I just booked a trip to go to Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan with my boyfriend and a couple of our friends. I couldn’t be more excited to be starting off 2020 with an excursion on the books! I have loved adventuring overseas ever since my first fling with traveling, hostels, and #backpackerstyle, as a study abroad student in Dublin. Admittedly, this trip will be a bit more glamorous – we’ll be swapping out the 10-person hostel dorms for hotels, and the budget flights on Ryanair for airlines that don’t charge you when you miss the plane.
Recently, I asked one of my writing buddies how she is able to find so much time to write. That’s something I’ve struggled with lately. I’ve felt guilty about it because this is the time of my life when I have no responsibilities other than myself. If I can’t find an hour or so to write now, when I’m twenty-seven, living alone, without even a goldfish to take care of, then how will I be able to write when I’m, say, forty years old, potentially with a family and real responsibilities?
One way to automatically feel better when things are going less than optimally, or not as planned, is practicing gratitude. Basically, listing or thinking about things that you’re grateful for serves as an exercise in flipping your perspective to focus on the good.
Stay warm and still look chic even when there’s a bomb cyclone. Plus the best events in town this weekend, because neither fashion nor your social life should suffer because of the cold. Check out free orchestra performances throughout DC, or stay in with my book rec.
Here’s what gave me direction this week. Arts and culture at the DuPont Underground, new books and podcasts, and inspiration from one of my favorite authors.
As I sat outside at a café in my neighborhood working on some short stories this Sunday afternoon, I felt overwhelmed by the feedback from friends and writing peers that I was trying to process, and use to improve my stories.
I spent this past Sunday modeling for a project that my friend and co-worker, Chaseedaw, is putting on called the Scarred Photo Gallery. A few years ago, Chaseedaw organized the Alive Again Fashion Show, which featured a cast of models who were all cancer survivors. One day at work, she mentioned to me that she was putting together a photography gallery of models with scars to help fund the fashion show. Having a long scar across my stomach (and also enjoying the idea of being shot by professional photographers), I volunteered to model for her gallery.
I found this mosaic, La maison de la plage, or beach house, when I was exploring Paris one day on a wall in the 20ème arrondissement.
~A rough translation:
La Maison de la Plage is a moving group derived from squ’art movement whose goal is the use of empty places to live and create from a need for space and a poetic choice – aesthetic and philosophical – To collectively and creatively occupy free surfaces of the city.
We are driven by notions of exchange, ecology, art and play …
Firmly convinced of the vital necessity of everyday poetry, we work for the opening and multiplication of art spaces and creations, free, public, recreational, in the neighborhoods.
We are driven by notions of exchange, ecology, art and play …
“Life is sometimes only bitter,
If we don’t believe in dreams.”
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of looking at things.” – Henry Miller
It’s been about a year since I returned to the U.S. from teaching abroad in France. This is noteworthy to mention because I originally started this blog to write about my experiences teaching in Montargis and traveling throughout Europe. I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who followed along on my blog. I hope you got as much enjoyment from reading my short stories as I did from writing them.
When I reflect on the fact that I’ve been back in the D.C. area for almost a year now, it feels weird. Part of my identity is being a traveler, specifically the type of traveler who tries to integrate into the culture and experience it in as genuinely a way as possible.
Many travelers can experience this phenomena: adjusting back to a “real life” that doesn’t compare to the excitement and stimulation that was constantly a part of life abroad. I miss the feeling of learning something new every day the most. A task as simple as buying produce at the grocery store or asking for directions can turn into a mini-adventure in a foreign country, which leads me to the topic of this post. We can still learn new things in our native countries and hometowns, and we can continue to view the world through the eyes of a traveler. It just takes a little more work than it did when you were deep in culture shock abroad. It requires effort to adopt the mindset of a traveler again and remove yourself from “the daily grind.”
Living in a small and peculiar town, with plenty of quirky characters around, as well as an abundance of free time during the week made writing easy. Everything was new, and my observations about Montargis, its inhabitants and the people I met in hostels and on city tours felt fresh and sharp. It was the perfect exercise for learning how to observe, and thus learning to write. I was using my heightened senses and the feeling of culture shock to become a better storyteller.
As a writer, (or other type of creative) or just as a human-being seeking some inspiration, the mindset of a traveler is a vital tool. When we travel, we observe, we take in, we soak up our environment like a sponge. Most importantly, we learn to know and appreciate a place for what it is, rather than what we’ve read or heard about it or imagined that place to be. It takes all our senses, every ounce of our powers of observation to really experience that place. We often feel overwhelmed, but in a good way. Maybe that’s why they call it culture shock.
It might take more concentrated effort to wear your “traveler’s eyes” while commuting to work, standing in line at Starbucks, or during other “boring” rituals of the day, but if you make a point to really be present and observe your surroundings, the things you notice can lead to fantastic inspiration.
What interesting or unusual things have you noticed when you stopped to observe your surroundings?