Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Great Interview Experiment

Neil at "Citizen of the Month" is hosting a fabulous social experience he calls the Great Interview Experiment. I'm horribly delinquent in completing my part of the experiment.

Ironically, the person I'm responsible for interviewing lived for a time in Shanghai, China. Ironic because this post has been held hostage by my 2 week trip to China.

Without further ado, I would like to introduce Alecia of Hoobing Family Adventures!

I see that you've traveled extensively, including living in Shanghai for a while. Coincidentally, I'm heading to Shanghai on Monday (my 3rd trip). I'm spending the better part of 2 weeks in Kunshan (west of Shanghai). Where do you recommend I go for a memorable weekend of tourism?
The top of the Jin Mao building, Yi Cafe for dinner (awesome international buffet inside the Shangri-La in Pudong), gardens in Suzhou, take the ferry across the Huang Pu river (we liked to take the ferry over to the fabric market in Puxi as we lived in Pudong), KeJiGuan fake market (Science and Technology Center subway stop on Line 2), Little Sheep (Xiao Fe Yang) Hot Pot restaurant (located all around town), Yu Yuan gardens (go to the tea house in the center and walk the streets further away from the enclosed area to see where the locals shop), Xintiandi if you want the more westernized shopping experience. There are also a ton of really good European restaurants (French, Italian) if you are looking for that. I know, random, right? I would say Jin Mao, Little Sheep, Yu Yuan and KeJiGuan are the musts. Oh and the ferry. Very few foreigners take the ferry, it is a great experience. Let me know if you need directions or the Chinese characters for any of those to show the taxi driver.

Of all of your travels, what was your favorite place to live/visit? Why?
We loved living in Guadalajara. The weather is awesome and we were close to the beach and the Mexican people are so wonderful. In one year we visited the beach (Manzanillo or Puerto Vallarta) over fifteen times. We could have been tour guides, seriously. Mexico is not the safest place though. For that China was good...very safe, but not good weather and the culture is less inviting. We do love living in Boise too, but after a few years back here, we generally get anxious to live somewhere exotic/different again. We like change and learning new cultures. How is that for not exactly answering your question?

As for our favorite place to visit...Cambodia sticks out in my mind as the most amazing place we have ever been. With the temples everywhere, the monks in their vibrant orange robes, the absolute poverty coupled with a newly booming tourism industry, the place is like no other. Honestly we have been so many cool places, it is hard to choose one. The Maldives were absolutely incredible with island atolls and having to fly up to the island on a sea plane. And there are still so many other places we want to go.

What was your least favorite place to live/visit? Why?
Hmmm, least favorite. Almost every place has something endearing about it. Generally, we would not go to a place if it wasn't compelling for some reason. After some thought, I would say my least favorite places to visit were the cities in China during holidays because there are way too many people. We had this experience in Hangzhou, Suzhou and the Yellow Mountains.

Also, despite the unique pieces to each Chinese city, after awhile, they all start to feel the same with the exception of their key landmarks. I enjoyed living in China but it would not be my first choice to go to live again...and my husband will not go back there to live (although with the awesome sailing club in Shanghai, I could probably talk him into it if the opportunity was right.)

Do you plan to take Belén, your precious daughter, on adventures to foreign lands? Why/Why not? If so, where's the first place you plan to visit? (If I've missed that she's already made such a trip, forgive my oversight...and please tell of her adventures.)
Absolutely. That is actually why I chose the name for our new blog. We plan to continue with the adventures. We are taking some time to let her grow out of her newborn state and build up the bank accounts a bit. We hope to have another child and then in time, we would like to take both of them on a sailing adventure for an extended period of time. Details to be determined, but this is our goal. Belén's personality seems to fit very well with adventures, I hope #2 is the same. We will be taking her on her first big adventure next May to Puerto Vallarta. She has had her passport since she was six weeks old but it turns out she did not need it as soon as we were expecting due to the costs of having a baby and lack of time of due to an extended maternity leave.

How does parenting compare to your previous adventures?
I could take the cliché approach and say that it is the best. In reality it is, but that is not a fair answer. Andy and I were married eight years before we definitively decided to have kids and had Belén. We had so much fun in those eight years that having kids was actually a tough decision. We really liked our lives. We are spontaneous, not planners. Kids require more planning and make spontaneity more difficult. I think we are taking it in stride and plan to try and change as little as possible of our previous patterns while at the same time bringing Belén with us on our globe trotting adventures. She is only seven months old so more experienced parents are probably saying, "uh huh, ya right' and maybe it won't be possible, but that is what we would like.

Both Andy and I have adored every moment we have spent with our daughter. She absolutely changed our lives in every sense and deciding to be parents was the best decision we have ever made. I guess the point I am trying to make is that the parenting adventure is superb but the ideal situation will be when we can better couple the previous adventures we were having with the parenting adventure. I cannot wait to show Belén the world and I hope she gets to see much more than I have seen in my lifetime and I hope we will see a lot together. Nothing sounds better to me than that scenario!

Do you consider your dreams complete or are you still harboring a list of things you'd like to do before "slowing down"? If so, what are the top 3 items on your list of dreams?
Absolutely, positively not. I am not ready to settle into American life for good. And for the record, I don't ever intend to slow down. :) I actually started a list of things I wanted to accomplish in my life when I was in high school. I have already accomplished many of the key things (marry for love, run a marathon, live in another country for a year, become a manager, earn a Masters degree, visit Salzburg, obtain a patent, etc.) There are still quite a few things on that list, but I think my top three things are probably not on that list.
  1. I would like to either start my own business or find a job where I can use what I learned in my MBA to achieve something meaningful or be a full time blogger or writer :). Ideally whatever this turns out to be, it would be flexible such that I can see more of Belén and hypothetical baby #2 during the day.
  2. Write a book. I am scared, but I must do it!
  3. Travel around the world with my family for a year, ideally sailing for at least a portion of it.

If I had a #4 not including the travel, it would be my non-goal of doing an Ironman. I have tried really hard to not let this become a goal of mine because once I have a goal, I have to do it...but I am afraid it has crept on to my list.

There are also a million other places I want to see (France, Peru, Croatia, Turkey to name a few) and we would like to live abroad again. Oh I also want to perfect Spanish, and pick up another couple of probably romance languages.

Wow, it is exhausting talking so much about myself. I feel so incredibly selfish, but thanks for the opportunity! Enjoy your time near Shanghai. Zaijian!

I have to admit, I've fallen in love with the remarkable and inspiring Alecia. I'm grateful for the opportunity to get to know her better. Not just because of what's she's done, or what she's yet to do - she's got great travel tips! Thank you, Alecia!

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