Category Archives: Travel

Captive Audience

From the Department of What’s The World Coming To…

Barcelona’s Liceu opera reopened on Monday. Its first concert was performed in front of an audience of plants, NPR reports. Much nicer for the performers, I surmise, as at least plants don’t cough, rattle candy wrappers, and forget to shut off their cell phones.

Then again, this plant appears to have nodded off.

white flower on green leaf plant

Photo by Nadezhda Moryak on Pexels.com

The Pandemic Ten

Remember the “freshman 15”, aka the pounds everyone seemed to gain their first year at college? It’s déjà vu all over again.

Back in the day, the culprits were pizza, beer (and/or weed), and nerve-wracking new experiences like late-night cramming and unprecedented freedom.

This is different, and not just because I’m older. Month after month of the same old, same old has led to inertia and tedium with a constant low hum of anxiety buzzing along underneath.

I don’t really care what the government is recommending… Dear Husband and I are staying put except for essential and unavoidable tasks. Since we can’t travel or eat out with friends, we’ve amused ourselves by cooking food from different cultures and pretending to be elsewhere. Unlike traveling, however, we are not burning calories by walking extra miles through cities, museums, and the like. Even my Fitbit is bored.  The result: packing on extra poundage like a wild animal in captivity.

Like many of you, I eat when I’m stressed even if I’m not physically hungry. And what I’ve realized, as my own little world keeps shrinking — while I’m not — is how many of my essential needs aren’t being met… which leads to stress… which leads to snacking.

  • Order and control. Toss this one right out the window. We have no idea when this will end and can’t do much about it except to continue social distancing and wearing a mask. Plus, staying informed is highly overrated when so much of the news is just plain sickening.
  • Anticipation. It’s hard to plan for a trip or special event when there’s nothing on the calendar.  And being worried about catching the virus en route does dim one’s enthusiasm.
  • Personal space.  If you’re someone who needs lots of alone time, a pandemic is not your friend.
  • Sleep. Stress and worry make sleep elusive, or fitful at best. Which in turn affects your body’s balance of the hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived, ghrelin levels spike, while the level of leptin falls, leading to an increase in hunger, especially for junk food. (I don’t know how it knows, but it does.)
  • Variety of experiences. When going to the grocery store is the weekly highlight, life’s a little blah no matter how nice your home or neighborhood is.

Anyway, it’s useful to know the triggers. Now I need to get serious about my action plan, as I refuse to buy a larger-size wardrobe. Who’s with me?

photo of a burn fat text on round blue plate

Photo by Natasha Spencer on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Wistful Thinking

There are so many things I miss these days, from the prosaic to the profound.  Among them:

  • Free samples at Costco and Trader Joe’s
  • Visiting with my kids
  • Dinner out with friends
  • Responsible government leadership
  • A proper haircut
  • A decent pedicure
  • My group exercise class
  • Anxiety-free sleep
  • News that’s actually news
  • Space to roam
  • My waistline

But perhaps the one thing I miss most of all is the anticipation of upcoming travel.  For those of us who love a change of scenery — whether exotic or familiar — there is something deeply satisfying about planning a trip down to the last detail, while leaving lots of room for unexpected developments. (The good kind, not the “oh s*** I’m suddenly quarantined in a foreign country” kind.)

I’m enjoying vicarious adventures through other bloggers’ posts, but we all know it’s hardly the same.  Having cancelled our London trip planned for March, and now deciding not to play “beat the odds” with the trip to France we’d scheduled for this summer, I feel a bit adrift.

And wondering… what do YOU miss most these days?

airplane window view of airplane wing and clouds

Photo by Chait Goli on Pexels.com

More on Cell Phones

Good info on disinfecting your cell phone. In short, clean the screen and case with a disinfecting wipe, being careful not to get liquid in it.  Do this especially after using it in public places.

Better yet, keep it in a plastic zip bag when you’re out and about. (Is that even still a thing?)

On the bright side, maybe this will be the end of people taking endless selfies.

Good News Monday: Stemming the Tide

Amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19, here’s a practical and uplifting guide to managing our anxieties.

As the author writes in today’s New York Times, the good news is that “even in the face of fear, we do have the capacity to act in ways that would help limit contagion during an epidemic.  (If link doesn’t work, here is the article.)

(NY Times)

Are you fearful about catching the coronavirus? Are you anxious about whether you’re properly prepared for its arrival? You’re in good company.

In the past few days, I’ve had more than a few patients call or email to ask me to double or even triple the dosage of their prescription antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication so that they could have a bigger supply on hand “just in case.”

Throughout the country, people are stockpiling food in anticipation of a shortage or a quarantine. Supplies of Purell hand sanitizer flew off the shelves in local pharmacies and are now hard to find or even unavailable online.

I understand the impulse to secure one’s safety in the face of a threat. But the fact is that if I increase the supply of medication for my patients, I could well deprive other patients of needed medication, so I reluctantly declined those requests.

As a psychiatrist, I frequently tell my patients that their anxieties and fears are out of proportion to reality, something that is often true and comforting for them to realize. But when the object of fear is a looming pandemic, all bets are off.

In this case, there is reason for alarm. The coronavirus is an uncertain and unpredictable danger. This really grabs our attention, because we have been hard-wired by evolution to respond aggressively to new threats. After all, it’s safer to overact to the unknown than to do too little.

Unfortunately, that means we tend to overestimate the risk of novel dangers. I can cite you statistics until I am blue in the face demonstrating that your risk of dying from the coronavirus is minuscule compared with your risk of dying from everyday threats, but I doubt you’ll be reassured. For example, 169,000 Americans died by accident and 648,000 died of heart disease in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Sunday morning 19 Americans had died from the coronavirus.

The reason this probably doesn’t make you feel better is simple: Just as we tend to assume the worst about novel threats — the safest, if not the most statistically justifiable, strategy — we tend to underestimate the danger of familiar risks because we are habituated to them. We are not very rational when it comes to assessing risk.

The good news is that even in the face of fear, we do have the capacity to act in ways that would help limit contagion during an epidemic. Specifically, we can behave altruistically, which benefits everyone.

For example, research shows that when people are told that it is possible — but not certain — that going to work while sick would infect a co-worker, people are less willing to stay home than when they are reminded of the certainty that going to work sick would expose vulnerable co-workers to a serious chance of illness. Stressing the certainty of risk, in other words, more effectively motivates altruism than stressing the possibility of harm.

The lesson for the real world is that health officials should be explicit in telling the public that selfish responses to an epidemic, such as going to work while sick or failing to wash your hands, threaten the health of the community.

There are other ways to encourage selfless behavior. For example, another study examined the neural activity of people while they played a game in which they made either generous or selfish choices to award or withhold money. The researchers found that when subjects made selfish decisions, the brain’s reward center was activated, whereas when they made generous decisions, a region of the brain implicated in empathy lit up. This suggests that people are more likely to be altruistic if they are primed to think of others and to imagine how their behavior might benefit them.

There is no question that we can all be encouraged to act in the interest of our fellow humans during perilous times. Specifically, public figures need to convey loudly and clearly that we should not go to work or travel when we’re sick and that we should not hoard food and medical supplies beyond our current need — not just give us health statistics or advise about how to wash our hands.

But that will require morally authoritative leaders who can inspire the better angels of our nature by reminding us that we are all in this epidemic together.

Richard A. Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, and a contributing opinion writer. 

Good News Monday: It’s Dad’s Turn

For generations, it’s been assumed that only mommies need to change their kids’ diapers in public places. What else could explain the general shortage of changing tables in men’s restrooms?

To remedy that, Pampers and Koala Kare have joined forces. Their goal: to install 5000 changing stations in men’s bathrooms in the US and Canada by 2021. So far, nearly 2000 have been added to libraries, parks and other public spaces.

Change is in the air, and it’s long overdue.

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It’s Not Just You

According to a recent study, the average American can’t spend more than four hours with family during the holidays without getting stressed.

Lack of space and privacy, noise, too much togetherness, and family drama are some of the reasons. ‘Ya think?

However, knowing this, you might want to take a short walk around the block every few hours to clear your head and give you some alone time.  Happy holidays! xx

white and blue crew neck t shirt

Photo by Atul Choudhary on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Hello, Bison!

Now there’s more space for America’s national mammal to be at home on the range. (No, not buffalo, as the song would have it*: buffalo are indigenous to South Asia and Africa, whereas bison are found in North America and parts of Europe. 

In case you’re wondering what the difference is  (of course you were), bison sport shaggy beards and buffalo don’t.

The World Wildlife Fund reports that bison in Badlands National Park now have an additional 22,553 acres in which to roam. In 2017, over 2,500 donors to WWF and partner organizations raised nearly $750,000 to build 43 miles of a new fence that extends bison habitat in the park to 80,193 acres.

This October, the WWF released bison into the new area—the first time they’ve set hoof on this land since 1877.

photo of bison on grass field

Photo by Chait Goli on Pexels.com

*Let’s be honest,”Give me a home where the bison roam” doesn’t exactly flow.

Style: What to Avoid When Flying

window view of an airplane

Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com

‘Tis the season to be traveling. If your plans involve air travel — commercial, that is; you private plane people can wear whatever the hell you want — this timely advice (adapted from a post on WhoWhatWear) should come in handy. Click here for the full piece.

Tight Clothes

You want to avoid cramping and swelling caused by too-tight clothing and inactivity. Problems can range from the serious (DVTs) to uncomfortable bloating. An elastic waistband is your friend, and with a nice top layer no one needs to know you’re channeling Edith Bunker.

Anything Flammable

One more reason to choose natural fabrics! And cover your arms, legs and feet in case the unforeseen happens and you have to go down the emergency slide. A long-sleeved cotton t-shirt is breathable as well as protective.

High Heels, Backless Sandals, Flipflops

They make it difficult to quickly evacuate the aircraft, and could hurt others if they go flying off.  Heels could puncture the evacuation slide and they’ll sure make it a lot harder to run to another gate if necessary.

Meanwhile, that tiny airplane bathroom is even nastier if something on the floor gets on your toes. ‘Nuff said.  Opt for closed shoes such as sneakers, low heels or flats, or boots.

Studs, buckles, zippers, belts can set off metal detectors and slow you down. The same is true for bold jewely. And it’s better not to put your valuables on the conveyor belt; just store them securely in a small case in your purse or carry on until you’ve gone through security.
Not Enough Layers

Airplane cabins can be frigid, so wearing layers makes sense.  You can always remove a sweater or cashmere shawl if you get too warm.

Pack a change of outfit in your carryon if possible, too — fresh socks, a tee and underwear at a minimum. It makes life much more pleasant if you’re stuck on the tarmac in an emergency, or your checked luggage is delayed or lost.

Safe travels,

xoxo Alisa

A Lighthouse In Winter

Although our local lighthouse is attractive in the summer, I find its stark winter beauty even more compelling. Yaquina Head, Oregon’s tallest lighthouse, rises a majestic 93 feet above the westernmost point of the basalt headland which juts one mile into the Pacific Ocean.

The lighthouse has guided ships along the west coast since August 20, 1873, when the first keeper climbed its punishing 114 steps to light the oil burning wick.

Today, of course, everything is fully automated.

But on a crisp, cool day with few visitors, it’s easy to imagine how lonely and desolate this remote spot must have seemed to the lightkeeper’s family.  IMG-1653.jpg