Jul. 15th, 2014

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Hey, [livejournal.com profile] evelynne's prompts are back! Yesterday's was Talk to me about the logistics of traveling and vacationing.

I really like traveling; I like to see new places. I'm one of those people who can really enjoy just looking at stuff -- it's mostly why I like hiking, too.

Logistically, I'm usually a light packer. [personal profile] anjelabug and I are usually able to fit all the stuff for both of us for a long weekend into a pilot case and just carry it on a plane; even for long trips like two weeks in France or three in New Zealand, one large suitcase has generally done it for us (though both of those trips involved laundering in the middle to be able to rewear things.) We also always try to stick a day's underwear & socks into our carry-ons in case of lost luggage.

My airplane carry-on is a nylon DefCon bag I've had for several years. It can hold a laptop (even a big one) if desired, but I still use it even when not packing one. These days, all I need to carry on is generally my Kindle, now that Delta lets you use those during takeoff and landing. Before, I always had both the Kindle and a "takeoff and landing book" for the annoying 15 minutes when the Kindle had to be stowed. If I do have a laptop, it's convenient to have a Linux partition since I can generally get on the WiFi for free if I'm not stuck in Windows.

The only trip I can recall where we packed like normal people instead of incredibly light was our trip to New York City last year. It was a "foodie vacation" -- we pretty much went to New York to eat for a long weekend. And unlike Seattle, which has exactly one jacket-required restaurant in the entire city, top New York restaurants have dress codes. The requirement to pack a suit and nice shoes (plus Anjela's shoes & dress clothes) vastly increased the required volume of stuff. Previously, the only times I'd packed a suit when traveling were for business trips where I was running off to give a presentation, and these were such short journeys that I didn't need to pack much else. I also have to pack a lot of stuff for DefCon, but that's not packing like a normal person -- that's a case full of weird electronics to play with. I always kind of wonder what the TSA thinks of looking at my bag ("Who needs three computers, a lockpick set, a magstripe writer, an RFID reader, and multiple cell phones in their suitcase?"), but I think on DefCon weekend I'm one of a thousand bags like that and they likely think nothing of it.

Once we get to a place, our vacations tend to involve a lot of walking. We like to see lots of things when we're in a new place, and while I don't mind driving in a new city/country, I don't really enjoy it either. Plus in major cities having a car is mostly an expensive inconvenience, especially cities like New York and Paris that have excellent public transportation.
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Today's prompt was Talk to me about New York City.

I've only been to New York twice -- once in college to visit friends, and once last year to visit restaurants.

It's kind of funny, having moved to the country 4 years ago (from the suburbs), I find I actually appreciate cities more now. I really like the ability to walk to places (especially with a subway to mitigate longer walks.) I used to think I wouldn't want to live in a city, but at this point I think I could be happy doing so -- I just also love where I live right now and wouldn't want to give that up.

New York is kind of ridiculously dense, at least in Manhattan. The way the downtown is contained to an island actually makes it look a lot more impressive -- from outside, it's a solid wall of skyscrapers, making the city more a giant three-dimensional block than the sloped mountain of other cities (with skyscrapers in the middle, mid-height buildings further out, and shorter ones in the suburbs.) It's clear how much of cyberpunk film was inspired not just by cities but this one in particular.

We visited several museums while we were there. As someone who likes looking at things and learning things, I'm pretty easy to entertain with museums. I recall the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History, though I don't remember if we visited any others. This is certainly something New York has over Seattle -- our art museum is kind of pathetic unless you really like abstract modern art.

Mostly we ate fancy food. New York is pretty much the best place in the world for this -- Las Vegas probably comes in second. We had Scandinavian food at Aquavit, French at Restaurant Jean-Georges, Cafe Boulud, and Bouley, and Japanese fusion food at Momofuku Ko.

The drawbacks of New York seem to be the same as any other city, only writ large -- it's crowded, to the point where it can be hard to even walk around, let alone drive anywhere. You have to allow a pretty large amount of time to go a mile, a distance that I would normally consider pretty much negligible. On the other hand, all of Manhattan fits in about 12 square miles, so a mile is actually a long way there. I didn't, however, find the place particularly dirty, nor did I feel unsafe anywhere, both of which seem to be part of New York's reputation (likely a holdover from the 80's, when, from what I understand, it really was dirty and unsafe.)

Overall, it was a cool place to visit and I think I'll visit it again. I wouldn't want to live there, but that's less because of what day-to-day life would be like as because it's staggeringly expensive. The cost of my house would be lucky to get me a tiny one-bedroom apartment, and in my particular field, I wouldn't make any more money in New York than I do now. (If I wanted to make a fortune, my destinations would be either the Bay Area or Washington, DC.)

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