The Unbearable Lightness of Travel

“Up in the Air” came out at a funny time for me. I had just taken a job with Myspace that required me to fly to LA every week. This didn’t really bother me at the time. I have always had a bizarre affection for hotel rooms, and an easy relationship with flying. It seemed to fit my new lifestyle (or at least, was no more weird.) I already had to drop my daughter off at school every Wednesday knowing I wouldn’t see her again until Sunday morning. Why mope around my Palo Alto house, sleeping with Felina and Little Fifi when I could be living the highlife on a travel stipend in Los Angeles?

So every Wednesday I wake up amidst love and squalor, enjoy a long snuggle on the couch, pack a lunchbox and suitcase, and drive to the school and the airport, in that order.  And somehow, as I take off my shoes and coat and remove my laptop, I also shed myself.

They say travel is dehumanizing. We are nesting creatures. Walk around the office. Do you see a cube that hasn’t been marked in some way? A few books, a diet coke can pyramid, a picture in crayon pinned to the low wall: all marking territory and making home.  But travel refuses you the ability to make home happen. Sure you can pack candles or a photo to put by the bedstead, but knowing a few days later you’ll have to put them back in the suitcase makes it almost worse.  Gestures of home are futile and uncomforting in the face of the housekeeper’s ability to wipe away every trace of you. I find human connections a better comfort.  I’ve squandered a lot of opportunity to explore in exchange for the pleasure of a waiter who knows I like my steak rare, or the chance to teach the parakeet in the lobby to whistle a sequence of notes. The desk clerk worries over my cough, the night watchman offers me tea.

Give Up Your Resolutions

For the last five-some years, I’ve given up making New Year’s Resolutions. Instead I have what I call the New Year’s Project. Each year I pick a large topic, and spend my time on and off throughout the year teaching myself about it. One year it was futurism (an obvious topic, consider how many New Year’s predictions articles always get run). I read up on who were the leading futurists, joined a futurist group and went to their meetings, and worked on making predictions myself. I learned useful concepts like cone of uncertainty, and how to take the long view, and how to do scenario planning. But most importantly I learned we cannot know the future, and as we try to plan we must be always ready to shift. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying to plan; it just means maintaining a yogi-level flexibility.

This last year I decided beauty would be my project. Not art and architecture, which I have always appreciated, but traditional feminine beauty. I have always had an uneasy relationship with the ideals of feminine beauty– having been raised a feminist I suspected makeup and infrastructure garments were a tool of patriarchy to hobble us by taking away two hours of our life every morning. But hey, why not question my assumptions?