If you’re going to get married, you might as well give your close family and friends an excuse to take a vacation and escape from their boring, monotonous sheeple lives. Plus, because destination weddings are typically more expensive for guests to attend AND require a few vacation days, so you weed out those tier 2 friends and family that you didn’t want coming anyway. lol.
A huge thanks to Melanie and Victor for inviting me to their special day and a thank you to the El Dorado Royale for a memorable trip! Onto the vlog review of this gorgeous, all-inclusive, adult-only resort in Riviera Maya.
The customer service is top-notch. As soon as I arrived at the resort, I was greeted by “Uncle” Clay as well as an ice cold bottle of water (relief from the Mexican heat!). I also got paired up with a great guy named Francisco who gave me a quick tour of the resort and helped me settle into my room. There’s two Starbucks on-premise which is absolutely wonderful.
My room was awesome! I had a beautiful view of the resort. The only negative thing was that I didn’t have a +1 so I didn’t have anyone to enjoy the hot tub with. The bottle of champagne on ice and fresh fruit was a classy touch. That view tho!
From personal experience, the food at all-inclusive resorts often leaves a lot to be desired but I am happy to say that the food at El Dorado was actually really good! I was joined by a few close friends (including my kids) to sample some of the menu items. The chicken club sandwich was moist!
Although scuba diving was technically not a part of El Dorado Royale’s offering, it was available at the nearby Iberostar. I don’t like scuba diving but my friend Stephen Castro is a licensed scuba diver so he filmed his first ever vlog for you guys.
Not only are the casual restaurants at El Dorado Royale solid, but their upscale restaurants such as Rincon Mexicano were great as well. I asked for the hottest hot sauce and our waiter went to the back to pull out the special sauce…holy moly!
El Dorado Royale also had a “rifle” range on-premise (rifle in quotes because they used BB pellets as opposed to real bullets – safety first!). My dad won a few sharpshooter awards with the M14 & M16 in the army during the Vietnam War so I was hoping that I’d also be able to hit bullseye. Unfortunately I did not receive that gene from him (moreso because I was adopted). Shout out to my adorable gun safety instructor Haxby!
What a beautiful place for a wedding with such an awesome group of people.
Lots of tequila shots, dancing and popped collars.
I just found out that May 22nd is Gout Awareness Day. I guess they really have a day for everything. Now they just need a “Gout Awareness” Awareness Day lol.
As many of you know I suffered my first gout flare up a little over a month ago in Vietnam when I was eating fresh fish everyday. Many fish contain a chemical called purines which the body processes through the kidneys as uric acid. When there’s more uric acid than your body can handle (due to purine overload or kidney problems), it can pool in your big right toe and this creates crystals that causes pain that I’ve never knew existed. Holy moly!
5 weeks later I am fully recovered and able to do things like running, squats and lunges again. And it feels great! To help my audience prevent a gout flare-up or to manage the symptoms during one, I put together a last minute video about gout so everyone can be free from gout.
Keep in mind that gout is hereditary but things like nutrition and lifestyle can cause flare ups. Your best bet is to live healthy and prevent it from happening in the first place!
The Inspirationals #5: Happy (Single) Mother’s Day
Welcome to the fifth installment of BeFreeMySheeple.com’s The Inspirationals where I interview people who inspire me.
This week I interviewed Anna, a highly successful advertising executive and an inspirational woman who adopted two beautiful girls as a single parent, Madison & Phoebe (names changed to protect their identity). What makes this story unique is that Anna adopted her nieces from her sister to keep the family together. Like Anna’s daughters, I too was adopted so I have huge respect for anyone that goes through the adoption process and provides a better life for children.
Mother’s Day is an especially difficult time for me because I lost my mom to cancer on July 13, 2009. My birthday is July 11th and I’m certain that my mom held on for an extra two days so that I could enjoy my birthday for the rest of my life. Please call or hug your moms today and tell them how much you love them.
I also believe that being a mom is one of the toughest jobs in the world, especially as a single parent. Before we get into the interview, I wanted to share one of the most emotional and creative advertising campaigns that I’ve seen for Mother’s Day that reinforces this. Grab some tissues.
BeFreeMySheeple.com’s Exclusive Interview with Anna
Adam Francisco: Happy Mother’s Day Anna! As you know, I was adopted from Mexico so I have always been moved by your story. What inspired you to adopt your children?
Anna: I am a firm believer in keeping my family together. Family is the most important thing to me and I would do anything for them. I have always been involved in my nieces and nephew’s life so when I knew that Madison and Phoebe needed help, it wasn’t a question. I don’t necessarily think it was inspiration that motivated me to adopt. I think it was the love I have for my family and wanted to do whatever I could to protect them.
Adam: What was the adoption process like?
Anna: This process was extremely difficult for me because I did not have a typical adoption. My sister and brother-in law made some bad decisions in life and Madison and Phoebe were taken away from DCF (Division of Children and Family Services). Because they were taken away from a government service, the adoption process is very different. When you think of adopting, you think about the typical process – apply at an adoption agency, get interviewed, pay a ton of money and then meet the children. My experience did not go like this at all.
Adam: The typical process sounds like what my mom and dad had to go through to adopt me from Mexico.
Anna: When I first got custody of my daughters, I had just turned 25 years old and was working full-time at a media agency in New York City. I was living in a 1 bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment and just barely managing to maintain paying all my bills. You can only imagine to my shock when I received a phone call the morning of September 21, 2014 from a case worker at DCF to tell me that my nieces were going to be placed in a foster home if I did not take them in. I was shocked, confused and devastated. I went to the DCF office the next day and spoke with them for hours regarding what would happen to the girls if I did not take them. The clear conclusion was that if I did not take the girls, unless my sister and brother-in-law got better, my family had a 99% chance of never seeing them again. After hearing that, I knew what I needed to do, and I told DCF that I would take them. 3 days later the girls moved into my 1-bedroom apartment. Madison was 2 and half and Phoebe was 11 months.
Adam: Everything happened incredibly fast. What did you need to do to keep the girls?
Anna: The process of being a foster parent is extremely invasive, embarrassing, and almost abusive. To even get your foster parent license, you must go through several steps – 3 drug and alcohol tests, psychological evaluation, background check, personal references, financial background checks, friends and family background checks etc… and once you are cleared from all these things, then you must allow DCF workers to inspect your house. Each month a DCF caseworker would come to my apartment and check every outlet, cabinet, bathroom, pet paperwork etc.… to make sure that everything is safe and compliant to foster care regulations. If one thing was off, you were in jeopardy of the kids being taken away. This honestly was so scary to me because you never knew if something might be out of place that you didn’t notice.
Adam: That sounds so stressful.
Anna: Besides having a case worker going through my home monthly, a lawyer and nurse would have to come every 3 months. They only worked 9-5 so I would have to either take off a day of work to be home for when they could come or leave early, which to be honest, my boss was not very supportive or happy when I did.
Adam: I hope that boss has learned a bit more humanity.
Anna: I tried to always be accommodating with DCF because of the fear of upsetting them and risking Madison and Phoebe being taken away. My biggest fear was making a mistake and then losing the girls.
Adam: I can’t imagine.
Anna: For years, I went through this process and had to deal with these stresses. I was even screamed at once by their nurses because I needed to reschedule a dentist appointment. I couldn’t maintain working in New York City and taking care of the girls and handling childcare so I ultimately left my job in NYC and got a job in an office close to my home.
Adam: Living in NYC is already extremely stressful even without kids. You absolutely did the right thing getting the heck out of there.
Anna: Before you can legally adopt foster children, there are 1 or two things that need to happen. The biological parents need to sign away their rights or DCF needs to rule the parents are unfit to take care of their biological children.
In one last attempt to connect my sister with her children, DCF setup a mediation session with the caseworker, myself and my sister. I will never forget that session because the outcome was my sister telling me that I was a fucking asshole who had stolen her children.” Ironically, a month later, my sister and brother-in-law signed away their parental rights and the adoption paperwork was processed.
Adam: I’m so happy that they ultimately made the best decision for the kids.
Anna: The last step before the adoption took place was to have a medical check done on the girls so the government would help support their medical needs post-adoption. This was finalized and on January 25, 2016 I legally became the proud mother of Madison and Phoebe.
I can’t explain to you how happy I am to have the girls in my life. Although it can be hard, I would not take it back for one second.
Adam: What did your family and friends think about you adopting children as a single mom?
Anna: This is atough topic to talk about because at first a lot of people did not support my decision. I think my family and friends were concerned that at a such young age, I was giving my life away. For a long time, I was very angry at them for not supporting me at first, but after I saw a therapist and was able to open my eyes, I understood it wasn’t because they did not believe I could, it was because they were worried for me. Now, I can honestly say that everyone is truly happy and 100% supportive of my decision. My dad tells me all the time how proud he is of me that I was able to get through all the hard time and build my career while being a single mom. Things really happen in mysterious ways.
Adam: What are some of the challenges you face as a single mom? How do you handle them?
Anna: Being a mom has truly been the hardest challenge of my life. I honestly think all moms have a hard time and I wouldn’t say I have harder challenges than married moms, but we just have different ones. I think for me, the biggest challenge is being a 30-year-old, single adoptive mom. I say that because the questions that come up with my daughters are much different than others, but each mom has struggles. My girls know they are adopted and have a lot of questions about their adoption. My oldest wants to know why her birth parents “didn’t want her.” It has haunted her a lot, but I always tell her that sometimes in life you have a birth mom and a forever mommy. I am her forever mommy. Her birth parents were just not ready to be forever parents, but that does not mean they did not love her. They did. Every time she hears that, her tears turn to a smile because she knows she is loved.
Adam: You could even say she’s twice as loved – loved by the parents that wanted her to have a better life via adoption and you for adopting her.
Anna: Another fun question I get is, “when are you going on a date?” (it’s like I have a 97-yr. old grandma in the house), and if they will ever have a dad, and to be honest this is personally hard for me. The day I adopted the girls the guy I was seeing for 6 months broke up with me. That was hard for me because the girls had grown to adore him, and I was completely blindsided. I get why he did it, but he is still an asshole.
Adam: Yeah, that sounds like a selfish asshole.
Anna: I feel bad for the girls because I want them to have a normal life and be able to have that “daddy” figure in their lives. I grew up with my dad and I knew how it felt to not have my mom around and I would never want them to go through that but dating as a single parent is tough now a days, and I need to focus on the girls and make sure they know that they always come first and are my 100% priority.
Adam: Dating sounds pretty difficult in America as a single mom compared to Thailand where many women have children at a younger age so it’s completely normalized to date single moms there.
Anna: Yeah. Dating is hard. To be honest, it sucks. If I tell a guy I am a mom of an 8 and 6-year-old they are so quick to judge since I am only 30. I don’t want to share the reasons why because I shouldn’t have to. My family history shouldn’t matter, but a lot of the time guys don’t even give me the chance to let them know. This is the only part of my life that I am sad about.
Anna: [Laughter]. I think the other challenge I am constantly dealing with, which to be honest I think ALL moms can relate to, ifthey have girls, is how DIVA these minions are! Yes, my kids are only 8 and 6, but they act like they are 18 and 16. Madison is constantly wanting to go to Abercrombie & Fitch and needs to know the latest top 40! *roll eyes*. Phoebe needs to get her nails done and has a “boyfriend.” When I was their age, all I cared about was what Barbie was going to do in her dream house!
Adam: OMG I can’t imagine what it’s like having a daughter lol. What advice can you give to someone who want to become a single parent?
Anna: I think that being a parent is a huge sacrifice. The greatest advice I can give someone is to make sure that you are ready to worry about someone else 110% because you won’t have that extra time anymore to go get your nails done or grab a beer with your boys. It is not an easy job and it’s a lot of hard fucking work, but in the end, it is all worth it. I would never change my decision. I have become a better person because of my girls and I think it is a blessing I have them. Don’t be a parent, to be a parent. Do it because you feel in your heart this is the right thing to do.
Adam: If you could go back in time, what advice would you have given yourself? Is there anything you would have done differently?
Anna: Honestly, I don’t know. I think I would have told myself to not let the negativity of others get to my head so much. That really impacted me for a long time and I was so angry, so I would want to avoid that.
If I could have done anything differently, I would have saved money better the minute I graduated from college. Just like most typical early 20-year-old, I did not save the right way and I think if I had, I may have not struggled, but again I was not planning on being a foster mom at 25 and a single adoptive mother at 27.
Adam: That’s one piece of advice I think is important for everyone. Start saving early and invest. My first investment was in Facebook when it IPOed and my money has almost multiplied by five times since then!
Anna: Everyday you learn how to be a parent. I don’t think I will ever be perfect at that job. I make mistakes just like everyone else in this world. I can only keep trying my best to make sure Madison and Phoebe have the best life and are 110% happy. They are amazing kids who deserve the best.
Adam: How has the definition of “happiness” changed for you?
Anna: Wow, that is an amazing question. I don’t look at it as a single mom thing to be honest. I think most moms would relate that my happiness is seeing my girls come home everyday with a smile on their faces. Madison scoring a goal in her soccer game or Phoebe breakdancing when we are having a dance party on a Saturday night. Their smiles are what makes me happy. The pride they have when they get a 12/12 on their spelling test is amazing. The excitement about going on a plane and meeting their great grandparents or throwing them a party for their baptisms with 30 people coming to support them. As a mom, my life has changed. My happiness is making sure my kids are happy and healthy and enjoying their lives. That really is what matters to me.
Adam: Thank you so much for sharing such a personal and touching story. As an adoptee, I really appreciate what you’ve done for your children and I wish your family all the best and a Happy Mother’s Day this Sunday!
Have a Happy Mother’s Day! Have another person that you’d like me to consider for next month’s The Inspirationals? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.
As I sit here and watch the sun rise on a grateful universe, I wanted to share my thoughts on Phu Quoc, Vietnam. I was warned ahead of time by locals and travelers that I might get bored after more than a few days in Phu Quoc. Is it true? Read on to find out.
What is Phu Quoc?
Phu Quoc is an island in the gulf of Thailand that lies in the middle of Cambodia and Vietnam. Currently you can enter without a visa (whereas if you enter anywhere else in Vietnam, you need a visa or apply for an invitation letter in advance).
My first impression of Phu Quoc
You can immediately tell that Phu Quoc is undergoing rapid expansion and development. The entire island feels like it’s under construction. If you’re looking for a developed island like Phuket, this is not it. I’m guessing this is what some of the Thai islands felt like 10-20 years ago. This island definitely feels unfinished, even in the more developed areas.
One thing that really disappointed me was how many makeshift landfills I’ve seen across the island. It doesn’t seem like recycling or showing respect for where you live is something the island is focusing on just yet.
However, on the flipside, I’m currently at Golden Sand Bar and this is one of the most Instagrammable places I’ve been to in Vietnam. It’s almost like a playground for adults. Beautiful sculptures, great music and cocktails make this bar one of my favorites on this side of the world. Plus, unlike the neighboring Sunset Sanato Beach Club, this bar is dog-friendly. There’s 2 cute pups that live on premise. This is the kind of place that you bring a significant other to such as your dogs.
Is Phu Quoc Good for Single People?
Speaking of significant others, Phu Quoc is not an island I would recommend for bachelors or bachelorettes. Unless you’re open to sharing a bedroom with 7 other people in a hostel, you’ll have a hard time meeting singles. I’ve never stayed in a shared room before simply because I started traveling after my career was established in my late-20s. If you are open to staying in a hostel, your experience might differ from mine.
For example, look at my Bumble results after 5 minutes of swiping …
Everywhere across Thailand (except for the remote towns), it seemed that local women preferred dating farangs (foreigners), a subject I’ll discuss more in the future. This relationship dynamic doesn’t seem to exist in Phu Quoc on a mainstream level. It’s such an isolated island it seemed like every local girl had a local boyfriend. I can appreciate that but as their tourism industry continues to grow, I’m sure the dating culture here will start to shift. If you want to meet singles or experience a good nightlife, Phu Quoc may not be for you. This is the type of island where I recommend bringing sand to the beach (in other words, it’s a slow-paced, romantic island that’s a great choice for couples to get away).
Is Phu Quoc cheap?
I was also surprised at how expensive some of the activities in Phu Quoc were compared to Thailand. It was very difficult to find a massage for less than. 300,000 dong ($12 USD) whereas in Thailand I saw 200 baht ($6 USD) massages everywhere.
This of course changes if you go to the beach and find makeshift massage tables. Here they typically charge 200,000 dong ($8 USD) for the hour and it’s my ideal way to get a massage. Nothing beats the sounds of the ocean and a cool breeze against your skin offering relief from the heat while a Vietnamese woman soothes your soul by way of deep-tissuing your muscles. For a few extra bucks, you can get an aloe vera massage which is good if you’ve been laying out in the sun.
And please tip your service workers generously if you can. They work hard and a dollar to an American or European or Australian is much easier to come by. Tipping your masseuse 20% just simply isn’t enough. I always tipped at least 50%. If a massage cost $6 USD, I would tip $3-5 USD. Even at $11 USD all-in, this is still less than just the tip for a massage in America (which are usually $50+/hour and a $10+ tip)!
Is the food good?
This one is purely subjective. Some people love Vietnamese food (I never got into pho). I was disappointed with it. I guess when you spend so much time in Thailand which arguably has the best (and cheapest) street food in the world, the bar is set so high that anything else is going to disappoint you. Thailand … you’re like dating a 10. Dating anything less (even a 9) will feel disappointing after that!
One standout restaurant that I really enjoyed that was recommended to me by a couple that has been living in Phu Quoc for 3 years was Crab House. It has a really cool Western vibe, great customer service and amazing seafood boils. It was a bit on the pricier side so if you’re looking for cheap eats, then this place isn’t for you.
Another important story that I would be remiss to not include is how I got my first gout attack. I stayed at a really nice hotel called Sunlight Bungalow which was steps from the beach. Nice little hotel with great staff and customer service. They also have a restaurant attached to the hotel which was always busy for dinner so you know the food is good. Their speciality is fresh fish caught daily and BBQed to perfection.
Normally the only seafood I eat is sushi and I typically stick with salmon and eel. I figured if I’m on an island, why not eat a fish every day? Well, seafood is one of the major triggers of a gout attack due to the high levels of purines. This seafood overload (which is not part of my normal diet) completely ruined me. I woke up in so much pain that I couldn’t even walk. 1,000 MG of aspirin barely made a dent in the pain. I didn’t find out that I had suffered my first gout attack until days later. No fault of the restaurant but it reinforced a lesson in a painful way : too much of anything is never good.
At least Vietnam airlines has a great special services team.
English on Phu Quoc
Another challenge that I faced in Phu Quoc was a lack of English. I had to use Google Translate almost everywhere I went. There were a few people that I could talk to without a translator, but more often than not this wasn’t the case. In comparison, I almost never needed a translator in Thailand.
Is Phu Quoc dog-friendly?
I was pleasantly surprised at how dog-friendly the island was. Not once did I have a problem bringing my dogs into a bar, restaurant or coffee shop. Many of them even had dogs themselves! Unlike Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi where there is a dog-kidnapping market (either for ransom to sell back to the owner or to eat), Phu Quoc doesn’t seem to have that industry. It feels much safer for my dogs. In general, people reacted very positively to my dogs (similar to my experience in Thailand).
Summary of Phu Quoc
In summary, if I had to choose between Phu Quoc and Thailand, I would choose one of the Thai islands instead. In my opinion, it has better food, a better nightlife, more options for singles, more English-speakers, and in general is much cleaner.
This is not to say that Phu Quoc isn’t worth visiting … I would just recommend it for a couple looking for a chill, romantic getaway.
I’m sitting in the hospital waiting room in Nha Trang, Vietnam to get x-rays and blood tests to see what’s wrong with my big toe on the right foot, and on the TV screen I see a list of medical-related video links.
“Endoscopic carpal tunnel release.” I’m guessing this has something to do with carpal tunnel syndrome and repairing the tendons by releasing the stress?
“Proximal humerus percutaneous aiming system technique.” This sounds like a kill feature in one of Iron Man’s latest armors. “Activate humerus percutaneous aiming system.”
While I don’t know what some of these words mean, none of them sound good. They all sound like medical procedures to repair or fix a body part that is no longer working properly or is broken. Kind of like my big right toe.
I’m 35 and I just found out that I had my first onset of gout. My blood results came back and I’m above the normal range for men (not scarily above, but comfortably above). They say symptoms first appear in men 30-50. Well I had all the symptoms and let me tell you that this was one of the most intense pains that I’ve ever felt. It was so bad that I needed wheelchair service from Vietnam Airlines. I could not put any pressure on my foot.
Intense joint pain – it felt like I had a broken toe
Lingering discomfort – 3 days later and I still can’t walk properly
Inflammation and redness – my right foot looked like a tomato
Limited range of motion – I couldn’t move my big right toe more than 10 degrees
They also call it a disease of decadence or “King’s disease” because “people have incorrectly linked it to the kind of overindulgence in food and wine only the rich and powerful could afford” (link). And this makes sense because I have been living like a king these past 6 months on the beaches of Thailand and Vietnam. While I haven’t been drinking too much alcohol, my diet recently spiked in seafood during my time in Phu Quoc. The overload of purines from seafood likely caused my big right toe to blow up like a balloon and heat up like a heat pad.
Fortunately for me, while gout is one of the most physically painful things I’ve experienced, it is an illness that can be managed through diet, hydration, vitamin c, and exercise. I am looking at this as motivation to get myself into even better shape to minimize another attack. There are silver linings to everything in life.
Finding out that I am now in for lifelong battle with gout is a stark reminder that my time on earth as fully-functional, healthy being is not going to last forever. My youth and relatively good health, will slowly crumble away like removing pieces from a completed puzzle. New health issues are certain to arise in my future and I’ll think to myself, “remember when I just had gout?”
Our greatest assets – youth and health – are fleeting, a slowly but surely diminishing resource. Every second alive we are one step closer to our inevitable deaths. The grim reaper is coming for all of us. As my brother once told me (I’m sure he heard this from someone else), “we are all dying the second we are born.” The cruelty of existence. Sigh.
This is a why it’s important to never lose focus on the present because this is all that’s guaranteed. Minimizing stress and maximizing health and happiness should be everyone’s goal. The less stress you have, the longer your life expectancy is. The more you exercise and focus on having a clean diet, the longer your life expectancy is. And if you’re healthy today, be grateful and be thankful and use it. Don’t waste it sitting in an office 60 hours a week. If we weren’t supposed to travel, we would have roots instead of feet!
To have a career, or live in a city, or to be in a relationship that isn’t making you net happier will slowly kill you. Health above wealth, experiences over appearances. And as my friend Alicia said: