Mapping a change of scenery (and not just location)…

May 6th, 2015
Circa 2012 in Lisbon.

K & V, circa 2012 in Lisbon.


Expect to hear more from Kate and I in coming weeks and months with new videos (!) guest posts, tips on trip planning and budgeting and,  of course, the ever-present idea of travel as a state-of-being.

It has been, gulp, exactly two years since our last OTR blog. I  vividly remember taking the photo on the previous post, snapped during  a long run in Brooklyn, having just returned to New York after leaving for two months then high-tailing it back for a job opportunity — and also because it’s home.  The only real home I’ve ever known, in fact.

But even home can become stifling — so I’ve spent the last 9 months in Seattle, taking a deep breath, covering a new region and meeting wonderful new people in one of the loveliest places on Earth. Now I’m getting ready for another location change, another work challenge and another change of scenery.  And this one appears to be a prelude to yet another move – and so it goes. The only constant in life is change…

Meantime, I’m just back from a trip to San Francisco to see some of my oldest, dearest friends (one I met living abroad in college, the other when I lived in Buenos Aires several years later. The two met when the former came to visit me in Argentina, and the most epic of epic fun weeks ensued. TRAVEL!) and to get a much-needed change of scenery.  April was wobbly (Kate and I agree that’s the toughest month, every year), so for $150 RT on Southwest, I’m able to brush away the mental cobwebs that build when you’re in one place – physically or mentally – for far too long.

I like thinking about change of scenery as a different physical location that kickstarts an internal shift. Being stuck for too long in any routine, place or space — no matter how much you love it — doesn’t let in fresh air.  I love the concept, too, because it’s so accessible. A change of scenery can mean a day trip to Nyack or a move across the world. It can mean a conversation with someone from a place you’ve only seen on a map or dreamed of going. It can last for hours or years. It’s all about seeing something new, or at least different, than where we find ourselves 98 percent of the time.

If this veers conceptual, it’s on purpose. I’ve been doing a lot of change of scenery internally, as well. Oh, being an adult. It’s the same idea.  Moving to a different space where the scenery is different – but this of course takes place on the continent of the subconscious. It’s just as active a process as packing bags, booking tickets and getting through customs.  And often just as annoying and beset with delays.

Thinking back to when Kate and I started OTR, we had a two-fold mission: Encourage people to broaden their world view  and travel, travel, travel, specifically abroad, by using what most of us have – a couple weeks vacation and a two-star budget.  We also came together under the banner of journey – and how traveling, or trying anything  new, just keeps the internal path a lot more lush and interesting.

So here’s to that old cliche, a change of scenery. Let us all be able to see regular life with refreshed eyes.



The vacation of the mind

May 7th, 2013

It seems like a lot of people are in transition right now, even if that transition is internal and, for the most part, surroundings remain the same. I really cannot count the number of people I know moving, renovating, staring new jobs or businesses, or otherwise repositioning their lives for whatever reason. I am among them.

Like a broken record, I’ll repeat the OTR mantra: Travel makes the world look different. That, of course, is speaking from an internal perspective taking on a global view. But sometimes your small, everyday world just HAS to look different too.

I’ve had a failed, no, wait…abandoned…attempt to relocate back West and now I’m back in New York City, the place I’ve lived for the longest stretch as a real “adult.” I’m attempting to make everything that is so massively familiar look new and fresh and different. It’s like I’m returning from a long trip abroad, but this time I’ve only bounced between comfort zones.

This might look like a concrete barrier on an oft-traveled and highly industrial stretch of bike lane linking north and south Brooklyn. But...this wasn't painted two months ago, and it is the joy of beauty creeping up in all corners...if you're paying attention.

This might look like a concrete barrier on an oft-traveled and highly industrial stretch of bike lane linking north and south Brooklyn. But this wasn’t painted two months ago. It is the joy of beauty creeping up in all corners…if you’re paying attention.

This is uncharted territory. I usually rely on an eagerly acquired and entirely fresh set of sensations, sights and sounds to usher me back into the “real” world and the mundane tasks of paying ConEd bills and doing laundry. Travel made life more interesting, it settled (temporarily) an always present voice demanding “go and see!” I would plan, and dream, and then return, with the lens of my world goggles adjusted to a new shade. I’d notice the beauty of every day surroundings, be more patient and amused with my fellow citizens. Or something like that.

This time, however, my sojourn has been an exploration more of self. It was asking questions of “where do I belong?” versus “where do I want to go?” and turns out, for now, the answer remains a lovely, sun-drenched flat in beautiful Brooklyn.

I purged my apartment thoroughly before my interviews and too-short stint out West, donating and selling the piles of useless (if sentimental) stuff that finds its way into the corners of even the smallest NYC closets. This is everything from high school swim team t-shirts to old EuroRail tickets. Gone. The memories have infinite space in my mind, but the items just weighed me down. When I move back into my space this summer, things will look largely the same. But I know they won’t be.

I have no real photos to share from this particular adventure nor have I quite reconciled how quickly I had to return to NYC. But winging it these last few weeks, housing-wise, called upon my budget traveler sensibility. Be flexible. Be (hugely) grateful and pledge to return all generosity paid you. Live for the moment. Starting a new job where I have to explore new neighborhoods and meet new people, I’m forced to greet each day with enthusiasm and grit. Yes, it’s just like traveling, indeed.


Drink in idyllic beaches, local brew at China’s “Switzerland of the Orient”

March 6th, 2013

The OTR blog continues to be a growing community of ideas, tips, thoughts and even posts from other intrepid travelers who have seen parts of the world we haven’t…or have seen the world in a way we haven’t. This month, we are lucky to feature an amazing profile of Qingdao, a coastal town in eastern China that is famous for Tsingtao beer and was used for water sports during the Beijing Olympics. Our friend and fellow blogger Ryan Gibson of the site gives us the low-down on this city by the sea. If you have stories or tips to submit, hit us up at or  We would love to hear from you!


Why Qingdao is Becoming a Top Travel Destination

It’s easy to see why this charming city has won the hearts of travelers. Qingdao is a large city located in Eastern China, in the Eastern Shandong province. It was one of the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice winners in 2012. ‘Qing’ means lush or green in Chinese, giving the city a name with a well suited meaning. Qingdao is also famous for its Tsingtao beer and many people go there to drink the local beer and visit Tsingtao Brewery.


Jiaozhou Bay, Qingdao, Yellow Sea / Photo credit: Allen Wang

Jiaozhou Bay, Qingdao, Yellow Sea / Photo credit: Allen Wang

The city is notoriously fresh and clean and its beaches are surrounded by beautiful scenery and calm seas. Qingdao is dynamic in that the locals know how to have a good time if you want to have a lively holiday, but it’s also quite a calm and scenic place perfect for those who simply want to relax. There are lots of pretty gardens, sculptures and parks to escape to. The city also has some quite fascinating architecture and European influence in its design. You can also catch a glimpse of the longest sea bridge in the world, the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge.

Qingdao skyline by Night

Qingdao skyline by Night / Photo Credit: Thomas Fischler

Qingdao is actually a German coastal town with lots of Catholic churches, German villas and traditional cobbled streets. This quirky destination has so much to offer, it’s a particularly good choice for those who want to experience something unique on their next holiday. Read on to discover why Qingdao is becoming a top travel destination.

Hosted Sailing Events at The 2008 Beijing Olympics

One of the reasons why Qingdao has become more popular in recent years is because the Olympic sailing event was held there in 2008. This helped to raise the town’s profile and win lots of visitors over. You can take a stroll around the Olympic Sailing Centre–it’s the perfect place to sit down and watch the world go by and take in the scenery by the boats. The centre is quite large so cycling can be a nice way to get around. If you fancy a spot of shopping there is a major shopping centre nearby. The international flags and impressive boats create a nice setting to take some pictures.

A Totally Unique German Coastal Town in China

The city used to be a colony of Japan and Germany for around 30 years at the beginning of the 20th century, so it has a few international influences in its design. It has even been described as the “Switzerland of the Orient” because of its distinctive European appearance.

The architecture is a mix of German and Chinese; you are unlikely to see such a place anywhere else in the world. Qingdao is home to a lot of Korean expatriates who have also made their mark on this fascinating city. You can get lost in the old city and think you are in a quaint German village, and then look up to the skyline and spot the modern skyscrapers that emerged in the 1980s. The German influence is still clearly visible today as local people really take pride in their old town, the charming houses and buildings with red roofs keep the spirit of the old town alive.

Everyone Loves a Town Famous For Its Beer

The World Famous Tsingtao Brewery / Photo Credit: Ivan Walsh

The World Famous Tsingtao Brewery / Photo Credit: Ivan Walsh

Who doesn’t want to go to a town known mainly for its mouth-watering beer? Qingdao is probably best known around the world for its beer culture. Its famous brewery, Tsingtao Brewery was created back in 1903 and not only is it a huge favorite with the locals, it’s probably China’s best known exported beer. If you want to find out more about the beer’s rich history and interesting origins then head to Tsingtao Brewery Museum. The museum was established in 2003 and takes you through the history of the Tsingtao beer from 1903 to today. Beer Street, which is close by, is also worth a visit as it has a wide range of different places to enjoy local food and drink and you can really get stuck into the local culture.

A Reputation for Tasty Fresh Local Fish and Beautiful Beaches

Seafood lovers will really appreciate the quality fish dishes in Qingdao. The city specializes in seafood and offers a wide range of different cuisines such as Cantonese and Chinese. If you like all kinds of fish then you can try scallops, prawns and even sea cucumber as well as a wide range of other locally caught fish. Some local dishes include Sanxian Zhengjiao, which is steamed dumplings stuffed with shredded shrimp, pork and Chinese leek and Yingzhou Bayu Xiaochi: Spanish mackerel cooked  Yingzhou Style.

After you have toured the city, tasted the beer and sampled the local fish you can sit back and relax on one of the picturesque beaches. There are a few different beaches to choose from as the coastline is over 730 kilometres long with 49 bays. No. 1 Bathing Beach is the biggest bathing beach in Asia at 40 metres wide. The scenery surrounding the beaches is pretty as some overlook the hills and mountains.

Beach culture in Qingdao / Photo credit: Elizabeth Plummer

Beach culture in Qingdao / Photo credit: Elizabeth Plummer


About the Author:

Ryan is the resident blogger at AsiaRooms. When Ryan is not working he spends his time traveling the globe, drawing on his travel experience and passion for travel to spread the good word. Ryan is also a social monkey and can be found lounging around on Twitter & Google+ and loves to interact with other travel bloggers.  Follow him at @travelgurugibbo.

Fellow blogger and friend of OTR, Ryan Gibson

Fellow blogger and friend of OTR, Ryan Gibson

Sequestration scramble: Don’t scrap those travel plans yet

February 28th, 2013
Don't panic yet.  The U.S. air industry might not see the massive delays we are all fearing under sequestration.

The U.S. air industry might not see the massive delays we are all fearing under sequestration, experts say.

Pack your patience — the sequester appears to be a reality.

Across-the-board spending cuts impacting almost every corner of the federal government will almost inevitably kick in on March 1, and the U.S. air travel system won’t get a reprieve. As every federal agency cries uncle over the cuts, some have even sounded the alarm. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week painted a dismal picture of how air travel will be affected, warning of long delays, canceled flights and shuttered control towers.

“Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco and others could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours,” he said in comments to reporters at the White House. “Delays in these major airports will ripple across the country.”

For many of us, hour-long delays have become the norm over the past five or 10 years, but LaHood’s aim was clear: Stoke passenger panic about massive systemic problems to try and convince Congress to realign the some $85 billion in cuts set to kick in this week.

But how bad will the worst reality be for U.S. air travel? Should you cancel your travel plans or hold off on buying tickets for that big trip based on the unknown?

According to one travel expert, it’s way too soon to tell how dire the situation might become. He also indicated that it’s way too soon to panic.

“The situation is a bit confusing right now, especially because it’s so politically charged,” said Tom Meyers, founder of, a website that reviews hotels in Europe for the discerning, and budget-conscious, traveler.

“While the cuts could mean that 10% of air traffic controllers would be furloughed and 100 control towers could be closed, others argue that those towers should have already been closed and that we have too many air traffic controllers in the first place,” he told OTR.

Meyers echoed what other travel experts say: The cuts, set to kick in early March, won’t show their bite until later in the month or even the spring. “By then, we’ll certainly know a lot more,” he said.

So don’t let your hopes of a great spring break be dashed by partisan politics or budget wrangling. Even top lawmakers suspect that the severe cuts will be rolled back after reality kicks in.

“Hopefully, by the end of March, people will see the light and understand that we’re not standing for this,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif said Thursday.

Meyers also pointed out that worst-case furloughs and layoffs will also come with a 30 day notice, giving travelers a chance to amend plans. Price spikes linked to sequestration should not happen right away, if at all.

The severe cuts actually have a silver lining, as well. Just like taking a hit to your income, the sequestration might also help us rethink how we travel on limited time and limited resources.

Vice President Biden, always a fan of Amtrak, said he was now going to forgo the military flights he’d gotten used to taking from Washington back to his home state of Delaware.

“I was able to say, ‘Look guys, I’ve got to take the train now — it’s cheaper than flying.’ So I get to take the train again,” Biden said.



Asia Deficiency Syndrome

January 22nd, 2013

There are loads of places I’m sheepish about never having visited. You’ve heard me bemoan these gaps in my map all over this blog. New Orleans (!), Mexico (!!), Montana (yes,). But there’s one place–a place so vast, so significant and well, (despite my fear of ever using this word to describe people, places or things) important–that it is more than a “gap”, it’s a deficiency.

I have never been to Asia. Any part of it. I have Asia Deficiency Syndrome.



Now, in and of itself, that admission isn’t a bad thing. But there are a couple reasons why it’s especially shameful to me: 1.) my former college roommate and friend of 15 years lives in Thailand. And this friend isn’t just shacking up on a beach somewhere until he figures out where to go next. He has a house. He has dogs. He has a long-term job and a long-term relationship. In other words, he lives there, lives there. He could show me around. He could drive me around. He’s lived there for more than 7 years. I’ve never visited and it’s shameful. 2.) I am a budget traveler. More than a budget traveler–a budget travel advocate! Isn’t Asia mandatory for budget travelers? Like, isn’t a party on a Thai beach your very first stop on the road to cheap trips? Maybe I’ve convinced myself that it’s too easy, too frequented by other budget travelers, too obvious. Maybe, because I never backpacked around the world after college, it was just an honest mistake. Or, maybe I wanted the challenge of traveling on a shoestring in Eastern Europe. Maybe I wanted to swim in the Adriatic first.

Whatever my excuse, it’s time to go.

Of course, I have big Asia dreams. Yes, I’d love to see Thailand and China. Sure, Tokyo’s been at the top of my list (below Berlin and Lisbon, which we did this summer) for years. But I want to start obscure. Or, obscure to Americans. I want Myanmar. In fact, I’ve got the destination all picked out: the Mergui Archipelago. Now, word is things are a little looser getting into that country these days. But the Times still calls it “unwelcoming.” Ah ha! Just the place for OTR. Your “unwelcoming” is our top choice.

The Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar

The Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar

So, since everyone we know has already been to Asia, school us. Where do we start? Cast your vote for the top Asia destination. We want to hear from you.


The non-plan: One perfect week in Costa Rica

December 18th, 2012

Far, far away. Or at least that’s how it feels.

Planning a trip has never been my strong point. I’m better at the going part of the equation. Usually, I rely on my far more organized friends and loved ones to take care of stuff like tickets, itineraries and hotels. I’m good at stepping back, voicing a few  budgetary constraints and then showing up for the plane.

But I just got back from a trip to Costa Rica where I had to take on most of the major planning and research…and it was an uncomfortable position, indeed. I had to split the difference between responsibility and personality. My beloved travel companion’s only request for our Central American journey: Completely remote.

Desperate and unsure of my own abilities, I enlisted the help of a couple of friends who had spent time in Costa Rica and then I did the bare minimum of Internet research. I saw a few key words about the region, and town, I had pinpointed for our travels. I saw phrases like “downscale jungle paradise” and “inviting and unassuming surf Mecca.” Perfect. Now for hotels. “Amicable,” “clean” and “great mojitos by the pool” got my credit card deposit.

Without the time, nor the inclination, to really do more research…Well, we won the Lotto on this minimally planned trip.

Nosara, Cost Rica, is definitely remote. The paved road to Nosara ends, giving way to a rutted, bumpy dirt trail, a good 45 minutes  before you even hit the town. There, a handful of lovely stores and restaurants, owned by expats and locals, pepper the thick jungle path until you hit the beach. And the beach isn’t blue, frothy Caribbean. It’s commanding Pacific glory….The Alpha of all oceans laps along a soft, sandy beach break and a few progressively challenging wave sets until going glassy and flat, stretching endlessly west. Watching just one sunset, glowing red and orange as the orb drops under the curve of the world, was reason enough to make the trip. The little six hour trip.

The town’s perfection was punctuated by an almost seamless mix of local-meets-hippy.  There’s a huge yoga Ashram.  It’s a surf town.  A lot of dudes living there are from Cornwall, England.  Most the other visitors are Californians or New Yorkers.  Costa Ricans rue the price spike of their land, yet appreciate the other economic and infrastructure boosts that followed. And because it’s a place that draws the **same ** kind of people, it feels…like a biosphere project.  Insulated and ephemeral.

Of course, I might have just gotten lucky.  My lax and slightly lame research abilities also cost us a bit of precious time…and money. We flew into the capital, San Jose, then took a very pricey 4 hour private taxi shuttle to our town (the teeny puddle jumper caught at an air strip 20 miles away was booked). Had I just spent a little more time looking at maps and routes, I would have found that flying to a northern town called Liberia would have saved us a lot of trouble. JetBlue, among other airlines, now has direct flights to Liberia, and from there, many of these incredible Pacific coastal towns are just an hour or so away.  We might have even saved some time and money flying into Managua, Nicaragua.

Procrastinating on our hotel reservations also meant that our room at our tiny and amicable hotel  (let me expand that review… it was the friendliest place on Earth) was, well, the only room they had left. And it was the room left behind as the rest of the stucco structure had undergone a revamp.

But I argue this: Having few expectations and maximum freedom on a trip that is simply about doing a 180 from your current life is an amazing adventure in itself. Had we been dissatisfied with our lovely town, our lovely abode or our lovely new friends…we could have moved on. No problemo.

So next time you get ready to take a trip that’s all about relaxing, unplugging, unwinding.. I urge you to start with the planning.


What’s Your Travel Enneagram?

November 19th, 2012

There’s your personality and then there’s your travel personality.

I propose the two are connected but not identical. The person you are on a day-to-day basis, commuting, working, socializing, might represent a large part of your person, but when thrown into the unknown, presented with new experiences, languages and cultures, a whole new you might emerge.

My normal schedule in New York leaves me booked to an inch of my life. It’s one thing to the next, and it’s not entirely good (I realize). But it is what it is.  Even when I’m at home, I find myself pattering about, making lists, returning emails, organizing my sock drawer.  I have to try to s-t-o-p.

When I travel, I simply can’t stand to be on a tight schedule.  I need to know that every minute can be dictated by discovery and whim. I’m happy to do whatever my travel companion(s) want to do, as long as they don’t want to put me on a rigid plan.

Attempting (but not reaching) travel bliss at home.


It’s interesting to think about. How you live your life and how you travel. I find that I like myself more when I’m on the road. Somehow I get a little more understanding of life’s inevitable snafus. I pay more attention to my surroundings. To people. I become more open and take more risks. The chatter turns off and I can just totally be in the moment, whether it’s staring at the sea or a priceless work of art in a museum.

There’s not a travel Enneagram that I know of, but let me propose a shell. Some of the questions would look like this.

1)Do you like to plan trips way in advance or can you wait until the last minute?

2) How much do you plan for the unknown, be it weather, flight cancellations, illness?

3) When things go wrong when you travel, is it more or less disappointing than in regular life?

4) Do you find yourself more optimistic when on vacation?

5) Are you ok with large chunks of unplanned time or do you need a detailed daily itinerary?

6) Do you become more outgoing?

7) Are you more of a risk taker?

8) Do you sweat the small stuff?

9) Do you fight the urge to control others timing, plans or desires?

10) Do you relish being the “planner” or do you prefer to sit back and let someone else take the helm?

Take a minute and think about it. Answer yes, no, maybe to the above questions and then pose them in your normal life. How much do they match up?

Send thoughts…


Seasons Fleetings

November 13th, 2012

Christmas, as it were, just isn’t what it was. For this year’s holiday hassle, I’ll fly my sister to New York to celebrate Christmas-on-Christmas, then back to Denver to celebrate Christmas-post-Christmas-in-law-style, while my husband spends Christmas-on-Christmas-with-blood-family in Omaha and then post-Christmas-with-married-family in Queens. It reminds me of all the Christmases my elementary school friends used to spend with their divorced parents: several hours at one home, several hours at another. I used to think it was glamorous. Now I drink. And my family, like me, staggers in wonder at how we became a multi-domicile, micro-issue, mega-obligation festivity machine and, like me, copes with it mostly by drinking clear alcohol continuously from October through March, but also by crying often and sending many abbreviated logistical emails en mass back and forth between members of our special, agitated tribe.

In January, I’ll fly to Denver for post-Christmas-Christmas. After the high-altitude waffles, after soy nog and sinusitis and after I-70 traffic jams, I’ll stand alone on my parent’s porch and listen to the quiet fall in icy crystal flakes onto their patchy buffalo grass. I’ll draw in a sharp, cold breath and remember how I stood on that same porch the first Christmas after I’d moved to New York and rehearsed my new found urban philosophies. I was overwhelmed by liberation, sure I’d made the wrong choices at every opportunity, but confident that anything is possible if you can master the art of self-reinvention. I used to wear “The City” back to Denver on the plane at Christmas time like a dirty leather jacket, smoking Camel Lights outside the baggage claim with a head full of glass and cement. I was only nineteen and New York was trying to shake the mountains out of me.

Charlie Brown Christmas tree, patron saint of sad trees everywhere

In the beginning I would plan the Christmas trip for months and then spend two weeks at home. That was when my heart still lived in two places, before things in New York felt so permanent. Now our family ties have been melted and solidified by marriage, divorce, death and progress. Membership in other families, with all their various arms and branches, has made things more complicated. So these days Christmas is just, well, harder. My sister and I can no longer fall asleep watching Matlock on Christmas Eve after staying up too late drunk-wrapping batteries for my father. She’s married now to a scientist our family loves. His family melted in to ours, too.

I don’t spend Christmas with my family at home in Colorado. I spend it with my family at home in New York. Neither feels right. New York is marriage, our two small rooms, my writing, our dog. It’s the funky, corroded dinghy I’ve built to sail the world in and it’s all mine.  But the western sky of my memory is its opposing front. I miss my Colorado home as it was — as I was in it, soft and green and full of open spaces. And I miss people. I miss honey-skinned people who can breathe in thin air and drive in the snow.

For the last few years I’ve broken the holiday season down into a useful grid system for easy travel booking: Pre-Christmas and Yuletide, Christmas Proper, Post-Christmas (or Doldrums), New Years and After.  This year I’ll be celebrating an urban Yuletide and Pre-Christmas, an urban Christmas Proper and Doldrums and, as per my one and only real tradition, a Midtown-office-based, anxious and depressing New Years and After.

Sometime around January 20th, when the emotional hangover has worn off and I’ve come to, I’ll be wondering where it all went. Where we went.  I’ll remember a time before cell phones and email, when my parents and I would agree the night before where to meet at the airport–this was back when that might mean “at the gate.” I’ll remember listening to A Prairie Home Companion in the car as we drove over the mountains, my grandmother’s holiday gold utensils and the year we didn’t decorate the tree because my mother left. I’ll stop at some later point in this dead New York City January to recall driving back to my parents’ house from a dance club during another Christmas visit years ago, stoned and homesick for clean Rocky Mountain snow but clutching my newly-minted Manhattan truth: anything is possible.

I hope these memories can seem as precious in this coming exhausted January as they should have then. Things never do when they are supposed to. Not parents, not trees, not snowflakes or siblings, and never mountains. Especially not mountains.


Vacation, the hurricane edition

November 7th, 2012

Can I speak for us all right now when I say I need a vacation?

I make this fairly luxurious statement with a heavy heart after the past couple of weeks, especially living among people who have literally lost everything in a hurricane. We’ve all been vibrating on level 9 of anxiety through a costly and rancorous election, and for those of us in the Northeast, tonight we are crippled by another storm that is proving to add insult to injury. And it’s just all too much.

It seems almost frivolous to talk about a getaway at this point. Yet at 2 a.m. Wednesday, as our president concluded his second and final acceptance speech, and after months of daily micro-upheaval followed by two weeks of sustained shock, drinking from a coconut is about all my psyche has room to process.

Early this morning it was time to see the light of the (self) tunnel, and that glow is a trip to Costa Rica later this month. It is surfboards and mosquito nets, sand and waves. It is a different world that melts away this particular reality. At least for a week.

I don’t suspect I’m alone in feeling simply spent, even if many of us don’t have the time yet to quantify our personal and collective fatigue. My office was essentially destroyed in Sandy. Others lost homes. Their children lost schools. They are depending on everything from family to charity to government to stay warm and get back on track. To rebuild lives where the idea of vacation seems very luxurious, indeed.

But let me propose that travel, vacation — both the idea and the reality– actually becomes essential during the hardest moments of life.

Vacation can be what makes the rest of life doable…it’s the tonic, even if it’s an hour getaway (to the mall, to the mountains). The prism shifts a little and we’re able to dive back in and finish the gritty tasks left behind.

So dream away and take any moment to do something different. Book that crazy dream trip. Tell the people you love that’s how it is. Apologize, too, if that’s required.

If there’s anything a devastating act of nature should teach us, it is that someday is just too late.


Just be nice, I’m visiting here….

September 24th, 2012

Here’s something that’s been on my mind a lot recently, and I’m hoping for feedback. Where’s the friendliest place you’ve ever traveled? Is there one place that really sticks out as the most warm or generous? Is this an impossible question to answer without a set of tools and set values to measure friendliness? And do you think there’s a correlation between happy and friendly? The Netherlands, for example. Definitely a friendly place and apparently a very happy populace, to boot.

I’m still mulling my abroad answer, but in the US, I’m going with Seattle and central California as friendliest places. Though I did notice that even in the Emerald City, the uber-touristy places like Pike Place Market had some testy people. Does dealing with tourists and crowds make you a little harder? I got clucked at a few times in Lisbon this summer by busy people who weren’t into my map reading and slow walking. Sadly, I’ll admit that I’ve clucked at more than a few tourists doing touristy things on the Brooklyn Bridge, the subway, Midtown. So are friendly places also the least trafficked by people wielding Lonely Planets and fanny packs? I just don’t know.