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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Between love and lost

If you’ve been following the Chronicles for the last three weeks you’ll know that I’ve been posting a free chapter a week for four weeks as part of an ongoing promotional campaign for my book  Any Color but Beige.

Over the last year, readership and subscriptions have increased dramatically. And I hope that by giving my new readers a preview of the book I can entice them to buy it, read it, and recommend it to their friends.

The book is closely linked to my career as an international color marketing expert, so I structured the book according to my life’s personal color spectrum. The four colorful sections that make up the book are Primary Colors, Color Blind, True Colors, and Exotic Colors.

Exotic Colors is this week’s section, from which I selected the chapter called Chapter 24 It deals with heartbreak and healing. And it was from this painful experience that my book Any Color but Beige came to be. My editor likes to say the best stories break your heart. And she’s right.

photo: © istockphoto.com/VladLo

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What a way to spend the afternoon

I don’t nap. It’s not a habit I’ve been able to acquire, despite all of the health-related benefits. No siestas, snoozes, catnaps, nor forty winks. For me, it has always been a long day’s journey into night.

This trip has been one of many firsts. First, I found out that I was that kind of girl. And I’ve said “I told you so: not once but twice. And now, I have to confess that, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Joburg visiting friends, I fell asleep for an hour and fifteen minutes in the noonday sun. And I felt the better for it.

It’s spring in S. Africa and still a bit chilly but my southeast facing bedroom was all warm and cozy from the sun. So I found a sunny spot on my bed, fluffed my pillows, and grabbed a book. A light breeze played hide and seek with the curtains. The water gurgled in the little fountain just outside my window. It was a spring day as it was meant to be − happy.

I thought, this is how a lioness must feel at the end of a long, hard week of fetching and carrying – a soft spot under a Syringa tree far from the maddening crowd – her intent also the same as mine, to renew herself, body and soul, and carve out a bit of alone time, in my case, with a good book.

I wondered, if she were human, what would she would be reading – The Life of Pi, Charlotte’s Web or maybe The Tiniest Tiger?

I opened my book of poetry and chanced upon Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 27” and read the first two lines :

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;

That’s me, I thought, before sleep stole upon me and lightly brushed her hand upon my half closed eyelids.

Upon waking, book still in hand, I finished it.

But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expir’d:
For then my thoughts—from far where I abide—
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself no quiet find.

However, unlike Shakespeare, I did myself some quiet find in that unexpected nap. And I spent the rest of afternoon just like that lioness lazing about under the South African sun.

photo: © istockphoto.com/pai toon

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Rooftop Garden in Instanbul

Rooftop Garden in Istanbul

There are also sorts of words associated with magic – incantations, spells – call them what you will — said in an effort to produce a desired outcome.

“Open says me” or is it “Open sesame”? As a kid I was never really sure. In any case it always worked for Aladdin.

There’s also the well-known “abracadabra” and the tried and true, “presto change-o”. Or the two words most popular words in any language, “I wish.”

I have my own set of magic words that I meditate upon when faced with a particularly onerous task, a tough negotiation or a difficult period in my life. It’s a short-term solution for a short-term problem but in saying it, it buys me a moment of calm so that I can think clearly and carry on.

Allow me to give you an example. After three weeks on the road I had settled for a short period of time in Istanbul where I could finally unpack a few things rather than rummage through my suitcase in search of the ever-missing mate to a pair of knee-highs.

I had come from the increasingly cold climate of Europe to sunny Turkey for a trade show, Paints Istanbul. I was staying at an airport hotel near the Exhibition Center but far enough outside Istanbul to make it too tiring to trek into the city for dinner and a change of scenery. However, the hotel had a lovely outdoor terrace located on a quiet and well-manicured mezzanine rooftop. I was often the only one there, and if it hadn’t been for the roar of jet engines from the airport or the call to prayer by the mullah at a nearby Mosque, it could have been my own little English cottage garden – if I had one.

That rooftop garden quickly became a refuge I was reluctant to leave. On my last afternoon, as I enjoyed a lovely lunch, I kept glancing at my watch. In two hours, I thought, I will be battling a crush of people at the airport, queuing up for passport control, queuing up again for security, and then beginning the countdown for the three-hour flight back to Germany where I would repeat the process of passport control and security in preparation for the ten-hour economy flight from Frankfurt to S. Africa.

I didn’t want to go. “What if,” I thought? What if I stayed? What if I found a little job in a nearby resort – shades of Shirley Valentine. But I dropped that line of thinking immediately. Like a good lawyer, I never like to ask a question, I don’t already know the answer to. And, sometimes what you want and what you have to do don’t always align.

Instead, I did what I always do to get me through a difficult or unpleasant situation. I looked at my watch, which read 2:00 p.m. and pushed the thought of air travel out of my mind in favor of time travel. I projected myself, or tried to see myself, in the future and said the three little words that get me through most of life’s little travails: “This time tomorrow…” and pictured a completed task, a lovely place, or hard feelings forgotten.

I know that by meditating on these words: this time tomorrow, or next week or next year means that whatever difficulties lie in front of me will eventually be behind me. They will magically disappear, like all things, with the passage of time.

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Pick a color, any color!

Yes, I think there is. Paint Industry Research has confirmed what we, as consumers, already knew. We are overwhelmed by too many color choices.

We always think we want choice, and yet when presented with a myriad of options we either can’t make a choice and walk away with nothing or we make a choice and berate ourselves all the way home thinking we made the wrong choice – the wrong color, the wrong bedspread, the wrong dress, the wrong man.

I recently experienced this phenomena myself while at a trade show in Istanbul. Having finished my sales calls I found myself with enough time on my hands to make a quick trip into the city. My customers made all kinds of wonderful recommendations, and I ended up visiting the Blue Mosque, the Haggia Sofia and the Grand Bazaar.

I explained to one colleague that I was a little reluctant to visit the Grand Bazaar because I had been there before and had found it an exhausting and exhaustive place to shop. With so much to see, my senses had been overwhelmed and I’d even gotten lost in its maze of passageways when a crush of people moved me in a direction I’d no intention of taking.

Sensing my angst, my colleague asked me what I liked. I told her scarves so she wrote down the name of a shop that specialized in beautiful scarves.

It’s called Bedesten, and it’s located in the old part of the Grand Bazaar. The shop is like a large walk-in closet with floor to ceiling cubbyholes of every kind of scarf in every color and texture imaginable. As I turned around slowly I felt like I was in a life-size Kaleidoscope. I felt dizzy from the effect of all of the color and giddy with anticipation.

The young proprietor walked me through the types of scarfs on offer – from expensive and sumptuous silk to pashmina, wool and, of course, cheaper synthetics. After I had a glass of customary (apple) tea (the Turkish people are the epitome of hospitality) the selling process began. The proprietor pulled scarf after scarf off the shelf and draped them across the Middle Eastern-style coffee table.

“Stop! Stop!” I put up my hands.

He gave me a puzzled look – didn’t I like the scarves?

Like the scarves! I told him I loved them, but if he continued in this manner, it would be impossible for me to choose a single scarf. I told him that we would have to limit the choices; otherwise I was afraid I would leave empty handed.

He did, and I decided to buy five scarves – one for myself, and four more as gifts – that were all a combination of silk and pashmina, I asked him to show me just two scarves in color families that I knew would be complimentary to my friends and me. Faced with a choice of only two scarves in blue, green, purple, red and orange, I found it easy to pick the perfect ones.

After a bit of bargaining we fixed a price and I went away happy, having acquired a beautiful selection of scarves and first-hand knowledge that corroborated what research tells us – sometimes there is such a thing as too much color.

photo: © istockphoto.com/PaulVinten

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Anyone who has ever stared down a blank page and blinked first knows how devastating writer’s block can be. I’ve read several articles

on the causes of it, but the best reason I’ve heard to date is actually the simplest to cure – the cause of writer’s block is a lack of fresh ideas, and the best source of new ideas that I know of is travel.

My favorite place to stay in Trieste

You don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth either to be inspired. A jaunt across town to a new neighborhood is just as inspiring as jetting off to Japan, and a lot more economical for those of us on a budget.

Let’s take a look at all of the potential ways local and long distance travel can inspire us.

First and foremost, it’s all about the place. First impressions can be quite powerful when you’re visiting a place for the very first time. For frequent travelers like me, who have been so many places, the challenge is to see a familiar place with fresh eyes. Armed with a seek-and-you-shall-find attitude, I’m always amazed at how many new things I can discover.

The most fascinating thing to write about is people and the cast of characters that make up the place you’re visiting. You can write about their physical appearances, perhaps so very different from your own. You can capture their mannerisms and customs, or you can dig a little deeper and find the commonalities. One of my favorite things to do is recreate conversations with the colloquialisms of unconstrained everyday conversation. It makes us feel like we’re eavesdropping.

Another thing you can do is take us on a tour of some of your favorite places and tell us why they’re your favorites. For example I’m a WWII history buff, and on almost every visit I make to London, I always go to the British War Museum. I become a time traveler. I can feel the sense of urgency, the life and death struggle of nations as the fate of democracy hangs in the balance.

Why not make up stories about your favorite places. I’m often fascinated as I walk the winding back streets and alleyways of old cities like Venice or Barcelona for example. I try to imagine the everyday life of the inhabitants of these ancient dwellings. What happens behind closed shutters, on bougainvillea-covered balconies or in local shops? I look at the laundry hanging on the balconies and try to guess, from the articles of clothing, who lives in that household. What they do for a living?

If it’s a gondolier, does he sing because he is happy? Is it a bank president having an affair with his secretary behind his wife’s back? Or is he madly in love with his wife and rushes home each night to plant a kiss on the back of her neck? Are the children bored with their over stimulated digital lives? Do they still play outdoors? Is a woman sick and dying behind shuttered window? Does she still have a burden of regret weighing heavily on her soul, pinning her to this earth like an insect in one of those shadow boxes. What was the regret and what could she have done differently?

Local culture, cuisine and customs also yield a rich harvest of stories, observations and ideas. Engage all your senses: taste, touch, hear, see and smell what the place and its people have to offer. Participate. Go out of your comfort zone and learn something new, something indigenous to the place. Mush a dog sled in Alaska, dance Flamenco in Barcelona or dive the Great Barrier Reef. Or be a tourist in your own city.

And, finally, never leave the house or hotel without a notepad and pen because Inspiration can strike at any time, curing your writer’s block in an instant.

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But that doesn’t mean I’ve run out of travel destinations.  Look for posts from the road in January from the UK, Germany, Italy and Las Vegas. And although Vegas may not be its own country like the others, it is somewhat of a wonderland.  My goal is one post for every passport stamp.

If you want to suggest headlines for each destination or travel in general, I’d be happy to have a go at creating a post around it.  Just leave me a comment.  In the meantime, here’s a little something to inspire you.

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. Henry Miller

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I often find myself in new places for business and because I’m in and out of a city quite quickly, I don’t always have much time to spare. However, when I do get some downtime, whether I’m traveling for work or pleasure, I always do a bit of research before I set out to explore. I like to arrive in a place that I know a little something about, and I’m not talking about its tourist attractions. I’m talking about its soul, its character(s) and its culture.

There’s nothing more thrilling than the flash of recognition you get when you see or visit a place that has some significance  because you’ve read about it in a novel or seen it in a movie. There is a familiarity that arises from knowing a place’s “back story”. If you have that, you’re no longer visiting a stranger; you’re visiting a friend.

Let me give you a few examples of books and movies that can help you learn the back-story of specific places as well things you can do when you get there to enhance your experience.

Books

Barcelona – The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlo Ruiz Zafón. The novel includes hand drawn maps that trace the characters’ steps through plot twists and turns so you can follow in their footsteps.

India – A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth. This sweeping epic does a great job of breaking down the early formative politics of the country. Reading it will give you a better appreciation and understanding of today’s India.

Montreal – Forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs sets many of her thrillers in Montreal. I sometimes half expect to bump into her character, Temperance Brennan in one of the many settings she describes.

Movies

Rome – Roman Holiday. Follow Audrey Hepburn as she hops on the back of a Vespa with Gregory Peck to see the sights in Rome. Fall in love with both the city and the guy.

Paris / France – French Kiss. Follow Megan Ryan and Kevin Kline from Paris and Province to the Cote d’Azur in this delightful little comedy.

New York – When Harry Met Sally. For me this is the best way to live vicariously in New York.

Having read a book or seen a movie about a place gives significance to the sights in the places you visit. It makes the experience that much richer. But you can also enhance your experience once you are there.

Here are five fun things you can do.

1)    Take a class in a “native” subject. Take tango lessons in Buenos Aires, cooking classes in Bologna and an Ikebana class in Tokyo.

My attempt at Ikebana

2)    Attend a cultural event. Attend the local symphony, a dance performance or a concert given by local talent in a club or a restaurant.

3)    Take a tour. It’s a quick way to get an overview of a place, after which you can pick and choose your favorite spots to go back to and savor on your own.

4)    Treat yourself. Travel can be stressful process at the best of times: standing in long check-in lines, losing your luggage or just getting oriented. Book a massage, facial, or a wash and blow dry at a local hair salon. It lends an air of “normalcy” to a place, and it makes you feel better no matter what situation you’re facing.

5)    Sample the local cuisine. Always make it a point to try one local dish, whether it’s pizza in Naples, poutine in Montreal or antelope in Africa.

Finally as a way to relive the experience once you return home, bring back a music CD of an artist or group that you heard while visiting a place. If the music isn’t live, but piped in through a sound system in restaurant or played on the radio in a taxi, go ahead and ask the waiter or taxi driver about the singer or group. They are happy to tell you about the music to promote their country’s talent.

Once home, you can become an armchair traveler and let the music transport you back in time and place to experience those magical moments again and again.

What the teacher did

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