|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
best life (22 posts)
So it was that I joined the grand tradition of accidental solo traveling. And I found what so many solo travelers have discovered: that traveling alone isn't lonely at all, that you find yourself open to different things and much more likely to make new friends as you go. I found myself staying at the famous Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris, and while working my shift to earn my night's stay (yes, I was such a wild and crazy kid that I managed to find myself with a job) I met a fellow Midwestern 20-something who had expatriated to France and showed me the town. I found myself at an all-night dance party (breakfast and all) in small town Spain; I channeled my inner Madeline at a girls-only-former-convent in Venice; a Hawaiian goth became my best friend for few days in Granada; I spent a very strange overnight train ride listening to an Indian med student's techno in an Italian dining car. And when I wanted to be alone, I was, so that I could write and draw for hours in my journal and (sorry, but I was 20), discover myself. In other words, it was an entire summer of experiences I would not have had otherwise, and, I'm sure, never will have again.
But even I have to admit, the idea of doing something like this now sounds impossible, if not terrifying. Where did that youthful bravado go? Nowadays, I just wouldn't feel comfortable bunking in a co-ed youth hostel with rowdy Norwegian skateboarders. I have a mature person's fear of death, muggings, and not getting to shower regularly. And besides, a bit of adventuring is practically de rigueur when you're 20. What about when you're 40? or 60? or...80? Enter the great Solo Traveler blog. The site was born in 2009, when Janice Waugh found herself an empty-nester and a widow all at once. She decided to take what fate had handed her and run with it...all the way across the world. Now, as she puts it on the site, "I travel solo and I carefully observe how I do it."
So it was with only hypothetical interest that I viewed a "Viva Snail Mail!" event held recently at our local playground encouraging kids to write and send - gasp - actual snail mail. (Warning: this had nothing to do with actual snails. I know, we were momentarily disappointed too.) The event, and the Viva Snail Mail blog, which compiles notable postcards, postal history, and a fun idea for a postcard-sending challenge (scroll down), reminded me of the tiny and imminently attainable joy that is the postcard.
The postcard! Prettier than an email, easier than an entire letter, and somehow just so summery. What a delight, to receive a postcard from a sunny vacation, preferably with exotic stamps! What a noble-and-yet-doable goal, to send your own postcard to far-flung friends around the world or across town! Peruse Viva Snail Mail for some inspiration, and then get thee to a post office (or print some postcard stamps online—you can even design them yourself). You'll help someone you know combat their own mail box depression, and perhaps, just perhaps, they will return the favor.
Music to Write Letters By
Write a Letter to Know Yourself Better
Last year, the blogatorium (okay, I just didn't feel like typing "blogosphere" one more time) hummed with talk of "FOMO." That is, Fear of Missing Out, that social-media-fueled sense that you are missing everything good, that the world is teeming with super-cool events and parties and talks and lives you'll never be a part of. Now blogger Anil Dash has weighed in with his counter-phenomenon: JOMO. That is: Joy of Missing Out.
Dash writes, "There can be, and should be, a blissful, serene enjoyment in knowing, and celebrating, that there are folks out there having the time of their life at something that you might have loved to, but are simply skipping." It's okay to learn, through whatever human-tracking-app your mobile phone is stocked with, that everyone is having the Best! Time! Ever! at the TED Talk/art opening/cocktail party/perfect summer getaway while you, after putting down your phone with a sniff, roll over to read one more page of your book before falling asleep on the couch. Particularly if you love the book. Particularly if you're tired because you were up early to run, or take the kids to the beach, or meditate. It's okay to miss out on the big things in favor of The Big Things, like time with your family, your friends, even yourself. In fact, carving out quiet time in our so-many-invitations-so-many-options world might just transform your life. Which is more than you can say for most cocktail hours.
Why it's Okay To Put Yourself First
The Beauty of Living in the Moment
Now, I'm no hydrologist (it's a thing; I looked it up), so to me rivers basically count as lakes. They are connected, right? The key component of this species of beach-going experience is the inclusion of some degree of shade. True, the lake shore and the river swimming hole may count a mass of dead fish and the occasional plague of mosquitoes among of their charms, but they also offer a bounty of sea glass, grassy sands, fairy-rafts of driftwood, the respite of shade. This is summer swimming on the human scale: best of all is a lake you can see the other side of (no offense, Great Lakes), ringed by a lush fringe of pine trees. It's a diorama of an experience, a swimmy microcosm. Even better if the waters are tepid and still. Summery, Americana-infused, relaxing perfection. I suppose it's clear by now which side of the beach debate I spread my towel on.
My husband, on the other hand, stakes his beach umbrella firmly on the side of the ocean. He loves the epic horizon, the eyeball-busting sunlight, the drama of the ocean in all its crashy, splashy glory: knee-scrape-searing salt water, seashells, the glistening carcasses of jellyfish. The thing about the ocean is that you can't gaze out into those vast waters without contemplating eternity. The ocean is spectacular. A lake is pleasant. The ocean will carry off your children and burp up a whale. A lake maybe swallows your toe into some sludge. The more I think about it, the more our watery preferences seem to say about us.
So which beach are you? Here's a quick diagnostic question: when you think "summertime" do you picture a picnic basket or a clam shack? A canoe or a surfboard? Here's another way to truly know your summer vacation inner self: take a dip in this refreshing Flickr pool, Water...Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, Creeks, and see which images make your heart flutter. Bonus: you don't have to take any of your vacation days to do it.
The Luxury of Sand in Your Sheets
Why Does Beach Food Taste So Delicious?
If you have a question, send it to us!
It goes without saying that polishing off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s--even if it’s low- fat--is not a good idea, but we’ve also learned (from repeated experience) that swearing off ice cream forever doesn’t work, either. But the tricky thing about “eating in moderation” is that what we think that means--and what the scale thinks that means--are two different things. So how do you draw the line between what you deserve and what you could do without? Best Life nutritionists, Stephanie Clarke, M.S., R.D. and Willow Jarosh, M.S., R.D., gave us three questions to ask ourselves before giving in to the foods we love.
1. Does it fit into your daily calorie budget?
Clarke and Jarosh tell clients on a typical 1600-calorie-a-day eating plan that they have about 100 or 150 calories a day that they can swap out with whatever their heart desires. The catch is that most of us have no idea how many calories we eat in a day, and it’s very common to experience temporary snack black-outs in the face of temptation ("I’ve hardly eaten anything today, so I surely have enough leftover calories for a few potato chips," we’ll think, forgetting about the handfuls of nuts we ate at our desk or the whole milk we put in our coffee). They’re big fans of food journals to keep us on track. And they get it: tracking what you eat, either with an old-fashioned pen and paper or a new multi-function app, can feel obsessive. But as they tell clients (and as studies keep proving), this technique really helps keep the weight off.
Nussbaum explains how the resulting charts Quicken creates help her to see a snapshot of her life, what she values, what she needs vs. what she wants, what matters to her and how she lives. There are financial planning benefits, sure -- she shares how Quicken changed the way she saves, for example -- but it also creates a snapshot of a life. Remember that deserty treat shared with a friend? Quicken does. How much of your resources do you devote to groceries? Lunches? Shopping? Mysterious CVS purchases? (As Nussbaum puts it, " I like to be detailed, except when the charge is from CVS, because I can never remember what the hell I went in there for.")
In other words, your banking is telling a story. The question is, what kind?
Suze Orman's Money Class
Make the Most of Your Money
As I watched the movie, I wondered if there were any possible way I could be an eensy bit more like Martha Gellhorn. Leggy, blonde, and effortlessly glamorous? I effortlessly choose to put on pajama pants around 5:00 pm every day, if that counts. Courageous and restless? Eh, not really, though I do restlessly peruse the internet, sometimes for many hours at a time. Prone to torrid affairs with wild men? Gosh, no! A world-traveler? Well, maybe not so far, but hey, life is long, and Colleen Kinder has conveniently provided a cheatsheet over at National Geographic: Martha Gellhorn's Top 5 Getaways.
Here are the 5 places, from Cuba to Wales, where this intrepid traveler went when she wanted to get away from it all. We may not all be recovering from, say, reporting on D-Day, or recuperating after divorcing a Nobel laureate, but everyone needs to recharge sometimes. And these off-the-beaten-path travel destinations -- snorkeling in Kenya, anyone? -- seem like they would be just the place to get reacquainted with that eminent personage, yourself.
What Every World-Traveler Needs
Books for the Armchair Traveler
In 2010, when Eddy Lu and Daishin Sugano moved from Los Angeles to Chicago to open a cream puff shop ("They're the next cupcakes!" they say), the pair realized they'd overlooked one aspect of relocation: making new friends. They tried chatting with people in bars, but "guys thought we were hitting on them," Lu says. "It was awkward." Then they realized their best connections had formed over food. "Eating together is the classic way to socialize," says Lu.
A few months later, the pair launched grubwithus.com, where users browse dozens of upcoming gatherings at local restaurants and then book their seats at a table of strangers also looking to connect. The food is usually served family-style over multiple courses, which helps people settle in and get talking. "Grubbers" must adhere to a few rules, however: Be on time, don't check cell phones, and avoid politics-and-religion talk.
Now in dozens of cities—and available for anyone, in any city, who wants to use the site to set up a dinner—Grubwithus meals have produced friendships, job offers, and a few romances. But Sugano says he and Lu are their own best success story: "We arrived with no social network, and now we have 25 real friends in Chicago." And all because they remembered that before Facebook, there was food. "People say this is a forward-thinking service," Sugano says. "But making time to eat together is old-school. We're just going back to basics.
The restaurant that's changing the face of gritty West Oakland
Down-home done right: Soul food from brown sugar kitchen
18 questions that everyone's too afraid to ask
Salma Hayek's aha! moment: Discovering my true motivation
How 4 career changers found their calling