Seattle: You Beautiful, Passive Aggressive Bastard

img_2119I’ve lived in the Emerald City for two years now, and that’s long enough for me to form some qualified opinions. Hopefully the people of Seattle will handle criticism a little better than the folks of Austin!  Because, who am I? Why get pissed at some girl and her blog? This is just my opinion. I’m  writing from my  personal experience. That experience may be different from your own. And, I hate having to even say this, but there is always some asshole who has to comment, “Not ALL ______ are _____.” No shit. It’s called a generalization and it takes into consideration that, of course not every person in Seattle will be like I describe. But, there. I’ve said it. Feel free to give up now if you don’t like reading criticism of things which you might not agree. 

The Nature: You can’t get a greener, more beautiful city than Seattle. It’s the first thing you notice when you get here. There are trees everywhere! Green spaces all over the city. And there is the bay! Most days you can see Mt. Rainer in the distance. Even grey, cloudy days are beautiful here. And you still get all of the seasons, more or less. As I type this, I can feel Fall on the horizon. People here genuinely love to be outdoors, and there are plenty of places within city limits to do just that. Whether you love being on the water, hiking in the mountains, or just taking the long way to brunch – you’ll fit in here. Seattle prides itself on its green spaces and dedication to being a Green City. And it is on a large-scale. It’s when you get down to the personal level that it gets fuzzy. For example I see people getting their groceries delivered by Amazon (as well as everything else) and then drive to work in their SUV plastered with an SHOP LOCAL bumper sticker. When I worked in a bookstore, people would tell me how much they detested Amazon…until the book they “had to have right now” wasn’t available. Seattle can’t put its money where it’s mouth is.

This is a dog loving, baby loving, cat on a leash loving, chickens in your back yard loving, bike loving city. If you happen to be a Bike person, you will love it here. There are tons of Bike trails for you and your dog and baby to cruise down. There are bike lanes all over the city which go unused because this city has no clue how to drive anything. Cars. Bikes. Strollers all seem too overwhelming to the Seattleite. The Seattleite in control of a vehicle is an oxymoron. They are not in control. The Seattle Driver will stop at any given moment to let you, a pigeon, or a stray dog cross the street. But if there is a Stop sign, they’ll ignore it. The only city in the world responsible for its own traffic.

Weather and StuffThe weather here is awesome! I loathe heat and humidity, so the cool bay breeziness of Seattle is perfect. It gets hot here in the summer (90-95 F) but it only lasts a few days at a time. It rains here, but not as much as movies and TV would make you think. I like it here. I often leave my flat and say, “Man! It’s beautiful today!” Sun and clouds. It’s usually not too hot, and not too cold. YAY! img_0193
I don’t drive here. I donated my car to charity a few years back  and I feel free! Seattle is FOR SURE, a walkable city. You do not need a car to get around here. There is public transit (bus, tram, metro) and it’s pretty good towards getting better. Not as good as Europe, but way better than L.A. or Texas. Traffic is a real thing here, but I never deal with it.

As far as Culture and stuff – Seattle is awesome. There are tons of museums and galleries here at different price points. So if you can’t make it to see art and shit, that’s on you. The EMP Museum, The SAM and the Asian Art Museum are awesome, and that’s just scratching the surface. It’s like San Francisco here in that, what ever you are into – you can indulge it here. For example, I happen to love Drag Queens. Seattle is a fantastic place to love Drag. Or all things Gay. Or Food. Or sports. (Which is HUGE here, but I loathe sports so I ant gonna write about it.) Or tech. Or Dance. Whatever “Lifestyle” you identify with is welcome here. Seattle prides itself on being welcoming. And it is. To an extent. (See PEOPLE, below)

Food: What ever you want, you can get it in Seattle. Seattle is not only a Foodie paradise, but a Chef’s Haven as well. Seattle not only has some of the best restaurants in the country, but also some of the best available ingredients in the world. Fish, produce, meat, artisan ice-cream … whatever you want you can find it here. And unlike Austin, the finest food isn’t reserved for the rich. You can get a really good meal here for $10 or less if you know where to go. From food trucks to pizza to fine dining, you can’t beat Seattle for food. People here like to eat and take pictures of their food and talk about it. You could go into any neighborhood and get a good meal. That is something.

img_2177Seattle is a BRUNCH and HAPPY HOUR city. It LOVES Brunch. It LOVES Happy Hour. But be careful. Not all Happy Hour and Brunch menus are created equal. You might end up paying an arm and a leg just to be in a cool place with shitty food. But, that’s also part of Seattle. For the Seattleite getting a pretty picture of the food is almost better than the food tasting good.

Cost of Living: If you are reading this hoping for statistics and facts, you should stop now. The following is based solely on my personal opinion and experience living here and there. So that being said… Is Seattle expensive? Yes. I mean, I guess. It’s like a slightly less expensive San Francisco. You get everything you could want in a city: diversity, culture, night life, boozygoodtimes, live music venues, and all the other things people look for in a cool city. But it’s not unlike any other major US city. It depends on where you live. I happen to live in a small studio with my boyfriend. We split rent. It’s a little cramped, but it’s alright. We are walking distance from work and fun so it evens out.

The law passed making the minimum wage here $15.oo and weed is legal. Like You can go to pot stores. Or have it delivered like I do. A bag of Peet’s Coffee will set you back about $8.00 at the market. Don’t ask me how much Starbucks is because I’m not an asshole and I don’t spend money there.

The People: Anyone will tell you that the folks of Seattle, WA are nice. And that’s true. They are. Excessively. Seattleites will happily stop what they are doing to give you directions or say hi. It is a friendly city. On the surface. Which is to say that friendly is surface level only. If you wanna make friends with a Seattleite, good luck. Welcome to the land of Passive Aggressive.

img_1933It’s called The Seattle Freeze. Basically it’s a nice way of saying that everyone here is so far up their own ass that they don’t want to make new friends, but they are too passive aggressive to just say so. Nobody wants to offend here so they lie instead. If you Google the term SEATTLE FREEZE, you will get this: refers to a belief that it is especially difficult to make new friends (particularly for transplants from other cities) in the city of Seattle, Washington. According to KUOW radio, a 2005 Seattle Times article was the oldest reference to the term found. 

That shit is real. Two years in and have like three actual friends. I’ve made friends all over the world, easy! But Seattle? Sorry girl. Not here. The free paper here, The Stranger, wrote an article last year which basically blames YOU for Seattleites bad behavior. Honestly. YOU should smile. YOU should get out there! The article says, if a Seattleite bails on plans you should do the following. “Rather than mope about how this person let you down by not doing what they said they would do in a hastily sketched conversation days or even weeks before, try to empathize with them. People are busy, and it’s impossible to fulfill every potential social commitment. Pretend for a moment it’s possible that they might have something more important on their calendar than you.” Did you notice how full of excuses that was? Like its hard to pick up the goddamn phone and cancel. Be a grown up.

img_0175And that’s Seattle in a nutshell. It expects you to make excuses for its bad behavior. If you get stood up, that’s your fault for expecting people to do what they say. I don’t give a shit where you are from, or what excuses you have all packed up,  don’t be a dick. Don’t make plans you don’t expect to follow through on. And don’t expect ME to be the guy who fills in lulls in conversations. Why can’t YOU help? Stop blaming everyone who isn’t from Seattle for your shortcomings. You guys aren’t perfect.
For starters, learn to be direct. I grew up in L.A. and it’s hard for me to deal with people who are not direct. People who are not direct come across as self-indulgent, time-wasting jerks. How hard is it to ask for what you want? How hard is it to say what you mean? I worked at Seattle’s Snobbiest Bookstore for two years and endured people taking ten minutes to ask where the goddamn bathroom was. Here is a typical conversation: “Um, excuse me? Um…Hi. Um. Do you work here? Okay good. I was wondering if you happen to know if there might be a place  for me to use the bathroom around here.” Are you fucking kidding me? Try this: “Where’s the bathroom?”

So. There it is. The good and the bad. In a nutshell – Seattle is a fantastic place to live. It’s pretty. The food is great. There is a ton of fun stuff happening here year round. Theatre, Dance, Burlesque, Karaoke, Festivals, Live music – Seattle has it all. And, If you get along well with passive aggressive people who don’t think they are passive aggressive, then you’ll be ahead of the game.

 

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On Bravery, or I Auditioned for The Voice

13321907_10153683368897496_6061350582253211207_nAmy Schumer poses in a bikini. People call her BRAVE.

Alicia Keys wears no make-up, is photographed. People call her BRAVE.

Chrissy Teigen talks about getting pregnant. People call her BRAVE.

A few weeks ago I hopped a plane to Los Angeles and I auditioned for The Voice. People called me BRAVE.

While I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t think that any of the aforementioned acts can be considered brave. Even mine. To be brave means to face pain or danger. PAIN or DANGER! Being seen in public doesn’t qualify. Make-up or not. Posting a picture of your already beautiful self, #nofilter #filterfree, definitely is not #braveDoing something that may be outside of your comfort zone is not brave. Doing something you are good at shouldn’t be thought of as brave either. It should be an obligation.

I had been putting off this audition for a few years now. I won’t list all of the excuses I had, but I promise there were plenty. I was just scared I guess. But not this time. I had nothing but time, and thanks to my friends I had enough money to make it to the audition. People actually wanted me to succeed! The rest would be easy: Just sing! Singing comes as easy to me as breathing. I love singing! And I’m good at it. Putting yourself out there and doing something you love shouldn’t take courage. It should be the easiest thing in the world.

But it isn’t. Why? Because being judged sucks. And so does rejection. But only if you let it. I should know. I’ve had a life full of rejection. A world of no. I’ve been told I’m too short. Too fat. Too old. Too opinionated. Too loud. Too MUCH. Not enough. Not willing. Not able to fit in. Unwilling to fit in. Unyielding. 

But I stopped giving a shit about what other people think a long time ago. All of those things I’ve been told by BOSSES, teachers, FRIENDS, loved ones and strangers DON’T MATTER. Not even a little. When you let go of worrying about what others think of you, life opens up. There is absolutely no danger. No harm will come to you unless you count a bruised ego. And you shouldn’t. Your ego wants you to fail so you have a story to tell. Win or lose. Those are the two choices the ego wants. It will have a good story to latch onto either way. Hero or Victim. It doesn’t matter to the ego. But just doing your best and moving on? The ego hates that. It doesn’t allow for you to tell your tale. You just are

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7:30 am, outside the Convention Center. I wouldn’t sing until 11:00

My experience at The Voice was a lot of fun. A lot of standing around and waiting, very little singing, but a lot of fun. While waiting in line I made friends with a few women, and each at different points in our endless wait asked me how I could remain so “calm”. I hadn’t given it much thought, but I was calm. I wasn’t nervous. At all. I didn’t feel like I needed courage to be there. I had enthusiasm. No matter what the outcome, I would be fine. All I needed to do was be successful in each moment. Do my best.

Well, here’s where best laid plans and intentions and all of that shit come in to play. I didn’t do my best. I kept calm, cool and collected all day only to have it unravel in a matter of minutes. Here’s the long and the short of it. The nutshell version.

After four hours of being wrangled, it was finally my turn to go up the escalators. The final step. Next up: Actually audition!

Well, of course I had to pee. I always have to pee.

Once I got upstairs I asked the guy, and he said to go for it. I got out of the bathroom and my group was gone. Disappeared. I looked at the guy, who was now a different guy. He put me in a new group and walked me down a long corridor. I could see small groups quietly sitting and waiting outside different conference rooms. “This is it,” I thought. 

We were seated and told to be quiet. No singing. I went to turn off my ipod (what I use as a phone)and realized it was sitting atop the TP dispenser in that last bathroom. FUCK. I already knew there was literally no going back since they cleverly don’t take people who have already auditioned past people waiting. I sprang up and told the guy my situation. He said I had time. So I took my little legs, and ran in my high heeled booties down the hall, looking in each bathroom. Not there. But the toilet I used was back down that FIRST hallway….

I didn’t have time to keep looking or I’d lose my spot. I ran back to my group and found the guy clipping off our wrist-things. SHIT. I was literally sweating. My heart racing when I sat down. “No luck?” asks the dude next to me. “Nope.” I tell him.  And in we go.

Of course I went first. Literally seconds after we are ushered in, my heart still racing, me thinking I’ve lost the only expensive thing I own, I hear my name called. I stumble…mumble, and sing the song I didn’t want to sing. I did a fucking GREAT job though. I killed it. My high notes soared. I belted where I wanted I felt alright. People clapped enthusiastically, not just politely. I sat back down knowing that I could have done better. Much better. But I didn’t beat myself up over it.

So that’s it. It didn’t take bravery for me to audition. I was never threatened or in danger. All it took was a few friends, and an inner determination to not mind whatever happens. And it worked. For the most part.

Oh, and I found my ipod.

Those of you wanting to know what “The Voice” audition experience is like, I’ll break it down for you real quick.

  1. It takes about four hours, start to finish. Mostly waiting in line. Bring snacks and water.
  2. You will be in small groups of about ten. You will sing ONE acapella song. Yes, you will sing in front of your group… Duh. I had one producer in the room. Nobody from my group was asked to advance.
  3. After that, you are finished. Bye!

 

Travel: Why I Move

Welcome to Washington!

Welcome to Washington!

Leaving Prague after seven years was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I worked hard to make a life over there. I had to make new friends every two years since the life span of a Prague Expat is pretty short. I also had to endure the evil machine that is the Czech Foreign Police. Living there was fun, but it wasn’t exactly easy. People often think I was over there just drinking and partying for seven years, and while that might be true, it doesn’t paint a full picture of my life in Prague. So when I get asked “Why did you leave? Prague sounds awesome!” My usual reply is, “Well, everything gets old after a while. And there is a lot of the world I ain’t seen yet.”

I still love Prague, but I have finally decided that my decision to leave was the right one. Staying in one place for too long, even a place as beautiful as Prague, makes you complacent. A realization I made while living in Austin. I met so many people in Houston and Austin that had never left their home state. Never. Just like the dozens of Czechs who had never left the CR. They didn’t want to see America, Asia, or even or travel outside of the Czech Republic because “Everything I need is here and it is the best.” Texans were the same. I had a three-year old in Austin tell me that daddy said “travel is a waste of time and money since everything you need is right here in Texas.” Ugh.

I don’t share that opinion. I think Prague is awesome, but I’m pretty sure there are other awesome places in the world. The only way to find out is to see these places with my own eyes. Movies and TV shows and books are great, but nothing replaces a first hand experience. It’s not easy living this way, but the rewards are pretty amazing. If a place doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t home. People change as they get older and so do places. I was lucky to be in Prague at the perfect time in my life. Leaving was hard, but I was tired of trying. And honestly, there are only so many times you can hear stories about how wasted someone got last night. Been there. Done that.

My new city

My new city

So, here we are in beautiful Seattle ready to give it a try. We are prepared to settle down for a while, and possibly plant some roots here. If we like it. And all signs point to likeability. I’m a big fan of cold weather, and I love hiking and camping. Portland is just a train ride away, and Seattle boasts some great food, beer and coffee. I’m ready to dive in.

We had the opportunity to visit friends we made in our time in Europe on the way here, and that was pretty awesome. It made me really happy to see how great everyone is doing, and how happy they are. I saw people I hadn’t seen since they left Prague years ago. I am happy to report that all of my “Prague Family” is still kicking ass and taking life by the balls. We might have scattered in the winds, but we are all living the life we want.

And that’s what it’s really all about. Live the life you want, and be open to what other people are doing. I move because I am an explorer and because I want to know first hand what it’s like out there in the world. I don’t judge anyone who likes where they live and wants to stay there. I get it. Stability feels good, if I remember correctly. But don’t judge folks like me because we travel, or choose to live out of a backpack. The way I live my life is not a reflection on your life. Unless you make it one. Live and let live. That’s what I say. Well, me and Cole Porter.

 

Travel: The Road to Seattle

SN858419I know I’ve been missing for a few weeks, but I have a good excuse. I’m moving to Seattle!

My sweetie and I departed from Berkeley, CA and drove straight to the Coppola Winery. It was a beautiful, sunny day, just perfect for wine tasting. We tried a flight of wine before going to Rustic, the restaurant on premises. The food was delicious, and you can’t beat dining outside overlooking the vineyards. We saw a turkey walking around while we ate. It was pretty awesome. We also had the opportunity to see a good amount of Coppola movie memorabilia, which for a movie buff like me was almost better than the wine. I saw Coppola’s five Oscars from The Godfather, the Tucker car, The Godfather desk, Apocalypse Now stuff, and even a couple of costumes from his horrible vampire movie. There is a beautiful swimming pool complete with Boardwalk style changing rooms. All in all it was a fantastic thing to do on a Monday afternoon.

SN858479After we finished pretending to be a wealthy couple, we hopped back in the Honda Civic and headed north on the 101. The 101 North is probably the most beautiful highway in America. The Redwood forest is there! We drove along The Avenue of Giants and took the car through a living tree. We drove to a campground in the Redwood National Forest only to find that they don’t have any wood and they only accept cash. Needless to say we didn’t fit the requirements. We drove to a nearby town and got a hotel room. The heater didn’t work and frogs could be heard outside of the bathroom window all night, so it was almost like camping.

And that brings us to today. We drove from The Redwood forest to Eugene, Oregon. Today. It was a long day but we saw a lot of cool shit. We had lunch in Trinidad, California and walked on the beach. We saw the Paul Bunyan statue and I think I said, “Wow! It’s so pretty!” about seventy times, if I said it once. It’s been an incredible couple of days.

SN858525Tomorrow we are meeting an old friend of mine for lunch before we set out for Portland to visit with some more friends. We are visiting with friends I met in high school, and friends I met in Prague. I’m so excited to reconnect with some cool people I haven’t seen in far too long. I’m also excited to see Portland and hopefully do some Hipster Gazing. It will be the first time I’ll be able to view the Hipster in its natural habitat and I’m jazzed, to say the least.

After that it’s on to Seattle and I’ll fill you in once we get there.

Ratna Ling Week 3: The Hunger Games

SN858122When I arrived here 2.5 weeks ago, almost everyone I met said the same thing to me: “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” And to some extent it’s true. I’ve gotten used to working in the bindery, and I’ve gotten used to waking up at six every morning. I’ve gotten used to the excessive chanting, the classes, and the people. I’m pretty good with most of it. What I haven’t gotten used to is the food.

I’m not a vegetarian, but that isn’t the problem. I can deal with vegetarian food. The issue here is the quality of the food, and the amount of left-overs we are asked to eat. One shouldn’t heat and re-heat couscous over and over again. It makes it rubbery. I don’t like being served salad greens that are wilted, or slimy. A lot of what is served here I would return at a restaurant. I guess I should mention that my description of meals applies strictly to the food served to the volunteer staff. The guests here appear to get cooked meals every evening, and they share our lunches. They eat well. Us? Not so much.

We’ve spent money buying food the past two Sundays, something that we will be unable to maintain as we are not making any money here. We bought some cans of soup and chili, and even a few cans of Spaghetti-O’s for those nights when we just can’t handle left-overs again. Canned soup is a luxury for me now. While a handful of folks here share our disdain for the cuisine, the majority don’t seem to mind at all. That “majority of folks” are in their early twenties, and thus happy they don’t have to worry about grocery shopping or cooking. Food quality doesn’t come in to the equation. I happen to enjoy grocery shopping and cooking. But I’m also at least ten years older than most of the people here, and I like food. I like eating.

Can we do six months here with the food being less than we had hoped?

SN858167Of course we can. But that isn’t the right question. The right question is: Do we want to do six months with lack-luster vegetarian food? That is a harder question to answer. Both my boyfriend and I are enjoying much of what Ratna Ling has to offer. I like that I get to see dozens and dozens of birds take flight as I walk past multiple times a day. I like that the deer seem to follow me everywhere, and take lunch outside of my cabin. The scenery here can’t be beat, and we are just a hop, skip and a jump away from the coast. We’ve met some really interesting people here, and even made a few friends.

I know that any new situation is going to seem daunting and strange at first, and I’m keeping an open mind. I’m rolling with the punches. The food sucks. So what? I managed to live in Prague for seven years, and the food there is far from good. Like really far. Czech food is somewhere between bland and nothing special. And what they do to international cuisine should qualify as a hate crime against food. If I can manage there, I can manage here. But then again, I was making money and had easy access to grocery stores. I could cook what and when I wanted.

SN858161Between the shopping we did last weekend and the care package of snacks my mother sent, we should be alright for a few more weeks. But after that? I don’t know. I have to decide if I want to work my ass off every day and cross my fingers that we get something good that day, or if I want to just say … screw it.

At this point my feeling is that we’ll stick it out. I’m shamelessly campaigning for care packages from my FB friends, and I’m going to cook some stuff on my one day off – if I’m not too tired. We’ll see how it goes. So far, we’re having fun and working hard. One day we’ll look back and smile at the time we ate microwaved cans of Spaghetti-O’s while watching Top Chef in our cozy, little cabin in the woods.

Travel: The Bay Area (Revisited)

SN858043

Trees in Golden Gate Park

Well, we made it. After a week of hard core travel, we made it to California. Hoorah! It’s been eight years since I lived here, and I had no idea how much I missed it. The Bay Area (That’s San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland and surrounding areas) is a special place and there is always something to do.

San Francisco is a small city that packs a big punch. It’s 7×7, which means it is totally walkable if you have the right shoes and the right attitude. You can be in China Town checking out all of the cool markets and restaurants, turn a corner and find yourself in the middle of Little Italy and the birthplace of the Beat Movement. It’s pretty awesome. There is a sense of excitement in San Francisco, a sense that something is going on – and it usually is.

SN858038I decided to take my boyfriend to all of the places I like to eat, naturally. We did breakfast at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe and The Pork Store, and we had some always awesome burritos at Pancho Villa in The Mission, pizza and beers at Lane Splitters in Berkeley, and some Pho in China Town. I still need to hit up The Baywolf in Oakland – by far the best dinner, wine, and service in all of the Bay. As you can see, The Bay Area is definitely a place for good food and tons of options. No matter what you like, you’ll find it.

Since my sweetie hasn’t been here before, I’m taking advantage of my old status as tour guide and taking him to all the best places. I can still remember how to get around, and I still remember most of my “fun facts”. (Did you know that Lombard Street is NOT the steepest street in SF? It’s true!) We walked Golden Gate Park from The Haight, past all the street punks and Hipster/hippies, to The De Young Museum. The Museum is inside of Golden Gate Park and it’s architecturally stunning. We got to see The Conservatory and the lawn bowlers and even the carousel and kid’s play area. Golden Gate Park is beautiful, free and bigger than Central Park in NY. It is also home to Bison. Yup, bison.

Lombard

Lombard

From there we went to The North Bay. We saw Lombard Street and got a great view of Alcatraz before walking down the hill to Little Italy. We walked past Saints Peter and Paul Church where Marilyn married Joe, and on to City Lights Bookstore where Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the rest of the Beat-nicks stated a revolution. Right next door is one of my favorite bars, Vesuvio, where Beat Poetry was pretty much invented. It opens at 6am like a good bar should and it looks pretty much the same as it did in the 60’s. I love to sit upstairs with a good book and a pint and watch the city go by.

I’ve only had one real disappointment. The Bay Bridge. It has always been my favorite bridge in any city. I love it’s cold steel, hard feel. But, unfortunately they have done away with that. It was due for an upgrade, but in doing so it has lost a lot of it’s personality. It’s all white and shiny now. (Yawn) The new Bay Bridge was scheduled for completion in 2013 and cost an estimated total of $6.3 billion dollars making it one of the largest public works projects in US history.The SN858059West Span is being retrofitted through reinforcement and the East Span is being replaced entirely with a new design. And LED lights. So now the gritty bridge that was built in 1936 is gone and in it’s place is a public art piece that is better suited to Disneyland. I know I’m in the minority, but I thought I’d share my opinion anyway. Some of the best parts of any city are the old, dirty parts.

We still have a little time before we head up the mountain to Ratna Ling. In that time I plan on singing at The Mint, eating more good food, and perhaps seeing a movie or two. I’ll keep you posted.

Travel: Wish List

machu-picchu-peru“Where’s the best place you’ve been?”

I get asked this question all of the time and I never answer it. It’s a pretty broad question. I’ve been to lots of cool places, but I can’t label one as “the best” place I’ve ever been. That’s like choosing the best steak you’ve ever had, or the best beer. It’s all subjective. My enjoyment of a place depends on a lot of factors like the weather, my mood, my company, and maybe even the length of stay. I can’t choose a favorite.

The next question is inevitably, “Where do you want to go that you’ve never been before?”

  1. Machu Picchu, Peru – Yes please.
  2. Alaska – I don’t just want to see the Northern Lights, I want to disappear into the wilderness. Alaska!
  3. Italy – I don’t want to pick one place, I just want to spend a few months there traveling and eating.
  4. Washington D.C – I feel like I need to see DC. I’ve spent more of my time traveling abroad than in my home country.
  5. Norway – I basically want to live anywhere Julia Child has lived.
  6. Cambodia & Vietnam – I like monkeys and I like street food.
  7. Canada & Canada’s National Parks – I want to take a train through Canada and end at Niagara Falls.
  8. Charelston, SC – I’ve often thought about moving to South Carolina, but the heat…
  9. Seattle & Portland – Beautiful scenery, great food, coffee, microbrews
  10. Bermuda – Just give me a hammock…

Travel: Road Trip! Road Trip!

WinterGrandCanyon

winter grand canyon

It’s official. Our cross-country, five state, road trip/moving adventure starts in exactly TWENTY DAYS! That’s right, on the 29th of this month we pack up the car, and set out for California. I’ve been planning this trip for months – prepping, making lists, buying supplies, charting our route – but now that it is three weeks away, I’m slightly nervous. I’m excited, but nervous.

The reality of winter camping slapped me in the face this week when winter finally came to Texas. I’m not complaining mind you. I’ve been waiting for this since last winter, which lasted all of two weeks. I’m a fan of cold, chilly weather. I loved wintertime in Prague with all the snow, and the cold. I didn’t care for the fact that it got dark at 3:30 in the afternoon, but other than that, winter was a time of mulled wine and hibernation. It then dawned on me that much of my enjoyment of cold weather happens while I am wrapped in a blanket, in a cozy, heated flat. I’ve never intentionally camped out in the snow before. Unless waiting in line in the snow at 4am outside of the Czech Foreign Police counts as camping. Which it should.

WIGWAM-MOTEL--6Here’s the plan, the itinerary. We’ll be driving between 5-7 hours a day,and then camping overnight. We’ll be camping in Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and California, and we might be going through Vegas. We plan to spend New Year’s Eve camping under the stars at The Grand Canyon. Sounds romantic, right? It sounds a little less romantic when you realize that it will be around 18 degrees overnight. And there will probably be snow. I’m a total badass, but camping in a tent in the snow seems just a little crazy.

So I made reservations at a Hostel near the Grand Canyon. The idea is to keep the reservation and play it by ear. If it seems like we’ll end up as an episode of Dateline where they interview all of our friends and family about what kind of people we were before we froze to death, then we’ll stay at the hostel. I kind of also made reservations at The Wigwam Hotel on Route 66. I thought it might be fun to ring in the New Year in a teepee, and I have always wanted to stay there. I like having options that don’t include freezing.

Bixby Creek Bridge

Bixby Creek Bridge

The trip is designed for us to move and see some parts of the country we might have not seen before. I have a list of things we will be seeing along the way. Things like The UFO Museum, standing on the corner of Winslow Arizona, The Grand Canyon, San Simeon State Park, The world’s largest artichoke, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and much, much more. I’ve seen many of these sights before, but never as an adult. We both feel like we saw and did a lot while living in Europe, so we should do the same while we are here in the states. Who knows if we’ll stick around, so we better see the sights!

We’ll arrive in San Francisco just in time for my birthday. It feels like I’ve come full circle. I lived in Oakland/San Francisco before moving to Prague. I had my 30th birthday there, and now I’ll have my 40th there. It feels like the right time to come home again. I’ll get to see friends that I haven’t seen in almost ten years. I’ll get to introduce my fella to some of the coolest people I know, and I’ll get to sing karaoke at The Mint once more. It’ll be great. Just looking at pictures of The Bay Bridge gets me excited and happy.

I can’t wait to start this next adventure. Because this isn’t just a road trip, we are pulling up stakes and moving yet again. The plan is to spend six months volunteering at Ratna Ling Buddhist Center and then move to Seattle. We talked about all of the reasons Austin didn’t work out for us and looked for a city that had some things Austin was lacking. Things like walkability, good public transit, weather, green trees, gays and good coffee. I can’t wait. I seem to have made a habit of moving to cities I’ve never stepped foot in before. Should be fun.

The way I see it, life is just a big adventure waiting to happen. You can choose to participate or you can sit on the sidelines and watch. Thoreau once said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” And that’s what I’m trying to do. I wasted enough time working in an office doing silly, meaningless things like data entry, or answering the phone for someone who was far too important to do it them self. That’s not living, at least not to me. Do no harm, but take no shit. That’s my motto.

20 Things I’ve Learned From Being a Vagabond

passportinsideIn a world ruled by pressure to conform, to uphold a “reputable” job, have a family, a car, and “stable” lifestyle, these are some things I’ve learned while doing the exact opposite.

  1. True friends are the ones who support you in your adventure, offer you a sofa, and don’t judge you for being a little different.
  2. There is a big world out there, and watching The Amazing Race doesn’t count as seeing it. Either does a two week holiday in a luxury hotel.
  3. The only way to really learn a city is on foot (or bike). Tours only get you so far. Get a map and start walking.
  4. Accept loss. You will eventually lose your phone, keys, wallet, flat, money, sleep … but you’ll be alright. Those things don’t matter so much in the long run. Keep your passport protected and you’ll be fine.
  5. Travel light. Less stuff = more freedom.
  6. Some people are going to be mean, jealous and scornful. You are living the dream and that makes people nervous. Anytime folks walk outside of societal lines, people get nervous. Don’t let it bug you. Haters gonna hate.
  7. Keep your pack in sight at all times when traveling on a train or bus. Hold your purse on your lap, sleep on top of your pack, and don’t wear headphones. Be alert.
  8. Take books over an eReader. Books can be helpful in making friends, trading, sharing, and even for reading. Local expats will appreciate any reading material they don’t have to pay for, and books spark better conversation than an eReader.
  9. Comfort is subjective. Some people need three televisions, a car, fancy sheets and a house to feel comfortable. Some people don’t. Don’t cave to other peoples ideals. Stay true to who you are and you will be happy.
  10. Meeting people is key to having a good time. The more people you meet, the more information you’ll get. Don’t just talk to other Americans, talk to locals – they have the best knowledge. And steer clear of asking the same old questions – What do you do, How long have you lived here, etc. Instead, ask where the best place to get a burger is, or where to go hiking. You’ll get more useful information and you won’t annoy anyone.
  11. Carry a notebook and a pen. Take notes on what you see, who you meet, phone numbers, addresses, reservation numbers. I promise, it will come in handy. Even if you have a smart phone – keep a notebook. No one wants to steal your notebook.
  12. Learn the fine art of detachment. It sucks to leave your friends (over and over and over) but it gets easier each time. You can always go back and visit them again, and you are never far away from anyone when you have FaceBook.
  13. Take pictures, but don’t worry about taking pictures. Put your camera down for a few and just be in the moment. Those memories are more important than pictures.
  14. Getting lost is just part of the deal. I found some of my favorite places by getting lost. But, carry a map. There is a difference between getting lost and being stupid.
  15. Travel smart. Carry a map. Tell people where you are going. Don’t take unnecessary risks like walking home drunk, in the rain, at 4am. Just trust me on this one.
  16. Never challenge an Australian or a Czech to a drinking contest. No matter who wins, nobody wins.
  17. Don’t fear the unknown – that’s where the magic is. The more you travel, the better you get at it.
  18. Be proud of your accomplishments. Living a nomadic life isn’t easy. It takes dedication, perseverance, and commitment. Don’t let other people try to make you feel small for living life a different way.
  19. Keep snacks handy. You never know when you’ll be delayed.
  20. If you are not happy where you are, you can leave. The best part about being a vagabond is not having roots. I don’t have a mortgage, car payments, bills or a schedule. I wasn’t happy in Texas, so I’m moving on. That’s the joy of being a vagabond.