I arrived in Chicago yesterday and the last time I visited, Millennium Park did not exist. It’s a beautiful expanse of space which offers a concert venue and other architectural wonders in a park setting. Chicago is known for its architecture and public artworks so no surprise here. The designers of the park did an excellent job of integrating the park into the city. I was able to experience a rendition of Carmina Burana by the concert orchestra at the time. I simply enjoyed the integration of nature with city and culture.
Yesterday, after a hike in Muir Woods I enjoyed a lovely brunch in Mill Valley and then spent some time in beautiful Sausalito. The area was crawling with folks presumably because of the Memorial Day weekend. The downtown area felt like the packed sardines atmosphere of crowds in nearby Fishermen’s Wharf, San Francisco. At the end of the day, it’s a great place to capture images of the Bay Area.
Yesterday, I spent the day hiking in the beautiful redwood forests of Muir Woods. This lovely wooded area is officially in Marin County or the ‘North Bay’ of the San Francisco Bay Area. The climate, the culture of San Francisco and the outdoor offerings such as the Muir Woods experience contributes to the regional desirability of the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a very peaceful and serene feeling. The weather was exquisite – sunny and cool.
For lack of a better word, I really felt the ‘awesomeness’ of Nature. Perhaps the contrast with the concrete harshness and tempo of the City (San Francisco) allows one to become more sensitive to natural surroundings.
I thought the soft fern-like plants (below) were lovely and interesting in contrast to the giant majestic redwoods.
I was at the San Francisco International Airport recently waiting for a flight to Austin and discovered a travel magazine called AFAR. I thought it was interesting because it presented travel stories in less popular and unexpected places around the world.
There were also documentary-like stories about people and how their lives were shaped based on their exposure to travels and family backgrounds; not just simple narratives with writers talking about what they did or saw in a particular destination. The magazine says it’s about “experiential travel.” In some sense that seems to resonate with the age we are living in. I am based in San Francisco and most of the values here relate to activism and progressivism or technology and entrepreneurship. As the Internet becomes more influential in our lives, I think the irony is that more people are wanting to disconnect themselves and seek out stronger human experiences via travel. I’m not referring to that someone who backpacks around Southeast Asia on a shoestring budget for a month to “find themselves”, but more about a worldwide ethos where global society and human beings are seeking out experiences for self-fulfillment. People are getting exhausted of the wired life – managing overflowing inboxes, keeping up on Twitter and Facebook, grabbing the best online deals, texting and pressing buttons incessantly, etc. Society is simply forgetting how to be human and how to relate to people in real time, in person. Traveling encourages us to interact and be human again.
I’ve visited New York, London and Paris. They are interesting and vibrant cities but the rest of the world has so much to offer beyond these so called “world-class” destinations. I think the beauty and intellectual delight of international travel is discovering the unfamiliar. Or perhaps beauty is experienced by doing something uncommon in a common destination such as New York, London and Paris.
I just returned from Austin and had a fabulous time. It was my first visit to Texas. I think what shapes a place are its people and I think Austin is a fine example. As most people had informed me prior to my trip, yes indeed, Southerners are quite friendly. You bet! The people of Austin were friendly, helpful, patient and the men were chivalrous and gentlemenly. I’m all for women’s rights but when women object to such behavior as “sexist” and “I can take care of myself” I just don’t get it. Really. I view it as respectful and not as backwards behavior. Ladies, seriously. Don’t you think you’re worth it?
I also understand that Austin is a bit different from Texas’ other main cities of Dallas and Houston. The slogan in Austin is “Keep Austin Weird.” It’s a big live music city and there is a hipness to the core. The city is fueled by the local University of Texas at Austin and the tech companies. So, on the surface it may appear more progressive than Dallas and Houston but after my five day visit I think ultimately the values are still quite conservative.
Here are images I took which I think capture the essence of Austin:
At the Texas State Museum (above and below)
Austin is a dog town.
Lounge at the historic Driskill Hotel. (above)