Flexible Work Can Radically Improve Your Work-life Balance

Have you ever asked people what they want to get out of their careers? Many of the people I have talked to want to be millionaires, build a professional reputation, or do work that they love. These are all great answers, and yet something important is going unmentioned. What the daily life can you expect your career? Money, status, and work won’t bring you happiness if you don’t also have a good work life balance. This is why we would all do well to seek suitable flexible work arrangements in our jobs and careers.

What is flexible work?

Flexible work represents any alternatives to the traditional 9 to 5, five day work week. We see examples of flexible work all the time, such as graveyard work shifts and part-time jobs. When people talk about flexible work, usually they are referring to either schedule flexibility or remote work. Deliberately seeking and attaining work flexibility gives people freedom and control over when and where they work.

Think in flexible work terms as you build your career, to get the lifestyle you want!

We all have different lives and would benefit from different work arrangements. Some people may want to work at night and be free in the day. Others may want to work from home, and be around their family. People like me want to travel while working. Flexible work make it all possible! Its up to each of us to know how we want to live and seek the flexible work arrangements that will make that ideal life a reality.

Here are real examples of people improving their work-life balance with flexible work:

Danielle’s story (read the full story on Flexjobs)

Danielle is a military spouse, her husband is a member of the US Air-force. Because her husband could unpredictably move as the Air-force requires, Danielle sought work that was not tied to a specific location. Danielle was hired as a training specialist for InVision. Her job included a work-from-anywhere flexible work arrangement. Now Danielle can be employed and stay with her husband wherever he moves to.

Mandy’s story (read the full story at Make the Leap Digital)

A little over two years ago, Mandy was an employee of LinkedIn with a great salary and many benefits. But in time, she realized she was tired of her 9 to 5 corporate job. Mandy desired “the freedom to work from wherever she felt happiest and most productive and have the flexibility to design her own work schedule.” And so she quit her job at LinkedIn and quickly became a successful entrepreneur. Now Mandy is free to work where she wants and how she likes to work.

Matt’s story

Matt is an employee at Tesla, and an entrepreneur. Tesla has an unusual work schedule for its employees. Twelve hour work shifts, for four days one week and three days the next. Tesla’s work schedule is not for everyone, but Matt loves it! His work week is done quickly and then he has 3-4 days a week of free time to develop his own business.

Weston’s story (read the full story on my “About” page)

My story is only beginning. At this point in my life, what I desire most is to see the world. Not on a two week vacation, but to freely explore it while working. I want to become a “digital nomad.” To live this life, I’m seeking companies that offer work-from-anywhere remote arrangements. Stay tuned to see how my story develops, and receive details on how I’ll make it happen!

5 Melbourne Museums That Will Blow Your Mind

Melbourne, Australia is an amazing city to visit or even live in. A multicultural hub, loaded with beautiful architecture and exciting activities! Among those activities are a cadre of exceptional museums that I recommend you visit. These museums made my jaw drop and my eyes pop, during my first stay in Australia.

The world, and all these museums, are closed by the Coronavirus pandemic as I write this article. As a result, you can’t visit these museums right now. The world won’t stay closed forever though, and when it opens these fine museums will be elated to welcome you in. So, without further ado, here are five Melbourne Museums that will blow your mind!

ACMI –Australian Centre for the Moving Image

  • Australia’s national museum of film, video games, digital culture and art
  • Federation Square, Flinders Street, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
  • 10 AM – 5 PM everyday
  • Free entry

Located in downtown Melbourne, AMCI is a great addition to any day plan in the city. Heck, I happened upon AMCI in my first days of exploring Melbourne. Since the museum is free and housed in an awesome building, attendance is a no-brainer. I can now say that AMCI stands among the best interactive tech-museums I have experienced!

AMCI has all the hallmarks of a good tech-museum: Amazing technology, good information, and interactive exhibits. There is something here for fans of Australian cinema, kids who need a good distraction, or guys like me who just want to experience something cool.

My standout experiences included learning more about image technology, seeing great optical illusion exhibits, taking a selfie with Mad Max’s car, admiring a life sized model of Lara Croft, and beholding a video game section made of Minecraft blocks!

Currently, the AMCI is closed for redevelopment. Be sure to give the AMCI a visit when the museum, and world, reopens!


  • An immersive gallery experience, lose yourself in a sea of color
  • The District Docklands, Level 1, 26 Star Crescent, Docklands VIC 3008, Australia
  • 10 AM – 4 PM Mon – Fri, 10 AM – 6 PM Sat – Sun
  • Ticket prices are $28 for adults and $18 for children

Artvo is plain fun, taking museum interactivity to levels unheard of! This museum is a gallery of over 100 paintings drawn by Korean artists. These paintings are designed so that you can enter them and become part of the scene. Photography is highly encouraged, and Artvo has marked locations where the best photos can be snapped. I’d highly recommend bringing at least one friend. Afterall, those who pose need someone to take their picture.

If you like posting photos on instagram, Artvo is a must see! My friends and I captured incredible pictures from this venue. Two of my crew used an Artvo photo as their new facebook profile picture. We all had a great time setting up our perfect pose for each of the 100+ paintings we became part of.

As a bonus, Artvo is located in the Docklands of Melbourne. This is a beautiful harbor with loads of fun things to do before or after a visit to Artvo, including a ferris wheel called the Melbourne Star.

Immigration Museum

  • Journey through Melbourne’s history and explore stories of people who have migrated from all reaches of the world
  • 400 Flinders St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
  • 10 AM – 5 PM everyday
  • Ticket prices are $14 for adults and free for children

If you are a tourist who wants to have fun for a few days in Melbourne, you can give the Immigration Museum a miss. This museum is for people who want to better understand Australia and its history. And, oh boy, this museum is a must see for that kind of person!

The Immigration Museum explains the history of Australian Immigration with great clarity. There are many synopses of different time periods with plenty of real stories to give context to the attitudes of the times. Additionally, the museum has a massive library of books on Australian immigration. There is so much information here, I would have visited twice if I had stayed in Australia for longer.

Like all countries, Australia has had a history of both kindness and cruelty towards outsiders. Here you will learn about the European colonization, treatment of aboriginals, periods of jingoism, and ultimately how Australia became the multicultural nation it is today.

The Immigration Museum may be closed by the pandemic, but you can still take a virtual tour. After checking out the next two spectacular museums listed below.

Melbourne Museum

  • Showcases Australian social history, Aboriginal cultures, science and the environment
  • 11 Nicholson St, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia
  • 10 AM – 5 PM everyday
  • Ticket prices are $15 for adults, free for children and international students

Here is the big one, literally the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere. Melbourne Museum is massive, beautiful, and has something for everyone. Possessing enormous exhibits of many varieties. This is a museum that demands multiple visits.

I visited Melbourne Museum twice, and managed to take in three major exhibitions. My 1st visit was entirely focused on the Aboriginal exhibit. The Aboriginals are an amazing group that would take many years to understand, and Melbourne Museum’s exhibit is a great introduction to their culture. Along with Aboriginal artifacts, the exhibit contained many historical stories, and even modern testimonials from those with Aboriginal lineage.

My next visit was focused on the natural history and geodes exhibits. These exhibits were as good as any I have seen around the world. The geode collection was especially amazing, due to how complete it felt. Even after everything I saw, there was so much left unseen before I departed from Australia.

Melbourne Museum may be closed by the pandemic, but you can still take a virtual tour. Don’t go before seeing the final entre of this article though.

Phillip Island Wildlife Park

  • Hand feed and pat Kangaroos and Wallabies
  • 2115 Phillip Island Rd, Cowes VIC 3922, Australia
  • 10 AM – 5 PM everyday
  • Ticket prices are $19 for adults and $9 for children

Yes Phillip Island Wildlife Park is a zoo. I’m cheating a bit by including the Wildlife Park, and I don’t care. It is too good to be left out of my list! Phillip Island Wildlife Park is a large wildlife reserve. What makes it special is that you can feed and even pet many of the animals living here. This is the spot for visitors who have always wanted to see Kangaroos and Koalas up close. Naturally it is a great spot to bring kids, they will lose their minds.

These were the highlights of my visit. I gave back massages to a few kangaroos, and became buddies with the albino kangaroo. Feeding the emus was great. A word of warning about the Emus though, they are snappy eaters. Koalas sleep for 18 hours, so you have to get lucky if you want to hold one. Sadly, this was not my day to hug a Koala.

Phillip Island, as a whole, is a great spot to visit for a day! This Wildlife Park would make an excellent start to your visit. Afterwards, you can chill on the beaches and end the day by visiting the Phillip Island Penguin Parade.

Coming Together: Neighbors Share Pictures Amid the Pandemic

For sixteen days, we shared photos. Over twenty neighbors posted pictures, and many more showed support. We shared images that remind all of us of our neighborhood’s beauty, even when sheltered in place.

Where were you on 3/17/2020, when the shelter in place started? Bay Area natives will ask each other this question for years to come. That was the day we were ordered to stay at home until 4/7/2020, to halt the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. The rest of California soon followed. Some of us had to leave our jobs, others now had to home school their kids, all of us felt uncertainty about the future.

Many of us now had an abundance of free time. With excess time like this, you either fill it with activity or go stir-crazy! For me, this was a time to network, work on projects I’d longed to have time for, and develop my hobbies. And so, six days after the shelter in place started, I began taking and sharing photos from my neighborhood.

Within the neighborhood social media app Nextdoor, these photos made a stir. Neighbors from all over Union City and Fremont shared their own neighborhood photos. That photo-sharing thread was now being filled with beautiful skies ⛅, flowers 🌷, and the occasional neighborhood skunk 🦨.

For sixteen days, we shared photos. Over twenty neighbors posted pictures, and many more showed support. We shared images that remind all of us of our neighborhood’s beauty, even when sheltered in place.

Today is 4/7/2020, the shelter in place order was originally set to lift today. Now the order is set to end on 5/3/2020, or be extended even further. With that in mind, I hope that readers will join my community and many others in finding ways to relate, share, and feel together even as we are kept six feet apart. Any simple acts of sharing and connecting you take can bring your community together.

This story is written in thanks to the neighbors of Union City and Fremont! We came together and made this beautiful gallery of photos during the hard times.

Our Shelter-In-Place Photo Gallery

Please click and scroll through the photos…

How To Stay Active and Social During the Coronavirus Pandemic

To halt the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), communities and even whole countries are going into quarantine.

My own homeland, the Bay Area of California, is one such community. We are going to be kept at home for weeks, maybe longer. We have some allowed reasons to leave home, but that may change too. Boredom and loneliness threaten all of us.

I seek to resist those threats, and empower communities like mine. We can keep ourselves active, maintain our social lives, and even virtually explore beyond our homes. All we need are the tools, resources, and opportunities to do so. Keep reading to learn what they are.

Ways to stay active at home

Spending so much time at home puts us all at risk of boredom. We all need a lot of inspiration for how to keep active when we are stuck at home for weeks.

Fun at home

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There are many little ways to have fun at home. LifehackLiveBold&BloomRefinery29WPRI.comUSA Today and WikiHow have all produced articles you can look to for fun-at-home inspiration. Here are a few favorites from these articles:

Virtual Tours

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Many institutions are offering virtual tours that you can access from your own computer. A great way to “get out” and “see the world” while you are kept at home.

🏛 There are many incredible museums and galleries that you can tour virtually: 🛕

Insider has their own list with a greater variety of virtual tours. Here are a few of the tours they mention:

  • 🐠 Monterey Bay Aquarium is live streaming its sea creatures 🐧
  • 🗣 The Metropolitan Opera is live streaming operatic performances 🎼
  • 🦍 Check out animals of the San Diego Zoo, through their videos 🐅
  • 🏰 Disney Parks may be closed but you can still take a virtual tour and ride the roller coasters 🎢

🌳 Thrillist has compiled a list of 31 National Parks that are hosting virtual tours on Google Earth 🌎

Streamed concerts

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

Concerts may be closing but our favorite artists are still ready to put on a show for us. Many musicians are hosting virtual concerts.

🎸 Billboard and npr are both keeping updated lists on virtual performances! 🎤

Got kids?

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

👶 The Mercury News, The Atlantic, and The Motley Fool have written articles with tips to keep them happy 👨‍👨‍👧‍👦


Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Being stuck at home creates interesting business possibilities. Here are three ways to develop your career, stay professionally active and maybe make some more money while confined to home:

💵 1. Do you have a project in mind that you always wanted to start? Having all this free time may be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. A few project ideas: 🌟

  • Freelance with your talents, Fiverr and Upwork are two popular platforms
  • Start a YouTube channel or podcast
  • Write an E-Book
  • Build a website or a blog

📚 2. Take an online class, to build your skills 📝

👩‍💼 3. Now is a great time to develop your professional network 👨‍💼

👨‍💻 4. Are you wondering how you can transition your business to work from home? Remote workers and advocates are the best teachers for how to make the leap. 👩‍💻

  • Remote Workers of LI is a LinkedIn group and favorite posting location for some of the most established experts on telecommuting.

Maintaining an active social life

Social distancing and Coronavirus quarantines put us at risk to feel socially isolated. Loneliness can severely impact our mental health. It is very important that we maintain our social connections while kept at home. Here are ideas and tools to help you maintain an active social life:

Chat with family & friends online

Photo by ELEVATE on Pexels.com

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 There are so many ways to keep in touch with family and friends: 📱

Meet new people virtually

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

🤝 Who says you can’t meet new people from home? Here are a few ideas to keep your social life active and growing: 🥂

  • Get more connected with your neighborhood by downloading Nextdoor. This is a social media channel for neighborhoods. Great for keeping up with local news, meeting neighbors and setting up group activities. Hard times are the best time to draw a community closer.
  • Join a social media group, Facebook groups for example. Connect with people over shared interests and engage in virtual activities. Check out this awesome ad for groups:

Virtual house parties

🥳 A friend is hosting a virtual party. It’s such a good idea, I had to share it🎉

We will be using the House Party app. Other apps like Google Hangouts will also work well.

A big thanks to these people, who shared ideas and resources that will help all of us through these hard times.

Alexandra C, Jen A, Josephine T, Mandy F, Linda M, Lois W, Nelvin M, Pamela D, Pablo R, Rowena H, Sandy S, Samantha L, Shannon M, Steph S, & Toni M

Do you know more ways to keep a healthy and active life while confined to home? Please share in the comments!

Trip to LA while using Uber to pay for the road trip

Having worked as an Uber driver for sometime, I have considered creative ways to use the Uber driver app.

One juicy idea: can a driver take a road trip to cities across the USA using Uber?

On the week of 8/26/2019, I decided to test this question with a trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles.


There was little information online about such a trip, so I knew I would be experimenting. Any first experiment should play it safe.

You can read about my research and findings at the end of the article. First, I’ll tell you the story.

I worked up $1000 of spare cash and decided to stay with my cousins, Adam and Mark, during my stay.

The first preparation I made was to get some knowledge on my target region. I looked up articles on “best areas for Uber work in LA” and “best times to work uber in LA.” Then I called Uber 24/7 to learn about the airport rules. Turns out LA’s airports required a quiz; which I passed before riding out. I would need to collect the LAX placard in LA.


I decided to drive Uber normally in SF Bay Area for four hours. Just in case the drive to LA was dry. This turned out to be a wise precaution.

Uber allows the use of destinations, you can chose an address and receive trips heading in that direction. A destination to Bakersfield was set; a four hour ride. While I was allowed to do this, the destination acted buggy.

Taking I-5 put me through miles of open road with sparse Uber fares. I learned that Uber destinations require extra consideration when set to long distances.

I only had one ride on my way to Bakersfield. However, it wasn’t a bad drive. Listening to my audio-book; Creativity Inc, and stopping to take photos on the landscapes got my vacation rolling!

This is art made from photos along Highway 152.

These are art pieces, made from photos I took along I-5 and Pyramid Lake.

When I finished my first destination, I set a second two hour destination from Bakersfield to Pasadena. This destination was much more successful! I started getting rides at Santa Clarita and had four customers on the way to my cousin’s home.

One passenger had a useful story to share with me about another driver like myself. This man was from Seattle, moving to LA. He drove down and worked Uber while he was checking out houses. Apparently, an Uber driver can survive while driving in a new region!

After arriving in Pasadena, I caught up with my cousin, Adam. Then geared up for Uber work in LA.


On my 1st day in LA, I began Uber work at 7 AM. Very late for the morning rush, I know. There was a reason: I was scared of getting an airport ride before I could collect my airport placard at 9 AM.

LA seemed to be a wonderful city to drive Uber; apart from the traffic. I got plenty of work between 7 AM and 9 AM. There were three 40 minute+ rides I could have taken, had I not been concerned about airport rides.

At 9 AM, I visited a Uber Greenlight hub to collect my LAX placard. They gave me bad news and good news.

The bad news was that I was ineligible to do airport pickups unless I changed my home region to LA. My time taking the quiz and driving to the hub was a waste.

The good news was, because I was ineligible, I didn’t have to worry about getting airport rides.

The three 40 minute+ rides I passed up were safe to take after all; damn! Annoying findings but I accept the scientific process. We do our best until we learn how things work.

At this point, I knew I could work in LA without worries.

In the middle of the day, during the quiet hours for Uber, I went on vacation.

If your down in LA, be sure to check out the Griffith Observatory. Beautiful, relaxing, a great location to build photographic art.

When looking out at the city, I don’t know if it is heat or smog that causes this, the cars of the city will reflect the sun like rippling light.

I started up Uber work at 1 PM and was pleasantly surprised. Uber work was plentiful. In the Bay Area, I wouldn’t find consistent rides until 4 PM.

Driving Uber in LA proved to be a feasible way to make money as a traveler. Better yet, driving there showed me parts of the city I would not have seen otherwise!

Uber rides took me from Griffith Observatory through Hollywood and ending in Santa Monica.

My return to Pasadena showcased LA traffic. Even the streets get red traffic. I was worried I would miss dinner with Adam. When in a new city, be mindful of how traffic will affect your schedule.

Shout out to the Dog Haus in Pasadena, I cannot recommend their food enough! The perfect dinner to prepare me for my next day.


On Wednesday, I got the early Uber start I wanted. Woke up at 6 AM and work in Pasadena until 10 AM.

This was enough time to confirm a suspicion. LA Uber pays less than SF Uber. I’ll explain more at the bottom of the article.

After getting a feel for Uber in LA; I took the rest of the day off! First, enjoying the parks of Pasadena.

Then making new friends, Victoria, Maudie, Ted, and Steve, at Slater’s 50/50 Burgers by Design.

Visited the Huntington. It’s amazing how much fun can be had for free when I take photos that can be made into art.

The evening concluded in the form of an awesome dinner with my cousins, Mark and Adam!

Having completed my experiment, and needing to address affairs at home, I prepared to leave LA in the morning.


At 10 AM, I began driving back to San Francisco from Pasadena. Not wanting to get caught in LA, I waited on setting an Uber destination until I reached Santa Clarita.

The most direct route to home would be taking I-5, but I had already learned this route lacks business opportunities.

Highway 99 would add twenty minutes to my trip but runs through Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, and other cities. Wanting to see if Uber could help pay for road trips, I went this route. Setting a destination from Santa Clarita to Fresno, then from Fresno to Fremont.

This decision had a big payoff! I drove 7 passengers on my way home, earning $80. All my gas and meals on the trip were paid for. Best of all, my passengers alleviated the boredom of a long drive.

Another route to try when driving from SF Bay Area to LA is Highway 101. This highway is has great coastal views and many towns to find passengers. I will try this route on my next visit!

I returned home at 7 PM. Ready to write this article!

Experiment Findings

Payment differences

  • In SF Bay Area, Uber tends to pay between $15 and $30 an hour; $20 is average. The Bay Area has times and areas that don’t provide enough rides to consistently drive; this results in a $15 hour.
  • In LA, Uber pays $15 an hour. Rides here are much cheaper than in the Bay Area. 40 minute rides that would secure high pay in SF made no difference to the hourly pay out. LA does provide a near constant stream of work in the busier towns; ensuring a $15 payout per hour.
  • Before anyone swears off LA Uber, you need to know that LA is cheaper than SF Bay Area. Food, parking, and hostels are all cheaper in LA. Gas is unfortunately has the same price range in both regions.
  • For better or worse, LA offers a percentage surge while SF Bay Area offers a flat dollar surge.

Driving Advice

  • Once you do arrive in a city and start work, be an extra careful driver for the first few days. You will not be used to the roads or drivers, and Uber work tests your driving skills. I achieve caution by making all actions 15% slower or by imagining rainy weather.
  • Also, mind the traffic conditions. Any plans you make can be seriously thrown off by unfamiliar bad traffic.
  • Aim for cheap gasoline during travels. Waze is a great app for finding cheap gasoline. There are many other apps for this too. LA had a range of gas prices that was equal to SF Bay Area; unfortunately. In a city with less payout, saving money on gas is critical.
  • I suggest doing some research before visiting a new region. Even a little can make all the difference in preserving your enjoyment, safety, and passenger’s safety while driving.

Using long Uber destinations

  • When setting an Uber destination, make sure the drive takes no more than three hours. A four hour trip gets buggy, a six hour trip will be outright refused.
  • To make your destinations profitable, aim them along highways that have many towns. I-5 ran through quieter areas; I had one ride here. Highway 99 ran through Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, and other smaller cities; I had seven rides here.

Can an Uber driver support themselves in a different region?

My conclusion is that I can survive in LA and have a fun road trip! Here are tips and a few things I would do on my next trip.

  • Ideally, stay in a city for more than a few days. Especially if you want a prolonged road trip. This will give you time to acclimate to the driving conditions, save up some money, and enjoy the region more fully than most travelers do.
  • You can save money by planning trips to cities where friends or family live and stay with them. If this is not available, hostels are the next best thing. Cheap lodging filled with travelers and often providers of social events. LA has hostels for as cheap as $26. Easy lodging in a city that pays $120 for eight hours of work.
  • Look up free or inexpensive attractions in your new region. You can have plenty of fun in a new place with low expenditures. Remember that you are in a new town, surviving away from your home. Unless you have a surplus of cash in your bank, live light.
  • Turn off your Uber app and smell the roses! This is supposed to be a vacation. Uber takes us to so many cool places, take advantage of that. If you finish dropping off your passenger by a nice club or beach, turn off the app and enjoy!
  • Driving in LA did pay for my vacation, but it didn’t help with my Bay-Area priced rent. Similar trips in other states will likely result in fluctuating pay from city to city. I would do another trip like this after saving up a surplus of money.

I encourage LA Uber drivers to visit SF Bay Area. The pay fluctuation works in your favor. If you avoid spending money, you stand to make a decent profit and take it home.

Can I do a road trip across state borders?

After contacting Uber 24/7, I learned that Uber will not give any rides to a driver that crosses state borders. To really transition to another state, you would need to call Uber and relocate to a region in that state. A process that takes seven to fifteen days, requiring documentation.

However, I have heard of cross state trips that clients requested. Also, there was the story I heard of the driver in Seattle who was working in LA; did he already set up a transfer? I don’t know. There is some grey area that could be researched further.

For now, I suggest Uber drivers stick to road trips within your own state.

Want to drive for Uber? Use this referral code: WESTOND21

Enjoy your trips, make the most of your Uber!

🏡 Casa di Martin 🌳

When speaking about our travels, we should also speak of the places that we called “home.”

~~~Ricky West~~~

The major home of my childhood was “Casa di Martin…”

Casa di Martin is a two story mansion, settled in the verdant hills of Orinda, California.

This is the man who designed, built, and lived in Casa di Martin.

My father, Martin. I have named Casa di Martin in his honor.

Martin graduated in Architecture from the University of Oregon. He then went on to remodel or build nearly forty houses in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dad did it all, He would draw the designs and then have a hand in every aspect of the building. Carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, landscaping and terra-forming are all parts of Martin’s legacy.

Being Martin’s son, I have been around tools, design, and vision building for my whole life. When I was 12, I started working with my dad and spent many of my summers helping build Casa di Martin.

For Dad, Casa di Martin was his dream home. It was that type of project that all artists have: the big expression of talent that artists seek to make reality. Dad’s design of Casa di Martin was inspired by the architecture of Tuscany. Hence, I gave the home’s nickname an Italian feel too.

Growing up at Casa di Martin…

I lived in Casa di Martin even before it was fully constructed. To give you readers context, my family moved into this house for tax reasons and had to made do using an outhouse and showering at a friend’s home or at the gym for five months. Made me appreciate a good bathroom, I’ll tell you.

Living at Casa di Martin was luxurious in ways. I had a beautiful home, a full acre of space to explore, dance, and do what I wanted. However, my family’s experience was unique. Most people who live in homes like this have loads of money and can afford to employ cooks, gardeners and maids. Since my my family was a middle class one that built its way into living in a mansion, we had to do all the work ourselves. Living in a mansion is not all sunshine and rainbows when you have to maintain the grounds personally.

When the great recession hit the USA, I was in college. Partly due to the recession, I returned from college to help my family survive the recession’s effects. For years my family worked to improve the grounds of our home to keep its sale value up. We would work long hours, then clean the whole house every day. Finally we would have a pain pill and glass of wine to end the day.

We sold Casa di Martin to another family in 2014. We lost a lot of value to the recession but the sale gave my father a comfortable retirement, my mother a decent sum, and allowed me to pay off all my student debt from college. To this day, I have nearly no debt and I am very grateful.

Moving to smaller homes was a reprieve for my family. My father and mother separated soon after the sale and we three went our separate ways. All of us enjoyed having simple homes that were not so exhausting to live in.

It has been five years since then. A lot has happened but I still feel the peace of not having student debt. I remember my childhood home. Gratitude for the experience is what I say about Casa di Martin.

A gallery of our old home:

🌶 Three-eyed “Tres-ojos” Don 🤠

“Are you ready to meet Tres-Ojos Don?”

~~~ Ricky West ~~~

Three-eyed Don…a sweet and tart drink that warms the body with an after taste of spice! The drink is distinguished by its three red pomegranate eyes and the majesty of Don Julio’s finest tequila…

A close look at Don’s red eyes…

Includes two ounces of Don Julio Reposado and one ounce of Grand Marnier. Both bottles have a ABV of 40%.

Composed of fine sweet-and-sour, mango, lime, serrano syrup, and egg whites.

Please, drink responsibly…

This tequila drink has all the composition of a margarita. Expect a sweet front taste and spicy after taste.

The spice is delicately balanced, so as to not overwhelm. You are welcome to ask for minimal spice, before the drink is prepared.

Three-eyed Don is designed to be served with dinner. It pairs well with savory meals!

The bar price for Three-eyed Don is $15

Available with Don Julio 1942. At additional cost.

🌏 Two years after Melbourne 🦘

Two years ago today, on 7/7/2017, I left Melbourne after living there for six months…

Do you want to read the cliff-notes of my visit?

Two years and six months ago, I flew there on an exchange semester. At that time, I was a student of San Francisco State University (SFSU). A member of the 1st group to study at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Not only were we students, we were ambassadors. Our behavior would be the foundation for a new relationship between the two universities.

I lived in the city of Melbourne, province of Victoria, country of Australia.

This city is one of my favorite cities in the world! The people are social and easy to meet. Public transportation puts Californian transportation to shame; I did not drive. The innovative city design, Yarra River, surrounding cities and Great Ocean Road were all so wonderful to behold!

Getting more micro: I lived in Brunswick, a suburb 30 bus-ride minutes north of the city.

I lived in a quint home with 5 housemates. I was the only US American in the house. My housemates were from Australia, New Zealand, and Turkey. We got along so well! Often we would have drinks together in the back yard and talk. Occasionally, we held BBQ’s!

During my stay I was elected as a Social Ambassador for RMIT!

I got a week’s worth of rent money and the opportunity to seek out experiences in Australia and tag RMIT (#RMITglobal). Thank you RMIT, I am so grateful for those experiences…

What I did as a social ambassador:

Found beautiful graffiti in the city, watched an AFL game at the Cricket Ground, spotted unique stores, and visited the museums! ArtVo, the Melbourne Museum, and the Immigration Museum were amazing!

My sweet mother, Pamela, gave me a great gift that year: a vacation with Extreme Adventures ~ one fish two fish!

A trip in Queensland that began in Brisbane and ended in Cairns.

We spring-break students traveled north on a ten day trip, sleeping in hostels each night. We traveled through the Australia Zoo, Rainbow Beach, Fraser Island, the Whitsunday Islands, Whitehaven Beach, the Tully River, and the Great Barrier Reef.

What a thrill! I bungee jumped at Hackett Cairns!! The most moving part of the trip was Raging Thunder – Xtreme Tully at the Tully River.

There was light rain dripping on the river as we rafted through a tropical forest. Being there evoked childhood memories of watching Disney’s the Jungle Book, dreaming I was Mowgli living in the wild. It felt like adventure…

So much fun!!! I felt as though I crammed a year into my six month AU visit…

A part of Australia stays with me, do you want to know what it is?

The feelings of family I have for the friends I made in Australia. Many of us were fellow travelers, experience and marveling at Australia together. This is my Australia family! The people who made me feel at home so far from my land of birth…