Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor


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Japan in Season

I went to Japan last December. It was the perfect month to visit and my favorite time of year. In late December, you feel fall slowly fading, the leaves almost all gone, but a few strays that cling to the trees, the exact way my toddler clings to my legs when she gets shy.

I love the rush of cold air, the constant threat of first snowfall, the lights, the people in the city rushing around with bags of gifts for loved ones. It’s what I look forward to most during the heat of summer, the same way I look forward to the beach in the gray and rain of winter.  

Fushimi Inari Shrine

In Tokyo, most of the buildings are in muted beige and gray, the color comes in Shinto shrines with red-orange doors, splashes of neon signs, gardens tucked away with fiery fall colors and spotted koi.

It was a strange choice for a pre-Christmas vacation, but they do celebrate Christmas in Japan. They have Christmas cakes, an all-white whipped cake with strawberries on it and according to my sister who was living there at the time—strawberries in Japan taste better than the ones here.

Better strawberries. Can you even imagine?

And there were elaborate light shows, “illuminations” and lit trees all around the city.

You can’t see your way out of Tokyo, it feels infinite. It’s big and pulsing and electric, but at the same time, quiet. There are tucked-away gardens, shrines, and temples everywhere.

I took public transportation in Seattle daily for seven years and because of that, I appreciate Japan’s unspoken rules–drinking on trains, talking above a whisper, talking on your phone— all considered rude, punishable by glare.

Vegetables are in.

Things that have happened on the Seattle bus:

  • A rotisserie chicken rolling around and getting grease everywhere
  • A person so out-of-his-mind, when his friend punched him hard in the face, he didn’t even realize it. One of the saddest things I’ve ever witnessed.
  • A woman who (while I was pregnant) asked me about hepatitis vaccines, then coughed right in my face.

It’s tempting to compare where you live to where you travel. To see how safe Tokyo feels, how meticulous and efficient and magical it all seems. The genius of hot coffee from a vending machine and the comfort of train station ramen.

Home is easy to take for granted.

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Bad Behavior at the Louvre

There’s so much to tell you all about my travels in Paris. The lights stretching over the inky black Seine, the oh-so fashionable Parisians, the bookstores, the bakeries.

But before I write my photo narratives and list of Studs and Duds, I want to discuss a disturbing new social development: the need to compulsively take photos of art. Or I suppose on a bigger scale, our need to document and share everything.

A few days before I left for Paris, I watched Exit Through the Gift Shop, a multi-layer mockumentary about street art, directed by Banksy, that dude all your hipster friends are so into.

The movie tells the story of Theirry Guetta who films every waking moment of his life, from banal trips to the grocery store to his baby’s first steps. He eventually turns his focus to his cousin “Invader,” a street artist who creates these space invader mosaics:

IMG_2592

Invader introduces Thierry to all kinds of street artists. He becomes what Hunter Thompson was to the Hells Angels—an insider, able to access what others cannot. Mid-film (*spoiler alert*) the audience realizes that Thierry isn’t a filmmaker; he’s mentally ill, a hoarder of footage because his mom died when he was a kid and he’s afraid of missing moments. He has great footage, but makes an unusable film.

He reminds me of myself and my own compulsive need to document everything. But it’s not just me. It’s a lot of us. And I don’t even have a smartphone.

Exit Through the Gift Shop stayed fresh in my mind when I went to Paris. I spent hours in the Pompidou, the Louvre, the Dali museum, and then another day with my bros vanGogh and Gougin at Musee d’Orsay.

Saw lots of world-famous art, paintings and sculptures my art teacher told me I would never see.

Dali's Minotaur

That’s me and Dali’s minotaur. I didn’t realize he was patting my head.

That was cool.

This was not.

Mona Lisa in Paris

The Mona Lisa through a wall of iPhones & iPads

Long lines of people at the Louvre taking photo after photo, not waiting more than a minute to absorb the work. At the Mona Lisa, I had to stand on my toes to glance over the wall of raised iPads and iPhones. The band of zombies clicked away like we were on a safari and an elephant emerged from the brush.

Why are we in such a rush to snap, share, and go?

Is it because we’re all walking around with mini-computers and it’s so convenient and so irresistible? Or like Thierry, are we afraid of missing something? Continue reading


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14 steps to being a complete asshole abroad

Castle in Helsinger, Denmark

There are two types of travel-abroad assholes: The ones who tell everyone they’re American and are disappointed when things aren’t like the good ol’ USA. Or the ones who think they belong “somewhere else” and are eager to enlighten everyone “back home” with their tales. Even though no one really gives a fuck and it’s like hearing the same story over and over again. The macaroons! The narrow streets! The lighted outdoor terraces!

Travel abroad tips:

travel abroad tips

This says slut. In Danish, it's apparently relevant to hopscotch.

1. Wear white socks, dad jeans, and bright blue running shoes.

2. Or buy a scarf and skinny jeans to blend in with the locals. Hint: it won’t happen. Your American hips look stupid in straight-legged Euro pants.

3. Develop an accent and use slang you read about on the interwebs. Correct everyone from “back home” on their pronunciation. People love being corrected.

It’s Par-i, not Paris! 

4. Complain about everything. Complain about not getting the check right away. Complain about tiny rooms and tiny portion sizes. Complain about having to walk everywhere. Complain complain complain. Continue reading