Everything Falls Apart

After returning from a long trip (journey sounds a bit much, doesn’t it?), you realize that everything you brought has been in some way affected. More specifically, everything I brought with buttons no longer works. And so much more than that broke. My portable light? Gives light no more. My sunglasses? Askew. My favorite watch which hung on a necklace? Now a pocket watch. And the flashlight at the end of my umbrella? Not a flashlight anymore. Well, actually, I later lost that umbrella because I decided to put it on the outside of my backpack….so I guess the flashlight bit is irrelevant.

Necklace Pocket Watch

The necklace broke…but now it’s a pocket watch!

You get the point. Things, as in material objects, fall apart when we push them to their limits. As I reflect two weeks after returning, I really shouldn’t have expected what I brought to come back the same. And now’s the part where you expect me to launch into some metaphor about how I’ve changed. But I won’t. I’m not sure it would be fair, much less accurate, to wax poetic about my newfound whatever. Instead, I want to think about the way that I acted, spoke, was, while traveling, and how that can be found in non-travel life.

  1. The People

I consider myself very friendly. I crack jokes in lines to lighten the mood, and always enjoy meeting new people. On my recent trip, however, I was stranger-friendly. For example, when I would sit down after filling my cereal bowl at a hostel, I chose to sit near people I didn’t know to strike up a conversation. And then I would actively join or start a conversation with them. In other words, I didn’t worry about the fact that people might not want to talk to me. I just went up to others and assumed that we would want to get to know each other. That’s not the attitude I have in quotidian life. But I imagine I would meet some pretty awesome people if I did.

  1. Embracing the New

When I travel to a new place, I am undaunted by its newness precisely because I expect it. Any odd thing I encounter, then, seems appropriate because I assume it fits into this unknown context. So when I went to the bathroom in Thailand and saw no flusher, but only a bucket of water, I wasn’t shocked. I just filled the bucket with water and dumped it into the toilet (after doing my thing).* Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. If I usually took this approach, I would not assume that something was out of place, but rather that I didn’t yet know its place.

  1. Don’t Sweat it

Too many annoying things happen when you travel to get upset. I fell asleep on a train in France, found out I was on the wrong train, and then got off at the first stop because I figured that was the best idea. But I walked a few meters from the station, and low and behold, I found a cheap hotel! I had a comfortable rest, woke up, and made it to my destination. I got there a little later than planned, and consequently only spent a few hours in Luxembourg City, but really, that was enough. The advantages of not getting angry in difficult situations are obvious. I’ve always thought I had this talent, but I know there’s room to improve. When the Wi-Fi stops working at my new sublet, it makes no sense to get mad. I knew that the Wi-Fi would either a) work or b) not work, so it seems silly to let its non-functioning ruin my day.

If life is travel, just go with it. Because the other option is that you miss meeting someone who also loves Hemingway, that you don’t find out how much like the ocean fresh oysters taste. And you certainly don’t use the time when your plane is delayed to journal about how much all of this has most certainly impacted you. So yeah, all my buttons broke. But this journey (see, now it’s appropriate) adds up to much more than the sum of its broken buttons.

Ayutthaya Monks

These boys were so sweet! We took pictures of each other, and they waved to us as we motored off ❤

* OK, I have to admit someone did warn me about this…but it had been months before and I temporarily forgot!

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I’ll Have What She’s Having

The best ribs in the world are in Brussels.

I figured it might be better to just say that at the beginning in case no one reads anything after the first sentence. At least now you know what city to go to if you like ribs. For the restaurant’s name, however, you’ll have to read a bit more 🙂

Like everything hipster, being a foodie has become cool, and so everyone claims to be a foodie without having any idea what that means. Google seems to think it’s “a person with a particular interest in food”, which is silly, because anyone who wants to stay alive has a particular interest in food. Foodie or not, I enjoy eating products that taste like they were grown in soil, then prepared by a human. Fortunately, traveling provides many opportunities to try food that fits my rigorous requirements. I have tasted some truly decadent meals, and while I won’t be giving out superlatives, I will share with you my magical secrets.

The best meal I ate in Prague came from Lokál, a cafeteria/restaurant with Czech specialties and endless beer. I drank a beer, then ate goulash with bread dumplings (and beer), and because it was so good, I ordered a lentil soup (with more beer). Somehow, I was still hungry after that, so I went to Aldolce to eat what was easily the best dessert I have had in years. I ordered a lemon ginger mousse with grapefruit juice. I then became so happy with myself and life in general, that I proceeded to enter La Perla and try on 250 euro bras. I almost bought one*, but then realized I didn’t actually have 250 euros in my bra budget. Ahhh, well, next time!

In Bangkok, I happened to be staying right near what locals deem the area’s best Pad Thai, served at a restaurant named Tip Samai. If you don’t believe me, google “best Pad Thai in Bangkok”, and see what the first few entries are. I ate it five times in five days.

In Reykjavik, I ate at Sushi Samba, which offers Japanese-meets-South American cuisine. I ordered sushi and a “Pornstar Mojito”. The passion fruit, lime, mint, and rum mixed together so beautifully that I think no drink will ever perform as well as the “Pornstar”.

Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba, home of the Pornstar Mojito. A pornstar never tasted so good 😀

And now, for the ribs. One night while I was walking around Brussels with a friend, we saw a queue of people waiting outside a restaurant with a full size taxidermy cow. Obviously, we ate there. Practically everyone ordered the same thing: ribs à volonté. All. You. Can. Eat. Amadeo’s ribs are marinated in a tangy-sweet barbecue sauce that ended up in my stomach and all over my face. The ribs were ridiculously delicious, and if you go to Brussels (and eat meat), you must go there.

Amadeo

The ribs. ORDER THE RIBS!

I have eaten so many good meals while traveling in Europe and Asia, but this is just the beginning. Next stop? Fermented yak milk in Mongolia!

*La Perla may be expensive, but their bras make you look and feel like a goddess.

One Perfect Night

Palais Garnier

A view of the chandelier and Chagall-painted ceiling of the Palais Garnier in Paris

I wish I could have seen my face as I stepped inside Paris’ Palais Garnier. I could feel my eyes growing larger, my neck tilting to catch every last detail, and my cheeks tensing because I couldn’t stop smiling. I saw women in floor-length dresses, wrapped in furs, arm-in-arm with their tux-clad lovers. I saw young girls similarly awed by the Opéra’s majesty, running about and pointing emphatically.

I walked up the grand staircase cut from Italian marble, soft light reflecting off each step. Every time I see a staircase like this, I can’t help but think that people just look sexier on staircases. Why else would Jack have that awed grin on his face as Rose descends the Titanic’s grand staircase?

I walked up and up, and entered my box. It had a place for coats, a little bench, and individual chairs overlooking the stage. I imagined myself in the nineteenth century, waiting as my friends and admirers came to my box during intermission to gossip about everyone else.

I leaned over the edge of the box, holding the column with an iron grip, straining my neck to see every last detail of Chagall’s colorful explosion on the ceiling. He painted scenes from various operas, from Carmen to L’oiseau de feu to The Magic Flute, indicating to which composer each opera belonged.  Some may think the newer ceiling clashes with the late-nineteenth century building, but I thought the ceiling balanced the auditorium in a way that paintings of nymphs and goddesses from antiquity never could.

When the curtains raised, dancers in Christian Lacroix-designed costumes sprung about on stage, telling the story of La Source, in which a beautiful water nymph sacrifices herself so that a hunter she falls in love with can be with the woman he loves. As the dancers moved, light would catch the Swarovski crystals adorning their costumes, splashing glittery light across the stage.

I felt my eyes become watery as the water nymph sacrificed herself and the two lovers embraced. I didn’t want the night to end! Descending the grand staircase and watching again as the spectators glided down the steps in their fancy dress, I beamed.  There are certain moments in life you think of and recall exactly how ebulliently happy you were. When I think of my night at the Palais Garnier, I smile, that sense of awe and inextinguishable curiosity coursing through me. A la prochaine!