Once you were in a store and someone purchased you.
Once you were treasured and loved and tossed and retrieved.
Once you were lost on a trip to the beach.
Once you were found by another family on a trip to the beach.
Once again you were treasured and loved and tossed and retrieved.
And, then, once again you were lost on a trip to the beach.
Oh, Chuck-It ball, we can only hope that you were found once again at the beach.
And you are currently being treasured and loved and tossed and retrieved.
Death Valley National Park boasts the highest air temperature ever recorded (134°) and routinely hits 120° in summer in the shade. Why would anyone go here? Well, it’s your closest chance of experiencing Mars on Earth. Cracked salt flats flanked by colorful striped hills and badlands. A valley that you both want to walk farther into and also run far away from. In December we thought the park would be empty. It was packed, parking lots teeming. But on our way out, we pulled off the perfectly paved road and watched dusk descend on the valley without another soul in sight.
If you find yourself with a garden space that is horizontally challenged, take a tip from the Spaniards and go vertical. In countless courtyards throughout Cordoba, gardeners are not deterred by limited space. Instead they put plants in containers that climb up the walls toward the sunlight. No need to get fancy with the pots, simple terra cotta will do. Add in some blossoming flowers in coordinating colors, mix up the textures of the foliage, and just keep rising higher and higher. One more thing: consider drought-resistant plants because watering all of these regularly would be bothersome.
Trees growing in a straight line? This is not coincidental. This is what happens when trees grow out and on top of dead, fallen trees. A concept called the nurse log. As you hike through the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park everything feels very alive – the greenery all around is teeming with life that supports more life. And if that weren’t enough to inspire, the local library placed signs with poetry along the trail (including the poem below).
Nature is what we know –
Yet have no art to say –
So impotent our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
In Kyoto we wanted to visit the bamboo grove Arashiyama. We had seen pictures of rows upon rows of bamboo that looked mesmerizing. We trudged there all the way across town and were, well, underwhelmed. Yes, lots of bamboos. But it didn’t have that dizzying quality we expected. (Plus it was packed with tourists). We had seen more impressive groves elsewhere in Kyoto. On an unassuming detour at Fushimi Inari, we walked by hundreds of bamboos lining the trail. Later at Enko-ji we saw the grove pictured here, which had a major advantage because we were the only people there.
You smell Takeshita Street before you see it. A saccharine cloud descends upon you. It’s not even noon and you find yourself craving ice cream wrapped in a crepe drizzled with syrup. As you walk down what’s supposed to be one of Tokyo’s most fashionable streets your every inhale is tinged with sugar. You expect to see Harajuku-style dresses and cosplay, but the predominant fashion on this weekday is sailor collars on school uniforms. Clusters of school children line up to buy candy, creme puffs and other goodies. Meanwhile you’re wondering whether they could all possibly be skipping school.
They talk a lot about energy in Sedona. They describe mystical qualities of their famed red rocks. As we hiked to Cathedral Rock, we didn’t quite experience an energy or magnetism about the place. We did, however, note that hiking there made us feel like we were on Mars. The almost unnatural red and organge, the odd rock formations, the super wide vistas all felt other worldly. As did the people-shaped rocks that looked down and watched over us as we explored, something we didn’t quite notice until we got home and looked at photos like this one.
We were in Los Angeles for a conference and wanted to do some sight-seeing. Not being interested in Hollywood or celebrity mansions, we decided to visit the Getty Center instead. The moment you arrive you think how is this free? You take a tram from the parking garage at the bottom of the mountain and step out in the bright, blaring sun at the top. A futuristic white structure looms before you. Inside is art, gardens, and dramatic L.A. views. You could spend hours here, not even going inside a building. It’s worth every penny. Even though you spent none.
If you’ve been to the Louvre, this photo of me “passed out” on its floor might make sense. The Louvre is daunting from the moment you enter. Climbing up marble stairs, a large statue looms over you from above, and like a reflex cameras all around go up, point, shoot. Walk on. Leave the whole admiring-the-artwork thing to a poorly lit laptop screen. You’ll go through wide expansive halls with canvases literally stacked upon one another and you’ll probably elbow your way by a Da Vinci without even noticing. But it’s the Louvre. And you must go to the Louvre.
When you travel somewhere with a list of a bazillion must-see sights all with different opening and closing days and times, it will be hard to convince yourself to just sit somewhere for an extended period of time. Here is why that’s a mistake.
I understand the urge to do every single thing you read about in a guidebook or on Trip Advisor (when will I ever be here again? This trip cost me lots of money—shouldn’t I make the most out of it?).
Just like you can burn out on a job, you can get burn out on a trip. We’ve done the whole schedule-every-hour see-as-much-as-possible trips before, but for a recent trip to Italy we were much more relaxed.
And guess what? We spent a lot of it just sitting around not doing anything…and it was lovely! Florence was hot, sunny, and crowded to the brim with large groups of tourists (who only move in packs, as you may know). Instead of elbowing through crowds and waiting in absurdly long lines, we spent a lot of time sitting. Sitting on a bridge on the Arno. Sitting on a bench in the sculpture enclave on Piazza della Signoria. Sitting in a park with shade! Sitting. Sitting. More sitting.
Do you know what happens when you just sit (in addition to letting your poor tired feet get some rest)? You see things. Hilarious things. Odd things. On the bridge over the Arno we watched a wedding bride and her groom get photos taken with Ponte Vecchio in the background. The bride was full on in her wedding dress and of course this caused many people to stop and stare (and take selfies with the couple in the background).
We spent the majority of our time in Cinque Terre sitting on “our bench” watching waves crash into the rocks below us. When you sit for so long you don’t even have to wait for a spectacle—you can come up with stories on your own.
We had a story about the local man who came and fished off the breakwater every day for about 15-20 minutes (and never caught anything).
We were in Manarola, which is basically one insanely steep hill from the highway to the sea with houses and shops nestled into the cliffs. It’s a pain to walk up the main road, so when we saw a young man with a bike we made up all kids of stories about how a bike is a bad idea in Cinque Terre (we also named him Matt Damon because he was alone but stopped to chat with a young couple—it was just too Talented Mr. Ripley to not draw a parallel).
We watched a toddler and her grandfather pull off an ingenious ruse with the pigeons—grandpa lured the birds by feeding them pieces of bread while granddaughter would sneak attack and chase after them. (No birds were harmed).
In Tuscany we sat. Mostly with wine glasses in our hands. Tuscany was made for sitting and soaking in the countryside.
Even in Rome we made time to just sit. We would position ourselves in a prime spot—like on the bleachers in front of the forum ruins. You could sit and imagine ancient Rome as well as people watch all of the entertaining tourists.
Next time you’re planning a trip, resist the urge to schedule every moment and embrace the times when you can just sit and watch the world go by.