Tag Archives: tourism

Going Places

This summer, I went to a handful of places: the town library, the town pool, the grocery store, the yoga studio, and the Adirondacks—always a late-summer favorite. While neighbors and friends went on vacations to cool places, I stayed home and tried to spend as little money as possible. I looked and behaved like a suburban hausfrau. The rest of the world was happening somewhere else, not in my ‘hood. When not grocery shopping or borrowing library books, I browsed Twitter for the latest Donald Trump bashing, worked on corporate writing assignments, or read some fabulous books including Paul Yoon’s “Snow Hunters,” Roxane Gay’s “Hunger,” Annie Gray’s “The Greedy Queen,” and Emily Ruskovich’s “Idaho.” See? Lots of trips to the town library.


I’ll need plenty of books for the fall season of globetrotting that’s kicking off on Monday. I’m in Italy for this amazing Hedgebrook conference, then I am squeeing over the fact that I will be going to Macau in October and Australia’s Northern Territories in November as guests of the local tourism boards. In fact, four days after I fly home from Macau, I turn around and fly to Australia. If you knew me, that last sentence would make you laugh your head off because you’d say, “Hey, you don’t like to fly.” True, being stuck on a plane isn’t my preferred state-of-being, but neither is getting my yearly mammogram, sitting in Lincoln Tunnel traffic, or waiting in line for interstate fast food I don’t even want to eat but I have to because I’m starving and there’s nothing else sold on the interstate and I’ve run out of snacks. I’ve decided I like travel more than I dislike flying, so airplanes it is. The klonopin and donut floatie are ready.

My last (and only) trip to Asia was a 13-hour flight to Tokyo in 2013, so I’m rusty with long hauls in the sky. Plus, I’m not a spring chicken and I do like my sleep; the idea of being 25 and “powering through” sounds ludicrous to me. I don’t want to “power through” anything. I want to savor all of it, not rush any of it, see as much as possible, and get enough rest so I can keep not rushing things. Twenty-five-year-olds do not think this way.

I have no idea what to expect when I go to Italy (well, okay, this is my third trip to Italy so I have some idea), Macau, or Australia, but you can follow my reactions, inner monologue and photos here. Also, all three of these trips are solo. My biggest accomplishment from them will not be a published clip but to instill a sense of empowerment in my 13-year-old daughter, to show her that the world is hers to explore, that it’s a world of yes, and if anyone tells her no, she keeps pushing forward, that despite society being rigged to benefit white guys, she can still succeed.

I feel very lucky to have the travel opportunities that I have. I know that people see the trips and assume it’s a glamorous life, but as any travel writer will tell you, it is anything but glamorous and few travel writers I know earn any real money writing about interesting destinations. Tumbleweed may blow through my wallet, but I have a long list of interesting experiences to share. Assuming I can afford to get into the party, I have enough cocktail party stories to keep the night lively. I usually don’t have a hard time at cocktail parties as long as someone else is paying for the drinks.

Stay tuned, and we’ll see what stories emerge. I can promise you that I will try to use the word “cerulean,” one of my favorite words ever anywhere, as often as possible. You’ll likely get sick of it, maybe even find it pretentious. I can’t help it, I love that word and that color. To date, “cerulean” has appeared in three of my travel articles, including my most recent piece which is in the October/November print edition of National Geographic Traveler where I talk about my obsession with hotel swimming pools (it is indeed a long-running thing). I have my second story coming out in Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, where, sadly, the word “cerulean” didn’t apply, but there are several references to “green.” It’s a coming-of-age essay set in London coming out any day now.

So off we go! Join me on the journey. No sugar-coating, I swear.

We Are All Tourists

I don’t normally use this blog to weigh in on world news or politics. Those things are big and my soapbox here is very, very small. But what happened in Paris last night sent me into a raw, shaking crying spell. I felt a vulnerability I hadn’t felt since living in Washington, D.C. during the 9/11 attacks. Living and working in New York City, we’re used to warnings about terrorist threats, to seeing more police patrol the streets and subway stations and the bridges. It’s not that you forget that you live in a world capital and people would love to make a mess of it, but you do become a bit numb to the red and orange and yellow coding of terrorist threats. If you didn’t, how would you go about doing anything? I was just at a restaurant near SoHo yesterday having lunch with a friend, and if some terrorist wanted to interrupt that, to blow us all up to make a public statement, he or she easily could have because when we’re out and about connecting with others, in restaurants, in concert halls, at sports stadiums, we’re all vulnerable no matter where we live.

Paris 1993

My first visit to Paris was in October 1993 when I was a student spending a semester in London, back when this kind of coordinated, soft-target terrorism we’re seeing now wasn’t yet a sophisticated modality for political expression. The Chunnel had not yet been built. I took a midnight ferry across the English Channel, got tossed about, became incredibly seasick, and arrived to France’s northern coast completely thrilled to be in the country that gave the world brie, champagne and a gorgeous language I was still trying to master. My first sighting of the Eiffel Tower happened during the day. We were looking for it, couldn’t find it, had our noses in maps, then turned around and there it was. For a 20-year-old studying abroad, there was absolutely nothing more exciting. My friend nearly jumped on to me, which is why I’m holding her leg in this photo. We were genuinely beyond giddy to have found Paris. No one was thinking about getting caught in anyone’s crossfire; we were too focused on figuring out how to go up the Eiffel Tower with our luggage because we didn’t want to spend money renting lockers.

I have visited Paris two times since; in 1996, I stayed with a friend who spent a year there teaching and then we returned in 2011 for a whirlwind family weekend of art, cheese and croissants, my daughter’s first introduction to the City of Lights. If I could afford it, I would go there once a year just to replenish my Francophilia.

Traveling can make us forget that the world is not a 24/7 buffet bar, that we can just parachute in and sample whatever we please before moving on. I’m guilty of this. The fact is we’re all tourists, even if we think we’d like to experience a place like a local. If you’re just visiting, there’s no way to fully grasp the socioeconomic and political complexities of a place. And that’s ok. How could anyone come to know such things in such a short amount of time? Yes, most countries depend on tourism to keep their economies afloat, and most countries are happy to welcome you into their homes, serve you their best food, show you the best spots in town, and send you home smiling. Yet, behind the stops to art galleries and towers and river boat tours and cafes, there are tensions, some as old as the stones in the streets. Cities, like people, are layered and complex and difficult to ever truly know. Any trip we take anywhere is just a glossy snapshot.

When I visited my friend in 1996, there were news headlines then about challenges facing Muslims living in Paris. Violence tends to have a history. Tragically, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of racism grip Europe hard. The fear of “Other” is palpable, and the horror and carnage in Paris last night will affect us all for years to come, perhaps even a generation or more. When we visit other countries and see their sites, we should remember the challenges that forged them. We’ll never experience any place like a local no matter how well we speak the language, but we can be more mindful, respectful tourists.