Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

#33: Treat my niece to a girls overnight trip to celebrate her 13th birthday

Of all the things I want to do this year, this was tops. I once had a professor who took her grandchildren anywhere in the world they wanted to go for their bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah. It was a tradition I wanted to start with my own nieces - all five of them - though without the "anywhere in the world" part. Granted it would be great if I could swing an Amazonian river cruise or trip to Paris every few years.

Our first niece was just a babe in arms at our wedding twelve and a half years ago and a toddler when we lived near Chicago years ago, when I was in my early twenties and just getting used to big city living. Now she's on the cusp of becoming a teenager.

She lives in Illinois, so I gave her a few options - Chicago, Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Dells. She chose Chicago. All those years that she's been growing up, I've been navigating cities, so it was fun to show her the ropes. Since she was game for whatever, we spent our time the way I typically travel: taking the train, walking way too much, packing it in, shopping just a little, eating on the run, visiting a museum, buying tickets for a play that same day after researching every play in the city weeks before. She didn't get tired one bit. I very much needed a nap before it was dinnertime, but she easily could have kept going all night.

I love that she's in the in-between. She knows it too. Growing up is something she has to do. She kind of wants to and kind of doesn't. My best advice for navigating being a teenager was to stick with your closest small group of friends. With good luck, they could be your friends for a long time, and they'll help you get through all the stuff that isn't so great. And I told her to wear what you want to wear. And as far as make-up goes, I only wear eyeliner on special occasions.


One of the best weekends I had last year was camping with a group of friends on Lake Michigan. Despite growing up in Michigan, I had never heard of Nordhouse Dunes before the trip. It's a wonderful place to spend time. Our first night, we walked down to the beach in the darkness, then laid down in the sand to look up at the starriest sky. A few of us swam under the stars. It was early September and very cold so I was sick the next day, but it was worth it. The morning we left, I stole down to the beach for a few photos and a few moments to myself.
This winter I became bound up in a lot of stress that I'm still working to unwind. I've been taking an art class and a mindfulness meditation class, and reconnecting with photography, painting and collage. I've slowly been working on finding more time to be outside, particularly out side of the city. These are the things that help me feel whole.

Tonight, I found the artist Rebecca Shapiro while looking for encaustic artists online. She produced a series for TedX Portland and in her talk, she discusses our desire for freedom and using creative expression to work through the "beliefs and behaviors that keep us bound and from enjoying movement and momentum in our lives."

I like her expression "enjoying movement and momentum in our lives." These photographs remind me of a moment when I was unbound, so I'm thinking a lot about how to create more of those moments in the weeks and months to come.

All Kinda Perfect

For my 34th birthday, I wanted to head way up north on a trip that was long overdue to see one of my favorite people. We've been back in Michigan for over two years and I had not been to the Upper Peninsula in that time, which I realize means I hadn't really been home until now.

Right as we moved in to our new home, I bought an old plastic Polaroid camera at a neighbor's estate sale for a couple dollars. It just sat on a bookshelf all this time begging me to see if it actually worked. I finally caved in to the price ($24 for 8 exposures!) and bought a pack of Impossible Project film for this road trip. It was a rainy day on the way home and we had a long day of driving ahead, but since it was my birthday we stopped off at Pictured Rocks for a few shots from the tourist lookout.

When we drove back into Munising, I realized I had left my cell phone on top of the car. We circled back and we didn't find the cell phone but I ran over for another photo.

Then we got back in the car to continue south. This really special place is along Route 2.

And here, you might see the very faint bend of a 5 mile long bridge on the horizon. When we first crossed over, I saw a man with long jet black hair when we were still a few cars back in line. I turned to Matt and said, "Oh my, that's the same man who used to take my bridge fare in high school!"

"Yeah, he took my money in February. He's (so and so's) cousin. He's a really nice guy."

Later over beers, I told my friends who live three hours further northwest this story and they said the same thing, "I love that guy."

I love that bridge and what is on the other side. It means adventure. It means hold on, I'm almost there.
I took more shots in digital this weekend that I'll share. As well as some in medium format B&W and color film, assuming the Yashica I snagged the other week, while visiting another favorite person in another part of the state that I claim as home, works.

So yeah, I juggled three cameras and many hours in and out of the car on a rainy day, soaking in some beauty on my 34th birthday. It was all kinda perfect.

Eight Vancouver Views

During most of the time we were in Vancouver last week, Matt handled the "real" camera. I was happy with my Instax (I'll post the instants once I washi them into my little trip journal). When I did take over the manual  camera for awhile, this is what I saw.

I'll be back soon with a few more details. It was a pretty laid back week but we did some worthwhile tourist-ing.

Scandinavian Travel, In Retrospect

I started writing this when I looked at the calendar and it had been a month since my husband and I spent our last day in Norway. Now, another month has passed. We returned to a very fast paced fall where the weeks have slipped by, faster each one. I think of our trip a few times a week though and the shifts I've experienced in my thinking as a result of traveling.

This vacation to Scandinavia was a dream, but on that last day in Norway, we were by the fish market after hours of walking around town on a drizzly day, almost aimlessly in a daze, and we watched on as a two year old melted down on the street, crying and dropping onto his knees next to his mother. I said to Matt, "I think I know how he feels. 'Get me out of this fishy town!'"

Desperately Seeking Lazy Lounging

I am off on a trip soon. A work trip. An escape is very much needed, although I wish this trip was with my sweetie and involved not a drip of work. A true vacation it is not.

A word of warning from a dark place - if you ever get the wild notion that completing a PhD is something you want, please keep in mind that it may usurp vacation in your life for a few years. Both because of budget and time constraints. Taking time off from paid work means - hey, even more work! 

Brilliant idea, genius.

Which reminds me, I saw someone in my PhD cohort walking around campus in a complete stupor on the day we turned in our comprehensive exams. He told me, "I just didn't know what to do with myself, so I just walked around for a few hours." I'll never forget the blank look on his face. His mental capacities completely drained. Like academia had sucked out his brain rather than increased its capacity.

I identified my workaholic tendencies in college. In fact I delayed pursing a PhD for some years because I knew I needed to find the key to balance first. I've gotten better at it as I moved from my early 20s to my late 20s to my early 30s. Most weeks I find good chunks of time to relax, and I know enough about myself now to see the warning signs once I'm headed down the road to stupor. Lack of sleep. Working on a Friday night. Worrying all week there is not enough time to relax over the weekend.

Yesterday evening I spontaneously started writing a Bucket List. I've never had any impulse to do this and even find the term "bucket list" to be a little annoying in its clunkiness, but the listmaking started instantaneously. Work overload induced, must reclaim power over fun in my life, big dream listmaking. This was all top of mind. Whatever came to me, I wrote down, in order of appearance in my reduced capacity brain.

  1. Get an invitation to an event at the White House
  2. Be a vendor at a craft show
  3. Sell over 200 items on Etsy
  4. Take a two week backpacking trip
  5. Bike across Europe
  6. Grow a big garden
  7. Raise a child
  8. Visit Asia, South America and Africa
  9. Go on a trek in the mountains in New Zealand
  10. Camp in Alaska
  11. Camp on the deck of a ferry through the Inside Passage
  12. Learn to play the guitar (again and much better)
  13. Learn to speak Spanish
  14. Take a weekend trip with my mom, involving her red convertible, lake visits and good food
  15. Go to a weekend or weeklong craft retreat
  16. Get a photography lesson from a professional
  17. Sell some of my photographs
  18. Finish my PhD
  19. Take a weeklong trip with Big City Mountaineers again

Ambitious right? I start right off with working so hard the President will invite me over for a visit? Mind you, this all started off after watching a White House meeting on the outdoors on YouTube. Somehow between policy making and the Secretary of the Interior, I got the itch to write down my dreams to travel more. The ambition continues pretty far down the list. Bike across Europe? Do I really want to do that?

It wasn't really until #14 that I hit on something that wasn't a gigantic undertaking. Something that was possible, and sounded, well, just perfectly pleasant and lovely. (Not to discount raising a child as a perfectly pleasant and lovely undertaking but is admittedly a project more time consuming than visiting 3 corners of the globe).

I guess this is the problem with writing a Bucket List when you are overworked. It's too ambitious. But that's kind of the point of a Bucket List, right?

Maybe the remedy to overworking is just write an anti-Bucket List. It would say something like, I intend to be a lazy lounger who bathes in relaxation and takes on only the responsibilities necessary for my continued existence and pleasure. That sounds better.

Well, anyway, just a week of a lazy existence would be welcome. Instead, for now, I'll be spending some time on that pesky number 18. The dream I pursued, the one I insist on finishing so I can cross it off my list and move on to others, and the one that, at the moment, is keeping me from a solid week of relaxation with my sweetie.

Which brings me to #20 on my bucket list, which is actually #1. 

  1. Spend a minimum of one week every year with my sweetie. Wherever it is in the world, it doesn't matter, as long as it's together, away, and doesn't involve a drip of work.
Got any ideas for an awesome relaxing week away for a cash strapped but airline points rich couple? Due to a year of overwork, I don't think this is the year for biking across a continent or trekking across mountains, but any suggestions that involve copious amounts of lazy lounging in a beautiful place would be welcome.

Warriors of Winter

Would you hate me if I said I didn't want winter to go? That I want more of it. That I love sunlit reflections on ice. Paws and fur on snow. Sparkles under my feet. I want more time for skiing in forests. More time for skating on ponds.

After the week of the big snowfall, I wanted more of this magic. Friday afternoon, in a rather spur of the moment decision that I too often do not get to make as an adult, I headed north. I've made this trip many times before, traveling dark roads on a Friday night to spend the weekend with someone who knows me to the core. Years ago I drove this direction many times to see the young guy who would become my husband. A five hour drive was easy when I had someone worthwhile waiting for me on the other end of the trip.  Haven't made the drive by myself in much longer than I can remember. Ten years? Fifteen years? It felt like a homecoming keep my own company while making this journey. In the winter, a stillness overcomes me as I drive north. It's a meditation.

I listened to Joni Mitchell on the way, and my ear tuned in while she sang:

Now the warriors of winter they give a cold triumphant shout
And all that stays is dying, all that lives is getting out

See the geese in chevron flight
Flappin' and a-racin' on before the snow
They got the urge for going and they've got the wings so they can go

Most creatures try to escape this cold season, but with every passing year, I look forward to it more and don't want it to end. 

The draw north this weekend was time with an old friend, a lot more paws on the snow, and a warm fire in the lodge afterward.

Late that Friday night, I met her at a little spot on a black river where one summer I flipped out of a canoe and for a moment thought I might not make it back to the surface. She was a teenager with super human strength and pulled me out of that river. I remember the moment vividly when the canoe lifted off the surface of the water, and she was standing there to save me, arms lifted high with a canoe over her head. 

Today she still has super human strength. Fearless, with the determination to do what most people do not consider doing. No sled for her. She set her feet into skis and strapped her waist to a couple of long legged dogs barely out of puppyhood who wanted nothing more than to run fast into the woods. Those two dogs and the power of her own will and strength pulled her forward. 

A few miles later, and a minute ahead of the competition, these three crossed the finish line.

They ran the course Saturday and Sunday mornings, and placed first both times. It was their first competitive run. It's exhilarating, this snow and fur and strength of will.

The weekend drew to a close so I headed south. I stopped on the way to strap some skis on my own feet and propel myself through the woods for a bit. The snow was falling between the pines. As I stopped a few times to catch my breath, I took in the wonder of it all. 

I made it back home to my husband and my dog before sunset. We immediately went to the park to tromp and pull through the snow once more.

A flight and a road trip

After moving back to Michigan and working my tail off for several months, I was aching to get out of town for awhile. My standard daydream included a road trip and climbing mountains in the fall.

At the end of October, I finally got my chance. I started the week by flying to Boston to put my dissertation proposal hearing behind me. Dropping back into my home of 6 years for less than 48 hours was dizzying. Four months can really change your perspective on a place. I had to quickly reorient myself to the world of public transportation, triple deckers stacked as far as the eye could see, and thousands of 20-something students with lattes in hand, all of which seemed so strange after adjusting to life in Detroit where cars and single families rein. I stayed with a friend whose house was perched high up on a hill (also strange). Their guest room allowed me to wake up to the sun rising over Bunker Hill, which was pretty spectacular again to these Midwestern eyes.

During my short visit, I took a cab, rode a bus, grabbed a latte (I'm normally a coffee girl but I was feeling caught up in the excitement of it all), took the commuter rail, and then a shuttle to the university. After I took care of business and quickly caught up with as many people as I could in such a short visit, I was back on a flight back home. Home. As in back to the flatlands.

I was overdue for a couple days off with no work and a friend's wedding was the perfect opportunity. The morning after Boston, we jumped in the car and headed an entirely new direction. South for the wedding in Charlotte. In the last 6 years while living in the Northeast, I'd been to the south a few times but never by way of car and definitely never through Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia. Just as going back to bustling Boston seemed strange, going on a classic midwestern road trip to North Carolina also seemed exotic.

Our route took us through the back roads of Ohio for a few hours, which was all so quaint and delightful after years of New England scenery. Driving behind tractors and past winterized ice cream shops named "Twist and Shout" was a lot more exciting to me than it probably should have been. "Oh look, a field full of pumpkins!" "Oh look, Mrs. Johnson sells greeting cards out of her garage!" "Oh, look, an Amish woman in a horse drawn buggy with a baby in a car seat bouncing along on the front seat!" 

After a couple hours of trying and trying to put some miles behind us, we couldn't resist anymore and took a sharp right turn into the parking lot of an antique mall. I have no idea what town it was in, but it was a little piece of vintage heaven.

Being the wander lover that I am, this little globe came home with me, along with a 50 states board game. Matt also scored a vintage children's Noble and Cooley drum. I wanted to take it all home.
I'm still thinking about the left-behind U.S. Presidents wood burning kit and the 'Travel the U.S.' coloring book from the 1930's.

After the slow drive through Ohio which allowed us to make it almost all the way through Amy Sedaris' "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence" on audio book, we called it quits for the day in Charleston, West Virginia. We planned to camp on the way down, but the early nightfall and 30 degree temperatures talked us down from that ledge. Instead we got a hotel room in town and tried to find a dinner spot for a picky peskitarian in a town full of steak joints. We ordered the asparagus tempura sushi and were amused when it arrived fully deep-fried. 

We'd arrived. We were were in the South. The New South. Where there is deep-fried sushi and Rogue beer.
For over a year, my 'just finish your dissertation proposal already' incentive was that I would go on a big hike after the ordeal was done and passed. Probably laying on a beach would have been a more sensible reward, but for reasons I can't pinpoint, I prefer to take the more demanding way through life. 

Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia was not too far off our route to Charlotte, so we headed west. The state park was not only near the highest peak in Virginia, it also connected to the Appalachian Trail and had wild ponies. Matt was really keen to pet a wild pony. But then he was disappointed when we were instructed in rather explicit language not to mess with them. They are wild after all.

They had no intention to move out of the way, so we decided to chose another route and got ourselves a bit lost for awhile. It was a pretty spectacular kind of lost where you're out in the open with 180' views of the Blue Ridge holding on to the last of their fall leaves.

Eventually we found our way back to the trail and hiked up to Rhododendron Gap and a little bit past it. 
We sat for a spell and looked up to see a guy taking a piss off the top of a peak, which was both amusing and repulsive. Maybe that's been his daydream. Or maybe he just had no manners. Hard to tell. 

Leaving the Whites behind in New Hampshire was on the hardest parts of leaving New England, so being back up high again was a thrill. I love the Midwest but I'll be leaving as often as possible to escape to the mountains. This stretch of the AT would be the perfect beginner backpacking trip and a great camping spot. Huge views. Open skies. Some decent climbing to keep it interesting but flat stretches too. I wanted to keep going all the way to Maine.
The wild ponies made it a great spot. I will admit they scared me a little, but then on our way out, a fearless little girl was walking up to them and petting their manes. Matt gave in, against all warnings, and pet a wild pony. It was definitely a highlight of the road trip. I'm not one to break rules, but I reached in for a little pat before we headed back to the car.

We left the mountains, reluctantly, and got back on the road. We crossed over into North Carolina and passed tobacco drying shacks on the way. We stopped in a small town, and walked into a pizza joint where everyone in the place turned around to stare at us northerners. The pizza was terrible.

A few hour later we arrived in Charlotte, the shiny new "Queen City". It's truly the New South, with financial centers Uptown, design boutiques, fish taco joints, and organic farmer's markets. It's really lovely there.
Saturday morning we bopped around town to check out the South End and the NoDa arts district. Ironically, we chatted a bit with a guy in a furniture store who was quite enamored with the fact that we lived in Detroit. He said he was fascinated with urban decay. Driving through the shiny streets of Charlotte, urban decay seemed about 670 miles behind us. 
It got Matt and I thinking and talking quite a bit about where Detroit is headed. Sure, we want to see our city transformed, to "rise from the ashes" as its motto hopes for, but hopefully it'll find its own path to regeneration so that whatever fascinates people about Detroit's industrial past won't be transformed beyond recognition. Mainly I think we hope for people to feel safe, to have the means to raise their families, and for more green resting spots in the midst of the hardness of the city. Like every good road trip, it had us thinking about home in a new way.
In the afternoon we headed to the park for the wedding, which took place under this beautiful willow on a little island. As all good weddings, it was the perfect reflection of them as a couple. It was also a very decorated wedding, which made it all the more lovely. We celebrated, enjoyed a big Southern brunch Sunday morning, and then got back in the car to complete our journey. After a week of traveling, it felt really refreshing be back home.