Welcome to Fresh Coffee Stains, an honest and awkward travel blog that hopefully gives the expat community realistic outtakes on traveling. And lots of advice… so you don’t f*&$ up as much as me.
I’m Tam: a short, stumbling 33-year old American girl juggling normal jobs and an insatiable appetite for all things not here. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries and made my home in five of them, writing for publications (see media tab) along the way. Currently, I am homeless. I recently left Barranquilla, Colombia after living there for six months. Now, I am traveling around South America for shits and giggles. These days, I spend a lot of hours involved in ridiculous endeavors and like to share my successes and flops for a large, judgmental audience.
If you love travel without the Photoshopped flattery, than you’ll feel right at home here. I am not here to sugar coat. Nor post selfies. Nor squeal over sunset Instagram pics. In my humble opinion, a lot of travel advice out there are fluffy poops of happiness. Like a lot of filtered realities and airbrushed smiles.
When it comes to travel writing, there’s little talk of the diarrhea. Or the submerged iPhones. Or the sexual harassment. Or the panic attacks. Or the COFFEE STAINS. While I am happy to write about my pleasant travel experiences, I strive to engage with an expat community that experiences the hardships of traveling. Like fear. And doubt. And arrests. And clumsiness. I also strive to encourage other young women to jet set and feel the adversity that comes along with it. Let us commiserate in our triumphs and woes, cause we all know travel embraces both.
And I just really, really like coffee.
I was born in a small town in Pennsylvania, USA and spent the first 20 years of my life blissfully unhappy being there. Being poor in a super unprivileged way really sucked, and the furthest I traveled was across the US a bunch of times thanks to my parent’s impending divorce.
Traveling internationally wasn’t accessible then so I simply became a nerd and used that as my escape plan, but still attending university like 15 minutes away from home. Lo and behold, I treated myself to more school loans by participating on Semester at Sea during my sophomore year in university. I was on a bus to Hanoi, Vietnam when I literally said out loud, “What the f*&% am I doing with my life?” So I finished my degree like a good, confused girl and promptly earned a placement with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET). For two years, I was an Assistant Language Teacher in Hyogo, Japan, teaching high school students all about Amish culture and how to sing the American National Anthem (::slits wrists::). Regardless, I discovered I kinda liked this teaching thing and was sorta good at it too.
I decided to spend the big bucks (more school loans) and attend graduate school in California at the Monterey Institute of International Studies… now a longer, stupider name. Two internships abroad (Chile and South Korea) and many long nights and weekend afternoons in the library later, I graduated with an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. For about six months, I played the whole “let’s stay local” tune and taught in the Intensive English Program offered at my graduate school. But then I felt like fleeing again. And for some damn reason, I ended up back in Japan. This time to TOKYO, teaching at Kanda University of International Studies for 5.5 years.
Then I fell stupidly in love with another American named Robbie. One that is just as restless and who had no intention of settling down anytime soon. Perfect. He suggested we go to South America and try something different after so many years in Japanland. I said sure. So we moved to Barranquilla, Colombia where I took yet another job teaching English at the Universidad del Norte.
Along the professional way, I’ve done a lot of unprofessional traveling. To about 50 countries. I hitched a cargo boat overnight to Tunisia, and spent all night clutching my backpack, wide awake, terrified that I was the only woman in steerage. Got arrested in Laos for forgetting to stop at the border for a passport stamp. Snuck into Cuba. Lobbied for shark rights. Infiltrated abandoned amusement parks. Pissed off a North Korean guard. Was propositioned by a monk. Rode a reindeer. The beat goes on.
At some point, I decided to write about all the dumb things that happen to me. It started with Livejournal back in 10th grade (like, when blogs didn’t really exist), transitioned to “Tam does Japan” until it pissed me off, and then became serious (thus, the media page).
Favorite Destinations: South Africa, New Zealand, Palau, and Cuba
Destinations on my wish list: Greenland, Mozambique, Namibia, Madagascar, Cyprus, Myanmar, Tonga, Antarctica
Places I Have Been