Traveling back "Home"

Home: a vital sensitive core


Table of Content:

  1. What is “Home”?

  2. Quick recaps of time in Indonesia, Vietnam, Tokyo, Honolulu, Houston, and New Orleans

  3. Finally settled back in Wyoming (for now)

Jakarta, Indonesia with President Jokowi

Quick Recap in Indonesia:

  • Departed for my Fulbright grant in Indonesia
    Sept 2017-Sept 2018

  • Research site:

    Wakatobi National Park

  • Moved 7 times.

  • Lived in 4 cities: Jakarta, Semarang, Salatiga, &

  • Scuba Diving Heaven &
    Logged more than 40 dives

  • Certified Rescue Diver & Science of Diving Certification

  • Certified low-intermediate in reading, writing, and speaking Indonesian

  • Forever friends, who taught me Indonesian slang & ways of life

  • Gained like 10 pounds thanks to all the delicious deep fried foods and ice cream

Vũng Tàu, Vietnam

me & my kindred spirited grandma

Quick recap in Vietnam

  • Sept 2018 - Dec 2018 (3 months)

  • Lived in Saigon (HCMC) & Vũng Tàu

  • Spent time getting to know my dad’s side of the family in his home town of Vũng Tàu

    Discovered my grandma and I are kindred spirits

  • Scuba Diving in Phú Quốc

  • Logged 7 dives

  • Surprisingly a lot of coral

  • Saw my first ever cuttlefish (they’re huge!)

  • Wyoming family came to visit

  • Completed Vietnamese language classes

  • Learned to drive a scooter in crazy Vietnam traffic

  • Met up with friends from Denver

  • Gained 5 pounds thanks to all the delicious, non-stop eating and napping.

Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan

Official flight back home:


  • Durian binge before flight = stomach ache on the plane & puke right before landing.

  • 13 hour layover in Tokyo

  • Spent 3 hours sleeping in the airport first

  • I felt so sick & tired. I almost didn’t go out of the airport because of thought induced anxiety about my baggage, getting lost, not knowing the language, etc.

  • Took me almost 1 hour to convince myself to JUST GO!

  • Japan is known for their planners, so I set out to an IG recommended stationary store: Tokyo Hands

  • Quickly found a place to exchange money, luggage storage, and the train ticket and station I needed to go to. (loved this part about travel) Kinda like
    problem solving with no idea how to do it except intuition & confidence guiding me.

  • Re-ignited my love for travel

  • The sights, sounds, smells, and inherent excitement for new experiences

  • Spent 3 hours walking around Shinjuku and bought the most perfect planner.

  • Spent 2 hours traveling on the train and loved every minute of it.

  • Thank You Japan for the new experiences. Now, please re-join the International Whaling Commission IWC and stop killing whales and dolphins. Thanks.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu for Christmas Eve

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Quick Recap in Honolulu

  • 13 hour layover

  • Easily found the bus to Waikiki

  • Spent the day soaking up the sun

  • Reunion with college friends

  • Drove to lookout point in pic above

  • Ate local poke from the local grocery store

  • Inspired by my friend that Hawaii is totally
    an achievable dream

  • Found my new goal/ HOME

Houston, Texas, USA

Houston, Texas, USA

Houston for Christmas


Quick Recap in Houston

  • One month in Houston

  • Upon landing, skin immediately flaked and shriveled up because of change in latitude. (I am genetically made for equatorial climate)

    Quality time with Mom’s side of the family

  • Grocery stores in the U.S. are excessive

  • ALL US big box stores are excessive.

  • Forgot basic driving rules of the U.S.

  • Watched Ralph break the internet and it rocked my world because the main character struggled with finding her place of belonging and her home & being away from family #SOML

  • Ate all the delicious food: matcha soft serve, grilled oysters, crawfish, food truck tacos, macaroon ice cream, wedge salad, potato chips, banana foster soufflé, Whole Food’s famous TTLA (tempeh, tomato, lettuce, avocado) vegansandwich, sushi burrito, etc.

  • Quick 2 days solo road trip to Austin & ate the infamous Impossible burger (VEGAN burger)

Louisiana New Orleans crawfish.jpg

Quick Recap in New Orleans

  • Wedding of a dear big brother of mines

  • Visited more of my dad’s side of the family

    Spent time with my
    day 1 cousins

  • Ate at my favorite sushi place in the whole wide world: Mikimoto

  • Forgot that places in New Orleans like Target can sell liquor, beer, and wine!

  • Celebrated New Years 2019 in NOLA with family and friends

NOLA family

Casper, Wyoming

Casper, Wyoming

Finally settled in Wyoming in February 2019

wyHOMEing: Live and Let Live


The state’s motto: Live and let live. Eight years in Wyoming and it always feels cozy to come back to the frozen, tundra like state. Winters here are tough and it has definitely made me a stronger person because of it. Without this beautiful place and space, I wouldn’t have had all the travel adventures in the books. I find myself complaining less and less about the snow and 60+ mph winds. I truly love this state and the people I’ve met while living here. It’s been a place that keeps me balanced and grounded.

Back home and taking care of business

  • Being a good Vietnamese daughter doing first generation tasks like: finding care insurance for the family, dealing with medical bills, cleaning up health insurance mix ups, picking up lil brother from school, calling up Verizon for bill related issues, learning to set up about investments and IRAs, YA KNOW….

  • Applying for ANY & ALL environmental & conservation positions

  • Getting back to fitness, health, and well-being

  • Braces

  • Marie Kondo-ing all of my belongings

  • Hustling and saving for my next adventure

Being settled into my own space and having my own car are the two biggest joys in my life. The feeling of independence and control over my life are things I do not take for granted. Honestly, now that I’m back I realized I needed to come back. Wyoming still has a lot to teach me in terms of emotional, spiritual, and mental growth. (that’s for the next blog post)

Wyoming will blow you away


As you can see, I have many places I call “home”. It’s a feeling rather than a specific physical boundary of space. The various cities in Indonesia, Vietnam, Houston, New Orleans, Laramie, Casper….all places I’ve called home. Each home has had a profound impact on my life. I also lived in Singapore for about 5 months. (it was the highlight of my life/best decision I’ve ever made). No matter where I am, life has been so full of excitement and energy. It ebbs and flows. Right now, being back in Wyoming is a time to take a breath and focus on myself in a settled place. Decision making for things such as place to live or how I am going to get where I need to go, has been a huge weight off my shoulders. I am more grounded to focus on manifesting the next adventure.

Although I am not traveling at the moment,

Life has been the
greatest adventure yet!

2019 Sustainable travel, marine conservation, and cultural immersion

In 2019, I will focus on publishing more about marine conservation, sustainable travel tips, and cultural experiences I’ve had traveling. These are topics that excite me and easy for me to write about. As I settle into this next chapter, I want to share more about my passion for the ocean, sustainable traveling, and connecting with people.

Blue Starfish Wakatobi

Yall should know by now, I LOVE SCUBA DIVING.

Most of my travels has been specifically to go scuba diving. The entire process is electrifying for me. From waking up at 6am, gearing up, log rolling into the water, swimming through the schools of fish, and everything in between….right up until I lay my head down to sleep because of pure exhaustion. All of it excites my soul.

Countries I’ve scuba dived:

  • Malaysia (PADI - Open Water Certification)

  • Philippines

  • Indonesia (PADI - Advanced Open Water Certification & SSI - Rescue Diver Certification)

  • Thailand

  • Belize

  • Vietnam

With the exception of Belize & scuba diving in the pool tank at Epcot DisneyWorld…. majority of my hours underwater has been in Southeast Asia. *disclaimer I am biased* BUT…. they don’t call it the Coral Triangle for nothing. Southeast Asia, specifically Indonesia, has some of the most pristine, untouched coral reefs in the world. From endless swaying field of soft coral to the multiple giant manta rays feeding in strong currents. The Coral Triangle has it all.

Coral Wakatobi

The Coral Triangle has been on my radar, since I started watching National Geographic and BBC’s Blue Planet as a kid. (shoutout to my dad for mixing in animal documentaries in between Rugrats & Disney movie). Extensive research has been done about the coral triangle, yet we know more about the moon than we do about our oceans. Despite the billions (USD) in charity, NGOs, and conservation programs, the ocean still needs more attention and care. Covering more than 70% of our planet, our ocean is the most important ecosystem. It regulates our climate, the air we breathe, and the food in your fridge.

World Wildlife Fund For Nature: Coral Triangle

World Wildlife Fund For Nature: Coral Triangle

For my master’s thesis, I looked for topics I truly cared about because the next 2 years would have been painful if I didn’t. So much thanks to my advisor for reminding me how much I love scuba diving. I found research articles and countless authors who wrote about marine conservation, marine protected areas, and sustainability, BUT something was missing….the perspective of fishers! As a social scientist, I wondered why wasn’t there more research done with fishers as the main voice of these marine protected areas?

Fast forward to finishing my thesis…I was awarded a Fulbright grant to continue my research in my dream location: Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia

2018 I spent the year in Indonesia doing research about marine protected areas from a social scientist lens. Given my ancestral background, many asked why I didn’t choose Vietnam. Well, I have a love for scuba diving and research. Indonesia is arguably in the heart of the coral triangle. So, WHY NOT combine my love for scuba and research in the heart of the Coral Triangle?!

WWF: Coral Triangle

WWF: Coral Triangle

There are endless reasons why the Coral Triangle is significantly important. Personally, I want to scuba dive with whales and sharks. Morally, because it’s the right thing to do and balancing nature and people for future generations to enjoy beyond watching BBC and National Geographic documentaries.

Spending time and money on what you love is not a loss

It has officially been one week since Raja Ampat. I spent a stupid amount of hours for layover and delays, but well worth my dream trip. Although only 4 days of diving, it was soul satisfying to be back underwater. 

I spent nearly 2 days of travel and spent more than I would in a month on food in Indonesia and it was all worth it. When I spend time and money on scuba diving and traveling….I don’t see it as an expense. It’s self-care because this is EXACTLY what I want to do with my life. Until the day one of these nonprofits or NGOs finally hire me for marine conservation, I’ll be hustling to make this my everyday. Just like the friends I met in Raja Ampat, Indonesia!

Since moving to the direction of travel diaries, I wanna write about the conversations I had with a few of the people I met. I like traveling alone especially when scuba diving because I am in control of my schedule and activities. There are days when I want to dive and there are days I want to just lay on the beach. Also, when scuba diving, divers tend to be really friendly and always have a story about diving.

here’s my story from Raja Ampat:


I was inspired by an independent Indonesian woman with a successful scuba diving shop. She is a strong 40 year old woman living the life she intended. Diving everyday is a choice out of pure joy, not financial obligations. She saw Raja Ampat on TV, decided she wanted to go, and 9 years later still living there and running a successful business....the only thing she misses from home is her momma. She talked about how Raja Ampat in prior years had so many whales passing through, but she hasn't seen a whale this year yet. She's had to move her business a couple times, but she possess a non-attachment and ability to pick up and start over attitude that I have too. I felt a sigh of relief for my future when I met her. 

Her business partner has a similar story. He saw Raja Ampat on TV, decided to move from a landlocked city in Java to Bali to learn how to be a scuba diving instructor. He made his way to Raja Ampat and doing exactly what he wanted. 

We had a conversation about Indonesian's body structure and western body structures. Indonesian have a hard time floating, while my Dutch friend and I need 4kg weights to sink. I got a good laugh at Sandy's reenactment of trying to pass the floating test for his scuba license. 

And it's stories like these, which is the main reason for travel. Meeting Indonesians and listening to their stories breaks all the stereotypical images the media portrays.  

This is miniscubaThao. Once I get some super glue for all her pieces, She's going to go scuba diving with me too.

This is miniscubaThao. Once I get some super glue for all her pieces, She's going to go scuba diving with me too.

There's no limit to what you can achieve

When there's a pause or delay, use that time to chase one of the many other dreams you have. I am currently waiting on research permits and official letters to come around. Until then, I just booked the trip of my dreams. Going to where Nat Geo and other documentaries have filmed and I am going to experiences these places with my own eyes. Raja Ampat, here I come. 

rj di r4

beauty beyond measure

a friend who inspires me to chase my wildest dreams @raymondjakub