Colombia, Travel

A Californian in Huila

This is an article about a recent trip to Colombia that was featured in the regional newspaper El Diario del Huila.

Photo by Chris Rodriguez on

Growing up near San Francisco, California,
we didn’t learn much about Colombia in school. For instance, geography classes focused more on Europe and history teachers rarely mentioned (if at all) Simón Bolívar. Students who took Spanish classes mostly learned about Mexican or Spanish culture. As an adult I became aware that American’s view of Colombia was heavily influenced by pop culture. Shakira taught us that Colombian women were attractive and that their music was great for dancing. Additionally, the Netflix show Narcos told us that drugs were omnipresent. Surely, this wasn’t all true. Not every American owns a gun nor do we all eat hamburgers, so these generalizations couldn’t be accurate about Colombia. 

One day, I recently found myself on vacation in Neiva. My previous knowledge of the city and department of Huila was equal to my experience in outer space: none whatsoever. With the help of some special people I received a more genuine Colombian education. 

Even though I stood out like a sore thumb, most of the people I met in Huila were very welcoming. They also were exceedingly formal when speaking not only to me, but with each other. “Si señor” and “Como le ha ido” were phrases I heard frequently. Regardless of age or who they were, everyone was treated with respect. The only place where people weren’t polite was on the road. With motorbikes outnumbering cars, the idea of politeness didn’t exist anymore. 

Love for Huila
When speaking to locals in Neiva one thing was clear: People loved their department of Huila. They were also highly proud of their history and culture. It seemed like everyone I interacted with already knew that I was going to love being in Huila and they were right. 

Food paradise
Neiva immediately held a special place in my heart the moment I tried achiras for the first time. A fan of salty snacks, rice, and coffee, I was smitten with the cuisine in Huila. Hot chocolate, guayaba candy, lechona, tamales, and the famous Asado Huilense made my spirit feel nourished. 

Land of abundance
After spending time in Neiva I learned that both Huila and Colombia are vibrant. They offer stunning landscapes, wonderful people, and a beautiful culture that I still hardly understand. Experiencing this part of the world brought one question to mind:

When can I come back?

Asia, DACKasia2019, Travel, Travel Guide, Uncategorized

Five Ways to Get Lost in Hong Kong

A handful of moons ago, my best friend Jack and I went to China.

Well, depending on who to speak with, it wasn’t technically China. It was Hong Kong.

At its origins, Hong Kong was a sleepy fishing village. Nowadays the city is at the epicenter of world trade.

The Qing Empire ceded Hong Kong to the British Empire after the First Opium War. It would remain a British colony until 1997, when power was transferred back to China. Even with a completely contrary system of government and a fierce sentiment of independent pride, Hong Kong is classified as a “special administrative region” to mainland China.

We didn’t have an opinion about whether it was a territory, colony, or space station; we just came to explore and to eat.

We left the tranquility of island life in Bali, we were greeted with a Bali from a parallel universe.


Bali and Hong Kong share something in common: They’re engulfed in nature. Between the tropical monkey forests of Ubud or the endless coastline of Seminyak, travelers in Bali get a sense that the’ve found Valhalla. Hong Kong is no natural slouch; it consists of two hundred and sixty three islands which leave plenty of outdoors to be enjoyed.

I didn’t notice any of Hong Kong’s islands, however. I was distracted by the forest of gigantic concrete buildings, the ocean of pedestrians swimming between metro stations, and the sensation that I was a helpless spectator to an event called progress. Valhalla comes as desire for success and the constructing of buildings that race towards the sky.

Our friend Becca had a connecting flight back to the Bay Area from Hong Kong so she was able to join us for part of our stay in the city which was nice. We based ourselves in the Wan Chai district and our itinerary in Hong Kong was pieced together through many welcomed recommendations from friends.

Ozone Bar

This is the tallest rooftop bar in the world, located on the 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. During a chilly evening we ordered a beverage and contemplated the endless horizon of building lights. Ozone technically isn’t the highest bar in the world as the Ritz was built almost at sea-level, but it’s still a noteworthy place to visit. 


Kam’s Roast Goose..

Kam’s Roast Goose

Up until Hong Kong, I’d never eaten at a restaurant with a Michelin Star. This all changed when we ate lunch at Kam’s Roast Goose. What should you order here? It’s simple: succulent roast goose.  We stood for about an hour in a line that brought back horrific memories of our December visit to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. Lunch cost about $15 and was well worth the wait.


Butterflies saying “hi” in The Iron Fairies

The Iron Fairies

Sukhumvit is a lively district of Hong Kong that takes on a new face when the sun sets. Bars, clubs, and destinations for all sorts of entertainment await there. Jack, Becca, and I were looking for a place to go in Sukhumvit, and our friend offered us an incredible recommendation: The Iron Fairies. Over ten-thousand paper butterflies on copper rods dangle from the ceiling and we were welcomed with one of my favorite genres of music: Latin. I was sold.

We also planned our Hong Kong experience with spiritual guidance from our trip’s unofficial shaman:

Anthony Bourdain.

The late food icon visited Hong Kong on various occasions during the filming of his shows Parts Unknown and No Reservations. His tales of the city took us to:


Chungking Mansions

Are you looking for the cheap housing, a used iPhone, and perhaps a warm bowl of curry? In Hong Kong, there’s a place where you can find all three in one convenient location: Chungking Mansions. Built in 1961, this is a seventeen story complex that spans five city blocks. The bottom floors are all restaurants and retail places, while the higher floors are mixed between apartments, guesthouses, and inexpensive hotels. Over the progression of time Chungking Mansions has slowly become the biggest melting pot of cultures in the city. Immigrants from every continent call this place home. I felt like this was the Hong Kong version of the “American Dream” as most people there were seeking asylum, refuge, or simply a better life compared to the country from which they originated.


Leaf Dessert

One of the most savory noodle dishes that I’ve eaten (Cantonese Soup Noodles) was at Leaf Dessert, an open-air corner food stall (dai pai dong) that boasts less than seven tables. If it hadn’t been for a segment of Parts Unknown, when Bourdain and legendary cinematographer Christopher Doyle shared lunch there, we could’ve easy walked by without knowing that it existed.

According to Bourdain, one could get a true feel of a city simply by taking a seat on a plastic chair on a street corner and trying a bowl of whatever was cooking in a mysterious pot. He expressed concern that places such as Leaf Dessert were in danger of extinction in Hong Kong, due the unceasing desire for change and new regulations.




After hopping between trains with our Octopus passes for three days, Jack and I said farewell.

It’s difficult to say whether I understand anything about Hong Kong but it’s easy to appreciate its visual grandeur and energy.

We’d only scratched the surface of a city with it’s own entangled history and eight million stories.

As quickly as we arrived, we soon found ourselves going onward and northbound to mainland China…




Thanks for reading this blog!

If you have any questions or want ideas for a trip to Hong Kong feel free to contact me.

Have a wonderful day and take care,


Life, Travel, Travel Guide

Searching for Elephants and Buddhas

(Excerpts from Chiang Mai & Bagan)

Once upon a time,

Jack and I finished a month-long journey through Vietnam.

We came back to Hanoi in a mosquito-infested bus from Ninh Binh. During our final Bai Hoi session we toasted to give thanks for all the fantastic memories and delicious banh mi’s.

The very next morning we were gone, but not far.

Minutes after reaching cruising altitude, our flight began its descent towards a country that wasn’t a complete stranger: Thailand.

Just when Jack and I thought that our time in Thailand was over, we somehow found ourselves in Chiang Mai.

Located in the north, we decided to forego the countries’ fourth largest city (175 thousand people) until after Vietnam.

Quite far from Bangkok, and only an hour and some change outside of Hanoi (flying), it made logistical sense to visit during this leg during our trip.

We were missing Pad Thai, cheap juice, and generally friendly people, but more importantly we were coming back for something else:


An iconic Thai symbol is the elephant, which can be seen on murals, as statues, as shrines, and even tattoo’d on people’s bodies. In many parts of the world this sacred animal is unfortunately a victim of exploitation and subject to harsh treatment by shady tour companies and circuses. Fortunately, in Thai provinces such as Krabi and Chiang Mai, a new industry has taken root: Elephant sanctuaries. Thanks to sanctuaries, elephants which have been rescued from lives of abuse are able to return to an almost-natural habitat. Jack and I paid for a tour of one of these places, and in doing so we got to feed and bath a group of elephants over the course of a day. This was high on our bucket-list, and we highly recommend Elephant Jungle Sanctuary to anyone looking to have the same experience.

Muay Thai:

Various friends from back home recommended that we attend a Thai boxing match. Muay Thai is known to many as “The Art of Eight Limbs” and is similar to kickboxing but its roots come from Thailand. During our last weekend in the country we happened to coincide with a tournament taking place at the Chiangmai Boxing Stadium. We discovered that these tournaments happen three times a week, so the crowd was sparse but we could still feel the energy behind each match. Each fight was preceded by a spiritual ritual called the wai ku, and usually the competitor who appeared the most exuberant and devout ended up winning.

Night Markets:

Sunday Market in Chiang Mai

Thailand, along with most countries in the region, shows it’s finest colors after the sun disappears. Chiang Mai is no exception. On Sundays, Pae Street of the Old Quarter blocks motor traffic and replaces it with endless rows of art stalls, craft hawkers, and food booths. Our “window shopping” ended with us caving on some new clothes, herbal oils for bug bites, and a few delicious snacks for the road. A surefire way to indulge the senses is to take a stroll in one of these markets. Some necessary bites to try there are curry noodle soup and mango sticky rice.

North Gate Jazz Co-Op (The Best Nightlife in Chiang Mai)


Sunrise in Bagan

After three nights in Chiang Mai, we left Thailand for probably the last time and hopped a flight to Yangon, Myanmar. Formerly called Burma and previously the countries’ capital, we arrived into Yangon during a sweltering Monday afternoon. This wasn’t our final stop and we hauled our backpacks to the domestic terminal under a shadeless sky. We trotted next to the freeway as motivated taxi’s reduced speed and honked to solicit rides but by the time they caught our attention we were already hiking up to the check-in pavilion.

One hour from Chiang Mai and about two from Yangon, Bagan is the primary tourist attraction for the country that’s seen its international image deteriorate in recent years. Bagan is part of the Mandalay Region of the country, and for four hundred years (9th-14th century) was the capital of the once mighty Pagan Kingdom. At one point over ten thousand Buddhist temples, pagodas, and religious structures were erected throughout the city. It’s hard to call modern-day Bagan a city. It’s more like a town that’s been taken over in vegetation and trapped inside a sea of relics from its rich history. Currently, around two thousand ancient buildings have survived the evolution of time.

We didn’t see the tension and solemnness that’s been encircling the countries’ national issues. What we did see, however, was a place that sparks curiosity. The locals we encountered were friendly, outgoing, and openly interested in knowing why we visited their country. Some people even stared at us like we were Matt Damon, perhaps in part because they hadn’t laid eyes on a westerner before. We also learned that the food here is incredible, cheap, and there even exists a booming vegetarian foodie scene.

Sitting along the banks of the Irrawaddy River, it’s broken down to two districts: Old Bagan and New Bagan. What makes Bagan so interesting is that both districts are already inside the “Bagan Archaeological Zone”. Stepping outside our hostel, looming pagodas were already within eyesight. No one’s allowed to climb any of the buildings, however most are open for entry. The usual sight once inside a pagoda be at least one shrine dedicated to Buddha, and sometimes a stray dog or bat.

Normal motorbikes aren’t permitted for foreigners, so we rented electronic bikes and wandered in every direction. The wind was fierce at times during our stay, and many roads were more like hungry patches of quicksand. Echos from Angkor Wat followed us and youngsters on motorbikes relentlessly hovered around us, advertising “secret” sunrise viewing points. We ended up trusting a guy named Bagan Rapper, a self-proclaimed artist with no desire for money of course. He guided us to a pagoda with open access to a rooftop to see the sunrise. This was maybe one of the better sunrises that I’d seen before and he refused a tip until we declined an invitation to look at his artwork.

Our stay in Bagan was short-lived, and in three days after unpacking our belongings we started the moving process again by boarded a night bus destined for Yangon. Three nights is hardly enough time to experience a cultural hub like Bagan, let alone an entire country like Myanmar. We came to count Buddha statues, for the sunrises and sunsets, and for the sense of accomplishment after navigating between palm trees.

Perhaps the best lime and mint juice in a while.

By the time you reach this sentence, Jack and I will already be far away from Yangon.

Right now we’re a few thousand feet in the air, in an airplane that just took off from Beijing.

Have you been to Myanmar or Chiang Mai? How was your experience?

Thanks for reading this blog, have a great day and talk soon 🙂

-Daniel Catena

Guides, Travel, Travel Guide, Travel Tips

Playing Fair in Cambodia

Angkor Wat sunrise.

Once upon a time, in a part of the world fairly far far away, my best friend Jack and I landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

By once upon a time, I mean last Saturday. 

A 6am flight from Phuket, Thailand landed at the Siem Reap International Airport at 7:25am. If you’re a United States citizen, a trip to Cambodia is straightforward. Upon arrival, Jack and I each paid $30 for a thirty-day tourist visa. We each needed to provide a passport sized photo, which we had already brought from the US, and completed an application. Within half an hour the immigration official stamped our passports and we were granted permission to enjoy Cambodia. 

Why did we go there?

The first reason why we opted to spend four days in this Southeast Asian country was simple. Cambodia is sandwiched between two neighbors that were very high on our list of destinations: Thailand and Vietnam. Continuing east from Thailand, it was sensible for us to dedicate a few days to discover another country before visiting Vietnam. The second reason why we stayed in Cambodia was thanks to numerous positive accounts in regard to the temples of Angkor Wat. Stepping foot in Angkor Wat was an important personal goal for this journey, so a stopover didn’t require much debating. 

About to see some Wats.

Angkor Wat (Capital Temple) is the most iconic temple in what is a massive complex of temples (Angkor Thom) constructed in the 12th century in Siem Reap, by Khmer King Suryavarman II. The Khmer Empire was the predecessor state of what is currently Cambodia. They were originally Hindu, however over the course of hundreds of years they converted to Buddhism. Their empire ruled in this region of Asia for over six hundred years. Angkor Wat was built to be a dedication to Vishnu, the Hindu God, and serves as a proud modern-day symbol for Cambodians. I’m not really a historian nor do I have the capacity to remember such facts; all of this data has been gathered with the wonderful help of Wikipedia. One of the temples in Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, was used as a set in the original “Tomb Raider” film, starring Angelina Jolie. 

Walking through Bayon Temple.
Bayon Temple.

Ok, so back to the story. Jack and I arrived early on Saturday and we had to wait about six hours before being able to officially check-in to our hostel called Lub D. The price here was very affordable, and the hostel came equipped with a pool, bar, cafe, and a friendly team of staff members. 

We didn’t come to Siem Reap to do anything except visit Angkor Wat, so once we got settled we learned a few necessary details: The best (and most affordable) way to visit Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom is to hire a personal tuk-tuk driver and have him or her transport you between temples. We also learned that a single day Angkor Pass costs $37 and that the majority of visitors start their experience by witnessing Angkor Wat at sunrise or at sunset. We discovered that the city of Siem Reap is a car trip away from Angkor Wat, about twenty minutes in a rural zone of the region. 

Angkor Wat likes to reflect on itself sometimes.

A girl at our hostel referred us to a driver named Peng, an independent tuk-tuk driver who runs an enterprise by driving tourists around the famed temples. Based on our previous experiences with tuk-tuk’s and taxi’s in general in Thailand, I felt slightly unsure about trusting a stranger to drive around and wait for us as we explored the ruins. Peng ended up being a wonderful guy, with above average English, who was willing to drive us between the various sites and wait while Jack and I took in the visual flavors of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. In the end, we spent ten hours walking through various temples. Eventually, the heavy heat from the sun left us completely gassed by 3pm. It’s hard to describe Angkor Wat other than it’s an experience that is hard to match. If you’re thinking of going to Angkor Wat, definitely come prepared with sunscreen, a hat, and decent walking shoes. Absolutely consider hiring a personal tuk-tuk driver, then check out Peng’s Facebook page. The sunrise was spectacular and it’s worth waking up at 4am. 

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

In total, Jack and I stayed two nights in Siem Reap, as well as two in the countries’ capital of Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh is a medium sized city with heavy motorbike traffic, a beautiful waterfront that hugs along the Ton Le Sap river, and a handful of interesting landmarks such as the Royal Palace. Phnom Penh was purely just a layover for Jack and me. We stayed two nights at a hostel called Mad Monkey and the consensus among the fellow backpackers we encountered was same: Phnom Penh is an interesting city, however, it’s best served as a quick stopover before going to Vietnam or Siem Reap. 

I can’t say much about Cambodia, as our stay in the country lasted exactly four days. Four days in an entire country is insufficient; it simply wasn’t a high priority destination for us, so we kept it short. What I can say, despite this, is that Cambodia has left a lasting positive impression on me. Between our friend Peng, to the hostel staff, to even just random people on the street, it was evident that Cambodians are kind people. They are generous, polite, and proud of their country. The food was fantastic. We tried some incredible curry, beef lok lak, among other dishes. Compared to Thailand, it was clear that Cambodia’s tourism industry wasn’t as polished, nor was it accustomed to many foreigners. We weren’t treated like walking moneybags, at least that’s how it felt. The Cambodians we encountered seemed very grateful for our visit and business. The only place in Thailand where I left with a similar feeling was in Krabi, and for this reason it became our favorite stomping ground in that country. 

Some delicious spring rolls with beef lok lak in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia, for all the beauty that we witnessed, also has a somber side. It’s classified as a third-world nation, and it was apparent in all the homeless families we saw while driving in Peng’s tuk-tuk. More than once, we were approached by young children to either buy a pack of postcards or simply just give a dollar. Even security guards at Angkor Wat expected tips for any minute piece of information that they offered. We were told to avoid giving anyone money, especially children, as these kids are often being exploited by others who weren’t always their parents. It was a sobering reality that there exists a completely different world from what Jack and I are used to. Cambodia is developing, but we saw that there’s a still deep gap between those who live stable lives, those who struggle on a daily basis, and those who are in a near hopeless set of circumstances. 

At 6am, at the gates of Angkor Wat and before the ever-so-popular sunrise above the temples, two nine-year-old kids tried to cajole us into buying some postcards. Jack needed postcards and bought ten for one dollar, but I initially refused and tried to ignore them. The first kid ran off with her score, while the other started to pout at me in broken English: “Be fair, be fair.” This was all part of the game they were playing, but who was I to deny a Cambodian child of a dollar, which to me had very little value but to her probably so much more? I played fair, gave her a dollar, and let her keep the postcards. I don’t know if this donation helped anyone, but it made me grateful to have grown up with a loving family and in a first world country. Sometimes you feel helpless in a situation that’s greater than yourself, and this was one of those instances. 

A tuk-tuk commute in Phnom Penh.

Despite seeing the both good and not-so-good, Cambodia is filled with history, delightful people, and is ideal for anyone looking for adventure. 

Have you been to Cambodia before? Comment below, I’d love to hear about it!

Also, if you have any questions about specific restaurants, cafés, or general information about our time in Cambodia, feel free to message me any time. 🙂

Have a nice day, thank you for reading, you’re a great human being. 

More updates about Jack’s and my trip are coming in the not so far away future. 

Asia, DACKasia2019, Guides, Travel, Travel Guide

To Live and Die in Surat Thani

One week ago my best friend Jack and I were using the Grab app to go between places in Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok. 

Today we find ourselves on a rain-soaked tropical island that’s been described as a destination for “hedonistic hippies”, also known as Kho Pha Ngan. Traveler’s don’t have access to Grab in this part of the country and the taxi’s are too opportunistic. Rather, we’ve chosen the preferred method of transportation for Thai locals and the vast majority of visitors: motorbikes. 

Without a visible speed limit and caravans of bikers in swimwear blazing back and forth on roads that are not always paved, Kho Pha Ngan gives me nostalgia from watching the movie Mad Max. The only difference would be that instead of a desert landscape we’re cruising through a lushly vegetated coastline with photogenic sunsets and coconuts. 

Alongside our good friend Eric, who hopped a flight from the capital, we’ve been riding around Kho Pha Ngan in search of the meaning of island life. 

Kho Pha Ngan sunrise

Before going into further detail about our current whereabouts, it’s necessary to mention a few things in regard to where Jack and I just were: Koh Tao. 

Koh Tao, Kho Pha Ngan, and Koh Samui are three medium sized islands that sit along the Gulf of Thailand, and belong to the Surat Thani Province of the country. This is basically the Deep South of Thailand, and a few skips away one can find themselves in Indonesia. Six hours via bus and two more via ferry, Jack and I left the vastly illuminated Bangkok and checked into the Bed and Ink Hostel, which is situated in the backpacker neighborhood of Koh Tao. A handful of travel websites call this destination “The Death Island” because a few tourists disappeared a couple years back and the cases remain unsolved. This isn’t a fair nickname because Koh Tao surprisingly receives over three hundred thousand tourists a year, and hardly anyone has a bad experience. 

Fortunately, we saw no signs of suspicious activity during our two nights on Koh Tao. What we did see, however, was an island that valued its beauty sleep. On both nights of our stay we tried to explore the nightlife of the island, only to become aware that many visitors were either staying in a resort or waking up early the next day to take a snorkeling tour or get scuba certified. Because scuba diving is such an essential industry for the island, most businesses seemed to be respecting the need for an early night. Koh Tao, as we discovered, is recognized around the planet for its wealth of scuba certification schools and picturesque habitats for viewing sea life. 

Ko Nang Yuan

We did go snorkeling around Sairee Beach, where we navigated around small pockets of coral and some schools of fish. We learned our first valuable lesson of the trip on this beach: never trust the word of a longboat taxi driver. We got quoted a price to get driven via water taxi to a nearby island called Ko Nang Yuan then back to the port where our hostel was located. The views were beautiful, but upon docking at Ko Nang Yuan, our driver said that we needed to pay more baht for the return trip. He lied, saying that the original price wasn’t for the entire ride, just to this point. We’d been swindled, but there didn’t exist another alternative other than haggle a second deal. It was either give him more baht, or stay stranded on the island. 

Mae Haad Pier (Koh Tao)

Despite this small negative encounter, we had a very positive experience in Koh Tao. I should once again say that all the people here are friendly, and despite the language barrier, we’ve managed to communicate. I’ve already accepted the fact that Thai is too challenging of a language to merely pick-up and that even “hello” or “thank you” are completely over my head. Luckily, if I use poor grammar in the simple present tense (I want americano, I use credit card, I no have money), people generally understand what I’m trying to say. 

Kho Pha Ngan offers a more mixed bag of entertainment for visitors. Besides a developing scuba scene, there are numerous yoga retreats, meditation centers, and also monthly Full Moon Parties which attract thousands of young people. The Full Moon Parties draw substantial numbers of backpackers and tourists looking for different experiences, which gives this island a reputation for debauchery. Jack, Eric, and myself are grown-ups and responsible humans. This being said, we all share a similar curiosity to see what takes place during a Full Moon Party, so we’ve made this the primary reason for our stay on the island. 

The party itself is tomorrow, so in the meantime we’ve dedicated the past few days to discovering where to get the next delicious Massasman Curry and some of the nightlife. We’ve hit an unlucky streak in terms of weather, as each afternoon has been soggy with rain. During the one day when the sky was clear, we put our trust in another scheming water-taxi. This instance, along the shore of Haad Rin, we paid for a roundtrip voyage to a difficult to reach yoga retreat because we wanted to try out a class. After finishing we backtracked to the pickup point to get taxi’d back to Haad Rin, but this time the driver claimed that we never paid and then demanded a higher fare. Long story short, we found another taxi to take us back. The only downside was that it was at night. 

With angry ocean swells in the nearly perfect darkness of a Tuesday evening, a small group of Russian tourists and ourselves instilled our faith in a Thai water-taxi driver to take us to Haan Rin. He kept yelling, “No worry, no worry!” and “No butterflies!” which in turn made me pretty worried and sick to my stomach. His poise told me that he was an experienced captain, and we made it to the other shore without any problems, however there were a few moments when I said a prayer to Mother Nature, Poseidon, and Nemo to please get us back in one piece. The waves weren’t friendly, and I shook the man’s hand as we jumped off the boat and onto the glorious beach. I don’t think our lives were really in too much danger, but it was enough to make me want to be a better person going forward. 

I can’t tell you much more about Kho Pha Ngan because the party hasn’t happened yet, but more updates are coming in the near future. 

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a great day!

Ko Nang Yuan
Travel, Travel Guide, Travel Tips, Uncategorized

Essential Tools for Solo Travelers


It could take the form of diving face first into an ocean of a far off place, or even plunging into the next paragraph of a really interesting book.

Whichever way and whatever the medium, traveling gives us all something: a sensation of freedom, creativity, curiosity, and ultimately enjoyment. It’s a joy of life that generally brings people together, no matter their background, race, or political views.

In recent years I’ve given chase to that feeling that traveling emanates. I feel safe to say that traveling and me go together like cheese on pizza. With so many toppings to choose from, creating the perfect traveling pie depends purely on personal preferences and comfort levels. One example is traveling with friends, another is with family, and a less popular option for many people is traveling alone. I feel fortunate to say that I’ve tried all three, and all three leave me in a food coma of happiness.

This being said, one of my personal favorite recipes for traveling is booking a flight somewhere and going by myself. I love traveling with friends and family, but going alone has a distinct allure, mainly because I used to feel that it was an unfathomable act. There was a time in the past when the concept of going to a new place without another person sounded crazy, awkward, and completely horrifying.

Over the course of many trials and some errors, I learned that there exist tons of resources to help you actually not be solo while you’re traveling. There are tools to connect with other travelers and locals.

Here is a list of essential resources for solo travelers to help them not feel like they’re alone. What’s even better about this list is that most of what’s mentioned isn’t exclusive to those who are solo; it can be applied by groups of any size. I hope you find them useful for your next wandering in some far-off or not-so-far destination.   


I’m going to start with perhaps the best resource in the world (in my opinion) that exists for connecting with travelers, locals, and just overall minds with a passion for wandering. It’s pretty easy. You create a profile like Facebook, then afterward you can find other travelers or people who are from a place that you’re about to or currently visiting. I’ve used Couchsurfing for many language exchanges, to grab a coffee or beer, to crash in someone’s living room, and ultimately to make some amazing friendships. You can find group events as well. You can use this anywhere in the world, even in your hometown. Couchsurfing is my go-to whenever I’m checking out a different town or city and don’t already have friends there.


Michael Prewett

Next the Couchsurfing, Meetup is also a crucial tool to find groups of people who share a similar interest as yourself. I like to open up Meetup’s app or webpage to browse in cities where I’ll be visiting to see if any fun group gatherings are happening. Major swaths of cities around the globe have at least a handful of different events taking place through Meetup. As you read this post, individuals who enjoy languages, drinking beer, running and then drinking beer, dancing, hiking, reading, (you name it) are creating a Meetup that revolves around these hobbies. Looking for tea drinkers in Toulouse, coders in Chattanooga, or snake charmers in Slovakia? I’m sure there’s a Meetup for it. It can be a safer way of connecting with locals or travelers because the focus is on activities with larger quantities of people, rather than one-on-one.


The Flying Pig Hostel in Amsterdam…
The first hostel I ever stayed in back in 2009.
photo courtesy of

Are you looking for a place to stay that isn’t super expensive (hotels) and isn’t potentially a person’s couch or futon (Couchsurfing)? Are you visiting a new city and have zero contacts? Hostelworld is a prime way to stay somewhere with a budget, while also connecting with other travelers. Hostels have a bad reputation from movies (Hostel) but some of my best friends in this world were people I met in hostels. The most important thing is to think about what kind of environment you’re into and to of course do some research. is a search engine for hostels. All you need to do is type a city, the date of arrival, and how many people who are traveling. It’s pretty simple and depending on the city, you’ll likely be presented with a slew of choices for a place to crash. As stated before: do some research; some are indeed sketchy or of subpar quality. This being said, the majority do an excellent job. On this site, people can leave reviews about cleanliness, safety, location, etc.


Airbnb is starting to make a power grab against Meetup and Couchsurfing because this site now offers “experiences” for travelers to try interesting activities while they’re on holiday in a new place. I find this to be interesting, however I haven’t partaken in any such events. Unlike Meetup which is either free or cheap, or Couchsurfing which is free, the experiences with Airbnb can sometimes be overpriced. Taking this into consideration, it’s still a fun opportunity to meet fellow travelers. On occasion, one can strike gold and stay in a house or apartment building with a really cool host and or their family/roommates.


Volunteering for IVHQ with some great folks in Bogotá, circa August 2012.

Why not go abroad, help others in need, and also make some lifelong friends? Volunteering can be the just the ticket if you’re looking for a way to experience a foreign place but don’t feel comfortable going there alone. There exist options in the form of work exchange, where you trade in a few hours a day working in order to receive meals and accommodation. Websites such as HelpXWorkaway, and Wwoofing are useful, however, one must do their research in order to find a fitting host. I like these sites because the work opportunities span all across the spectrum from teaching English, hostel reception, childcare, social media management, etc. Instead of “trading time” one can also do a paid volunteer project with various NGO’s or non-profits around the world. Deciding on a platform to do this can be a tedious task, but one organization that I’ve tried and have confided in is International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ).

Runner-Up: Facebook Groups

In my opinion, Facebook has a lot of pros and cons nowadays. One major benefit that it offers is the opportunity to join groups based on your location and interests (just like Meetup). One thing I like to do is type in a search for one of my hobbies or some tag word and connect it to a city or country that I’ll potentially be visiting. For example: “Expats in San Francisco” yields a handful of groups that usually post invitations to events, happy hours, or random get-togethers between members. It’s like having access to countless digital bulletin boards. I’ve listed this as a runner-up because out of personal preference I enjoy using the previous tools mentioned above even though I can’t deny Facebook’s validity as a resource.

Second Runner-Up: Tinder

Wiktor Karkocha

Back a couple of hours ago when I started writing this post, I never expected to mention Tinder.

Boy, did things escalate…

Tinder doesn’t always have to be about hooking up or dating right? If there’s no one to meet up with on Couchsurfing, or a Meetup, or a hostel, then potentially Tinder could be a way to make friends in a new city or country.

This option is kind of meant to be a joke; I just felt like throwing it out there. In fact, the more I think about it, there probably exists options of way higher regard than Tinder, but this just proves that my mind is in the gutter…sorry Mom & Dad.

The key here, like every other tool I’ve mentioned, is to know yourself and what exactly you’re looking for.  It’s also necessary to be honest with yourself and whoever you end up meeting. Finally, be smart and never put your safety at risk.


Thank you for reading this blog! Sorry for the massive delay between posts, sometimes life gets in the way or we put off doing things we enjoy 🙂


Ideas, Life, Short Story, Spain, story, Travel

Redemption in Alicante

Author’s note: This might have happened sometime a handful of years ago.



Shades of violet began to spill upward into the sky.

Rowed fields with the occasional farmhouse emerging out of nowhere became visible.

On this ALSA passenger bus it was too early in the morning to hold a conversation with strangers, but not early enough to feel bursts of frustration and personal disappointment. At this Lordly hour the only people I could imagine on the interstate between Murcia and Alicante were factory employees, contraband smugglers, and suckers late for an airplane.

As the sun started to make its morning cameo, a flash from two weeks ago came into memory.

The flight-booking website Skyscanner had an amazing deal from Alicante to London via Ryanair.

This deal was so good it was evil, so evil that I hastily purchased a roundtrip flight.

It was such a steal that I didn’t bother to see what time the flight left or to check ALSA’s bus schedule between Murcia, the city where I was living, and Alicante.

I told myself that everything would iron itself out in due time.

Fast forward to right now. The bus was on time but also it was becoming clear that I’d miss the plane. A combination of not packing the night before and a lack of hourly buses between the two cities had me in this undesired state of affairs.

I forcefully shut my eyes and tried to think of anything to distract my conscious from admitting that this outing was looking more like a day trip to Alicante than a weekend in London.

Bald eagles, vanilla ice-cream, Selena Gomez.

Nothing seemed to work, however opening my eyelids the flickers of sun reflecting off the vivid blue of approaching sea meant that we were close. In the distance, a solid streak of teal began to take shape, as if sneaking up on the rows of farmland and within minutes the blue took over the landscape. The tension inside my mind began to alleviate as we finally entered Alicante and eventually halted at loading bay of the cities’ bus station.

Hope wasn’t lost. There was still a tiny window of time to get to the airport.

Step one: Get to Alicante. Done.

Step two: Catch the shuttle that stops in front of the station and take it to the airport. In progress…

Clutching the black canvas straps of my backpack with determination I exited the ALSA bus and ferociously power-walked towards the street. I could feel a temporary gust of air as the glass doors of the station glided open and I hooked a hard right then one more at the intersection.

The outside was so bright that I had to rub the drowsiness out of my eyelids in order to focus on the bulky four-wheeled object directing itself towards me. This was the bus stop for the airport, and I was the only person standing on the corner.

I looked up victoriously, assuming that the mere presence of a human being standing vertically in the designated zone was enough to make the driver put on the brakes, open the swinging door, and invite the haggard looking traveler onboard.

It wasn’t.

The shuttle didn’t stop. It didn’t even slow down. It simply accelerated by me.

I turned my head to watch it disappear past a park with ficus trees and out of my life.

I don’t know why I didn’t raise my hand as it arrived to signal it to stop, nor why I didn’t make chase. I just let it go. It could have been that the Skyscanner deal was simply too good to put much effort into catching that shuttle, or maybe I knew that this would one day inspire me to write a blog post about it.

Either way, it was gone and the plan was ruined.

Standing on an empty street corner in Alicante with a backpack zipped full underwear and a couple shirts, I was hoping a bird would land by me to not feel completely alone.

If life at that moment was an arcade game, I felt like a guy with no tokens.

I didn’t worry about catching the next bus to Murcia, as I now had all the time in the world. I now needed food and coffee. Not knowing where the nearest sandwich or pastry shop was located, I simply took a defeated turn onto a random street.

The hunger became stronger, and for some reason not a single cafe was in site. A couple more blocks down the street and the only familiar view was San Juan beach and some distant seagulls as they flapped above. Through desperate eyes, I finally discovered signs of life.

A market.

Undernourished and under caffeinated I stumbled towards the entry and the whites of my eyes expanded as I gazed at what could have been a mirage.


Row upon row of small, vibrantly orange mandarines grouped in plastic crates right outside the market’s door. If I had the energy to count I would’ve guessed that there were hundreds just sitting there, waiting to be eaten. They looked so good that maybe they weren’t real; they could’ve been just for display and actually made of plastic.

I didn’t grab one, I grabbed four. I handed over a couple euros to the man behind the counter and walked out with my first meal of the day and a small bottle of water.

Citrus burst into my palate as I devoured the first one like a baby who hadn’t learned to chew. The skin peeled off in one piece. The next one had the perfect combination of sweetness and acidity.

The third mandarine was so easy to peel and tear off small pieces of it into my mouth that I almost got upset. At that moment I knew that I’d never again find a mandarine as delicious as the ones that were in my hands.

Scanning the blueness overhead, there was probably a plane somewhere in the infinite sky that had a vacant seat on it, but at this moment it didn’t matter anymore.

Brilliant sparkles of whiteness mirrored off the sea,

as I patiently undressed the last mandarine.

This one had a different flavor from the others…

…It tasted like redemption.

Mexico, Puebla, Travel, Travel Guide, Travel Tips

Six Reasons to Wander in Puebla, Mexico

A little over six weeks ago I found myself far away from home in Puebla de  Zaragoza, Mexico.

The journey was fairly straightforward: a direct flight from San Francisco to Mexico City, followed by a comfortable Estrella Roja charter bus to my final destination.

In fact, I didn’t even have to leave the airport in Mexico City. I merely walked to the baggage claim, tightened the straps of my backpack, and wandered down a few escalators towards a sign that read “autobuses.”

Thirty minutes into the bus ride was when the sun decided to disappear beneath the hills of Mexican earth.

I harbored an abundance of fears about doing a trip to Mexico alone, but at the same time, I knew it was something that I wanted to prove to myself.

A wave of doubt about my decision to come here swelled immediately upon exiting the Estrella Roja bus at 11pm.

I’d need to find Hostal Leonara, and since I only had a random address scribbled onto a piece of paper and no available WIFI I was a little nervous. I didn’t know where in the city this bus station was situated, nor how far away I’d need to travel in order to check-in to the hostal.

Exiting the bus I was guided to a taxi ticket kiosk, and from there all my worries started to alleviate.

Behind the glass, a station employee casually asked me where I needed to go. Exhaling, I read off the address that I had written on the piece of paper. He quoted from his computer a price for a taxi, I accepted without knowing if I had just ripped myself off, and minutes later a white sedan pulled up with the guy in the window telling me to hop in.

With no idea about navigating through this new city and new country, I put my faith in this person to get me to Hostal Leonora.

Inside something told me that this wasn’t a wrong choice, and in the end, my intuition was right.

Jesus, my driver, was really friendly and gave me some rough ideas of things to see in Puebla. Before midnight I was already settled and ready to see what this city had to offer.

My trip in total was going to last eight days. The original plan in my mind was to see Puebla for three or four nights, then return to the capital and explore Mexico City before flying back to the US.

In the end, the only site in Mexico City that I visited was its airport.

Puebla surprised me in many ways, partly in thanks to my lack of researching, but also because of many other reasons. I ended up staying the entire length of my vacation in Puebla and in some of its neighboring towns. Despite wanting to also see Mexico City, my intuition was again telling me that it was the right decision.

I feel really happy with the experience there and the list you’re about to read is why I think you should add Puebla to your list of future travel destinations.

The Cities’ History:

The very first thing that struck me as interesting about the city of Puebla was its origins. During the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1531, a bishop named Julián Garcés claimed to have visions of angels coming from the heavens, pointing to a piece of fertile land to lay the foundation to a city that would be considered at the time to be “Utopia.” Built on an expansive network of gridded cobblestone streets, Puebla for this reason originally donned the name “Puebla de Los Angéles.” Fast forward to 1816, after Mexico’s eventual independence from Spain, Puebla would be the setting for one of the most important events in the countries’ history. An outnumbered Mexican army defeated a powerful invading French force, halting an attempt by Napoleon III to expand his empire. The French were considered the most powerful empire on Earth at the time, and this defeat not only led to their retreat from Mexico, but it led to their empire’s eventual decline. The celebration of this historic victory is held on the 5th of May each year (Cinco de Mayo).

Mole Poblano:


I came to Puebla to eat as much as humanly possible, and one item that danced with my taste buds was Mole Poblano. This is a sauce that has multiple variations throughout Mexico. In Puebla, there are twenty ingredients used, most notably chocolate. I tried a plate of oven roasted chicken topped with a dense, rich Mole and needless to say I was smitten. If you add some other typical Puebla dishes into the mix such as chilaquiles, tacos árabes, pozoles,  and cemitas and you’ll find yourself in dietary zen.











The agave plant is famous for being fermented to create delicious tequila and mezcal. However, by fermenting the sap of this plant that’s native to Mexico, a milk-colored beverage called Pulque can be created. Its flavor is slightly sour, but many places where you can try this alcoholic beverage (pulquerías) offer assortments that come blended with different kinds of fruit to alter the flavor. The Aztecs considered this to be the “drink of the gods” and even though it didn’t originate in Puebla, I got to try it for the first time in a town that’s a short bus ride away from the city center: Cholula.





I didn’t know what a “Pueblo Magíco  was until taking a bus ride to nearby Cholula. A “Pueblo Magíco” is a Mexican town that has managed to preserve its unique culture, or at the very least maintains a strong fixture of its lengthy past. In total the country offers 111 options for travelers to embrace the vibrant history of Mexico, and Cholula happened to me my first.  The claims to fame for Cholula are its 365 churches, fun nightlife, bohemian vibes, and great pyramid that sits in the town’s epicenter. Even though in modern times this pyramid now shares the appearance of a massive grassy hill with a yellow-painted Spanish church constructed upon its summit, it used to be a mythical center before the arrival of the Spanish. I spent a rain drizzled afternoon drinking Pulque here and then returned for a night of dancing with some great people who offered to show me around.

Los Murales de Xanenetla







There’s a neighborhood in Puebla that has an embattled past. Built in 1551, it’s famous for three things: It was one of Puebla’s original neighborhoods, it also was for decades one of the cities’ most dangerous to live (in the 1990’s) , and nowadays people say that Xanenetla is in its own way an open-air gallery of art. After years of crime, gangs, and delinquency, Xanenetla slowly found itself as the staging ground of a monumental citywide rescue to prevent this historic neighborhood from falling into irresolvable insecurity. A nationwide project entitled “Mural City” was created by an organization called Colectivo Tomate (Tomato Collective) as an effort to use the act of painting murals on faded walls of buildings of troubled neighborhoods in Mexico as a medium to create bonds between artists and communities. Xanetetla was included in this effort, and since then there has been a growing sense of community in the neighborhood, making it the most unique, vibrant, and visually stimulating in the city of Puebla. 75 murals can be found in Xanenetla; each paint the history of Puebla, its struggles, social issues, and elements of pride. The neighborhood slowly became a destination for tourists and has over time erased the dangerous reputation that is once carried on its shoulders.

The People:

There’s a lot more I could say about Puebla, however I feel that this post is starting to get too long. There are more interesting buildings, corners, and sites to discover in this wonderful city so if you ever want to know more then feel free to ask me! I also feel that only the surfaced was scratched here, so hopefully one day a second visit will be able to happen in the not so distant future. This experience wouldn’t have been complete without the generous help of some very special people who took time to help me out, show me around, and give me a truly great tour of their home city. I feel grateful for all the help that Fred, Caro, Alberto, Sol, Edison, Aldo, Jasmine, and Nayeli offered me. I wouldn’t have met these people without the help of Couchsurfing.

Have you been to Mexico? Where are some places you’d recommend? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading my blog, have a great day!


Advice, Europe, Germany, Travel, Travel Guide

Thirty Hours in Bonn, Germany

On Sunday my good friend Lieven and I found ourselves in Bonn, Germany.

This wasn’t by some random coincidence.

I had been catching up with Lieven and his family in Ghent, Belgium and we decided to pay another close friend a visit.

Lucia, a former roommate in Murcia, had recently moved to Bonn and invited us to come and check out the city that she now calls home.

We both had time off from work, neither one of us had ever been to Bonn before, and Lucia was one of our best friends. This combination made booking a train ticket to see her very easy.

Despite living in a completely separate country, it only took roughly four hours to arrive to Bonn from Ghent by train.

Ghent to Brussels, Brussels to Cologne, Cologne to Bonn, train station to Münsterplatz.

By eleven in the morning on Sunday we had reached our destination and were already enjoying a sunny morning breakfast in Münsterplatz, one of Bonn’s centrally located plazas. With a Berliner pastry in my hand and views of a Ludwik Van Beethoven statue in front of us, we had about thirty hours to enjoy this western German city.

Time was of an essence, and Lucia made a suggestion that sounded perfect:

“Do you guys want to go and rent some bicycles?”

We were experiencing some nice weather, so renting a bike to tour around her city sounded pretty great.

Immediately after paying an affordable rental price (10 euros for the day), it became clear that Bonn was a city meant for cyclists. At all corners one could find a lone or pack of bikes parked in front of houses, cafes, and scattered all about on fences.

Bonn’s claim to fame is that it was once the capital of West Germany, as a result of the country being separated at the climax of World War II. Ludwik Van Beethoven was born there in 1770, the delicious candy company known as Haribo was founded there in 1920, and the University of Bonn provides a eternally youthful presence. Cologne is 15 miles away, and the wide flowing Rhine River dissects the city in two.

We followed a bike path along the Rhine, towards a district of Bonn called Bad Godesderg to check out a food-truck event that was taking place. All along the way we found ourselves passing scores of joggers, walkers, rollerbladers, and of course many over cyclists.

Lucia told us that the winters there were long, so it appeared that any trace of fair weather brought out everyone to bask in its temporary glory.

Bonn is clean, the buildings are wide and in the words of Lieven, very “state-like.” We could see elements of what was once a capitol. We didn’t know if one building was an embassy or simply university housing.

After the food truck event, we continued to some other places of interest like the Bad Godesderg castle, which has a trendy looking lounge inside and boasts one of the best bird-eye views of Bonn. We ventured further down the Rhine, look a ferry across the river’s rapids, and locked our bikes in Königswinter. Schloss Drachenburg was constructed to be the palace of a baron named Stephen von Sarter, however the former banker passed away before its completion in 1884. What remains is now a really cool museum for those willing to hike a long walk above Königswinter. We found out the hard way that it closes early, and opted for some nice scenic photos once at the top of the hill.

After returning the bikes, we spent the rest of the evening relaxing and Lucia cooked us a delicious Spanish style tortilla.

The next day we checked out a hipster coffee shop called Black Coffee Pharmacy, wandered around some souvenir shops, walked through the city’s expansive botanical gardens, and ended our stay with a taste of some German schnitzel at a brewery restaurant called Bönnsch.

It felt great to be in Bonn. Firstly it was refreshing to be in a new city, to experience a place that wasn’t overcrowded with tourists. More importantly we got to hang out with Lucia. She’s a close friend, and it was nice to see where she’s relocated.

Saying farewell was tough, but we have grown accustomed to saying bye in one place and then hello in another. There’s another meet-up pending, perhaps in Bonn or maybe in some place that we can’t even predict. 

Until that happens, I wish her the best.

Thanks for reading this blog, have you been working out? Keep up the good work!

-Dan Catena


(Bonner Münster Church)

(View from the castle in Bad Godesberg)

(Botanical Garden)

(Ferry crossing the Rhine)

(Schloss Drachenburg)

(Haribo Store)

California, Ideas, Life, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Sausalito, Teaching, Travel, United States

The Last Bag of Goldfish Crackers

When I was in first grade, my school’s Peruvian Spanish teacher Señora Buckley would sometimes reward us with Goldfish crackers whenever we did something correctly.

Did you count to six? Here are six Goldfish. Were you able to say “dog” in Spanish? Here’s one Goldfish…

Being only six years old, Spanish wasn’t necessarily a subject that I enjoyed. Power Rangers, GI Joes, and Ninja Turtles already took priority in my life so anything else would need to be crayoned into my seemingly occupied elementary school schedule.

I’m not sure if treat training was the best way of helping us learn, but it was a great way to introduce a delicious and baked snack into my diet.

Blinking my eyes, all of a sudden I’m not a six year old anymore. The memories of clamors of young learners trying to sputter Spanish have been replaced with the rhythm of some nearly forgotten 90’s pop song being softly circulated through aisle six of a Safeway grocery store.

Blinking again, I’m almost thirty-one years old and for some reason the plastic handle of a shopping basket is firmly gripped within the web of my right hand’s fingers.

The last blink induced a deep inhale, as I needed to recollect myself and bring my mind back to the present.

Standing in aisle six, I reach my free hand outward and grab a bag of Parmesan cheese flavored Goldfish crackers. Señora Buckley flashes in my consciousness as I hold a bag of savory vices and toss it in the basket. I want to take more, but one bag is all I can muster without feeling like a complete lush.

Part of the reason why I’m buying this bag is to feed my tastebuds. Another reason why I’m here is to say goodbye. I’ve come to Safeway to pay respects and bid farewell to some foods that I love, such as, well, Goldfish crackers, Siracha hot sauce, Tortilla Factory brand tortillas, and a handful of other items.

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be leaving California and returning to Murcia, Spain to work as an English teacher for seven months. This will be my third school year in this part of the world, and it’s hard to believe that it’s happening yet again. I’m excited to be coming back to the place that feels like a second home, but the foods listed above won’t be available in Murcia. This is totally ok, as Spain has some great culinary staples that aren’t available in California either. It’s a fair trade, but saying bye to Goldfish is perhaps the toughest pill to swallow.

With my last bag of Goldfish safely guarded by the shopping basket, I feel grateful to be given another opportunity to work in Murcia. There are a lot of wonderful people who I can’t wait to see upon arrival into Spain, but there are a lot folks in California/Missoula/Bend who made this summer back home truly memorable. Between weddings, catching up with family, reconnecting with friends, and sharing some awesome memories, (and passing subtest one of the CSET), this summer was maybe the best I’ve ever had. There are a lot of people who I would like to thank for making this summer great and also for making this return to Spain possible, but making you read the full list would make you late for something more important.

I don’t know what will happen once I get back to Murcia, nor do I know if this is the best thing that I should be doing with my life. The only thing I know is that being in Murcia, like the bag of Goldfish that I’m about to barbarically tear open, is something that makes me feel happy.  This doesn’t mean that California or living in the US is something that makes me unhappy, I feel fortunate to say that I’m really happy there too. My heart likes being in different places, and right now it’s beating with a sound that says I need to be back in Spain. Maybe I should see a doctor about that…

Either way, I’m excited to see what happens.

I’ve been standing in front of the crackers for way too long now, and that combined with the fact that I haven’t brushed my teeth yet today is putting some protective Marin moms, shopping carts a safe distance away, on red alert.

It’s time to not say goodbye. It’s time to say “see you next summer.”

Friends and family in California and the United States, I love you a lot. Stay safe, wash your face before bed, and see you soon 🙂