Friday, July 1, 2011

We Begin in Boston...

It didn't take long after I arrived home in Seattle for that familiar sense of restlessness to find a seat on my shoulder to start tugging at my ear. Sure, it was counterbalanced by the gorgeous views, close proximity to friends and family and of course a need for gainful employment, but I knew that I wasn't ready to settle just yet. I began formulating plans for my next adventure.

Teaching English abroad would combine three of my loves: travel, English and teaching. This seemed more practical than my previous attempts at balancing three part time jobs (teaching dance, freelance writing, and usually something in the service industry thrown in to actually make rent). The first step was a CELTA certification from Cambridge University via Teaching House New York.

The training was intense, but I was surrounded by incredibly supportive classmates and an awesome staff who took me from a nervous native speaker to the winner of the "Best Gestures" award upon graduation - I guess all those dance classes did help!

My first chance to put my education into practice comes from Ardmore Language Schools on the Emmanuel College campus in Boston. The campus is gorgeous and the cafeteria goes way beyond my expectations with an impressive array of local, sustainable food. I even managed to create a comfortable bed with a little creative rearranging of my dorm room.

And most importantly, the reason I've always felt comfortable traveling is that I carry a little piece of home with me everywhere I go. For everyone who has ever asked if they can jump in my suitcase - don't worry, you're already there!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Modern Music: My Travel Casualty

I have no idea who Justin Bieber is. I mentioned this to one of my friends who immediately responded with, "Oh, you know, he's the guy that sings..." and I continued to stare blankly at her as she recited lyrics as foreign to me as any language. Okay sure, seeing that I’m not currently a teenage girl this shouldn’t be terribly detrimental to my life but when I start to hear him referenced in pop culture circles directed at my own age group and completely don’t get the joke, I’m clearly missing something.

The decline of my musical knowledge began its downward spiral when I moved to New York City. Without a car stereo dial to spin on the subway I got in the habit of shuffling my iPod and suddenly discovered that it is possible to get sick of your favorite songs. Luckily, the city that never sleeps is also full of aspiring musicians so I took pride in adding a few of my favorite indie artists to the rotation on a regular basis.

This trend held strong until I jetted off to New Zealand to conditions with zero access to MTV or the Billboard Hot 100. There I discovered a few local favorites, but was more likely found dancing to slightly outdated dance music in the clubs or singing classic power ballads in the car on road trips. Nothing bonds a group like discovering a song that you all know the words to. I even found travelers’ playlists from numerous countries to be surprisingly similar – this Seattlite traveled halfway around the world to be inundated with Pearl Jam (no disrespect intended).

One of my advertising classes once told us that every generation tends to gravitate towards the music that they come of age to, and that as we get older we become less and less likely to branch out. Although some music is inescapable (somehow overseas, I still managed to learn the words to every Lady Gaga song….), I need to approach music the way I do the sights of the world. There are some timeless songs and cities that I may revisit over and over, but in doing so I accept missing out on the undiscovered joys of the unknown.

What recent additions have made it onto your travel playlist?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Passports With Purpose

Travel and travel writing can be viewed as containing elements of exploitation and indulgence, but a small band of Northwest bloggers have created a project that displays the opposite. Passports with Purpose was founded by bloggers Wanderlust and Lipstick, Delicious Baby, Wander Mom, and Nerd’s Eye View with the goal of making a difference in some of the conditions that travel has opened their eyes to. This year the beneficiary is non-profit organization American Assistance in Cambodia and the project is to build a school for children in a rural village.

These ladies know how to motivate. This incredibly worthy cause is organized into a raffle filled with prizes appealing to their target audience. Any blogger who wants to support the cause donates an item (with a value of $75 or more) and then readers contribute in $10 increments to buy entries into the drawing for the prizes of their choice. The more than sixty items include resort packages in New York, Costa Rico and Belize (among others), video and camera equipment, travel gear, gift certificates, and unique items like a Tahitian pearl or specialty cake.

This year their initial goal was set at $13,000, the minimum required to build a school. When they managed to break that goal in about a week they set their sights higher, adding a vegetable garden, water filter, and school nurse to their goals to ensuring the healthy standards students need to succeed. With just a weekend to go Passports With Purpose is less than 3.5K away from their new revised goal, thanks in part to a mention in the New York Times.

It’s not to late to get involved in this fantastic cause! You can still enter the raffle or simply donate to the cause by clicking here. During these tough times I’m inspired by such stories of generosity, compassion and simply feeling connected to the global community.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Travel and Holidays, a Love/Hate Relationship

Just mention the sentence “It’s that time of year…” to people and you can expect their eyes to respond two ways: with twinkling or rolling. There are always going to be those people who start playing Christmas music while the rest of the family is still digesting Thanksgiving dinner and those who would prefer to slam the door in the face of carolers who dare knock on their door. This year, as I listened to friends who complained about being “too busy” with invites to holiday parties or sulked about not being able to afford the presents they desired, I was thankful for a few lessons I learned from traveling.

Do what you want to do, not what you’re supposed to do
If you dread addressing stacks of cards, skip it this year. If you would rather wear bright purple instead of red or green to the holiday party, feel free. If you want to sing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” in the shower every day then by all means, belt it out. Every family has their own traditions and you don’t need to embrace all of them anymore than you HAVE to see every monument in a major city you visit.

Spend some quality time on each other
I remember the first year I spent Christmas away from my family. I was living in NYC and they got me exactly what I wanted that year – a brand new iPod! But after calling home and passing the phone around the room over dinner, that little electronic device wasn’t much comfort towards pangs of homesickness. When I look back on that night the overwhelming emotion I remember was loneliness. The following year I saved up my frequent flier miles and booked a trip home. I remember the excitement I felt at being in my pajamas in the living room on Christmas morning and couldn’t for the life of me tell you what I unwrapped from under the tree.

Know when to splurge and when to sacrifice
Sure we’re all on a tight budget but every once in a while living in the moment outweighs the cost. The year my brother and I woke up to bikes in the living room I doubt if I noticed the bags under my parent’s eyes, but years later hearing how long it took them to assemble them continues to warm my heart. I once broke the spending limit on a Secret Santa gift exchange when I knew the person I drew couldn’t afford an upcoming concert. I was paid back in full when she tackled me with squeals of delight upon opening the gift. There are times when that memory in the moment is worth paying for in the future.

Remember the old saying “It's better to give than to receive”? Well I’m giving it a try
None of my closest girlfriends are in a financial high point this year so we decided on an alternative to exchanging gifts. Each of us is selecting a charity that we believe the other would support and making a small donation in their name. Then we’re getting together over wine (hopefully this one) to tell each other why we chose it for them. In other words, we do a good deed, compliment each other and share a cocktail. I’ll take a girl’s night out over a new scarf during any season!

Holidays, like travel, depend largely on a matter or perspective. Sure we could dream of staying in a nicer hotel in our future or wish for the snowfall of years past, but every holiday movie on repeat at this time of year will warn you not to missing out on living in the present.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Swell Season at Seattle’s Paramount Theater

If music is the international language then seeing The Swell Season at Seattle’s Paramount Theater is like a therapy session in a penthouse suite. Commissioned by Paramount Pictures in the late 1920’s, the Paramount’s decadent d├ęcor filled with high arches, ornate touches and multiple chandeliers has seen Broadway, dance, theater and music ranging from vaudeville to Madonna’s first stop on her 1985 “The Virgin Tour”. When I was young I told my parents that if I ever won the lottery the first thing I would do is buy the Paramount, just to ensure no one ever tore it down. Luckily a Microsoft executive beat me to it pouring millions of dollars into restorations in 1993 leaving me free to dream of other extravagant indulgences.

No matter how beautiful the surroundings, the only thing capturing the attention of the audience on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2009 was the commanding presence of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova who make up The Swell Season. These Irish (well, okay mostly, she’s Czech, but he and his bandmates are all Irish lads) indie darlings captured international attention in 2008 winning an Academy Award for “Falling Slowly” from the film Once, not to mention one of the first times I have ever seen an allowance for an extended acceptance speech!

This pair is inspiring on a number of levels. Their lyrics are full of hope in the face of struggle while the juxtaposition of Glen’s passion-filled wails with Marketa’s quiet, sprite-ish stature exhibits strength in every form. These unassuming stars are well aware of their roots and are known for wandering the streets of any city they play, finding a favorite struggling musician and inviting them to perform onstage in front of packed houses.  Their performances are full of quirky moments from Irglova’s incorporation of her vintage Casio keyboard to Hansard breaking three guitar strings mid-song, forcing a stagehand to run a new instrument onstage multiple times, but refusing to leave the melody unfinished.

But don’t take my word for it, you can stream songs on their website and decide for yourself!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Talking About Twilight, No Teams Required

I haven’t read a single book in the Twilight series. I’ve never taken a road trip to Forks despite my Washington State residence. My loyalties are limited to professional sports teams. Yet somehow, I found myself in possession of tickets to two showings in the first twenty-four hours of the release of New Moon.

What I do have are a few fanatical fans as friends and I accidentally agreed to see it with two different groups. Since both responsible parties snagged presale tickets to ensure our seats, I found myself committed to both a midnight and 10:00am screening of New Moon. You know what’s scarier than vampires? The thought of what an avid fan would do to me if I were caught snoring through the second morning session.

Luckily, I was thoroughly entertained by a few key points:

The blatant objectification of underage men. I may not be a firm believer in the eye-for-an-eye philosophy but a small piece of my feminist nature takes sheer delight in the amount of attention given to the appearance of the male costars instead of the female stars for once. As travelers we are trained to enjoy the landscape and jailbait Taylor Lautner definitely beautifies the land he occupies, preferably (and often) shirtless. And, in the spirit of appreciating the less publicized destinations on any adventure, the entire wolf pack and a few members of the Cullen family absolutely deserve mention in my indulgent guidebook to teenybopper land.

Blockbuster-worthy special effects. Their budget was clearly beefed up as much as the cast for this second installment, improving upon the comical running scenes and bedazzled glowing skin of the first film.

Soundtrack. I squealed like a schoolgirl in the first film when one of my favorite bands on the planet, Muse, blared over the baseball scene. They make an appearance again along with a blend of obscure and indie darlings for the perfect “Melodrama”-titled Pandora station.

Are you indulging in the Twilight phenomenon? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Go Ahead, Delay Away

Airports are such an interesting place to observe human nature and this holiday season I'm giving thanks that I'm not an airline employee.

I had just gotten into my belt-buckled, headphoned comfort zone when the pilot turned on the air conditioner and all of a sudden waves of steam (smoke?) began pouring through the cracks. I clamped my hand over my mouth, not sure what I could be breathing, and cursed that we hadn't yet been instructed to locate the nearest emergency exit.

The pilots shut down the airplane and the substance disappeared immediately as they announced that all passengers should leave the plane while they investigated the problem. I grabbed my bags and gladly got the hell off the plane and back to the gate. Here is where people start to amaze me. Within two steps of reaching the terminal people began to demand an explanation. When there was no instant answer the gossip began to ripple through the aisles like a juicy high school rumor, and the airline immediately became an instant outcast.

When it comes to flying, I'm all for safety first. When they announced that we would be switching to a new airplane but would have to wait for it to be towed to the runway there was a collective groan throughout the crowd. It's this point that the flight attendants need to pull out their PR skills. "Attention passengers, remember how fifteen minutes ago you were scared for your life? And you know how flying involves incredibly complicated machinery that defies the laws of gravity? Well, we take that kind of thing seriously and would like to make sure you actually make it to your destination even if it's a little later than you expected."

Of course, I'm no fan of delays, and I realize that there is often an important event waiting on the other side of the connection for many people but I swear that there is a sense of entitlement pumped into airport air. When we were further delayed because we had to wait for a new crew (frustrating, sure, but would you rather have a sleep-deprived pilot?!) the airline immediately responded by informing us that everyone would be compensated for the delay and offering sincere apologies. I just pictured that smoke, picked up my magazine and waited for the next boarding call.