Tag Archives: travel

Status Update – Grow Where You’re Planted?

Mar 06, 2017

Me where I belong

Over the weekend, I had an interesting experience. I’ve been watching this amazing documentary series called Chef’s Table on Netflix, where they profile a big-time chef each episode. I was watching the one about Ivan Orkin, a gritty Jewish guy from Brooklyn…who runs a top-class ramen joint and has lived in Japan for 20 years. He talked about how the very first time he landed in Tokyo, he knew in his soul that he had come home.

Dude! That’s exactly how I felt about London! Well, I loved England when I went there in 2010, but when I spent 10 days in London last summer, I knew that London—specifically the Earl’s Court area of Kensington—was where my soul belonged. Something about it just sings to me. I feel completely comfortable there and at peace.

Now with me, I assumed it was because of the known ancestors I have who were from London. I have it in my DNA. But watching this show about Ivan Orkin…he’s Jewish. I don’t think he’s got Japanese ancestors. So to listen to him talking about how much his soul felt like it belonged in Japan really had me thinking.

This looks like a street where I should be spending more time!

What is it that makes us feel as though we belong in a place? Especially when it’s a place that is thousands of miles from where we were born and raised. Is it a DNA thing? Is it a spiritual thing or something that has to do with all of those layers and layers of stuff that I believe exists on some plane other than the physical/natural one for each of us? And have you ever felt as though you belonged in a place that was not where you were?

The other odd part of my weekend experience was that every time I told someone about how I feel about London, like at church, their initial reaction was to laugh. Yep, everyone. Not mean laughter, mind you, but the kind that suggests they think I’m joking or exaggerating. Actually, one woman, after laughing at first, then confessed to me that when she traveled to Europe for the first time, she absolutely loved it and felt as though it was incredibly special.

And that led me to wonder if this sense of displacement, of being born in the wrong place (or maybe the wrong time?) is much more universal than we think. Are we, perhaps, at least some of us, not born where we’re supposed to be? And is it then our life’s work to figure out a way to get ourselves to our true homes or to bring that essence to where we are?

I know there are some people who think exactly the opposite of the way I think. When I was living in Alabama, I had a co-worker/friend who I think was a little incredulous that I had moved down from the North in the first place. She called me out for being a Yankee all the time. And when I announced that I was moving back to Philly, she gave me a parting gift: a plaque painted with the words “Grow where you’re planted.” I found that plaque offensive, actually (though not the giving of it—that was done in good faith).

This is just one of hundreds of pics I took of the architecture of Kensington, my favorite part of London.

Because as long as I can remember, I haven’t felt as though I belonged where I was born. In fact, my love of England and the yearning to go there (and stay) isn’t new. It didn’t suddenly sprout up during that first trip in 2010. I’ve had a fascination with England as long as I can remember. I mean, tiny, tiny Merry used to dream of it. Maybe it was because my grandparents did a lot of traveling when I was young. Or maybe it’s because they had guests come to stay with them from all over the world…. Like my friend Janina, who I remember staying with my grandparents when I was about 8. I thought she was amazing then, and I still think she’s amazing now (and not just because she takes care of my cats when I go away and I take care of hers when she does the same).

Anyhow, it makes me wonder about belonging and nationality and what might be happening with us on all those unseen levels. So do you feel deep in your heart like you belong somewhere else?

Status Update – BIG

Feb 20, 2017

Big-sized stuff!

So! After all the discussion the other day, I stopped in at Costco on my way home from church yesterday, just to check it out. I went in as a guest, not intending to buy anything, just looking at what they have.

Well, two things became apparent to me pretty quickly. I *could* get a Costco membership so that I could get some of the things that, frankly, looked delicious that I can’t get anywhere else. I could get giant slabs of salmon that I could cut up and freeze, and they had some prepared chicken salad that looked good, some great cheeses, a few frozen thingies, and some snackie things. They have all the cleaning products I use, and I could basically buy them once a year and be good. But the more I walked around, the more I thought to myself “I can get these things anywhere.”

The other big thing I noticed—which is something I already know about Americans—is that Americans like things BIG. I mean B-I-G! It wasn’t just the giant shelves filled with emperor-sized bags of chips or tubs of salsa. It wasn’t just the massive TVs (for sale) that greet you when you walk into warehouse stores. It wasn’t even the huge carts people were wheeling around the stores. It was the gigantic trucks I saw in the parking lot. I ended up following one massive, monster truck out of the parking lot and down the road a little…and it had one person in it. Tiny cab, gigantic truck.

Just enough fish & chips (& mushy peas) to satisfy this weary traveler without wasting anything

So what is this fascination Americans have with largeness? Because when I was in London last summer, the “big” thing I noticed was that everything was small. Or rather, everything was to scale. The cars were compact and suitable for city driving (and I should note that even watching British TV, like, chat shows, not dramas, the cars out in the country are small too, unless they’re working farm vehicles). The portions of food at the modest-sized supermarkets were just right for consumption without waste, and same with the portions served at restaurants.

This is not a judgement of any kind, it’s just an observation about what appears to be a national character thing. I’ve always been told, too, for example, that in Paris, people shop for what they’re going to eat that day as opposed to making a trip to the grocery store to stock up for the week or longer. It seems to me to be a different philosophy of need and a different way of viewing what is necessary.

Now, I think part of the American way of thinking must come because in a lot of areas, that once every other week trip to Costco is all you’re going to get, since you live so far out in the middle of nowhere. Europe doesn’t have that many middles of nowhere left. But the Costco I went to yesterday was in suburban Philadelphia. You could drive through no more than two traffic lights in any direction and hit another supermarket. And you have to drive for a while before you hit remote country (although we have a lot of “nearby country” just outside of the suburbs). So the practical aspect of bulk shopping can’t be as important here as, say, having a huge family that eats a lot. But I dunno if that scenario applies to everyone either.

At the end of the day, I’ll be honest and say that the European “less is more” system is more appealing to me. That’s just the way I am. But then, as far back as college, I’ve been told—by Europeans—that I’m more British than most British people, and definitely more British than American. So at the end of the day, I think I’ll skip the bulk store membership and keep making my daily trips out to more local shops.

Status Update – Get Outta Here!

Jan 29, 2017

So I was having a conversation with my friend and fellow writer, Laura L. Stapleton, yesterday about Canada. We’re both massive Canada-lovers, and given the choice, we’d both move to Nova Scotia in a heartbeat. The thing is, I’d move to London in a heartbeat too. Or maybe Hampshire, or France or Ireland or Australia. I haven’t been to those last three yet, but SOON! Yeah, Laura and I were saying that there should be mandatory quotas for traveling abroad. Americans gotta get outta here!

And I know, a lot of people have been ranting that they’re ready to move out of the US these days, but I can assure you that I’ve always wanted to move. I remember daydreaming about running away to England when I was a child. I think I must be part gypsy.

The funny thing is, I am also sort of starting to maybe think about buying an actual house instead of just renting. Although I don’t really like mowing or raking or shoveling or gardening or all of those things you have to do when you have a house. But the idea of having a place of my own is kinda appealing.

As long as I can spend about half of my time traveling abroad. Ha! I don’t know if I’ll ever make up my mind to definitely stay in one place or definitely travel. I think the only solution is to buy a house with an in-law apartment and hire my assistant, Julie, to live there. She says she’s totally on board with that plan, btw.

So here are some of my favorite pics of places outside of the US that I’ve been….

My first trip to England was in 2010. This is the Hampshire countryside, aka Jane Austen country! I loved it!

A couple years ago I went to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. I wish I’d taken more pics of things that weren’t the resort, because Nassau is fascinating place!

And yes, I’m a total nerd who drove to Halifax, Nova Scotia for a vacation in December! What you can’t tell from this pic is that it was 5 degrees. Farenheit! But beautiful!

London! London is my soul’s home. I would live there if I could. This is me and London, taken from The Eye of London. Magnificent!


Why Writers Should Travel

Dec 11, 2013
A view of Halifax and the harbor from The Citadel

A view of Halifax and the harbor from The Citadel

As you may know, a couple of weekends ago I took a long drive from Philadelphia up to Halifax, Nova Scotia. When people asked me why I was going, I invariably shrugged and said “Because it’s there”. But I have to admit, I had a deeper motivation to making that trek. On the one hand, I wanted to see The Citadel, an early Victorian fort perched atop the central hill in the city of Halifax. On the other, I wanted to change my perspective and see what there was to see.

I believe it’s of paramount importance for writers to get out there and see things. It doesn’t matter what we’re writing, be it historical romance or science fiction or crime dramas or horror. There is just so much to see in the world, and getting up from our writing desk and going for a ramble is the best way to begin to digest it. Continue reading

What My DNA Tells Me

Sep 27, 2013
High Street, Winchester. Home of the best pasty EVER!

High Street, Winchester. Home of the best pasty EVER!

Halifax, Nova Scotia. Yeah! That’s where I want to go. It’s got everything I’m looking for. It’s in Canada (and I love Canada – Tim Horton’s and Swiss Chalet!), it’s got something like 900 miles of rocky beach coastline, it’s much more affordable than where I live now, and the weather is warmer than you would think it would be that far north because it’s an island right in the Gulf Stream. (I’m assuming you’d think it was mind-numbingly, snot-freezingly cold, but it’s just cold, which is okay with me). Yep, I’m going to move to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Of course, about this time last year I was all set to pack my bags and move to Winchester, UK. I was there in August of 2010 and felt like I’d gone home. It was a great place. Jane Austen lived there, so I should too! Of course, I’ve also seriously considered moving to Australia. I’ve got a lot of friends down there and the idea of having an entirely different star pattern overhead and summer in December intrigues me. Hmm… Maybe I’ll move to Australia after all.

Okay, Merry, what’s all this talk about moving somewhere? Shouldn’t you grow where you’re planted?

In fact, I’ve had fantasies about moving—or running away—since I was a kid. There’s always been an enormous appeal to me in the idea of changing scenery. I get an enormous amount of satisfaction out of new climates and geography, out of new people and new ways around me. To me, there’s something invigorating about exploring the globe, getting a feel for BEYOND. Wanderlust? Oh yeah! Continue reading