The Meaning of Travel in More Ordinary Days

One of so many long, beautiful staircases in Montmartre

When the great shift has finished, and I’m left with a blank slate of a life and the quietest quiet I’ve known for months or maybe even years, my mind goes to Paris (and hopes the rest of me will follow).

I imagine a lot of us are there now, in some way, mentally if not physically – even if we had a trip planned. Reading that article, I realized something: if finances and responsibilities allowed, I’d be on a flight there tomorrow.

That’s kind of always true, but especially true right now.

My days as I progress into this next part of my life are marked by these kinds of realizations. It feels like luxury, after this long summer-into-fall, to be able to have the thought I would go to Paris tomorrow if I could and have it be something other than a clawing attempt at escaping necessarily hard days. I am gradually becoming a regular person again. Now that I’m moving past being completely tangled up in job searching, moving, and healing from some real heartbreak, I have sufficient brain and heart to have flights of fancy again. It feels good.

And so a dormant part of me is awakening – the part that thrills to finding how far my stash of airline and travel points will take me, or the part that feels a little frisson of excitement when I see how many airlines fly from SFO and OAK to such wonderful places. I could take one flight and end up in Dubai or Australia or Amsterdam or – well, Stockholm. Thanks to a staggering sale and the well-timed tip of a dear friend, I will be taking advantage of that one myself come February. (My somewhat curious decision to go to Scandinavia in February is not without precedent in my life, of course.) In the last week, I’ve thought or talked about going to not just Paris, but also Peru. Washington, DC. (I’ve never been. I know, it’s hella weird.) Stinson Beach. Los Angeles. Mexico City. Rome.

The power got reconnected, and the lights are coming back on in the house.

I didn’t stop thinking of traveling during the extremely stressful weeks between July and, oh, a couple weeks ago. It just had a different timbre: what if I just went to Paris and didn’t tell anyone and just didn’t come back, what would that be like, would that fix stuff? the little voice that comes from somewhere in my lizard brain said. What if you just put some underwear and a toothbrush in a little bag and went to SFO with that empty credit card and just blew this popsicle stand, huh? 

This isn’t a sign of real fear; this is a game I, veteran of a certain kind of anxiety, play with myself to find the truth in negative feelings. I feel bad right now. Ok, self, that’s fine. Is it the kind of bad we should just wade through? What if we picked up and went back to Seattle right now? Would that fix it? But I like learning programming. But I know that relationship needed to end, even though it hurts like hell. But I’m not willing to go back to that old paradigm of communication, just because it would seem easier in the moment. Cool, brain. Let’s just keep on learning. Stretching. Trying. Packing. Moving. Keep on going.

It’s been a theme of my life to be reminded, over and over again, until perhaps I really learn it, that the thousand small actions matter so much more than the one big one. It stayed with me this time. Just pack one more box. Just meet one more friend to say goodbye. One more phone call to arrange one more part of moving across multiple states.

One more, and one more, and a thousand more, and now I am really, honestly here. I signed a lease for an apartment last week, and it set off a series of events in my brain that I didn’t even realize were waiting to happen. I am good and here, and I see Oakland now as if I am seeing it anew all over again. The world has stopped being something to pass through, elbows tucked in and moving as fast as I can. Once again, for the first time in a while, life is a banquet.

And my god, but I am hungrier than a boxer at the end of the main event.

To refine this a little bit, to prevent myself from doing the travel equivalent of raiding the Hungry Man shelf at Safeway, I’m going to go back through my rather wonderful archive of travel pictures and tell you stories I’ve been sitting on for a year or more. The room to think again also means, for me, the room to write. Let’s go back to Paris and Rennes and Berlin and Amsterdam and Tokyo and Victoria and take the long way to Oakland, San Francisco, and all the points present and future.

See you in a few days. Meet you in Montmartre?

Let’s Talk about This Hotel Art

In Reykjavik, I stayed at the Icelandair Reykjavik Hotel Natura. It is not conveniently located*, but it did the job, and they always had skyr in the hotel lobby fridge.**

On their site, they go on at length about art in the hotel and the room’s unique themes. The hotel art mostly succeeded in making me do double-takes as I walked through the lobby, thinking that some kind of pale angular tourist was staring at me.

My room was sky-themed. This didn’t really extend beyond the sign on the door. Instead, this was the lone piece of art in the room, hanging over the beds.

An Erro painting in room 322 at the Icelandair Reykjavik Hotel NaturaThe first night I was there, I saw an exhibit of the artist’s paintings. Tragically, this was not part of the collection.

Let’s take a closer look.

An Erro painting in room 322 at the Icelandair Reykjavik Hotel NaturaWell. Get it, girl.

This painting was directly over where I slept. Let’s check that out.

Two twin beds, like all good celibate types sleep inI didn’t deliberately book the celibacy special, and yet. It’s like they knew I was a socially awkward person traveling alone! Good service is when a hotel is able to predict your needs before you can. So… thanks.

One last thing:

Tommy fucking Wiseau“LISA, YOU’RE TEARING ME APART!”



*”Not conveniently located” is what happens when you frantically book a package to Iceland when you’re still mired in post-Paris travel hangover. Eh, it was a 25-minute walk to downtown, and I like walking. Whatevs.

**Skyr is fairly close to Greek yogurt. The R is said in a way close to French – in the back of the mouth, beautiful and nearly impossible for me to say.

Lost Mates in Reykjavik

single glove speed datingLaugavegur, the busiest shopping street of Reykjavik, is full-full-full of public art. Driveways lined with murals, walls splashed with painted patterns, mosaics and painted shop walls and clever knitting and just WOW. Like I said a couple days ago: 891 pictures. Only like a hundred of those are the Northern Lights, and then another couple hundred are of mountains and geysers and Thingvellir and things like that. But a majority of them? Art of Reykjavik, which really should be a sister city to Seattle.

So the delight above was captured about halfway down Laugavegur. I took this picture my first day there, after I took a magical late-morning nap that erased any would-be jet lag. I ate a lot of so-so veggie sandwiches there*, and I was on my way to my first one, which I would eat in a coffee shop atop a gift shop that overlooked the city’s busiest square. I was hungry and still a little sleepy and wondering if I was going to get into this whole traveling by yourself thing, which I’d done almost none of before this trip.

Then I saw this adorable thing, which clearly evolved over time – maybe a single glove on that fence, and then a couple, and then a few, and then that sign, and then even more. And I realized… this was going to work out just fine.

A couple days later, I saw the rural version of this.

single glove looking for loveThis is what happens when you try to find love in less populated places. This is at the edge of the parking lot in front of Sólheimajökull glacier. Your odds are just better when you go to the denser spots, good sir glove.

Or, you know, you could get the internet involved.

*But no hakarl, dammit, due to a badly timed sour belly.

Hither and Thither #25

reykjavik wasabi houseI’m slowly making my way through all 891 (!) pictures I took in Reykjavik. Here’s an early favorite. Overall, I found the city so much more Seattlely than I expected. One way was the color palette – the houses were often the muted blues, greens, and greys you get in neighborhoods here. But then there was this one, the wasabi house. That is where I would live.

Well, one of the many places. I’ll show you more later.

division squiggleI think I’m going to New York in April (whee!). Thus, I shall be clipping and saving this.

division squiggleDid yesterday feel like a bit of a letdown for you? Did you find yourself turning corners and looking into the sky, waiting to see something bigger, brighter, more… apocalyptic? There are reasons for that.

division squiggleHere is a magical phrase: “the universal shapes of stories, by Kurt Vonnegut.”

Excuse me, I seem to have swooned. One moment.




division squiggleThe dream of the 90s is… aches and pains, physical adaptations to our degrading bodies, time traveling through sets of friends, and being far from the active core of people who make the world run.

division squiggleIt’s easy to spin your wheels. It’s a lot harder to actually DO something. Be Less Crazy explores getting ready to get ready, this strange circling state between intending and doing – and how long it can actually be.

division squiggleAnd I’ll leave you with a little exploring. From Messy Nessy Chic, London’s secret underground veg farm and some achingly beautiful hotel luggage labels of decades past. (This last one allllllmost sent me into an eBay k-hole, but I resisted.) And from Untapped Cities, another exploration of a secret club (because New York is lousy with them). In this installment, we explore the Grolier Club, a swank off-limits space dedicated to the book arts.