Flying Solo

The first time I traveled abroad I went solo. Of course, these were the days when people could take you to the airport and sit with you while you waited, so my parents came with me and waited with me for part of the time. But then I was a free bird, flying east to France to seek my destiny. I arrived in Paris with two huge suitcases, which I had to drag around the city and then onto the train to Bordeaux, where I would be living for the next few months. 


Since that day, which was many years ago, I have spent a lot of time traveling solo. Sometimes it is nice to have a buddy to share time and experiences with, and usually when you are alone you can easily find a buddy to share with, but sometimes you just want to do things on your own. Also, sometimes nobody has the time or the money or the desire to do what you want to do, but I prefer not to let that stop me! I feel that although it is sometimes difficult and scary and strange, it has many benefits as well. 


Things are hard
. Yup, things are hard! You have to figure out in a different language how to get to your next destination or find a product that you need or ask a question. I was in Peru and I needed gas for my stove for a multi day hike and I went to the outdoor equipment store and was ignored at first and then stumbled over the words like a two year old (gas? gaso? fuego?) and then found the gas to be very expensive. I decided to take a pause and recollect my thoughts. I went back to my hostel and saw some gas cannisters at the check in counter and tried again. It turned out, they were half used cannisters left by other people and the guy gave it to me for free! After that, I felt like I was superman, just for something that at home would be a simple chore. 

Laguna Churup, Peru - 4,450 meters (14,685 feet)

There are sometimes scary moments
. I was walking on a beach in Brazil when I was catcalled by a bunch of guys just hanging out on the shore. I don't think you need to understand the language to get what they were saying. However, I held up my head and walked past them and of course checked my back when I felt it was safe. On one hand, maybe they were just the "construction workers" of Brazil, but without knowing what they were saying or what the customs were, I knew I should be careful. When I was younger I was so embarrassed when this would happen at home, but while traveling I got through it, and was proud of myself for not just giving up and going to sit in my room alone. 

Barerrinhas Lencois Marahenses, Brazil

You are your own cruise director.
There is nobody to help you with the planning, which is sometimes a bit daunting, but on the other hand, you are your own boss. If you want to pivot, you can, and you will not be beholden to anyone but yourself. I traveled to Sweden for a 12 day long hike and about six days into it, it started to pour down cold rain nonstop. By day ten I was wet and cold and tired of setting up my tent in the pouring rain, so I decided to get off trail two days early and go and get a hotel with a warm shower. Did I finish what I had planned? Nope! Did I still have a great time? Yes. Was I disappointed in myself? Not really. But if I had been with someone else I may have done things differently due to external influences. This has allowed me to be more confident and sure of myself and to learn to live up to and learn from my failures, manage changes of plans and deal with obstacles along the way. This also means that if you want to throw in the towel on one activity and go lay on the beach and eat bonbons, you only have yourself to answer to (and myself says, "I love bonbons!")

Sweden - beautiful, but rainy in September!

Even introverts can make friends
. I can spend all day in a room by myself with my book and not be unhappy. However, I can also strike up a conversation about nothing with a stranger and soon have a fast friend. I stayed in many a hostel and made plans with a new to me friend to go and see the sights and before we knew it we had spent weeks together. In Rome, I arrived late and everyone in the hostel I was staying at was already asleep. The next morning, when I got up, there were all kinds of people, and I sat and chatted with them while eating breakfast and found out they were basically going to all of the places I had planned to go, so we decided to go together. I ended up not only hanging with this group of people for a couple of days but also went with one of them to my next destination of Naples and spent a couple of days together there. It is so easy to meet people and often when you are with someone else, you stick to yourselves. However, when alone, you are sometimes more open to meeting others! 

Frasier Island, Australia

Of course, being alone does have it's issues. For instance, when biking alone, when you need to go to the bathroom, there is nobody to watch your bike! The same thing goes for luggage, although I have learned a lot since my first two-suitcase-trip and I can usually carry my pack into the restroom with me. Hotels are more expensive when you can't share, and sometimes going out to eat alone is not super exciting (tip for this: sit at the bar and then you can talk to the bartender, the guy next to you, or nobody, depending on how you feel). 

Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

One thing  many people have asked me is whether or not I feel safe, and I can resoundingly say that I do. There are less times than I can count on one hand when I have been bothered or felt unsafe; in fact I have felt less safe in certain places in the U.S. than I have in places like Africa or Central America. Don't let the fearmongers get you down; get out and fly! 

Have you ever traveled alone? Why or why not? Do you enjoy it? What do you consider the most challenging part of traveling / traveling alone?


3/23/23: The Trifecta Of Terrible

Today is a palindrome! I am a fan of these kinds of fun things with numbers and words. I know I have mentioned this before, but if you are not already playing Octowordle, I suggest you do it now. It does not have to be a wormhole; you can just play one game per day while concurrently keeping Alzheimer's at bay (hopefully). 

But that is not was I was going to talk about. Everyone has a pandemic story, and for many people the "three year anniversary" of their story just passed. I do not disagree that the 13th or the 16th of March were monumental days for most of us, myself included, but for me another day I will never forget was March 23rd. For those of you who don't know, I work in the finance industry. As you may remember, this was a difficult time in the stock markets. 

Here's a quick recap. The stock markets were doing well and were basically going up and up and up.  Then the decline started at the end of February, when the stories of COVID cases around the world started to increase and hit the news more and more. In the next four weeks, as news stories kept surfacing and cases kept rising, the stock market was halted four times. This happens when the index drops more than 7%, usually from it's previous day's close, and it causes the entire market to pause all trading for 15 minutes. I have only seen this happen a couple of times and it generally signifies something very bad; this can also happen with single name stocks, but that is not quite as worrying as the entire market shutting down. 

On March 9th, Italy went into lockdown, the markets took a dive and were subsequently halted, oil prices plunged, and Dr. Fauchi told cruisegoers that maybe they should rethink their vacations. On the afternoon of March 11th, I flew to New York City for work meetings and my friend's wedding, which was scheduled for Pi day (March 14th). My flight was nearly empty. By the time I left for the airport, the S&P 500 had dropped over 9%, WHO had declared COVID-19 a pandemic and Trump had suspended flights from Europe. 

Flight San Francisco to New York on March 11th

The next day in the office in Manhattan was not a pretty one; the markets were halted again and everyone was scrambling to figure out where this was going to go. I will not lie though, that evening I went for a work dinner, with hugs and no masks and shared appetizers. We just did not know what was coming. 

That evening, my friend texted to say that she was worried for me because they were shutting down restaurants in Brooklyn and that she and her fiancĂ©e were thinking of canceling their wedding. I was still skeptical and thought maybe she was overthinking things (she IS a worrier!), but I asked her to keep me posted. The next day, Friday the 13th, Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency (and the markets actually went up) and my firm stated that only essential business travel will be allowed. My worried friend told me they were canceling their wedding and I should get on the first flight out of there. 

I did what she said and left the next day (luckily my getting home WAS essential to my company!) I was in the office on Monday early as I usually am, when we got the word that people should all stay home and that the office would be closed, effective immediately. Since I was already there, I said I would stay and they let me. I am glad they did. I was not too worried about my health as I was alone in my own solo office so I did not feel unsafe, but also this day turned out to be even worse than the others; all three main indices dropped over 12% and were halted again that day and it would have been really hard to do my job not only from home but on a new system that was not even available to us before this day and so we had not practiced using! 

The week of March 16th was not awesome, and was full of stress and anxiety and yet another market halt, but the bottom of the markets came on....you guessed it, March 23rd! Of course we did not know it was the bottom; it was just another bad day in a string of bad days. But I will never forget this day; I will never forget this entire experience, but especially this day. In my time working in finance, or maybe in all of my career, this was the worst period I have ever experienced, both financially and emotionally. It was unpleasant and emotionally draining. Added to a world that was in the midst of a pandemic and going through this all while in lockdown, it was a trifecta of terrible. 

Screenshot taken on March 18th 2020

Photo sent to my parents at the end of the week of March 16th - yes, that's a pint glass.

I know that many people have kids and had to deal with that, or had to work and couldn't afford to stay home, AND had kids. I know that many people have loved ones who died. There are so many stories about coping and hardship and loss, and my story about people losing their money is not the worst of it. This entire period and beyond were horrible, as my grandma would say, and I am definitely not minimizing anybody else's horrible. This is just one story of many. 

What is your pandemic story? What part of the COVID-19 experience will you definitely never forget? What day or event sticks in your mind the most? 

Disclaimer: The information above is solely an opinion based my own personal experience. You do you. I am not a tax and/or financial advisor; nothing in this post should be taken as investment advice. I have no fiduciary responsibility to anyone reading this post. Please consult a financial advisor for investment advice.  Sources include ReutersThe Week and CNBCFor my other posts regarding money, go here


A Day In The Life: Morning Commute

Sometimes it feels like groundhog day around here. Get up, brush teeth, coffee, commute, work, go home, run, eat, read, sleep...and repeat. However, I am not really very excited to start my taxes so...I guess I will continue my routine. To me, this seems like the mundane, but it is fun to sometimes hear how other people do tasks that are just part of everyday life. For instance, Stephany and Engie recently talked about doing laundry, of all things. But it sparked a discussion about how many times we wash our sheets (about once a month), whether or not we separate whites from colors (no) and how much we love (or hate) folding and putting stuff away. 

One of the mundane things I do every day is commute to work. I never really did the work from home thing, even during the pandemic, although my commute was different then due to the lack of available public transportation and of course the lack of wanting to be in public (or being allowed to be). I am lucky to have a car and I had to use it during the pandemic

However, now we are back to "normal" again and I am back to my old shenanigans. Here is what that looks like. First, I have to get to the BART (train) station. I do this in two different ways, depending on what I have going on after work that day. If I drive, it takes about eight minutes, and I park on the streets in West Oakland and take the BART from there. For those of you who don't know this, West Oakland is the last stop in the East Bay before the BART goes under the bay and into the city. Because of this, this station is the best because on the way home, you can take any train going east and you will have to go through this station no matter what. Also, from here it is only about eight minutes into the city once the train comes. 

West Oakland BART

If I ride my bike, I go to a different station, which is closer to my house. This is about a seven minute ride and is mostly downhill. I lock up my bike and take the train into the city, which is about 17 minutes from this station. 

Either way, I usually listen to an audiobook while driving or riding and then read my book while on the train. I have been struggling lately to pick up books in print, so this is my way of trying to keep the habit of reading daily, not just listening to books, which I find myself doing more and more often. I get off in the city either at Embarcadero or Montgomery station. 

Financial District (FiDi)

As an aside, I have been trying to make sure to get 10,000 steps a day. Although this is an arbitrary number made up by someone, it is good for me to have a target; otherwise, it is easy to cut corners or just go home and sit on the couch. I say this because the Embarcadero station is about 0.10 mile further to my office than the Montgomery station, so I try to get off at this one to get those few extra steps. Every step counts right? The other thing I do is take the stairs instead of the escalator and luckily the trains are either up on rails  or underground so I get to take plenty of stairs. By the time I get to work, I usually have about 2,000 steps. 

My walk to work goes through the financial district in San Francisco. At the time of the morning that I go in there are not too many other people on the streets. It generally consists mostly of construction workers sitting in their cars (I assume they go early so they can get parking) a handful of homeless people, usually on the same corner by the 7-11, and one or two finance people (I am guessing from the way they are dressed). 

I actually really like this portion of the commute; the city is quiet but still beautiful. I walk amidst tall buildings and I can jaywalk all I want because there is not much traffic. I sometimes walk past the Equinox, a gym that costs about $200 per month, but is housed in a beautiful building that looks like it belongs in Greece or something. 

Equinox gym

I get to my building, where I say good morning to the security guard as I swipe my pass. I then go up to my floor, where we have a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz (not from our office, only from the conference room). From our side of the building you can also see Union Square and the Salesforce Tower. I get a cup of tea from the kitchen and I get to work! All together, this commute normally takes about a half an hour, but is a bit longer in the afternoon when there is more traffic. 

View of Transamerica Tower (was the tallest until 2018)

View of Salesforce Tower (tallest in San Francisco since 2018)

Are you bored yet!? What is your morning commute like? Tell me about something "mundane" that you do regularly. 


Tales From the Trails: Hidden Neighborhood Gems

NGS wrote a recent post about her walks around her neighborhood and I was mentioning to her how I really have gotten to know some fun places near me due to walking and running. I have lived in Oakland for about 11 years now and have lived and worked in San Francisco on and off for about 25 years, and through those years I have found so many fun little alleyways and stairways and incredible views. 

In Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco, there are a lot of little stairways or walkways where it is sometimes unclear whether or not they are on someone's property or not, but if you are brave enough to take them, you can find some wonderful shortcuts and some really fun things. You can probably find a map of where they are and follow that if you want to, but I kind of like just stumbling upon them; it's an adventure! Here are a couple of my favorites from each city. 


Buena Vista Ave / Broadway Terrace - This may be cheating a little, as there are maybe ten different sets of stairs in this little neighborhood. It is like a Choose Your Own Adventure book and each time I go that way, I find something new! Also this neighborhood is up high and you can sometimes get some great views of the city and beyond! Google map

Yellow denotes stairs/paths.

Van Sicklen to Elbert St. via Trestle Glen - This neighborhood is nice and this path is hard to find, so I kind of felt like I was trespassing at first! However, it does get you through to higher ground and is a fun little clandestine route through someone's "backyard." Google map


Rose Walk - This path is about nine miles from my house and I found it on a run when I was trying to get approximately 20 miles total. I was looking for a turnaround spot and did not want to keep going down La Loma, which was the street I was on. It's a cute little path that you may even miss if you are coming from La Loma, but once you get on it, you go down the hill to Euclid where you can then turn right and check out the Rose Garden before turning around to go home. Google map

Indian Rock Path - This was another one where I just wanted to find a turnaround on a long run and I stumbled on this path. Not only is the path fun and tiny and green, but at the top of the path is Indian Rock, which I of course climbed up to see what kind of view was at the top. I was not disappointed, as you can see all the way to the city and the Marin Headlands. Google map

San Francisco

There are entire websites and books dedicated to the stairways in San Francisco, so I am not going to try to outshine them! However, here are two I frequent often. 

Greenwich Steps - If you walk along the Embarcadero going northbound, when you look up and see Coit Tower directly above you, turn left and you will be taken to a fabulous set of stairs that leads up to Coit Tower. Not only is the destination a good one, with a view and everything, but the stairs themselves lead through a neighborhood garden path and make you wonder how the people living here get their groceries home! Google map

Chestnut Street Stairs - These are not really "hidden" but they do provide a good bump in your heart rate and a rewarding view of Fisherman's wharf and Alcatraz when you get to the top. Also this has nothing to do with stairs, but if you are just looking for a run to do, going down Chestnut is fun and there is a public bathroom at the library that I have utilized often. I like to run down along the Embarcadero/Marina and then back on Chestnut for some variety. Google map

Here are a few extra photos of cool things that were not included in the list above: 

Brigeview Path

This Mormon Temple lets you cut through their property.

This sign changes from time to time.

SF alley to Transamerica tower.

Where have your walks taken you? Do you have any fun nooks, crannies or oddities in your neighborhood? 


A Walk Down Memory Lane

November 2021 was a rough month. I had a falling out with a friend; we don't need to talk about that too much. Also, my grandmother passed away. She had a good life and was 89 years old, but it was a bit sudden. My aunt contacted us to say that my grandma had gone to the hospital with a UTI and shortly after that her organs started to shut down and my aunt was about to put my grandma into hospice. My brother and I got the first redeye we could find and flew to Boston to be there with my aunt and grandma. It is a good thing we did, as she was gone less than 72 hours later. 

She saved a box of journals (I suspect she also threw a lot of them away) and we have been passing them around the family and recently it was my turn to have the box. I had a great time reading them and getting an insight into her life that I had not had before. My grandma and I were not so close that we spoke all the time or saw each other very often (she lived in MA) but she was on Facebook and email and we exchanged messages and notes from time to time. She was an avid reader and we often bonded over what book we were reading. I would probably see her every few years at the very least and we had a great time swimming in her local pond, reading and eating ice cream. 

However, her journals were from the 80s, when she was in her early 50s, my parents were in their late 20s and I was but a girl. At this time in her life she was a manager at a halfway house and her journals reflect the strife that she experienced on a daily basis. She also spent a lot of time in her garden, reading and spending time with friends, often in Maine, which was a special place to her. It is interesting reading about her life not as my grandma, which is what she was to me, but as a woman, a person who did things, a person with stresses etc. 

I especially enjoyed a series of entries that she wrote in 1988 when I went to visit her all by myself that summer. I got to ride on a plane alone and got the wings and everything (PS do parents still do this?) She wrote a lot about the weather, but also about what we did when I was there. 

"Finally, clearing skies so we had our picnic lunch and great swims at the pond, then gardening and a fun evening with games at Lucy's. Kyria spent the night - a bit of a respite for me." (I love the last part.) I have a confession; I have also been known to keep a journal and I have an entry from this same day! "We ate blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Then I read until 9:30 and watched TV until 10:25 (I am pretty sure my grandma only let me watch one hour a day). Then I came into my room and wrote in my diary (I am very factual). I'm going to write some more when I do more things. We went to Aunt Lucy's and had dinner. I stayed the night there and stayed up until eleven. It rained that night but not in the day."  

My 1988 Journal

Here is another from grandma: "Woke to light rain; after lunch we saw Willow at the cinema - great fun! and the cows and calves at Peaceful Meadows (this was a dairy where there was ice cream - one of our favorite spots), ice cream, puzzles, books and Sorry (the board game)." Here is mine on the same day: "Today it was raining so we went to a movie called Willow. It was good." (factual)

Here are a few others from other times that I found fun: "Another wonderful day, painted lawn furniture and cleared up yard. Halcyon (where her brother lived) for herbing and talking and a great steak dinner. Home to Mondale-Reagan debate." Reagan! "Gorgeous day out but 18 degrees. Boys and I all have a touch of the tummy flu - up at 4:30 am! Baked cookies, knit, sewed, played. Nice quiet supper, home at 9 pm. Fine weekend." (funny even though she had the flu, it was a fine weekend). 

As you can see, I have had a very fun time taking a walk down memory lane and even though she probably got rid of some of the more personal or emotional sections or books, I have enjoyed reading more about her day to day life, even though a lot of it, like most of us, is pretty repetitive! 

As I mentioned, I have always kept a journal of sorts. Many times it is just factual as seen above, and usually is a record of my travels more than a daily life kind of thing, but sometimes I record thoughts or feelings. I also (obviously!) have this space, where many of my memories are held. However, this space is full of things that I don't mind being public but I am not really sure how I would feel about someone reading my journals that I am not putting out on the internet. Most likely, many of them would be similar to my grandmother's entries -- the weather, a quick recap of my day, nothing very personal -- but it does make me wonder what may be in them that I would not really want to share. However, when I am gone, does it even matter? My Mom also keeps a journal, which I would want to read when she is gone, but I have a feeling she will not want that (hi Mom!) as it is personal! Hopefully she will leave us a few. 

I will end with a passage from an entry she wrote from Acadia, Maine that I especially enjoyed: "As we eventually settle ourselves and try to organize the boxes, parcels and bags for the trip home tomorrow, we are lifted by a PBS Bernstein concert of Brahms "Violin Concerto!" Could it be played for us in a more entrancing place? The evening is calm, cool and soft. I am replete." 

Do you keep a journal? Would you prefer to get rid of it before anyone else read it? What items do you cherish from your loved ones who are gone?