Rishikesh for one week was first on purpose. Initially it was planned as an exorcism of sorts; I had felt the insensitive West harden my heart over the past year. Soul slightly shrivelled. Rishikesh is medicine for the spirit.
Yoga and kismet connections with fellow seekers. Yoga and self realisation. Yoga and holding ourselves accountable. People and what responsibilities we have to each other, people and what responsibilities we have to ourselves. Wisdom lives in the air and it will find you if that is your intention.
Wonderful and unexplainable people and occurrences coated in obvious divinity surrounded my experience. The divine drives all, and in Rishikesh we all believe. The energy will work with you.
I left extremely grateful and honestly dumbfounded. Everything that happened was right and meaningful. The path is unfolding in the most beautiful way.
Nothing was certain other than an ultimate demise in a sedentary routine lifestyle, so I left to chase the unknown. This is my second time in India. I’m alone, but I shouldn’t be afraid- the engulfing dread upon arrival was confusing. I’d been obsessively planning this trip for months. Hearing the sanskrit chants in my head, smelling the rose temple incense and dreaming of freedom. But freedom, however delicious once attained comes at a cost.
I sweat him out like heroin that night. Sleeping, awake, lucid, half there the memories came in waves of habits and small actions we shared together. This little life we had built, a life we knew wasn’t permanent yet somehow we invested in to no return. In a far-away Faridabad hotel room I tossed and turned and cried and ate minibar pringles and watched Fast and Furious because it was the only english thing on. I felt it all, everything I’d known was coming for months now. “Accept pain” they say, sages gurus sadhus and your eastern-leaning friend, they all say. accept the pain, it’s impermanent, it will pass as all transient illusions of this world are apt to do.
I sweat on the ride to Delhi from Faridabad. Sweat on the bus to the mountains. Arrived to Rishikesh as monsoon rains poured down and somehow still sweat, still carried the pain of his loss; of a life left behind like excess baggage that I could barely lift.
Shortly after sunrise, jet lag still active I stumbled into the mild light of monsoon-clouded himalayas. Gangaji roared with the previous evening’s rainfall, deafening the airwaves. Everything was still. Everything was perfect, as it was meant to be it seemed in that moment. The mountains took me in and he was gone, my old life was gone. I watched the water sweep it away, just like that. A new life was free to grow.
Slow fashion shopping preferences oftentimes feels like a dietary restriction when travelling. Something specific, and something that somehow seems more “pure” in a way. No gluten, no dairy? No mass market synthetic trends (probably) made from sweatshop labor?
Depending upon the location, research can be arduous and quite often inconclusive. I'd rather not shop at all if my only options are supporting the sick system of pollution and exploitation that is fast fashion - but even if nothing is purchased, I was set on researching Europe's growing sustainable fashion community.
Textiles at the Turkish market in Kreuzberg
After one too many assaults of cold shoulder synthetic ruffly everything in Warsaw while walking in and out of shops along the main road near my hostel, I was a little disappointed. I’m in EUROPE, why are the stores exactly the same as the ones in NYC? Same poly viscose soft woven elasticated neckline bag dresses of questionable origins that I’ve seen all up and down 5th avenue at every price point. Where’s the cool stuff, the artsy stuff- had I expected too much? The stuff that comes with the story of its own unique style, its maker? Upon my arrival in Berlin I scoured the internet to find ethical shopping research opportunities- and to my absolute delight there were more than I had time for!
"Who made my FABRIC?" is an absolutely wonderful question that we don't hear enough when discussing change in the industry. Siebenblau Organic Fabrics has answered this to some extent (unfortunately they don't ship to the US!). I had a LOT of fun poking around through their selection. I mean, a fabric shop composed of ENTIRELY ethical textiles! It's like someone on a plant-based diet at a fully vegan restaurant- you can have anything there instead of picking through the selection to find the few bits that are available to you.
In my NYC experience, buying "sustainable" fashion from a boutiques usually comes along with a hefty price tag. Smaller local designers will sell affordable pieces at weekend markets, but those aren't always on a regular basis. If I absolutely need to shop at home I'll usually go for vintage thrift- in my personal opinion thats the most "sustainable" option anyway. Why purchase virgin materials when we already have an abundance?
As Berlin's fashion industry overall seems more evolved than New York's and there are multiple locations entirely dedicated to sustainable and ethical fashion choices,
"Art is not merely an imitation of the reality of nature, but in truth a metaphysical supplement to the reality of nature, placed alongside thereof for its conquest." - Friedrich Nietzsche
I fell for Berlin the moment I stepped outside the airport and breathed her energy.
Kreuzberg's Turkish market- a mixture of various cultures with fresh produce, fabric, snacks and live music. It's absolutely dreamy, if you're ever in Berlin please go and experience!
Art was everywhere. Skilfully applied, cheeky and thought-provoking public art.
***PERSONAL FAVORITE, A+ BERLIN***
I'm not sure what I was expecting to experience in Poland. An iinner identity renaissance catalysed by the motherland? Some spiritual epiphany amongst the catholicism run rampant? Or just a beer-and-pierogie-fueled joyride?
Eastern Poland is cold and still haunted by communism. Ravaged and mangled Marxist energies hang over Warsaw in the form of boxy buildings and a general suspicious contempt for foreigners. Forward movement is attempted in the fresh coats of brightly coloured paint over what was once abysmally grey architecture, and the commercial storefronts prominently displaying various international goods that were previously banned and found only in black markets.
There’s something to be said for self discovery, but how far back in heritage can a person claim? At what point do we sons and daughters of immigrant’s past become American only? Even if we actively pursue our heritage, is it accurate to hold the identity?
A Polish-American in Poland: Warsaw Old Town
A few years back outside a bar on Stanton street in NYC’s lower east side, a fully accented Polish person we dubbed Underage Kevin due to his age-related rejection from said bar, laughed with condescension when I told him that I am Polish too. “You’re American” he said, seeming offended but in retrospect- nonverbal “offense” to an American is simply Polish indifference. Cultural intricacies that I, as an American, are not privy to. Pierogies and a love for dill on everything can’t make a person fully Polish, not even a Polish mom and doting a Polish babcha grandmother who taught me to tie a babushka when I was eight.
My babcha, Anna Barbaryka Maceyko
“Let’s have a Polish lunch” Grandma'd say from her small and colourfully decorated Pennsylvania kitchen, beckoning to my brother and I. Sourdough bread, various hard cheeses and cold lunchmeat (primarily pork-based) were placed around the polished oakwood table. We’d say a short grace the Catholic way and dig in. On Sundays, pierogies at the church after mass. At Christmas dinner, our then-massive extended family ate ham with potatoes then passed around the oplatki with honey. Walnuts were cracked for the new year’s good fortune and baskets were blessed every year for Easter. We grew up pretty Polish for an American family in Pittsburgh.
It wasn’t enough for mom though. She’s 2nd generation and afraid her heritage might fall victim to the alluring “americana”- the same fate suffered by our father’s Euro-Slavic roots. He claims they’ve been here since the Mayflower, and related to John Adams on his mother’s side. Is this true, who can be sure? We don’t know much about the immigration origins of our paternal lineage.
Desperate to keep our heritage alive my mother took me, aged 9 at the time to the Old Country. We visited our family’s potato and bee farm three hours from the capital city Warsaw close to the Belarus border. We took trains around the country, seeing museums and mountains and salt mines and little streets with little colourful houses. We ate potato pancakes with forest mushrooms and cabbage pierogies with cheese. We learned some Polish, although my mother’s Spanish fluency proved helpful on multiple occasions throughout our journey. We flew LOT Polish airways because the prices were reasonable then. Our family was sweet and kind and I'll always remember our time there as some sort of magical alternative reality.
20 years later still full of love for Poland and my childhood experience there, I’ve returned on my own as rather American adult. I'm tagging along with our cousin Ursula who grew up on that farm outside of Warsaw, and has lived in USA with my parents for years. She’s been such an important link to our culture and was especially patient while watching us kids as we were growing up. Now I've come along as an adult for the journey home.
Family bee farm, three hours from Warsaw near the Belarus border
I heard someone say “cheerio”- it’s a thing. It was not, however, prefaced with “pip-pip” which is potentially a verbal relic of British past- possibly akin to “the bee’s knees!” among other strange old sayings that no one even thinks about anymore. Or- equally as likely-“pip pip cheerio” was never a thing and we made it up. Either way, when I found out I could have a long layover in London on my way to Poland - I wanted to say that phrase loudly and happily. London is cool, I’ve never been, I want to see it. So when the flight attendant said “cheerio” to the captain as we left the airplane at LHR, I giggled. like really loudly. and after fielding about ten thousand questions at customs regarding my intentions for the little layover, I hopped on the heathrow express and popped out at Paddington square.
The Paddington station is beautiful
I'm ashamed to say I fudged my own research- straddling google searches with personal recommendations from friends and forgetting to find the in between. Heathrow Express IS the fastest way to town, and Buckingham Palace/Westminster Abbey ARE "in town" but they're not walkable from Paddington if you have a time constraint. So I hailed a black cab/ stood outside of Paddington and it just pulled up mostly.
Did you know that all cabbies in London have to pass a super rigorous test to drive the black cars? It's called "The Knowledge". This guy here told me all about it (maybe a little too much). But damn London. Putting us NYC yellows to shame with your mad skills.
Except only kind of, because my return driver. An old "proper type" Englishman-with no provocation whatsoever brought up and proceeded to profusely praise the current US president- using nearly the exact campaign verbiage. It was bizarre and maybe a little funny, hearing in his dignified old Queen's English say the words "I like President Trump, he's not a politician- he tells it like it is. He's doing what he can to make American great again". Like, in a British accent! Maybe his usual American clients are older finance types on business trips so that's his icebreaker? Maybe he wants London to "be great again" and he voted for brexit and wants the world to be white, eat potatoes and all the time? I don't know. Shortly after the strange silence left in the wake of that word-by-word worst campaign slogan ever repetition, his next topic of interest was vodka and how Russians are crazy for drinking it with water. Fine, I mean, I like vodka.
Buckingham, Palace is stunning. Translating this visually via photography, man, I tried from all the angles and distances but it wasn't happening. Was it the overcast weather, or my new camera I'm still learning to use? Or maybe it was just too damn crowded, and the place is just SO large that you have to back really far away to get it all. Regardless, I enjoyed my brief visit.
Buckingham Palace to Big Ben to Westminster Abbey, it was a nice little layover walk with some of the big London attractions
Amazing, amazing architecture all throughout the Westminster area. I want to see more of London someday, the energy was fantastic!
and, sideline shoutout to British Airways for this little family in their safety video:
and with that, we were on our way to Warsaw
Lately life has been just how I like it- jam packed with educational activity and an eclectic mix of friends along for the ride. The bone chilling cold has ceased and everyone wants a taste of the newly no-longer-lethal air outside.
****currently in Europe, very excited to adjust this post with images and the most awesome quotes from smart badass do-gooder entrepreneurs when I get back!***
Directly following "best possible price" on my flight booking priority list is 'a long layover literally anywhere' (passport/visa permitting). 8-10 or more hours is preferable, and is only worthwhile if you land in the morning- I 100% never recommend wandering at night alone anywhere if you're not very familiar with the location (and most attractions will be closed anyway)
Sometimes there is a choice. Fly Emirates, you get Dubai. Fly Turkish Airlines, you get Istanbul. And China Southern? You get Guangzhou.
En route to and from Bangkok, we had 7 and 10 hour layovers in China. For a proper stay China is definitely on the "someday" list, but not immediately so, and probably not Guangzhou (Shanghai, please). That's the beauty of long layovers- sometimes you can get a great deal with a little bonus location you never would have thought to go otherwise. And China is just so cool- I've never seen so many LED lights in one place.
Beijing road, a popular shopping destination in the Danan District of Guangzhou. Probably the brightest lights I've seen in one place, and I live in new york city.
When staying somewhere for a while, like most regular travellers I love to explore "off the beaten path" locations but with layovers I find I get the most out of the big attractions- whatever Trip Advisor lists. Monuments, temples, restaurants or other well known locale types suit your fancy. A sure plan to make that rush to and from the airport worthwhile with highly rated, low-risk confirmed locations. Usually these things are found in popular areas of town, and therefore easier and quicker to reach.
Monks exiting the Bright Filial Piety Buddhist Temple after a chanting service. It was beautiful.
After the doors closed, we continued on our well-planned walk. A good walking route between attractions offers enough random chance to satiate wanderlust, while ensuring you remain on schedule with a smooth return to the airport in time.
So many of these little stores simultaneously sell buddha sculptures, various jewellery and what appear to be nuts and dry legumes in large tubs (lower left corner here). Pretty similar to the shops in NYC Chinatown actually.
Huaisheng Mosque was our next planned location, one of the oldest mosques in the world built 1,300 years ago. I love beautiful religious buildings, especially old ones. The energy is electric; intense with the essence of hopeful prayers and meditations forever fused to sacred spaces.
In addition to Beijing road, there is a Shanghai street in Guangzhou. All commercial - clothes and cell phones mostly- with just enough satisfying side streets and fusion food galore. This area is a short train ride from the airport; a safe use of our small 7 hours. We just walked up and down, taking it all in before our departure to Thailand.
A quick 7-11 stop, new favourite thing:
This weekend we went to a farm an hour away into New Jersey for apple picking, fresh air and sanity.
I wonder what it would be like, to wake up to this every day instead of pavement. What that could mean for both physical health and spirituality.
We grew up around this. I wonder if I don't want to return to it, something like it. Maybe somewhere much farther away, maybe only for a little while
Can we have both? After some time I'll miss the jumpcable startling urban energy. But that energy can choke a woman dry. That energy takes more than it gives. The way a city, particularly New York City, the way it distracts and delights with places and things and noise while draining life force from its inhabitants is baffling, amazing really.
and it's really beautiful. Opportunity is everywhere. Professional, personal, small inspirations, major miracles. We share so little space with so many people. We all influence each other immensely whether we'd like to or not, I've experienced firsthand the infinite domino game that is interacting with many different sorts of people on a regular basis. It does not begin or end with our experience together- it has no beginning or end. It continues from previous encounters fresh in our psyches - and echoes forward in each separate story we create with another person throughout our days. Most urban areas are like this. The people are the magic.
but we need nature too. I need more wide, open nature- with no Central Park Goliath city grumbling in the background
(although I do love Central Park. And the Hudson River:)