My California trip, solo, for the month of June, was a dream come true, something I had longed to do for many years.
Like you, perhaps, I still have some specific travel dreams, so it’s always a question of budget and time. I’m also not wild about any flight longer than six or seven hours — and now the places I haven’t yet seen are almost all long-haul flights, which means I’d likely stop halfway and stay for a day or two then take another four to six hour flight onward.
I’m really fortunate to have already visited most of Canada (except PEI, New Brunswick, Yukon, NT and Nunavut.) I’ve been to 33 of the 50 U.S. states — and not desperate to see the rest (OK, Colorado and Alaska, probably.) Have been to 41 countries, from Fiji to Peru to Turkey to Kenya, but (help!) there’s still so much more to see.
I occasionally read travel magazines, but am also a big fan of a weekly travel Twitterchat, #TRLT, which stands for The Road Less Traveled, and is run by a tour guide in Nairobi, Shane Dallas. It draws people from Dundee, Vancouver, India, and even Uzbekistan and Malawi. I learn a lot from it, and love sharing stories with people whose idea of a vacation is usually pretty adventurous and not just expensive luxury.
He lets us ask the questions, every week on a theme, which makes it more fun and democratic.
As readers here know, I’m pretty independent and not one for group trips or official tours. I would be highly unlikely to take a cruise unless it was a very small ship (and probably then our of my budget!) I hate being around large crowds (especially now with COVID and every emerging disease.)
My happiest vacations, and I tend to plan them carefully, usually combine spending some time in gorgeous landscapes/scenery with a chance to be active there, a hike or out on/in the water with, when possible, some sophisticated city time with shopping and a few great meals and some culture, whether a museum or gallery or concert.
I tend to be a high-low traveler — I’ve camped in a small tent at the Grand Canyon (not in it), have stayed in super elegant hotels like the Gritti Palace in Venice, had tea at the Ritz in London and cocktails at the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz in Paris, but was equally thrilled in Big Sur with a tiny room and shared bathroom and a burger and fries while staring at the San Gabriel Mountains at sunset.
It’s all about the experience!
My best trips, so far, include 21 days in Thailand, five separate visits to Ireland, many visits to various parts of France, (loved Corsica!!) and a great three-week, five-city Mexican adventure way back in 2005.
I speak good French and decent Spanish, so I love being able to use them.
Here are some of my dream trips:
Wadi Rum, Jordan
If you’ve seen the films Lawrence of Arabia and The Martian, you’ve seen the rust red landscape of Wadi Rum. Even the name! I’ve been following a WR tour guide on Twitter and now have a better idea what it could cost and how one even gets there. It’s easier to start planning (or not) once you do some research.
My parents went, a cousin lived there and a friend who works nomadically lived there for a while. Not sure I would do it alone, but it has long intrigued me, especially the deserts, mountains and design esthetic.
I’ve been fascinated by Japan since I was small and my father went there to make a film about it. Many of my friends have visited and loved it. I’ve read a few books about it. I admit I’m intimidated by a 13 hour flight from NY to Tokyo and the reputed high costs of lodging. My only visit to Asia so far was to Thailand in 1994.
Again, inspired by friends and their photos. So dramatic! (Have been to Kenya, Tanzania and Tunisia.)
Have never been — still! Especially interested in Crete and Corfu, but also the smaller islands.
Have you seen images of Torres del Paine? Whew!
I once did film research about it. Such an unusual place.
Fort Smith, Northwest Territories
Amazing aurora borealis and canoeing the Nahanni River.
Gros Morne, Newfoundland
Cornwall, Yorkshire and Northumberland, England
So gorgeous and rugged. I confess that watching the BBC series Poldark did it for Cornwall and All Creatures Great and Small for Yorkshire.
The Inner and Outer Hebrides
A young friend grew up there and returns frequently.
I feel like I’m the only person left who hasn’t visited!
The very best vacations — yes, always a luxury! — return us to normal life with some fresh ideas and insights, some new ways of thinking or behaving.
Maybe we tried a new form of exercise (hiking, biking, surfing, snorkel or scuba, kayaking).
Maybe some new foods.
Maybe we altered our daily rhythms, getting up much earlier to savor sunrise and cooler temperatures or staying up really late to enjoy local nightlife.
My month away, solo, driving coastal California, gave me much-needed solitude but also some fantastic opportunities to get to know my friends better, through long conversations, un-rushed, over a good meal or just sitting in the shade.
The best decision I made — and one I am keeping up now that I’m home: much less exposure to the news, especially the useless national nightly news on. American television which (apart from the PBS Newshour) is a tedious and predictable gorefest of violence and sticky sentimentality.
I didn’t watch TV news or listen to radio news once and my mood and outlook are much improved!
Yes, the world is going to hell. I do know that.
But marinating in it every day isn’t doing me any good either.
If it’s that crucial I will see it (and do) on Twitter.
I didn’t expect to, but I fell hard for California, and was checking real estate prices everywhere, both for purchase (hopeless!) and rentals, and am now looking for a way to rent for a month or more in L.A. and maybe also in Monterey, my two favorites.
I dropped my normal routines of spin class two to three times a week, and that felt good.
I’ve always hoped to retire to France, probably only part-time, so this new love of California is interesting — but French real estate, depending on the area, is so much more affordable, (and the euro is now on par with the U.S. dollar.) So we’ve got pleasant decisions at some point.
My best takeaway was just being out there all alone for a month. I’ve been traveling the world alone since I spent four months, at 22, visiting Portugal, Italy, France and Spain (most of it in Spain and Portugal.) It’s never scared me and I’ve never had a bad experience despite people insisting I’m “brave” to travel alone at length as a woman.
Refreshing my much-valued sense of independence was a great joy — but so was the lovely home and husband awaiting my return!
I hope you’ll all be able to take a restorative break.
While COVID has made much travel nightmarish-to-impossible, some of us are still venturing out (vaxxed and masked!).
I recently enjoyed lunch in Manhattan with a friend in from London who I hadn’t seen in maybe a decade.
This list is highly personal and fails to include typical tourist must-see’s. I like to take my time when I travel, to settle in, to savor a few great spots for an entire day or afternoon instead of rushing all over an unfamiliar city.
If you’re still planning travel — maybe in a year or two! — here are some of my favorite spots.
You know how you have a perfect day?
Mine was in L.A. in August 2000, flown in on assignment for SouthWest’s in-flight magazine. I had worked hard on the story and had some time alone. I went horseback riding through the hills of Griffith Park at sunset, then headed to Santa Monica, where I danced to live blues at Harvelle’s — in business since 1931. I really love L.A. and haven’t been back since then…is that possible?!
I’ve been reveling in its sights through seven seasons of the cop show Bosch, which is set there. I can’t wait to hit the classic bars and restaurants in it: Frank & Musso, Formosa, Smog Cutter and Frolic.
I hope to take a solo trip back there this spring.
My hometown is a huge, sprawling city whose waterfront has been marred with hundreds of glass box condo towers. But it also still has some less-obvious charms.
The Islands — easily reached in all seasons by public ferry (maybe a 20 minute ride) — offer a spectacular vision of the city, especially at sunset. In summer, you can bike for miles, enjoy a beach, go for swim in Lake Ontario. In winter, stroll and admire the hundreds of small houses where the fortunate few live year round.
One of my favorite stores anywhere is Gravity Pope (no explanation for that name!) The best selection of men’s and women’s shoes anywhere, including some familiar brands, and others. Styles are hip but practical. I love everything I’ve bought from them.
Not if you flee midtown.
Old Town Bar is a classic, filled with wooden booths and an upstairs that feels like a world apart. It opened in 1892.
It’s easy to spend a few hours here (and I prefer it to noisy, costly Eataly) — Chelsea Market. Lots of great meals and food shopping, even for tourists (tea, chocolate, coffee, pastas) and Sarabeth’s, a classic Manhattan bakery. Posman Books is a terrific indie bookstore. A great way to while away a freezing winter day.
Restrooms downstairs. Its only downside — no seating unless you pay for something. Very NYC.
I love a great spa and Bota Bota is truly unique — a former boat, in the harbor — offering every amenity possible. It’s the perfect place to melt your bones on one of YUL’s bitterly cold afternoons.
It opened in 1942 and loyal locals still line up to sit in one of its booths. Beauty’s diner is a great spot and I treasure my Beauty’s T-shirt.
My grandmother lived there for a while when the Hotel Sylvia was apartments. I’ve stayed there a few times. It’s not fancy, but has a great history and right near the beach. Built in 1912, it’s cosy and welcoming.
Granville Island is hardly secret, but like New York’s Chelsea Market, it’s a terrific all-day place to hang out — restaurants, shopping, flowers, food and a gorgeous location.
So many pleasures!
I do love an elegant department store — and Le Bon Marche really fits the bill. On my last visit, in June 2017, I stocked up on gorgeous linen napkins, swooning over its tabletop offerings. The shoe department is just a stunning physical space; that’s its roof pictured above.
The Musee Guimet is much less known than the Big Boys, the Musee D’orsay and the Louvre. Jose and I love Asian art, the Guimet’s focus. A smaller, more manageable museum, its cafe and gift shop are also well worth a visit.
Sue me — it’s Liberty or death! Liberty, the store, filled with the loveliest of basically everything.
I’m also a huge fan of flea markets — Portobello Road or Bermondsey.
There are a few restaurants that just make you feel happier settling onto a stool at the counter, surrounded by hustle and bustle. Ted’s Bulletin, (described as an upscale diner) is one such place for me.
A few blocks away is a terrific shop, Goodwood, which opened in 1994, that offers a superbly-edited mix of clothing, shoes, fragrance, stationery, antiques, rugs. I never miss visiting and always find something lovely.
I loved this city, having arrived there in July 2017, alone, with few expectations.
The studio and home belonging to the former sculptor Ivan Mestrovic is here — and I was stunned by the beauty of his work. He later became a U.S. citizen and taught at several American universities.
I stayed there, my first visit, for 10 days in July 2017, at the Hotel Savoy, an oldie-but-goodie — currently closed for renovations. I can’t wait to go back! The street it’s on also proved a treasure trove, two blocks away from the Kathe Kollwitz Museum, the bookstore and cafe Literaturhaus. And the name! Fasanenstrasse — pheasant street.
It is, for sure, one of the most privileged things anyone can do — travel!
Even a short local road trip implies use of a safe, reliable private automobile.
It assumes having enough money to move past paying for basic necessities, and the health and strength to enjoy moving around and the time off to actually go anywhere. It’s no coincidence that Americans often show little interest in foreign travel, even if they make a lot of money, because taking even two consecutive weeks off is (sadly!) considered weird and lazy — while Europeans savor their annual six weeks.
In a normal year, barring being broke or ill, I love to get out of our small suburban New York town!
I like it and miss our view, but I also really need to get away from American…..everything. Especially, after the past four years, relentless politics, racism and violence.
Even if you don’t live it firsthand, it’s in every news report every day.
Here’s an alphabetical list where I’ve been so far (internationally):
My first visit there was age six or seven, my first solo flight, meeting my mother there. My parents had just split up. My second, decades later, was with my first husband.
Oh, what memories! I was flown to Vienna from Paris at 25 for the weekend by my 10-years-older antiques-dealer boyfriend. I had never been flown anywhere by a beau! We had a challenging time and I broke up with him there. We watched a woman descend the hotel stairs in a very expensive sable coat and he said: “I’d buy you one if you didn’t give me any trouble.” Tempting, but no.
A very expensive mistake! I had hoped, for my first book, to interview the female sailors competing in a round-the-world yacht race, in Sydney and Auckland. Instead, they totally shut me out and the trip cost me thousands. I visited Sydney and Melbourne, briefly, much preferring Melbourne in every way.
Nassau, a very long time ago.
Drove through it on an eight-day truck trip with a French truck driver for a story.
My home and native land.
Cartagena, just as it was first being developed as a tourist destination.
Visited my mother there, who traveled the world alone for years.
Loved it! Zagreb and Rovinj, a town on the Adriatic, July 2017.
At 25, I went to Copenhagen as part of my eight-month EU funded journalism fellowship. I took class with the Royal Danish Ballet (no pointe or center work!) as I was writing about them.
I lived in London ages two to five and have been back many, many times. But I have seen very little beyond London; a day trip to Dorset and a few trips to Bath when my mother lived there. I am so eager to see Cornwall, Yorkshire and Northumberland, for sure.
Thanks to my mother, on her journeys.
I can’t remember my first visit but I lived in Paris (in the 15th at Cite Universitaire) for eight months at 25, on an EU journalism fellowship. Have been back many times, for birthdays and a honeymoon and traveled alone at times. Still haven’t seen Alsace or the Atlantic coast, but know the Cote d’Azur, the Camargue, Corsica and tiny bit of Brittany and Normandy. Seeing the D-Day beaches and cemetery and the Bayeux tapestry was amazing.
I’ve only been to Munich, briefly, and Berlin, for 10 days in July 2017. I am eager to see more.
All of three days in Budapest, July 2017. Eager to go back.
Sigh. How I love Ireland! Have been five times, so far. My great grandfather was the schoolmaster of the one room schoolhouse in Rathmullan, Co. Donegal.
Have been three times, once for my 21st birthday in Venice (which I’ve been to three times.) I adored Sicily. Been to Rome, Florence, Siena but still so much more to see — especially the Dolomites, Lake Como, Puglia and Capri/Pantelleria.
One visit, with a friend who grew up there.
The best trip of my life, really — on safari.
I didn’t love Malta. I did love Mdina and a 15th century house-turned-hotel there.
I lived in Cuernavaca at 14 for a few months with my mother and have been back many times, but not since May 2006. I speak Spanish and miss the country!
A visit in my 20s, before the volcano.
An add-on to my Oz trip. I much preferred NZ to Australia, even though I was only there maybe 10 days and only on North Island. Much as I dislike long flights, I would definitely return.
March 2014, I did some reporting with a team from WaterAid in rural areas. Great adventures!
A quick day trip from Dublin to the (amazing!) Titanic Museum, well worth visiting.
A fantastic two-week trip with my mother — Lima, Cuzco, Puno, Arequipa and sunrise at Machu Picchu. Plus the scariest landing at Cuzco, true white knuckle stuff.
I started a four month journey, solo, in Lisbon, age 22, and traveled to Sinta, Beja, Evora, Albufeira. I loved Lisbon and remember it well — especially the Maneuline architecture and the spectacular Gulbenkian Museum.
Drove through it on our truck journey to Istanbul.
Swoon. I spent my 12th summer in a tiny white stone cottage in Monzievaird, near Crieff, Perthshire, staying with my best friend from sixth grade in Toronto who had just moved there after her parents’ divorce. It was a wild summer, with lots of sightseeing but some very tough arguments with a girl who really didn’t want her mother’s attention divided right then.
I spent six weeks there, alone, and loved it: Madrid, Toledo, Aranjuez, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Ronda, Ibiza. My favorite part is Andalusia with all its Moorish influences. There are few places as lushly romantic as Seville when the orange trees are in full fragant blossom!
Oddly, a visit in late November, American Thanksgiving, thanks to a cheap-o courier flight. It was dark til 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. and dark again by 2:00 p.m. I loved everything about it: cobblestone streets, the Vasa Museum, the Butterfly House, the muted colors, candles everywhere. Very, very expensive but I would love to return.
Safari. Life changing beauty. So so grateful to have had the income and the time off (a month) to visit at 27 from Toronto.
Probably the best travel experiences of my life: gorgeous country, kind people, affordable lodging and domestic flights, delicious food. I flew courier for $700 from New York (the full ticket price, in 1994, was something like $4,000) and spent 21 days there. My first husband joined me and we visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son. I then went alone south by train to Krabi and took a two-hour boat ride to Ko Phi Phi. Spectacular! Can’t recommend it too highly.
This was a very generous gift from my husband Jose when I finished my first book in 2003; he gave me some money and said GO! So I flew to London then to Malta then to Tunis. I loved it — my enormous room at the Hotel Majestic was about $30 a night. I adore mosaics and Tunis holds the Bardo Museum, one of the world’s best collections of them,
Well….this was the final destination of my eight-day truck trip that began in Perpignan, France. I was exhausted and dirty (no showers for a week) and so happy to have a bed in a room and not in the truck. I only had three days there, alone, but what a city. I visited the Grand Bazaar and spent a day looking at rugs…which provoked the most severe allergic reaction (to dust, I had forgotten!) of my life. I feared I might die, alone and anonymously, in the Otel Harem. But I still use the copper jug I bought there every day in our bathroom.
Half my family are/were American, so I had been to this country many times before I moved to it, in 1988, thanks to a green card thanks to my mother’s American citizenship. I’ve seen quite a bit of it, with only about 11 states yet to explore (Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Indiana, Idaho, Oregon.) One of the best experiences of my life was traveling across the country by train. It is spectacular, with such tremendous variations in scale and beauty. Well worth doing!
Oh boy. This was another cheap-o courier flight and my then best friend joined me. We visited Caracas, Jaji. Los Roques and Merida — in a week! But I got the last flight out after the terrifying landslides and she got stuck for a while and had (!) to be rescued by the Venezuelan navy.
I met a gorgeous blue-eyed Welshman named Nigel on a Christmas Eve flight to Bristol and he took me away to Wales for a few days. That was fun!
As readers here know, travel is usually my greatest joy in life.
I took my first international road trip — in my playpen in the back of my parents’ car — from Vancouver to Mexico. I took my first flight, at seven or eight, to Antigua from Toronto. I always know exactly where my passport is and my Canadian currency and my leftover euros.
Being confined to the disease-riddled political madhouse of the United States right now is, for some of us, really frustrating.
So here are some of my favorite travel memories:
My last taste of elegant hospitality, Middleburg, Virginia, March 2020 — just as the pandemic shut everything down.
I was on my way to D.C. to attend and speak at an annual conference, and added two extra days in this town to play and relax and enjoy some solo time. I loved it. I also had breakfast there with a local friend, an extra pleasure.
I do love a great hotel bar. This is the freshly and beautifully renovated Royal York, in my hometown of Toronto; September 2019.
When you’re traveling and need to meet people for business or pleasure, an elegant hotel bar (if not too noisy!) can be a good option. I interviewed a psychiatrist for my healthcare story here, while sitting on those stools, and later enjoyed a cocktail with a young pal from Twitter.
I had never seen elk — or a sign like this! New Mexico, June 2019.
This was a great day — Valles Caldera is a national preserve where we spent a day enjoying nature and silence during our week’s vacation. My husband Jose is from Santa Fe, so we love returning to his home city and state, where we have friends and he once more revels in being home.
Lacing up my skates for some ice-work at Beaver Pond, Mount Royal, Montreal. Winter 2019.
It’s a really Canadian joy to skate without a fee and in public. I really miss all the free public rinks I took for granted in Toronto —- and in New York, I generally only skate on an indoor rink and have to pay for it, a wholly different experience. This was a lot of fun and the rink, very sensibly, even has benches in the middle, so you can plop down whenever pooped.
I love funky vintage diners. I meandered happily along Route 25 on Long Island’s North Shore and loved every minute; June 2018.
I love to meander! It’s such a pleasure to find a winding country road and savor all the sights — farm-stands, diners, little shops, old houses. This road terminates at the eastern end in Orient, where there’s a wide pebbled beach. It was a great day spent solo while Jose was working locally for the week and we were given a hotel room.
Georgetown, DC is such a beautiful neighborhood. Fall 2017.
I’ve been back to D.C. over the years many times — attending awards dinners, on a fellowship, visiting friends, on my way heading further south. It feels so very different from New York in every way, and Georgetown’s narrow cobbled streets and early 19th century homes are a lovely escape.
Love the Atwater Market, Montreal.
I loved coming here to shop for food when I lived in Montreal for 18 months as a reporter at the Montreal Gazette. I didn’t stay long as a resident; the winter was brutal and the newspaper not a great fit for me. But, a six hour drive from our New York home, Montreal makes for a terrific break for us now. I get to speak and hear French, catch up with old friends and colleagues, shop for the kinds of clothes I really like (much more European!) and always visit our favorite restaurants.
Pies! Pumpkin, apple, blueberry, sugar, maple syrup; Atwater Market
Maple syrup pie! Sugar pie!
I love these ghost meringues! Atwater Market, Montreal
These were on display just before Hallowe’en. Love them!
Dublin. So much beautiful weaving!
Jose went to the local barber, ex-boxer Patrick Quinn. His haircut was 5 euros. Ireland, June 2015.
I’ve been to Ireland five times so far and could easily return many times more. It’s so small you can easily see a lot, even in a week or two. People are so warm and welcoming. The landscapes are astounding. Filled with history. I actually cry when I leave.
Not the loveliest image, but definitely Venice, July 2017
I’ve been to Venice three times so far: I spent my 21st birthday there, alone, and enjoyed it, went back on my European fellowship year at 25 and hadn’t been back for decades — and made the crucial error of doing so in July when it was brutally hot and massively crowded. I am glad I went again, though, for all of three days, and remain determined to visit in cooler, quieter late fall or even winter next time!
I loved Giudecca, a mostly residential neighborhood and even found a small playground surrounded by low-level apartments. I sat on a bench in the shade there for a while and just savored the silence.
One of the great pleasures of travel is…sitting still! Taking it all in. July 2017
I really loved my first-ever visit to Berlin, a city I’d only seen in films. I took the train from Paris and stayed at a terrific old hotel, the Savoy, on Fasanenstrasse, in Charlottenburg. I loved everything about our hotel — the white tablecloths in the gracious, spacious dining room, a quiet, small back garden, an adjacent cigar bar!, even a hair salon next door. I visited the Pergamon museum and enjoyed the Biergarten and biked around and spent a fantastic day swimming at Schachtensee, one of the many lakes surrounding the city and easily reached by public transit.
I stayed in Berlin 10 days and just got to know it a little. I’m eager to return.
Since 2001, we have been visiting a gorgeous resort, Manoir Hovey, on Lake Massawippi, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. This is their dock, in fall. Oh, we miss it!
After 9/11 Jose and I were pretty shell-shocked as we both covered the truly grim details of its aftermath, I as a journalist and he as a New York Times photo editor. We fled north right afterward to this terrific small resort and have been back since then every two to three years, in every season — named Canada’s number two best resort hotel for 2020 by Travel & Leisure magazine.
Must have tea in London! This was the Ritz
OK, so it’s touristy. But fun!
I love the details that are so spectacular — not just the official “sights” but the memorable specifics like this Paris cafe
I’m wild about all aspects of design. I loved this detail.
This is so French! That gorgeous, polished, oversize doorknob and the deep viridian and the gloss. Ooooohh, Paris!
As Covid has slammed shut many borders, especially to Americans — boldly accustomed to ready, sometimes grateful access to other countries — it’s an interesting time to look at one’s passport, and national identity with fresh eyes.
From an EU website:
UNWTO estimated that US tourists spent €119 billion ($139,712,545,000) on international travel (excluding international transport) in 2017, showing an increase of €8 billion on 2016.
Over half of US citizens’ outbound travel is to neighboring countries, making up the top two destinations.
The entire top ten of outbound travel from the US is comprised of
Mexico Followed by
But a passport isn’t just an essential for international travel. It’s a portable symbol of your country and its values, from the images printed on its pages, to the cultural baggage we carry with us as well.
Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market — and a red-coated Mountie
Here’s an essay from The Atlantic about what it’s like now to hold an American one, my husband’s.
An excerpt, written by a man with an Indian passport:
An American passport, until recently, could bring you anywhere with minimal need to worry about visas and border checks. But this is the world of immigration that Americans must now familiarize themselves with. Before the pandemic, more than 100 countries were willing to admit Americans; now, by one count, fewer than three dozen countries want you. What you have done matters little; instead, your movements are limited by factors outside of your control, and your passport locks doors rather than opening them.
I spent my university days in London envious of friends with “good passports” who could hop on a train to France or cross the Irish Sea to Dublin without any notice. My vacations, by contrast, had to be meticulously laid out. I visited consulates with flights booked, hotels reserved, itineraries planned, and travel insurance paid for, worried that I would nevertheless be rejected. On one occasion, my girlfriend and I flew from Jordan to Beirut, where colleagues had airily assured me I could get a visa on arrival. When we landed, however, immigration officials told me my colleagues were mistaken, and those rules did not apply to Indians. I was put on a flight back to Amman while my girlfriend, with her British passport, collected our bags.
Even these stories are ones of privilege: holidays undone by byzantine, hazily interpreted visa rules; reporting assignments turned down because travel could not be arranged as quickly as it could be for colleagues with British or American passports. Others have, of course, suffered far more difficult and painful experiences—an array of migrants must endure complicated refugee and asylum processes, and even those who travel for tourism or study must dig deeper into their savings than I must to pay steep application fees.
The document is elegant. No one can dispute that. The deep navy blue of its slightly pebbled cover, the understated gilt imprint of the royal arms of Canada, which somehow looks faded even when new — the passport is a classic. Its cover may be harder, more durable, the pages inside more decorated than when I was a boy, but, in the hand, its familiarity is heavy, anchoring. A passport is a little book printed for a single situation, the condition of being between countries. To hold it is to be going from home to elsewhere or from elsewhere to home. Over time, the booklet assumes the association of distance and belonging, of leaving and returning. This year that association, often subtle, like a half-remembered smell from childhood, clarified itself in the atmosphere of trauma that overtook the world. This was the year when we remembered what it means to hold a Canadian passport…The passport gave me the sensation of homecoming, familiarity, the knowledge of my physical safety, an assumption of care that has become less and less easy to take for granted in a sickening world. To have a passport, to have papers is a blessing we could ignore before COVID-19 but not after. I would be lying if I did not acknowledge a positive presence, too, a connection with a people. I was grateful to be among Canadians…I was grateful for strong institutions. I was glad to return to a country where the administrative state is maintained and supported, not just by politicians but by ordinary people.
It’s an odd experience to live in one country, as I do, while still using the passport of another. This sometimes prompts surprise or a question from an American customs/border official.
But that slim blue object carries more weight for me than its physical size. If nothing else, it’s a comforting bit of my first home and, depending how the U.S. elections go this year, still offers me an escape some Americans now deeply envy.
Two items I can always find are my passport and green card (proof of my legal residence in the U.S.)
I look at both wistfully now and wonder when, where and if I’ll get to use them again.
It’s a 5.5 hour drive from our home in suburban New York to the Canadian border, the one we usually cross across the St. Lawrence and the Thousand Islands, sometimes timing it for lunch in Kingston, Ontario at Chez Piggy, a terrific restaurant.
Now I can’t even go to Canada, since they keep postponing opening the border until — the latest — the end of July. It’s really frustrating! Especially since New York, amazingly, has managed to beat back COVID-19 from the nadir (700 deaths a day in New York City) to a handful. We’re safe, dammit!
My last road trip, to Middleburg, Virginia, March 4-6
It’s a real privilege to have the time, health and extra income to travel at all, I know. We don’t have the costs of raising/educating children, or carry student debt, so it’s always been my greatest pleasure. I usually get back to Canada, my homeland, several times a year, and, ideally, to Europe every year or two. I admit, I neglect the rest of the world!
Istria, Croatia, July 2017
I’ve so far been to 41 countries and there are so many I’m still eager to see: Iceland, Finland, Morocco, Japan, St. Kitts and Nevis, Guadeloupe, Patagonia, the South Pacific, Namibia and South Africa,
I want to go back, (and have many times) to France, England, Ireland — and see more of Italy, Croatia, Canada (Cape Breton, Newfoundland.)
Within the U.S., I’m eager to do a driving trip the length of California (where we have friends in Los Angeles, San Francisco and a few other places), would really like to visit some national parks like Bryce, Zion (Utah), Big Bend (Texas) and Joshua Tree (California).
I love road trips, and have driven Montreal to Charleston, South Carolina; across Canada with my father when I was 15; around Mexico and Ireland with my father; around the Camargue on my first honeymoon (and had everything stolen from our rental car!)
The Dolac Market, Zagreb, July 2017
I had really hoped to spend the month of September in England, renting a cottage in Cornwall, seeing pals in London, maybe scooting up to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Not possible now, thanks to their 14 days’ quarantine.
New Mexico, June 2019
Now looking at any other places…not in the U.S. I’m worn out by the relentless racism, violence, political malfeasance and the millions of Americans who refuse to wear a mask or socially distance, endlessly spreading and re-spreading this disease.
In the meantime, glad to have a working vehicle, I may just start venturing out a lot more within New York State — maybe camping for a few days, renting a kayak on the Hudson or Long Island Sound.
Fun doesn’t have to require a long drive or flight, I know.
Tourism is an unusual industry in that the assets it monetises – a view, a reef, a cathedral – do not belong to it. The world’s dominant cruise companies – Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian – pay little towards the upkeep of the public goods they live off. By incorporating themselves in overseas tax havens with benign environmental and labour laws – respectively Panama, Liberia and Bermuda – cruising’s big three, which account for three-quarters of the industry, get to enjoy low taxes and avoid much irksome regulation, while polluting the air and sea, eroding coastlines and pouring tens of millions of people into picturesque ports of call that often cannot cope with them.
What goes for cruises goes for most of the travel industry. For decades, a small number of environmentally minded reformists in the sector have tried to develop sustainable tourism that creates enduring employment while minimising the damage it does. But most hotel groups, tour operators and national tourism authorities – whatever their stated commitment to sustainable tourism – continue to prioritise the economies of scale that inevitably lead to more tourists paying less money and heaping more pressure on those same assets. Before the pandemic, industry experts were forecasting that international arrivals would rise by between 3% and 4% in 2020. Chinese travellers, the largest and fastest-growing cohort in world tourism, were expected to make 160m trips abroad, a 27% increase on the 2015 figure.
The virus has given us a picture, at once frightening and beautiful, of a world without tourism….
From the petrol and particulates that spew from jetskis to pesticides drenching the putting green, the holidaymaker’s every innocent pleasure seems like another blow to the poor old planet. Then there is the food left in the fridge and the chemicals used to launder the sheets after each single-night occupancy in one of Airbnb’s 7 million rental properties, and the carcinogenic fuel that is burned by cruise ships. And then there are the carbon emissions. “Tourism is significantly more carbon-intensive than other potential areas of economic development,” reported a recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change. Between 2009 and 2013, the industry’s global carbon footprint grew to about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the majority generated by air travel. “The rapid increase in tourism demand,” the study went on, “is effectively outstripping the decarbonisation of tourism-related technology”.
Destructive though it is, the virus has offered us the opportunity to imagine a different world – one in which we start decarbonising, and staying local. The absence of tourism has forced us to consider ways in which the industry can diversify, indigenise and reduce its dependency on the all-singing, all-dancing carbon disaster that is global aviation.
As some here know, I live to travel — 41 countries so far and so many more I’m so eager to visit: Iceland, Finland, Morocco, Japan, maybe back to New Zealand and definitely back to Scotland, Ireland, England and France.
That also means hours airborne and I have bizarrely mixed emotions about flying:
I love flying, in theory, but loathe wide-body aircraft and being jammed into one with 300+ other people. I know that smaller aircraft, especially the very smallest, can be more dangerous and bumpy. I just hate being surrounded by so many people 35,000 feet in the air for hours.
I can’t wait to go somewhere far away!
Ohhhhh, I hate turbulence.
And now, the notion of. 6,8, 9 hours wearing a mask?
So, in the meantime, I’m watching every possible film and TV show set far from the United States, like Baptiste (Amsterdam), Happy Valley, Broadchurch, Shetland, Hinterland (England, Scotland, Wales), Wallander (Sweden, UK) and many others.
Jose and I are total #avgeeks, and on our Facebook and Instagram feeds watch JustPlanes.com— with the coolest aviation videos of planes taking off and landing all over the world, mostly from the cockpit!
I once had the most amazing experience — as an adult! — flying home into LaGuardia airport in New York from Toronto on Air Canada. The flight path goes down the Hudson River then turns east then south again to land.
The flight attendant, seeing me peer excitedly out the window as we got closer and closer to the airport — pre 9/11 and prohibited cockpit visits — asked if I’d like to see the landing from inside the cockpit.
Are you kidding!?
What a fantastic thrill!
I’ve had a few aviation adventures over the years:
The domestic Nicaraguan airline whose aircraft was so tiny they weighed our baggage — and us!
Or the Russian-built aircraft I flew in in Venezuela, with all its interior markings in Cyrillic.
The flight from Valetta to Tunis, in a smallish aircraft and some turbulence, with all communications in Arabic only.
Or the BOAC flight I took on Christmas Eve as a child to London — with holiday decorations hanging from the ceiling across the single aisle.
Flying as a courier (no ticket!) to Stockholm, Caracas, London and Bangkok.
Or the flight to Scotland, age 12, for a summer staying with a friend — smuggling my hamster Pickles underneath my coat in his custom-designed cage made by a friend’s father.
And the Faucett Air flight into Cuzco, Peru, a small landing strip surrounded by mountains and one with low cloud cover. That was a white-knuckler.
And the tiny plane that flew me and a Gazette photographer and a CBC reporter and a cameraman — and hundreds of boxes of donated clothing — from Kuujjuaq to Salluit, Quebec, flying north for hours about the treeline, with nothing but ice and snow to see and eventually land on.
One of my favorite books, ever, is one written by a former 747 British Airways pilot Mark vanHoenacker, (still flying for them, but not that aircraft), Skyfaring. It is the most lyrical and lovely book about how the world appears from the air, and the cockpit.
I admit to being a total fangirl, in awe of all pilots and their skills.
Jose knows, if he’s meeting me at the airport arriving, I’m often last out because I’ve had a quick chat with the pilots, if possible.
I’m now at my third hotel since March 3…and this one is the best, thanks to a great rate on hotels.com, a gorgeous Fairmont in D.C., and I have two days’ leisure after a whirlwind three days at the Northern Short Course conference nearby, an annual meeting of photojournalists at all levels of skill and experience.
I spoke yesterday on pitching and had a decent audience — maybe 50 people — and made a few really interesting potential contacts for future paid work.
I started my journey with a long drive south on March 3 from New York to the town of Middleburg, Virginia, home to the oldest inn in the U.S. — 1728 — the Red Fox, and stayed there for two nights.
The area is very beautiful, a real 18th-century landscape mostly because extremely wealthy landowners have bought and held enormous estates for riding and fox-hunting. The town (pop. 637) is full of tack shops and saddleries.
Here’s the inn:
I found a nearby Civil War battlefield and savored solo sunshine and silence on one of Virginia’s oldest bridges, (1802.)
The conference was excellent, with presentations from highly accomplished photojournalists. Celeste Sloman showed us the work from her New York Times project (and book) documenting the women of the 116th Congress.
Eman Mohammed showed her powerful images of conflict, but also quieter and more intimate moments as well.
I have only two days off in D.C., but had a great dinner with friends at 2Amys, which makes amazing wood-fired pizza.
Today is sunny and warm and I’m headed to the National Gallery for a show of Degas.
It feels very good to finally savor some downtime away from all the anxiety of daily life — and yes, I am couching and sneezing into my elbow and washing my hands a lot!
I remain a fan of long, long lunches — too French, for sure!
By Caitlin Kelly
A typical weekend scene in our home — my American husband, Jose, watching TV football or golf, the other day cheering the Ohio State University marching band, who are pretty amazing; here’s a video, 9:11 minutes long.
I admit it: I have yet to even see a football game live.
I’ve never seen a marching band live and — fellow Canadians, am I wrong? –– I don’t think Canada even has marching bands!
It’s been decades since I moved to the U.S. from Canada and I’m still stunned by some serious cultural/political differences, like the legal right in some states to “conceal carry” or “open carry” — i.e. walk around normal daily life with a handgun on you. (I spoke to 104 men, women and teens for my 2004 book about women and guns, and learned a lot.)
Or tailgating — in which you serve food from the back of a parked vehicle, usually in the parking lot of a sports stadium. What?!
Or words, and concepts, like a Hail Mary or a do-over.
I like the French formality of a cheek kiss or handshake whenever you meet someone. I really prefer the discretion of not blurting out a lot of highly personal detail allatonce the way Americans can do. I find it odd and overwhelming.
A bit of classic Americana on Long Island, NY
I do love the directness and speed of New York, and it’s one reason I moved here, as I was always being mistaken for an American anyway — (too fast, too direct, too ambitious!) — in Toronto, my hometown. Canadians, for a variety of reasons, tend to be much more risk-averse and can move at a glacial pace in business, needing months or years to establish a sufficient relationship; New York, anyway, is highly transactional and people here want to do business, and (at a certain level) quickly and decisively.
And being “American” means quite different things in different areas — whether being overtly highly religious or owning a gun, to name only two regional examples.
One of the reasons Jose and I matched so quickly, even between a Canadian and American, an Anglo and a Hispanic, was our shared values, like a quiet sort of modesty, regardless of accomplishment — normal in Santa Fe, NM and for Canadians. Bragging is declassé!
I’ve lived in Canada, Mexico, England, France and the U.S. so my values and attitudes are all a bit of of these.
Love this delivery, in the Marais, Paris
I miss Paris, where I lived at 25 — style, elegance, history.
I miss Mexico, where I lived at 14 — gorgeous countryside, kind people, history and design.
That may sound pretentious, but it’s true.
When you have powerful experiences while living in a distant country your memories are highly specific and often unshared. When you leave that place behind, you carry all those memories, but who can you talk to about them?
They’re called “invisible losses.”
I really value friendship and emotional connection — which take time to nurture, and prefer them to the constant chase for money and power — which is pretty darn un-American. I also work to live, not live to work, also bizarre in a nation addicted to being productive above all.
I always visit St. Lawrence Market in Toronto — and who doesn’t love a Mountie?
And yet I’m also very competitive, which works here.
I have friends, like the author of Small Dog Syndrome, who are TCK’s — third culture kids — who have spent much of their lives out of their country of origin. This gives them tremendous global fluency, sometimes multiple languages, and the very useful ability to fit in well almost anywhere. (Barack Obama is one, too.)
You can feel forever a bit of a nomad, enjoying many nations, but perhaps loyal to none.