1. Walt Whitman: A Song of the Open Road

    I used to read poetry. And since Maya Angelou’s passing have both started thinking about why I stopped as well as what to read next. Naturally, with my recent world adventures, I have been thinking a lot about exploration both personally and of the world around us.

    And so this morning, this brings me to a classic - by American poet, Walt Whitman.

    Song of the Open Road

    Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
    Healthy, free, the world before me,
    The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

    Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
    Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
    Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
    Strong and content I travel the open road.

    The earth, that is sufficient,
    I do not want the constellations any nearer,
    I know they are very well where they are,
    I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

    (Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
    I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
    I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
    I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)

    You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here,
    I believe that much unseen is also here.

    Here the profound lesson of reception, nor preference nor denial,
    The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas’d, the illiterate person, are not denied;
    The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar’s tramp, the drunkard’s stagger, the laughing party of mechanics,
    The escaped youth, the rich person’s carriage, the fop, the eloping couple,

    The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the town, the return back from the town,
    They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be interdicted,
    None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me.

    You air that serves me with breath to speak!
    You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape!
    You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
    You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
    I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.

    You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges!
    You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!

    You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d façades! you roofs!
    You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!
    You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much!
    You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
    You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings!
    From all that has touch’d you I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me,
    From the living and the dead you have peopled your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me.

    The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
    The picture alive, every part in its best light,
    The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
    The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of the road.

    O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
    Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
    Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied, adhere to me?

    O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
    You express me better than I can express myself,
    You shall be more to me than my poem.

    I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all free poems also,
    I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
    I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me,
    I think whoever I see must be happy.

    From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
    Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
    Listening to others, considering well what they say,
    Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
    Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
    I inhale great draughts of space,
    The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

    I am larger, better than I thought,
    I did not know I held so much goodness.

    All seems beautiful to me,
    I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me I would do the same to you,
    I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
    I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
    I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
    Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
    Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.

    Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear it would not amaze me,
    Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear’d it would not astonish me.

    Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
    It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.

    Here a great personal deed has room,
    (Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,
    Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law and mocks all authority and all argument against it.)

    Here is the test of wisdom,
    Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
    Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not having it,
    Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
    Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content,
    Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things;
    Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the soul.

    Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
    They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing currents.

    Here is realization,
    Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in him,
    The past, the future, majesty, love—if they are vacant of you, you are vacant of them.

    Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
    Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
    Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for you and me?

    Here is adhesiveness, it is not previously fashion’d, it is apropos;
    Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by strangers?
    Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?

    Here is the efflux of the soul,
    The efflux of the soul comes from within through embower’d gates, ever provoking questions,
    These yearnings why are they? these thoughts in the darkness why are they?
    Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the sunlight expands my blood?
    Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?
    Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
    (I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always drop fruit as I pass;)
    What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
    What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his side?
    What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the shore as I walk by and pause?
    What gives me to be free to a woman’s and man’s good-will? what gives them to be free to mine?

    The efflux of the soul is happiness, here is happiness,
    I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times,
    Now it flows unto us, we are rightly charged.

    Here rises the fluid and attaching character,
    The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and sweetness of man and woman,
    (The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and sweeter every day out of the roots of themselves, than it sprouts fresh and sweet continually out of itself.)

    Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the sweat of the love of young and old,
    From it falls distill’d the charm that mocks beauty and attainments,
    Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.

    Allons! whoever you are come travel with me!
    Traveling with me you find what never tires.

    The earth never tires,
    The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,
    Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d,
    I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

    Allons! we must not stop here,
    However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here,
    However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters we must not anchor here,
    However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while.

    Allons! the inducements shall be greater,
    We will sail pathless and wild seas,
    We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.

    Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements,
    Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;
    Allons! from all formules!
    From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic priests.

    The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the burial waits no longer.

    Allons! yet take warning!
    He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance,
    None may come to the trial till he or she bring courage and health,
    Come not here if you have already spent the best of yourself,
    Only those may come who come in sweet and determin’d bodies,
    No diseas’d person, no rum-drinker or venereal taint is permitted here.

    (I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes, rhymes,
    We convince by our presence.)

    Listen! I will be honest with you,
    I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes,
    These are the days that must happen to you:
    You shall not heap up what is call’d riches,
    You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve,
    You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d, you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart,
    You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you,
    What beckonings of love you receive you shall only answer with passionate kisses of parting,
    You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach’d hands toward you.

    Allons! after the great Companions, and to belong to them!
    They too are on the road—they are the swift and majestic men—they are the greatest women,
    Enjoyers of calms of seas and storms of seas,
    Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of land,
    Habituès of many distant countries, habituès of far-distant dwellings,
    Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, solitary toilers,
    Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells of the shore,
    Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender helpers of children, bearers of children,
    Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lowerers-down of coffins,
    Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years, the curious years each emerging from that which preceded it,
    Journeyers as with companions, namely their own diverse phases,
    Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
    Journeyers gayly with their own youth, journeyers with their bearded and well-grain’d manhood,
    Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass’d, content,
    Journeyers with their own sublime old age of manhood or womanhood,
    Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the universe,
    Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom of death.

    Allons! to that which is endless as it was beginningless,
    To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
    To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights they tend to,
    Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys,
    To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it,
    To conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it and pass it,
    To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you, however long but it stretches and waits for you,
    To see no being, not God’s or any, but you also go thither,
    To see no possession but you may possess it, enjoying all without labor or purchase, abstracting the feast yet not abstracting one particle of it,
    To take the best of the farmer’s farm and the rich man’s elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-married couple, and the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens,
    To take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass through,
    To carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go,
    To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them, to gather the love out of their hearts,
    To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you,
    To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.

    All parts away for the progress of souls,
    All religion, all solid things, arts, governments—all that was or is apparent upon this globe or any globe, falls into niches and corners before the procession of souls along the grand roads of the universe.

    Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand roads of the universe, all other progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.

    Forever alive, forever forward,
    Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble, dissatisfied,
    Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men,
    They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know not where they go,
    But I know that they go toward the best—toward something great.

    Whoever you are, come forth! or man or woman come forth!
    You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, though you built it, or though it has been built for you.

    Out of the dark confinement! out from behind the screen!
    It is useless to protest, I know all and expose it.

    Behold through you as bad as the rest,
    Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of people,
    Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash’d and trimm’d faces,
    Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.

    No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the confession,
    Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and hiding it goes,
    Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities, polite and bland in the parlors,
    In the cars of railroads, in steamboats, in the public assembly,
    Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in the bedroom, everywhere,
    Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright, death under the breast-bones, hell under the skull-bones,
    Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons and artificial flowers,
    Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable of itself,
    Speaking of any thing else but never of itself.

    Allons! through struggles and wars!
    The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.

    Have the past struggles succeeded?
    What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? Nature?
    Now understand me well—it is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.

    My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion,
    He going with me must go well arm’d,
    He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry enemies, desertions.

    Allons! the road is before us!
    It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!

    Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
    Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
    Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
    Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

    Camerado, I give you my hand!
    I give you my love more precious than money,
    I give you myself before preaching or law;
    Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
    Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

  2. Pretty Great Weekend:

    Our first weekend back in LA! On Friday night, I had drinks with an old coworker and good friend at a new spot that opened up in Playa called Grain. Part of a new bar/restaurant called Playa Provisions, Grain is a whiskey/bourbon bar. Pretty awesome.

    On Saturday, Paul and I were up bright and early to get to Crossfit. I haven’t been in literally months, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Definitely NOT my best workout, but I was happy I remembered how to do everything! Hanging power cleans, box jumps and lots of push-ups - I am hurting today!

    After Crossfit, we made our way to Venice for brunch at Superba Snack Bar. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while and have heard nothing but great things. I recently went to Superba Food and Bread - a new dinner spot. Brunch at Superba Snack Bar was amazing. I forgot how much I love the energy of Venice. So many people out and about, families, couples, people bike riding, going to the beach, going to yoga - on a beautiful summer day. The photo here is of my brunch which was a potato waffle with cheese sauce, Proscuitto, a poached egg and rosemary. It was out of this world tasty - and savory.

    After brunch, we went home and hung out for a while, caught some World Cup soccer and then we were off to watch a movie in the park courtesy of Eat See Hear, a company that hosts movies in the park every summer. We went to see one of our favorites - Christmas Vacation. We brought some food and our beach chairs and watched one of our faves under the stars.

    Sunday, we slowly made our way out of bed, which wasn’t easy, given how sore we both were and drove up to Toluca Lake for more World Cup soccer and to stuff our faces at a friends place. A good friend of mine is starting a food business (wahoo!) and we went to eat some of his grub and show some support.

    All in all a wonderful first weekend back!


  3. Reverse Culture Shock (aka. The Vacation Hangover)

    According to everything I’ve read online, reverse culture shock generally happens when people are away for long periods of time; like volunteering abroad, study abroad, work transfer, etc. but according to Forbes, ‘after the new, challenging, and enriching experiences you’ve had abroad, learning how to re-adjust to your home country may take a surprising amount of practice and time.’ 

    Although we were only gone for 2 weeks, I think that going to Japan, Thailand and Singapore was about as radically different as you can possibly get from our typical American life. While we’ve seen quite a bit of Europe, it is still in many ways, very Westernized. Most places are fairly over-run with tourists, even small islands in Greece and most are accustomed to American cultures.

    Of everywhere I’ve ever visited, yes there were cultural differences, but truthfully and unfortunately - most met many predominating stereotypes (even Americans we met abroad)- and when they did not, we found locals to be friendly, welcoming and kind. 

    So for a little context into my brain dump - 

    I have lived in Los Angeles for over 8 years. In this time, we have essentially downgraded our “city” lifestyle. Yes, LA is a city - but it’s essentially 20+ suburbs spread over 400 square miles. It doesn’t feel like a non-stop, pulsating, alive city - you can pick and choose the ambiance  you want and choose to follow it or ignore it. We live by the beach - where a “disturbance” is someone who has their music up too loud - or the neighbors pot coming in the window… someone leaving their flipflops outside our house.  In other words, life is 80-90% mellow— with any stressors really self inflicted or as a result of work. Life is quite good.

    Traveling to Asia was eye opening. Tokyo reminded me of like if New York and London had a baby and then that baby drank 10 cups of coffee and operated on hyperdrive. You could FEEL the energy of Tokyo. It was palpable. This was both exciting and exhausting. I loved, LOVED how efficient everything was, how neighborhoods were literally vibrating with energy. It was incredible to see how different a lot of the neighborhoods were from each other as well - Shinjuku versus Ebisu - central Tokyo versus the outskirts and residential neighborhoods. This was put into even starker contrast when we visited Kamakura, an hour outside of Tokyo. 

    From Tokyo, it was like we pumped the breaks, but didn’t completely put our foot to the floor. Koh Samui - at least our resort - felt like an oasis in the center of a tourist calamity of chaos. It was literally so quiet you could hear the wind in the palm trees, and close your eyes and just sense things around you - the sound of footsteps in the grass, sun on your skin, yourself floating in water - OR leaving the resort - seeing entire families riding on a single moped - cars playing chicken (accidentally) to pass each other on the road. The smells of Koh Samui - ranging from hot seafood, rotten garbage, durian (which smells like garbage), tailpipe exhaust, to fresh mountain air… 

    I say all of this to give context to the incredible contrasts we experienced and how odd it is to come back to “normalcy.” I am not complaining by any means, but these stark contrasts fascinated me. I was both intrigued and beguiled by these contradictions - in every place we visited. 

    Sitting here now, writing this on our quiet patio in the sunlight - feels comfortable, but odd. Once I finish writing, what do I do? I’m avoiding television, trying to stay off my phone…. shall I write? Read? I feel restless and ready for more action. 

    The most glaring and obvious takeaway from traveling - both good and bad - is that it changes you. It challenges you to see the world (your world) differently. And while this is what I love - it is also what I struggle with upon returning. That feeling of - being ready to go again - feeling uncomfortable in the stillness of the now - barreling through thoughts. 

  4. Photos from our day of diving in Koh Samui! 

  5. Last day of our trip and last night in Singapore! 

    Time goes by way, way, way too fast. Everyone told me that by the end of the trip, I would be exhausted and ready to go home - and I definitely was after a 20+ hour travel day - but I have to say, I could have easily returned to Tokyo for another week of exploration (and more sushi). But alas, it was time to celebrate our trip as a whole - with our friends Ben + Laura. 

    We met for drinks at Ku de Ta on the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel + Casino. Everyone says it’s the must do, must see in Singapore - with full 360 degree views all around an open air sky deck. On the 52nd floor we overlooked all of Singapore. It was an unreal end to the day. One of the things I noticed throughout our travels in Asia, was that you have these huge, stark juxtapositions and contradictions throughout the culture and Singapore seems to be even more pronounced than other places.

    We would ride the trains and see signs for how you are to behave on the train, lists of things you could be fined for - dirty streets (which I was surprised by), somewhat poor-ish neighborhoods, much more modest and meager - and then this behemoth - the Marina Bay Sands a billion dollar pillar (or pillars) in the Bay. 

    it was astounding to see truly how much money must have been poured into this hotel and into the development of that area overall. Everything was shiny and new - the Convention Center, the parks and the sparkling Marina Bay Sands. We stayed for a drink each - literally S$25 (insane) and then made our way around the bay first for oysters at an oyster bar (yummm) and then for dinner at ME @ OUE - a truly phenomenal dining experience, definitely a top 5 for Paul and I! 

    The restaurant features 3 different chefs/cooking styles: Chinese, French and Japanese; and has 3 different menus, one in each style. Of course, after a week of pad thai, curry, and other heavy foods - all I wanted was sushi. A belly full of champagne and toro and I was a happy lady. 

    We loved having another dinner experience with Ben and Laura and loved having another adventure, making more memories. 

    After dinner, we were off to drinks and dancing at a rooftop bar just a short walk from dinner. We danced our faces off, laughed and made new friends under the light of the Singapore skyline. Since our flight was so early - 5:30am, the original plan was just to stay awake the entire time and go straight to the airport at 3am… that kind of worked. We were smashed by about 2:30 and it was time to go home. Quick naps, YouTube videos, pacing and trying to stay awake and we were off to the airport to begin the first leg of our trip through Tokyo and then finally back to LA. 

    I am writing this now as I am attempting to stay awake until 8pm, having effectively stayed up all night on the flight. The flights weren’t too bad - 6 hours and then another 9 hours - but definitely will be saving our nickels for the next Tokyo flight where I would like to fly Business or Economy Plus for a little more space as it did get a bit tight on the 9 hour flight back. 

    I watched about 4 full movies and napped a bit - but now that we’re home, we’re catching up on TV, writing and trying to stay up so we can dive back into the work week next week. All in all, an absolutely amazing trip - and now we know we have great travel buddies in Ben + Laura and can start planning future adventures when they return from Singapore.