alone in amsterdam

I’ve always loved traveling alone. Hell, I’ve always loved being alone, and I still do.

I don’t know why I love being alone so much. Is it that I learned, while young and insecure, that if I spent time alone, nobody would be around to judge me? Or is it that I will always be a control freak at heart, and I don’t have to cater to anyone else’s desires about what to do if it’s just me? Well, yes.

But I’m also a big, fat introvert.

I lived alone for 10 years before moving in with Peter. 10 years of bliss. 10 years of eating, drinking, watching, listening to, and doing whatever I wanted. Cleaning when I wanted (which was basically never). Decorating how I wanted. Having a drunken one-woman dance party in a candlelit living room whenever I wanted. Also, annoying my friends because I would “never come out” to the bars, or wherever, just because hanging out at home alone sounded so much better. And that had everything to do with me, and nothing to do with them – but that’s another post I’m working on, inspired by this incredible book.





 

I went to Amsterdam recently for a conference, and decided to spend the entire week, since Atlassian has an office as well as a corporate apartment there. I went by myself, and interacted with coworkers during the day but spent my evenings alone. I wandered around endlessly, walking over 30 miles in the six days I was there. I visited restaurants, bars, frites shacks, beer shops, gardens, houseboats, and cafes (not coffee shops). I had many people walk up to me and start speaking Dutch, only to have to interrupt them and exclaim “American, sorry!” I sat outside at bistros watching boats go by on canals, bought expensive cheese sandwiches, and took photos of the locals. I got to know bartenders, and told them all about the food and cocktail scene in San Francisco.

I had a fucking blast. And when it got too dark to be out tipsy and alone, I went back to the apartment and binge-watched House of Cards on Netflix via super-fast corporate apartment wi-fi.

See? Alone is awesome.




 

But the day before I was due to fly home – which was also the only full weekend day I had to myself – I started to get bummed out. Homesick. “What the hell is this?” I thought to myself. I wandered around Europe by myself for three weeks, once. I’ve camped by myself. I LIVED ALONE FOR 10 YEARS AND LOVED EVERY FREAKING SECOND OF IT. But I found myself missing my house, my dog, and of course, my guy.

My first theory was this: The joy of solitude is starting to fade with age. And if that’s true, then… well, shit. so my new theory is that the joy of solitude isn’t fading, it’s just being encroached on, bit by bit, by other, equally important aspects of my life: attachments to loved ones, and the life I’ve built for myself.

This is actually a great argument in favor of the theory that attachments cause suffering. I was having a blast in Amsterdam, and that joy was dulled by a sadness caused by attachments. I don’t deny that. In fact, in a way, I embrace it, because it means I’m doing something right in my life. I have an incredible partner, home, and life to return to (when I’m done meandering around gorgeous European cities by myself, that is).


big sur

God, this blog is neglected. I’m sorry, blog. (I’d say “I’m sorry, readers,” but I don’t think I have any. Which is totally fine by me).

Here’s the thing: Peter keeps telling me that to grow my strengths and career as a writer, I need to be writing more in my off time. As a creative outlet. And he’s totally right – I know he is – I just have a history of “burning out,” and I’m afraid of that happening with writing. I cycled hundreds and hundreds of miles for Team in Training several summers ago, and have barely been back on the bike since. When I first got into yoga, I went three or four times a week, then injured myself. It took me over a year to get back into it.

Burning out on yoga or cycling sucks, but burning out on writing would be significantly worse, considering I do it for a living. Maybe I just need to be careful. Dip my little toes, so to speak. So here’s a few words about our trip to Big Sur last week, along with some photos I took.

 

We visited Treebones Resort, which lies about an hour further south in Big Sur than we’d ever wandered before. We’ve been to several campgrounds and music venues in the more busy, populated area of Big Sur – which I now keep wanting to refer to as “downtown” Big Sur, but I’m probably the only one – but it was worth the trek. We stayed in a yurt, and basically spent the entire time eating, drinking, and reading. That’s not too different than how I typically spend a weekend at home, but whatever. The place has a sushi restaurant on-site, which is amazing.

 

I’d also been wanting to get back into shooting, and I knew this trip would provide a lot of subject matter. I hadn’t done much with the camera in several months, but hopefully this is the beginning of a shift in that respect. I was teaching myself some more advanced Lightroom skills this weekend, and while researching the workflows of photographers I admire, I discovered some nifty “film emulations” by VSCO. I’d never heard of such a thing, but they seem to give my photos the look that I’ve been trying to, well, emulate for a long time now. So I’m pretty excited.


Click each photo to view its larger size(s), or check out the entire album.

goodbye, little house

Little house, I’ve lived in you for over five years. But tomorrow, I’m going away to live with the boy I love.

You took good care of me. Much better care than I took of you, I’m sure. Within your walls I’ve read a hundred books, cried a thousand tears, drank probably as many bottles of wine, and eaten countless meals – mostly good, but some bad. Here, I learned to cultivate my own ingredients. I formed what are probably my greatest, most valuable lifelong habits: Growing my own food, and cooking it.

Here I limped home after my first-ever yoga class, and repeated the process hundreds of times over. On many summer nights I’ve rolled up to your red brick steps on my bike, arriving joyfully through a haze of perhaps one too many beers with friends at the Rose and Crown. Or wine at Gravity. Or who knows what, at who knows whose house.

Here I lived a proper single girl’s life, sharing my bed with a few who probably weren’t worthy, and one who certainly was. Here I lived when my father died. When my grandfather died. When the painful end of a painful years-long relationship finally came, long (LONG) overdue. You comforted me through all this, and more.

You were home to Bowie, too. A special, death-defying cat with the loving personality of a borderline violent schizophrenic who I adore anyway, and am dragging along with me on my journey, whether he likes it or not (he doesn’t like it).

My new home is bigger and newer than you. The windows don’t operate on ropes, and there’s no 1920′s charm to speak of. Never again will I feel the whole house jolt when the washer switches cycles, or the pipes burst open at the command of the sprinkler timer. My mother isn’t down the street, and my best friends aren’t a hop, skip, or jump away.

But it’s where my chickens live. It’s where Zoe the dog lives. It’s where love lives.

So here I go. I’ll miss you, but I won’t mourn you. You helped me grow, learn, and live, and I can only hope that your next roommates will appreciate you as much as I do. I’m so grateful that I’m not sure how I can repay you. Since you’re a house.

Goodbye. <3

aurelius via stienbeck

“Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the universe loves nothing so much as to change things which are and to make new things like them. For everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be.”

free verse #1

He came home every day smelling like an American,
of engine oil, cigarettes, and domestic lager,
and called me a name that wasn’t mine,
but made me feel more like myself than anything.

He had a face like the weather.
Grey and impassive if all was calm,
radiant and adoring if you were lucky,
and menacing as an approaching funnel cloud if you weren’t.

His expressions were blue-eyed harbingers
often tinged with reddened vessels,
that revealed the intensity of his emotions,
but seldom the emotion behind his intensity.

Four years gone, and the only time the tears come
is when I’m caught by a vivid recollection
of the way he smiled with his entire face.
I’ve been told I do it too.