Tag Archives: travel

The Thirty-First Year of the Jackie

So, it turns out that–despite the existence of alcohol and chocolate–I have made it to my thirty-first birthday. A year ago today, I was in a sort-of-impressive-sounding corporate job with a four-hour round-trip daily commute and an email addiction. I was really depressed, and so, shortly after turning thirty, I took a leave of absence which ultimately led to me quitting my job. It was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life, with the possible exception of going into that super gross hot tub at Myrtle Beach during our senior trip in college (those flesh-eating viruses are NO JOKE).

Now, one year into this journey off the beaten high-achiever path that I’ve dutifully followed for most of my life, I’ve achieved a new milestone: being proud of myself on my birthday.

This may not sound like a big deal, but for me, it really is. Once I was legally able to drink, I stopped enjoying my birthday. Every January 5th brought on a contemplative funk during which I lamented my lack of achievement and progress during the previous year: “Some people my age are olympic medalists! Half my friends have graduate degrees! Look at that guy; he’s only twenty-three and he makes so much more money than I do! Look at that girl; she’s only twenty-five and she’s married with a baby!  What have I done? Look at how worthless I am!”

I once expressed this attitude to one of my coworkers at Google a few years back. She was a pretty cool chick and refreshingly honest, and she was baffled by my view of aging. She’d lost a close family member at a young age and birthdays inspired gratitude in her–she was always happy and relieved to make it another year. I remember nodding and chastising myself internally for not being grateful enough for my birthdays and for not having cancer or losing an arm to that Myrtle beach hot tub, and then going right back to dreading early January and berating myself.

This year, however, is different. When it comes to traditional measures of success, this year certainly hasn’t touched most of those that preceded it. I can’t say that I work at a fancy company. I can’t say my salary is XYZ bucks per week. I can’t talk about awards or kudos or performance scores at work, or drop the name of any executives I work with.

What I can say, however, and what I’m proud of, is that I’ve had the most new experiences in the past year of my life than in the previous eight put together. These experiences ranged from good to bad to everything in between, but they made me think (and blog) about myself and the world deeply, and in different ways than I have before.

I experienced the joy of realizing that I could write, and write well(ish), and write enough words and sentences and paragraphs to make a whole book-type document that people might want to read. I experienced the excitement of getting an agent, and the subsequent anxiety and boredom of submitting to publishers.

I experienced the love of my family, and the grief of saying goodbye to a family member, albeit a furry one. I also experienced the excitement of welcoming a new love into my life, though this created drama with my old love, which was iced coffee (sorry bae).

I experienced the stress and exhilaration of travel, from people-watching the crazy costume-clad nerds of San Diego Comic Con to getting knocked up by food in Florence and trudging through the rain in Paris in super ugly shoes and seeing Britney dance way worse than when I saw her on tour when I was sixteen.

I witnessed two amazing couples get married on opposite-ish sides of the country and cried my eyes out both times because I AM A SAP, OK?

I experienced breakdowns and bad nights, and discovered new coping mechanisms to pick myself up when I fall or when the world seems too much to handle.

In short, I experienced life, and I had the time to really take it in, as opposed to watching it all pass me by. And, for the first time since I was a little kid, I’m proud of myself for that fact alone. I’m proud of myself for trying to live well, and I’m grateful to all those people (both IRL and on this blog) who have come along on the journey with me this year.

So, here’s to the thirty-first year of the Jackie! May the thirty-second be just as interesting, and may you still be interested enough to tune in and read about it once in a while 🙂

Love,

The Birthday Girl

 

 

Paris, je t’aime

 

Sappiness Warning: this post is sappy but I am sappy so yeah.

Last week was pretty terrible.  On top of ISIS The First Evil’s attacks in Beirut and Iraq, earthquakes in Japan, the continuing Syrian refugee crisis, general racism, and a million other awful shitty things I am no doubt forgetting, there was Paris.

Paris is one of my favorite places in the world.  I returned there for the first time since college this past August, when I was overjoyed to introduce one of my best friends to the city where I first discovered the joy of cheese for dessert (and lunch, and a snack, and breakfast).  Paris is the subject of more than half of the “artwork” pieces “decorating” my lame apartment.  It’s where I spent more evenings than I care to admit drinking two euro wine next to a dirty canal while various Frenchmen asked me if I was Mexican(?).  It’s where I fell sleep on the bus after a night of clubbing and ended up stranded in the suburbs at 3 am in a skimpy dress and heels higher than any I’ve worn since the age of twenty.  It’s where I got the news that a friend had died in an accident and cried my eyes out in a café at the thought missing her funeral while the usually stuffy waitstaff looked on sympathetically.  It’s where I learned to be an adult.  It’s where I first understood that I am a citizen of both the United States and the world. Seeing Paris under siege for hours on TV Friday night left me paralyzed for a good 24 hours.

None of this is different from what anyone else who loves Paris (or Beirut, or New York, or any other place ravaged by terrorism) has said or written before, but I just had to get it out, here and, as it turns out, on paper.  A new piece of (extremely lame) “artwork” now adorns the walls of my (extremely lame) apartment, in honor of the city that helped me grow up.  Paris, je t’aime.  Mon coeur est à toi pour toujours.

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The Ten Worst Things about Europe: Eurotrip 2015, Part Deux/Due

As promised earlier this week, I’m back with my list of the Ten Worst Things about Europe.  BE WARNED: THIS LIST CONTAINS PICTURES OF MY LEG AND ANKLE!  (This warning is mostly relevant to any of my readers who have traveled in time from the nineteenth century.  If you are reading this, sorry for lewd images, and also can I borrow your Tardis?).

10. Getting this bruise:

It has been nine days
It has been nine days

So I guess it’s kind of hard to see in that picture, but my first afternoon in Paris I was walking along the Rue Montorgueil (or as my non-French-speaking friends called it, the “Rue Mononmont…ugh, whatever”) and it was raining, like, SUPER hard, and I slipped in front of a bunch of skinny, smoking French people, and fell on my knee hard and it hurt like a motha, and the bruise is still there and going strong.  MERDE!

9.  Rain: This is a continuation of number 10, I guess, but it rained hard three days when I was in Europe and THIS WAS BULLSHIT.  Didn’t Europe know that it was me, Jackie, who was coming to visit it?  It couldn’t have held off on the rain for, like, one more week out of courtesy?  THANKS A LOT, EUROPE.  This would never have happened in California.* (On the plus side, I guess Europe does look pretty cool in the rain, see below).

Siena in the rain.  Pretty awesome, actually.
Siena in the rain. Pretty awesome, actually.

8. Air France:  Ok, this one isn’t funny and I don’t have a pic, but basically those assholes stole 216 bucks from me and I hate them and am never flying them again.  It’s a long story but if you really care you can check out my Twitter from this morning lol.

7.  Hangovers: When I was last in Europe, I was twenty years old and could literally club all night and drink endless wine without any repercussions.  Now that I am thirty this is most definitely not the case.  I paid dearly for this concoction, for instance (but, my God, was it delicious):

omg omg
omg omg

6. These shoes: 

So...chic?  Ugh.
They speak for themselves

So this is also a result of #9 – the evil RAIN.  My friend T and I were walking in the rain in Toms shoes to the Louvre, which was ill-advised on many levels, and we had no choice but to stop at a random shoe store and try to find waterproof shoes in our size.  Sadly, the only shoes available in my size were these (though T picked up a decent blue/black glittery pair which she threw out – bad decision, T!).  Apparently, the French have tiny feet.  The worst part was that I had to wear the above shoes with these pants:

The patterns really mesh well, don't you think?
The patterns really mesh well, don’t you think?

Not chic, guys.

5.  The number on this scale: 

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL
LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Who am I kidding?  I’ve been too afraid to get back on this old horse.  No matter how much walking I did, no way it made up for this:

TIRAMISU
TIRAMISU – I know I put this in the last post but it was SO GOOD.

4.  Bugs: The bugs in Europe are surprising vicious.  I was attacked by one especially horrid one in the courtyard of the Florence Basilica, leaving me with these scars two whole weeks later:

They still kind of itch, too.
They still kind of itch, too.

What I’m really saying is, the bugs in Europe hate Jesus.  Yeah, that’s it.

3. Smoking: Look, we Americans may be fat with big feet and cover all of our meals with melted cheese, but at least we’re not constantly inhaling poisonous fumes and blowing them all over other people.  I swear, no one in Europe can go twenty seconds without lighting up.  I’m kind of allergic, so this is genuinely awful for me.

2. Hot guys: Too many of them.  There’s such a thing as an embarrassment of riches, Europe.  Though they’re all skinnier than I am, so that helped matters.

1.  Paper and Candle Stores: Ok, Europe, what the hell – do you want me to be INCREDIBLY BROKE?  YOU HAVE STORES THAT SELL JUST PAPER AND JUST CANDLES EVERYWHERE.  Just LOOK at this beautiful effing fan I bought:

It's not ok that it is this beautiful
It’s not ok that it is this beautiful

I spent, like, twenty euros on this fan.  When, you may ask, am I ever going to use this fan?  NEVER, THAT’S WHEN.  But it is so pretty and made of hand-painted paper!

Also, LOOK AT THIS CANDLE:

Welp, there's another 20 Euro down the drain
Welp, there’s another 20 Euro down the drain

It looks like it’s made of glass, AND IT’S A WAX CANDLE.  COME ON, ITALY.  IS THIS A JOKE?  I’M GOING TO LIVE IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER AFTER THIS TRIP.

Don’t get me started on the soap stores.  I just didn’t go into them.  I would have had to declare bankruptcy if I had.

So, yeah, these are my top ten complaints about Europe.  As you might imagine, this was my face when I had to leave:

BUT I DIDN'T BUY ALL THE CANDLES IN EXISTENCE I CAN'T LEAVE YET!
BUT I DIDN’T BUY ALL THE CANDLES IN EXISTENCE I CAN’T LEAVE YET!

Love ya, Europe.  Never change! xoxo Jackie

*I am aware that it is actually a bad thing that it never rains in California.  I am not making light of the drought, which hopefully will be alleviated by El Niño.  Chill out, guys.  I care about the environment, GOD. 

The Top Ten Things about Europe: Eurotrip 2015, Part 1

Sunday afternoon, I returned to San Francisco from Eurotrip 2015™ and made a valiant effort to stay awake until 9 pm.  I failed immediately, and as a result I was a mess today and am now wide awake at 4:30 am.  So, what the hell, why not compose, for your reading pleasure, my list of the Top Ten Best Things about Europe?

Look at this frickin' statue. It's so great!
Look at this frickin’ statue. It’s so great!

10. Statues: It’s well known that Europe has approximately 300,000% more statues than America.  This has been proven by Science™.  In addition to the more famous statues, like the David above (apparently made by Michelangelo; who knew that the Ninja Turtles were such Renaissance mutants?), there’s just, like, so many random statues EVERYWHERE in Europe.  Just chillin’, as one does if one is a statue.  And they’re all crazy cool/beautiful/creepy, like this random statue of a baby I saw in Siena.  Love statues!

Creepy baby
Creepy baby

9. Views: Now, America has TONS of great views, don’t get me wrong, but the views in Europe are pretty killer and also very ancient because everything was built in the Middle Ages, which is ridiculous because they had to do it all with, like, levers and pullies and shit.  Nuts!

View from Eiffel Tower.
View from Eiffel Tower.

8. Ceilings: Ceilings in Europe >>>> ceilings elsewhere.  They had that on lock, like, 1000 years ago.  Can’t be beat, really.  Sorry, USA.

This is just in the opera house, not even a state building or anything!
This is just in the opera house, not even a state building or anything!

7.  Windows: To be clear, I’m talking about actual windows that you could use for defenestration, not Microsoft Windows.  That Windows sucks and is also apparently a tool for spying on your whole existence #macbookair4lyfe.

One of many impressive windows in Notre Dame.  No hunchbacks were injured in the taking of this photo.
One of many impressive windows in Notre Dame. No hunchbacks were injured in the taking of this photo.

6. Random art exhibits everywhere: Europe does not waste space in which to display/store art.  This random lit-up face sculpture, for instance, was in the vast basement of the ancient Medieval Siena hospital.  The face just had a whole room to itself.

Face Face!
Face Face!

5. Food: NOMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOM

PASTA
PASTA
TIRAMISU
TIRAMISU

4. Churches: I’m not a religious person, but I have to say, Catholics back in the day knew how to build a church.  They did not screw around with Jesus or architecture.  NOICE.

The Duomo in Florence.  Massive, ridiculous, amazing.
The Duomo in Florence. Massive, ridiculous, amazing.

3. Bones: To be clear, I am not referring to the long-running procedural on Fox starring Emily Deschanel and Angel David Boreanaz that stopped being interesting once they got together. In Europe, they sometimes take, like, thousands of bones and stack them in underground caverns with creepy lighting and let tourists come in and look at them.  It’s like Halloween year-round, but more legit.

Just a skull.  RIP, brother!
Just a skull. RIP, brother!
Me with a new friend!
Me with a new friend!

2. Universal Health Care:  I don’t have a picture for this, but it’s pretty awesome and should sort of be a basic right and let’s get on this, America.

1. MOAR FOOD:  Lol you chumps didn’t really think I’d really leave the FOOD IN EUROPE at #5, did you?  The food is just ridiculous and now I have to not eat for weeks to fit back in my jeans.  BUT IT WAS WORTH IT.

WINE
WINE
Some amazing dessert
Some amazing dessert
PRAWNS
PRAWNS

Thanks for reading!  I’ll be back later this week with my list of the Ten WORST things about Europe 🙂

So I drank all the wine…

And ate all the food and walked to all the piazzas and saw all the things.

Advice for going to Florence:

Eat everything
Drink everything
Wear a scarf for churches #sexism
Love life
When they only offer wine by the bottle buy it and drink it and be drunk and post on WordPress.

Ciao!!!

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I’ve been in Florence for 8 hours and I’m pregnant…

wpid-wp-1440015938005.jpg… With a food baby!  Caprese, gnocchi, wine, gelato… And that’s just meal one.  They’re going to have to ship me back to SF in a crate designed for people who have died from too much Italian food.

Ciao!

How to prepare for an international vacation

After spending half the summer in New England, I am off again tomorrow for a ten-day jaunt to Italy and France!  As a generally anxious person, preparing for international travel is like entering Dante’s secret tenth level of hell, but I’ve developed a process that makes the experience painless!  Read on for Jackie’s Five Steps to a Stress-Free International Vacation:

Step 1:  Create detailed packing and to-do lists 5-10 days in advance of your trip.  Then do nothing about these lists until 24 hours before take-off, at which time you lose your shit when you realize that, despite having purchased five hundred bottles of travel-sized shampoo in the past, they have all gone missing and you have to go to Walgreens again to get more, along with wet wipes, because if you don’t bring wet wipes your mother WILL KNOW and she will PUT A POX ON YOUR HOUSE because MY GOD WET WIPES ARE THE ONLY THING YOU NEED TO TRAVEL OTHER THAN YOUR PASSPORT, APPARENTLY.

Step 2:  Lay out all your items neatly on your bed or desk and then pack them in an organized fashion by rolling and/or flat-packing in plastic bags.  As part of this process, you realize that every single item you own is wrong for the weather for the place you are going, which has gotten ~10 degrees hotter in the past year due to global warming.  Also, you’ve neglected to do your laundry for two weeks, so you have to take care of that while somehow finding time to run to Old Navy (YEAH I KNOW I’M CHEAP WHAT OF IT) to buy, like, three hundred sundresses.

Step 3: Double-check that all your advanced bookings for ground transportation and fun activities like wine tastings are confirmed and print out your confirmations.  As you’re checking, you realize that you have, in fact, neglected to make ANY advanced bookings for activities of any kind.  Cry when you figure out that it costs 200 Euros for a damned taxi to drive you to your hotel and that all the wine tastings are pre-booked.  When you print out your confirmations, discover that your printer has run out of black ink.  Copy all your confirmations into a blank document and make all text blue or red; feel slightly triumphant at this lame workaround/outwitting of your shitty Canon printer.

Step 4: Reward yourself with a packing break full of daydreams about how educational, relaxing, and sexy your European vacation will be.  Go to therapy where you cry again because you’re 100% certain your plane will crash over the Atlantic and the wreckage will be lost and CNN will cover your plane’s disappearance for the next 300 years.  Freak out about how thin and hot Italians and the French all are and how you’re a disgusting, uncouth American who sweats constantly.  Nod as your therapist kindly helps you stop hyperventilating.

Step 5: Finish up your packing early the night before so you can be well-rested and in a good mood for your flight the next day!  Drink wine and procrastinate finishing packing by writing a sarcastic blog post detailing your disastrous packing process, couched in a faux “how-to” format worthy of Cosmo magazines of the ’90s.

Hope you find these tips* helpful! Ciao!

*In all seriousness I am excited about my trip lol I promise.  Also, I will attempt to blog using just my phone and tablet a couple times from Italy and France, and will try to share some cool pics of my ~activities~ on social media throughout my trip if you are ~interested~!