2016: A New Year of Travel

Happy New Year! It has officially been a week since we were all preparing to countdown to 2016, with that fiery motivation to have a better year burning in our hearts. As an effort to hold onto the momentum (and inspire you to do the same), I’ve decided to put together a new list of resolutions, just for Cleaving Leaveland and traveling.

Goals to Carry Into 2016

1. Be Where I Am. This was a hard one for me last year for a few reasons. The first is that when I packed up to leave New York City and embark on two years of traveling the US, I left behind a very strong and empowering community of friends. Even when I ended up in places like Seattle where I made a lot of strong friendships, I found it difficult to appreciate them because my eyes were always looking at my friends in New York. The second reason it was so difficult to be present was that I kept getting let down thinking I was going to end up in one place and job opportunities, or lack thereof, put me in another place entirely. But when missing out on living in Austin meant opening up my eyes to the amazingness of Seattle, I realized that my disappointment had been a waste of time and energy. This is an adventure after all. Which leads me to my next goal…

2. Keep An Open Mind. Traveling is not really an exploration if I have a locked mindset of where I want to be and what I want to see. Last year I was hoping to get to Austin and instead went to Seattle, which quickly became my favorite city in the US. Just this January I had hoped to end up in New Orleans, and instead I’m off to Long Beach, CA. I have only been to Long Beach once in my life and I mostly spent my time there partying in a college house. This is going to be a whole new adventure for me. I was really hoping to do some ghost tours, take piano lessons, and see some alligators in the south, but maybe I’ll take a surfing lesson or two instead. Last year I was not a happy camper to end up in Phoenix, but it ended up being one of the most transformative 3 months for me in my travels. So this year I plan to keep an open mind, and go wherever the wind (and jobs) take me.

3. Stop Watching TV. Okay, so I don’t really plan to stop watching all TV all the time. But I have been sitting on this one for a while. Then recently I saw a video of Obama talking to school-aged children about what it means to have a family. One of the more profound statements he made was that if you come home, and you sit in front of the TV watching a show or playing video games, then you’re not really there – you’re checked out. If watching TV is not helping me to “be where I am,” then it’s time to cut it out of my daily routine.

4. Run Outside Often. Or take walks. I like to run for exercise, and I’ve found that taking care of my health outdoors has led me to come across places I would have never explored otherwise (like the crystal shop in Seattle or my favorite independent bookstore in Phoenix). So I’m going to get outside often, whether with running, biking, or just taking a walk.

5. Record More. This is different than writing more, for me. I want to start really recording what I love about places, especially on the blog. Taking notes on the best Pho I found in Seattle or the cutest Bed and Breakfast I happened upon in Pennsylvania will add richer illustration to the map of my travels, and may come in handy as I revisit places later.

So my list only has 5 goals for blogging and traveling, but I’m hoping that keeping it short and simple will help me accomplish them more thoroughly. I have other personal goals of course (take another class, volunteer, pass less judgment on others), but this list should be enough to take my travels and Cleaving Leaveland to the next level. As some of you will know, I’m engaged to get married in late summer of 2017, so this will be my last full year of traveling. I plan to take it to the fullest. Come with me and enjoy the ride!

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All Dried Up: Struggling with Writer’s Block in Phoenix

Creative Writing in Phoenix, Arizona Superbowl XLIX

I sit in the middle of downtown Phoenix one week before the Super Bowl XLIX, surrounded by football fans and out-of-towners. I should have a lot to write about by now, as it has been a month since my last blog post, but I find myself still pretty much at a loss of words for Phoenix.

Did my creativity dry up with the desert?

Aside from chasing sunsets, I don’t do much in Phoenix. I bought a bike and I ride it to coffee shops and I do my work and I ride my bike home and I head to the roof and I watch the sunset. It’s getting harder and harder to wake up early, especially as my freelance writer lifestyle doesn’t require it. If it weren’t for all of the sunshine and exercise, I might even consider myself depressed here.

But sitting here during Super Bowl week is suddenly opening my eyes as to why I might be feeling this drought of inspiration. It’s because the influx of out-of-towners has made no difference in the feel of the city except for crowding the streets and increasing traffic. What I mean to say is, everyone in Phoenix seems to be from out of town.

Unsurprisingly, Phoenix is a popular spot for midwesterners to head for the winter. And in a way, that’s all Phoenix feels like – a sunshine spot for the winter. So aside from the weather, I don’t know what else to say about living here.

I went on an art walk and nothing jumped out at me. I’ve taken my camera around and aside from fiery sky views, everything else appears banal. The Native American reservations are filled with casinos. The downtown area is empty except for highly successful 20-somethings, who been placed here temporarily on a work assignment, taking their lunch breaks. There is no vibrancy of permanent culture on the streets.

So I end this post with the determination to find more culture here. I signed up for a photography class. I know that Phoenix is a huge police state (and you can definitely see it on the streets), and I’ve applied to volunteer with women’s shelters and immigration aid programs to make my time here something more than a few months of sunshine. Stay tuned.