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Make Your New Year's Resolution Stick

Most New Year’s resolutions fail.
There are tons of articles on making your resolutions stick that offer advice like making your goal more specific, having a plan, or getting better at habit building. But when I’ve tried these things, I still fail.
Even with a good plan, I lose motivation.
This year, I think I’ve figured out how to reframe New Year’s resolutions so they matter enough to stick.

New Year’s Resolution Motivations Aren’t Strong Enough

It seems like motivations behind resolutions often revolve around simple attributes or characteristics: I want to stay fit so I look good in the mirror; I want to travel more because all of the Instagram accounts I ogle look fun and beautiful; I want to spend less and save more because I want to stay at a nicer hotel on my next vacation.
Those are all perfectly fine motivations – there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good, or stay in a nice hotel. The problem is, life changes are really tough to make because they require starting new habits, and starting new habits is hard.
The motivations aren’t bad, they’re just not strong enough to get us over the hump from starting a habit to making it stick.

The Transformation Isn’t Powerful Enough

Even if you make a New Year’s resolution stick long enough to start achieving your goal, it might not feel as good as you thought.
I thought that going to the gym 4 days a week would make my life so much better. Looking great and being more energized would feel amazing.
It did feel good, but it wasn’t as transformative as I had hoped. I was still stressed out. I was getting a good post workout buzz/mellow but I still felt like a high strung person overall. Plus, the physical transformation was s-l-o-w.
Eventually, I stopped going.
When I went to the gym I felt good, but I wasn’t becoming a better person or anything. Just changing that one aspect of my life wasn’t as transformative as I had hoped, so I stopped putting in the effort.

How to Make a New Year’s Resolution That Matters

Making a new years resolution stick involves more than simple motivations like better pictures, or looking good in the mirror.
What if you could reframe your New Year’s resolution so you did feel deeply about it? If every step you took toward making that resolution a reality brought you closer to something you really cared about, it would be much easier to stick to that resolution.
I think I have the secret.
Try making a New Year’s resolution that aligns your actions with who you believe you truly are.
Just in case I lost you there, hear me out. This isn’t mystical thinking.
The idea of congruence between your actions and your “true self” is literally in intro to psychology books. And according to a palliative nurse who talked to patients on their death beds, the most common regret people have at the end of their lives is not living a life true to themselves.
It seems like giving yourself the opportunity and permission to be the person you always believed you were would be an excellent motivator.

Being True To Yourself vs. Feeling Like A Fraud

Aligning your actions with your true self means behaving like the person you believe you really are.
I believe I am an active, adventurous, free spirited person. Some of my actions reflect that. When I climb a rock wall, travel to a new country, or eat a strange food I’ve never tried, I feel great because that’s proof that I really am who I think I am.
But when I can’t do things I think of as adventurous, active, or free spirited, I feel like an impostor.
If you’ve ever felt that, you know it sucks.
When my neck and shoulders were so stiff in Thailand that I couldn’t carry my daypack for more than a mile, I felt like a fraud. How could I think of myself as an active adventurer when I couldn’t do this basic thing?
Luckily Tony was on board with using Tuk Tuks (three wheeled motorcycle taxis) and Songteaws (pickup truck taxis) to get around while I worked on my pain and stiffness.
Tuk Tuk (Taxi)
Turns out, Tuk Tuks and Songteaws are exciting in their own right.
Imagine hopping into the back of a Tuk Tuk with traffic wizzing around you, then speeding down the road, weaving trough cars and trucks in what amounts to a three person motorcycle with a lawn mower engine.
The sense of adventure from hopping on the back of a truck or into a Tuk Tuk put me back in alignment with my true self. But I knew if I didn’t work out some of my pain, I would keep feeling like an impostor every time it got in the way of an adventure.
Avoiding feeling like a fraud and trying to feel like the real me more often turned out to be powerful motivators.

Choose A Resolution That Aligns Your Actions With Your True Self


Instead of working out to look good, I’m making a New Year’s resolution to prepare myself for adventures. In practice, that will be pretty similar to other resolutions – work out more, take better care of myself, etc. But the reason behind this resolution matters to me a lot more because I’ll spend more time feeling like the real me, and less time feeling like an impostor.
People have lots of ways they think of themselves, so your resolution might look different from mine. Mine might even look pretty different from year to year.
For example, you might think of yourself as your family’s rock – the stable person anyone can turn to for help. A resolution for you might be something like “prepare to be there for my loved ones”. Actionable steps to achieve that might be saving money so you can help in case of family emergency, or becoming more active so you can physically take care of little kids or ageing parents.
Two of my favorite YouTubers, Simon and Martina Stawski, are a great example of this kind of resolution in action. Martina has a genetic condition that leaves her in chronic pain with dislocated joints. As her condition progressed, Simon resolved to work out and get stronger so he could literally carry her if he needed to. Working out isn’t just for his health (a good motivation), it puts him in alignment with the caring, supportive husband he believes himself to be (an even better motivation).

Good Luck, and Happy New Year!

If you’re like most people who make New Year’s resolutions, you’ve probably given up on a few of them. But don’t beat yourself up about it. If you couldn’t stick to the gym, or keep  your home perfectly organized that doesn’t make you a bad person.
But if you really want to make your New Year’s resolution stick this year, try making it revolve around something that truly matters to you. I think an easy way to do that is by resolving to act more like your true self, but there are probably lots of other motivators that are important enough to keep you motivated.
Who is the real you? Are you the adventurer, the family’s rock, the supportive partner, or something else? What resolution could you make to act more like the real you in the coming year?
Good luck with making your New Year’s resolution stick, and becoming the best possible you in the coming year!
Pin It!

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Make Your New Year’s Resolution Stick

Most New Year’s resolutions fail.

There are tons of articles on making your resolutions stick that offer advice like making your goal more specific, having a plan, or getting better at habit building. But when I’ve tried these things, I still fail.

Even with a good plan, I lose motivation.

This year, I think I’ve figured out how to reframe New Year’s resolutions so they matter enough to stick.

New Year’s Resolution Motivations Aren’t Strong Enough

It seems like motivations behind resolutions often revolve around simple attributes or characteristics: I want to stay fit so I look good in the mirror; I want to travel more because all of the Instagram accounts I ogle look fun and beautiful; I want to spend less and save more because I want to stay at a nicer hotel on my next vacation.

Those are all perfectly fine motivations – there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good, or stay in a nice hotel. The problem is, life changes are really tough to make because they require starting new habits, and starting new habits is hard.

The motivations aren’t bad, they’re just not strong enough to get us over the hump from starting a habit to making it stick.

The Transformation Isn’t Powerful Enough

Even if you make a New Year’s resolution stick long enough to start achieving your goal, it might not feel as good as you thought.

I thought that going to the gym 4 days a week would make my life so much better. Looking great and being more energized would feel amazing.

It did feel good, but it wasn’t as transformative as I had hoped. I was still stressed out. I was getting a good post workout buzz/mellow but I still felt like a high strung person overall. Plus, the physical transformation was s-l-o-w.

Eventually, I stopped going.

When I went to the gym I felt good, but I wasn’t becoming a better person or anything. Just changing that one aspect of my life wasn’t as transformative as I had hoped, so I stopped putting in the effort.

How to Make a New Year’s Resolution That Matters

Making a new years resolution stick involves more than simple motivations like better pictures, or looking good in the mirror.

What if you could reframe your New Year’s resolution so you did feel deeply about it? If every step you took toward making that resolution a reality brought you closer to something you really cared about, it would be much easier to stick to that resolution.

I think I have the secret.

Try making a New Year’s resolution that aligns your actions with who you believe you truly are.

Just in case I lost you there, hear me out. This isn’t mystical thinking.

The idea of congruence between your actions and your “true self” is literally in intro to psychology books. And according to a palliative nurse who talked to patients on their death beds, the most common regret people have at the end of their lives is not living a life true to themselves.

It seems like giving yourself the opportunity and permission to be the person you always believed you were would be an excellent motivator.

Being True To Yourself vs. Feeling Like A Fraud

Aligning your actions with your true self means behaving like the person you believe you really are.

I believe I am an active, adventurous, free spirited person. Some of my actions reflect that. When I climb a rock wall, travel to a new country, or eat a strange food I’ve never tried, I feel great because that’s proof that I really am who I think I am.

But when I can’t do things I think of as adventurous, active, or free spirited, I feel like an impostor.

If you’ve ever felt that, you know it sucks.

When my neck and shoulders were so stiff in Thailand that I couldn’t carry my daypack for more than a mile, I felt like a fraud. How could I think of myself as an active adventurer when I couldn’t do this basic thing?

Luckily Tony was on board with using Tuk Tuks (three wheeled motorcycle taxis) and Songteaws (pickup truck taxis) to get around while I worked on my pain and stiffness.

Tuk Tuk (Taxi)

Turns out, Tuk Tuks and Songteaws are exciting in their own right.

Imagine hopping into the back of a Tuk Tuk with traffic wizzing around you, then speeding down the road, weaving trough cars and trucks in what amounts to a three person motorcycle with a lawn mower engine.

The sense of adventure from hopping on the back of a truck or into a Tuk Tuk put me back in alignment with my true self. But I knew if I didn’t work out some of my pain, I would keep feeling like an impostor every time it got in the way of an adventure.

Avoiding feeling like a fraud and trying to feel like the real me more often turned out to be powerful motivators.

Choose A Resolution That Aligns Your Actions With Your True Self

Instead of working out to look good, I’m making a New Year’s resolution to prepare myself for adventures. In practice, that will be pretty similar to other resolutions – work out more, take better care of myself, etc. But the reason behind this resolution matters to me a lot more because I’ll spend more time feeling like the real me, and less time feeling like an impostor.

People have lots of ways they think of themselves, so your resolution might look different from mine. Mine might even look pretty different from year to year.

For example, you might think of yourself as your family’s rock – the stable person anyone can turn to for help. A resolution for you might be something like “prepare to be there for my loved ones”. Actionable steps to achieve that might be saving money so you can help in case of family emergency, or becoming more active so you can physically take care of little kids or ageing parents.

Two of my favorite YouTubers, Simon and Martina Stawski, are a great example of this kind of resolution in action. Martina has a genetic condition that leaves her in chronic pain with dislocated joints. As her condition progressed, Simon resolved to work out and get stronger so he could literally carry her if he needed to. Working out isn’t just for his health (a good motivation), it puts him in alignment with the caring, supportive husband he believes himself to be (an even better motivation).

Good Luck, and Happy New Year!

If you’re like most people who make New Year’s resolutions, you’ve probably given up on a few of them. But don’t beat yourself up about it. If you couldn’t stick to the gym, or keep  your home perfectly organized that doesn’t make you a bad person.

But if you really want to make your New Year’s resolution stick this year, try making it revolve around something that truly matters to you. I think an easy way to do that is by resolving to act more like your true self, but there are probably lots of other motivators that are important enough to keep you motivated.

Who is the real you? Are you the adventurer, the family’s rock, the supportive partner, or something else? What resolution could you make to act more like the real you in the coming year?

Good luck with making your New Year’s resolution stick, and becoming the best possible you in the coming year!

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I Was Mugged By Tiny Japanese Deer

Have you ever looked forward to something so much that your expectations actually ruined the experience?

I’ve done this to myself so many times. My expectations inflate like a birthday balloon, but when they’re not met I’m crushed. I guess that’s where the phrase “burst your bubble” came from.

At the very beginning of my nomad journey I did this to myself yet again. Only this time, I actually started to make some progress toward breaking the cycle of expectation and disappointment.

Once Upon A Time In Nara Japan

Tony and I have wanted to go to Japan together since we started dating in 2007. Ten years later in September, 2017 we finally made it happen.

After possibly unhealthy amounts of YouTube research, I decided one of our adventures should be to the city of Nara where adorable little Japanese deer will walk up to you, bow, and then politely eat a “cookie” right out of your hand.

I was sort of thinking about starting a travel blog. I thought I could start it off with amazing photos of Nara and tell the Pinterest Perfect story of how we experienced the most Japanese thing that ever happened.

deer in nara japan that I expected to be nice

It was cold and raining the day we visited Nara park, but right on cue adorable deer wandered up to us.

Down the path we found a man selling deer treats, and I bought a stack of cookies wrapped in paper for 150 Yen. This was it. My perfect Japanese moment was about to happen.

But before I could even unwrap the paper, ten deer mobbed me.

Instead of politely waiting their turn they pushed, shoved, and bit me. There were so many deer pushing and head butting me I almost fell over, so I tossed the pack of cookies to Tony.

The mob transformed into a stampede as they rushed toward Tony and the cookies.

The cookies were wrapped so securely Anonymous couldn’t get in, and as he struggled with the paper a little deer bit Tony in the crotch.

He tossed the cookies back to me, I tried to unwrap them, I threw them back…

We played another round or two of keep away before the paper wrapper burst open and the whole stack of cookies came crashing to the ground.

The deer unceremoniously vacuumed up the shattered cookies then wandered off to mug some other starry eyed tourists.

The Disney moment I had looked forward to for months was over before it even started.

Different Perspectives

Tony was amused, crotch bite and all, but I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

Everything that had gone wrong looped in my head. The deer weren’t polite, they were aggressive wild animals. I wanted to look cute in photos so I didn’t wear my rain jacket, but that left me cold and wet. Despite this, I couldn’t even get a good selfie. Tony graciously volunteered to take pictures of me, but I felt like I was grimacing in every one.

The negativity ramped up.

I wasn’t grimacing in a photo, I was actually just unphotogenic. It wasn’t just a bad moment, it was a bad day, or worse. Maybe Japan wasn’t as great as I thought. The rest of the trip would probably be gimmicky and disappointing too.

I felt wounded. I spent months building my expectations only to be betrayed by them.

Cold, tired, and let down, I retreated to the closest restroom and cried.

When I came out, a little calmer but still deeply disappointed, Tony said something about this making a great story. It’s certainly memorable – a man doesn’t forget flying half way around the world to be bitten in the crotch by deer.

Unlike me, his only expectation for the day was having a nice walk in the park with his wife. Adding to our collection of crazy Kat and Tony adventure stories was a bonus.

I was – and still am – so grateful for his perspective.

The experience wasn’t what I expected, but it was uniquely ours. In a sea of perfect Nara stories, we would have our story about being mugged by tiny deer.

Identifying Problems

As we walked further into the park, I started to realize I had pretty crazy expectations

  • I expected wild animals to behave as though they were trained pets.
  • I expected to look amazing in photos when I’m almost always behind the camera, not in front.
  • I expected Tony to take my camera and execute my vision even though he’s maybe used my camera once before and I didn’t even tell him what I wanted.

I had two fundamental problems: I was placing too much importance on my expectations, and a lot of my expectations were unreasonable to begin with.

Drop The Inconsequential

Tony helped me address the first problem – placing too much importance on expectations – when he shared his perspective with me. Sometimes I need to take a step back, evaluate the situation, and say to myself if something doesn’t matter, don’t let it matter.

I can fantasize all day about how dinner will taste, how Tony will praise my skills, and how easy I’ll make it all look. But if it’s just Tuesday night dinner for Tony and me, it doesn’t really matter.

I can still make a genuine effort. I can still enjoy the process of cooking. I can still want the meal to be delicious. But I shouldn’t let my sense of self worth hang on whether or not I overcooked the green beans.

Easier said than done, right? That’s why I’m making this a new mantra so I can keep my tendency to over-inflate my expectations in check. If something doesn’t matter, don’t let it matter… If something doesn’t matter, don’t let it matter.

Pssst… did you know you can highlight text (like my new mantra) to tweet it?

Exercising Control

Thinking about addressing the problems I had in Nara led me to a realization: a lot of the time I have more control than I realize.

deer in nara park japan

I have the power to make a lot of my expectations more likely to come true. Some of my crazy expectations would be more reasonable and more likely to turn out well if I had done a little leg work.

Even when I can’t influence the likelihood that my expectations are met, I can often adjust the importance I place on those expectation.

If I want to be in photos, I can learn how to be a subject. I can practice, read advice, or take classes. And until I’m taking good photos consistently, I shouldn’t let anything hinge on having amazing pictures of myself.

I can exercise control by setting myself up for success, and weighting my expectations accordingly.

Three Steps to Managing Your Own Expectations

I’ve finally got this narrowed down to three simple steps. They make it a little easier to assess my expectations and avoid an inflated sense of disappointment when things don’t turn out the way I wanted.

1. Does this actually matter?

When the answer is “no”, I try not to let it matter. That means not investing emotionally in the outcome, and not letting anything hinge on the outcome.

If the answer is “yes” I move on to step two.

2. What control do I have?

What, if anything, can I do to make success more likely?

Can I take classes to prepare myself or bolster my skills? Should I plan to spend more time so I’m less rushed? Would it make sense to ask for help, or maybe even hire a professional to do it for me?

3. Can I adjust how important this is?

Is there a way to make this outcome not matter at all? If so, go back to step one.

If it still matters, how much does it have to matter? Can I create a backup plan to reduce the importance of any given outcome? Can I make the outcome a bonus rather than an essential? Can I change the plan so that even a lower quality result works?

Putting The Steps Into Action

The only tricky part now is just remembering to take these steps, because it’s a whole lot easier to nip this stuff in the bud than it is to talk myself down when I’m already upset.

Plus, if I remember these three steps early enough, I have a chance to do more planning and exercise more control.

This is where my new mantra comes in handy… if something doesn’t matter don’t let it matter. Having that phrase at the tip of my tongue reminds me to re-evaluate my expectations and follow those three steps.

Have you ever set your expectations too high, or expected unreasonable things? Do you think my three step process would help, or do you have another strategy? Tell me about it, because sharing means caring!

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A neon sign in Chiang Mai, Thailand that reads "wanderlust".

Reverse Culture Shock: Weird Things I'm Noticing Back In The USA

A neon sign in Chiang Mai, Thailand that reads "wanderlust".

A neon sign in Chiang Mai, Thailand.


Literally every time I say “back in the US” I think of that Beatles song Back in the USSR, except I sing it Back in the USSA*.
*Nothing to do with current politics… I’ve had the compulsion for years.
Now that we’re back in the USSA after our longest ever trip away (two months… eeep!) I’m noticing a few habits I picked up or expectations I have that aren’t quite working here.
Most of them are pretty silly. We weren’t in Thailand or Japan long enough to engrain any hard core habits. But I am still bowing a little when I say thank you.
I’m also reaching for the light switch outside the bathroom instead of just inside the door. It seems like wet-room bathrooms are the norm in Japan and Thailand. Electricity plus water equals bad so switches tend to be just outside the door.
Thankfully I’m not so used to Thai bathrooms that I’m trying to take a shower in the middle of the room.
Speaking of bathrooms, I’m dismayed that I have to worry about running out of hot water again. Every bathroom we’ve used in the last two months has had those hot water on demand things.
They. Are. Brilliant.
Need a long shower after a hot smoggy day? No problem. The hot water will last forever. No idea why we don’t use them more often in the US.
A nice difference is the ability to use my debit card everywhere again. You would think Japan, being a modern high tech place, would have some kind of mind controlled digital payment system. Nope. So many places are cash only.
Same in Thailand.
I wonder what accounts for that. Maybe people don’t like credit cards?
OK OK, I admit, it sounds like I’ve got the most mundane case of reverse culture shock in the history of reverse culture shock. But I try to notice mundane little differences like light switch placement because that’s part of what makes traveling fun. I can’t appreciate or be amused by differences if I don’t notice them, right?
Do you do that too? What weird little differences have you noticed in your travels
 

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A neon sign in Chiang Mai, Thailand that reads "wanderlust".

Reverse Culture Shock: Weird Things I’m Noticing Back In The USA

A neon sign in Chiang Mai, Thailand that reads "wanderlust".

A neon sign in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Literally every time I say “back in the US” I think of that Beatles song Back in the USSR, except I sing it Back in the USSA*.

*Nothing to do with current politics… I’ve had the compulsion for years.

Now that we’re back in the USSA after our longest ever trip away (two months… eeep!) I’m noticing a few habits I picked up or expectations I have that aren’t quite working here.

Most of them are pretty silly. We weren’t in Thailand or Japan long enough to engrain any hard core habits. But I am still bowing a little when I say thank you.

I’m also reaching for the light switch outside the bathroom instead of just inside the door. It seems like wet-room bathrooms are the norm in Japan and Thailand. Electricity plus water equals bad so switches tend to be just outside the door.

Thankfully I’m not so used to Thai bathrooms that I’m trying to take a shower in the middle of the room.

Speaking of bathrooms, I’m dismayed that I have to worry about running out of hot water again. Every bathroom we’ve used in the last two months has had those hot water on demand things.

They. Are. Brilliant.

Need a long shower after a hot smoggy day? No problem. The hot water will last forever. No idea why we don’t use them more often in the US.

A nice difference is the ability to use my debit card everywhere again. You would think Japan, being a modern high tech place, would have some kind of mind controlled digital payment system. Nope. So many places are cash only.

Same in Thailand.

I wonder what accounts for that. Maybe people don’t like credit cards?

OK OK, I admit, it sounds like I’ve got the most mundane case of reverse culture shock in the history of reverse culture shock. But I try to notice mundane little differences like light switch placement because that’s part of what makes traveling fun. I can’t appreciate or be amused by differences if I don’t notice them, right?

Do you do that too? What weird little differences have you noticed in your travels

 

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dragon latte art at a Chiang Mai coffee shop

5 Cool Coffee Shops in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I thought finding good coffee in Chiang Mai would be hard.

I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to find non-instant coffee that I actually purchased one of those pre-ground pour-over kits from a local coffee chain.

a packet of pre ground pour over coffee   pre ground pour over coffee in a cup

I used it twice.

By the third day it had become abundantly clear that you could throw a rock and hit a decent coffee place in Chiang Mai.

If you’re headed to Chiang Mai as a nomad or expat, there are plenty of choices for your caffeine fix. Here are 5 that I liked for their vibe, quality of coffee, and convenience.

1. Doctor Gen_Y

A Wall of wood crates at Dr. Gen Y Coffee Shop in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Doctor Gen_Y is a bright, airy coffee shop with a relaxed atmosphere and a few interesting books to read. Their coffee is as good as any other Chiang Mai coffee shop, but I like Doctor Gen_Y mostly for its proximity to Punspace Nimman.

[row]

[column type=”3/5″]

Shelves of decor at Chiang Mai coffee shop Dr. Gen Y   A plant leaf ni a beaker vase at Dr Gen Y coffee shop in Chiang Mai, Thailand[/column]

[column type=”2/5″ last=”true”]They have free wifi, but I wouldn’t be comfortable sitting at their small tables and chairs for hours on end.

Close to coworking?  Yes.

Good place to cowork?  Not really.[/column][/row]

There’s another coffee shop in the area called Mingmitr Coffee. The coffee might as well be identical to Doctor Gen_Y, the price is probably no more than 5 Baht different, and it’s actually about a block closer to Punspace. But the interior isn’t as cool as Doctor Gen_Y, so I found myself walking the extra few steps to soak up the atmosphere.

Visit Doctor Gen_Y on Facebook

2. Librarista

floor seating in Librarista coffee shop in chiang mai thailand     iced coffee in librarista coffee ship chiang mai thailand

Librarista is a coffee shop “coworking space”. That’s in quotes because it’s not the kind of coworking space that has offices and printers and meeting rooms. It’s more like a coffee shop with a lot of outlets and wifi. The purchase of a beverage gets you two hours of wifi in fact.

This place is all about the vibe. The famed salad bar from Google reviews is no more, and their coffee isn’t any better or worse than any other place in the Nimman area, but the library area is so chill. It’s quiet and bright with huge windows shaded by quirky trees.

And it’s super comfortable if you like sitting on the floor (I do!). There are also a couple of regular tables in the Library area, and many more in the main building if you’re not into floor sitting.

Bring bug spray. The water features make the area around Liberista a mosquito haven.

Visit Librarista on Facebook

3. Restr8to Lab

dragon latte art at ristr8to coffee in chiang mai

This is coffee for coffee lovers.

The artists ar Ristr8to have won multiple latte art competitions, both national and international. Just look at that dragon!

I also had a latte featuring a reindeer in a snowy pine forest. No joke. Check it out on my Instagram (which you should follow).

Sit, relax and enjoy your coffee. I wouldn’t try to cowork here. I didn’t notice a lot of outlets, it’s always crowded, and the tables are small.  If you need to cowork, go to Librarista. Or CAMP in Maya mall. Or Punspace.

I find the cheeky satanic sense of humor funny, but I get that that will rub some people the wrong way. Even ignoring the upside down crosses and the fact that you’re drinking a “satan latte”, you can still enjoy the open air seating, thoughtful design, and of course your delicious coffee.

Ristr8to Coffee Chiang Mai on their website

4.  Impresso Espresso Bar

Black light fixtures and world map at impresso espresso bar, chiang mai thailand

They serve an award winning roast, they have a wall of pez dispensers, and they have a solid Gundam figurine collection. If you’re a nerd, and you want a well made espresso drink, Impresso should be on your list.

Pez dispenser display at Impresso Espesso Bar

Like Ristr8to, this is another Chiang Mai coffee shop that’s designed for enjoying coffee, not coworking. Their seating consists of a single bar with high stools, almost like an Italian coffee bar. Linger long enough to your coffee and the quirky decor but don’t plan to spend all day here.

Visit Impresso Espresso Bar on Facebook

5. Clay Studio Coffee In The Garden

clay ganesh statue covered in vines and moss in Chiang Mai, Thailand

This is another Chiang Mai coffee shop that’s all about the ambiance. They make solid espresso drinks and smoothies, for sure, but the real draw of this place is the ancient walled garden vibe. I could sit there for hours.

I don’t remember seeing any power outlets, and the tables are low and inconvenient for using a laptop. Ditch your screens and enjoy the sculptures and lush greenery instead.

They have thoughtfully placed mosquito repellent burners and spray for guests to use, but bring bug spray just in case. I bring bug spray everywhere in Thailand.

Visit Clay Studio on Facebook

5 Chiang Mai Coffee Shops On The Map

I know, I know, it looks like 4 pins down there. Libarista and Ristr8to are just really close to each other.

There are so many coffee shops in Chiang Mai it’s almost silly. But like, a good silly. I’m really excited to check out more of the “must try” shops on other people’s lists next time we’re in Chiang Mai.

Know of any that I missed? What do you look for in a coffee shop?

 

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What's In My Thai Food?! 5 Thai Ingredients You Might Not Recognize

I love Thai food.
I fell hard for it in 1998 on my first trip to Los Angeles. My stepdad took us to a Thai restaurant (another first) and I don’t remember what I ordered, but I do remember it tasted exactly like heaven.
Years later, still in love with Thai food, I became a cook in a restaurant that used South East Asian ingredients. I’m not an expert in Thai ingredients, but I have encountered quite a few of them.
I’m all for being adventurous, but knowing a little bit about what you’re getting into can reduce stress. Plus it’s nice to know if you’re supposed to actually eat an ingredient or if it’s just for flavor like a bay leaf. So if you’re in Thailand, or just at a Thai restaurant, here are 5 ingredients you might find on your plate and how to approach them.

5 Weird Thai Ingredients

Green Peppercorns

green peppercorns are a Thai ingredient
These are the fresh version of black pepper, and they look a little like capers. You might find green peppercorns in a bunch like tiny green grapes or swimming around individually in your food.

Can you eat them?

Yes, unlike dried black peppercorns, you can actually eat fresh or brined green peppercorns whole. I probably wouldn’t eat the stem if they’re still in a bunch, though apparently that is an option.
Fair warning: they’re hot.
Fortunately they don’t have a lingering heat like spicy peppers, but they have the potential to send steam from your ears if you eat a lot of them.
To ease into their flavor, scrape the individual peppercorns off of the bunch with your spoon and try one or two with a bite of food. They’re especially nice for cutting through the richness of drunken noodles and pork dishes.
You don’t have to eat them to enjoy their flavor. Some of their peppery pungency will already be infused into your food.

Blood Tofu

blood tofu is an ingredient in Thai green curry

You can see a cube or two of blood tofu in a dish of green curry from Kao Soi Nimman, Chiang Mai, Thailand.


This Thai ingredient looks like cubes of liver but the texture more closely resembles actual tofu. Blood tofu is chicken blood, congealed into blocks, then sliced into cubes for dishes like curries and khao man gai (steamed chicken with rice).

Can you eat it?

You can, and according to Tony it might even give you a little extra pep when doing a workout. My guess is that’s from an extra boost of iron, or maybe he’s acquiring some mystical chicken power.
Think of blood tofu like an incredibly mild organ meat. Our favorite place to eat Thai green curry in Chiang Mai is Kao Soi Nimman, and they use blood tofu as an ingredient in that dish. There are plenty of places that make green curry without it though if you’re not into becoming powerful like a chicken.

Pea Eggplant

pea eggplants are a common Thai ingredient
These little eggplant look like giant peas, or like tiny unwrapped tomatillos. They have a slightly bitter flavor and add an interesting dimension to salty-sweet dishes like green curry.

Can you eat them?

Yep. Eat the whole thing. When you bite down a flavor bomb will burst in your mouth. The only reason not to eat them that I can think of is if you have some bias against nightshades.

Kafir Lime Leaves

kafir lime leaves used as an ingredient in Thai cooking
If you found a tough leaf in your food, it’s not lawn debris or even a bay leaf. It’s probably a kafir lime leaf. This aromatic Thai ingredient imparts a fresh citrus flavor without the tartness of lime fruit.

Can you eat it?

Like bay leaves, kafir lime leaves aren’t supposed to be eaten. They won’t hurt you if you do eat one. They’re just kind of tough and bitter. The limey flavor will already be infused in your curry or soup, so you won’t be missing out by pushing this Thai ingredient aside.

Phrik Nam Pla or Fish Sauce

Thai ingredient fish sauce mixed with chillies and lime makes a tasty dipping sauce
Phrik nam pla is a combination of fish sauce, fresh chilies, and lime juice. It’s served as a condiment in little dishes, in a bottle on the table, or in little packets in Thai takeout.
It has a salty-tangy-spicy-umami flavor. Instead of umami, you could think fermented/funky and still be in the right ballpark. The funk comes from the Thai ingredient fish sauce, which is made by fermenting tiny fish or crustaceans. Lots of Thai dishes are made with fish sauce, so you might already be eating it without knowing.

Can you eat it?

You can eat phrik nam pla unless you’re allergic to fish or shellfish.
Some folks love fish sauce, some don’t. I’m in the love it camp. If you’re not into fermented flavors this probably won’t be for you, but if you like things like kimchi try a splash of phrik nam pla on fried rice, noodles, grilled meats, or anything else that could use a little salt. It’s especially nice when your food tastes bland or monotonously sweet.
Sometimes the sauce still has tiny chilies in it. In that case I typically spoon out the liquid and avoid using the chilies since I still can’t handle legit Thai spice. Maybe someday…

What Thai Ingredients Do You Wonder About?

Ever tasted a Thai ingredient you couldn’t quite place? Have you seen an ingredient you were afraid to try? Or maybe you just weren’t sure how to eat your Thai food. Tell me about it! If I can’t solve the mystery, I know a few people who probably can.
 

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What’s In My Thai Food?! 5 Thai Ingredients You Might Not Recognize

I love Thai food.

I fell hard for it in 1998 on my first trip to Los Angeles. My stepdad took us to a Thai restaurant (another first) and I don’t remember what I ordered, but I do remember it tasted exactly like heaven.

Years later, still in love with Thai food, I became a cook in a restaurant that used South East Asian ingredients. I’m not an expert in Thai ingredients, but I have encountered quite a few of them.

I’m all for being adventurous, but knowing a little bit about what you’re getting into can reduce stress. Plus it’s nice to know if you’re supposed to actually eat an ingredient or if it’s just for flavor like a bay leaf. So if you’re in Thailand, or just at a Thai restaurant, here are 5 ingredients you might find on your plate and how to approach them.

5 Weird Thai Ingredients

Green Peppercorns

green peppercorns are a Thai ingredient

These are the fresh version of black pepper, and they look a little like capers. You might find green peppercorns in a bunch like tiny green grapes or swimming around individually in your food.

Can you eat them?

Yes, unlike dried black peppercorns, you can actually eat fresh or brined green peppercorns whole. I probably wouldn’t eat the stem if they’re still in a bunch, though apparently that is an option.

Fair warning: they’re hot.

Fortunately they don’t have a lingering heat like spicy peppers, but they have the potential to send steam from your ears if you eat a lot of them.

To ease into their flavor, scrape the individual peppercorns off of the bunch with your spoon and try one or two with a bite of food. They’re especially nice for cutting through the richness of drunken noodles and pork dishes.

You don’t have to eat them to enjoy their flavor. Some of their peppery pungency will already be infused into your food.

Blood Tofu

blood tofu is an ingredient in Thai green curry

You can see a cube or two of blood tofu in a dish of green curry from Kao Soi Nimman, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

This Thai ingredient looks like cubes of liver but the texture more closely resembles actual tofu. Blood tofu is chicken blood, congealed into blocks, then sliced into cubes for dishes like curries and khao man gai (steamed chicken with rice).

Can you eat it?

You can, and according to Tony it might even give you a little extra pep when doing a workout. My guess is that’s from an extra boost of iron, or maybe he’s acquiring some mystical chicken power.

Think of blood tofu like an incredibly mild organ meat. Our favorite place to eat Thai green curry in Chiang Mai is Kao Soi Nimman, and they use blood tofu as an ingredient in that dish. There are plenty of places that make green curry without it though if you’re not into becoming powerful like a chicken.

Pea Eggplant

pea eggplants are a common Thai ingredient

These little eggplant look like giant peas, or like tiny unwrapped tomatillos. They have a slightly bitter flavor and add an interesting dimension to salty-sweet dishes like green curry.

Can you eat them?

Yep. Eat the whole thing. When you bite down a flavor bomb will burst in your mouth. The only reason not to eat them that I can think of is if you have some bias against nightshades.

Kafir Lime Leaves

kafir lime leaves used as an ingredient in Thai cooking

If you found a tough leaf in your food, it’s not lawn debris or even a bay leaf. It’s probably a kafir lime leaf. This aromatic Thai ingredient imparts a fresh citrus flavor without the tartness of lime fruit.

Can you eat it?

Like bay leaves, kafir lime leaves aren’t supposed to be eaten. They won’t hurt you if you do eat one. They’re just kind of tough and bitter. The limey flavor will already be infused in your curry or soup, so you won’t be missing out by pushing this Thai ingredient aside.

Phrik Nam Pla or Fish Sauce

Thai ingredient fish sauce mixed with chillies and lime makes a tasty dipping sauce

Phrik nam pla is a combination of fish sauce, fresh chilies, and lime juice. It’s served as a condiment in little dishes, in a bottle on the table, or in little packets in Thai takeout.

It has a salty-tangy-spicy-umami flavor. Instead of umami, you could think fermented/funky and still be in the right ballpark. The funk comes from the Thai ingredient fish sauce, which is made by fermenting tiny fish or crustaceans. Lots of Thai dishes are made with fish sauce, so you might already be eating it without knowing.

Can you eat it?

You can eat phrik nam pla unless you’re allergic to fish or shellfish.

Some folks love fish sauce, some don’t. I’m in the love it camp. If you’re not into fermented flavors this probably won’t be for you, but if you like things like kimchi try a splash of phrik nam pla on fried rice, noodles, grilled meats, or anything else that could use a little salt. It’s especially nice when your food tastes bland or monotonously sweet.

Sometimes the sauce still has tiny chilies in it. In that case I typically spoon out the liquid and avoid using the chilies since I still can’t handle legit Thai spice. Maybe someday…

What Thai Ingredients Do You Wonder About?

Ever tasted a Thai ingredient you couldn’t quite place? Have you seen an ingredient you were afraid to try? Or maybe you just weren’t sure how to eat your Thai food. Tell me about it! If I can’t solve the mystery, I know a few people who probably can.

 

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Brave vs. Fearless: Why You Should Be Both

Ever wish you were braver?

When I hear about people doing thrilling things I wish I could join in. But I usually chicken out. Instead of a thrill I feel panic.

Honestly, I’d just like to not feel fear. Not feeling fear is fearlessness though, not bravery, right? OK so being fearless would feel great. But being brave is supposed to be a good thing too. So what makes bravery different from fearlessness? Are both good?

A couple of weeks ago Tony and I had a somewhat unpleasant thrilling experience. It made me realize I should learn to cultivate both fearlessness and bravery if I want to get the most out of our adventures.

Story Time

Once upon a time in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Tony and I were having a lovely walk down a quiet street. We were moving to a new hotel for the week and we were almost there when along came a ferocious, barking, growling, snapping hell beast dog.

Suddenly our lovely stroll in paradise turned into that scene in Thor Ragnarok where the giant wolf/dog is about to eat all of the Asgardians on the rainbow bridge.

Fenris the giant mythical wolf from thor

When I’m afraid, a tiny fearful bunny takes over my body and the only choice it gives me is run or freeze. Apparently instead of a proper “fight or flight” response, I have a “retreat or pretend you’re a rock” response. In that moment, with the Big Bad Wolf snapping at our heels, every fiber of my being screamed RUN AWAY!

But I didn’t.

The rational part of my brain had just enough influence to tell me acting like prey is probably not a good idea when you’re confronted with an actual predator. So even though I wanted to run I kept walking forward. I felt like a new born giraffe wobbling away from a lion, but I kept going.

Once we were safe inside the hotel lobby and I could remember how to use nouns again I asked Tony what the hell was that about? I saw the dog lying in his driveway but I couldn’t tell what set him off. Tony said he thought everything was fine until he looked directly at the dog. Maybe he thought that was a challenge.

Apparently the dog’s job was being an asshole across the street from our hotel, so we would probably see him again. But we decided if we didn’t look directly at him everything would probably be fine.

And everything was fine until two days later when the same exact freaking thing happened. We were walking down the street, almost past the dog’s territory, and suddenly a bolt of fur and teeth came flying at us.

My bunny brain kicked in and I froze, but Tony took action.

In one sure move he spun around, planted his feet in a wide confident stance, and directly faced the dog.

I couldn’t see Tony’s face but I imagine he looked something like this:

via GIPHY

The dog stopped dead in his tracks. Tony’s posture must have convinced the dog this was a challenge he would not win, and he promptly retreated back to his driveway.

We walked back and forth on that road at least twice a day for the rest of the week, but the dog didn’t bother us again.

Fearlessness vs. Bravery

Later that evening, once I had shaken the cement boots from my feet and cleared the cotton from my mouth, I told Tony I thought I have an overactive adrenaline response. Because when something frightens me it feels terrible. My legs get heavy, my vision gets blurry, my brain doesn’t work good.

Tony said, yeah, that sounds pretty normal.

So I asked, if that’s a normal adrenaline response, how was he able to act so confidently while my body chemistry seemed to be anesthetizing me so I wouldn’t feel myself being eaten.

He said he didn’t get an adrenaline rush. He wasn’t afraid.

When Tony turned to face the dog, he was being fearless. He was literally without fear.

When I kept walking even though I was afraid, that was bravery. I wasn’t saving kittens from a burning building or anything but it was still a little brave.

Fearlessness is moving forward because you’re not afraid. Bravery is moving forward even though you’re afraid.

Is being fearless better than being brave?

text mural that reads fear is a liar in all caps

Fearlessness is definitely the more pleasant state. I like being able to rationally choose a course of action. I also like not feeling like my mouth is full of peanut butter and my legs are made of Jello.

But a little bit of fear is actually pretty useful for avoiding danger when your rational brain fails you. A woman known as S.M. who is missing her amygdala (a part of the brain you need to feel fear) has gotten into several dangerous situations presumably because she’s unable to feal fear.

Plus, fear can give you just enough pause to stop and think before you do something stupid. Being startled might keep you from stepping on a snake, or walking in front of a bus.

So yeah, it feels better to not be afraid, but it’s probably not helpful or even possible for most people to be totally fearless. Even if I get really good at being fearless, there will probably be times when I’m afraid and I have to keep going. In those times, I’ll have to be brave.

So is bravery better?

backpacker lookin gover a valley with a quote that reads sometimes the fear won't go away so you'll have to do it afraid

Being able to push through your fear is an amazing human ability. It’s like you’re wrestling with your primitive instincts and telling them nope, not today – today I have more important things to do.

But sometimes – maybe even a lot of the time – the fear that necessitates bravery is unfounded.

I probably shouldn’t have been that afraid of the dog. I actually really like dogs (four of my favorite people are dogs), and I know that barking and snarling is usually just posturing. He probably wasn’t going to bite us, and he definitely wasn’t going to literally eat me like I imagined.

I’m also afraid of flying and escalators even though they’re the two safest forms of transportation on the planet. Being afraid of these things makes me feel awful without doing me any good since there’s no real danger to flee from, or fight, or trick into thinking I’m a rock.

And in the dog situation, being brave only got me as far as putting one foot in front of the other. I escaped, but I wasn’t able to solve the problem. Tony’s fearless response to the dog actually addressed the problem and made things better.

So it seems like when fear is unfounded or unhelpful, instead of being brave it’s probably better not to feel that fear at all.

Cultivate Fearlessness, Prepare for Bravery

Fearlessness feels better, and most of the fear I feel is probably not helpful. So it seems like a good idea to reduce the amount of fear I feel, especially the unhelpful kind.

But since being completely fearless is probably impossible for neurotypical people it also seems like a good idea to prepare to be brave.

Apparently Navy Seals are trained to minimize the fear they feel under stressful situations. And preparing for stressful situations by rehearsing them can help people make better decisions even when they’re afraid. That gives me hope that someday I might be able to use a protocol that helps me turn into a big brave dog instead of a little bunny when I’m afraid.

But if you’re like me and you already have a pretty high baseline stress level, it’s probably not the best idea to start rehearsing a bunch of stressful events. That seems like a great way to make the problem even worse.

So my first goal is to reduce my baseline stress. I’m hoping that will help my brain’s alarm system to chill out and keep me from being afraid of things that don’t really warrant it. Once that’s under control, I’ll start working on dealing with fear more gracefully than a panicked woodland animal.

Ultimately, if I want to travel the world, have adventures, and do exciting things without giving myself panic attacks every day, I’ll need to be more fearless. If something isn’t really a threat, I don’t want my body to behave as thought it is. But for those times when I can’t help but be afraid, I want to be prepared to be brave.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

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