Let’s hear it for the return of travel!
If I have learned anything from 2020, it is that I am not in control. In my perfect world, I’d be traveling the world. As would you, probably. But here we are, year two of a global pandemic. So, we take what we can get and we don’t get upset. For me, this meant keeping my travels mostly domestic this year. And really, after two years of no travel, it felt so good to be back, even if my passport didn’t get any stamps. Since cities are my favorite I’ll start with this one: Los Angeles.
This trip was a short, two night stay with the primary purpose of visiting my friend Kai. She’s a brilliant friend from grad school and I always enjoy our long talks on everything from speech therapy to diversity to city living to crypto currency. Between her and her husband, I always leave a conversation feeling smarter. They keep me on my toes!
I spent the first morning being shown around her neighborhood, catching up, and petting her cats. We stopped by Frank Lloyd Wright’s glass chapel in Abalone Cove and I awed at the succulent bushes.
While she worked in the afternoon I set out in my own to see Downtown. First stop, the Hollywood sign. I didn’t need to touch it, just see it. Turns out there are some decent views from the Griffith Observatory. The Observatory was closed and it was too hot to enjoy most of the trails, so I just did the touristy thing and took pictures.
From there I headed to Grand Central Market for ice cream, because what is city exploration without dessert?
Across the street I stumbled upon Angel’s Flight Railway, the world’s shortest railway. It looked too fun not to jump on for a lift to the top.
I found a few more skyscrapers and at least one iconic building before heading back to Kai’s for boba on the beach.
We closed out the evening with a sunset walk on the Manhattan Beach boardwalk– beautiful homes and beautiful views.
Day 2 was all about Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while and God bless Kai for agreeing to face that 100* desert with me. But first stop, brunch. If you’re in the area, I do recommend Crossroads Cafe. Delicious!
Now, all I knew about Joshua Tree was the tree part. What I didn’t realize was it also has some famous rock formations.
And that was it. Oh, except that we also did some outlet mall shopping at Desert Hills Premium Outlets and got take out Korean food for dinner. This is why travel is best when you are visiting people, because it provides a variety that tourists cannot capture.
What I liked about this trip:
- Travel is back! I savored the feeling of take off, of stumbling across new things, of being anywhere other than my little routine. Oh the absolute gift it is to travel.
- This was my first city trip in two years. Now, this summer I did tell my friends that, “It’s not that I need concrete, it’s that I need real people connections.” I’ll leave the context for that quote for another post, but after 12 hours in LA I realized, maybe I do need concrete? I mean, mountains and lakes are beautiful, but cities give me a different kind of joy. Probably the same joy you get from mountains and lakes, that I don’t get. I’m not sure. But I think it has to do with 1. people, 2. my lack of nature survival skills, 3. my life experiences, 4. how God made me. All that to say, “Yay! A new city!”
- The East Coast/ West Coast comparison was interesting to me. I think you need to step a toe into each of the major cities and wade around through the Midwest for a bit to get an understanding of the diversity that is America. As a New Yorker, this is an especially interesting topic as there is always a little rivalry between us. So, it was interesting to see what LA is like. (Spoiler: I still think New York is better.)
- Kai time. As you know, when you’ve been friends with someone for almost a decade, it’s a special treat to see them in the place they grew up. So, while travel is coming back and you may be dreaming of all the places to go, I recommend prioritizing friendships. Visit someone. Take them with you. Of all the things we’ve lost in this pandemic, real connection is the one that is probably hurting us the most. It’s up to us to do something about it.
On April 1st, New York ended its travel quarantine requirement, which means I no longer have to quarantine to see my family AND the tourists have returned.
It was a special time without tourists here. I will never forget it.
But it’s very, very nice to have them back. Or, more specifically, it’s very nice that my friends and family can be tourists and visit me. It’s nice that most of the museums and events are opening up again. (Except Broadway. Broadway isn’t open yet.) And it’s very nice that indoor dining is back and outdoor dining is here to stay.
All the niece and nephews came to visit. The selfie game is strong.
Spring this year has felt like hope. It’s been as deliciously warm here and it seems like a thousand trees are in bloom all at once. My social life is starting to balance out and my students have been funnier to me in the last week than they usually are. It feels like there’s hope, and I’m grateful for that.
One of my highlights this month was a staycation in Manhattan over Easter weekend with local friends. I wanted an adventure and I didn’t want to quarantine. Manhattan was just the ticket. We stayed in Chelsea at the Moxy and it was perfect. The rooms were efficient (no closets) but beautiful. And the view was 100% worth it. It’s also conveniently located to great food and short train rides to anywhere you’d like to go.
All in all, my highlight of our staycation was the food. Maman (French cafe), Grace Street Coffee (Korean coffee shop), Koko Wings (Korean fried chicken), and Milk Bar (specializing in cereal milk desserts) are all lasting delicious memories.
Since this is a travel blog I should also mention the museum my sister discovered when she came to visit. The Morgan Library and Museum was the personal library of JP Morgan. It’s a bit over priced, in my opinion, but very, very interesting! And pretty. And not too crowded. So we still liked it.
And that’s how life is going… slowly getting back to normal.
Maybe some day soon I’ll be able to plan a ‘real’ trip somewhere. Until then, Manhattan helps.
These days new topics of conversation are a little hard to come by, especially if you enjoy over-analyzing like I do. With the start of 2021, even more than most years, we have breathed a collective sigh of relief to end the year that can’t be named. Now, most of the people I know have actually had a decent year, myself included, and have grown in some really important ways. But, universally, it’s been tough and we all are holding our breath to see what’s next.
So we’ve begun the topic, “When will life be back to normal?” which is especially hard to answer when I’m not sure what ‘normal’ means anymore. I, like most of you, have been forever changed by 2020, probably in ways that I don’t realize yet. I’m not saying it’s changed me more than some other years, but it’s been a big one.
So I’ve started a list: How I Will Know the Pandemic is Over. (aka- Things I Took For Granted) I think ‘life going back to normal’ is too vague, but I am curious when we will get to stop using the phrase, ‘We are in a pandemic!‘ to explain ourselves.
Here we go!
I Will Know the Pandemic is Over When:
- I can make plans without making sure they are cancelable, refundable, or contingent.
- I can remove the lamp by my desk (who’s sole purpose is to shine on me during zoom meetings).
- I can work out at my local Y (that has been closed since March) without a mask.
- I don’t have to quarantine to visit my family. (I’m sitting in day 5 of said quarantine right now.)
- I don’t have to screen my friends before hanging out with them. What precautions do you take? Who do you see in your daily life? Are you ok with the precautions I take?
- All the things are open and I can make plans to go there without researching if they still exist. Restaurants. Movie theaters. Broadway. Libraries. All the things.
- Hugs and cheek kisses at church. I know, not so common in the Menno world, but cheek kisses are all the rage at my church here in Brooklyn and I do miss being able to greet people properly.
- All my students attend in person, 5 days a week. Currently some of my students attend 5 days a week. I guess that’s progress…
- We don’t have to social distance or wear masks at church. Let’s just say, I’m looking forward to singing, uninhibited, in a crowd. (Like heaven is, you know.)
- I go to places to meet new people. It feels like a long time since I made a new friend.
- WE CAN TRAVEL, OUT OF THE COUNTRY! I’m a big fan of travel returning some day. It’s not too soon to start planning for 2022, right?
- We say ‘remember when…’ and remind ourselves to be grateful for all the things on this list.
When I look back at 2020 I marvel at the history we’ve experienced as a city. Shutdowns, sirens, semi trailer morgues!, curfew, riots, cheering in the streets. New York is fundamentally different and we as a people cannot live outside of that change. It affects us too.
But if I have learned anything in the past year it is that God is in control and He is faithful.
So here’s to 2021. To the hope that this pandemic will end. But more assuredly, here’s to faith that God is big enough for whatever is coming next.
It only seems appropriate that my sister who owns an escape room was the person to bring me a little fall respite from the city. So, this travel hearted girl finally got to do the smallest bit of travel this year.
It was Columbus day weekend and fall had just begun. I wanted to see some foliage and leave the city while I could, so I persuaded my guests to abandon part of their itinerary for a few days and travel out. New Yorkers talk about going upstate all the time and now I finally get the hype.
We headed north and soon found the green fading into oranges and reds. We headed to West Mountain to ride the ski lift up and hike down. Word to the wise, don’t go 30 minutes before closing, it’s not fun to be rushed. Also, ski trails are rather steep to walk down…. but it was still fun.
Yes, obviously I have the cutest nephew. How would it be any other way?
From there we headed to Lake George for New England town vibes. We didn’t like where we ate, so I have no food recommendations for you, but it was still a visit worthy town.
We spent the night in a castle in Amsterdam, NY, because we could. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I spend money on things I wouldn’t normally because all my trips got canceled. Castle hotel rooms are definitely one of them.
Our destination on day two was John Boyd Thatcher State Park for a short hike and wild foliage views. It has a wide variety of trail lengths and stunning vistas. I highly recommend.
Our drive home included a stop at a local produce stand adjacent an apple orchard. Quintessentially essential, I’d say.
And that was it, my only trip for the entire year that required any amount of travel and exploring. Needless to say, I was thankful it could happen. The day my sister and co. left, Ohio was added back on the quarantine list.
This year has been a lot of ‘take what you can’ but I’d say, even on a good year, upstate New York in the fall is still worth visiting.
This is the fifth and final installment in my Quarantine Chronicles Series. If you’ve missed any, there is still time to catch up!
Yesterday I covered what it was like to live ‘on pause’ in Brooklyn (the governor’s words, not mine) as we came down from the peak. Brooklyn was one thing, but Manhattan was a whole other level, so it gets its own post.
When the pandemic hit, something like 40,000 people fled the island to their summer homes and remote airbnbs. Add that to the removal of college students and tourists from the island, and the city felt totally changed. I had been seeing things on social media about how empty it was. Words like ‘post apocalyptic’ had been tossed around as click bate, so I had to see it for myself. Coincidentally, my first trip into Manhattan ended up being the day my friend was supposed to have her commencement, so we decided to turn it into a graduation photo shoot as well.
First we went to the Flat Iron District. There was one lane traffic on the tunnel into Manhattan and I didn’t have to slow down. I parked next to the Flat Iron Building without having to look for parking. I cannot emphasize enough HOW unusual that is. Especially for a weekend evening in May. Now, oddly enough, it was snowing that day, so our apparel does not match the season.
From there we headed to Times Square. I found free parking, without circling, within a block. Times Square itself was blocked off so we wandered the streets and people congratulated Liebe on graduating.
On our drive home we drove through a neighborhood I’ve frequented, usually crammed by crowds and traffic. Passing it in a full speed drive gave me shivers. The emptiness made everything more accessible, but also served as a reminder that all was not right in the world.
The following week I hit Manhattan again, this time for a social distancing picnic in Central Park and a walk through lower Manhattan with a friend.
Central Park was full, in a very different way. Usually it is a transient place, with tourists and bike carriages crawling through. This time it was for locals. We all spread out on the lawns and picnicked for hours. Birthday parties. Reunions. A few live musicians. We savored it. It felt like the whole city woke up with nothing to do but go and sit on the lawn.
Following my picnic lunch I went to meet up with a friend from grad school. We roamed lower Manhattan and marveled at the emptiness, amused that all the people and statues have masks now.
I drove home across the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m pretty sure views like this are historic. To live in a time when I need to set my cruise control to not get caught speeding on the cameras in NYC is something else.
What I learned from my Manhattan adventures:
- While post apocalyptic is an exaggerated term, Manhattan during this season was NOT normal.
- Since indoor dining is still not happening, it is very hard to find a public bathroom. Such a bother.
- The ‘new normal’ is already here. Newyorkers, like no where I’ve been this summer, have a mutual agreement of social etiquette. When to mask, how to greet, how close to sit on the train. There seems to be a shared idea of how that looks for this city. I don’t know how long masks and social distancing will be mandated, but I suspect it will be around here, in some form, for a long while.
- For this one season, the city was just for locals. I think it’s an important reminder that you should choose well where you live, because you need to be happy if you are stuck there.
We have reached the end of my Quarantine Chronicles Series. Thank you for joining me and making my week more productive. I hope something this week has inspired you- to travel more when you can, to remember the good trips you’ve had, or to be grateful for the ways your summer turned out better than you expected. I think so much of our struggle with COVID is a struggle with the realization that we aren’t in control. In response we often fight to maintain control of the few things that still feel within our grasps. It is very humbling to let go of our plans for the year, even the day, and trust that God is in control, as He promises. Tomorrow I get to break free from my apartment and see how my city has changed in the past 6 weeks. My prayer is that we walk in humility as we navigate this new normal together.