A 7 month Honeymoon

Life is good. I’m at the tail-end of a 7-month-long honeymoon and currently sitting in an Airbnb in sunny Santa Barbara, CA. My wife, Courtney, and our dog, Mara, are sitting on the bed next to me as I type (along with some dog hair – sorry host, we’ll lint roll!).

Patrick and Mara snoozing on the bed
jk not actually typing, just snoozing with Mara

Since getting married last April, we’ve worked, quit our jobs, and traveled to Asia, South America, and around the US of A.

I want to get some impressions down while they’re still fresh. This is mostly for the mems, but I want to share some of our joy with others too. It’d be impossible to capture everything, so instead I’ll go for the highlights. Heads up it's still gonna be a long read, so if you wan't to skip ahead, here's a list of where we went:

I’ll start with now. I feel genuinely happy. But also a little tired. Somehow we’ve managed to keep ourselves fairly busy while not working. That said there’s also been plenty of introspective downtime. I feel like I’ve grown up a bit too (whatever that means). I’ve met a ton of people from a ton of different cultures. I’ve had to get out of my comfort zone, failed to communicate in many different languages, and generally been “on” all the time.

But I think all that’s given me more perspective on life back home. Hopefully I’m a little less caught up in the busy-ness of everything and am a little more easygoing and tolerant.

I’ve been reflecting on...how the tiny bubbles we all live in can start to expand ...how some of those insurmountable problems we all face maybe aren’t even problems after all ...how the world is big, but not so big ...how we’re not so different from one another ...and how we’re all just trying to get by. Nothing too groundbreaking or mindblowing, but of course it feels different to live it (to grok it) than to just think it.

Mostly I can’t believe I was able to run around the world for so long with the person I love. I know this is a rare and special thing to do. Courtney and I worked hard to make it happen, but we also had a ton of luck, good fortune, and support, mostly from our families. A special thanks to Helen and Jin, Courtney's parents, for the months of dogsitting. For everything I’m boundlessly grateful.

But as anyone who’s traveled a lot can tell you, after a long time away, it’s real nice to settle back into your little slice of life back home. We certainly can’t wait!

Now let’s go to the beginning.

Patrick and Courtney standing on the beach in Hawaii

photo taken only moments before getting a massive sunburn in the shade

First we went to Kauai, Hawaii. It’s always been Courtney’s favorite Hawaiian island, and after visiting for the first time, I think it’s mine too. But gotta keep coming back for more research... We did a tough and muddy waterfall hike, ate a ton of poke, and read on the beach. Two friends, Brian and Ashley, joined us. Peak relaxation!

Patrick surfing in Mexico

endless summer continues with Patrick on the babiest of waves 🤙

Next we did a little more beach chilling in Sayulita, Mexico. Courtney’s friend Sierra joined us. Here we ate muchísimos shrimp tacos, took a surf lesson, and read and did yoga on the roof of our Airbnb. Book recommendation: a dark and surreal Mexican crime novel set during a pandemic by Yuri Herrera (en español, por supuesto).

Drenched hikers in ponchos in Alaska
not pictured: the on-and-off torrential downpour

Alaska. "North to the future." Every year I go on a big backpacking trip with some friends. This year Courtney joined us (Patrick, Brian, Brandan, Will, Ashley, Katie, James and Susan) too. We went deep into the backcountry in the least visited national park in the country, Wrangell-St. Elias in Alaska. We managed to avoid the grizzly bears, but not the rain (and even a bit of snow). Drenched, we bailed early for a roof and some hot food, but still had plenty of (type II) fun!

Baby Eejae putting a candle on a cake
이재야 너무 귀여워!
Courtney's relatives setting out a Korean dinner
a homemade (and so delicious) Korean dinner
Patrick and Courtney sitting on a couch with relatives playing go-stop
losing the game (of go-stop) and losing our money

Our first stop in Korea was Seoul, and we met up with some of Courtney’s extended family (her mom's cousin's family). We brought baby Eejae a strawberry shortcake (from Peony) even though it wasn't his birthday. Our relatives weren’t sure if we could eat spicy food, so they made us some delicious pasta. But then when we met up with them again after a few weeks (and after telling them that that we eat "everything"), they gave us the works, including lots of kimchi, blood sausage (순대), chicken feet (닭발), and silkworms (번데기). It was all delicious! 맛있어!

Printout of four photos from a photobooth
sadly, we couldn’t take the hats with us

We also met up with my Korean tutor, Min, for the first time in person. Min and her husband graciously treated us to lunch at a naengmyeon spot (delicious cold noodle soup, perfect on a hot summer day, and profiled in this Netflix food doc). Then they played tour guide around Seoul and took us to a photobooth. My Korean speaking ability during real conversation was still embarassingly bad, so we got by mostly in English. I'll keep working on it! 화이팅!

Woman holding a live squid at a fish market

after walking around the entire market and working up the courage, this lady convinced us to try the squid

Next we went to Sokcho on the coast. It was rainy so we didn’t get to hike in Seoraksan National Park, but while trying to get there, we did get ripped off by a taxi driver who at some point ended up on the phone with Courtney’s mom, explaining to her in Korean that he wasn’t going to rip us off. C'est la vie... When we weren’t relaxing in the hot tub in our room or walking on the beach we ate a lot of seafood. We went to an underground fish market and ate fresh squid (오징어), korean "sashimi" (회) and spicy fish soup (매운탕 maeunttang). Seriously, that spicy fish soup... Mmmmmm....

Courtney standing in a market in Busan

Gukje Market of classic tearjerker movie, Ode to My Father, fame (think if Forrest Gump were a Korean movie)

After a brief stop in Gyeongju (a historic regional capital, with vibes somewhere between Kyoto and colonial Williamsburg), we made our way to Busan. We hung out for a few days, spent hours walking through markets, ate a ton of food, and then took the train to Seoul (since the train to Busan is overrun with zombies... sorry, bad joke).

Patrick, Courtney, and family standing on a cliffside in Jeju
Jeju Island: the Hawaii of Korea

Courtney’s mom, Helen, met up with us in Seoul and then we all flew to Jeju Island. Our extended relatives played tour guide and drove us all around the island. Food highlights included black pig (흑돼지), abalone (전복), udo peanuts (우도땅콩), and hallabong oranges (한라봉). Once we got back to Seoul, we hung out in Gangnam-dong (of Gangnam Style fame) and Seongsu-dong (the Brooklyn of Seoul, apparently). We went all over the city, but I feel like we still barely scratched the surface!

Courtney walking into a jjajangmyeon restaurant

waiting to put our names on the list to wait for some tasty 짜장면

Quick add: From Jeju we took a quick ferry to 마라도 Mara Island (named after our dog Mara... 거짓말! liar!), the southernmost point in Korea, and got some jjajangmyeon (Korean-ified Chinese black bean noodles) and tangsuyuk (sweet and sour pork) from one of the many famous restaurants there.

Courtney's mom and friend cheering in the stands at a baseball game

Courtney’s mom and friend mimicking the cheers and blending in with the Doosan Bears fans

One more: We also snuck in a baseball game. "Our" team, the Doosan Bears, lost, but we ate a lot of fried chicken, followed along with the extremely well-choreographed cheers, and had a great time anyway! Just don’t get me started on how difficult it was to buy tickets without a Korean resident registration number...

Courtney in front of two heaping bowls of ramen

we started feeling full before we even got below the top of the bowl... お腹が超いっぱいだよ!

And then we were in Japan. First things first, we got convenience store (konbini コンビニ) onigiri at the airport, found our Airbnb, and then, of course, went out for ramen. Ramen Jiro had a ton of ratings on Google Maps and was in the neighborhood, so we checked it out. We had no idea it was famous and even has its own Wikipedia page. Later when taking a ramen cooking class, the chef spilled the latest ramen tea and told us all about it. Not knowing what we were getting into, we ordered way too much, didn't want to offend, and ate until we could hardly walk. Totally worth it! Movie recommendation for the ramen lovers: Tampopo.

Patrick, Courtney, Brittany, and Jonathan taking a selfie on a train platform

selfie on a train platform with Brittany and Jonathan 間も無く、電車が参ります〜

Chef heating some coals at a sushi restaurant

the chef at Umi (海味 - a clever pun on "sea" and "taste of the sea")

outdoor wooden bath at a ryokan
a private onsen at the ryokan ♨️

After running around Tokyo for a week on our own and revisiting some of the people and places from when I spent two months there just before COVID, Courtney’s younger sister, Brittany, and brother-in-law, Jonathan, joined us (along with two of their friends, Evan and Rachel). I was the only white guy in a group of Asian Americans and also the only one who spoke Japanese, which never ceased to confuse the Tokyo-ites we met. The highlights from this part of the trip were a phenomenal omakase (お任せ, which means leave it to me) sushi dinner, a trip to a Ryokan (public bath house) in Hakone (about an hour and a half outside Tokyo, up in the mountains), and a nostalgic dance-off on an old-school DDR (dance dance revolution) arcade machine.

Jonathan taking a picture under red gates at a shrine

Jonathan taking a snapshot of the endless gates and crowds at Fushimi Inari

Next we went to Kyoto. We visited so many old temples, collecting goshuin stamps along the way. We got dinner at a "family restaurant" called "Surprised Donkey," think kitschy chain restaurants with vaguely American decor, like Denny's. And we went to the famously photogenic red gates at the Fushimi Inari shrine, where we drowned in the crowds. We topped it all off with some tsukemen (ramen with the broth on the side) and some Japanese green tea (matcha 抹茶, sencha 煎茶, gyokuro 玉露) with sweets (wagashi 和菓子).

Patrick approaching a big arch on a grassy field on the coast

admiring some art by Lee Ufan at the Benesse Art Site on Naoshima

Then Courtney and I were alone again, and we headed to the islands of Naoshima and Teshima to look at some modern art (think that old doge meme - much culture, wow). The highlight was definitely the Teshima Art Museum, a building that’s more like a wide open concrete sculpture with water droplets bubbling up from the floor. We lied on the ground for an hour or so and napped or meditated or something in between, and then hopped back on our electric bikes and took off. Required pre-viewing: an interview with Tadao Ando, the architect behind Naoshima's resurgence

[missing photo: sunset from the rooftop onsen. sorry phone was in the locker.]

Oh and relaxing in the outdoor onsen (hot spring) at sunset in Uno, the port town where we caught the ferry, was a close second. Someday when we return to Japan, we want to check out the onsen capital of the country, Beppu. (Because I'm covered in tattoos, I have to research or call the onsen first to make sure I'm allowed in. Tattoos are still associated with Yakuza gangsters in Japan, and consequently people with tattoos are not allowed in many public baths. In Uno, I could only enter with a foreign passport!)

Patrick and Courtney on the beach at sunset in Shodoshima

catching the sunset at Angel Road on Shodoshima, a sandbar that only appears at low tide

woman in a witch costume in front a windmill
and an influencer witch in the wild! (at OLIVE PARK)

We wrapped up our time in Japan with a week on Shodoshima, an island with a cute mascot to honor its olive production, a day trip to Takamatsu, the udon capital of Japan, and a few days in Kyushu, the southernmost big island of Japan. Shodoshima is more popular with domestic than foreign tourists, so I got the chance to put my Japanese to the test. I was only turned away from a couple places for being a foreigner... and was mostly able to get by.

Courtney with luggage on a bike

loading up all our luggage on our bikes. it's not much, but it was a lot!

We also forgot to get our International Driving Permit (the IDP from AAA, only marginally less painful than the DMV), so we had to bike all over the hilly island on old, clunky, analog bikes. We read a lot too. I was chipping away at Haruki Murakmi's new novel in Japanese, but it was tough and progress was slow, so I eventually put it aside and months later tried again with his first novel, which was much easier.

a bowl of udon with tempura

If you find yourself in Takamatsu, this is the place for udon (Ueharaya Honten 上原屋本店 + google maps). We didn't do Kyushu justice. I was mostly there to go to Kitakyushu for a new tatoo (of a frog with tatoos, from Makoto Horimatsu) and we flew out of Fukuoka. Gotta get back!

Courtney sitting in front of a big bowl of chili crab

the obligatory and delicious chili crab, Singapore’s true national dish, move aside chicken rice

Our next stop was Singapore, where we stayed for five or six days. And I really must say it was nice speaking English again. Courtney spent a few years here growing up, so she took me around, and we even went to her childhood home, a highrise apartment building not too far from Orchard Road (a maze-like part of town with mall after mall after mall), which is where we were staying. Food recommendation number one: Jumbo Seafood (for chili crab). Two: Hai Di Lao (for hotpot, even though it's an international chain). Three: any of the many delicious hawker centers around Singapore (for everything you can fit in your stomach), shoutouts for Chinatown's People's Park Food Centre, the Maxwell Food Centre, and the Old Airport Road Food Centre. Happy eating!

Two swans made out of towels and rose petals on a bed

this wouldn’t be the last time we’d find towel art on our bed

Next it was Thailand. We flew in to the island of Koh Samui, and our first stop was the Ritz. Fancy shmancy. We told them it was our honeymoon (we tried not to overdo it, but occasionally we really milked the honeymoon card (and mixed our metaphors)). Since it was off-season, we got a room upgrade, a free breakfast buffet, and a bathtub full of rose petals. Not bad! We were just easing into the relaxation portion of the trip.

outdoor yoga studio with mats next to the ocean
beachside yoga ॐmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Next we did a five-day yoga retreat at Samahita. The teachers were amazing. The chefs too! We did yoga twice a day, worked out once a day, ate vegetarian food, and read a lot. I finished the book I'd been reading for awhile, Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, which was... a wild trip. A bit stressful and terrifying even. I recommend both, the book and the yoga retreat, not necessarily at the same time.

A bed in a simple room with bars on the window

the accommodations at Dipabhavan were a bit more modest

Then we did a seven-day silent meditation retreat at Dipabhavan. It was tough not talking to Courtney for a week but we smiled, made eyes, and flashed hand signals 🫰🫶 at each other as we passed on the paths, gently skirting the rules. I'd done my first meditation retreat at Wat Suan Mokkh eight years ago and had been wanting to come back to Thailand to visit their other meditation center (Dipabhavan) since. It was definitely worth it. If you're into meditation or just curious, I highly recommend.

Patrick and Courtney sitting in front of Thai dishes

pictured: green curry, massaman curry, pad thai, and mango sticky rice

We finished our time in Thailand in Phuket. More beach and pool relaxation. Courtney’s friend, Brittany, and her partner, Mike, joined us for a few days. And we took a Thai cooking class (thank you (kopkunkrap ขอบคุณครับ) to Tony's). It was a perfect way to close out this chapter of the trip.

Jin in a kayak in Halong Bay

Courtney’s dad, Jin, took a pitstop to kayak with us in Halong Bay on his way to a work trip in Taiwan

Courtney riding on a motorcycle passing another motorcyle with pigs on the back

passing motorcycles getting pigs from point A to point B

Our last stop in Asia was Vietnam. It'll be hard to pick highlights, but I'll give it a shot. Pizza 4P's in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi (it's that good). Getting hustled repeatedly in various tourist scams for coconut water, durian sticky rice, and Vietnam war history books. Listening to live K-POP covers in Hoi An. Meeting up with Courtney’s dad in Hanoi and Halong Bay. Getting a debilitating stomach bug followed by a debilitating flu. Listening to tourguides opine on the American presidential race. This random hole-in-the-wall vegetarian place in Hanoi. Really all the food. And our motorcyle tour, easyrider style (i.e. on the back with a guide), around Ha Giang in the far north of Vietnam (big thank you (cảm ơn) to Dani and The Real Ha Giang who also made us hot ginger tea when we were sick). I could go on...

We were also supposed to visit Chongming Island near Shanghai to see my friend David and his wife Xinqing, who were there visiting her family, but due to getting this season's influenza, we sadly had to bail. Someday!

Patrick's family sitting around a table eating Christmas dinner

thai food: attempt 1. just sitting down to eat, mouths watering

We spent Christmas with my family in Northern Virginia and New Year’s with Courtney’s family in the San Francisco suburbs. We tried to show off our new cooking skills: Thai food for twelve on Christmas day (we put the entire family to work helping us); Japanese food (onigiri (with tuna, wakame, mentaiko, and natto), ramen and ramune) for my cousins' kids; and a second (improved) attempt at the Thai curries for Courtney's family.

Patrick, Courtney, and Jin eating Thai food at the kitchen table

thai food: attempt 2. unprepared for the photo but thoroughly enjoying the food

Some of the highlights: We went to a Korean Spa (jjimjilbang 찜질방) on Christmas eve in a suburban strip mall in Virginia. My parents showed us their new beekeeping retirement hobby. They cooked us a big Southern breakfast with grits, country ham, and red-eye gravy on Christmas day. We exchanged gifts. We poked around some Smithsonian art museums with my cousin, Cathy. We saw old high school buddies. We ate soft serve ice cream with Courtney's fam, and we gave Mara a pup cup. We watched the NYE ball drop, sang karaoke, and went to sleep before midnight. We celebrated Courtney's birthday on New Year's Day with tteokmanduguk (rice cake dumpling soup, a new year tradition). We said 새해 복 많이 받으세요! We sat in Bay Bridge traffic while making the long trip into San Francisco to see friends. And I squeezed in a weekend Tahoe ski trip (timing it perfectly with a big snow storm).

Patrick and baby Charlie opening Christmas presents
and opening my present with Charlie, our little niece

It was really nice to be back in the US and to see family and friends. But it was also a bit tough being so close to home yet not being in our SF apartment. After all, someone else was staying there, and it wouldn't be long before we'd be back on the road again for one final destination (and unlike the movie, thankfully, no one dies). Don't worry, if you're still reading, the bad jokes won't stop...

selfie of Patrick and Courtney on the shore of the Beagle Channel

our first mini hike along the shore of the Beagle Channel (just a place named after Darwin's boat and sadly not the name of a 24-7 dog-themed YT channel)

Our first stop in Patagonia was Punta Arenas, Chile. We picked up our rental car after some difficulty with the reservation (we booked through a Canadian company, somehow, and they really dropped the ball... but the local folks who they outsourced to were super helpful... and finally we got the car).

A sign that reads FIN CAMINO viewed through a windshield

not the only "end of the road" or "end of the world" sign we saw. they were actually quite common down in those parts...

And then we drove and camped around Chilean Tierra del Fuego, hiking with guanacos in Pali Aike National Park, riding the ferry across Bahia Azul, cooking chorizo in the very windy Cerro Sombrero free municipal campsite, seeing king penguins at the Parque Pingüino Rey, grabbing lunch, gas, groceries, and cash in Porvenir, and driving to the end of the road in the Parque Natural Karukinka. On most of the gravel roads we were on, we were the only car for kilometros y kilometros, but eventually we'd pass someone else in a cloud of dust, burning through the windshield wiper fluid along the way.

Art in a jail cell in the Ushuaia Maritime and Prison Museum
arte encarcelado

Then we crossed into Argentina and drove south to Ushuaia, the "southernmost" city in the world (and learned about the contentiousness of this claim). Ushuaia was cute, but for tourists, it seemed like it's mostly a jumping off point for cruises to Antarctica. Sadly we couldn't fit that into our trip too. We did enjoy the maritime/penal/art museum housed in the old military prison, and we loved the empanadas at El Mercado.

Many horses on a trail in Patagonia

these caballos could not be bothered to even say hola as we hiked by

Soon we left the city do some camping at Camping Glamping y SPA de Montaña Kelenkeskes desde /since 2016. Mauro and his family were great hosts (that home cooked gnocchi dinner mmmmm....), and the other travelers were all kind and friendly. Mr. Polish Cyclist who biked from Santiago to Ushuaia, I'm impressed! Hiking recs: Laguna del Caminante, Glaciar Vinciguerra, and Bahia Cucharita.

Patrick, Courtney, and Jonny posing in front of Torres del Paine

the famous towers of Torres del Paine, 7th take, 2nd photographer

The next stop was Puerto Natales, Chile, a multi-day drive back north, where we met up with my younger brother, Jonny, who'd just flown in from DC. I won't say too much about hiking the W in Torres del Paine, other than to say it's an incredible hike and lives up to all the hype, but I will jot down some fun memories. Talking nerd stuff with brosef while Courtney tunes out. Getting him into backpacking. Realizing we got scammed by the site we booked through. Playing go stop and arguing about the conflicting rules we'd learned from Courtney's parents, relatives in Korea, and a creased and dirty printout from the internet. Lamb cooked on an open fire (back in Puerto Natales). Questionable sushi with tons of cream cheese the day before the hike. Leading another group of hikers astray and bushwacking our way back to the trail. Hot(-ish) showers. Fancy platform tents. Jetboils. A super-talktative Israeli and his quiet Spanish buddy. Mud. Wind. Rain. And a healthy amount of good vibes.

Courtney sitting at a Korean restaurant in Santiago

yayangmion / jjajangmyeon / 짜장면 (lots of Korean restaurants in our Santiago barrio)

Our last stop was Santiago, Chile, and we pretty much just chilled. We walked all over in the 30C heat. We went to Antigua Fuente twice (and sat in the same spot) for lomitos, doused in aji chileno (like sriracha but lime-ier) and homemade mayo. The best! We checked out Barrio Italia and got some amazing veggie food at Verde Sazón (including some more sushi with cream cheese). We went to a used book fair where I picked up some short stories by Mario Vargas Llosa. I finished reading a cognitive science book and watched some videos and read some articles about free energy, consciousness, and AI, adding more book ideas to my already impossibly long list. Nerded out. Relaxed. Ate. ¡Nos divertimos muchísimo!

Two lomito sandwhiches on a counter

the lomito sandwich: they're everywhere, they're delicious, and they're huge

Actually, on second thought, I take that back. About the pork sandwich. A pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and Carolina BBQ sauce is truly the best, but this lomito was a close number two. And Antigua Fuente does it best. Thanks Phil for the rec!

Patrick walking Mara on the beach

pre-playtime anticipation (note: even with over an hour of nonstop running and ballchasing, we still couldn't tire Mara out)

Now we've caught up to the present. We're in Santa Barbara, California. We're staying in a one-bedroom ADU in a quiet neighborhood. We've been eating and going to the beach. We celebrated Valentine's day at Loquita with Mara snoozing next to the table. And we took a walk around the UCSB campus where Courtney went to school. I finished reading Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver with Jelly Roll as topical background music, remembering childhood trips to visit my grandmother Rachel in Pearisburg in Southwest Virginia, near where the book takes place. It's a beautiful book that fights hard to bring us all closer to one another.

Patrick and Courtney with Mara in the car
♪♫ on the road again ♪♫

Next we're off to San Diego to see some friends, Patrick's and Courtney's, from in and out of town (Evan, Adriana, Katie, Brittany, Mike, Sarah, Joe, Lucas, Molly, Ari, Liz, and Mel). We'll keep doing our daily meditations and yoga too (I just picked up Yoga Anatomy, which is a great companion book for practice).

But reality is also starting to creep back in, and we'll have to start thinking about getting jobs and reentering productive society once again. For now though, for just a little while longer, we'll keep taking it easy.

And finally a return to the bay. Who knows what the future has in store? But I do know who I’ll have by my side. And I do know where I’ll be living.

To the ups and the downs and whatever comes next!