I take great pleasure in helping out people looking for directions or guidance, in so far as I am able.  Here in London, exasperated tourists will approach me with varying  degrees of English competency on the regular, looking for assistance in locating their destination; I am always delighted to point them in the right direction, when I can, drawing maps on a notepad or even walking them partway if I have nowhere important to be.  Even though this is not my home country, this is just good hospitality, and I like to do my best to send folk on their way with a positive impression, just as I rely on fellow Londoners to help me out when I’m in an unfamiliar part of town.  I am a big believer in asking for, and offering, directions.

So this is, as I said, just good hospitality, and ultimately good karma.  It’s not a big city, but it is a busy and twisting one, and we all need a little help from time to time.  I was recently thinking, however, about the people I call Travel Angels.  These are the people you meet in the course of your journey who go far out of their way to assist you, and leave you with a warm feeling in the pit of your belly, the people who replenish your basic faith in humanity, however grand or small the gesture.  These gestures are always poignant, but especially so in a foreign setting when you are wary of your vulnerability.

This is more than essential kindness, and more than giving directions.  These acts require the Angel to take time away from themselves to see you safely to your destination, or extend their welcome to the point of invitation into their own lives.  It’s the person who sees you on your own in an unfamiliar place and invites you to a Lebanese family supper, or offers to drive you 30 miles out of their way (both experiences from my own life).  With that thought, I wanted to detail four instances of Travel Angels and invite you to share your own.



turkish bath classicI just returned from a week in Turkey with the boyfriend, and it was, as expected, fantastic.  We hit the beach, took a cruise, went parasailing, and traveled to Pamukkale (the cotton castle) and the ancient city of Hierapolis, which boasts an amphitheatre from the second century and a natural spring bath.  We visited a carpet factory and watched the creation process of handmade carpets, drank loads of traditional apple tea, and hit the local market and bazaar.  A high point of a great trip, however, was taking a Turkish bath (the Hamam).  I’d heard of Turkish baths plenty of times, but didn’t really understand what one entailed.  Figuring that the best way to find out would be to try it, I signed the two of us up for one the second day of our visit. (more…)


(Quick note:  I originally titled this “What Are Your Internet Go-Tos?” but “Go-Tos” looked so odd I started thinking about go-go dancers and toes, and decided that was too distracting and would detract from the integrity and solemnity of the piece.  So “Internet Mainstays” it is.)

Face it, we’re all internet-addicted now.  None of us can remember exactly what it is we did all day before we had the internet (we have nostalgic notions of public phone booths and cassette tapes, but it’s all kind of vague), and now that we do have it, we’re faced with a significant dilemma.  With only 24 hours in a day, many of which are wasted on things like sleeping, commuting, and “working,” there is only so much “me time” we have alone with our internet.

Now that I have less time in the day to spare than I have in the past, I’ve noticed that my daily visits to certain websites have been curtailed, and that every year or so the cycle will be modified to introduce new daily websites and discard outdated ones.  What I’m talking about is each person’s daily internet ritual, which I’m hoping is no insight into the soul because if it is, I may be a deeply average person and no one likes to think of themselves that way. (more…)

busy cityIn the era of FaceBook and LinkedIn and Classmates and every other site that allows you instant connection to those that would be long-lost to the past in a previous day and age, there is something so magnificent in the shock of a random encounter with a once-familiar face in an unexpected locale.  Imagine, you are walking down the street in a small village in Romania, and you catch a glimpse of someone through a shop window, and the tilt of their head and angle of their shoulders makes you pause.  Some dusty synapse in your brain flickers in recognition, and you walk inside and there they are, a person you’ve not seen nor even thought of for years.  What are the chances?  It’s almost enough to make you believe in fate.

The more distant the location and connection, the more miraculous this meeting seems.  After all, running into an old high school classmate at a restaurant the same weekend as your reunion is a happy bit of coincidence (or a heart-swallowing disaster, depending on the circumstances), but certainly not shocking.  Likewise, flying to Texas from Boston and discovering you’re on the same flight as someone you met at a college party or networking event the previous weekend is amusing, but hardly earth-shaking serendipity.  There’s already some established common ground that increases your likelihood of a meeting with these people who are moving within similar orbits.

I recently ran into someone I had not seen in a long time, and it got me thinking about some of the more amazing meetings I’ve had over the years.  When I thought even more about it, I realized that four of my most extraordinary encounters are actually linked to one person, the Swedish boy I met in France at age 16, who I still self-defeatingly refer to as the Love of My Life.  And as a logical person with some understanding of coincidence and a more-than-moderate dose of skepticism, I still can’t help but want it to mean something.  Here are those four encounters, in order of occurrence: (more…)

home-heartFor Christmas this year, I got to go home for two weeks for the first time in twelve months.  Besides the obvious joy of seeing my family, friends, and pets, it was simply glorious to be back Stateside.  Sunshine!  Mexican food!  Shopping at Target!  Customer service!  Shopping at Target!  A mani/pedi for $20!  Obama-mania!

I essentially took a two-week hiatus from the internet and basked in the pleasure of actual human interaction.  I devoured both homecooked meals and lunches at my favorite restaurants.  I stayed out with friends at our favorite bars to get gleefully sloshed until 2:00 am.  I went shopping for new work clothes to replace my dated and threadbare attire.  I took home clothes that needed hemming and alterations and had them tailored for half the price it would cost in the UK.   I bought a bikini, new bedding, and jars of banana peppers to take back to London with me.  I hit up the used bookstores and purchased enough novels to keep me sated for six months.  And when it was time to leave, I happily paid a $100 baggage charge for my bulging suitcases and left the rest at the house for my generous mother to ship over. 

It was not without its stresses.  Trying to cram in all the visits, errands, and appointments I arranged was a headache, as there simply wasn’t time for it all, especially since I sold my car.  Although I have a loving relationship with my parents, we haven’t lived together under one roof for ten years and while it was mostly wonderful to be with them, there were tense moments when we all reverted back to my teenage years (aka The Dark Time).

It was both too long and not nearly long enough.  Too long in the sense that I became comfortable and spoiled by the reassuring familiarity of home, so that my typical two-week post-vacation depression has been exacerbated into full-on gloominess.  While I spent the first vacation week checking my Blackberry, shuffling client reports, and phoning Saudi Arabia at 8:00 am, panicked at being out of touch, by the second week, I forgot that I had to work for a living at all and returning to the office felt akin to the diagnosis of a terminal illness.  DOOOOOOM.

While my absence from home was not nearly as dramatic or protracted as others I have met (a Chinese client I had who visited his family for the first time in five years, or a Romanian woman I worked with who had not seen her young daughter for seven years), I nonetheless had a bit of a jolt as I adjusted to my return to American soil – call it reverse culture shock.  Here are some of my experiences… (more…)

I’m not going to presume that anyone other than my fellow Buttercups has noticed my non-posting lately, but in case you have noticed I’ll essplain: See, I’m trying to plan my wedding while working 10 hour days, trying to get in shape so I don’t have “bingo arms” in my wedding dress, trying to spend time with my fiance, trying to keep house so I don’t have to live in a Winehouse-level crack sty, all while being leveled with setback after setback. Vendors not showing up for appointments, seriously apocalyptic outdoor temperatures, and a plague being passed around my office due to everyone’s kids going back to the germ-farms that the gov’t tries to pass off as “schools” have all conspired to keep me staggeringly unproductive. But, amid all the chaos there is a solitary ray of light: