Learning to Treat Yo Self

Parks and Recreation Meme

I am not so great at taking care of myself.

Not in the general day-to-day sense – I’m able to put pants on the right way (usually, depending on how bleary eyed I am), get myself to where I need to go, eat food when needed. I mean more in the “treat yo self” kind of mentality. In that I generally don’t. And when I do, I slather on a guilt trip so thick it’s overpowering.

I know I’m not the only one like this – in fact, I’d wager most women and quite a few men would enthusiastically nod if asked if they’re kind of crappy towards themselves. We try to do everything for everyone and agree to things we can’t possibly accomplish, and then throw ourselves over multiple hurdles to get it all done. All of the little things that spark our interest or would refuel our tanks get pushed aside, squashed down, re-filed to a “someday, that would be nice” drawer. And then for good measure, we chastise ourselves for even thinking about doing item X when there are so many other things that need to get done.

I’ve alluded before to my penchant for list-making. I organize my time to the hour some days (*coughs* most days) which is fine when I’m working and want to be all “super productive do all the things!” woman but on a Sunday morning I should be able to binge-watch Netflix in my p-jams without sassing myself off the couch. The same extends to when I travel, except this time I think I got the upper hand.

I’ve been in Venice, California for a week (yes, I’ve been here before…and before) and FORBID myself from making a list. My brain tried real hard. While waiting for my flight I caught myself casually jotting down goals in my phone (which is really a list’s subtle cousin). I promptly deleted them. I arrived and went straight to the beach with a book (Amy Poehler’s delightful Yes Please) and managed to sit for 10 minutes before thinking I should do homework or maybe groceries or perhaps check work email?

And then I silenced my brain. And thought about what would make me truly happy at that moment. And did that.

Getting my sassy brain to zip it has been an epic struggle this week. I allowed myself to plan a day of activities I really enjoy – hiking, record shopping, crafty things and stuffing tacos into my face. It felt nice to do things that I wanted to do for myself without simultaneously worrying about not crossing things off a to-do list. Being productive and accomplishing tasks is important and fulfilling, but so is treating yourself to a little personal time now and then.

So when people ask why I visit LA so much, part of it is because I have a very expensive reset button on my brain apparently, and tacos and ocean seem to be the only way to satisfy it.

Find your tacos, people. Tap into what you enjoy and tell your brain to shove it. That’s my hope for 2015.

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Venice Boardwalk, Or, How to Attack All of Your Senses At Once.

Image

For the first time…maybe ever, I’ve travelled without a camera on purpose. I feel so lost without it, however on the flip side my shoulder is thanking me for not having to lug it around. I left it at home for two reasons:

  1. I’m finding myself a bit too reliant on capturing moments on film (or I guess memory card) versus memory. This is a test to see how well I remember things for visual cues, sounds, smells, etc. Senses, ahoy!
  2. The aforementioned weight of the camera. Also pulling out a lens takes time and I miss stuff happening. And for safety reasons, as nothing says “Oh haiiii, I’m a tourist” like a DSLR.

And so yesterday I took nothing but a notebook and a coffee and spent my first morning in Venice Beach on the boardwalk and beach, people watching. And I jotted down a list of words I would use to describe the boardwalk, which included:

  • Loud
  • Colourful (both in the literal sense – there’s great graffiti here, and in terms of language used)
  • Sunny
  • Eclectic
  • WTF

That last one is particularly apt. I think if I was asked to explain what the boardwalk was like, I’d equate it to turning a radio knob quickly and scanning through a lot of stations at once (yes kids, this makes me old enough to have willingly used a radio with a tuning knob). As you flip through, you’d hear some West Coast rap, country, Spanish jams, classical, more rap, Bob Dylan, meditation music, Christmas carols (’tis the season) and a man in a Santa costume singing Justin Bieber while strumming away on a guitar. While your eardrums are processing this combination, you’d notice two men juggling sticks on fire whilst sporting nothing but thongs, a man artfully twirling a snake, and vendors hawking silk-screened T-shirts and beaded necklaces. Friendly women will approach you asking if you’d like a medical marijuana assessment (which you politely decline, for you’ve had enough of a contact high already this morning). It smells like churros, sunscreen and a 70’s basement, with every kind of incense and candle stinging your nostrils and the aforementioned waft of pot every now and then. In short, it’s an attack on all your senses, but in an awesomely entertaining way.

I love Venice – the people are the friendliest I’ve encountered while travelling, the vibe is low-key and there’s a quirkiness to it that keeps me coming back. The boardwalk is no exception.

Return to Sender – Planning Repeat Visits When Travelling

Tofino

Given the near-infinite number of places one could visit, and the relatively limited time we all have to visit them, should you travel to the same place twice? Or in my case, multiple times?

I write this sitting in a cafe in LA. I have been to LA…nine times. NINE TIMES. And yet I keep coming back, sometimes with friends, sometimes solo. I generally rent an apartment within the same area (or in this case, the exact same place I rented last year), I eat at my favourite restaurants, I follow a similar routine. I crave the familiarity of it, which based on conversations I’ve had with other travellers, is often reason number one why they wouldn’t plan return visits to a place. Fair enough.

But here’s the thing – you can generally never replicate an experience no matter how hard you try. Nor might you want to. The first time I visited Tofino I went solo. It was a weird sort of pilgrimage, taken at a point when I was feeling rather unfocussed. I sat on Chesterman Beach with a bottle of wine (discreetly, of course) and spent several hours staring at the changes in the tide, alternating between moments of tears and apathy, as I searched desperately for clues as to what I should do next. Those answers didn’t come, and I left the beach swearing. I also lost my camera’s memory card there, inexplicably, losing all of the photos I’d taken on my trip. Cue more swearing.

At any rate, I loved Tofino but wasn’t particularly convinced I would return any time soon. Until I found myself there two summers later with my parents, and then this summer with a friend. Despite visiting many of the same locations each trip was different, both in terms of physically what we did (wild hikes aside) but also my general mental state. And I value each visit for distinct reasons, as they mark different chapters in my life. The more you visit a place, the more you really know it – but I also think you discover a little more about yourself. And in my opinion, that makes return visits worthwhile.

What do you think – is there value in returning to a place you’ve already visited, or should you focus your time on working through your bucket list?

Four Days in Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Every morning at sunrise I ran along the boardwalk. Usually when I run, I need music to keep my mind occupied (meaning: distracted from the sounds of me wheezing and my internal monologue of PLEASE STOP THIS) but I kept one ear tuned into my surroundings and the other focused on the sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach.

Around 6:45 a.m. a familiar man would appear on my right. Dressed all in black save for a well-worn Santa hat, he sat casually draped across a patio chair, smiling at the world. “There she is!” he’d exclaim as I came along. I would be lying if I didn’t appreciate the chance to stop for a few minutes to catch my breath, and he’d chat about his plans for the day and how excited he was to be alive.

As anyone who knows me can verify (or even if you’ve read a few of these blog posts, such as this one), I travel to California quite a lot. I love the sound and sights of the ocean and mountains, the smell of eucalyptus trees and the copious amounts of vitamin D. But most of all, I really enjoy the warm nature of the people that I encounter, particularly in areas like Venice Beach. While it is gritty in spots (particularly along the boardwalk) and rather eccentric in general, I find residents to be quite friendly. I went just before Christmas for four days and encountered west coast charm at every opportunity – from shop owners on Abbot Kinney and baristas in the local coffee joint, to morning joggers and surfers getting their boards ready for a morning session. People just seem to be really content with life and that spirit is quite infectious – I recommend checking it out.

If a trip to Venice Beach tickles your fancy, here are some favourites of mine:

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15 Ways to Spend Your Days in LA

I have been to LA at least 8 times since 2005. Sometimes it’s just been for a day or two as a layover between a flight elsewhere, other times I’ve stayed for longer. But every time I walk the familiar route out of LAX towards the rental car shuttle, the warm air and sight of palm trees always makes me smile.

I love LA. It’s the first place I went when travelling without my parents, and I regard it almost as a type of height chart that marks my adventure progress. But it also has a comfortable familiarity about it, and has been a great place of refuge when I need a quick vacation without much thought put into it.

I am always happy when friends ask me for LA suggestions  (sometimes they don’t ask, I just dole them out like candy in the hopes they’ll consider going there – seriously California Tourism, give me a job) because in all the times I’ve gone there I’ve resisted the Hollywood touristy gimmicks – for the most part. A couple exceptions will grace this list – my top 15 ways to spend your days in LA.

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Death of My Youth

Or, Tops (and a few Flops) of 16 Weeks of Travel

I’ve been asked what my favourite place was from my trip, and it’s a hard question to answer because there are so many! So when I started giving this question some more thought, I started to ugly cry a bit over it, because the realization that the trip was over also led to a more disturbing thought – my youth was also over!

But then I remembered that I look like I’m about 10 years younger than I actually am, so I still have my fake-youth to hang on to and exploit. And hopefully I’ll travel again someday (soon) and continue to put off the responsibilities that society (and by that, I mean women’s magazines which are clearly authoritative on the subject) tells me that I should be hankering for. Suck it, society, I’m not ready to fully abandon my youth just yet!

So yes, back to that question – I can’t pinpoint one specific place as my favourite. I pretty openly bashed Australia but the truth is, I had some great experiences. And while I was horribly ill in Laos, I still loved the country. So every place holds special memories for me that are somewhat hard to explain, but they were all pieces in my mad-dash puzzle that spread across three continents in four months.

And so, in no particular order, here are some of those pieces:

Continue reading “Death of My Youth”