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Home coming September 27, 2008

Posted by Emily in Montana, moving, things that make me smile, Travel.
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I’ve been thinking a lot about concepts of home lately. Initially, these thoughts were prompted by my recent return to my alma mater for, yes, Homecoming. It was nice to be back and to laugh and reminisce with some old friends. On the one hand, so many things seemed the same. I ran into many of the same people I might have a few years ago, I ate many of the same menu items from the same places, had the same beers at the same bars. And something about that familiarity was really calming, really assuring in a way so many traditions are. It’s nice to know you can travel the world and come back to a place that kinda still feels like home.

There were a few new things. A trashy, rundown motel that I thought would be there forever is now a shiny new building, a seemingly neverending construction project is not only complete but now seems to attract many in the community for dinner, coffee, and conversation. My friends’ lives are not the same. They have moved out and on, they have dogs and houses and husbands. Recently, many have moved in together; a number have just passed the bar; some have “life partners.” None are living the undergrad life. It’s a happy thing to see.

I went back to my old house, where almost all of my furniture and where a fair amount of my other stuff is stored. It feels like a long time since I’ve had a place that felt like my space, my home. In the short time I had on Sunday afternoon, I uncovered a box of photographs, rescued my papasan chair as a (home)base for my current semi-voracious reading schedule, threw some things away I didn’t have any clue why I still had. I was, as I sometimes am, a bit overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I’ve accumulated. But I was also reenergized about recreating a new “me” space in the future. I have been hit hard by my overdeveloped nesting instinct lately.

I find I am so often torn between an escalating wanderlust and a yearning to be settled in somewhere. Funny how these urges are sometimes hard to reconcile.

I’ve been asked a lot why I’m not looking for jobs in my home state, and driving back to my hometown, I couldn’t help but be awed by the trees, just now starting to burst into varying shades of flame. I love the changing geography of Highway 200, the hills after Lincoln and before Simms. I have witnessed so many beautiful sunsets on that road, so many golden fields and cobalt skies before it rains.

Driving into my hometown, I noticed that my feelings have changed. I used to come home from college and feel some déjà vu, but pulling off the highway no longer made me feel like I was coming home. Home was where I lived full-time. Now, I feel much the same driving into both cities, as neither are really MY places. I am moving around boxes and sleeping on fold-out couches in one city, living out of suitcases and sleeping in a room that seems to be frozen in about 1999 in another. I guess it’s another aspect of that weird in-between.

In the interim, I’m still waiting on my IKEA catalog and, due to expiring frequent flier miles, I’ve just reupped all of my magazine subscriptions. It’s funny how they speak to this desire both to go everywhere and be in just one place: among others, Budget Travel and Domino. I’ll fantasize about sitting in design-y chairs in my new place while fantasizing about far-off locales. Actually, I’ll be in my papasan chair in the basement reading magazines. And, at least for now, that’s OK.

I’m gearing up for a new adventure.

NYT browsing and destination envy September 12, 2008

Posted by Emily in things that make me smile, Travel.
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One perk of having a fair amount of time on my hands is that I get to browse the New York Times online every morning (and often in the afternoon, and evening, and…) I have to admit that the Travel and Style tabs are my go-to spots, but I check out the front page, the international news, the occasional opinion piece, read Spanish headlines, check out the Tech section pretty regularly.

I was intrigued by Ethan Gilsdorf’s post-9/11 article of today, entitled “Rituals: Hanging Around the Airport, and Liking It.” In the atmosphere of security-frenzied, hospital-like airports and sardine-can seat arrangements, it’s all the rage to bash air travel. It’s expensive. They lose your bags. And they make you pay $4 for a pack of M&Ms. I get it.

But I couldn’t help but identify with the sense of relaxation he feels in airports. Even if it’s not the scenes at the beginning and end of Love Actually, there’s something really otherworldly about airports. And the people watching is unbeatable.

I especially liked this part: “Above all, it’s the perpetual option of suddenly being somewhere distant and different from my home that makes airports seductive. I could rush up to any ticket counter and buy a last-minute fare to Oslo or Detroit. I could be like the hero of a movie, following my whim to be with the woman my destiny has foretold. I gaze longingly at the departures screen: Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Philadelphia, San Juan, Toronto, Zurich. I get destination envy.”

The scary corners of the World Wide Web, my hometown, and beyond September 12, 2008

Posted by Emily in Montana, moving, rants, working.
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I’ll admit that my posts of late have been a bit on the lame side. (Well, hey, so has my life.) There’s only so much one can write about days that revolve around walking the dog, researching jobs online, spitting out a cover letter or two, and then letting the dog outside. And back inside. And back outside. Repeat.

Today when I went to buy beer, the checker asked me if I was was UNDER 40 YEARS OLD. Stunned and little hurt, I mumbled an “uh, yeah” and handed over my ID. It was a new low.

The mailman’s arrival is quite often the day’s highlight, and I have been receiving nothing but frequent flier notices and pushes to join my college alumni association, when I get anything at all. A friend said she sent me a postcard from Romania about a month ago. It still hasn’t arrived, and I am starting to doubt it ever will.

As for job searching, it’s not like I’m the only one out there who’s going, or has gone, through it. I realize that. But that doesn’t make it any less soul sucking. Between the unpaid internships and the pyramid schemes and the companies that specialize in lifelike duck decoys (I kid you not), there are a few respectable professional postings out there. Many of the secretarial positions seem to require 10 years of experience and/or a Masters degree (wha?) but others set the bar a little more within my reach. They generally require an online application that repeats your resume line by line, but that’s OK. At least then you get an automatically generated response saying they received your application materials and, if they like you, they’ll be in touch. Who knew job hunting was so much like dating?

Many of the job postings require you to include salary requirements with your cover letter. I realize this is fairly common practice, but it’s one that perplexes me. Aren’t they going to be (theoretically) writing the checks? Isn’t it sort of their job to make an offer, one I can take or negotiate or turn down or whatever? It’s like when teachers would ask you what grade you thought you deserved–I may not have said A+ but I never understood the kids who gave themselves Cs. Are they idiots? Or just self loathing? Content with mediocrity? Maybe just clueless.

But in this case, the teacher figure is tricky. Aim too high and you’re booted right off the bat. Aim too low and you’re basically giving yourself a C. It’s a mean ploy.

In trying to figure out the cost of living in five or six cities across the country, I have been scanning some of the Craig’s List “roommate wanted” listings. Again, there are some people who seem real and who seem like they could perhaps be normal people in a cohabitation scenario. But then there’s the guy who “lost his live-in girlfriend” and is thus seeking an open-minded 18-30 year old female to share his pad. 1 bedroom, 1 bath. Don’t worry, he wants to meet first to “establish trust and chemistry.” He posts a picture, in case I had any doubts. Yikes.

Actually, there are a lot of guys who post no pictures of the places they apparently live, just photos of themselves. Seriously. Messed. Up. This isn’t chemistry.com, people.

That’s the update I can give at the moment. I’m looking forward to heading to Missoula in about a week to attend a reunion for a student group of which I was a member. It’ll be nice to catch up with some friends I haven’t seen in a long time, and others I see more often but not enough. In the meantime, there are cover letters to be written and creepy roommate ads to be avoided.

Wish me luck.

How many metros have you been on? September 3, 2008

Posted by Emily in design, things that make me smile, Travel.
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Combining my love of travel and graphic design (especially logos), I found the site http://metro.b3co.com/ kind of fun. It displays subway system logos from 162 cities, which you can click on to create a “badge.” My badge isn’t too impressive, but it made me remember some of the funkiness that can be found underground in some of my favorite cities. I love the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre stop in Paris and the funky Calatrava-esque metro entrances in Valencia.  I miss the Russell Square stop I lived near in London and felt a different kind of loss when some of the London bombings took place between there and King’s Cross a few years ago. Plus, every tourist finds the “Mind the Gap” warning on the Underground charmingly British. It also made me want to go to Moscow, even if I spend most of my time going around in circles underground along with 2.529 billion other riders annually. TripAdvisor lists the metro as the #4 of 195 attractions in the city!

So, how many metros have you been on? Which are your favorites? Which do you avoid? Am I the only one who enjoys checking out subterranean travel options in a new city (and the myriad people watching opportunities they offer)?

RomeSan FranciscoMadridValenciaLondon
BrusselsParisBarcelonaParis RERCercanias Spain
San Francisco MUNIPortoLisbonSevilla
Got at b3co.com!