Posts Tagged ‘travel’

72 ideas in 72 days: Day One – What is important to you.

September 2, 2015

Make a list of your top 4-5 important things. What’s most important to you? What do you value most? What 4-5 things do you most want to do in your life? Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.”

Simple right?  The typical answer should be family, faith, work and exercise (or some non-sense variation).  For me, since I did this project the last time, a lot has changed: some for the good, some for the bad and all of it hard.  The question is interesting what is most important to me is not what I value the most (time, I value time the most).  What is most important to me?

  1. My family comprised of most of the people I’m related to, a few who I should be related to.  The people who I’d drop anything and get on a plane for.  The people who know when my mouth says “I’m fine” that it’s a lie: even over email, texts, and other forms of communication that lack inflection and body language.  There is really nothing better than hysterical texts from 9 and 10 year olds who while wishing you luck on something also announce they plan on beating you at an activity.  Or coming back from a meeting to your phone having been blown up by a crazy debate on what an 18 year old and 16 year old would buy with a million (or was it a billion) dollars for a perfect NCAA bracket.  Or being able to just not pretend everything is OK with friends.
  2. Travel: From wandering through small town USA to taking bullet trains in Japan, there is a world out there.  Most people are good.  Everybody makes salsa different.  Travel forces my introvert self to be more extroverted.  Travel restores me.  Travel decorates my house (seriously).
  3. Exercise: I know.  Who would have thought?  I try to walk between 4-8 miles a day.  The activity decompresses me.  I love the way  I feel afterwards.  I listen to books on tape (www.audible.com) while I’m walking.  My walks are my carved out ‘me time’.
  4. Being selfish with out guilty:  Maybe because I am female, but I feel guilty when I can’t be everything to everybody.  No is an answer that is perfectly acceptable.  It’s ok not to want to go to bridal shower, to spend a weekend visiting somebody you’d met for coffee.  Leaving the office after 9 hours.
  5. My friends: E-friends are great but I need to be a better friends with sending real letters, meeting for meals or coffee.

Iceland, Poland or Vietnam: Seeking an Escape in 2014

January 4, 2014

So, I know I’ll need an escape mid-fall (read, after Labor Day when the airfares return to mere highway robbery pricing). I prefer to travel off season: I’m not that wild about packs of tourists (blame that on living in 3 (count them 3) tourist towns) stampeding and acting like idiots.

I posted the query to my Facebook page and Iceland seemed to be the runaway winner (also the closest given my New England location). I know I couldn’t pick three more different locations. Each one holds a certain allure for different reasons.

Iceland is more remote, rugged and geared to the outside (which might make it a better early May destination in ’15). I also might starve to death in Iceland given the 2 most popular sources of food being fish/shellfish and lamb (Kidding. Almonds travel well). The thought of being almost completely unplugged for a week is refreshing. Looking at volcanos, an iceberg and even an approved side trip to Greenland? Tempting.

Poland. Seriously the history of Poland is amazing. Growing up in the Chicago area (when Chicago had the second largest city of native Poles? In the world?), I can’t remember how old I was when I figured out Gdansk wasn’t on Lake Michigan. So much history, so much fascinating architecture.

Vietnam. I seriously haven’t explored Asia enough. I’ve always been fascinated by Vietnam. Part of me wants to go see the places I’ve studied. The country my dad where my father was deployed. I’ve wanted to wander the streets in part to see what we fought about (ok, don’t tell me it was that creeping communism idea). Again, I run into the deathly-allergic-to-sea-creatures aspect (again, almonds travel well). While I wouldn’t be unplugged in Vietnam, the time change will make it hard to find me! Of course, the oppressive humidity might leave me beat red without of control curly hair in under 20 seconds (but can it be worse than Hong Kong in May?).

I haven’t been out of the country in five years. I need to go somewhere new. Somewhere where I can just wander without anybody knowing me. Where I can explore a quirky side street or sit and watch people. Where there isn’t pressure to see something (aka, if you go to Paris you MUST go to the Eiffel Tower!).

So many choices. . . so many blank passport pages.

Reflections on Japan

March 11, 2011

Like many Americans, I awoke to the news of the 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan at 1:00 am EST today.  I was stunned.  I had spent 3 weeks backpacking/training through Japan.  I know maybe 5 words in Japanese am deathly allergic to shellfish and spent the last 5 days curled up in a Tokyo hotel room with the swine flu.  Still, I’d go back in a second.

There is a tranquil chaos of Japan that amazes me: across the street from the Louis Vinton store is a 13th century temple.  Neither seem out-of-place; neither seem in place. It just is.  As I travelled up and down the island on my JR pass (and oh, my motion sickness didn’t like the trains), I noticed I was somewhat of a curiosity. My hunch is that there are not many Americans roaming around Japan.  When I wound up on an express train in the Tokyo subway system, an elderly Japanese woman helped me figure out where to get off and led me to my exit before turning around into a packed rush hour station presumably to continue her destination. What is uncommon about this is that it was so common.  I’d be walking through a park, or reading in a tea shop and people would come up to me and try to make sure I wasn’t lost, lead me to hidden treasures. 

My introduction to Japan started off as a disaster: a typhoon in Tokyo, tornadoes in Atlanta, flight crew being over time alloted all led to arriving 10 hours late: after all transportation ended. There I was stuck in the Tokyo Airport dreading sleeping there after a trans-Pacific flight: and yes, even the taxi stands had shut down!  The police came through and my instant thought was great, I’m going to sleep outside.  Instead, they distributed sleeping bags, pillows, 2L of water and a roll of ritz-like crackers: for free.  Then the police stood guard over us so we could sleep.  My instant thought was “somebody needs to pass this idea on. . . . “.

I wandered to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I felt drawn to see those cities as, well, my country blew those towns up.  There is an egocentric idea of here to save the world that is easy to undertake as an American. For good or bad, right or wrong, we skip over some of our more painful actions.  Yes Japan had vowed to fight to the death, and yes we caused mass destruction.  Here I was a 30 something American walking through Hiroshima’s memorial park.  The main peace monument is oddly in the shape of a covered wagon.  The symbolism from a western perspective wasn’t lost on me: forward, onward, keep exploring.  As I wandered through the park and the memorials while working up the courage to enter the museum, I was surrounded by a gaggle of 5th graders on an English class assignment.  Word quickly spread that I was an American (well that and my Red Sox hat) and I soon found myself answering questions to about 30 10 year olds on my favorite color, did I like Japan.  There teacher was profoundly apologetic: I smiled and said my sister was a teacher.

After touring the museum (somewhat balanced), I met up again with the students as we both picked the same spot for lunch. They giggled at my un-artistic lunch of carrots, yoghurt, water and ginger ale.  Compared to their stunning presentation of food, I could see the point.

Every place I went, I was warmly received. It wasn’t for my stunning ability to speak Japanese but my mangled attempts to communicate, to explore, to take risk.  Japan has a reputation of being a closed society.  I found it to be one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever been.  I spent a day in the town where the tsunami took aim: blue waters, friendly people and suggestions on other towns to see in the area.

Dumpling lessonWandering

Today, when I heard the news, my thoughts went back 2 years.  It was a trip on a whim based on the fact it was cheaper to fly to Tokyo than to Oklahoma.  I discovered a nation that even in the heavily tourist spots of Kyoto and Tokyo found the time to help a lost American.

Today and for the coming days, my thoughts are with the people of Japan. I can’t comprehend the physical destruction, let alone the emotional one facing Japan today.  I learned so much from my 3.5 weeks there some historical, some personal.  And I would do anything to return, if only to payback the people of Japan for their enduring kindness.

Peace ParkA favorite treat: lemon slushies