Category Archives: travel

Year in Cities 2016

It’s funny, looking at this list. “Weren’t we in Hawaii?” No, self, that was the end of 2015. The end of last year brought big trips back-to-back, and so it’s hard to remember that 2016 was about settling in. About new routines, about figuring out how to be a family of three with two jobs and one nanny share, about figuring out what life looked like now at home.

The adventures we did have tended to come in sets. New York City and then San Diego in May. Virginia (solo) / Wyoming / Virginia (all of us) in August and September. Palm Springs and Michigan in December. Months where the suitcase stayed in storage, followed by months where it barely got unpacked.

First pickle. Confused.


Traveling with a baby — and then a toddler — has its own kind of learning curve, except you never really learn what you need to know next. Nursing on a plane is a complicated endeavor. Pumping on a plane is not something I particularly need to repeat. Every time I got selected for “random screening” — which was every time — I thought, really, random? It’s definitely not the baby strapped to my chest? Our last flight, home from Detroit, involved snacks on snacks, Play-Doh, a roll of masking tape, a hastily purchased banana, and March of the Penguins on the inflight entertainment screen — only to discover that two used water cups were the best toys of all, better than anything we could have planned or bought. And yet, I’ve spent the day researching travel credit cards with big bonuses so we can take an even longer, more complicated flight with an even more determined and wiggly child next year — so “undeterred” is the word for it, I suppose.

The best thing — oh, it’s such a cliche, but it’s also so true — is seeing places through my daughter’s eyes. Earlier this month, we were back in Palm Springs for the first time since I’d just found out I was pregnant, since I was just starting to let myself dream about life with this child. Twenty-one months later: Here is the pool where I floated with you then and float with you now; here are the mountains I could stare at all day; here is a date shake, isn’t it delicious?

Snacking in Palm Springs


Of course it’s hard to think about my 2016 without thinking of the global shitshow that surrounds it. But to the extent that I can choose the meaning of a year, I’d rather hold onto this.

Bye, 2016.


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Year in Cities 2016

Palm Springs, CA
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA*
Oakmont, CA*
Pacific Grove, CA
Midland, MI
New York, NY
Corning, NY
Norfolk, VA
Virginia Beach, VA
Laramie, WY
A plane somewhere over the United States

About Year in Cities: All listed cities are those in which I spent at least one night between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2016, with * denoting those cities in which I spent multiple non-consecutive nights. 2009 here, 2010 here, 2011 here, 2012 here, 2013 here, 2014 here, and 2015 here. This is all Lydia‘s fault, via long-ago Kottke, and I thank her for bringing it to my attention.

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Year in Cities 2015

I didn’t mean to abandon this space. 

I thought I’d be back here early in January 2015, maybe writing about my return to running, maybe about making my peace with duathlons and adventure swims. The truth was, 2014 was not my favorite, and I had plans for making 2015 bigger, bolder, better.

Boy, did I get what I asked for.

  
It’s hard to write publicly on the Internet when you’re keeping a huge secret, though, so I let this little blog languish. But what better way to revive it than the way I’ve long chronicled my years?

  
In Palm Springs, the week before I changed jobs — because that happened in 2015, too — I hunkered down and ate avocado toast and hoped for a pregnancy that would stick. In Kauai, we snorkeled and lied to get me on a boat to the forbidden island and finally told our little corners of the world what was going on. And at the end of the year, we took our brand-new baby west to dodge waves in the Pacific and east to meet all of her aunts and uncles and cousins. 

  
This list is smaller than it’s been in some years. But in almost every way besides number, it’s bigger.

  

Year in Cities 2015

Los Angeles, CA

Oakmont, CA*

Palm Springs, CA

San Francisco, CA*

San Luis Obispo, CA

Windsor, CA

Savannah, GA

Kihei, HI

Koloa, HI

A plane over the US

A plane over the Pacific

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About Year in Cities: All listed cities are those in which I spent at least one night between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2015, with * denoting those cities in which I spent multiple non-consecutive nights. 2009 here, 2010 here, 2011 here, 2012 here, 2013 here, and WordPress is too annoying to let me link to 2014 but it’s the post right below this one so I’m just gonna let that go. This is all Lydia‘s fault, via long-ago Kottke, and I thank her for bringing it to my attention.

On Japan

I’ve never felt particularly competent when writing about travel.

In theory, it should be a union of two of my favorite things. But realistically, it’s a struggle, much the way that writing coherently about music has always been just out of reach for me. It may be because I process both music and travel more as a series of impressions and feelings than as a narrative — images and moments and memories, but not necessarily a story.

Cherry blossoms

So here’s how I’ll remember Japan: a forest of cherry blossoms and a sea of ramen bowls, elbow-to-elbow crowds in Ikebukuro and Shibuya and stunning quiet along the Meguro River. Arriving for a short stay in Takayama and wishing I could stay for a week. The slow build of Kyoto, from wondering why we’d decided to go at all to flinging my arms open to it, aided by a hike among monkeys and a night tasting sake poured by a trilingual sake expert while listening to The National as salarymen got tanked all around us.

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Bustling food markets, fancy toilets, colorful bicycles, rice balls for breakfast, coffee cans from a vending machine, Green Da-Ka-Ra, cartoon mascots everywhere, songs in the subway, fifty-dollar apples, Hida beef, dogs in tutus, arcades filled with claw machines and photoshop photo booths, matcha everything, prayers tied to trees. Umeshu and soda, yuzu and peppers, kabocha pudding, sushi rolls with sushi rolls inside. It was so much muchness, all excess, everything done with precision and care — tiny ice packs taped to to-go food, routines practiced for arcade performances of Dance Evolution, trains rocketing through towns at nearly 200 mph. And so many contradictions: hygienic masks everywhere but no sanitizer at the airport fingerprinting station; all the restrooms where I could dry my rear but not my hands.

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It’s the most foreign I’ve ever felt — being functionally illiterate will do that, I suppose. And yet, there was so much that clicked from the start: the pulse of a city, the love of nature, the way “beer nerd” is a universal language. I could never begin to understand Tokyo, but it vibrated at a rhythm close to one I could recognize.

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I want more — more tiny cans of coffee, more hot springs, more snow-capped mountains, more intensely functional public transit, more fresh fish, more delicately pickled radishes. But more will have to wait for later. For now, I’ll be content with that one packet of pickles and the funny stationery and the wooden owl staring down at me from the living room shelf and the stuffed Kirby I won at the arcade in Shibuya, memories and moments, impressions that stick.

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Dumb Adventures Abroad: Japan

The backpack is back.

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I’m writing this from the airport, waiting for the short flight that will take us to Los Angeles, where we’ll catch the longest flight I’ve ever taken — to Tokyo!

We’ve been talking about taking this trip with friends for probably four years now, so it’s a bit hard to believe that we’re actually doing it. We’ll be in Tokyo, Kyoto, Takayama, and maybe somewhere else, depending on train schedules and weather and general attitudes toward taking random buses.

My Type-A usually shines the most during travel, but this time I’m going in with few set plans or goals. I’m not sure if that’s more because I’m the only one in our group of four who’s never been to Japan or because I’m expecting to be totally overwhelmed and so am practicing letting go. Either way, other than a moment last night when I PDF’d a bunch of train timetables, I’ve been happy to leave the details in other people’s hands.

Triathlon training will, uh, be on hold for the next 10 days while I focus instead on PRing in ramen consumption. I do have my running shoes, and I intend to use them in Tokyo at least, if only to check out the running stations — glorified day-use locker rooms — I’ve heard are sprinkled throughout the city. But while my tri group is getting its first open-water time of the season, I’ll be tracking down as many odd Kit-Kat flavors as possible and possibly eating Cup Noodle from a vending machine, and I’m just fine with that.

Off to the future!

Have Backpack, Will Run a Marathon

I know, I know, nobody has ever packed for an international marathon before.

But hey, the internet is nothing but false novelty, right? So look: I did it too!

That thing glowing bright orange in the corner is my bike rain shield/windbreaker, which is the closet thing I have to a proper waterproof jacket right now. The forecast for Munich — initially bleak — has slowly gotten brighter, so I’m hopeful I won’t need it as much as I feared. I also bought the teeny-tiniest terrible umbrella from Walgreens, and if it’s really puddle-y, I’m hoping to find a place with cheap Wellies that I can just ditch there before we fly home.

All told, we’re gone for nine days — two of which will be fairly active, one of which will be mostly travel, and the rest of which will be some combination of touring and drinking in both Berlin and Munich.

In the end, I packed: four dresses, two skirts, three pairs of leggings and three sweaters/sweatshirts (normally I’d take two of each, but I’m worried about being cold on this trip, despite the fact that the temperature is basically mirroring San Francisco’s right now), three long-sleeved tops, two short-sleeved tops, and a scarf. Running-wise, there are two pairs of shorts, two tank tops, two sports bras, a long-sleeved running shirt, calf sleeves, compression socks, armwarmers-made-of-socks, and normal socks. Unpictured: shoes (besides my Adrenalines, I’m taking my favorite walk-around shoes — Keen Siennas — and a pair of flip-flops), underwear (because you know what underwear looks like).

Here’s the marathon-stuff side of the bed:

Shot Bloks, hat, water bottle, watch, poncho in case it’s pouring while I’m waiting for the start, Nuun, headphones, backup headphones. I’m taking the lacrosse ball and a travel foam roller, the latter of which I’m planning to ditch somewhere in Germany. (I’m also fully prepared to toss the hat and the water bottle along the race course, if they’re annoying me more than they’re helping.)

This liquids bag is a thing of beauty:

I mean, holy hell. I travel with my own shampoo and conditioner, moisturizer, deodorant, toothpaste, and contact solution, and usually I buy most other things at my destination or use the hotel freebies, but this time I also wanted to take long-run-tested sunscreen, ride glide, body glide, and all that Gu. It took me a solid five minutes working the bag zipper to get this puppy closed, and I won’t be opening it till after security, but it worked.

Playlists are made, electronics charged, passport packed. Now I just need my shoes, I guess.

Time to go run a marathon?

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