Category Archives: Travel

Lingering Longings

Mexico 2005

I have lived in this country since birth with small stints of living abroad. I’ve trudged through the rains of Ireland, gallivanted all over Italy, relaxed on the beaches of Ecuador, soaked up the sun in Colombia, and bathed with buckets in Nigeria. If I add up all the time I’ve spent abroad it’s less than two years in total. And yet, I still miss living and being abroad often.

I love having a car to get from place to place. I love having Target and Panera Bread and Big Lots and Chipotle and Ross and Hobby Lobby and Moe’s all a five minute drive from my door. Most of the time, I love that I can communicate with most people I meet. I absolutely love to not be a spectacle most places I go. I love that retail items are cheap and fairly durable. I love that I don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a flight to see most of my family. I love that I understand how finances work. I love that most of the time when people say that they’re going to do something tomorrow, they actually do it tomorrow. What I love the most? I LOVE free refills. So much.

Ireland 2006I do. I love all these things about life in the States. They were things I found myself missing when I lived abroad. They are things that are genuinely unique to my life here in the United States. And yet, in all those other countries there were some commonalities that sometimes come upon me and I miss desperately.

I miss walking. I know that sounds silly. I could walk anywhere I want. Sort of. It’s just that, for the most part, life in this country is designed around having transportation available. There are actually a lot of people in my neighborhood that use the bus and walk to the neighborhood store (it mostly sells beer), but there are hardly any sidewalks! I get so frustrated about this when I’m walking or driving. There should be sidewalks. The city should be encouraging walking. Beyond the lack of sidewalks, the closest real grocer or restaurant is about two miles away. And again, if I walk there, I’ll be dodging cars all the way. There’s also this stigma with walking here where if you see someone walking somewhere you feel badly for them. I loved to walk in Maryland and I would be stopped often to ask if I wanted a ride. “No, I have a car. I just prefer to walk.”China 2008

I miss the slower pace of life. I often feel rushed to get from here to there to the other place. Keeping a schedule is partly just my personality, but life here is so busy that it seems inevitable. Now, maybe this is just me. Maybe there are lots of people in this country keeping to a slower pace of life. (I mean, other than maybe retirees.) I respect them wholeheartedly, but the fact is it’s difficult to live in this culture if you’re not keeping up.

I miss the sun. This one is specific to the more southern countries I’ve visited, but it is so true. When I lived in Colombia I started teaching at 7 am. And when I left my house at 6:30 the sun was already high in the sky and the air was warm. I miss that desperately, especially in these cold winter months. It makes me long for summer in a way that I can’t describe. I miss the light.

Italy 2008I suppose that sums it up, really. I miss the light. The lightness of the air, of the attitude, of the pace. The feeling of freedom in living a world that is completely your own and completely foreign all at once.

I tend to look back on past experiences with rose colored glasses. One of the programs I worked with abroad was not very well run or organized. It was difficult work. The days were sweltering, the hours were long and the administration was lacking. And my co-workers and I complained extensively. And yet, two years later I went back, swearing that it was the greatest program ever. One of my co-workers that year asked how I could ever come back. (Granted, the first year I did it was objectively better than the second year.) A friend of mine did the same program years later and thought I was a crazy person for sending her there.Ecuador 2009

So, maybe life abroad isn’t so miraculous. Maybe what I miss is actually just warm weather and beaches and sunshine. In which case, I should move to southern California or Florida and I can enjoy the same luxuries (sort of). Maybe I miss being a foreigner. Maybe I just miss the feeling of being on an adventure.

I don’t long for it in the lustful way I used to. I’m okay with the fact that my next big adventure will probably be a six hour drive to Maryland to see my family. I know that this is where I need to be. Where I’m supposed to be. Right now. I honor that sentiment that wherever I am in my life, in my maturity, in my relationships, in location, is where I am meant to be at this very moment.

But sometimes when the light falls a certain way or the street has a certain scent or the radio plays a certain song, I am transported in my heart to those moments abroad and long for the time in my life when I will see those places (or at least places like them) again.

Colombia 2010

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Little Rock Rockin’

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I didn’t know much about Arkansas. I pictured it as pretty country. That much seems true. I had a friend who lived there for a while, so I know there’s some semblance of a Mennonite community somewhere in the state. Shortly before entering the state I was informed by my sister that it is the birthplace of Wal-Mart. Apparently there’s one located off almost every interstate exit. We didn’t test this theory.

We stopped for dinner in Little Rock. It being the capital city and whatnot. And we sat down in a cute little restaurant/bar in their Downtown/River Walk District. From what I’m told, there’s little else to the city. But isn’t that how a lot of people see towns? If anyone were to come to my our new town, they might think the same. But, alas, we have found so many other places to explore and haven’t even properly ventured through the Downtown area as of yet.

At any rate, that area is awesome! (We’re back in Little Rock now.) Even if it is the only cool thing in the whole town, I wish we would have had more than two hours to spend exploring. It would take at least a whole day. There were tunnels and caves and “rock walls” to climb. There were tons of tributes to Native Americans since the Trail of Tears traveled through that area. (Which is nice since, you know, we took their land and killed their people.) There was a pretty sweet amphitheater where I wager there would be some pretty nice events. A great trail along the river, some beautiful trees and bridges (I love bridges), oh and a river, of course.

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As the story goes, according to the signs we read, the River Walk area was commissioned by President Clinton. Arkansas, as I learned in my journeying there and thanks to my husband who collects news like I collect books, is the homeland of Mr. Clinton. Which explains the lilt even after all those years living like a Yankee.

So while it’s not my next dream destination. And while I’m not eager to relocate. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the city was a greater adventure than I originally anticipated. We even saw the “little rock” of its namesake.

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I digress…

It’s a share post. Here are the things I’m discovering all up and down the world wide web.

Enjoy. Explore. Discover.

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This (on the left) was the background on my computer for ages. I discovered quite some time ago, but I just love it so much that I keep it around for good spirit’s sake. Check out the rest of their photos by a little clickage.

 

 

 

 

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This (on the right) was posted by my cousin Anna, so I cannot give credit to the original creator or the place you can find it originally on the internet. But I can still share it with you.

The print is a little blurry, so in case you can’t read it:

Patient: Doctor, I don’t feel well and I’m not sure why.

Doctor: I want you to meditate for 20 minutes, twice a day, exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, avoid processed foods, eat plenty of organize fruit and veg, spend more time in nature and less indoors, stop worrying about things you can’t control and ditch your T.V. Come back in 3 weeks.

  It pretty much sums up American society, don’t you think?

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This is another Facebook find (on the left). So, my apologies if you are the creator of any of these images. Please, tell me and I will gladly give credit where it’s due. Sometimes I just need little reminders like this to tell me that it’s my job to get things done. I can get some help from above, but ultimately you make or break every single day of your own life. And if you think that’s some new-agey bru-ha-ha, then, my friend, stay on your couch all day and see how much love comes your way.

 

On a side note: It took me like ten thousand years to edit this and format it appropriately. I even tried coding it and wordpress wouldn’t use the html correctly. I am feeling hateful toward it at the moment. That is all. Enjoy anyway. :)

You disappoint, Houston

I have never had any burning desire to visit the state of Texas, honestly. It’s nothing personal, I’ve just never been overly fond of “The South” anyway and Texas is kind of the pinnacle of the South. And I’m sure there are some very cool places in Texas. In fact, I just read an article on how artsy and cool Austin has become. Good for Austin! But not for Houston.

Houston is big. It’s the fourth largest city in the entire United States and it is, by far, the largest city in “The South”. So, shouldn’t that make it kind of interesting. I mean, the cities that beat it are New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Interesting cities. Things worth seeing and doing. Granted, it’s a hot place312871 to be in early August, but there just isn’t much outdoors that we discovered.

If you are from Houston and love it, or you’re some type of Houston enthusiast, then please comment and tell anyone planning to travel to Texas all the wonderful reasons to visit this city. It should be noted that we didn’t go to Houston to see the city. We went for a conference, so we were a bit distracted.

We were also operating on a shoe string budget. I’m sure this greatly impacted the things to see. In fact, I’m positive that it did. But I’ve traveled in cities on multiple continents and all over this country. There are always interesting things to get into on a budget. Especially in big cities! If there are those things in Houston, I implore you – stop hiding them! Let the world know they’re out there to 312869find.

We made it to The Galleria which is the seventh largest hotel in the country. It houses two hotels, a financial center, an ice skating rink, a health club, two office space towers and and endless number of retail establishments ranging from Aeropostale to Saks Fifth Avenue. I discovered after the fact that it’s also considered the most visited attraction in Greater Houston. So, at least we saw the attraction on the top of Houston’s must-see list, right? The pictures are of a fountain in the middle of said mall. The top picture is the ceiling where the water falls to the fountain basin on the floor below (second picture).

On some lighter notes, there are some good places to eat. And speed limits are really high on the interstate. But don’t drive North East out of Houston – you’ll have to get all the way to Arkansas to find any of those aforementioned interstates. Oh, Texas, we’ll have another go of you another day, eh?

Daring to be Different in a Country of Conformists

New Orleans is Cartagena, Colombia on US soil. At least that’s how it felt. The colors, the narrow streets, the architecture, the street performers and artists. I fear I will receive scorn from both parties for these statements, but the two are very similar. It stands to reason, of course, they are both coastal Caribbean cities with a fusion of cultural influences.

It might be a misrepresentation of Cartagena, however. As Cartagena is a much more beautiful city than NOLA. But NOLA has the music! We sat for an hour at Café Du Monde enjoying our beignets and listening to a bang-a-rang saxophonist. We strolled along the Mississippi River and watched the old-time river boats come in and out of port. The sheer size of the Mississippi is magnanimous. I know there are wider rivers, but it’s the largest I’ve ever laid eyes on in person and it is a sight to behold.

Some advice for New Orleans if you should ever take a trip there. Find a reputable Cajun restaurant for the best taste of the city. We did not. And, sadly, we were disappointed by our creole catfish and po’boy. The coffee and pastries mostly made up for it. Don’t try to drive there. If you are driving, find a hotel with parking (it will be worth any additional cost). If you’re flying, then don’t waste your money renting a car. Get a cab to the hotel and be done with it. And don’t ever think you’ve seen it all. The city is so much larger than it first appears. The streets are narrow and seemingly unending.

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We spent our one and only night in the city at Hotel Royal and it was worth the slightly higher price than we’d typically like to pay for a hotel. The room was lovely with a fireplace and the bathtub had jets. Need I say more? We wandered along Bourbon Street both during the day and in the evening. It was like exploring two entirely different streets. In the evening it was swarming with pedestrians, most with drinks in their hands including “Big Ass Beers” which seemed like a trademark of the street.

The shops were filled with skeletons. Skeletons playing the piano, dressed up in costumes, even some walking the streets. I mentioned smells too, right? Well, suffice it to say that your nose will be assaulted with the scents. Some savory and some less so. All just a mélange of the city that has shaped a culture entirely its own. In this country that prides itself on being a melting pot, this city stands alone as a proud beacon of culture and creativity.