Posts I Love This Week: Packing Tips, Lessons Learned, & Being My Brand

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Happy Sunday, friends!

In the spirit of Sundays–the day in which I try to read more than I write–I thought I’d share some of my favorite blog posts from this week. I try to find fun posts that will inspire us to keep our bags packed, take journeys we might be afraid to take, and give us a little hop in our step for the week to come.

If you’ve got a post you think I should share, please email me with the link and I’ll consider it for next Sunday’s round-up!

Also, you’ll find a little bit of me weighing in on some of these 🙂

1. Packing Q&A: Travel Essentials and Oddities, Camera & Carry-On

My friend and colleague Shannon at Camera & Carry-On put this one together. It’s a round-up of the quirkiest, oddest, and sometimes most practical!, things we stuff in our travel bags. I’m amazed at the kinds of responses she got–from portable wireless chargers to the trusted notebook and pen to avocadoes and cross-stitch patterns, there is nothing we women don’t put in our bags. You’ll find me in here, dishing on the one thing I absolutely can’t leave home without, no matter what.

Enjoy this one!

2. Travelers Share Lessons They Learned While Traveling, Tinggly

Tinggly just took on the massive task of interviewing over 50 travel writers and bloggers to find out what the most important lesson is that they’ve learned while traveling. You’ll find some unusual responses here (and many of the usual suspects highlighting personal transformation, global sensitivity, and a growth in self-confidence), revealing to me that there really is no one-size-fits-all reason why people travel.

3. Brand Profitability Starts From Within, Catriceology

I met this infectious woman in Boston two weeks ago at the Women in Travel Summit 2015, and I must admit: I fell in love with her immediately. Catrice has the kind of personality that really does shine–in a matter of minutes, she had the whole audience smiling, owning their own “brands” (see the post I’m about to include to see what she means by “brand”–it’s not what you think), and getting up and stating what kind of flavor they are (from fruity to sweet to bitter to spicy, there was no lack of culinary variety in that room!).

The one I’m including in my round-up this week is one of her newest posts, which I stumbled upon after going to her site to look for some much-needed, after-conference-letdown inspiration. It’s all about doing that important internal work before putting ourselves out into the world. Great reminder.

Enjoy these!

Yours in travel,

Kristin

Just a Day in greenwich Village

What do you do if you have one measly day in one of the world’s most fantastic cities?

You go to a coffee shop and write.

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At least, that’s what I did two weeks ago when I was in the city and found myself wondering what life would be like if I lived here. So I decided to do whenever and wherever I am: I find the nearest spot where I can order a hot drink and park myself for a few hours among some strangers.

The place I stumbled upon, Stumptown Coffee, had an odd name but a huge line, so I guessed their cappuccinos were most likely up to the standards of the many literary voices and writers who’ve passed through its doors.

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As I looked around at the NYU students eagerly catching up on their assignments, the writers lost in thought, their faces lit up by their computer screens, the foreign visitors pouring over their travel guides written in Mandarin, I decided I’d park it for a while here, catch up on my people-watching (it’s kind of a weird hobby of mine—thanks, mom), and pop open my laptop and—Gasp!—write something.

I should clarify that: I mean write something that is not my dissertation.

I put on my headphones, found a playlist of happy indie music, and got to work. I pretended I was a real New York writer, with a dedicated agent, a fancy publisher, a big book deal and plans to traverse the nation talking about my amazing new memoir. I should mention that I don’t often daydream about these things, partly because I’m always so insecure and busy that I hardly ever give myself the time to daydream, to imagine other possibilities, to let my mind drift to places I’d forgotten existed.

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I felt like I was twenty again, stepping into my first creative writing classes, getting my first passport photo taken, wondering what in the world was in store for my young life. Then, I used to daydream. When we grow up, we all too often push those thoughts aside, make ourselves get back to the business of being smart professionals with illustrious careers (or at least serviceable ones). But we don’t often let ourselves imagine what we could do if we just had the time, just had the money, just had the freedom, just had the (INSERT NOUN HOLDING YOU BACK HERE). Now, ten years later, I found myself sitting at this perfect little coffee shop full of intelligent, creative people, and I was daydreaming again.

Of course, I should mention that being twenty wasn’t all glory and glitter, and that in-between feeling very out-of-place and weird most of the time, I had absolutely no clue whatsoever what I was going to do with my life. The only thing I was convinced of at the time was that I knew I wanted it to be something special.

I still don’t really know what the purpose of life is, but I still know that I want it to be something special. Maybe I don’t need a swanky book deal with a big New York publisher. Maybe it’s something else, instead. I don’t know—but at least I should keep myself open to the possibilities. Maybe that’s what adulthood should teach us: to be more open to the possibilities.

I went to the beautiful Big Apple for an interview, but though I didn’t leave with an employment contract, I left having reconnected with a “me” that I’d long buried underneath grading piles of students papers, writing freelance articles, and just plain getting through the hectic daily grind. I’d thought the job I was applying for would give me that–would free me from the monotony of writing a dissertation and being a poor graduate students–but perhaps all I needed was a day there. Maybe, at least for now, I don’t belong in New York. And that, I’m learning, is OK.

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The morale of all this? I’ve decided that more of us should park it in busy coffee shops in Greenwich Village from time to time.

Yours in travel,

Kristin

Walking Tours & Umbrellas in Boston

So, what else would a girl who lives in the Sonoran Desert (a place that is typically well over 100 degrees) do on a freezing cold day in Boston while it was snowing?

Yes, that’s right. Go out and do a walking tour.

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Sadly, my lofty aspirations to explore the far reaches of the city by foot didn’t exactly go as I’d planned (cold fingers started getting the best of me and I was too afraid to keep taking off my gloves to take photos with my camera lest I would end up with frostbite). But my self-directed walking tour, which was more of a “hey, I think there’s a park in that direction…I’ll go over there!” and less of an actual thought-out, mapped-out tour, did take me to some pretty amazing spots around what I think is one of the country’s most gorgeous—and undeniably most historic—city centers.

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First Stop:

Bundled up in my warmest coat (it wasn’t that warm), my warmest gloves (see prior parenthetical), and my warmest boots (these were actually pretty awesome), I turned right out of the hostel, made my way down Stuart Street, turned right onto Tremont Street, and ended up right on the fringes of Boston Common, the nation’s first public city park—and a place that is not, as most erroneously think, a plural commons. There were two homeless men there to greet me with some uncomfortable cat-calling and panhandling, but once I got past them, I headed past the Central Buying Ground cemetery, complete with its centuries-old trees with their gnarled branches and its 18th century gravestones, nodding in reverence to some of the incredible artists whose names are forever engraved there: Gilbert Stuart, the man who painted the famed portraits of George and Martha Washington, William Billings, the composer who wrote “Chester,” the famous colonial hymn, and Charles Sprague, one of the first European-born writers to consider himself an American poet. As I walked by, it occurred to me: where would I belong for eternity?

This wanderlusting girl has no idea. Georgia….my hometown? Arizona….the place I grew into a woman? Malta….my favorite country on Earth? Some place I haven’t tread yet that might capture my heart even more entirely?

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Who knows. Globalization has done strange things to homelands.

Second Stop:

From here, I wandered over to a towering vertical statue on top of a hill that I soon learned was the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and the Flag Staff Hill. It is another space whose purpose is to commemorate the dead. Here, though, the commemoration is for the male soldiers and sailors who died in the U.S. Civil War. As I walked around the statue, read the inscriptions, and touched the delicate engraving, I wondered: Why haven’t I had this jarring kind of experience with American history before? Why have I been so critical of the United States and our complicated coming-of-age? I realized, for perhaps the first time in a long time, that like it or not, I am a small part of this place, a place that has been through war, slavery, oppression, and domination, on this strangely optimistic, weirdly American quest to justice. And that we still have a long way to go before we get there, because first we have to address the many deep-seated oppressions that happen every day with our women, our people of color, our minoritized and underserved populations. I looked up at the pinnacle of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and I thought about how we needed a lot more statues.

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And then I thought, trading spots on the steps of the statue with two college students who had decided to go to Boston for their spring break, is it weird to take multiple selfies while standing on top of a monument like this?

I don’t know. But I took at least a handful of them, just to make sure the lighting was right. After all, both I and the statue were backlit.

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Third Stop:

Next up, I headed across the street to the famed Beacon Hill, the old neighborhood renowned for its windy streets and old homes. It wasn’t difficult to find—it’s the strip of windy, old homes sailing their way down Acorn Street.

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All I did here was walk. I marveled at the cracked streets, split apart by trees; the sometimes haphazard way the stones seemed to be dropped in place in the sidewalks; the peeling paint, the crooked windows, the simultaneous beautiful messiness and pristine preservation of historic districts. I thought about old friends, I thought about my first trip to Europe and the first time I walked proudly down cobblestone alleys in my high heels, I thought about where I was in my life—a very confusing place, as it turns out—and I thought about where I might walk next after I finished this crazy dissertation and decided where to land, at least for a little while. I coughed, and I watched my breath sail into the sky and disappear among the white wind.

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And then, more snow started to drift out of the sky, collecting on the sleeves of my coat and leaving my teeth chattering, so I walked all the way back.

My advice? When you walk Boston, don’t walk it lightly. But maybe walk it when it’s just a teensy bit warmer. Your camera-snapping finger will thank you.

DSC_0919Yours in travel,

Kristin