Nomad 2015

Filming Griot Good in Phoenix

 © 2016 Lee-Sean Huang and Sophia Chang

© 2016 Lee-Sean Huang and Sophia Chang

#nomad2015 has concluded!

Introducing Griot Good

I spent the 13th and final month on the road in beautiful Arizona shooting the first season of my brand new cooking show with fellow storyteller Lee-Sean Huang.

Griots are West African traveling storytellers and musicians. LS and I have wandered the world eating and singing since our Harvard days (much longer than we care to remember) and now we're bringing you the goods in food culture!

 © 2016 Sophia Chang

© 2016 Sophia Chang

There could not have been a better way to start 2016.

We cooked and ate until I had heartburn, did yoga, watched Melrose Place (the original) late into the night, hiked the stunning Sonoran desert in a desperate attempt to lose what we were gaining, and made mochi versions of everything.

Episode 1 is live now! We're dressing up in traditional Chinese wear and making Beer + Chocolate Short Ribs on a Spicy Slaw. It takes 100 subscribers to get us a personalized URL so we'd really appreciate if you subscribe to our Youtube!

 

We are @griotgood on all social media:

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Website

2015 Blog in Review

2015 blog in review (2).jpg

I've been blogging for 8 years (starting with a very pink, secret one on blogspot) and my favorite meme is to take the first line of the first post of every month to form a review. Just click the pink titles to read the full articles!

Sophia's #nomad2015 Blog Review

January - Happy 2015!

February - Happy Chinese New Year eve!

"Wishing the world an amazing Chinese New Year eve from Sun Moon Lake here in Taiwan."

March - Behind the Great Firewall

"China is the hardest leg of my world travel so far."

april - Fooling the Asians

"Someone asked me last week if I was Asian."

may - The View from Vegas

"One year ago I posted my article Measure Your Success By Lifestyle, Not Numbers."

June - San Diego County

"Food safety question: if you leave an omelette in a warm car for 4 hours is it still safe to eat?"

July - Sophia Battles the Ramen Burger (and crawls home sobbing)

"I'm supposed to be on a diet, which means I work out everyday and end up famished every night."

AUGUST - Bi-country Birthday

"It's my birthday! This is the first year I get to celebrate in two countries. I am full of gratitude for my beautiful friends and the adventure I'm on! XOXO"

september - Nomad Truths: Travel Weariness

"It's that time again. Travel weariness sets in."

october - Last 24 Hours in New York

"I took this photo leaning against the tiled wall of Penn Station, sitting on the speckled linoleum alongside hundreds of New Yorkers waiting for the track number of our train to Jersey to pop up on the screens."

november - The Real Sisterwives of the Citadel: Sophia on the Fury Road

"#nomad2015 has brought me on poles all over the world, but never did I expect it to bring me to the Thunderdome on the road to Valhalla!"

December 

I won't get too meta - it's this post.

Feel free to steal this meme - just link back to this post and let me know when it's up so I can see your year in review!

The Real Sisterwives of the Citadel: Sophia on the Fury Road

#nomad2015 has brought me on poles all over the world, but never did I expect it to bring me to the Thunderdome on the road to Valhalla!

 The 5 Wives of Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road © 2015 Sophia Chang

The 5 Wives of Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road © 2015 Sophia Chang

Yeah. My Halloween was epic.

 Saved by  Mad Matt - The Road Courier  © 2015 Sophia Chang

Saved by Mad Matt - The Road Courier © 2015 Sophia Chang

 Coma the Doof Warrior © 2015 Sophia Chang

Coma the Doof Warrior © 2015 Sophia Chang

Sophia's Bucketlist: Drum Lesson from John Chong of Run River North

A gazillion years ago Kevin Kim, my APA Bachelor of the Month 2012 told me I had to go see his bandmate's OTHER band. So I show up at this hipster little venue in Silverlake and met the BEST BAND EVER.

I evidently did something stupid and lost the photos of me with Run River North at their first big show at the Satellite, so here's one of RRN attending The Nehemiah Band's show in East LA.

 Look it's keyboardist Sally (L) and lead singer Alex (R) © 2015 Sophia Chang

Look it's keyboardist Sally (L) and lead singer Alex (R) © 2015 Sophia Chang

Every time Run River North plays the Troubadour, I stand behind John Chong and gape slackjawed as his manbun unfurls repeatedly in the ecstasy of his drumming. It's been on my bucketlist for a few years to take drum lessons from him.

 John takes us around the world for five seconds © 2015 Sophia Chang

John takes us around the world for five seconds © 2015 Sophia Chang

Tonight I caught up with John after the RRN concert in Orange County and told him my dream. He immediately led me onstage to his own kit for an impromptu lesson.

THIS HAPPENED:

I promised a photo of me and the NBA-sized Chong brothers in the video, but alas it is floating in the ether of "Sophia Doesn't Back Things Up Anal-Retentively Enough."

FOLLOW ME on Periscope to catch more bucket list hijinks on #nomad2015!

Last 24 Hours in New York

I took this photo leaning against the tiled wall of Penn Station, sitting on the speckled linoleum alongside hundreds of New Yorkers waiting for the track number of our train to Jersey to pop up on the screens.

 Last of the summer swelter at Penn Station © 2015 Sophia Chang

Last of the summer swelter at Penn Station © 2015 Sophia Chang

It was 80 degrees at 10 at night and every inch of my skin was dewy from the intermittent rain alternating with humidity so heavy all I could do was let it press against me as I sank to the ground, unbearably happy to be among the 8.4 million who love this city so much we'll stay in heat, in cold, in blizzard and hail.

Unbearably happy to be 1 in 8 million...

The next night the temperature dropped 25 degrees and coastal wind kicked up. Hurricane Joaquin prepared to visit too. My oldest friend from college and my protege met me in the East Village for midnight yakitori on a work night. New York.

At 2 a.m. we shoved our hands in our pockets and walked back. Around us New Yorkers bent their heads into the wind and did the turbo walk we're famous for. I waved to my Harvard hubby as he turned toward Alphabet City and I continued north.

 #trainlife ©2015 Sophia Chang

#trainlife ©2015 Sophia Chang

My light Uniqlo down jacket did little against the sea winds but I still had to find a bodega to buy water for the night. I shivered and swore and stamped my feet on the pavement and felt in that moment my life was perfect.

 

"How will you handle winter?" my mentee asked.

I'd just said what I say every year when I visit: "I want to come back."

"You'll be fine," Lee-Sean said. "I just wear snow pants over my outfit and take them off when I get to where I'm going,"  We joked we'd start a new fashion trend.

Inside my heart swelled. My friends wanted me back in the city and, because they're New Yorkers, had infinite solutions to my problems.

The last 24 hours in the city I, the snowbird, never took my purple puffy off. I barely noticed. 

 The best people on earth ©2015 Sophia Chang

The best people on earth ©2015 Sophia Chang

I noticed the gaggle of brash businessmen in the cafe during my last meal, boasting loudly in Tri-State accents. 

I noticed the way everyone I met remembered my name.

I noticed the way my East Coast friends had the ability to make me feel utterly capable of anything while rallying around to support me, walk me to the train station, look me in the eye, share a meal with me at any time, and extend their resources to me with a generosity that brings me to tears every time.

And I knew I could do it. I could come back to the city, to winter. 

I could feel my bones getting ready.

Back to the people who are family.

Is it time to go home?

 The view from my friend's rooftop

The view from my friend's rooftop

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Nomad Truths: Travel Weariness

It's that time again. Travel weariness sets in.

 Montreal to New York © 2015 Sophia Chang

Montreal to New York © 2015 Sophia Chang

For some a week, others a year. Me - nearing the last week of 2 months.

In the last 2 months:

I haven't slept in the same bed for more than 7 days.
I had my heart thoroughly touched and shattered by the same person.

I've lost money. Saved money. Received lodging and meals for free.

I had my purse stolen. In it was my wallet from my protege student who's all grown up now. In the wallet was the 2 dollar bill that my oldest friend wore in her wedding as her something borrowed. I'd carried it for 16 years before that and was her maid of honor.

I went home for the first time in a year.
I saw the way New Yorkers practice kindness, which is different from the way Quebecers show it.
I even missed Los Angeles for a moment or two. (fuck)

I'm in my last Canadian city, debilitated by allergies, dehydrated from so many plane, train and road miles, dazzled by the view from the skyscraper apartment.

I've been cursed by 50 chigger bites, put 5 people on Periscope - many for the first time.
And I'm blessed. And I know it at last.

Love,
Sophia
‪#‎nomad2015‬


talk to sophia live on periscope

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I Stayed in a Tiny House on a Ranch and It Was Everything I Ever Wanted

 My tiny home on the range © 2015 Sophia Chang

My tiny home on the range © 2015 Sophia Chang

I split my pants picking up a goat. 

I ate a burger topped with a hot dog topped with tater tots. 

I forded the river on horseback and didn't lose a single axle.

Yes. I stayed in a tiny house and it was everything I ever dreamed of.

EAT IT, OREGON TRAIL

Both the best and worst thing about Nomadic 2015 is not knowing where I'll lay my head next. Sometimes I end up airbnb-ing in the home of a Shanghainese family who neglected to mention their THREE CHILDREN or their 7 a.m. alarm known as crying infant.

But sometimes, the Hobo God smiles down on my wandering soul and fulfills a life dream: living in a tiny house.

I harbored no hipster illusions about this experience. Though often accused of being a hippie (I make ginger-cardamom tisanes for coughs and haven't owned a TV in a decade), I'm the last person who can live off the grid. The first thing I did was ask the owner if my cell phone could get reception in the canyons.

Luckily, this house has double-paned windows, two heaters, and electric lights all over the place. No wifi, but I took that as a sign to unplug. 

Just me and God/dog. #dogisgod

who the hell invented youtube

In the first night in the house, I used 75% of my brand-new-reset data plan watching Family Guy clips and videos of Robin Williams meeting Koko the gorilla.

I texted every person I knew photos of the house and videos of the turkey and duck who acted like they were at a marathon karaoke session.

Yep, I'm definitely in the Matrix.

Turkey and Duck...a delicious combination both aurally and orally

Between the stress of driving - my least favorite thing on earth rivaled only by Excel spreadsheets - in 100 desert degrees and constantly making sure my dog didn't develop heat stroke when the AC crapped out after the first hour, then figuring out what water was potable on the house and grounds for him to drink (turns out ALL), it took a little bit for my limbic system to calm down.

 Replete with rustic farm gear and #nofilter, of course

Replete with rustic farm gear and #nofilter, of course

But when I sat down in my new, temporary backyard for my first mountain sunset, I was finally able to do what I'd gone off alone for.

I could face myself.

I cried.

As with many epic journeys in my life, this one was fueled by fresh heartbreak, but I was crying for more. I was crying out the exhaustion of major travel plans falling through after months trying to rescue them, the daily nervousness of overstaying a welcome, the chaos of rifling through trash bags in the trunk of my car to find my underwear.

These are first world problems, and I tell you them not for sympathy but to confirm that the nomadic lifestyle is just as rootless and anxious as you fear it to be.

And when I finished crying out the first layer of stress, I cried to clean my insides out. To feel the tender parts that have been hurt over time. Scrub some of that gunk we all pick up through living.

When I'd finished, it was time to sleep. For tomorrow, was the horse ride.

i am in control

The horse guy, as I call him, knocked on my door the next day to give me the waiver to sign. He was a hulk of muscle with that chesty, former Marine stance and I couldn't stop grinning at him.

 Always ford #OregonTrailproblems © 2015 Sophia Chang

Always ford #OregonTrailproblems © 2015 Sophia Chang

"What brings you to the house?" he asked.

"It's been my dream to travel the country in one of these."

"Me too. Seriously. Except I'm looking at a Fifth Wheel."

Instant friends.

After HG led me racing up mountains and crashing through streams, I washed three different kinds of animals off me and changed for dinner. 

 Positively obscene © 2015 Sophia Chang

Positively obscene © 2015 Sophia Chang

It was a double meat and potato concoction that gives my infamous Ramen Burger episode a run for its money: beef patty, pork hot dog, tater tots, and every condiment in the house, all held together by a steak knife through the whole contraption.

The rest of the week was no less indulgent. I rode with HG again, and he checked to make sure I'd learned the first lesson of horseback riding: I am in control.

We watched more Family Guy clips on his phone (at least ONE of us still had data plan.)

I went to a movie with a local waitress (small towns are a combination of awkward racial tension and extreme friendliness).

I made out with HG's goats. Got a black eye when I got too close to his dogs roughhousing with mine. You know, ranch things.

There was more, of course, much more than I can fit into a blog post. I'll save the details for the memoir.

 I'm never gonna kiss again, the way I kissed... © 2015 Sophia Chang

I'm never gonna kiss again, the way I kissed... © 2015 Sophia Chang

I'd run off to the mountains to be alone and discovered that, in this world, I'm not often alone. I was sad to leave, although I looked forward to being able to flush my toilet more than once a day again. 

The afternoon before I left, HG sat with me in the backyard.

"You know, in another life, we would be married with a couple of kids," he said.

I held up a hand. "No kids."

But the rest sounded nice. A big guy with tattoos who smelled of fresh soap. Animals running amok. Nowhere to be but this land in the canyon.

The fantasy of the simple life had to stop at checkout time (noon). But hopefully one day, when my wandering is done, it won't. 


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