Friday, November 28, 2008

Leave Room for Seconds

Thanksgiving Day might be over, but the Thanksgiving meal is anything but. I've got enough turkey and stuffing in the fridge to last from now until next Tuesday. Unfortunately, if you're an American abroad, you're probably not in the same situation. In fact, you might have even had to work yesterday, not to mention the fact that finding a proper Turkey Day meal with all the fixings can be awfully difficult in some parts of the world. I've spent a few Thanksgivings overseas and understand how it can be a a fun, unique and homesick-inspiring experience all rolled into one. But if you're an American in Paris, you might be in luck. There's still a chance you could get your hands on some cranberries and pumpkin pie, just in time for the weekend. Head over to the Marais, where, on the corner of Rue St. Paul and Rue Charles V, you'll find an American grocery store created especially for you, and yes, it's called Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a welcome respite for Americans who are looking for a little taste of home. They sell products you won't find anywhere else in the city including Betty Crocker brownie mix, Jello, and Dr. Pepper. There's also a little seating area where you can enjoy a snack from home and a little conversation with people who understand the beauty that is an Oreo cookie. As their name suggests, they proudly sell exactly what you need to make a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. Whole turkeys? Check. Cranberry sauce? Check. Pecan pie? Check. If you spent yesterday at your desk craving that classic once-a-year harvest meal, head on over to Thanksgiving and get cooking. You don't even have to try to find the French word for "stuffing." English is spoken here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Au Revoir, Café?

I hate to hear bad news coming out of France. After spending so much time there, studying the culture and language for so long, and getting to know so many Frenchmen and women I consider France to be my home away from home outside of the U.S. When the country suffers, it hurts me too, which is why I read the following New York Times article about French café owners with a heavy heart. While prudent banks, the risk averse French and an almost complete lack of access to credit cards have ensured that the global financial crisis isn't hitting France with the same amount of drama it has hit the U.S., the iconic French café is still feeling the pinch. Many are simply going out of business.

Of course, the state of the global economy isn't the only factor in the decline of traditional French cafés. Changing tastes and the recent smoking ban are also to blame. And while I understand the pain of business owners who are bearing the brunt of this cultural shift, part of me can't help but wonder if there isn't a silver lining in all of this. Surely the smoking ban was long overdue in France. Some ideas were just destined to go the way of the dinosaurs, and I think the French penchant for smoking anywhere and everywhere (and in surprisingly large numbers) is one of them. I mean, come on, eating steak frites in a Parisian bistro is so much more enjoyable when not accompanied by a side of second-hand smoke. What's more, while we tend to idealize French cafés - they're cozy, they're classic, they're fantastique! - in reality, many are run-down and filled with the kinds of belly-up-to-the-bar men that would make any woman, and some guys for that matter, walk right out the door. A surprising number of cafés are downright unwelcoming, which makes their rapid disappearance fairly unsurprising. If, like the corner establishment in my former Parisian neighborhood did, more cafés have to renovate, modernize and improve their offerings to keep business, we the clients can only stand to gain.

If you're always dreamed of relaxing on the terrace of a traditional French café, don't let the article scare you into quickly buying a ticket to Paris. It's hard to imagine France without a single café left in existence. It'd be like if the U.S. didn't have any diners. Diners might be an old concept, and many have shuttered their doors since their heydey in the 1950s, but others are alive and well and finding a new niche in modern American society. Call me an optimist, but I don't think we've seen the last of the café. Planning a trip to Paris a few years down the road? A steaming expresso complete with charming French waiter and sunny terrace will be waiting for you when you arrive.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Things I Don't Miss About Paris, Part One

There were a lot of things about life in the U.S. I tended to take for granted before living overseas. Aspects of daily life that seemed unremarkable simply because I was used to them suddenly became fascinating occurrences when they were stripped away by another country's rules. Now that I'm once again living stateside, I love relishing in the small details that are so eternally exciting to me. Graffiti-free cities, clothes dryers, fellow human beings who make room for you when you're walking towards them, and to-go coffee shops have all become objects of wonderment. I just can't believe they exist! But there is one feature of American society that thrills me beyond anything else. France has me so programmed to their weekly routine that I sometimes forget it even exists. When the memory of it pops into my head, I enjoy the excitement of it all over again. I'm talking about shopping on Sunday, and I will never take it for granted again.

Those who know France know how about Sundays. Nothing is open. Ok, not nothing. There is always at least one 24/7 pharmacy available, some boulangeries will sell you a baguette, and in big cities like Paris there are a few retail establishments that dare to open their doors on the traditional Christian day of rest. But in general, you can expect to be greeted by a big, steel gate and a fermé sign if you even attempt to engage in consumption on Sunday. Small villages are practically on lockdown. Even such daily essentials as grocery stores don't open on Sundays. If you've spent any time living in France you know the feeling of boredom that comes around once a week. I used to dread this horrible day when I lived in a tiny town in the south of France. With not a single open storefront the place felt even more like a ghosttown than it already was.

Now, some people will say that they love the idea of everything being closed on Sundays. It encourages rest, relaxation and time spent with friends and family. I say, what about those who find relaxation in wandering the aisles of a department store? What's more, being able to shop on Sunday might actually decrease stress and increase family/friend time. Have you ever tried to get groceries in France on a Saturday? It's one of the most stressful, time-consuming things you'll ever do! Since stores are not open late during the week and not open on Sundays, everyone has to run errands on Saturday. The country might only have 60 million inhabitants, but you can be sure they'll all be at the same store as you on Saturday afternoon.

I avoid the craziness that is shopping on the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. like the plague, but the citizens of France are forced to buy under similar conditions once a week for their entire lives. This Turkey Day, I'll be giving thanks for the blessed, under-appreciated freedom to shop whenever I like. Especially Sundays.

Friday, November 21, 2008


If you haven't yet had the pleasure of discovering Matador Travel or its sibling, Matador Abroad, today is the day.

Matador Abroad has just published an article I wrote called Study Abroad: What Are You Waiting For? If you've put off taking the leap overseas, I hope my reasoning will convince you to go for it. If you've already studied abroad, let me know what you think. Did I leave anything out? Am I way off base? Whichever it is, I think most of you travel veterans will at least agree with reason number five.

These two sites are must-reads for anyone who's interested in learning about far-off places, participating in international education, exploring topics pertinent to travelers, or just looking for some insider advice before taking a trip. Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Hottest Ticket in Town

Every once in awhile, travelers find themselves in a the midst of a great historical moment. They might have planned it that way, or they might have walked in to something nobody could have seen coming. The right place at the right time, so to speak. Of course, not every major event a traveler finds him or herself caught up in is desirable. There were certainly tourists in New York when terror struck as well as in Thailand when a tsunami arrived. But sometimes visitors are lucky enough to witness history being made in a positive way. Think Berlin when the wall came down, Washington, DC when Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech, or any of the Olympic Games. When I found myself in London at the time of George Harrison's death the news was not good, but the chance to see Abbey Road filled with Beatle fans leaving flowers and messages was something I will never forget. This year, I find myself in another moment that will be remembered for a long time to come: Inauguration Day.

I didn't even realize I would be in DC for President-Elect Obama's inauguration until a few days after I arrived. I was reading an article in the Washington Post about how nearly all of the city's hotels were already booked and residents were renting out their homes on Craigslist when it hit me. Hey! I'll be here for that! And I didn't even plan it that way. I would have been in DC regardless of who won the election or even if there wasn't an election this year at all. Instead, I've hit the 2009-event jackpot. The mayor of DC is already predicting a record turnout for January 20, and some people are wondering where this relatively small town is going to put them all. DC is certainly used to welcoming large crowds (July 4th is insane here), but the prospect of 3 million people or more sounds a bit daunting. Nevertheless, I think it will be worth venturing out into the sea of humanity for a chance to participate in the inauguration. After all, presidential swearing-ins only come around every four years; a truly momentous one such as this is once in a generation.

The real question, however, is this: to rent or not to rent? With a similar apartment in my area going for $4,000 for the week, it might be something to look into. I have a cozy one-bedroom with an eat-in kitchen and cable and Internet connection that is metro accessible. Anyone?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Freedom of Transportation

If you've been a regular Parisian Spring reader for awhile, you've probably seen a couple of entries about Paris's bike sharing system known as Velib'. It's an incredibly user and environment-friendly public service that has been fully embraced by Parisians from all walks of life. As this recent article from The New York Times points out, France's capital isn't the only European city that is finding success with two-wheeled rentals. Barcelona, Lyon, Dusseldorf and Rome have all launched Velib'-like programs of their own.

While the article mentions a handful of reasons why public bike sharing hasn't caught on in North America, one of them really caught my attention: helmets. The author mentions that wearing a helmet isn't required for program participants in Europe, but insinuates that it would be a requirement in the U.S. or Canada. Presumably, this would dissuade citizens from signing up and cities from taking the risk that someone wouldn't protect their head. Whether true or not, it made me think about the stark differences in safety and personal choice that exist on either side of the Atlantic.

I always felt that Europe had a much more at-your-own-risk mentality, whereas American society tries to protect its citizens against all kinds of unfortunate occurrences. Take alcohol, for example. American rules regarding consumption of alcohol vary greatly by state, but they are all highly limiting in comparison with their European counterparts. Anyone who has been to Utah knows how liquor laws in the U.S. can get out of control, but even a more liberal state like Minnesota doesn't allow alcohol to be sold in grocery stores or on Sundays. Not to mention the 21-year old age limit. In Europe, it's up to the individual citizen to decide when, where and how much they drink. No protective state here, just liberty.

So bring the bikes to North America, already! We're adults, we can decide for ourselves how we dress for the occasion. Don't require helmet use. Do allow our communities to reap the benefits of a clean, efficient public service that can be enjoyed by all.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Out With the Old

I'm an avid traveler who suffers greatly from homesickness. While I'm always excited to leave wherever I am for wherever I'm going, there's generally a little piece of me that is sad to say goodbye to my current location. After being gone for a while, I miss it terribly. To make myself feel better about constantly leaving places I love, I tell myself that X city/state/country isn't going anywhere; it will still be there when I get back and, most likely, everything will be just as I left it. For the most part, I have found this to be true. While you're out on the road changing in every way possible, the places you left behind will be exactly as you remember them when you return. To my surprise, this little security blanket-theory got totally blown out of the water upon my return to DC. I made the first trip through the old neighborhood with my jaw on the ground. Nearly everything had changed.

Ok, a bit of clarification is in order. Despite always referring to it in my blog, I don't actually live in DC proper. I live in Arlington, Virginia, which is the suburb just southwest of DC. The two are separated by the Potomac River, and if you are familiar with the area at all, I specifically live in the Courthouse neighborhood. To give you another point of reference, I could walk to Georgetown. I felt that DC was more recognizable to a global audience than Arlington, so I use it as the point of reference for my current location.

That said, when I returned to my apartment (I sublet it since moving to Paris) in Arlington, one of the first things on my to do list was a major trip to Target and the grocery store. Driving up and down the main thoroughfare that connects Courthouse with the other neighborhoods along Metro's Orange Line, I couldn't believe my eyes. Everywhere I looked, buildings that used to be there simply weren't. They were gone, torn down, reduced to piles of rubble. In some cases, construction had already started on their replacements. I'm not exaggerating when I say that nearly every block had at least one structure that had suffered the fate of the wrecking ball. Where was my city? It was not, as I told myself it would be, still there!

The fact that my neighborhood has been all but destroyed in the past nine months was shocking to see, but not surprising that it happened. This area is growing rapidly. Swank new condos and chic commercial districts are springing up to meet the demands of the young professionals and young families who move here to start their careers in the DC area. When I first moved here, you could see the new next to the dilapidated and old. The buildings that were torn down? They were the dilapidated and old ones. Soon, we'll have an entirely shiny, redone community, and I'm excited to see what kinds of amenities that brings. But I'll always mourn the fast food restaurant that met its end only three blocks from my apartment. Walking home from a late night on the town will never be the same again.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Is Anybody Out There?

I had an epiphany the other day. While walking down the street thinking about how I couldn't wait to get home and catch up on my fellow travel bloggers' work, I realized that, while their locations, subjects and writing styles differ, they all have one major thing in common. Each and every one of the writers I follow is a North American who is living or planning to live abroad. From Yankee in a New World, to Nomadic Matt, Christine from Almost Fearless, Greg and his Esoteric Globe, Gillian and Jason taking their One Giant Step, and even my college friends, Erin and Lou, hanging out in Dublin, they have all originated from the same land mass and spread out into the big, wide world. It made me wonder: where are all the non-New World travel bloggers?

I love to travel and I love to read about others who do the same. Following travel blogs lets me learn about foreign countries and cultures, get travel tips from those in the know, and stay in touch with like-minded individuals. But I'd also like to see the world through eyes much more different than my own. What's it like to be a Japanese man or woman living in Europe? Or a Brazilian in China? Better yet, what's it like to be from anywhere and living in the United States? I'd love to explore the country I know the best from a different point of view. Such a blog would surely highlight the good, the bad and the ugly, much like my own musings on France, and would provide for a new perspective on life right here at home.

So, if you're out there non-North American travel bloggers, please let me know! I'm dying to hear your stories and reflect on your opinions. Feel free to make your foreigner-in-the-United-States (or anywhere else!) selves known by commenting on this post. I'm sure I won't be the only one who'll be happy you did.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Also Hope the Texas BBQ Stays

When I arrived in Washington the day after the election, a friend from Minneapolis sent me a text to ask about the city's atmosphere. Was there excitement in the air as a result of the historic national vote? I texted back with an emphatic "yes!" Indeed, the city felt abuzz with a new energy; change was coming.

Of course, this is Washington, DC. Change comes with every election as some elected officials (and by extension, their staffers) win or lose a job. I remember in 2006 when the Democrats took control of the House and Senate in the mid-term elections. A professor who had been active in politics for a number of years told me to watch for the city's vibe to change with the influx of new faces. "Watch the style section of the Washington Post," he said, as apparently the exodus of Republicans meant we'd be seeing less "pearls and pumps." This time around, a local radio station ran a program dedicated to what kinds of new restaurants Washingtonians might see pop up to meet the tastes of Capitol Hill's new residents. It's as if the city completely reinvents itself every couple of years, and those of us who live here get to enjoy the ride.

This year is decidedly a bit different. The first black president, a strong repudiation of the long-time occupant of the city's most sought-after residence, and celebrations that filled the streets of DC on election night have created a special kind of buzz that I didn't feel in 2006 and probably hasn't been felt for many years. I stumbled across a good representation of that excitement at the Lincoln Memorial a couple of days ago. An enormous sign had been set up at the bottom of the memorial's steps, just in front of the reflecting pool. It was congratulating Obama on his victory and calling for the world to join together. You could feel the optimism in the air, and as a fan of anything international I thought it was pretty cool to see people from all walks of life (and all corners of the globe) contributing to the message.

Of course, I really just hope that a Chicago-style pizzeria comes to town.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A City Remembers

Veteran's Day is a busy time for Washington, DC. Former soldiers flock to the city's war memorials, Arlington National Cemetery and Veteran's Day events by the thousands, making this a great place to honor those who have served. My sister is in town to help me get resettled, but we took a break from moving duties yesterday and set out to see the sites. We checked out two of the most well-known war memorials in DC: the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Veterans of both were already out in full force.

If you haven't been to DC in a few years, you might have not yet seen the World War II Memorial. Located between the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool, this testament to an incredible war effort was just completed in 2004. Designed in a circular fashion, the memorial features pillars representing the states and U.S. territories, recognition of the Atlantic and Pacific war fronts, and quotes from FDR, Truman and other World War II figures. According to its official website, " the memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U. S. during World War II, the more than 400,000 who died, and the millions who supported the war effort from home." Many believe the memorial was long overdue, but while it might have taken too long to accomplish this project, its was worth the wait. The World War II Memorial is an awesome testament to the defining event of the 20th century.

Much like the war itself, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has been shrouded in controversy. Many disliked and publicly criticized the memorial's design when it was unveiled in 1982. Nevertheless, it has become the gathering point for Vietnam Vets across the country. Visitors often leave items at the bast of the memorial, which is a black V-shaped wall engraved with the names of the war's dead and unaccounted for. It is not unusual to see flags, letters or personal items that once belonged to the soldiers left in their memory. Paper and pencils are provided for those who wish to make a rubbing of a soldier's name. Yesterday, the memorial was a buzz of activity as groups of veteran's explored the monument and payed respect to their fallen comrades.

If you're ever in town, whether it's Veterans Day or not, the war memorials will most definitely be on your to-do list. As sobering reminders of the sacrifices many in this country have made, they are at once touching and solemn sites to behold.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Miss Paris, Part One

I used to like the Washington, DC area metro. Then I lived in Paris. Six months on the other side of the Atlantic taught me that our nation's capitol shouldn't just be known for monuments, museums and unattractive 70s-era federal buildings, it should also be known for building a public transportation system and then making it as inefficient as possible. After a rough weekend of riding the rails and getting nowhere I'm about ready to jump on the next plane back to France, where public transportation is, and deserves to be, a source of national pride.

There are two main features of the Paris metro that make it vastly superior to it's counterpart in Washington, DC. First, Paris' system is incredibly prolific. No matter where in the city you might find yourself, you're rarely more than a few short blocks from the nearest metro station. With 16 lines and 300 stations at your disposal you can go anywhere your traveling little heart desires. In contrast, the DC metro has an embarrassingly minimal 5 lines and 86 stations. True, Paris is the larger city by a sizable margin, but there are entire sections of DC that have no metro service at all. The popular dining, shopping and nightlife neighborhood, Georgetown, is not served by trains and neither is much of The National Mall once you leave the bank of Smithsonian museums. It's a long, lonely walk to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

Secondly, the Paris metro runs at a high frequency rate. Five minutes is a long wait for the next train in Paris; passengers generally wait no more than two or three to get on board. This is true for weekends and other non-rush hour times as well. As a result, metro is a quick, easy and efficient way to get around town. Washingtonians do not have the same kind of service. The trains are fairly frequent during rush-hour, but "off-peak" times will cost you. It's not unusual to wait 10, 15 or even 20 minutes for the next train. Getting from my apartment to Reagan National Airport took 40 minutes on metro yesterday due to wait time. I could have been there in 10 with a car. This is a huge source of frustration for local riders, and I just simply don't understand why any rail system would operate in this manner.

Of course, the Washington metro isn't all user un-friendliness. There are a few bright spots: The stations and trains are spotless in comparison with what you'll find in Paris, graffiti is non-existent, and you'll never have to endure a ride accompanied by an accordion player who hits you up for a few euros after the ear-splitting performance. But I would take an efficient metro over a aesthetically pleasant one any day. Washington DC's street and general layout was designed by a Frenchman named Pierre Charles l'Enfant. Hindsight is 20/20, but we should have hired a French metro-builder instead.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sore Muscles

Next time I move, I’m hiring someone to do it for me. After dragging four suitcases from Minneapolis to the DC suburbs, carrying countless boxes from my storage space in the adjoining building across the courtyard and up a flight of stairs, and three days of non-stop packing and unpacking, the thought of sitting back and watching while someone else does all that is incredibly tempting. Especially when I picture myself with a cold drink in hand.

The truth is, nobody likes moving. Mentioning to someone that you are getting ready for a move usually garners responses such as “moving is such a pain,” “I hate moving,” and “you have my deepest sympathies.” But while hauling your material life across the country or even across the street is one of the most unpleasant tasks we can undertake, we have become a society of perpetual movers. I know very few people my age who have stayed put for more than a year or two over the last decade, and many, myself included, have moved more frequently than that. With job opportunities, university studies and even the desire for a change of scenery encouraging mobility, we’ve had to grudgingly become professional movers; boxes and packing tape are on hand at all times.

Of course, telling myself that next time I’m going to hire real professional movers to lug my stuff is something I do after every move. “Never again!” I say, but my declarations always ring hollow. The next time a move comes along I forget how bad it was last time and opt to undertake the task on my own. Maybe we get some kind of perverse satisfaction from moving on such a regular basis. It’s as if complaining about it makes us feel part of the brotherhood (and sisterhood!) of disgruntled travelers. We wear our moving experiences as a badge of honor, proudly sharing the mishaps and hardships that occurred along the way. As I unpack the last of the suitcases and boxes I think wistfully at what could have been if only I had called in reinforcements. But alas, there is no glory in hiring help. There is only a little more sanity.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Are You Getting Random Kisses, Too?

If you've ever been an American abroad, you might have at one time or another felt like an object of curiosity. Information about our country, our culture, our people and our policies is everywhere, and when some people discover you're from the United States, they want to talk to you about it. They especially want to ask you about it. What do you think/feel/see/do/eat/want/like? Sometimes, all of this attention and questioning can make you feel good, but other times, especially in recent years when we were more criticized than not, it can make you feel defensive. Now, according to NPR, all that attention might make you

The article claims that Americans abroad are experiencing an out-pouring of affection from their foreign neighbors the likes of which many have never seen. Apparently, our selection of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States has made us cool. The author himself speaks of an out-of-the-blue kiss on the check from an Austrian woman on the bus, supposedly in response to the election results and her newfound love for those who made it happen. While I don't agree with all of his beliefs or statements (Maybe I've never been in a threatening enough situation, but I have never lied about my nationality. Are we as Americans really that scared?), he makes an interesting observation.

I know I have a lot of overseas compatriots out there and I'm curious: what, if any, post-election reactions have you seen from locals in your adopted country?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ballots, not Bullets

It's election day in America, do you know where your precinct is? For months now the polls have been analyzed, scandals have come and gone, and innocent people just trying to watch television have been inundated with unbearable political ads. Thankfully, after what seems like the longest build-up to an election ever, citizens from all corners of the United States are finally getting their say. Although Americans normally have lower voter turnout percentages than their counterparts in other democracies (only approximately 56% of the U.S. voting-age population in 2004 compared to approximately 84% in France in 2007, for example), this year is expected to be different. This year, in what would be a true victory for democracy, voters are expected to turnout in record numbers.

I did my part to increase the turnout percentage this morning by showing up at my polling site just after 7:00am. There was already a line out the door and around the building, but with a little dose of Midwestern efficiency, it moved quite quickly. I don't know about you, but I just love voting. I love the idea of a community coming together for a common activity, and I always feel a sense of camaraderie with my fellow voters. Democracy in action is a beautiful thing, and while it might sound a bit corny, I felt so proud of my country and our political system as I filled in the ballot. Plus, I get really excited about receiving the little, red "I Voted" sticker when it's all done. I mean, don't you just hold your head up a little higher when you're wearing it? Yeah, it feels good.

Now we play the waiting game. Though the pundits will try to call the winners as soon as possible, we most likely won't know who won what until later this evening. But I am willing to make one prediction: that Barack Obama will win the state of Minnesota. How can I be so sure? Two reasons: he's leading by a pretty safe margin, and Minnesota hasn't been won by a Republican candidate for president since Richard Nixon in 1972. I guess we kind of got burned on that one and never looked back. But whatever the results, the real winners are the American people. Exercising our right to select our leaders and decide our future? Now that's something we can all get behind, 100%.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Homeward Bound

I have a newfound respect for backpackers. I'm not talking about the weekend backpackers who have a home base from where they can launch two or three day trips taking only their backpacks as luggage. I've been that person before, and I loved it. No, I'm talking about the people who are permanently living out of their backpacks. They might be on a RTW or exploring a continent, or simply hanging out in a single country, but whatever their travel goal may be, they are all extremely mobile and living with the same, few possessions over a long period of time. They are my heroes.

Why the sudden appreciation for a nomadic lifestyle? Because for the past year, and especially the past few months, I feel as though I've been living a scaled-down version of it. Moving from DC to Minneapolis to my first Paris apartment to my second Paris apartment to my first, second and third locations in Minneapolis to Paris again and then back to Minneapolis has taken its toll. I'm exhausted, and desperate for a true home base from which to launch smaller trips. But even during this past year of frequent moves and living out of a few suitcases, I never experienced the true life of a backpacker. I always had more than a bag's worth of clothes, shoes and other personal items, and I even had a few longish-term places to call my own. That's why I'm so thoroughly impressed with my fellow travelers who live with nothing but their backpacks and a changing array of "homes" for long periods of time. Backpacking, at least from my perspective, is not an easy life.

Don't get me wrong, I love traveling, and I've got months of travel blogging to prove it! And I can definitely see the attractiveness of indefinite backpacking. It's a lifestyle that carries with it nearly unlimited freedom and adventure, and who wouldn't want that? But I'm ready to have a more stable travel life for a while. On Wednesday morning I will finally leave Minneapolis and return to my apartment - my home - in Washington, DC. It's going to feel good to put down roots for more than a couple of weeks or even months; just thinking about my walk-in closet makes me giddy. And while I know I will keep on traveling as much as possible, a professional backpacker I am not. To those of you out there who are, rock on! You are the true road warriors.