“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman
1. Remember that it’s not about the destination.
I know, I know, you’ve heard this before, but it’s true. Part of the fun of traveling is the journey (minus the plane rides; those are never fun). Embrace the old-fashioned map. Talk to strangers (nice looking ones, of course).
2. Keep walking.
Don’t take cabs everywhere. Walk around the city - go down random streets, stop into small cafes, and focus on everything around you: the smells, the sights, the accents. When I think of New York, I think of Greenwich Village with its quaint restaurants and hipster bikes. When I think of Paris, I think of the scented mixture of fresh bread and cigarette smoke.
Vacations can be stressful, because you’re constantly making plans, site-seeing, and completing an itinerary. Stop every once in a while and relax. In London, my mother and I took full advantage of afternoon tea… morning tea… even after-dinner tea and those were some of the best moments.
4. Eat all the food.
Diets don’t exist on trips so stop worrying about the calories or the grease and embrace the food. My favorite part of traveling is checking out foreign restaurants, cafes, bars, etc. Feel free to research the best spots to go, but be prepared to find new foods as you explore. If you’re on a budget, go to a local grocery store for supplies and splurge on a few good meals.
5. Try something new.
It doesn’t matter what it is. In the US Virgin Islands, I went snorkeling and swam with dolphins. It was amazing. In London, I went to a salsa club and danced all night in a sweaty basement. That was pretty great, too. You won’t know if you like something new until you try it. Of course, I will never go skydiving or swimming with sharks… but if that intrigues you, go for it.
6. Do as they do.
What do the residents do on Sunday afternoons? Do they go to the local markets? Do they go to mass? Do they sit in a park and read a book? Figure it out and do the same.
7. Be prepared to be unprepared.
Trips never pan out as we expect. Sometimes reservations are canceled. Sometimes we forget something in a train. Sometimes we miss our flights. Sometimes we get sick. Be prepared to change your plans. Shit happens. In Frankfurt, my boss got severely ill on the first day of his work trip. He spent a full day in his hotel room, another day in the hospital, and then he flew home three days earlier than he planned. He missed 90% of his meetings, but you know what? It happens.
8. Do what you want.
Don’t spend your whole time taking pictures or following others. Enjoy the simple fact that you’re in a foreign city. I took a solo trip to Zurich last year and the best part was walking around and doing what I wanted to do. I took an afternoon nap because I was tired. I stopped at a bar for a cocktail and listened to the German slurring around me. I ate lunch down by the water. I read a book in a local cafe. It was fantastic. And don;t worry what others think of you, because people don’t really care what you’re doing. If you’re eating alone, great. If you’re walking with a coat around your waist, whatever, good for you.
I went to the grocery store before work and I brought my groceries to the register. A young girl, probably nineteen, was standing there waiting for customers. As I put my items down, she started talking into one of the work phones.
"Please switch with me," she said as she was glancing across the store.
"Come on," she begged.
I patiently waited as she wrung up my items. Not once did she say “hello” to me, ask if I found everything alright. She didn’t even smile.
Then she started talking to the guy who was bagging my items. When she handed me my receipt, I dropped it into my plastic bag. I looked towards the bag guy and said, “thank you” very loudly. He didn’t reply, nor did he turn to look at me. He was busy bagging somebody else’s groceries.
I walked away feeling defeated.
And then as I walked down the street, I saw a homeless man sitting against a concrete step. He looked young, maybe thirty. I looked him in the eyes and smiled.
This is a genuine letter to the Facebook friends I no longer talk to…
We shared a moment once and the reason we’re still “friends” is because once upon a time, I knew you, I cared about you, I hung out with you, I had a fun time with you, or I saw you every day in the halls at school. We shared something - you and I. Maybe it was an interest, a mutual friend, a conversation in the back of a bar, or a relationship. I want you to know that I remember. I remember you and those moments.
As I get older, more and more of my Facebook friends are finding their dream careers, buying houses, and getting married. Many of us have lost touch and we’re still friends for some odd reason… maybe we feel weird unfriending each other. Maybe we’re fascinated with each other’s lives. Whatever the reason, I want you to know this: I remember you. I remember our moment, our friendship, and our connection. Even if I don’t know you anymore and even if we never see each other again, I wish you well, my friend. You deserve happiness and I hope you find it. And if you you ever want to reach out or if you ever need a friend (for whatever reason), I’m here for you.
As for the memories, here are just a few of the many…
There was that time she slept on the couch of my dorm room for an entire weekend. She told me about her childhood and how her mother raised three kids all by herself. She took me to her grandparents for vacation. Senior year, she and I were no longer friends. But I still remember.
He and I dated for a few weeks at the end of college. It wasn’t going to last and I didn’t want it to. But I still remember sitting at the wooden table in the back of the Irish bar as we talked over dinner. I remember the poster you and your friends made and I remember you telling me that you scream like a girl when you see a bug. I bet you still do, but now you’re married and I hope your wife kills the bugs for you.
Once upon a time, I knew everything about her - I knew her family, I knew her habits, I knew her Starbucks order and every guy she had ever kissed. Thanks to Facebook, I now know she’s happy, or at least, she appears to be and I hope it’s true.
He and I met because I was seeing one of his buddies. I’d sit in the dorm room and chat while the guys played video games and mocked each other. He was always so kind, so easy to talk to. When we were in a group, he’d joke with me as a brother might, but when we were alone, he’d generously keep me company and talk to me as if we were lifelong friends. I always appreciated him.
She was always more outgoing, adventurous, and advanced than me, but I didn’t mind. I’m happy to see that she’s traveling the world now. I knew our friendship wouldn’t last, because we were very different, but I will always be thankful for her warmness and the way she got me out of my shell.
We went to freshmen homecoming together and we didn’t really talk after that, but he was nice and he complimented me. I went with him, because he made me laugh which is refreshing in middle school when you’re a girl on the brink of adulthood. Thank you.
We used to dance together and even though it’s been years, I still cherish it. From the daily rehearsals to the hours eating goldfish and playing cards backstage during performance week. We even played that game that determined your life - who you’d marry, how many kids you’d have, your job, where you’d live, etc. It didn’t turn out anything like the game said, but I think we can agree life had a different and better plan for us.
Once upon a time, he had a crush on me and I had a crush on him. Years later, we gave dating a shot and it didn’t work. Maybe it was the timing or maybe we just weren’t right for each other, but whatever the reason, I’m glad we gave it a shot.
She and I shared two classes together… just two, but I remember them both and they changed me. The first was a jazz class. I had never liked dancing in front of a crowd, oddly enough, but that class offered me encouragement and took me out of my comfort zone. The other was a women’s studies class. That class opened my eyes to feminism, women’s rights, and transgender issues. And what do I remember about her? I remember her positive energy. She was always smiling and I hope she carries that with her everywhere she goes.
-Say Something (acoustic cover by Boyce Avenue feat. Carly Rose Sonenclar) - A Great Big World
1. Snacks. You will need studying snacks. You will want late night snacks… And you will probably gain the freshman fifteen, but it’s part of the college experience. Embrace it or pick healthy snacks. Your choice. I was a big fan of Cheerios and pretzels, but I was a weird kid.
2. Shoe hangers. Use them or lose your shoes to the other side of the closet. Oh yeah, in case you didn’t already know, you will be sharing a closet in addition to the 10x10 space with your new roommate. Shoe hangers are like walls blocking your clothes your roommate’s.
3. Night lights. One of you will be up later than the other so invest in a great lamp or a night light that will allow you to study without distracting your roommate.
4. Fans. Unless your dorm has air conditioning, the first month will be hell if you don’t use a fan. And most dorms control the heat, so the fan will be utilized in the winter, especially if you plan on blow drying your hair. Trust me, that’s too much heat in one space.
5. Slippers. The dorm hallways are dirty. So is the bathroom. Just buy yourself some slippers. Nobody cares what they look like.
6. Shower caddy. It will become your best friend. Be kind to it… That means cleaning it every once in a while. Or heck, buy a new one every year.
7. Clean sheets. Do your laundry! Your Mom’s not around anymore and I know it’s shocking, but your sheets do get dirty! Clean them. And your clothes.
8. Posters. This is the last time in your life you can plaster posters on your wall. Want to stare at your celebrity crush, a photograph of Paris, and a movie poster of Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Go for it! When you graduate, you will have to throw the posters out.
5. Ibuprofen. Hangovers are very real, just like the pain in your forehead. Party hard, but not too hard, and take ibuprofen; it won’t interact negatively with the alcohol in your body as it doesn’t go through the liver. Yay!
6. Dry shampoo. You will use this more than you will ever be willing to admit. And don’t be surprised when you stop wearing makeup and start wearing your favorite baggy sweatpants in public. No shame.
7. First aid kit. Yep, your parents packed you a kit for a reason. You will bruise yourself. You will get sick. You will be researching your symptoms on google. Be prepared. You may even discover new allergies… Aren’t you excited?
8. Pictures. You’re going to miss your family and friends… For the first five minutes. The pictures are there to remind you to call your parents and your friends once in a while.
9. Water bottles. You don’t want to wander down the hallway every time you need water. I only use water bottles now when I take an exercise class, but in college, I had one on me at all times. It’s ok, you can refill them.
10. Your favorite stuffed animal. Don’t feel weird bringing it. In fact, most people bring one. Just don’t let it leave your dorm room…
I love reading, always have. I like the feeling I get when I dive head first into somebody else’s story, fictional or otherwise, doesn’t matter. It’s a rush. It’s an illusion… It’s as if my life is somehow colliding with the character’s and in some strange universe, we’re together to nod at each other and say, “I understand.”
It’s precisely this feeling that I love and hate. I’m nearly done with “And the Mountains Echoed” and all I want to do is finish it so I can know everything there is to know… And yet, I don’t want to finish it. I want the pages, one by one, to continue forever and ever…
One of the saddest realities in literature is that books always end and when they do, we, the readers, must return to our everyday lives as if the book never existed.
And then the book hangover begins. It’s worse than the alcohol hangover, because at least you can cure your drunk hangover with Tylenol, water, and some greasy food. How do you cure a book hangover? Read another?
It’s an obsession.
This weekend, I’ll be reading in the hopes of curing the ache I have for the story, the characters, and the fictional lives that I’ll never really know, but I will read and read in the hopes of understanding it all.
“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. ”―William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Like the rest of the world, I am saddened by this sudden and tragic loss.
Robin Williams was truly one-of-a-kind. He was brilliant, hilarious, and heartwarming. He has brought joy to many homes… As Peter Pan, as a psychiatrist, a scientist, a father, a wise old woman, a kid who’s grown up too fast (isn’t that all of us?)… And so on.
His laughter, his comedy, his impersonations, his remarkable spirit, and his inspirational words will live on forever. It’s amazing how many souls he’s touched. Take a look at the Tumblr world and how many stories there are of this man. What a special person.
It’s such a shame that depression has taken another one of us. It’s important to learn from this, to pay attention to those who are suffering around us, and to offer help. I only wish this lesson could be learned sooner.
Watching Mrs. Doubtfire tonight with my family in honor of Robin. May he rest in peace.
"Seize the days, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."