Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Road Trip: The Adventure Begins

I know I am a little bit crazy. But what can I say? I am living with the travel bug and when travel calls, the only way I know is to answer.  I just wish travel just didn't have to call at 5 a.m.  It's really not a time for waking up, ever. It should be reserved solely for returning home to begin sleeping post party and late night eats, not for beginning the day. But there is a long way to travel and plenty to see, so early it is. I am ready to go.

Of course, we must say our goodbyes, eat a good breakfast, and be sure the car is packed with everything we could possibly ever need. Our families wouldn't have it any other way. Five hours, a yummy breakfast, a stack of extra maps, and a wealth of motherly forewarnings later, the open road and I are officially one.

It's almost like we were meant to be together, like the road has been wondering where I've been all its life. I am actually starting to wonder that myself. The sense of complete and utter, untainted freedom has been hiding on the Interstates all this time and no one ever told me. I am immune to scheduled flight times, tour plans, or outlined destinations, and I can pack as many shoes as I like. I am free. This road is mine to map and I love it. I am fully prepared to channel my inner Audrey Hepburn, sunglasses donned and scarf fluttering in the hot Southwestern breeze...though I suppose it will be slightly different since we are missing the convertible. Oh well. We made it, we are finally here. After some minor hurdles, and explanations for yet another trip, this adventure has begun.

Hoover Dam!
I watched as the cities slowly faded into nothingness as we traveled farther from home and closer to the unfamiliar. California slowly melded into Arizona and Arizona into Nevada as we head for the Grand Canyon. We were on a roll. Aside from a quick check point in Arizona where we were "randomly" stopped (who knows...we could very possibly have had a tiny immigrant packed into our overhead cargo box) the ride was uninterrupted. We jumped out of the car at the side of the freeway to take a picture at the Arizona state welcome sign. We stopped again for the Nevada one. Wait...Nevada? That doesn't seem like where we should be...Ooh the Hoover Dam? Let's go! What's a road trip without a little rerouting anyway? And we get to see the Hoover Dam!

Too bad the little rerouting was more like a huge two-hours-out-of-the-way rerouting! It's okay, we are close to the Grand Canyon, right? No? Okay, so maybe we are getting there a little late, but we will get there, set up camp, and be fine. It is getting a little dark though...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

From an Empty Room to the Open Road

Every noise I make echoes off the empty walls in this now foreign place that was once my beloved bedroom. Four things hang in my closet, and the last of the bags and boxes wait to be loaded into my car (help?) I guess it's really over. After five wonderful years, my apartment, roommate, and I are separating.

It feels like a divorce, the end of an era. Was this movie yours or mine? You can keep the cheese grater, I'll take the curtains. It all sounds silly when we stop and listen to ourselves. We have grown up together in this apartment, my roommate and I, and now we couldn't be headed down more divergent paths. Hers to stability and mine to the unmapped, open road. An incredible cross country road-trip lies between my painful departure from this apartment and my somewhat vague future. I should at least be excited for the trip. 

The sight of my packed bag, roadmap, and notebook should awaken the familiar and endlessly sought after rush of excitement that travel usually brings to me. But it is different this time. I don't just have one bag packed, they are all packed. When I return "home" I cannot simply place everything neatly back into its designated area and settle back into life. "Home" will no longer be the old apartment with the leaky faucet and the beautiful mountain views that I so adore. Instead, my life will hang somewhere between a storage unit and my parent's garage. Sigh. The power of this travel bug never ceases to amaze me. It has slowly driven me out of my cubicle, out of my apartment, and out of my life as I thought I knew it.

But I am forging my own path. It may not be the one anyone, including me, expected it to be, but it is my path. It will be filled with happy times and sad times, overworked and underworked times, and hopefully sprinkled with lots of travel. I will make it to my destination, but I am stopping to smell the roses, and the tulips, and the daisies, and...anyway, I am going to enjoy this journey that is my life.

Au revoir, my sad and empty room. The open road is calling me, so I'm answering. Wish me luck...

Monday, August 16, 2010

8 Things to Love About Toronto

From the Exhibit "Late News" by
Dan Perjovschi at the R.O.M.
Toronto, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

1. Cultural Diversity. Toronto has it all. You can "travel" across continents without ever leaving the city! There are so many areas and neighborhoods where you can find people, culture, and delicious food from all over the world. There is something for everyone here. This portion of Dan Perjovschi's "Late News" Exhibit captures it best; there are so many elements that make up greater Toronto, and to me, that's the beauty of the cityPlus, I really love to eat. 

2. Ample Places to Meet People. You can meet people everywhere here, and for young singles this is of vital importance! There are people to be met on public transportation, while walking around the city, on the streets after clubs and pubs close when everyone is out at the same time, and even en route to emergencies (more on this later). Not being holed up in your car and actually being out in the world can make a big difference. In Los Angeles, people drive everywhere. No one thing is that close to another, making for very little outside-of-your-car time. Unless of course you are trying out the latest diet, then you might go sans vehicle to do some walking on your lunch break, or take your tiny dog out in the morning. But there aren't many people to meet doing either of those two things.

3. The TTC. Oh, the Toronto Transit Commission. They can get you around the city quite easily with the convenient combination of subway, bus, street car, and rail car. And they have gone to the trouble of having each mode in collaboration so that you only pay one fare to get to/from your destination whether you use one, or all four different modes. So thoughtful.

View from Panorama
4. Panorama Bar/Restaurant/Lounge. A supreme view from the 51st floor, a full bar, tasty edibles, and the occasional proposal (yes, I actually did see one–the romance in the air is thick all the way up here!) What more do you need?

5. Cute Firefighter Boy. As two fire trucks sped down Bloor Street, sirens blaring, I waited at the crosswalk for them to pass. A third fire truck slowed to a safe crawl, and the driver (also known as cute firefighter boy) glanced in my direction, looked back at the road, then turned back to smile and wave. En route to a potential emergency! I felt like a giddy teenage girl at a concert. Sure, I will never see him again, and sure most visitors to Toronto are not likely to encounter him either, but he represents the dating potential in this city, and reinforces Reason #2 that there are ample places to meet people!

6. Caribana. As the largest Caribbean festival in North America, people travel into Toronto from all over the world to be a part of this humongous party cultural celebration. Being of Caribbean heritage myself, it is nice to catch a glimpse of home even when you are far away from it. But let's be clear, even if you are not Caribbean, don't know anyone who is Caribbean, and/or have never even visited the Caribbean, you can't beat the fun to be had at this festival. You just have to be ready for it...

7. Proximity to NYC. New York City is near and dear to my heart, so being just an hour and a half's flight away from everything that I love is a beautiful thing. It is convenient to be so close to New York. Besides, who knows when you'll have to see a Broadway show or update your fall wardrobe?

8. Ronaldo Billboard. Okay, so maybe this isn't a legitimate reason to love Toronto, but we don't have this at home and it's kind of a pretty picture. Plus, it's 8 things I love about Toronto, so it makes the list.

There's a little bit of everything in Toronto, and any place that fosters eating, entertainment, and culture is just about perfect for me. Now, if only it were warm all year round...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"It's a Pity We Have to Work"

The Toronto skyline faded behind us as our tour boat, the Harbour Star, motored out from Queen's Quay. I had anticipated this ride to be a bit over-touristy, but it was kind of fantastic. A very animated young redhead narrated the tour. She spoke about the history and the current happenings in and around the harbour and the islands. On such a hot summer day, it was hard to imagine any part of this harbour being frozen over as she had mentioned. We learned of the rivalries between the local yacht clubs (oh, life gets so complicated sometimes...) and even got to witness children scrambling to keep their sailboats upright during lessons from the National Yacht Club's Junior Sailing School; so cute...and kind of funny. There were great views of everything from here, but get in line early to avoid elbowing fanny-packers for a chance to sit outside.

I sat inside the boat, chin resting on my folded arms (that were being slightly scalded by the sun, but oh well) and just gazed out the window as the breeze ruffled my hair. The boat was quiet. The animated redhead had stopped speaking and the original Dusty Springfield version of The Look of Love gently caressed my ears. We coasted past swans frolicking on the bank, a family splashing about in the water, and a mass of orange clad children flying kites. Obviously appreciating the serenity, a very wise woman (yes mom, that's you) turned to me and said, "There's so much life has to offer, it's a pity people have to work." Hmm. I pondered this profound statement. It was indeed a pity...but how did it come to be this way?

There was only one conclusion–society must have been designed incorrectly. I mean, who decided we should work for most of our lives, eventually retire at some old age, and only then take the time to live and play? Who decided that work should take up most of your day, most of your week, and most of your life? And who decided that doing something you love would be next to the most impossible way to make a living, so instead you are more likely to spend this work portion of your life doing something you could really care less about? And most importantly, who invented the heinous, torture device that we have come to know as a cubicle?! No. Life was not meant to be lived this way. There must have been some kind of mistake. Maybe there will be a recall on this faulty life design, and they will come out with a new and improved version. They are probably working out the details now. For now, I am content to forge my own path (because I can't wait around forever). Live and play will be at the forefront of my design, with work spliced in accordingly. Or, ideally, I will find the perfect fusion of live-play-work and be able to patent my design and sell it. We'll see what happens. In the mean time, refuse to accept the existing design; there is so much life has to offer.

Perhaps one day "they" will issue a public apology.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Muddling Through Marrakech

Oh, Morocco. Your first trip, first hours, first minutes there can be packed with all sorts of adventure. Check out my first published article "Muddling Through Marrakech" over at Travelmag. Travelmag has a wealth of exciting travel stories from real, independent travelers with great experiences to share.

From the magazine's editor, "Travelmag correspondents travel well beyond the guidebook routes, illuminating little-known corners of the globe and, occasionally, revealing a bit about themselves as well."

This travel writing thing isn't impossible, you just have to start somewhere. Yay!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Love Where You Live

Nice of him to pose for me :)
Home is where the heart is...right? Well what if your heart is all over the world? Then would home be wherever your stuff is? Maybe you don't have stuff, or are traveling with all of it. So would home be where your family lives? Sigh. Who knows. I suspect I have not found home yet; haven't found one place where my heart is. But I fear that is an impossible feat, as I have dispersed little fractions of my heart on six different continents.

As I traversed the streets of Toronto and the Daniels signage blatantly bawled my name, I had a profound realization: I don't love where I live.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a reflection on Los Angeles (so die-hard Angelenos, don't get all riled up). Los Angeles is a beautiful city for the most part. There is nothing wrong with it. There is just something wrong with me in L.A. I have no spunk, no excitement, no free spiritedness when I am "home." I don't party with random strangers I can't communicate with. I don't try unfamiliar fruits from unfamiliar trees in the middle of the jungle. I don't scale imposing mountain peaks at exceedingly high altitudes–okay, maybe I don't do that anywhere, but that's beside the point. Maybe I'd consider it if I was somewhere else. Wanderlust is a funny thing that way, it can really take over your life, make you do things you've never done and go places you've never been. I cannot love this place with all my heart because there is so much more in the world to love, and I want to go love it.

I want my return flights to land in a place that excites me as much as the one I have just departed from. I want every day, or at least most days, to be filled with the adventure that travel and new experiences bring. I want to be free and fun and happy all the time. I want to love where I live. And although this city where my stuff and my family are will by some definition remain "home" for the time, I don't always have to live here.

Conclusion: You must love where you live and be your best self in that place. And if you can't, then live everywhere; wander this land and find "home" wherever you choose to leave your heart.
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