Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor


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I Would Like to Thank…

This album is dedicated to all the people who told me I’d never amount to nothin’ –Notorious

The 2013 guide to Montreal and Quebec that I helped author for Fodor’s Travel comes out in March and is available for pre-sale right now.

Some write fake Oscar speeches; I fantasize about crafting clever book dedications. I plan to dedicate future novel to my enormous family for well…everything, the Husband for his patience and encouragement and the Dog who keeps my feet warm as I write. And to my Grandma, for her endless advice.

Unfortunately, I don’t get to *actually* dedicate or thank anyone in the travel book because that would be unfair to the other writers, editors, and photographers who worked on it. Besides, I am a writing phantom taking the form of Eugene Fodor, a fascinating Hungarian wayfarer.

Miss Misery

cloud-painting-art-institute-chicago

This is one of the first paintings I ever connected to. I always thought it was icebergs, but it’s clouds. -Art Institute, Chicago

Should I ever write a novel, I would be tempted to throw it into the faces of those who spurned me early on when I was just a kid. I probably wouldn’t do it, because bitter ain’t the right shade for me, but it’s fun to think about.

One of my favorite writer bloggers  recently wrote an eloquent piece about a teacher who helped influence his writing career. I have a few of those too – wonderful people, who pulled me aside and told me that despite my horrific spelling, I had a knack with words.

I’ve also had the opposite. Miss Bruner, my 7th grade art teacher deserves a failing grade. A teacher should encourage, not manage expectations. Let kids’ dreams bounce above their heads like big red balloons. When the time comes, they’ll clutch some and let others fly. Give them that choice.

Miss Bruner hobbled up and down classroom aisles with a cane. She’d pull your drawing out from your hands, exam it from behind little glasses that sat at the end of her nose and snicker. When we had to sketch George Washington (impossible!), I erased entirely through his eye. I am no Manet. Did Miss Bruner encourage me to learn from this mistake and be more careful next time? No.  She put my rendition of George Washington over her own face and peeped through the hole as if it were a mask.

Ok, so maybe I screwed up the portrait. Maybe she was joking, maybe the George Washington incident was part of her teacher schtick.

But later that semester, when I expressed an interest in going to Venice to view art, she barked:

“How are YOU going to go to Venice? It costs a lot of MONEY, Am-an-da.”  Continue reading


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A Valentine’s Day Love Letter to the USA

Seattle travel, Washington travel

Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about. ~ Mark Twain

I know as a wayfarer it’s not fashionable to like you, my home country, let alone love you. I am supposed to know better; I am supposed to snub domestic travel. I am supposed to like soccer and drink imported beer and refer to those “Americans” as if I am not American myself.

Why this happens: when travelers leave, often the first time, they see all your flaws from through an extra-long lens: the shootings, the rampant obesity, the vacant lots and strip malls and commercialism. The unbelievable pressure: whiten your teeth, go to the right school, chew the right brand of gum. I almost crumpled under your constant demands. I never felt like I was doing anything right. And I hate that you made me drive everywhere.

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I ventured beyond your borders, tested our sacred “love or leave it” bond – a contract I entered into without choice. I didn’t want anything to do with you. Like a petulant child, I refused to turn around. My post Post-America life started like any relationship – French Canada and I would have surely broken your heart. We shared poutine and frieds with mayo, we cross country skied, we strolled along cobblestone streets in the middle of the day.

Canada recycles, Canada doesn’t waste napkins and plastic forks. Canada felt nice, Canada felt different. Canada didn’t press weighty expectations upon me like you. You cluck a lot about liberty – but in Canada, I felt freedom – no one asked me what I did for a living; I felt no great urge to keep up; I never felt doomsday paranoia. Sure, the new country had its problems, but I wouldn’t see that until we lived together awhile.

Mt.Baker, Seattle travel blog

I came home to you after a year and three months defeated — through no fault of my own, Canada and I couldn’t make it work. Finding and holding jobs in the French-speaking province proved difficult and so we moved.

I had forgotten about all the things I loved about you. New York with its waves of people, rushing in from all angles, from all countries; hip-hop, rock n’ roll, blue grass; your vast prairies and deserts, Vegas – yes, Vegas – an homage to glittering capitalism. I had forgotten how much I love Chicago, the city responsible for the first version of me, before I knew anything else. And Seattle – a misty music town with new liberal policies that make Canada look conservative.

We have our fights, USA. There are times I am not proud of you. There are times you gravely disappoint me. But  wherever I go, I’ll always be part of this big dysfunctional family.

Yours Truly,

Anglo


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If You Were Tiny and Trapped in a Blender…

You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?**

This is the kind of conversation I love to speculate about, the kind that occurs after midnight with a gaggle of friends and a few bottles of wine. The kind that veers left then spins around so we can’t remember where it started. The kind that ends with a demonstration. It always like fireworks, one person’s words bursting forth and then another’s, the conversation rapidly intensifying until the subject has been exhausted.

Am I wearing high heels?

Is someone on the other side of the blender?

Does a blender’s blades go all the way to the top?

Is there water on the bottom?

If a single person took out their smartphone and looked it up, the fun would be over. Smartphones and search engines have destroyed our ability not only to reason, but to banter for long periods of time.

I am not a modern-day luddite. I don’t want to destroy technology. I just want screens to be locked in cages at dinner or in art museums or when I am with a group of people and we’re experiencing a moment together.

Why I gave up my phone

smartphones, google interview questions, travel cellphones

The burner is the way of the future. Excuse the hideousness of this photo. Neon green isn’t my color.

When I moved back and forth from Canada, I disposed of a lot of stuff: bags of clothes, old laptops, etc. La vie of the nomad. Continue reading


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Travel More, Write More, Exercise Sometimes

I traveled back to Chicago for the holidays. I’m currently writing a post on why you should visit the southside of the city, complete with what to wear to an over-crowded jazz club and where to find the city’s best hotpot.

Note: I didn’t say hot dog. Just walk to the nearest hot dog stand. Order everything but ketchup.

If you’re a tourist, it will be the best hot dog you’ve ever had.

What I did on my Christmas Vacation

travel writer eats chicken tenders

Pinkie out. The only way to eat chicken tenders.

  • I saved Christmas, Martha Stewart-style with a signature cocktail. You could put dishwater in a fancy glass and add a candy cane stirrer and people will like it. Picture to come.
  • Got treated to a private performance by a burgeoning pianist that nearly brought me to tears.
  • Lost in a Big Buckhunter family tournament. The game’s just too realistic for this animal lover. Also, I have a habit of shooting female bison.

While I enjoy the beginning of a new year, I don’t make typical New Year’s resolutions.

I am damn-near perfect. So what if when I don’t have coffee, I go through Trainspotting-esque withdrawals?

So what if I swear in front of eight-year olds (whoops)? So what if I don’t have a robust retirement account? It’s not like Suze Orman will be coming over for dinner tomorrow. I find resolutions too negative. Don’t do ____. Instantly, the blank becomes so much more intriguing. Something in my brain rebels and I will do whatever I can to eat bread, to watch more TV, to spend money.

Not really resolutions, resolutions

  • My first resolution is to love myself a little more. The more I appreciate my health and know who I am and what I can achieve, the more I am naturally drawn to doing good things for me. I know it sounds so trite, like something Oprah would say. But this is where to start.
  • Respect dry cleaning tags. I have a tenancy to just toss and go and lost a lot of great shirts to my over-enthusiastic dryer.
  • Not to eat more than three Lindor truffles in a sitting.
  • Write everyday, but not for work.
  • Practice French at least once a week with real people, even those awful pretentious types I keep running into.
  • And to find a way to make a living doing exactly this.


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15 Things I Am Not Thankful For

Black-Friday, Not-Giving-Thanks-Travel Blog

I am thankful for nachos. And kids who think up characters like Nacho Hippy.

I am thankful for lots of things. Number one: all of my necessities have been met since I was born. I have always had food, water, shelter, and toothpaste. And not to brag, but I have always been pretty healthy, as in never hospitalized, never had to look past the first set of symptoms on Web MD.  I have been silently expressing my gratitude for these things for years.

I also would like to give thanks to Mick Jagger and the inventor of peppermint mocha creamer*. I have been enjoying cups of minty coffee and the Rolling Stones for years now. Sometimes even together. Time to give thanks.

Let’s get to the things I AM NOT thankful for. I decided since it’s Black Friday and not Thanksgiving, it’s totally appropriate.

15 Things I am not thankful for

  1. TSA body scanners. I now have to take that shot when someone asks if a naked picture of me exists somewhere. Because I am pretty sure it does.
  2. People at the airport who scream “this is fascism” when asked to take off their belt. Sure it sucks, but please don’t hold up the line.
  3. Instagram. Stop it! I can’t tell what a normal picture looks like anymore. Fading your photo of your curtains doesn’t make it artsy. Also, I can’t take a photo with an actual glass filter without someone assuming it’s Instagram.
  4. Pencils that look suspiciously like pens.
  5. Olives. Thanks for ruining that lemon-chicken-orzo salad for me, you bitter son-of-bitch.
  6. Hipsters. 
  7. Hipsters eating olives. 
  8. Hipsters eating olives and then complaining that they’re not local.
  9. Cellulite. Thanks for preventing me from ever wearing a bathing suit in public.
  10. The illogical French numbering system. Seventy-five is like sixty-five, except instead of soixante-cinq (65), it would be soixante-quinze (75). What a backwards way to do things. Don’t get me started on 99, quatre-vingt-dix-neuf. I can never hear the “dix.”
  11. Seattle’s public transportation. Or lack thereof. I have to cross two bodies of water to get to work, three if you count the curbside stream that occurs after a big storm. There are two trains – one only goes North-South and the other is a tourist trap. I hate to complain, but I have an hour commute to a place 20-minutes away.
  12. Pretentious noise pollution. That pretentious guy at the zoo or the art museum or the aquarium. He knows you’re listening as he goes on and on about baboon mating rituals or what Monet really meant when he painted the water lilies. They need to have special opening hours for these jerk faces. Move along please.
  13. Information overload. I enjoy technology. Lightbulbs, air-conditioning, Snuggies. But the Information Age has its drawbacks. I can’t have a conversation with someone without it being interrupted by a “like” or a “tweet.” I actually exchanged my cellphone for an emergency burner & landline. I thought it would suck, but my mind feels focused and energized. As far as books, I prefer print. Print wastes paper, but consider the effect of dumping millions of electronic devices into the earth.
  14. Black Friday.  It’s a great people-watching opportunity and I used to go out every year only to enjoy an Orange Julius while watching rabid consumers scramble for the latest toy. But now it makes me sad. We’re told to be thankful one day and the next day, deals are shoved into our faces. Fun fact: I got married on Black Friday. I was a Black Friday bride!
  15. Raisins that look suspiciously like chocolate chips

* To my family, friends, husband, dog, the thirty or so people who read this, and everyone else in my life: THANK You. My life is glorious and I relish every single second spent with you.


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Humorous Pot Legalization Predictions

marijuana tourism washington, travel blog, humor blog

Are we the Amsterdam of America? We do have the tulips.

My current home state, the Evergreen State just became the EverGREEN state with the passing of the legalization of marijuana, coming December 6.

Don’t book your flight just yet. Although the pot fog wafting into my window has thickened, there’s nowhere legal to buy the stuff. And there’s a big parler coming up with the Feds on how this will all work.

As a travel writer, I find this most interesting in terms of tourism. Rick Steves, that khaki-clad, accountant-like celebrity traveler, is a huge marijuana supporter. This surprised me. I had him pegged as the kind of guy for whom a glass of white wine is a wild night. Then again, I am one to talk.

I’ll leave my own political affiliations out of this because I am suffering from political fatigue. Here are some just-for-fun predictions.

Pot legalization predictions:

Please read the following in your best Year 2000 voice. If you don’t know that reference, you really need to catch up on your Conan O’Brien.

  1. Capitol Hill, our trendiest, (i.e. most obnoxious) neighborhood will fill to capacity with potheads and slackers and people who wear vanity monocles and play polo on bicycles. Oh wait – it already is. Next.
  2. Coffee shops will be replaced with “coffee shops.”
  3. Washington State residents will be visited by their long-lost slacker friend, the guy who nicknamed himself The Guy on the Couch, who hasn’t called you in years, who now wants to sleep on your couch. Forever.
  4. People will refer to Seattle as mini-Amsterdam and tourism from here to the legal weed-topia across the pond plummet. Why bother going there? We have tulips and legal Mary Jane. Ok, so we don’t have many windmills or canals or really old buildings or legal prostitutes.
  5. Cheech replaces George Washington on our state flag.
  6. The show Portlandia becomes obsolete as hordes of hipsters migrate back to Seattle to work on their distopic vampire novels and post-post-post modern paintings of clowns. Oh brother.


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To All the Nomads

This made me cry. Ps. I really need to learn to surf

Happy Halloween, everyone! It’s one of my favorite holidays because I love candy, characters, and knocking on complete strangers’ doors. Ok, I am not in costume because last year, in Quebec I spent $80 on a black tutu because $80 and $40 sounded similar to me in French. This year, I decided to watch a free animatronic skeleton rock show instead of spending more money on a costume.

The black tutu has to last. Black Swan is so last year. Future costumes include: Courtney Love in her best/worst (depends on who you’re talking to), fashion stage to Gothic Lolita (not as gross as it sounds, actually so cool I want this idea to live in relative secrecy so I can use it next year), to a ballerina superhero I have yet to create.

Halloween puts me in a strangely sentimental mood. The video above reminded me of all the reasons I love going places.

The Nomad’s not afraid of making waves or catching waves or being uncomfortable. Why should I be? He speaks about finding his community (skaters!) wherever he goes. He speaks about having a life rich in experiences. He reminds me of so many people I have met in passing, ones I have to carry in my heart as I move from place to place. As a writer on the Matador Network pointed out, the Nomad’s not coming from the perspective of a rich American going to ‘find himself’ during a gap-year in Latin America, funded by blazer-and-khaki clad rich dad.

He’s doing it because it’s who he is and needs to, despite all the obstacles. He reminds me that if he can do it, so can I.

Reasons I travel

  • That moment stepping off a plane when even the air feels different. I live for that and will sacrifice comfort to feel it.
  • Meeting someone for the first time, far away and realizing all the things you have in common. You don’t speak the same language, but you can smile and mimic your way through anything. It’s usually more hilarious than awkward.
  • I enjoy human connections. I have friends and not just the Facebook variety who come from near and far and span across all ages. This has been more of a valuable education than college; it has given me insight into how people really think and feel. MOST importantly perhaps, travel has taught me that just because someone is from a developing country, doesn’t mean he or she is poor and needs my pity. A person can be rich in family and experiences and connections, things we miss because we’re busy climbing corporate ladders.
  • Sure, I can look at an iPhone screen, but it’s nothing like a hug or shoulder squeeze or sharing food or looking into someone’s eyes.
  • Seeing dorsal fins pop up from choppy waves (my last Sunday). Watching pink clouds slide across the sky (everyday).
  • I would have missed this Seattle sunset:

travel writing tips, why to travel

And this tree:

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And this Copenhagen street at night:

travel blog, travel writing, Denmark travel

And this Quebec City sunrise:

Quebec City Sunrise

I have only begun to see the world, to catch my own waves. I can’t wait to venture further into the ocean. Comment below with why you travel. And Happy Halloween!