|Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 25, 2013 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
I wonder what it is that compels me to travel? Place to place, I go around collecting states like pokemon (gotta catch 'em all!) and viewing my passport as a badge of honor. I sometimes stare at entry stamps for entire flights, feeling accomplished for each I have.
And I wonder why?
What is it that I'm looking for? What is it that any traveller is looking for? After all, there has to be something. There has to be some reason we keep going elsewhere. Some reason why "here" is never enough.
When I was little, my dad wrote a children's book about Nikki Durant and the Terrible Cant. The Cant was a big terrible monster who tried to prevent little Nikki from getting to "There". But she went from land to land anyways, overcoming obstacles until she made it to her desitination. She made it to There. To which I think my dad may have known me better when I was three years old than most people ever will.
Because my life is one big journey. I go from land to land fighting any opposition. Trying to get to There.
The only problem is this magical There may not exist. It may not be a location and if it is, I'm not sure what it'll look like or how I'll know I made it. In fact, I'm not sure it's a destination at all. Maybe it's an end point that isn't in the least bit tangible.
Still I keep looking, keep searching. If I don't find it in the United States, I might find it in Cambodia, or Panama or Japan. If only I could go to Ghana, my proverbial There might be found.
And although I don't know what it is that I'm looking for, it must be something. Because after I die, the amount of countries I've seen or the amount of experiences I've had won't make a difference. None of that will matter. No one will remember. But still I keep going as if I'll someday accomplish something by seeing, touching and experiencing more.
What is it that keeps me on the road? What is it that keeps any traveler travelling?
I wonder.. what is your There?
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 23, 2013 at 6:25 AM||comments (0)|
When I was in third grade I learned about the Panama canal. It was the first time someone taught me about the importance of another country's resources on the United States. And it stuck.
Over 15 years later, I finally saw the canal. And thanks to CouchSurfing, it was with a guy who works for a huge shipping company in Panama and knew absolutely everything about it (like, occasionally the little trains that pull the ships along get yanked into the water. Who knew!?).
Here are some more facts you might all enjoy about the canal:
- The French tried to build it first and failed miserably so the United States purchased the rights to the property. We ran the canal until 1999 and then gave it back to the country who owned it - Panama. Strangely, the people of Panama don't seem to hate Americans... which is suprising since we took the profit from their largest resource until just recently.
And they still use our dollar...
- According to one website it costs a ship $450,000 per passage if carrying 4,500 containers. That's half a million dollars for 48 miles of travel! My friend gave me a slightly higher estimate of $500,000 but at that price, what's an extra 50k?
That would be one expensive cruise!
- Depending on who you ask, it takes 6-12 hours to go through the entire canal.
I didn't even have the patience to watch one ship go completely through the Miraflores locks.
- 20,000 people died during the French construction of the canal.
Which is not surprising. Imagine building THAT before cars.
- And not about the canal, but I still found it interesting - Panama Hats are almost always made in Ecuador!!! And some sell for over 25K!
Sort of like how that Belgian company owns Anheuser-Busch.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 22, 2013 at 4:20 PM||comments (0)|
A few weeks ago I was in Minneapolis, which is the only time I've been to Minnesota. As you'd expect, there were three feet of snow on the ground and it was absolutely freezing. But it was also strangely beautiful and impressively metropolitan. Most places I go in the world, I get cabin fever after a day because although I might go out a ton, I'm always inside. From a house, to a car, to a restaurant, to a car to a store. It's like all the small cities of the world are out to suffocate me.
But not Minneapolis. They have buses that run all night long and are reliable down to the minute. Huge buildings and expansive lakes. Within the city you can walk almost anywhere (which is really strange because I saw almost no one walking) and even the things that look far away on a map are usually only a 20 minute hike away. My kind of place.
So I walked from my hotel downtown to the Chain of Lakes. Yes, it's a literal chain of several lakes. And they are beautiful. I'm not sure if it's legal there but I'm pretty sure I saw someone ice fishing. Then I stopped at a bun shop that was so good I've fantasized about those warm, gooey cinnamon buns for 2 weeks now. I slowly meandered back to the Sculpture Garden (snowy and cold but still very cool to see) and then hopped on a bus to the Weisman art museum (free and really impressive).
My favorite sculpture, it made me giggle.
As amazing and varied as the city was, one thing stood out. There was no one around. On any bus I was one of 5 people and on the streets I was often alone. Maybe it's because it was during the day on a Sunday and everyone was either hungover or in church? Maybe it was because of the freezing cold weather....but I doubt that much. I'm pretty sure Minnesotans are made out of polar bear parts so they can't freeze to death in the winter.
I could come up with absolutely no explanation. It seemed that if there were so many things to do, there should be people around doing them.
Either way, I didn't let it bother me too much and just enjoyed having the entire Minneapolis landscape to myself. On the way to the airport I decided to make one last pitstop in order to say I saw all the major parts of the city.
And that's when I discovered where everyone was.
The Mall of America.
It was packed with people. Kids riding rides in the amusement park (yes, an amusement park in the mall), hundreds of college aged girls were doing yoga by the main entrance, people were wandering from store to store. I couldn't even see all the lego sculptures at Lego Land over the throngs of humans, stuffed around me.
Lego man protects his Lego Land from above.
And that's when I learned one more thing about the people of Minnesota, or at least the mall going ones. They are big.
See, the problem is that sometimes I forget what normal people are supposed to look like considering I'm nearly obese by New York standards (JK.... kind of....). We walk so much and there are so many models/actors/etc. that my perception of "average" is really messed up. So to see a bunch of people who are larger than average is shocking. I get confused and self conscious and weird.
Before leaving to catch my flight I grabbed a salad and chips & salsa from a Mexican place in the food court. While I was waiting for my food, a lady walked up to the register and sweetly explained:
Large lady: "I'm so sorry, I know this is weird. But can I have some water in this?"
Passes a 40oz styrofoam cup to the cashier.
Cashier: Looks at her blankly.
Large lady: Explaining with a hint of shame in her voice, "My friend's little girl won't drink soda, so we need to get her water. I'm so sorry..."
Cashier: Slowly took the cup and cautiously filled it up, seeming annoyed at the little girl's need for water.
The whole scene horrified me. In what world is it shameful to drink water (healthy) instead of soda (insanely unhealthy). I can just imagine the mom begging that little girl to drink soda at dinner time. "Honey, once you finish your soda you'll get desert." And then they sit at the table for hours waiting for the stubborn little girl to just finish her normal person beverage.
WHO DOES THAT?!?!?!
And that's when I made the mistake of looking around. It seemed everyone at the mall did.
Right then and there I threw out my chips and salsa and finished my salad. You can bet your butt I'll be working out every day until that image leaves my mind... which might not be for a very long time.
... on a side note. I think it might be that cinnamon bun shop. If I lived near that place, I'd be 400 lbs as well!
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 18, 2013 at 8:15 PM||comments (0)|
Recently I was in Chicago, Milwuakee and Minnesota. Being from the Midwest (or a state that people consider Midwestern even though it's really in the Northeast-ish), the difference in personality of those cities and New York is never an issue for me. However, I do forget those places exist and often forget how important they are when I spend time solely in the Big Apple.
People accuse New Yorkers of being New York-centric all the time. And it's true. We are a$$holes when it comes to recognizing the rest of the United States exists. We tend to remember Hong Kong, London or Copenhagen far before we remember Illinois or Montana.
It sounds terrible, but think about it for one second. Our major news sources (The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal) come from NYC, the country's finance industry is based in the New York area and we have a police force with officers in 11 different COUNTRIES. Things that happen in New York politics or sports become national news for absolutely no reason other than the fact New York is New York. For example, when in Chicago the digital ticker on a building was listing major headlines, one of which was "Snow cripples New York City". What other city would show up on a building in Chicago when they get a little snow? That news flow certainly doesn't go the other way, I have no idea what's going in Chicago 99% of the time.
And if you don't believe me, try a little experiment. Talk to a native New Yorker or someone who has lived there for a long time and ask that person "could New York survive as it's own country?" or "What is the most important city in the United States?".
The answer will be yes, it could and New York is obviously the most important.
Which is not only inaccurate, but a very dangerous way to think. Taking an occasional trip to the Midwest does an excellent job of reminding a city dweller of that fact. For me, a short little trip reminds me of the manufacturing, gas and farming operations that support the rest of the country. Can you imagine if Milwuakee didn't exists? Miller beer would be no more. Without Wisconsin, we'd be nearly cheeseless. Without Salt Lake City there'd be no Mormon Church to inspire our Broadway shows.
But seriously. Where do we New Yorkers think the country's manpower comes from? A huge portion of the New York workforce, myself included, are imported from other states. States that created hard workers and some of the most successful employees. Where do we think we get our food? Why do we not recognize the contribution of people who talk a little slower and spend time being friendly to one another?
I've decided that every person who forgets the importance of other states, needs to take a trip to the Midwest or Soutwest every several months. Go out and see another city.
Because in the end, New York is just that.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 17, 2013 at 7:45 PM||comments (0)|
I've been in Panama since yesterday and I have to say it's both amazing and strange. Driving into the city from the airport we passed a crowd of buildings that reminded me of the more built up areas of Cambodia. Run down by American standards, painted in bright colors that had long been faded by the sun and covered with random articles of clothing draped from the balconies. I'd imagine those buildings had spotty electricity and lots of studio apartments with multi-person families.
Then we turned the corner and we were suddenly looking straight into a row of sky scrapers that could compete with the fanciest New York has to offer. Glass buildings 70 floors high. Lots of BMWs. Valet and Concierge.
Then what reminded me of a Hooverville from my history books. Random makeshift metal walls on a collection of tiny houses that were clearly made on the fly.
Another skyscraper. Another shack. A restaraunt with 3 course meals and table clothes, a little shack with coffee from a can. It was one of the strangest sites I've ever seen.
And I sort of love it. Everywhere else we hide our inequalities, in Panama they're in your face. And for someone who likes both of those worlds, it's an incredible place to be.
I can walk down the street and hop on a bus that may or may not get me where I want to go and it may or may not break down along the way. Or I can call a car service and be escorted to and from my destination. I could eat in a gorgeous Peruvian restaraunt where the food is served in miniature portions but is so good it makes up for the over-fanciness. Or I could get rice from a table on the street where people look at me weird for not being Panamanian and I'd never spend more than five dollars.
Basically, it's everything I could want. One part developing country and one part wealthy metropolis.
Oh, and then there's the part with the rainforest.. that's pretty darn cool too.
And strangely, here's an article the NYT published that describes exactly what I'm talking about at the same time I wrote this.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 10, 2013 at 6:10 PM||comments (0)|
Lately I've been taking a lot of quick trips. A day in Chicago, two in Wisconsin, one in Minneapolis. As a lot of you know, I'm trying to see all fifty states and, secretly, I'm hoping to see all but Alaska and Hawaii before I'm married (I feel like that's a good premarital accomplishment).
Because of that, I've been trying my best to get a good feel for each city before moving on to the next. And t best way I've found to do that? Public Transportation.
Take a bus, a subway or a trolley and you'll not only meet locals, but you'll understand the city from a normal person, not tourist, perspective. For example, who knew that LA had a subway? I sure didn't... until I took it (for 1.25, holy crap that's cheap!). I ended up talking to a camera operator for 20 minutes who was a huge, HUGE, fan of legalized pot and absolutely adored the city (which I still despise). To be honest, he was the first person I've met in LA who was not horrible.
I'm guessing that's because he was born and raised in Detroit
...just kidding, Los Angeles people!
... but not really.
Anyways, I'm infatuated with local transit. For example, in Chicago I took the subway and was confronted by about 15 panhandlers. The thing is, everyone in Chicago is slightly nicer than the people in NYC and everyone certainly seems more religious (Christian religious, New York can beat any city in Jewish religious-ness) which means that I felt terribly guilty completely ignoring the homeless people asking for change because I was the only one who didn't even make eye contact and it was entirely normal for the panhandlers to appeal to the passengers' religious morals as grounds for giving change. That's hugely different from NYC considering New York is more work/reward related instead of kindness/religion related. Which means if you entertain a crowded subway car or give someone directions, you're far more likely to get a few dollars than if you talk about Jesus and kneel down in prayer. Big Chicago difference.
Anywho, I tell you all this in the least demanding way possible (which is hard to do when giving unsolicited advice) - go out in whatever city you're visiting and ride a bus. Take a train. Find whatever public transportation exists and get on it.
I promise you, 100%, you will not regret it.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 9, 2013 at 5:40 PM||comments (2)|
After a work trip to Chicago, I stopped for a personal visit to Milwaukee. Which makes Wisconsin the 27th or 28th state I've seen (I think).
During my short overnight visit, I stayed with one of the nicest CouchSurfers in the world. I was his first surfer to stay on his couchbed and he was a superb host. Luckily I found someone who grew up in Wisconsin so he was able to give me a pretty good feel for the area.
Strangely, Milwaukee is one of those cities where you can see pieces from every part in a day or two. So we drove around and my host calmly told me about all the different neighborhoods we passed. There was the Third Ward (very artsy/hip/cool), there's Brady St. (very college-y but there are some awesome coffee shops there) and there's the domes (cool bio domes. The desert one is my fave!). He kept up his calm, collected, entirely enjoyable personality the whole time.
I could easily picture him in California.
Then came the last few hours of my trip and we were trying to figure out what to do. He thought for a while and then asked in his quiet, kind way of speaking, "do you like cheese curds?".
To which I replied "...ummmmm?"
Because I'm not from Wisconsin and I have no freaking idea what cheese curds are.. as if that requires an explanation. I would assume they come from curdled cheese but who the heck really knows.
And then his personality totally changed. His eyes lit up, he sat up straight and his voice got slightly higher and incrementally louder, "Well, we NEED to get some cheese curds!". And so we did.
We hurried to the public market and bought fried cheese curds with ranch dressing. And yes, they are exactly what they sound like, cheese pieces with fried dough.
But they're freaking delicious!
And they should have been, considering my Wisconsin friend also worked at a cheese shop for a while. Which he, of course, loved.
So it's settled. Wisconsin really is made of cheese.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on February 13, 2013 at 8:05 AM||comments (2)|
Last weekend I stopped in AZ after a quick work trip to LA (with my own money, for any co-workers who may read this ;). As some of you know, I've decided to try tacking on personal trips while travelling for work so eventually I'll be able to see all 50 states. Which will be nice considering how few people *cough*my fiance*cough* get to experience American outside of their own state.
So to AZ, and naturally, the Grand Canyon it was!
A Couchsurfer in the area invited me to stay with her and decided to take the drive up to the Grand Canyon as well. So we took off on our drive at a bleary eyed 7am and after a coffee pitstop - hallelujiah for caffeine! - made our way north from Gilbert, AZ (fun fact about the Gilbert - it's the largest "town" in the country) and sped towards one of the earth's greatest natural wonders.
Until we stopped moving. Because of a blizzard. In Arizona. While driving a car that weighed no more than 10 pounds. In the desert.
We were suddenly skating around on an ice plateau with several other cars and a single snowplow. A 2 hour trip turned into a four hour trek as we crawled inch by inch towards the park. My trusty Couchsurfing friend kept me entertained with hitchhiking stories (how awesome is that BTW?!?!? A hitchhiking girl who can make a 4 hour drive seem fun?? I adore her.) until we finally hit a clear patch. Pulling on to the direct road to the Grand Canyon National Park, we saw clear skies and, for the first time that day. And sun.
Back to a speedy pace the rest of the way until..... stopped. Right past the entrance gate the blizzard begain again. And that's when I realized I travelled across the country to view snow. Lots and lots of snow.
With a glimmer of hope still left, we got out for a "hike" which consisted of shivering baby steps towards a hopelessly invisible canyon. We leaned over the edge at Mather Point which is supposed to look like this:
And instead saw this:
So instead of viewing what should have been beautiful and grand, we played a quick little game of "spot the canyon".
And that. Is the Grand Canyon.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on January 27, 2013 at 7:30 PM||comments (0)|
I'm lucky enough to have a job that sends me all over the country to meet with clients and teach them how to use our program. Which means that I'm getting PAID to have new experiences and visit new places. It's pretty much the best thing that could possibly happen to me.
However, I never can manage to stay at one job for longer than several years, so I know that one day the free travel thing will come to an end. And I knooowwww, grownups have to work consistently and I'm supposed to get over the whole boredom thing. But I don't think I ever will. So deal with it.
Before the Boredom Monster rears his ugly head, I've decided I should take advantage of the situation and make sure I've seen all 50 states. Because I'm an American and I feel like I should've at least seen a little piece of each region in my own country. Granted, I'll have to pay for my own flights from one work location to another travel spot, but flying from LA to Phoenix on my own dime is a lot cheaper than taking a solo trip from NYC to AZ.
Plus, with Couchsurfing at my disposal, accomodations and friends are fairly easy to come by. And experiences are a heck of a lot easier to enjoy.
So far I've been to the following states:
California, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, Missouri.
Sooooo about half. Anyone out there live in one of the remaining states and want to invite me over? Let's knock things off this list.. and anyone who hasn't been NY, I'll return the favor any day
View Where I've been in a larger map
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on January 19, 2013 at 10:55 AM||comments (0)|
The Orlando Airport. Filled with crying kids, mouse ears and random people inexplicably singing/shouting Gagnam Style (I'm guessing it's a Disney thing?). Pretty much my worst nightmare.
But they must have been pumping laughing gas through the A/C vents to keep all the childless adults sane, because on this particular day I found the whole thing unbearably amusing.
Even the 1.5 hour security line made me giddy. Weather it was the 20 year old French speaking tourists wearing Mickey Mouse ears speaking 90% French and 10% Disney Slang ("It's a small world after all") or the 2 year old child that got 20 minutes through the line and then, to her parent's dismay, nearly ripped her mother's burka off while squeaking "I need to pee! Now!", I just couldn't stop finding amusement in things that would normally make me want to stuff cotton wads in my ears and hide in an adult-only bar.
Then I saw him. The cutest boy I've ever laid eyes on. All of 3 years old, blonde haired, blue eyed and freckled. He was sitting peacefully in his dad's arms.
That is, until his dad made an awful mistake.
Dad jokingly to wife after moving 10 feet in the security line after 40 minutes: "Why don't we just turn around, use our passes for one more day and fly home tomorrow?"
3 year old boy looks at Dad, looks at mom. Suddenly realizes he's not at Disney anymore and isn't going back. Starts balling his eyes out: "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH."
Dad looks at his feet. Looks at his wife.
Clearly feels like an ass.
Wife comes to the rescue. "But honey, you'll get to go to school on Monday and tell all of your friends about Mickey and Goofy and all the rides. Won't that be fun??!"
3 year old calms down. Looks at Mom and thinks about it.
All of a sudden a look of terror crosses his face.
Parents look at him like they're looking at a boy with 10 arms.
3 year old: "BUT I DON'T REMEMBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
And despite the screaming, we all started laughing. Kids say the Darndest Things.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 28, 2011 at 12:58 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 18, 2011 at 4:26 PM||comments (2)|
Riding mechanical bulls. That's just how I roll during trade shows. Especially during the evening party at a Texas Apartment Association show. And of course, only when the owner of my company's son is along for the ride.
That's when I decide to drag random folks to the dance floor to line dance and gladly hop on the mechanical bull.
And what's a bull ride without the appropriate bull-riding face? Which, if you didn't know, consists of 4 chins, squinted eyes and a half grimace/half grin. Double points if you keep your hand in the air for the ride.
Videos coming late tonight or tomorrow/
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 14, 2011 at 12:40 AM||comments (0)|
I've always felt a special connection to Texans. Something about the fact I was born here stayed in my blood.
Plus, every time I come here I leave with great stories.
Like the cab ride I took today from Fort Worth to Dallas. It took a good 30 minutes and 60 dollars to get from my hotel to the building I was visiting. My beer-bellied driver chattered away with a heavy southern accent as I nodded along and stared at the sites passing by.
He told me about the Cowboys stadium and the Mavericks. He told me about the cowboys and the ghettos in Fort Worth. And he told me about his favorite place in TX... Austin.
Because in Austin my big burly Southern cab driver was allowed to wear drag as often as he liked and enjoy whichever sexual orientation tickled his fancy without any judgement in the world.
Yes, the Christian, native born cabbie next to me was a full on drag queen for years and years.
And that... that is why I love TX.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 10, 2011 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
Couchsurfing is my favorite. Have I ever mentioned that?
Because of CS, I've spent my entire weekend doing things I would never tell my mom about (until AFTER I already did them of course!) and have nothing but love for Boston so far.
It started with a poetry festival at the Boston library and then a day wandering around the city, watching skateboarders, hanging out, drinking coffee.
Then I headed off for a friendly meet up with Sergei, the random CouchSurfer who offered to host me Saturday night. I found him lounging outside the BU gym after he got out of classes at the law school nearby. He was wearing a leather jacket and I was speeding to find him in my heeled boots and ginormous backpack.
We said hello and exchanged a few words about school and law and Boston. Then he lead me to the parking lot where we found his motorcycle safely resting as far away from the other bikes and cars as possible. I awkwardly attempted to put on my helmet (a 15 minute endeavor) and then hopped on the back ready to go.
He happily shouted that we were taking the "scenic route" and then sped off with no delay.
We veered off the road past Boston University and headed over the bridge to Cambridge. He picked up speed on the freeway as I stared dumbly to my right - the water between Cambridge and downtown Boston sat before me.
Inside my helmet, my eyes stayed glued to the scene speeding past me. Sail boats idled quitly in the water. Harvard students stood along a dirt path, walking, talking, kissing. Behind it all, Boston stood as a backdrop to the activity, each building standing tall beside the others while the sun sank slowly behind them.
Sergei shouted back in his lovable accent (Russian.. because now that I'm dating Daniel everyone I meet seems to be Russian) and asked if I was ok.
In that moment there was nothing else I could do.
FYI: I stole this picture, definitely did not take it.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 15, 2011 at 3:18 PM||comments (0)|
Good news! The missing trade show booth was rediscovered and returned safely.
Or something like that.
I got a call from Yousef the cab driver after admitting to myself we’d never see that booth again. I answered the work phone only to hear him describe how I accidentally left my large black box in his trunk (I “left it”, we misunderstood the situation or he stole… just a matter of semantics, right?) and then demand payment for his hard work toting the package around and all. Without giving him much of a response I let him know someone would give him a call to pickup the package.
So our handy dandy DC sales rep headed over to make nice and retrieve the long lost box.
Assuming it was all handled and done with, I saw Yousef pop up on our caller ID about an hour later. Again, demanding his money.
At which point, I handed the phone to our office everything-gal and she masterfully navigated the waters of money, anger and [accidental?] thievery.
All I can say is thank goodness it’s off my hands and if it’s going to happen to any one – of course it happened to me.