired, but also unhappier, more worried.

Somehow, all the times I’ve worked longer and gotten takeout instead, every time I’ve turned down plans and rested after a six-day week, each time I spurned the great outdoors in favour of recharging mentally so I can write more — it all conspired to get me right here, right now.

I cannot tell you how important every single drop of water in that bucket is. I kid you not when I say it looks like it will literally come down to the week I leave that I pay my debts off in full.

It will be one of those written-by-the-cosmos storybook endings to about 12 years of struggle — but the last five years had me clawing my way out.  It will all culminate with me handing in my housekeys on my 42nd birthday, and within a week, likely becoming debt-free as I leave to travel the world for five years. I couldn’t have written it better.

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For many, this is true. But I have had depression and I know that is not a “choice.”

Mastering Fate

It’s like the poem “Invictus” says: I am the captain of my fate, I am the master of my soul.

There are days when I think I will regret not being Little Miss Outdoorsy more while I’ve been in Victoria, but then I realize that this place has been exactly what I needed it to be: The place where I fell in love with writing again, rediscovered photography, learned how to deal with my back, and where I finally fixed my finances.

Those were the goals I set for moving to Victoria, and I gave myself five years to accomplish them.

I will be leaving 3 years, 6 months, and 29 days after that clock started ticking, and with a “100% done” stamp on those four goals.

Inspirational-Life-Quotes-120379761

All I Did Was Choose, Then Keep Choosing

It’s nothing amazing, what I’ve accomplished or set out to do. All I did was make a choice and never stopped being aware that everything I was doing — all the extra work, all the long hours, all the tired days, all the weekends I opted out of — was a choice. It wasn’t punishment or suffering, it was opportunity to take what I wanted. I wasn’t allowed to whine about overwork, because A.) I made a choice and B.) the universe gave me the opportunities I needed in order to make that choice real.

Making a choice is the easiest thing you’ll ever do. The trick is never letting yourself forget that you CHOSE it, and always being willing to pay for it.

Don’t like your life? No one says it’ll be easy to change it. Other people might have it easier than you — God knows folks had it easier than me (and still more have it harder) — but either that holds you back or gets you angry so you move past it.

It’s all still just a choice.

Like me, staying inside today, sleeping until 10, cleaning my apartment, and just being still. You pick your battles and you go where the struggle takes you. That’s what choices are all about.


I’m travelling the world for five years, starting on October 5th. Follow along with my travel blog, The Full Nomad, as those plans come to life.

I Hate The Way You Buzzword

Normcore. YUCCIE. Bae.

If there’s anything the internet deserves bloody death for, it’s the proliferation of words that make me vomit in my mouth.

It’s one of those strangely ironic situations for a writer. We love specificity. If there’s a word best suited for that which you’re discussing, then go to town. It’s wordnerd time, motherfucker.

It’s like that scene in English Patient:

Katharine: l wanted to meet the man who could write a long paper with so few adjectives.
Almasy: Well, a thing is still a thing, no matter what you place in front of it. Big car, slow car, chauffeur-driven car.
Madox: Broken car.
Almasy: lt’s still a car.
Geoffrey Clifton: Not much use, though.

But for a good writer, it’s a sedan or a coupe or a sportster or a hatchback or a jallopy or a wreck or a rust-bucket. It’s not “a car”.

So, specificity — it gets us hot. It’s what we do. Got exact words? A shudder-worthy moment.

Language is a beautiful sonorous thing. It’s not to be sullied by your cheap 5-cent words cobbled together from laziness and the most fleeting of trends. Normcore? We have to have a word now for the way the majority of people dress? He’s in chinos and a sweater, okay? Not “normcore.” When one word covers it all, we turn everything into a homogenized whole instead of celebrating uniqueness.

I don’t know about you, but writing about unvarying collectives able to be encapsulated by a single umbrella word isn’t enthralling for me. That’s the writing equivalent of paint-by-numbers.

People talk now as if language has a seasonal life. Our words we choose are so temporary in nature that we risk being indecipherable to those who find our daily social media transcripts centuries from now. Provided we haven’t climate-changed ourselves into extinction, that is.

beatnik460

Because creatives have never gathered in the city (or worn turtlenecks or toques or hoodies) before: Beat writers and artists at breakfast in New York, late 1950s. L-R: Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso (back of head), David Amram, Allen Ginsburg

 

Crimes Against Language: “YUCCIE

The latest word to explode onto the internet is that of “YUCCIE.” It stands for “Young Urban Creative.”

A news guy I know said, “Yeah, but I sort of felt it needed a word,” about my latest rant on Twitter. Now this is a guy who shares some of the most compelling news I see, too, so I respect his opinion, but this makes my head explode.

Here’s the deal about the Young Urban Creative: It ain’t nothing new. Zero new. Nada di new.

You go back over centuries and the city was always where creatives amassed. They drew together because they needed to have community of others who understood exactly what their passion and raison d’etre is. This remains more true — and more readily found, thanks to the Internet – today.

Creatives, we have a different perspective on the world. It’s easy to feel really alone and forsaken unless we find others who are just as bent as we are.

Look at the culture around Moulin Rouge in the 1890s in Paris, and how it drew the absinthe-loving arts crowd into its fold before spilling out into the world. Look at the Beat writers in San Francisco. Or New York in any age.

Cities are the only place young creatives ever really feel at home. If young creatives are not urban, they’re the exception to the rule. Cities are where artists find themselves, usually, regardless of where they wind up later in life.

But hey, man. It’s the internet age. We need a word for something that’s always existed because it’s 2015 and no one’s got the time to write an actual sentence anymore. Or maybe because it’s not cool enough to just say “creative.” We love to define and codify things.

In Which I Play The Writer/Snob Card

Very seldom will you find me using a term that’s a trendy word. Yes, I’ll go so far as to say it’s beneath me.

This is for the same reason as a film should never be shot with a wardrobe that’s on trend. Have you seen Mystic Pizza, Pretty Woman, or anything else shot in the ‘80s lately? None of it holds up visually because they were all so beholden to the present fashion, trying to look hip, and now it’s dated and sad.

True of language as well. Use anything trendy and it sounds pathetic even before the year is out.

Get over yourself. Being timeless is where it’s at. Don’t fall for the “everything has a buzzword” fad. It’s really okay to use the existing one-million-plus words in the English language. Pretty sure that if you look hard enough, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

If we have a word for throwing someone/something out the window (defenestration), then rest assured, English has you covered.

Defenestration by TrappedInVacancy.

Defenestration by TrappedInVacancy.

How Not to be a Douchebag When You Travel

Today, there’s a big story about idiot travellers in Malaysia who summited a peak in Borneo and then stripped naked for photos at the top. Coincidentally, an earthquake later occurred on the peak and 13 folks are dead.

Reports are these idiots could face charges tomorrow. Two of them are Canadians.

Still, I have zero sympathy for whatever punishment is meted out.

Here’s your wake-up call, travellers. It doesn’t matter what your culture or your beliefs are. You’re a guest in a foreign country and you are privileged to visit.

Ours is a gloriously large world with untold cultural differences spanning the globe. From weird superstitions to religions, it’s a delightfully odd mix of contrasts, but dangers also lurk in those differences.

When you pack bags and travel, it is entirely upon you to know what you’re getting yourself into. What does its culture frown upon? What offends them? How strict are their laws? What freedoms fail to exist there? What are ethical grey areas to avoid?

KEEP READING: Visit my travel blog, The Full Nomad, and read it here!