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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My Love Affair with Seattle

In the words of Elf (Will Ferrell), “I’m in love! I’m in love! And I don’t care who knows it!”

My love affair with Seattle started with Day One of being here, homeless and couch surfing, and has only grown since. Some things that surprised me about this city, and soon after fed my desire to live here forever:

1. It’s much bigger than I realized, and it’s still growing massively. People often talk about Seattle in comparison to Portland – “Which is better?” The problem is that it’s like comparing apples to oranges. Because clearly Seattle is better. It holds a lot of the same values – people here respect the environment, have a general appreciation for the outdoors, gather in large gay/trans communities, and are welcoming of anything thought to be weird. But Seattle, in my opinion, resembles Portland in no way. In fact, given the recent rise in the tech community that actually threatens a lot of the artsy culture in neighborhoods like Fremont and Capitol Hill, a better comparison to make would be – Which is better, Seattle or San Francisco? If you’re looking to be able to afford where you live for the time being (costs are only going to rise here), Seattle is definitely better.

Street Harassment Seattle

2. Cat calls are nonexistent. Okay, I shouldn’t say this, because street harassment is everywhere. I experienced it in Phoenix, in Austin, and yes (gasp!) even in Burlington (actually, a lot there). But let me tell you about my first experience of a “cat call” in Seattle.

It was my second day, and I was walking around the neighborhood of Madrona, just trying to get a feel for whether or not I wanted to live there. Further up the sidewalk, I see two very large black men, and we lock eyes. The man closest to me looks me up and down, and I know what’s coming. We get closer, I am just about to avert my eyes when I see the man opening his mouth to speak to me. And he says, “I love the pattern on your pants.” I grin ear to ear. Because these pants were only a day old, and point blank the pattern on them was amazing. Thanks for the appreciation, stranger. I officially loved it here.

Seattle 206 area code

3. Food and business here are local and no one is bragging about it. I know that it shouldn’t bother me when restaurants and businesses brag about being local, but it does. After a while of being in Burlington, the hype wore off and I felt that restaurants and businesses that had 3 signs on every wall stating that they were locally made, locally grown, locally sourced, etc. were doing so to brag to tourists, not the people who actually live there. And good, because people should know, and Burlington should be proud. But I personally admire that Seattle knows what it is and doesn’t yell about it, because nothing is more annoying to me than a place or person wearing a cause as a badge (making it about them) instead of just supporting it for the sake of contributing to goodness in the world.

Seattle Proposed Land Use Action

4. Seattle gives a lot of shits about the trees. Not just the trees, but any natural land in general. Fun Fact: Whenever any natural area is going to be altered in any way, the city requires that the person or business altering that area post a “Notice of Proposed Land Use Action” for 60 days, inviting comments. So if the tree outside of your apartment building is going to be cut down, you will see a sign near or on it for 60 days and you may comment “I like this tree! I love it’s windy branches! I think it adds beauty to the neighborhood! This is where I had my first kiss and I don’t want it to go!” (Etc.) Isn’t that just… wonderful?!

The Seattle Freeze

5. Forget the Seattle freeze, I’ve made more friends here than anywhere else yet. I will admit that Austin is the overall friendliest place I’ve been so far. You’re more likely to strike up a conversation with the grocer or neighbor or whoever in Austin. But for young people, if you put yourself out there, meeting people here is easy and fun! There are many free events to attend (such as the weekly FREE WeWork happy hour open to the public that landed me my first friend and office space as a freelancer), and in that way it also remind me of Austin. So far in my stay here, I have enjoyed Restaurant Week, Beer Week, and soon, Made in Seattle Week!

In this way, the free/discounted events and festivals, as well as the rising tech community, remind me of Austin, while the environmental awareness and emphasis on remaining local remind me of Burlington. But Seattle is so much bigger, closer to the size of San Francisco. So, in all, if you were to mesh Austin, Burlington, and San Fran together, I think you’d find the beautiful child of wonder that is Seattle. And to me, nothing could be better.