July 28, 2010

new ways to measure

I got home yesterday. I had a fantastically marvelous time in an unbelievably beautiful country. 

Isle of Skye, Scotland (I know, right?)

How to travel:

1) Light
  • Pack a few interchangeable pieces of clothing you can layer as needed, do laundry along the way, and buy anything else you require at your destination. I forgot my water repellent jacket this trip, so I stopped in a few charity shops and found one in basic black for £3. That, and the pair of super-cute polka dot w/ pink soles in my size wellies my sister found abandoned under a bench, kept me dry all across Scotland. (Freaked out about the previously-worn wellies? Don't be! They were one pair of several left behind by festival-goers, and anyway, I cleaned them before I wore them. Duh.) 
  • Carry-on only is liberating, and, as far as I'm concerned, the only way to travel, but if you like to shop on your travels, you'll probably need another bag to carry your finds back home. You can pick up decent used luggage at charity shops, thrift stores, and discount stores all across the US and Europe; pack your treasures in a bought-on-the-go bag and check it on your return flight. Another option is to take with you one of the many fold-away bags available - safely stowed in your carry-on, it's there for you to open and fill when you need it.

2) Close to the ground
  • A business trip is one thing; you're (generally) not there to have fun, so making the most of your sojourn by staying in a great hotel with arctic air conditioning, fluffy comforters, and a wide-screen tv is totally forgivable. A holiday, though, is something else. If, like me, you travel to experience new places and cultures, consider bypassing the chi-chi hotels and finding a hostel or moderately priced hotel instead. You'll save huge bucks, and have a more authentic travel experience. I've stayed in 10 different hostels, a B & B, and a local hotel in Scotland & England, Not one has had a private bath; I've had roommates from Japan, Poland, and Germany, to name a few. I've shared breakfast tables and late night teatime in communal kitchens, and observed Scottish parenting skills up close and personal. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Berneray Hostel, Scotland 2010 (mine)
  • Public transportation can be an efficient, safe, and inexpensive alternative to renting a vehicle. In many places it's how the locals travel; rubbing elbows with folks on their way to work, school, or the market is a ready-made opportunity to experience another culture.
  • Shop where the locals shop, eat what the locals eat. Yes, I mean grocery shop. Wander the aisles while you're there - check out the dish soap, the shampoo, the kitchen matches; a simple market trip can be a study in local culture. Then grab some yogurt, cheese, bread, fruit, and go have yourself a picnic and people-watch. A beer or bottle of wine won't hurt, either.
  • The tourist trap souvenir shops aren't all bad, but avoid wasting your money on tchotskes that will lose their appeal before you even leave the shop, and buy things you'll use, instead: pens, pencils, note cards, and notepads are a few of my favorite little touristy purchases - every time I write a check with my Union Jack pen it makes me smile.
  • Another favorite type of memento is something from the local culture. At the Heb Hostel in Stornoway I admired the finely turned wooden door stops used to prop open the 100+ yr old doors; in a little hardware store in London I scored 3 of the exact same stops, for £1 each. I picked up a toast rack and a couple of kitchen towels as well. On Berneray (population: 80) I bought a cake of locally made soap. (At the same sale, I bought a tiny little vintage lead crystal jar with a sterling silver top for my dressing table, and an antique wood and glass spyglass as a gift for wifey. Proceeds benefited the Berneray Historical Society.)
View from the hostel window, Berneray, Scotland (mine)
  • Charity shops (or thrift stores if you're traveling in the States) are treasure troves of items that make fabulous mementos and gifts. A vintage embroidered pillowcase, a china teacup, books (careful, they're heavy!), or a set of bone-handled sterling silver grapefruit spoons beat the crap out of a tacky My family went to Shangri La and all I got was this lousy piece of shit! souvenir
3) Open yourself to the possibilities. 
  • Miss your bus? Take the next one, or walk, or just do something else. Raining on the only day you have to explore a local landmark? Put on your charity shop rain jacket and freebie wellies and go on out. It's rain, not paint remover for christsake - you'll be fine! Run out of toothpaste and can't find your regular brand? German toothpaste works, too. Really.
Callenish, Isle of Lewis, Scotland 2010 (mine)

Globetrotting destroys ethnocentricity. It helps you understand and 
appreciate different cultures. Travel changes people. 
It broadens perspectives and teaches new ways to measure quality of life.
 - Rick Steves

Bookmark and Share

Travel light.

July 10, 2010

the excitement of possibilities

In 60 hours I'll board a plane with no more than a single small backpack of my belongings and fly across the ocean to Scotland, where I will spend 2 stupendously, gloriously, amazingly wonderful weeks. 

As always, I will be traveling light. Still. there is much to do before such a journey, preparations to make in advance so that the journey itself will go as smoothly as possible. When you're traveling with only what will fit into one carry-on bag, it's important that you pack what you need, and need what you pack. 

I love the moment when I'm on the plane, my bag is stowed, and the hatches have closed. When it's too late to worry about even one more thing, what's done is done (or not), and out of my hands, I surrender to the mercy of fate, and at that precise moment, my journey begins.

mouse over images for source

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.
 Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. ~ Gloria Steinem

Bookmark and Share

July 7, 2010

an enormous magnifier

Already old-fashioned in my earliest memories, my Grandmother's house was a place of constant comfort and stability that changed so very little over the rest of her life that it seemed not to change at all. 

She was "granny chic" before it was cool. 

mouse over images for source

What an enormous magnifier is tradition! How a thing grows 
in the human memory and in the human imagination, when love, worship, 
and all that lies in the human heart, is there to encourage it.
~ Thomas Carlyle 

Bookmark and Share

July 6, 2010

when I have wings

Happy Birthday, Frida. July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954

Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly? 
~  Frida Kahlo

Bookmark and Share

July 4, 2010

We hold these truths to be self-evident...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America,  adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776

Bookmark and Share

July 3, 2010

a masterpiece of engineering

Wifey's broken flipper: check out the lateral metatarsal (pinkie side foot-bone). She missed a step last night, and this is the result:

Image source: Scott Co (IN) Hospital ER

The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art. 

Bookmark and Share

a couple things America got right...


Bookmark and Share

July 1, 2010

Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness.

She wasn't prone to worry; as she'd grown older, she'd lost the patience to really fret. Still, when she laid her hands across her belly that day and felt the hard, heavy lump there, a tickle of fear swept across her shoulders and down her back.

It was her secret for the few days it took her to accept that it was real. The minute the words crossed her lips - Hey, put your hand right here...do you feel anything? - things went into fast forward. Life became a blur of doctors, tests, waiting for results (no way to hurry the waiting). Someone mentioned the "c" word...

She nicknamed the unwelcome visitor her "pumpkin," a reference to her childhood fear of growing a watermelon in her belly after swallowing some seeds.  It grew with amazing speed, twisting inside. Pain was a constant companion.

Soon, she was in the hospital, surrounded by frightened and worried family. Her belly was sliced from belly button to pubic bone, the offending thing removed, then the wound closed back up with 37 staples. The incision looked like a zipper.

The surgeon was elevated to hero status in her eyes. He had, after all, saved her life.

"We're going to want to monitor you for 5 years," he said, "just to be sure."

The first year passed without incident, and then the second year.

Today, he looked her in the eye, shook her hand, and told her he hoped to never see her again. "3 years ahead of schedule, kid, but you're good to go. And we're here if you ever need us."

She walked out the doors and back into into the world anew. She thinks that maybe she'll never be afraid again.


“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky –
 forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, 
not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. 
In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty
 of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. 
This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” 
~Mark Jenkins

Bookmark and Share


Blog Widget by LinkWithin