Friday, November 25, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The holidays. One of my favorite times of the year. I love the incessant singing, the pies, the Winter Forest candles from The Gap. This year, I will be away from my family during Christmas for the first time ever. Hopefully not a new pattern, but definitely a necessity this year in order to wring every last little bit of employment out of December before I leave the country absolutely unfettered.
Holiday Visual Show on Grote Markt in Brussels, Belgium

And I’ll say it. I love the gifting tradition. Both sides of it. I love shopping for my loved ones. I love being the person that finds that discontinued Commodore 64 game that you loved so much or finding out when your favorite comedian is coming to town and pre-ordering tickets. I love finding your best-loved childhood book or writing a letter to your favorite director on your behalf.

But this year, as people have begun to assemble their own shopping lists I get the same question over and over: “What do you need for your trip?” And the answer, I’m afraid, is rather un-sexy.

All right, it’s true.

Yes, I’ve been saving for four years. Yes, I haven’t spent a penny of a tax return since college. Yes, I’m lucky to have some magical fairy godmother friends and family who have helped to set me up with some truly sweet living solutions (who am I kidding, you’re all family at this point). But what do I still need for this trip?

Well, what I need is the cash-money.

Money for silly things like the necessities: food, utilities, and transportation. Money to keep things rolling back in the states while I’m gone like pet insurance for my cat, but also a whole host of other things that keep occurring to me as I get closer and closer to my departure date. Yes, I’ve saved, but some cushion here would be nice.

Here’s a list of some of those things that I’m still trying to make room for in the budget as they occur to me:

  • Monthly Skype Account (cause I can call y’all for cheap with that, even though I’ve cancelled my mobile phone while I’m away )
  • Travel costs to Wales and Gibraltar in order to not violate my Schengen visa
  • Birth Control for five months… all at once (S’right. ‘Cause I’m a responsible lady.)
  • The cost of checking my bags through twice (home and then internationally)
  • The terrifying, unforeseeable medical emergencies (This one’s for you mom – I’m sorry I’m not getting the traveler’s insurance.)
  • And – this is an important one – getting to the premiere of The Hunger Games – wherever I may be on March 23rd.
Anyways, in no way should you feel any need to contribute. Send me a card now and then while I’m out of town. Or maybe just an email. But if you were one of those folks who wanted to contribute to my self-generated writer’s retreat as part of your yuletide giving, well, here is a button to make donations to my Paypal account.

Or you can simply Send money through paypal to

And we’re not talking a lot, if you wanted to drop in five bucks, that means that I get to have coffee and a croissant for breakfast. Thank you so much for that gift of flaky, pastry goodness.

And if you think of other incidentals that I should consider as I’m packing up, please feel free to mention them. Adding to the list is a very helpful thing these days when I’m really trying to head off that list at the pass. What’s keeping you up at night?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Travel Quotes

Belgium 3Q
A lot has happened since I returned from Haiti. I wrote a little piece about it. I cut my hair for the first time in over a decade and have since grown it back. I watched all seven seasons of The Office. I wrote a poem a week for a year. I have a new job (and am soon to be unemployed for expatriate travel to Belgium). Also, I think I have decided that I do like olives after all.

Additionally, I have re-awakened this old blog, because I want to have a few different ways to keep folks posted about my time abroad… if you’re reading this, this proves that you care and that I am therefore justified in believing that I should scribble a few things now and then about how much cheese I will eat in Europe.

And because this blog’s title comes from one of my favorite travel quotations, I thought that I’d start by putting together a little list of my top 10 favorite travel quotes (no particular order, just general awesomeness):

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
-Bill Bryson

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
-Mark Twain

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
-John Steinbeck (this one in particular, I need to take to my tiny, type-A personality heart)

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
-Henry Miller

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
-Cesare Pavese

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
-Martin Buber

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
– J. R. R. Tolkien

“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”
– William Least Heat Moon

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”
– Mark Jenkins