Roadtrip USA

A little big city hopping in the states is always fun, especially in the early spring when everything and everyone starts sparking back to life. Festivals and carnivals start happening again, and the end goal of this roadtrip was Mardi Gras in New Orleans for my 33rd birthday.

NY, NY

I started in New York for a long weekend, staying with a friend in east village. Being half a block away from C avenue, there was plenty of night life, and the Zum Schneider bar was having its final Karneval after their 20 year rental agreement would end. I spent my days running or biking, and my evenings at meditation events with Franck Raharinosy or yoga classes at Humming Puppy.

Welcome to Miami!

My next stop was Miami, where I spent 3 days with a friend walking her dog, working remotely and lounging at the Soho Beach House. I rented a car and drove thru the Everglades to Anna Maria island, where my Danish friend and her family had rented an apartment at the Bali Hai beachfront resort. We waited for turtles and dolphins but a cold front came in and we bundled up for some windy beach walks instead.

roadtrip crew

I met my roommate from 2018 yoga teacher training in Goa in St. Petersburg, where she lives out of her campervan in between fairs and human statue gigs. Only a few miles later over a huge bridge, I finally arrived in Tampa where our roadtrip crew would assemble. Clio flew in from Colorado, Ditte the Dane and I picked her up and drove to my friend Mike´s place to wait for Jana to arrive from Germany. We went out for gin and tonics at the Gin Joint, meeting up with Clint of Travr, and crashed on couches with Mike´s cuddly dog until the next morning.

hiking around the alligator lakes of St. Mark´s National Wildlife refuge

We then drove thru Florida, Alabama and Mississippi to get to New Orleans, stopping for the night at Steinhatchee and Fort Walton. Steinhatchee had some great food and fluorescent coloured cocktails at Kathi´s Crabshack, followed by a live band at the County Line Bar where we made friends with all kinds of Trump supporters.

leaving the parade with beads and mooncakes

We drove through Mobile, Alabama right on time to witness America´s oldest Mardi Gras parade tradition, filling our pockets with mooncakes and our necks with colourful beads. Mississippi was gone in the blink of an eye, but we managed to stop at a microbrewery called Lazy Magnolia.

I often felt rather overdressed

Checking into our Airbnb just meters from the French Quarter was the highlight of the roadtrip, the feeling of finally arriving to the chaos of a fringe culture we were not dressed appropriately for. Our beads and basic clothing were miles away from others´costumes, but at our first Krew Poo parade, we realized noone cares how you look or what you wear, or if you wear nothing at all. The first night ended at a drag bar and some karaoke, and the next couple of days in and around Bourbon street were as much of a shock as many moments I remember from Burning Man.

New England to Long Island

I basically spent all of May to September in the countryside and highlands of Iceland, depriving myself of temperatures over 20`C, with the exception of a few heatwaves that passed thru. I tried to go to Poland in August to soak up some sun, but Warsaw and Gdansk only offered overcast skies and 16`C. Before the sheep round ups, an event that officially marks the end of summer, and inevitably chasing sheep in the snow, I got away to Boston and New York for a week, and finally got me some heat.

Boston

I’ve been to Boston, but had never really been to Boston before. Stopping over and passing through never really made me stay to visit, but now my one and only college roommate (and best friend) lives there and gives me plenty of good reason to visit. She’s a smarty pants – doing her master’s at Harvard – and all sorts of mature after leaving her St. Marks Place party apartment in the East Village for a 2-storey house with a backyard in the quiet neighbourhood of Somerville. She gave me a tour of Cambridge and the campus, and barely had enough time to sleep between her endless studying and me nagging for her attention. We ate clam chowder and schmoozed her classmates at a Happy Hour that she organized since she was running for a position in student

Ursula & I at Harvard

politics (which she won). We met up with some other Semester at Sea alumni and reminisced about life on the ship and traveling the world together. I also entertained myself by meeting other friends I knew in Massachusetts, going to the beach, and shopping for the things I can’t afford to buy in Iceland.

I rode the train from Boston to Penn Station without sleeping my last night in Mass, and emerged from the underground a few blocks away from Times Square, dazed and confused. I was suffering some serious culture shock – 4 months of open spaces and more horses than people, to a city corner with more cars and lights and faces than I had seen all summer. I had to reprogram myself to function in the chaos, get an orientation of place and direction, and walk on without looking totally lost. The overwhelment was exciting, it was as if I was in New York City for the first time, like a kid in wonderment sensing all the colours, smells and sounds in high definition.

New York city was sunny and humid, stickiest underground where the intricate web of subways and walkways  intermingle below the streets and avenues of yellow cabs and pedestrians. It took some time to become familiar again, but I never felt guilty of sticking out since everyone and everything seems to fit in to the city puzzle somehow. All the peculiar fashion and unintelligible languages I passed made me feel less foreign, and a weekend trip to Long Island was like becoming part of the ‘in’ crowd.

the beach in Montauk

My friends from the city rented a house together in Montauk, spending every weekend there during the summer. A lot of people do this, but after Labour Day weekend, mostly only locals are left, with the beaches and nightclubs all to themselves, with the same warm weather lasting a few more weeks. We indulged in the sunshine by sailing around the hamptons, sitting on the beach, and drinking cocktails poolside. We went to an art gallery to see a photo exhibition and tasted beer from the Montauk  Brewing company. The warm nights we spent barbequeing on the patio and dancing like crazies on the empty dancefloors. It didn’t matter, since we were always a big enough group of people to have our own party, and our expressive (and excessive) dance moves took up a lot of space.

the dancing crew, sailing

Montauk was a special place – a surf town with alternative and creative culture, mixed with an artsy, upper-class eliteness you can’t get quite as friendly with. Its a slow and spread out place, with a beach or harbour always a stones throw away, but enough forests between that deer graze along the road, barely shying at your headlights. You need a car to get around, and a lot of money to eat or do anything there, but I’m so grateful for the friends I had to share this little piece of paradise with me.

2 weeks in Vancouver

As of late, my travel plans have been slightly more spontaneous than usual, since I was expecting to move to France, then substituted that with a euro trip for 3 months, then cut it 6 weeks short to go to Miami where I had 2 unrelated obligations. Then from Miami I basically flipped a coin between St. Croix or New York.

Heads. New York. But I didn’t really have anything to do in New York. But I did just find out my little sister got engaged, so I used it as a stop-over to get back to Vancouver. I could have just changed planes at JFK, but a few days in New York never hurts. I had some relatives, a best friend, and a friend who just visited me in Iceland who owed me some tourguiding hospitality. He lives in the financial district, a stone’s throw away from the World Trade Center Site, and works near Grand Central Station. My other friend there is a male supermodel. Both very clichéd Manhattan careers I’d say.

So Vancouver. I lived there for nearly 4 years but every year that passes since, going back to Vancouver makes me feel more and more like a visitor. With every visit, I know fewer people living there, as all my UBC friends graduate, get jobs, or marry elsewhere. Walking around the UBC campus makes me feel like an old creeper. Downtown even seems less familiar, with all the construction and development disguising familiar streets.

I don’t miss the rain, the long, dark, dreary nights, or how expensive it is to drive (parking, gas, insurance). But I miss the cosmopolitan feel of the city, the vibrant, young, international mix of faces you see, not to mention noticeably beautiful faces. I love the cheap, easily-accessible and readily available sushi everywhere. I love Stanley park, English Bay and the surrounding, snow-topped mountains. I really miss Whistler – the feeling of riding the gondola to the very top and knowing you can take up to 2 hours to get back down without riding another chairlift.

I spent my 2 weeks there wedding dress shopping with my sisters. Ruth didn’t know what colour her bridesmaid dresses should be until our second outing, and still came out with a slightly indecisive choice. “Off-white. Or cream. With or without a pattern. But no one should wear the same dress.” We didn’t get very far with that for me or my older sisters dress hunt, but she managed to find her dream wedding dress. It was a whopping $1200 plus 12% HST and $200 for a belt wrap. She didn’t feel right about the price, so instead bought 2 wedding dresses she liked a little less each, but in total only cost $150, and together, could tailor into something perfect.

During the day, every day, I worked with an old-time friend and long-time professional colleague, Yashar. He hired me full time to work as his campaign volunteer leader in the North Vancouver municipal elections. This job consisted of me sitting between 8 – 10 hours a day in an office where only other Persians worked, organizing his Farsi-speaking only parents to lead volunteer events, and then distributing a handful of about another 20 volunteers (also, all Persian) for random, miscellaneous jobs to help market Yashar as a city councilor. I realized how much I love Persian hospitality, and how alienating it is to be the only person not speaking the common language of your immediate surroundings.

I also spent quite a bit of time with a traveler friend named Murray, who calls me the girl version of him. We seem to lead parallel lifestyles, both insatiably wanderlusting, and irresponsibly quick to pack up and go at the flip of a coin. We lamented about how hard it is to keep relationships, but how inconsequential this seems when we realize how much we appreciate the lasting friendships travel has given us instead. We empathized how lonely travel can get, but without referring to any negative connotations of the meaning of the word. We wondered out loud how we stay so busy doing nothing, and joked about the endless moneytree that people seem to believe feed our travel funds. But, we concluded that our lives are somehow less expensive and more sustainable than our alternative life-options, and also decided we weren’t abnormal, since 2 people living the same lifestyle simply defines a different normality.

 

My Favourite things to do in NYC

In the last few years Ive probably been to New York a dozen times, but with only one destination trip as the exception, I always end up in New York city as a layover. JFK is one of the easiest airports to have a stopover on my way from Iceland to anywhere in North or South America, and with a handful of really great friends and some relatives, I always take the opportunity to visit.

Besides catching up with the people I know there, I’ve exhausted most of the touristy things to do in the city, but some things never get old to me. Here’s a list of 4 things I’ll always look forward to doing while in the Big Apple, and next time you’re in Manhattan make sure to try all 4.

  1. Visit Times Square
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Times Square

I love going to the center of Times Square and spining around while looking up at all the shiny lights, dazzling advertisements and 5 storey large television screens… especially in the middle of the night when the masses have dispersed and the lights make it as bright as day. There are even a few Mini Cooper cars stuck to the sides of buildings now, and yahoo offers free wi-fi.

2. Walking around Central Park

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Wintery Central Park

Even its midwinter or high summer, Central Park always is always full of joggers, dog walkers, bicyclists, and horse-drawn carriages. Central park covered in a blanket of white snow and reflective frozen lakes is just as beautiful as it is when luscious green. I’m a big sucker for the horses and this time around got offered a free carriage ride with an Irish man in a top hat, slightly resembling a leprechaun.

3. People Watching on the subway

In New York City, you’re not just one in a million, you’re one in 8 million. There are so many people in New York, SO many. From all different places, speaking all sorts of tongues, with totally individual styles and fashion senses. You can literally take a tour around the world as you walk through Manhattan’s different neighbourhoods, and riding the subways and local buses is my favourite place to sneakily stare at and eavesdrop on all the interesting people I meet. I’m most inspired by the craziest, weirdest people, like the naked cowboy who I’ve ran into twice now or a group of Japanese women paying homage to Lady Gaga by dressing like her.

4. Window Shopping

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shopping near the World’s largest store, Macy’s

Anything and everything you’d ever wish for is available for sale somewhere in the city. I’d say most of it is still either unnecessary or unattainable, since the prices of things can get pretty expensive, but strolling along Broadway or Fifth Ave and dreaming about owning all the pretty things in the window displays is still super fun. Trying it on too, doesn’t hurt, but staying outside the window keeps me from buying it all up.

Brushing Elbows with the Stars in NYC

me and 4 tall beaus pre-agency party

me and 3 tall beaus pre-agency party

I decided it would be a good time to go to New York to try and get some down time while working on my final essays and thesis chapters due at Berkeley. I thought it was a good idea since flights were only $179US round trip from San Francisco, and I didnt have to be here to work on my school stuff since classes have been out since Dec. 3rd. It turned out to be a pretty irresponsible trip, however, since it was all play and no work.

I got to see an amazing Russian Pianist, Valdimir Feltsman, play at Carnegie Hall the first night I was in the city. I spent one entire afternoon at the Metropolitain Museum of Art and only managed to see less than half of the displays. I went to the infamous exhibition “Bodies,” and decided I didn’t like the use of deceased persons as (expensive) entertainment for tourists. However, the highlight of my trip was definitely the last night in town, where a friend of mine from Canada invited me to his work party.

Let me begin by explaining, his ‘work’ is professional modeling, and the party host was the modeling agency Wilhelmina, one of the top agencies in New York. The party was at a super chic bar in Chelsea that didnt look like much from outisde, no line, guest-list only, and an open bar once you got inside this little brick cave. I have never seen so many beautiful people in my life. I happened to be sitting right next to Ricky Martin at one point in the night, and as we were leaving, Leonardo Dicaprio brushed past us.

If that wasnt enough of an introduction to star-glamour, our VIP night carried on with one of my friends stylists taking us to Timbaland’s CD release party at a club whose entrance was right beside the stinky alleyway where hot dog vendors store their stands overnight. Justin Timberlake was performing, and later on hanging out behind a sea of oversized black security guards. Then, an after-after party took us until the wee hours of the morning, and I could barely handle the amount of eye candy and free alcohol without sticking out like a sore thumb amongst some of the most important and beautiful people in the fashion industry.

It was definitely an interesting and exciting glimpse into the life of the rich and famous, and also into the complex, underground nightlife that hides in all sorts of umassuming corners of New York City.