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When GOMO Doesn’t Go So Well

17 Aug

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I last left you on a positive note, after having a beautiful day trip to the beach with Zadie and vowing to take her out and about more often. Well, I really have–we’ve been going to church regularly and dropping Zadie off in the nursery; I’ve joined the Northeast LA chapter of Moms Club and we’re attending weekly play groups, and 10 days with a broken AC (!!) helped us discover a nearby bookstore with a huge children’s section where Zadie and I have gone to play a few times.

But last weekend was the true test–a 2-night trip up to San Luis Obispo, on the central coast of California. Robert’s company is based up there, and the owners were throwing a summer bbq for everyone up at their house in Atascadero. They put us up in a hotel and had plenty of fun activities set up for the weekend, including wine tasting, zip lining, and babysitters lined up to care for the kids at different times during the weekend.

Needless to say, several times before the trip I blurted out, in a flurry of anxiety, “We can’t go! I’d rather just stay home with Zadie.” There were too many unknowns. I’d rather FOMO than GOMO, you know? My two biggest fears: the 3-hour car trip each way, and the sleeping situation. I knew we were in a modest hotel room, and Zadie would have to sleep in the same room as us, which she hasn’t done since she was a newborn.

Well, despite my fear and anxiety, we did go, and I feel like I deserve an award for just going! It wasn’t the same as our idyllic trip to Malibu a few weeks ago–it was definitely a weekend of highs and lows. Lows included Zadie crying/fussing for an hour in the car on the way back; Zadie falling headfirst off the bed (thankfully onto the bedspread I had put on the floor earlier for her to crawl around on); and oh yeah, Zadie not wanting to sleep at all the first night and me holding her in the bed, desperately whispering, “It’s not time to put your fingers up mama’s nose. It’s time for sleeping.” Thankfully the next night went much better!

We learned a lot, like it’s better to go across the street to the gas station to use the bathroom so your baby can sleep in your bathroom (which is why the second night went much better). Oh, the glamorous life of a parent! I also learned Zadie does great hanging out with teenage babysitters she’s never met before. Even at the barbeque, they took her from us and when I came to get her, she was giggling by the pool with a couple of 18-year-old girls, kicking back and chewing on her romper like a popular girl. Gosh I love her. Oh and we learned that she loves parties (just like her mama). We stayed at the barbeque past her bedtime, and she was having a blast, gnawing on a bbq rib, laughing, getting thrown up in the air by dad. But, like a true extrovert, once we got in the car and away from the party, she fell apart. Ha!

Highs included her sleeping both legs of the car ride up, hanging out in absolutely perfect weather in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, getting 2 hours to get coffee with just Robert while Zadie was with babysitters, oh, and THIS:

Am I going to stay in a small hotel room with my baby again any time soon? Nope. Am I glad we went? Absolutely. It was great for Robert, professionally, and it was good for our souls to have a change of scenery and some family togetherness.

What about you? Do you travel with your baby or toddler? Any secrets? (I think I’ve read them all, but I think the best one is, “Leave baby with grandparents.”)

 

How Norwegians Taught Me to Survive Winter

17 Nov

Freezing temperatures are still foreign for me, a Los Angeles native transplanted in Denver, even though we’re heading into our second winter here in Colorado. We had a blizzard warning last night, delayed starts at work today. This morning I pull on a second pair of socks, stir some peanut butter into my oatmeal, add some cream to my tea. As I settle into the morning quiet, I revel in the warm comforts in my possession—the socks, the oatmeal, the tea—and feel a tiny prayer of thankfulness unfold its wings and flit around my heart. Nostalgia comes swooping in, as well, and I relish memories of my first real winter: the year I spent in Norway.

Before that, I always dreaded winter. My shoulders slumped when I saw it coming around the golden corner that is autumn; I shuffled toward Christmas just knowing that soon January would be cold (for Los Angeles, that means dipping into the 50s) and possibly even wet. But Norwegians taught me to cope with winter and to surround myself with little cozy comforts to carry me through.

When I arrived in Norway in mid-August of 2008, I had a small dark cloud of foreboding in my heart, knowing winter would overtake us. By the first day of September the whole countryside I called home declared the end of summer, and it was a quick slide into colder temperatures and shorter days as we hurtled toward winter’s dark. Once October rolled around, the average temperature was lower than on L.A.’s coldest January days. I told my friends, “Every single day here I’m experiencing the coldest cold of my life!”

The Norwegians I lived with laughed at my dramatics, but still they patiently taught me to deal with winter—even to love it a little bit—through their culture’s concept of koselig (pronounced koosh-lay). Not one Norwegian could give me a literal translation, simply because koselig is a uniquely Norwegian way of being. Koselig means candles and warmth, waffles and times of togetherness with people you love. It is hot drinks and rich cakes and fuzzy sweaters and your favorite scarf. Candles are essential to the koselig vibe, and to Norwegian winter life—they transform the long darkness into small celebrations. Norwegians find reasons to love winter, because they must endure it for so long.

Once during my year in Norway, in mid-December, I was with friends and pulled a small bottle of coconut-scented lotion from my purse. One person remarked how it smelled like summer, but another told me to put it away. “It is not summer time!” he mock-scolded me. “It is koselig time. It is time for candles and cinnamon and koselig things, not coconut and summer things. Ugh.” His reaction helped me to see just how much Norwegians immerse themselves in the koselig time of winter, lowering into it like a warm bath. It is not time for sun and fair breezes and trips to the lake. If you’re looking for a way to survive this winter, take a page from the Norwegians’ book: light a candle and give thanks for its light, bake some cookies to share with friends, wrap your chilly hands around a warm mug of milky tea. It’s koselig time.

How to Celebrate Easter As the World Lay Dying

7 Apr

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We celebrated Easter on Sunday, but what happens if, instead of new life, you see death all around you during this season? I wrote this last Easter in Argentina. Enjoy! 

How to Celebrate Easter As the World Lay Dying

“Spring is Christ,” Rumi wrote. I always loved that, because it made me think of Easter, and by the time Easter rolls around where I grew up in Southern California, spring is in full swing. The world around me starts to fill up with wild springtime smells; flowers bloom overnight, birds sing, hope soars. It’s easy to feel like God knew what he was doing when he rose from the dead in the spring–to reveal to the world his great secret: out of death, comes life. After winter, comes the spring.

But what about the world below the equator? My first Easter in the fall was several years ago, in Adelaide, Australia. My friends and I went to Glenelg Beach and sunned ourselves, looking out at the turquoise water, at the wooden pier, at the pine trees hemming it all in. I remember we ate ice cream, and I listened to an Erwin McManus podcast as my “church” for the day. There was nothing particularly autumnal about it.

But today I celebrate Easter in Bariloche, Argentina, a mountain town in the Lake District where the colors and feelings of autumn are unmistakable. Reds and oranges and browns cover the hillsides, wood smoke lingers in the air, and we tuck into hearty, comforting foods like red meat and potatoes. It’s hard to imagine our church community right now, in the Northern Hemisphere, singing their hearts out in the sunshine at the Hollywood Bowl, dressed in pastels and florals, shaded by wide-brimmed hats, later eating brunches featuring quiche and asparagus and lemon squares.

Every Easter I hope for a mystical experience, and by that I don’t mean anything weird, I simply mean that joy and peace and hope the world can’t possibly give nor take away if it wanted to. I’ve experienced this before: five years ago I was in Northern Ireland for Easter, visiting my friend Jamie, and practically exploding with joy. I’d just finished a stint in Norway doing missions work, and was completely in awe of God and his character and his kingdom. I was full of hope for whatever step I took next, and I felt like the woman in Proverbs 31, who looks at the future and laughs. At Jamie’s church on Easter Sunday they passed out party poppers and we sang and sprayed streamers all over the room. Later that week we drove up to Giant’s Causeway on the very northern coast, through endless rolling green hills where creamy baby lambs frolicked. Spring is Christ, indeed.

And then there was the spring three years ago when my now husband Robert and I first started dating. That Easter I borrowed my roommate’s pale yellow scarf to wear with my white dress, and I matched the pale yellow polo shirt he wore to church. We had brunch at my parents’ house and the whole day was effervescent with the new love blooming between us. A new life–a life together, as a couple–was sprouting, showing its first green shoots; it was springtime.

This morning as I lay in bed in our cabin on an Argentine lagoon, surrounded by trees changing to orange and red, I realized it was Easter, and in my mind the words echoed: “He is risen. He is risen, indeed!” and my pulse quickened, just a little. A feeling of possibility rose in me. But as I move through the day, I’m not exploding with joy and hope. I feel grounded, or like I’ve fallen to the ground like a dry autumn leaf. This Lenten season has been a doozy, especially at work, and things happened there that made me lose confidence in myself and my hope for the future. I’d rather fold up into myself and hibernate for the winter than look for sprouts of new possibilities around me. Also, I’m stuck with myself, and the pitifully slow growth rate of my character, all the ways I give in to death and dying in my own heart: bitterness, comparison, catastrophizing, self-pity. Outside of my own downtrodden experience, the world is downtrodden as well—all you have to do is turn on the news to feel autumn, then winter, edging in on your soul.

But here’s one of the astonishing benefits of a lifelong faith: I know that, even in autumn–of the earth and of my soul–Christ is still risen, and he is still Spring. Perhaps those Christians living in the Southern Hemisphere know better than us in the North how to celebrate Easter. Perhaps they know that even when the world is on the fast track toward death, when all signs point to decay, these old bones can live again. “He has risen, just as he promised,” the angel told those faithful women at the tomb. We will rise, just as he promised, and spring will come to the whole world at last.

Traveling Regrets

27 Jun
Horseback Riding in Patagonia

Horseback Riding in Patagonia

We all try to minimize the regrets we have in life, but what do you do when an experience, a relationship, a decision doesn’t meet your expectations? That’s fodder for regret, right? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our recent trip to Argentina. I don’t know if I could say I regret the trip, but I can definitely say it did not meet my expectations. It’s not that the trip was an entire disappointment—who can be disappointed by horseback riding across the pampas with no sound but the horses’ trotting hooves and my own thoughts, which grew quieter and quieter as we rode until we were practically meditating on horseback? Who could regret our daylong hike on a sparsely populated trail to Cerro Catedral, where we marveled at the almost unearthly beauty of Patagonia? And yet, I do regret. Continue reading

Young and Wild and Free: How Travel is Different Now I’m Nearly 30

12 May
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21 and living the dream in Paris!

Everyone knows the curse of traveling—the wanderlust that sets in, making you want to jet off to a new destination before you’ve even touched down from your most recent adventure. But there’s another strange symptom of traveling, one that I experienced stronger than ever on our trip to Argentina last month. The act of traveling always uncovers memories of past trips and adventures. During our two weeks in Argentina, an unexpected flood of memories of my first trip to Europe createdthe backdrop of my mind. It’s like our journey to Argentina opened up the door to a room in my mind marked “Europe 2006” and I haven’t been able to close it since. It was May when my best friend Allison and I took off for a three-week tour of nine countries. A little taste of—well, not everything, but the big stuff, like London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam…Our first time in Europe and we ordered the sampler platter.

This flood of memories revealed the glaring juxtaposition of that trip with my most recent one to South America. My European adventure was a graduation gift. I’d just finished college, and the world was wide open, offering its experiences like fruit ripe for the picking. I remember the two speeches at my college’s baccalaureate service mentioned the thrill of the great wide unknown that lay before us graduates. In her speech, my friend Lindsey likened it to the sensation of skydiving—the delicious terror that comes right before jumping out of a plane, and the surprising feeling of floating, instead of free-falling, the moment you step out into mid-air. I clung to that image because it resounded so deeply and truly in my heart as I flung myself out of my college years and into the rest of my life. Continue reading

Palm Springs 4 Eva

15 Dec

IMG_0747We made it! Robert and I have been married one whole year. And to celebrate, last weekend we took off to Palm Springs, that retro little resort town in the desert. The best part about Palm Springs is the low-maintenance aspect. Just drove out in about an hour and a half, puttered around town, and headed home happy a few days later. We didn’t even have to stop for gas the entire weekend!

There’s pretty much nothing to do in Palm Springs except golf (which we have no interest in), eat (which we have a high level of interest in) and hang out at the pool. But us Thompson’s, we gotta move. So we drove straight from Pasadena to a hiking trail in Palm Springs–first item on the agenda, conquer this city. Here’s Robert conquering the city with a yoga pose.

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After this super motivated start, we settled into Palm Springs pace. The best part of our trip was our hotel, the Koarakia Pensione, which was so awesome we didn’t really want to leave it that much. The Korakia is made up of two villas, one Moroccan and one Mediterranean. We were on the Mediterranean side, and it honestly looked like a little villa in Greece. My Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants dreams of traveling to the Grecian islands almost felt like they were coming true! White washed buildings, bright pink bougainvillea growing all over the place, olive trees, and a gorgeous heated pool flanked by fire pits. Fire! (Did I mention no kids at the Korakia?) Also, at night, they lit candles all over the grounds, and in lanterns hanging from the trees. Magical!

Robert in front of our hotel

On the Moroccan side of the hotel, there’s a pool set to 100 degrees, more fire pits and Moroccan lanterns, a yoga class on Sunday morning, and Moroccan tea and nibbles in the afternoon. We seriously could not get enough of this place. One morning I just sat in a chair outside, in the middle of the beautiful and exquisitely peaceful grounds, staring at the mountains that spring up behind the hotel and seem close enough to touch. It was the most peaceful morning I’ve had in a long time.

The Korakia Pensione

The Korakia Pensione

On our last day there and the morning of our anniversary, we sat on the patio of our room and shared newly written vows with each other, taking into account all of our lessons (and mistakes!) of our first year together. It was a meaningful and wonderful way to start our second year of marriage.

Our semi-private patio (the double doors are our room)

Our semi-private patio (the double doors are our room)

Other highlights of the trip: swimming in the 100 degree pool at night; a fun (and boozy) dinner out where we sat on a private balcony overlooking the main drag of Palm Springs; watching the movie Ruby Sparks; outdoor yoga; lingering over breakfasts in the courtyard of the Korakia; learning to toss a frisbee and enjoying it!

Where’s your favorite low-maintenance vacation spot? Any wisdom on the 2nd year of marriage from those further down the road?

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Throwback to Orvieto

13 Dec

I had the opportunity to read some of my poetry and other writing at an event the other night. Pretty sweet. This is one of the poems I read, Pilgrims’ Shoes. After we returned from a day trip in Assisi during my Italy trip last summer, our professor had each of us write a poem beginning with the line: “I put on pilgrims’ shoes.” So here’s mine. Below that is a truly amazing video that my friend John Lui made from our trip there…I’d been meaning to put up both the poem and the vid…better late than never! Enjoy, amici.

Pilgrim’s shoes


I put on pilgrim’s shoes

But they don’t fit.

My feet pinch and blister

As I study frescoes and question Francis.

Did you hurt yourself so God would show up?

I can’t relate

Because when I’m with him

He takes the whip out of my hand

And he heals.


Break open the doors of this cavernous cathedral,

Lead me off the dusty streets of Assisi.

I’ll kick off my sandals and run on wet grass

into the sun,

jump over the moon,

dive into the flashing sea—

how deep does this go?


If you see him, tell him I am sick with love.

Push me to the edge of the earth

I’ll sing to the morning sky, radiant in the East,

As the sunrise speaks of his faithfulness

with a dozen golden roses.

Rumi said there’s a thousand ways

To kneel and kiss the ground.

I know there are also a thousand places.


Let me wander the world and

discover the walking temples,

Take their faces in my hands

And say, Tell me about the one I love,

I see you love him too.


I am sick with love

I ache with desire

My journey begins and ends in him.


Saints set aside: this is my pilgrimage.

 

And now, for the video…

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