The beautifully hearty returns, the summer burns, the endless moments outside… Here are the postcards from our summertime.
The beautifully hearty returns, the summer burns, the endless moments outside… Here are the postcards from our summertime.
I had just finished my exams, celebrated my birthday and got on a flight London to Seattle.
I found myself arriving at a 22 buck a night air bnb in Highline on the outskirts of Seattle with a quarter full suitcase and lots of time to absorb my new home, write my dissertation, and quickly explore the city in five days before catching the greyhound to Portland.
I loved where I was staying instantly. A wooden structure, shared between three of us, just the right dynamics of chats, learning about our differences and expectations en transit, keeping sweet vibes throughout and respecting each other’s time needs and privacy. I loved waking up surrounded by the alpine greenness of pnw. Got my Orca loaded, and picked my daily trips between jumping on the 35min bus journey to the city centre, or 35 min walk to the coast.
Seattle is where my journey begun, and where it ended.
I got caught on the rising tide on a private beach, I studied in the most quaint little library in Fremont, strolled in unexpected familiarity up and down University Way and experienced the awe of Japanese tourists in Suzzallo and Allen Libraries the setting of some of the Harry Potter scenes.
Seattle is the uber cool without the forced coolness. It is grounded, down to earth, green, gorgeous, creative and blatant.
I couldn’t have ever imagined Seattle would have made such a fundamental mark and given me so many beautiful memories from this two month trip, and without sparing any important details, I couldn’t have asked for more.
Other than to return, again and again to soak up the atmosphere before I move on again.
I would like to start this blogpost acknowledging this has been one changeable mood kind of a month.
It begun in semi frustration and acceptance: this is what we need to do and we commit to it. Blindfolded into commitment, no questions asked. Then days, then weeks passed. The exhaustion of changing habits in and out of home. The disappointment of realising you can’t walk into this pub, or straight into the shop, they are either shut, or there is a queue. You can’t hug your friend or pat the back of your neighbour. And that cycle route you always thought as the best, is out of bounds, too many runners using the tow path and daddies training their little ones to cycle. So forced into rediscovering your vicinity in new conditions, you get to become the tourist again, and that is cool.
Then the important stuff happening unnoticed until you think there’s value in the time you have saved from travelling and all the social stuff you can no longer do. So talking to friends and neighbours you end up rocking up to a community space in a church build on the ruins of one that was built in the 1600s, thinking you’re not the religious type but there are enough Muslim kids and white working class families about to take the edge off.
Next thing you’re committed and talking to new people. That guy is familiar, of course he is in and out of my block, and we chat, I hear the news and off we go.
Those who are organising everything, early on in the outbreak, with little knowledge of the impact yet without hesitation, they set up shop quickly. They asked and got donations, listened unjudgmentally to the community’s input, and attracted people of all ethnicities and faiths to help. They reassigned resources quickly. The initial food was delivered to 40 odd people three times a week and now it has grown to double of that.
Today, the last day of April feels like a halfway point on a long holiday. It’s been thrilling, confusing, too long, too short, too busy, and now seems to be going too fast and to be true, I don’t want it to end yet, but I do want to be able to make plans for the future.
Somehow the reality is: I can’t, and none of us can.
As we will gradually re-enter a version of normality in the coming months, there will be plenty of vulnerable people who will still not be able to leave their home. This help will not stop with our needs being met, and not until they have their fully met. It has been challenging at times running up and down unfamiliar estates, motivating oneself to get out, cover up, do your deed, run home, take everything off, clean everything, shower. Yet it’s been worth it. The smiles, the chats, the waves, the odd requests, or the kind wishes and offers. It all makes it so special.
This month has also been one where I covered nearly 200km cycling. It’s not a lot, however in addition to my training, and the bursting energy of spring colours and smells, there was plenty of visual richness to record.
The blog and the photos are dedicated to the community leaders, and those who need their swift action. They are being both my inspiration and motivation throughout the past six weeks and the very out of the ordinary month of April 2020.
Even more so, this month I hope does not go by forgotten. Everyone has been affected by it and I purposely included the empty canary wharf development. No one is immune to this and I hope this chance for a level playing field is finally grasped like the breath of fresh air we so much need.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, mindfulness, video calls, checking-in on friends and neighbours, social distancing and exercising, have become the norm of daily life prescriptions.
Recommendations on finding meaning in small things and appreciating the moment of what we have, to adjust from our fast paced life, have been a challenge for many. Yet, there is beauty around that for those operating in high levels of anxiety or to-do projects and achievement-oriented mentality, has been marginalised in view of personal gratifications and quick wins.
The Covid-19 situation has highlighted the reality of our unsustainable living, exemplified in shopping habits, sociopathic needs, drama karma, and neediness for external gratification.
Yet, the ample emergence of existing situations that have been in existence parallel to modern human material and immaterial condition, are increasingly claiming a place to the forefront of service and significance.
In the current re-adjustments of living and requirements new pressure points can afford us to look and really see.
For outdoorsy adventurers, hiking is a much-loved choice of activity taken close to one’s place of habitat or place of visit.
The subtle differences between hiking in different parts of the world are on the type the equipment, the style of the hike like the intensity of the walk, and the distance covered. This reveals a lot about the flora and fauna, the weather conditions expected in general and the end objective for the hike.
This article presents a short oversight of hiking in the south of the United Kingdom, and towards the end of the winter. The overall equipment relevant message is to wear comfortable waterproof boots, bring a change of cotton t-shirts, carry 1-2 litres of water, prepare lunch snacks and carry cash for group saver fares, the pub lunch option and pub celebration at the end.
I have hiked in India, the Pacific North West in the US, in Scotland, in Bali, in Italy, in the Arctic part of Norway, in Morocco, on the north coast of Trinidad and in Tobago and in Fuerteventura and every single hike was different on many aspects.
In the south of the UK, hikes tend to be longer, often including a couple of very steep climbs up hills and the same dissent. The most recent hike took me up and down Pitch Hill in Surrey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, twice climbed it on the same day, a near-vertical and rather muddy aspect, and over a distance of 30km round trip on foot.
Walking sticks were encouraged whereas in other parts of the world they are prohibited as it can attract lightning strikes in tundra conditions. UK’s well known cloudy skies, even in winter, require sunblock as there is still plenty of exposure doing outdoor sports to cause skin damage.
20 min stops every two hours are also encouraged to take in the views from higher viewpoints. In contrast, stopping for this long or any period of time longer to a couple of minutes, in the middle of the winter, in the northernmost part of Norway, will cause your body temperature to drop really quickly and dramatically and make the focus of the latter part of your hike an effort to warm up instead of watching the path or scenery. This can make the body feel very uncomfortable, and rather demoralising, in severe sub minus C conditions.
The photos in this post are from my hike in Surrey this week.
It looks mud messy but it was a great all round exercise. I could not recommend anything else more satisfactory to do outdoors this time of the year. Hiking engages people in community spirited discussions, recharges the body with a full-on exercise uptake, and in the UK, it is rewarded with log fires in the pub, local bitter brews, and new memories and vistas to take away.
Everyone has that one song they go to for a reflection of their innermost feelings.
Mine is Esmerelda by Ben Howard, the video in particular.
The waves unrolling back in reverse is what gets me every time. It may be for the symbolic value of rolling back time and rediscovering today’s desires by the method of review.
The moving images are taken in the winter, the British winter many complain of. As a surfer, Ben Howard is staring at the swells as he would have done at any other season, reflecting on the conditions, the possibilities. The weather is not a hindrance, but an opportunity for assessment. A million components pulled together; I could ride that wave, I know I can, I can do it this way or that way. Maybe I will come back to it, maybe I will sit it out, watch it and leave it to perform before my very eyes.
The solitary imagery of Howard looking out from the cliff’s edge over the treacherous weather, is a message of renewal. Emerged from the knowledge that majestic moments happen in the most apparent challenging conditions. Our method and approach is the liberating experience emerging from what is on offer. A source and direction of energy that pulls the surfer to float on the surface is also defined by the surfer’s point of letting go and diving into the water when conditions become too much. These are not polarised experiences of bad or good, of success or failure, but of a journey of becoming one with nature, embracing it and re-establishing our relationship with it as our home.
Theorists have made the case for connecting with our histories in our pursue of conserving our natural habitat. Mythologies of Homer’s Odysseus seeking his Ithaca, and the realism of Caribbean slaves fishing out in the open waters on Atlantic Ocean’s edge have required an intertwined interdependent relationship with nature and its elements. The thousands of Syrian refugees drowned in the Mediterranean Sea escaping conflict. The skill of ‘reading’ nature and floating decisions under different communication needs, on the nexus with the changing elements, is part of the human condition that can not be aborted.
There are thousands of individual journeys to Ithaca, Caribbean fishermen and surfers connecting with nature in that way. The sea is a pool for everyone to explore their search for a home.
I don’t believe in God, not in the traditional way anyway. But I do believe in the power of gratitude and appreciation towards people who have come to your life to reflect a mirror of your self, to ascent and revalue what you hold dearly inside of you.
I will begin with the story of how I met Michael. Some four and some years ago. Through a common acquaintance who knew I was visiting Portland, Oregon.
Michael is a philosopher. One who has jumped the academic ship to share his true passion over the community waves in that beautiful Pacific northwestern part of the world.
Throw Michael a dice and you’ll get the idea back kindly explored twice. His accessible, empathetic yet unafraid to challenge skill says as much about his heart as much as about his mind which is open, loving, honest and growing coffee fuelled day by the day.
I need not to say I feel fortunate to have spent some hours with him and his wife talking through everything and anything, tipping things on their head for the purpose of our own individual truth as much as for those around us.
Next up is Kostas. I met one of his closest mates some 25+ years ago, his wife around 3 years ago, so the journey to him is a little deflected by circumstance.
Kostas is a scientist, with a research project in Svalbard in Arctic Norway, an explorer and a dj by the day.
I will begin my journey with the most recent interaction, coming back from my rowing training to a text from Andreas saying tune in to this radio station, our pal is playing some music.
Kostas is the guy who managed somehow to dig the most beautiful sounding punk rock tunes right uplifting and melodic enough, for a two hour set on a Sunday morning. Towering at 6 feet, this guy curated a set through geography, turned political reflection, turned dedication to his friends. And all with the same passion as he talks about the intricate details of his research lab and in kindness and humour to his team and fellows.
And last but never least, is Andreas. My pal of a lifetime. The person that knows himself so well, that he understands me and is honest as much.
We met in Rebound, the then only dark wave club in Athens, still going with freakishly beautiful human beings rocking to some of the most etheric yet often screetching 80s sounds.
Andreas is kind and generous and has the ability to conversate with anyone whilst maintaining a uniquely unpretentious level. He knows his nuclear physics, no pun intended, and I’ve seen people feeling intimidated by him including my own father who has known him since I was a late teen kid.
For me in many ways I noticed how respectful he is of my partner avoiding to offend by calling or texting, and how subtly he presents he’s there when I’m on my own, not for his benefit, but for an upgrade to a reference point we may have discussed before.
Most importantly, I feel like I can be anyone and everyone around him. After all, I have grown up parallel to his own journey and we have seen each other grow up, change, contract and deconstruct over a fairly long time too.
I am so incredibly lucky to have him in my life.
My dedication post to the three men is made in honour of how I grew up by knowing them, and still grow today. Neither of them became who they are today because of their wives, mothers, other women in their lives. Surely their partners have supported their development, but it’s all down to those boys doing it alone and remaining truthful to themselves.
I know there is a lot of material about loving and protecting men out there, but unless they had looked inwardly, there is no way anyone could have done that for themselves.
Thank you for being you.
It’s been three months since my last overseas trip and in the past weeks, I’ve been considering where my next escape will take me to.
The options on the list are between a couple of towns in Europe, east and westcoast US, Africa and South-East Asia.
Sorting through the checklist of where to prioritise includes the outdoorsy options for the time of the year, ie hikes, coastal walks, swimming/surfing etc, the people I know there including how important they have been in my life recently (it’s always sweet connecting with loved ones), the local culture, will it enlighten me and challenge me in positive ways?
I no longer use Airbnb, for political reasons as much as having encountered some very troubled individuals whilst hosting and being hosted by. For example in the US, from around 8, but two hosts were recovering from drug addiction, violent breakups and required attention from me that the experience and after taste did not justify the price I paid for (energetically and materially). With all due respect, everyone deserves happiness and to make some extra cash but air BnB is a problematic option for those seeking short term solutions as it distracts from the bigger picture. It only works when everything else is running well ie having a high income anyway, and meaningful interactions with neighbours and society as a whole. And it worked well for me when I was on that vibe, hosting. However, when it is not, either hosts or hostees can end up being dragged into someone else’s story whilst travelling and paying to stay at their home, which is not a price worth it. Symbolically, the best two Airbnb stays were in Portland up on the hill surrounded by greenness, before being dragged into another drama situ afterwards linked to hosts’ troubled present, and on my last stay in Seattle, in a beautiful attic to the sound of, funnily, death metal from my host’s son. Both stays were hosted by people who presented clarity in their intention to stay out of my way, had everything set up and in order for my arrival and appeared to not exhibit controlling or overly self-absorbed behaviours during my staying there. After all, as they say, first impressions matter.
So moving on, since I returned to London in August, I have hiked a couple of times in the South East of England, went to the forest, for walks through the parks, by the river, long cycles and with a fare treat burning in my pocket, I am laying out my options for the new upcoming routes.
I believe the best way to do travel is combining the freedom to roam new places for some of the trips and seeing friends and loved ones in combination for other, and of course as a route to self-evaluating where you are at in relation to your home and your views on the workings of society. This should provide you with a baseline of choices on your next steps and aspirations.
So maybe this winter will see me in warmer places, and the early spring somewhere with lots of snow. I have been going to the Arctic for two years now early in the year and craving the purity of the landscape, the escapism of the feeling of being at the end of the earth. I will be returning to the US too to visit friends that now live there for hikes, cafes and coastal walks. My other plans include culture-rich towns and cities, with art being central to the scene.
I think the fundamental aspect of travelling, is living every day’s moment, today. To find the time to make space for solitude, a place where you meet yourself, re-evaluate, focus so you can recharge before you rejoin the updated version of your world again.
More reviews and experiences coming up in the next few months.
For all the free souls out there, the surfers, the boarders, the under-trendies, past 9-5 jobbers and dreamers out there are some spots in town that will meet you half way to your soul. Here are my top suggestions:
The Fresh Pot, easy-going vibes, wicked design on mugs, great for people watching in either of the two locations (Central and Mississippi) that I’ve been to.
Ecliptic Brewery, intriguing brew menu, food tastes really good too. Soundtrack expectations of spacey Pink Floyd kind of tunes, or rock. What else would you expect?
I also love the Ecliptic Brewing branding and some of the tins you buy from the shops are fluorescent.
It’s the mellowness – if you weren’t keen on drinking coffee because of the ground bean bitterness, this one will surprise you. A must-try!
Sizzle Pie, hmm soul-warming, heartwarming filling vegan food. It makes me hungry thinking of it every time. vegan, tasty, filling. end
To all the 80s souls out there, Goonies and Stranger Things fans. You are in Portland and there is a wicked retro gaming arcade. It’s between downtown and the Pearl and you can’t miss it, the music will mesmerize you to enter. It’s like why bother questioning the 1+1 equation. You know the answer, jump right in!
Jezebel’s Last Standing Merrygoround Cafe, 502 NE 42nd Ave, Portland, OR 97218
Gently themed like a traveling carnival of the depression times era, aka Carnivale, this place is comfortable and understated yet smart cool for those who prefer to head out a few streets east from trendy Alberta and the tourist drag.
Old house turned into a house styled bar. Cool cocktails, healthy and tasty fast food, happy hours, and a friendly non-goth -but slightly goth-like feel, for everyone. The patio sitting area is pretty continental too.
Article guarantee: spending a couple of hours in each of the places above, will considerably improve your Pacific NorthWestern experience.
So I will not start from the beginning, why should I, after all, I will start from the point writing this blog post, became urgent. And that wasn’t until I got inspired.
So you know how much I love Camden Town, right? I suppose in many ways it’s the alternativeness I have come to love for decades, even if it is being polished gradually, the edginess is still here.
So what’s up Seattle?
Up University Way and I got blown away. Now this is a quiet Camden, clothes’ exchanges galore, vintage shops with vintage clothes you can actually wear i.e. check out Red Light Vintage http://www.redlightvintage.com/, Korean food that smells beyond tasting good, unintrusive cafes like Cafe Solstice https://www.cafesolsticeseattle.com/ and a second-hand multi-lingo book shop check out Magus Books https://www.magusbooksseattle.com/, all packed on and off a high street where people don’t need to prove they are cool – they kind of are and don’t know it. I loved the dress down punk 90s understated fashion on the street.
Elaborative discussions on how the homeless are better looked after in Seattle than in Portland are complimentary. 90’s vibes. A time before all that uber-conservative shit in politics took off. Where Blur and Bjork are cool to mix with all sorts and cafes don’t mind shitloads of unpretentious laptops.
Now rewind a few days.
The airport; you land in Seattle, you be sure to listen to grunge and rock on the airport speakers. Telling what the city is made off. Even the light rail is called ‘sound’.
Then off to Highline, you could call it a disgruntled neighborhood on the margins, one that will certainly change, because the people may be poorer than average, but have tolerance and are friendly. For Londoners, think of Hackney before the money moved in. In Highline, money is not here yet but I think it won’t show in the same ugly British ways, because the money in the US goes to more affluent areas, whereas money into poorer areas in Seattle means it came from poorer people yet. So you get the picture.
Next off; Gasworks Park, or rewind a few blocks up the hill behind down Sunnyside Avenue North. Probably one of the most beautiful areas in Seattle. Streets manicured pretty green and friendly unpretentious, just the houses are bigger on well thought designed picturesque bliss, but no grandeur here either please, just simply gorgeous. So back down the hill to the Gasworks park and by the Lake Union waterfront – oh my days. My waterways days chucked into the bin, deep deep into the trash bin. The chaos of sup paddleboarding, rowing, kayaking, commercial traffic, houseboats, sailing boats, and water airplanes all using the same water was like watching carnival for the first time. All it felt like, was kind of Greek chaos, only with the confidence. It was fun to watch – put a big smile on my face and gave me another good reason to add to the reasons why I am in this part of the world: it doesn’t make much sense, but it works fine.
A little later, into Fremont, oh my days you have to go, it is so cool and pretty, like an understated really green lightly academic bohemian neighborhood that reminds me of somewhere I would have loved to go before.
So yeah, go Pike Street Market, Alki Beach, the Space Needle (if you must), Westlake Shopping, check out the Fremont Troll and the gum wall (I didn’t – couldn’t bear the thought), look out the wheel from the seafront and maybe jump on the ferry to Bremerton for more really cool views. Pop in at the University of Washington grounds – huge trees bigger spaces to feel academically inspired ;-p and if you are a Harry Potter fan the Library Suzzalo and Allen Libraries is the kind of grandeur that Oxbridge would love to have (I thought my School of Oriental and African Studies university library was big haha). Out of the library look out to the incredible view of the snow-capped Mount Rainier. Whatever you do though, if you are my sort of gang, go up University Way, go down Sunnyside Avenue.