personal

I’m Back!

HE, San Sebastian

…from both my Spain trip and my brief time unplugging!

My family and I squeezed in a ton, during our vacation! I’m still wowed at all we were able to do. We hiked mountains, explored cities, walked throughВ vineyards, and ateВ countless pintxos.

We started our 11-day northern Spain trip in and around Bilbao. Then we headed west to the Picos de Europa, then southeast to the La Rioja wine region. We finished up in San Sebastian—a city that’s pretty much my idea of a perfect place. (Where the above photo was taken.)

Most importantly, I’m glad I hadВ that time with four of my favorite people: my mom, stepdad, Mal and Peter.

I’m excited to share photos and highlights over the next several posts.В And I’m looking forward to evolving this space!

Like I mentioned in my last post, I’d fallen into the blogger trap of feeling pressured to post more frequently. As a result, I hadn’tВ been spending enough time on the posts I most enjoyed writing: longer pieces about places I’ve visited, meals I’ve eaten, thoughts on stories I’ve read. I’m planning on sharing moreВ of that kind of content with accompanying original photography—as I learn to use the DSLR I recently acquired! (So bear with me on that!)

I will, of course, still share photos and art projects that I’ve stumbled upon and enjoyed. But those will hopefully make up a smaller portion of my posts.

If you don’t already, please sign up to get my post notifications by email, via the box in the right rail. Or, follow me on Twitter.

I’m happy to launch intoВ this new evolution of NYC Expeditionist! Thanks for joining meВ on the journey. рџ™‚

The Desire to Unplug

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Last week, I read an awesome, thought-provoking Outside piece by David Roberts. He’s a longtime Grist blogger, which means that he—like most of us—spends a crazy amount of time in front of a screen: blogging, tweeting, reading, etc. As he put it:

My mind was perpetually in the state that researcher and technology writer Linda Stone termed continuous partial attention. I was never completely where I was, never entirely doing what I was doing. I always had one eye on the virtual world. Every bit of conversation was a potential tweet, every sunset a potential Instagram.

For one year, though, he took an unpaid sabbatical from his job and just unplugged. No work e-mail, no social media, no daily news cycles. His journey from over-connected to disconnected is fascinating; read the whole thingВ here.

I’m quite envious of Roberts’ year off the grid. I estimate that I spend about 10-11 hours in front of a screen per day. (I work a full time digital job and, of course, post here, in my spare time.) I try to limit my screen time whenever possible—taking walks during lunch, reading paperbacks instead of ebooks while commuting—but it’s hard! I do love writing, blogging and seeing/reading other peoples’ works online. Plus, my livelihood requires it.

I can feel the effects of being so plugged in, though. My neck and shoulders are always stiff. I often feel dazed and slightly headachy when I step away from my computer, at the end of the day.

There’s no doubt in my mind that’s why I value ballet and traveling so much. Ballet is one of the few times in a day when I can completely unplug and be in the moment. It certainly helps that we dance to live music. And you really can’t dance if your mind is more on your to-do list than on ballet combinations.

It’s the same with travel. When I’m outside of NYC, I check my email as little as possible. I just enjoy the experience of being in a different place with its own sights, sounds and smells. Sure, I take photos and note down things I want to remember. (Or post on this blog.) But it’s just so liberating to be away from 11 hour days in front of a computer. I can actually feel myself relax and slow down during that time.

…as you can imagine, I am counting the days until my trip to Spain.

Do you often feel the need to unplug, too?

(Image via Pinterest)

Maybe It’s Time I Learned to Drive?

Road Trip

This morning, I came across an NYT article that I completely related to: being a non-driving New Yorker during the summer.

As the article details, sure, it’s fine to not drive for most of the year. It’s a pain to have a car, especially in Manhattan. But during the warm months, when all you want to do is escape every weekend to the beach or the mountains, you kind of wish you could drive there yourself:

No surprise, then, that this is the season when some nondrivers begin to wonder whether their aversion to life behind the wheel is enough to outweigh the anxiety it can occasion.

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned it here, but I don’t drive. I have a license, but that doesn’t mean anything. When I took driver’s ed (14 years ago!) they just prepared us for the road test: meandering around quiet side streets below 25 miles per hour. That hardly constitutes driving. And since you can’t get licensed in NYC until you’re 17, I got mine, then, a few weeks later, left for college in Boston, where I also didn’t need a car.

As a result, I was never a proficient driver. My spatial awareness was non-existent—I could never tell how wide or long my car was. I was terrified to go fast. And change lanes. And drive at night. And go over bridges and through tunnels. And drive next to trucks or concrete barriers.

I made a few attempts to drive more frequently, while living in Boston after college. But I still sighed with relief upon moving back to NYC, knowing I’d be perfectly fine never driving again.

Until the last few summers. As my beach and weekend trips became more frequent, I wished I could take over, once in a while, to give my sister, Peter or Evan a break from driving me to Long Island, the shore, or whatever the destination. I started wishing I could drive myself to the beach on the weekend—windows down, cheesy music on full blast—instead of schelpping for hours on crowded, noisy trains.

At this point, it’s been about eight years since I’ve driven. But I’m getting to the point where I want to feel comfortable behind the wheel. I even found Citi Driving School, on the Upper West Side, that has lessons specifically for nervous drivers. It focuses on all the things I’m scared of: driving at night, on highways, bridges and tunnels.

I’m planning on taking it sometime. Maybe next year, to be ready for summer 2015.

Are there any other non-drivers/late drivers out there? What made/will make you finally get behind the wheel?

(Image via Pinterest; please let me know if you know the original source. Also, follow me on Pinterest here!)

So Ready for a Ballet Weekend!

everywhere we go

It’s ballet season in NYC, and I’m lucky to be seeing two shows this weekend. Tonight, I’ll be watching Misty Copeland make her NYC debut as Swanilda in ABT’s Coppelia. I’m especially excited, because it’s the first time I’ll be seeing a black female dancer in a principal role. (For more of my thoughts on diversity and ballet, please see yesterday’s post.)

Tomorrow, I’ll be seeing NYCB. The program includes Balanchine’sВ Walpurgisnacht Ballet and The Four Temperaments, as well as Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go. Very exciting!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, as well. Until next week, some links I’ve enjoyed from around the web:

More from Misty Copeland:В Please don’t call ballet “cute.”

A glimpse inside the School of American Ballet. (Those teens work incredibly hard—and are really, really talented!)

There is a Maryland crab shack in Brooklyn! You know how much I love blue crabs. рџ™‚

Useful and cool: An absurdly comprehensive map of every passenger rail service in the Northeast U.S.В Helpful for non-drivers, like me, who are always looking for quick getaways!

An awesome city-living solution: This unit really maximizes 200 square feet!

Great read: China is building their middle- and long-distance running program by training their runners in Kenya with a renowned Italian coach.

(Image of Everywhere We Go, byВ Karl Jensen, via NYCB)

Diversity and Ballet

pointe

I was very happy when I saw the cover of Pointe magazine’s June/July issue. It’s about time that talented ballerinas of color—ABT’s Misty Copeland, Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Ashley Murphy and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s Ebony Williams—get some time in the spotlight!

Pointe‘s current issue tackles the lack of diversity in ballet. For this, I applaud them. I have a hard time being critical of the art that brings me so much joy, both as a dancer and a spectator. But I do think ballet’s lack of diversity is a real problem, and one that needs to be addressed.

I touched upon this issue before, in my post about Dance Theatre of Harlem. I still find it hard to believe that now, in 2014, there are no black principal female dancers at any of the country’s major ballet companies—and very few Asians, Hispanics, Indians or other minorities in the upper ranks. Though I’m way past the age of pursuing ballet as a career, I feel a bit disheartened when I sit through entire ballet programs without seeing a single dancer who looks like me. So I can only imagine how talented, young, minority dancers must feel when they try to decide if they could ever succeed in the ballet world.

In addition, the lack of diversity makes ballet seem like it’s stuck in a bygone era.

Pointe‘s three cover ladies discuss the difficulties they faced, as up-and-coming ballet dancers of color. Murphy noted that one of the reasons she never considered ballet, as a career, is that while growing up, she never saw ballerinas who looked like her. Williams recounts an incident when she was a scholarship student at Boston Ballet: A dance mom pulled her aside, told her she was paying for her to be there and was undeserving of the roles she received. And Copeland describes the isolation she felt being one of the few black ballet dancers at ABT. (It should be noted that Alicia Graf Mack wrote the cover story. She, herself, is a classically trained ballet dancer who was turned down by both ABT and NYCB. She dances with Ailey, and continues to be a standout among a company of fantastic dancers.)

The magazine also has a timeline of diversity in ballet. (There are very few milestones.) A longer piece addresses what companies are doing to become more diverse. ABT’s new Project PliГ©, for example, grants scholarships to talented dancers, teachers and arts administrators of color; works with other ballet companies on outreach; and has a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to identify minority children with ballet potential.

It’s a start. Hopefully we’ll see some changes soon.

(Image via Pointe)

Why I Stay in NYC

Traffic on 42nd Street with setting sun

At the end of last week, I came across an interesting question from WNYC: Why do you stay in NYC?

As they put it:

In one of the first episodes of our new show,В Death, Sex & Money, we talked to aВ freelance documentary producer whoВ came to New York in the 80s, but isВ now finding herself priced out, feeling broke and tired. And if you read the comments left by our listeners, you’ll find that many people can relate.

A recentВ Gallup pollВ found that 41 percent of New York residents would move to a different state if they could, and 16 percent are planning to move in the next 12 months. Do you want to leave? If not, why do you stay?

It’s definitely a thought-provoking question—and one I’ve actually asked myself, recently.

As a native New Yorker, I always believed that I’d live in the city forever. Most likely, in Manhattan.

But during the past few years, many dear friends have left the city—including my best friend, who departed to London, with no plans of returning.

For most of my twenties, I was fine living on what felt like the edge of poverty. (My Washington Heights studio eating up more than half a month’s take-home pay? No problem!) But lately I’ve been wondering whether it might be nice to have a larger—much larger—place one day. With outdoor space and multiple rooms and ample areas for entertaining. (Sure, some of those exist in the city, but they’re likely out of my price range!)

And there have been occasions when I returned home from a trip and felt like my wanderlust hadn’t been satiated. Each time, I thought about how easy it would be to just put my stuff in storage and travel for months—no kids, spouse, mortgage or car to worry about. But each time, I stayed.

I don’t regret it, at all. Because when it comes down to it, it’s really been no contest, for me. I have many reasons that make NYC the place where I want to be, more than anywhere else, right now. Among the stronger:

The food. That sounds cliche, I know. But when your cravings come from all over the world, it’s nice to know that you can find a place that cooks that cuisine authentically and affordably. (In the past few days, alone, I’ve eaten Filipino, Bolivian, Colombian, Sichuanese, Jamaican…)

Ballet. Sure, you can dance anywhere in the world. But I’d argue that in NYC, we have some of the best teachers and accompanists, and can take their classes every day of the week. Plus, I’ve worked really hard to get back into ballet shape after several years off. I really didn’t want all that work to go to waste, again. Plus, many of the top ballet companies make their way through the city, and it’s awesome to have access to theirВ performances.

The 24-hour lifestyle. When I lived in Boston, right out of college, I hated that the bars closed at 2 a.m. Now, a decade later, I don’t go out drinking that late. But I really do appreciate being ableВ to grab the subway or a good meal at any hour.

My parents, who also live in Manhattan.

meme and e at the met

These two, who live just north of the city.

mal and peter

This dude—who was also born and raised in the boroughs, and has all his loved ones there.

heather and evan

Knowing that I’ll always have opportunities to see my good friends who don’t live in the city—because at some point, everyone has a reason to come to NYC.

That’s what’s keeping me here, now. But as more friends get married, have kids and buy houses—real houses with lots of rooms and outdoor space!—outside the city, I’m wondering if any of those factors will outweigh those above.

(Top photo from Getty Images, via Pinterest)

End-of-Year Trip Booked: London

london

For weeks—months, actually—I’d been debating whether I could squeeze in a London trip before the end of the year. It’s an expensive flight for a relatively short distance. And I’d only have a few days there.

Finally, I decided to go for it. I caved and booked a flight to London, a week and a half before Christmas. The pros were just too strong:

  • I’ll get to see my best friend, Reen—whom I haven’t seen in nearly a year, since she moved to London! That, alone, is reason enough.В 
  • I’ll get to experience the city as a local.В On my previous trip to London, I hit up all the must-dos: Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the Globe Theatre, the Tate, the V&A, the Portrait Gallery, Harrod’s—and dozens more. Now that I’ve already seen those places, I’m interested in having Reen take me to her favorite haunts: cute restaurants, local pubs, favorite markets and the like.
  • Even though I hate winter, I love the idea of London at Christmas time.В I’m picturing the streets adorned with pretty lights and decorations. And we’re planning to see the Royal Ballet perform the Nutcracker. Of course. 😉
  • I wanted to pre-empt my post-vacation blues.В As I’ve learned, I tend to get pretty bummed after a great trip—and the best cure is to book another one! I knew I’d be blue coming back from spring in Buenos Aires to winter in NYC. I figured that booking another getaway would be an investment in my sanity.
  • YOLO.В Seriously. And embarrassingly, I actually did think this as I typed in my credit card information for my ridiculously pricey flight to London. I’m halfway through my first year in my 30s, and I’ve felt like I’ve reached that tipping point where everyone around me seems to be settling down and getting married and having kids. And while I still plan to do all those things, myself, I’m not anywhere close, at the moment. And I figure I should take advantage of this time to live it up.

…even though “living it up” also means that I’m being super-careful with money so I can pay off my two trips. (Hello, homemade huevos rancheros for dinner, every night! Not happening: shopping for cute fall sweaters.) But I’m already thrilled with my decision. Instead of being down about the end of summer, I feel nothing but excitement for the fall and winter.

(Photo via Pinterest)