That YOU May Contribute A Verse

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As I wandered alone through the streets of Istanbul, marveling at it’s foreignness, and similarity, I was repeatedly reminded of a message. Yes, it’s currently inserted in an iPad commercial, but I’ll take inspiration where I find it.

O Me, O Life

Walt Whitman

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer.

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Travel Log: Istanbul

January 17 – 26: Istanbul Turkey

The Agenda (in rough)

What I’m Reading

Tales from an Expat Harem  Rick Steves Istanbul  Osman's Dream

Eavesdropping in the Club Lounge

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It’s January in Utah which means something very definite in the airport Club Lounge: Sundance.

I’m surrounded by the rampant douchebaggery that is profitable indie filmmaking and delightful phrases surround me:

“You’re a giant and you’re surrounded by pygmies.”

“Daddy!” (Giggled by a twenty-four year old snuggled into the lap of her sixty year old traveling companion, to whom she does not appear to be related.)

“We need to shrink the team, we’re starting opine on how to strap sandals.”

“She said she’ll meet up with us in Newport, unless her appointment with the Osteopath goes long, then she’ll just go straight to the Peninsula.”

I’m contemplating throwing my hat into the ring with a faux call to my “agent” to complain that the PETA charity function didn’t meet the elements of my rider.

“Asa, I said Crangrape juice! You know cranapple irritates my IBS! And, the water was luke warm, not room temperature. How is Fifi supposed to drink from her Swarovski-encrusted bowl at that temperature! Book me an appointment with Nastia, the stress is really knotting my shoulders, I knew that Hermes bag was too heavy.”

Forty more minutes of enjoying the free booze, then 14 hours en route to Istanbul (which I may pair with more free booze … don’t judge). The thrill of the journey is kicking in … or that may be my extra dirty Sapphire martini.

Likelihood of making my connection at Charles de Gaulle, I’m putting at 40%.

Every moment was a moment

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Before right now …
in this quiet space where I recuperate
there was Sound and Fury
~ of little significance.
And I listened.

Then there was an opportunity here,
a chance to bust my ass there –
and a career emerged.

So, I worked, and waited, and volunteered for everything! … and eventually luck stepped in, the universe snapped, and amazing happened … but, only because I’d worked my fingers to the bone first and learned, and polished my craft.

Now the time comes to prove my own PR. I landed the dream job, can I hack it?

Local Currency

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I don’t speak French, Mandarin, Spanish or Arabic – but I know a handful of insults in each. My map-reading skills leave much to be desired, and I’ll only rent a car in the simplest of cities to navigate.

Instead, I rely on the navigation tools that have never lead me wrong: research, a friendly smile, and a pocketful of the local currency.

In Jakarta, Indonesia when navigating the airport shuttles became overwhelming, I hopped in a taxi and let the professional sort it out. And, thanks to my pocketful of Rupiah I didn’t have to pay the $6.00 exchange and ATM fee in order to finance the $2.00 transaction.

Street snacks, vending machines that sell wine, bathrooms, un-posted airport fees bring it on. I’ll be ready, I’m heading to the bank this morning to pick up some Turkish Lira.

Cat on a Corrugated Tin Roof

Everybody likes a vacation, but adventure is an acquired taste.

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– Courtesy, Google Images Contributor

When I told people I’d be going to a high school in Nanjing, China, an English-learning Kindergarten class near Ubud, Bali, or a wedding in Cartagena, Columbia I sometimes got a funny, “Why the hell would you want to do that?” kind of look. But, to me, I giggle inside every time I think of it.

My next trip – Istanbul and Izmir, Turkey (in just a couple days) has me giddy with travel euphoria. Eight days at the W: fashion shows, food, music, the Bazaar, the hypnotizing sound of prayer call; I will love (and hate) every second of it. There will be Asia belly, fierce hunger, awkward fiscal interactions and social obligations, getting lost, and the 40% chin quiver pre-cry. Then, there will be mouth agape, shocked, delighted, “Holy Shit! This exists!” moments.

The universe is about to rough house me with lessons from a place I’ve never been!

Airport Etiquette

Having flown extensively, all over the world, for business and pleasure, as a professional flight attendant, an eager spring breaker, and a harried mother traveling alone with two young children, I have developed a very definite opinion as to the most efficient way to navigate the bizarre social interaction that is The Airport. But, some people just don’t seem to get it. Whether you are (or know) a bad airporter you’ll be able to identify with my airport behavior “musts” list below.

1. Read the signs – The airport is full of instruction; watch constantly for new data sets, signs, and changes to your gate. When you’re having trouble finding your flight in Paris, it’s because they list them chronologically, not alphabetically. Check your gate first, then get dinner or hit the pub, but always make sure you’re in the right terminal before you relax, nap, or go grab a meal.

2. Eat, Sleep, and Pea Proactively – “Never run when you can walk, never walk when you can stand, never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lay, and never lay when you can sleep. Take advantage of every opportunity for comfort. You don’t know when travel fate will bust in and mess with your well-laid plans.

3. Build Allies – A friend of mine who travels extensively advocates for the “always say hello policy” in airports and foreign cities. He believes it brings positive travel Karma and makes it easy to make friends anywhere in the world. Here’s how it works: if you make eye contact with someone say hello. Not exactly groundbreakingly complex stuff, but something us introspective misanthropic types forget.

4. Follow the Rules – Flying is very stressful for some people, and it should be, there are a bjillion things that could go wrong AND KILL YOU. This whole, crazy in-flight endeavor requires that you peacefully listen to the bosses of the flight: TSA, Flight Attendants, bossy children demanding window seats. If everybody just follows the rules, quickly and without challenge we’ll all get where we’re going quickly … so stow that damn accordion!

5. The armrest belongs to the person in the middle seat – The armrest is the consolation prize for the person who gets stuck in the middle seat, it’s a declaration of independence from the window and the aisle.

6. Don’t put more than one item in the overhead bin – The overhead bin is designed to give each passenger one space (or fewer). You can’t stow a handbag, suitcase, and coat – pick one and the rest goes under your seat. Sorry, but they pack the planes that tight.

7. Pay attention to the person before you – Be ready to proceed, recede, or rebel when queued up for the never ending lines that come with travel, it gets people twitchy when you pause too long after the clerk says, “Next!”

8. This is not your bedroom- I struggle with this one because I’ve slept in airports, all over the world, a good Terminal 2 nap can be a lifesaver (Thank You Taiwan Airport). But, some people turn airport napping into something … Gross! My thoughts, don’t: bring a blankie any bigger than a light fleece, pull out a pillow any bigger than 12″ squared, wear pajamas, snuggle, or expect those around you to respect your nap space.

9. Don ‘t think your travel agenda is critical – I once stood in line at JFK in front of a flashy-trashy girl in six inch gold heels in line for a flight to Las Vegas. I was with my two young boys and we enjoyed this woman’s loud discussion about how angry she would be if she missed her flight and therefor her audition to work for the “Adult Dance Review”. My annoyance with this loud-mouthed girl was so great I was rooting against myself in a great desire to see her (Our! My!) flight delayed.

10. We’re all in this together – Don’t be the guy who delays the whole flight complaining about a space for your sombrero. Don’t ring the flight attendant call button to ask for water (she’ll bring it to all of us). Don’t bring a chili dog on the plane. Don’t chat with someone holding a book. Don’t get drunk, and don’t get demanding.

Nobody likes flying, but if people would follow my airport etiquette it would be much easier.

My Travel Items: The Holy Grail

Everyone who travels eventually finds their must-have travel items. These are mine …

Shoe Fresh Sachets

1. Dryer Sheets – I love the way dryer sheets ensure everything comes out of your suitcase smelling fresh and clean.  I use them when packing, then store my empty suitcases with a few dryer sheets tucked into their nooks and crannies so they smell clean even after a muggy trip to the tropics.  I also recently discovered Downy Unstopables for making shoe sachets.

Passport Cases

2. Passport Case – I keep my passport in my purse or day bag and travel with it at easy access when going to other countries (it’s amazing how often you need it: booking trains, checking into hotels, exchanging money).

Monogrammed Beach Bag

3. Day Bag – I use this as my airplane carry on (make sure your purse will fit inside the bag so that you have one, easy-to-carry item for the airport). My day bag becomes the beach bag, my filing cabinet, and in a pinch a pillow during long layovers in lousy airports.

4. Lounging Clothes leggings make the perfect lounging pants, they can be paired with a nice tunic to make an outfit, and they can also take you to the gym (if you get ambitious). I don’t like to fly in leggings (for airplanes I like loose-fitting clothes) but they can roll up easily and tuck in your carry on if you have a long lay over and might want to change your clothes.

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5. My Tried and True Travel Outfit

Passport Case and Travel Book

6. The Book – I always buy a book on the place I’m going.  I prefer Rick Steves Guides when available (A lifetime of watching his travel documentaries on PBS and the amazing value-adds he brought to my trip to Italy – skip the line at the Sistine Chapel, yes please – have made me a life long advocate. Plus I can hear his voice in my head when I read his travel guides and it makes me feel like I have a buddy traveling with me.)

Recessed Outlets

7. Phone Charger – this goes without saying, but it’s one of those last-in items that can result in an expensive airport purchase if you forget.  Be sure you have the right adapter (they’re expensive for what they do, and every country is unique do your research).  My tip, get the smallest adapter you can, sometimes the outlets are recessed and although you ave the right adapter, you still can’t plug in because those American-bought adapters won’t fit. It’s hard to describe, but I gave you a picture for example.

Universal Adapter

Do not buy the universal adapter, they almost never fit into outlets in airports and low-end hotels, and even in high-end hotels it’s hit and miss.

8. Carry On Essentials

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, hair tie
  • Swimsuit or one critical wardrobe item so that even if your bags are lost your trip isn’t ruined (this has been a life saver)
  • Print outs of the hotel you’re going to first, and the name of the car service you’re using for the first stop (I book a car for the first location on international travel; it makes landing and transitioning simpler when arriving in unfamiliar places where the difference between legitimate taxis and gypsy cabs can be hard to determine – hence the gypsy cab-tastrophe that happened to me in Qingdao, China in 2011.)
  • A good book that travels well (don’t take Anna Karenina through 18 hours of travel, it’s a door stop, not a travel read)
  • A notepad

9. Local Currency – Always have at least enough $$ in the local currency of where you’re going just in case.  My just in case turned out to be the Jakarta, Indonesia airport where I had to take a taxi from one terminal to the other.  It cost about $2.00 and I would have paid $6.00 to pull money out of the ATM, then would have had a hassle getting change.

10. Print Outs of the Itinerary – Often enough I’ve loaded my luggage in the back of the taxi, climbed into the back seat, then realized the address of where I am going is sitting in my suitcase in the trunk.

Packing … the great flirtation of a voyage

Suitcase in the City

Packing is the most optimistic part of a journey. Building your tool box – Chapstick, leather belt, and iPhone charger – you feel optimistic and in control, The Captain of the Journey.

Oh Captain, do tell, what happens when the taxi driver can’t find your hotel and his meter and your Lira are dangerously close to collision?

Selecting socks – 7 days, 2 optimistic sessions in the gym, and the sleek trouser style nylon/cotton blend that work well under everything – that highlight a fashion sense that will almost pass for Dutch in the right light.

Editing, noting, refining – The Captain’s attention to detail during preparation arrogantly assumes influence over the later outcomes.

The universe is waiting, hands, and winds, and wings of fate to make an adventure happen, ride the tempestuous inertia that follows next.

The Year of Adventure

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2014 is a year of adventure, of going places I never knew I would (Istanbul) and doing things I never thought I would (working in fashion), and I feel as if a lifetime of choices (good and bad) have brought me here to the road not taken …

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same;

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

— Robert Frost

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