Of all the ways to relax in the cultures around the world, Japan’s tradition of the onsen (温泉, hot spring bath) might be my favorite.
As such a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of hot springs. Where there’s a hot spring, there’s probably an onsen, and they come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and types. True, all onsen share a few aspects: individual shower stalls around the walls of the room, and one giant central, communal bath. Most all are marked by the kanji 湯, the hiragana character ゆ, the symbol ♨, or a combination of the three. Beyond that, there are dozens of varieties. Continue reading Navigating the Waters of Japan’s Onsen Tradition→
Homecoming. It’s something that so many of us look forward to, especially when we’ve been away for an extended period of time. But how do we come home to a place that has inevitably changed while we were gone? How do we come home when we’re no longer the person we were when we left?
I came home to Pittsburgh for two weeks this year after having been away for 512 days. And it wasn’t until I threw myself in the arms of my best friend at the airport, relieved sobs wracking my body, that I realized just how much that time, both in terms of the number of actual days and the magnitude of the separation, had affected me. For some people, a year and a half away may be nothing. I thought I was like that. My tears proved me wrong. Continue reading How to Come Home→
When I wrote “What If I’ve Hit My Peak?” for Matador, I know that I stepped on some toes because some people thought it was ridiculous to have such a fear at the age of 23. And maybe it is completely ridiculous. That essay got reposted on a site called Business Insider, and when a commenter told me about it, I couldn’t help but wander on over to check it out. Then I made the mistake of reading through some of the comments.
A few of them empathized with me; most of them lambasted me as a spoiled, rich white girl who had never worked a day in her life and was therefore depending on Mum and Dad to foot the bill. Some said that I was a loner, without any friends, and didn’t make connections to any places I’d been. Others raised the point that I’m selfish and should be helping others instead of myself. As I’m never one to back down when somebody assumes something incorrectly about me, I felt the need to provide some clarification. Continue reading Some Clarification (Or: Please Stop Assuming I’m a Trust Fund Baby)→
As I write this, I am sitting at Gate 41 in Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport, and it is all I can do to keep from vibrating out of my skin in excitement. In a few hours, I’ll board a plane bound for Washington, DC via Chicago. It will be the first time I’ve been home in almost a year and a half, and though my emotions are bordering on ecstasy because of the reunions that are just over the horizon, a good portion of my happiness comes from the fact that I’m in an airport at all.
See, airports are my happy place. I’m in love with them. I’m the woman who shows up at least three hours before her flight – international or domestic, it doesn’t matter – just to spend a bit of extra time in the terminal. I could spend the entire day there and wouldn’t get bored once. Continue reading Airports Are My Happy Place→
When I published my post What a Life of Travel Does to You, an editor from Matador, an online travel magazine, got in touch with me about possibly writing some travel essays for them. This piece was born out of that, and I’m pretty proud to see my writing appear on a site dedicated exclusively to my greatest love. A slightly shorter version also appears here on Matador.
A life of travel is a good thing to have. But once you start off on it, there’s no looking back. What traveling does do to you is work its way inside of you, changing you completely as it finds a seat deep within you. It’s a parasite with a greedily voracious appetite. That bastard is hungry. Once the travel bug bites, you’re afflicted for life. Once the wanderlust hits, your feet never stop being restless. Continue reading What a Life of Travel Does to You→
“Home is where the heart is.” Well, yeah, no kidding, we’ve had that sentiment hammered into our heads from our childhoods. It’s stared at us from those kitschy needlepoint pillows at our grandmothers’ houses and been sung to us in many a country song chorus. And as grounding, stabilizing, and reassuring as home can be, it’s also a pretty fragile concept. Continue reading How Do We Know Where Home Is?→