Monday, July 06, 2015

The Firework Story

Everyone has a firework story.  Whether it's someone you knew as a kid who stupidly lit his crotch on fire or whether it's something a bit more tame, we've all got one.

The Barnacle firework story was told through out my childhood.  It was a staple at all family gatherings, as well as a precedent for all stupid behavior, as well as a reminder that things could have been worse.  It happened in 1988, a few weeks after I was born.  My father decided to celebrate the birth of his third daughter with none other than a firework show.  So there he stood at the bottom of the hill of a driveway, firework in hand, and boom.  The exploding stick traveled up the length of the driveway and headed directly for my mother standing inside the garage, newborn blogger in her arms.  They say the firework exploded inside her bathrobe before disappearing forever in a cloud of smoke.  No one was ever the same again.

Of course the story changed over the years, depending on who was telling it, but either way, it's safe to say things could have gone worse.  So in honor of the recent fourth of July, and my lovely parents who both still tell the firework story, here are some of the best firework fails from across the Internet.

It really makes you wonder whether people understand the concept of "firework".

And last but certainly not least, my first July 4th in San Diego, when the 18-minute show turned into 30 seconds, after a malfunction sent all 7,000 fireworks into the air.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Have a Fourth.

Growing up with an English father and a first generation American Mother, July 4th never quite held the type of tradition that it does for the majority of my friends.  And during the 90's without facebook or social media to remind me, the fourth was merely a date in the middle of July when the sky would light up with explosive fireworks.

Of course now that I'm adult that's all changed.  Like everything in our childhood, life seemed simpler.  This year the fourth fell on a Saturday which means my "holiday" pay for working on the fourth was observed on the third when I wasn't scheduled.  It also means that 99% of the people in my life will be busy barbecuing with their families and going to the beach is pretty much the worst idea ever.  The beer is flowing and the parties are raging so hard that by the time the fireworks actually go off, you don't really remember them anyway.

Perhaps it's because it's one of those holidays that isn't just set aside for family, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, but it's kind of given that if you've got some family members near by that you'll be celebrating with them by your side.  Then there is the friend with a pool who is totally throwing down with their pretzel and sprinkled donut shaped inflatables.  Then of course we've all got that girlfriend who has spent the last month on pintrest gathering fourth themed snack ideas for her "cute" bbq.  And as long as you're wearing red, white and blue, you've got an invite to all of the above.

Suddenly you're super homesick for your own family, the same ones who never once celebrated any sort of red, white, and blue pride.  You're worried about how patriotic your bikini actually is and whether or not those adorable patriotic looking jello-shots have more alcohol than you might think.  And as the night sky explodes with color and the crowd cheers you wonder who is going to clean up.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"You Look Tired"

We've all been there.  You get the recommended 8 hours of sleep, wake up, maybe you don't even hit the snooze button, but when you get to work, hoping you've done your make up well enough for the day you get slammed with the inevitable comment.

"You look tired today".

Regardless of how tired I may or may not be, the dark circles underneath my eyes are telling an entirely different story.  One full of late nights, too many cocktails, and not enough shut eye.  So why even after a restful night sleep do I appear as though I've been up all night?

First, I'm going to blame you, Mom.  Seriously, those dark circles are often hereditary and sometimes are just part of who you are, regardless of how much sleep you get.  Thanks for that.  And for those of you with darker or more olive coloring in your skin, those dark circles may continue to get worse over time.  It's known as hyperpigmentation and happens when there is overproduction of melanin, that's the chemical that colors your skin.  Rebecca Kazin, M.D., a dermatologist at the Washington Institute of Dermatologist Laser Surgery in Washington D.C. has the 'best' news, it's only going to get worse.  Age doesn't help, and the skin underneath your eye "ages faster than the rest of your face because the skin is so thin".  Thanks Doctor Kazin, now I feel so much better.

And for those of you with Hay Fever or Spring time allergies, here's a kicker, those dark circles can get worse from rubbing your eyes from pesky allergy symptoms overtime.

So how do we fix it?  I'm not that tired I swear!  Doctor Kazin says the best fix is the usual, a healthy lifestyle of course.  She says avoid things like crash dieting that can effect rapid weight loss or gain that can lead to a loss of volume around the eye area.  Then there are obvious things to avoid like sun damage or smoking.  Unfortunately if you've got your Mother dearest to blame for your genetics, then avoiding the sun isn't going to do much.

The good news is there are a myriad of treatments that can help!  Doctor Kazin says moisturizer is the key to keeping your skin (anywhere) healthy.  And if you're past just the "moisturizing" stage then there are always fillers or Botox.  I know what you're thinking, but I've seen their, sometimes ridiculously fantastic results, first hand.  And whilst fillers can't remove the dark color, they can help with filling out hollow areas of the face, especially around the eyes.

I think for the time being I'll just have to ignore the "you look tired" comments and make the most of the lovely looks my Mother gave me.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Red Lipped Love

I'm a huge lipstick fan.  There is just something about puckering up with a bright lip that makes the world seem like a better place.  I mean sure, I know that if I wear a bright red or pink I'm going to get those "nice lips" comments on my walk to work, but I'm not wearing the color for them.  It's all about how it makes me feel.  Plus I can always dress up those jeans and slightly dirty tee shirt with a red lip and look totally put together. Viola!

Then again, I'm one of the only girls I see who dons on a bright red lip on a weekly basis here in Southern California, so where did my lip lust come from?  Harper's Bazaar is trying to solve that exact trend, by looking at who's buying/wear what in none other than one of the largest international travel hubs in the world; London's Heathrow Airport.

So here it is, the lipstick colors of the year report that Heathrow put together after looking at it's beauty sales.  No surprise that New Yorkers opted for a bright red hue, with names like "The Big Apple".  Whilst rainy Londoners tended to stay on the more on the softer nude side.  And of course Parisian women are all about that rose color.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

July is Comming

Next week July will poke it's lovely sun kissed face into our lives.  Yeah, it's July already, which means there are some incredible things happening around the world if you're up for a summer-time adventure.  And no I'm not talking about fourth of July fireworks.

Dance on over to the Warwagira & Mask Festival in Papua New Guinea (July 15-19).  The annual event kicks off with dancing, ritual performance, display, story-telling, and you guessed it, it's all about insane culturally stunning masks.

And whilst the San Diego fair is welcoming it's one-millionth visitor of the summer, the Biggest Funfair on the Rhine kicks open it's doors in Dusseldorf (July 17-26).  More than just a summertime fair, the annual celebration honors to the city's patron saint; Apollinaris of Revenna.  Rides, fireworks, amazing food, and of course parades of people come to celebrate in tradition.

And if you're more into the Musical side of celebrations, the Festival d'ete de Quebec is a must (July 9-19).  Seriously, the Rolling Stones are headlining.

Or you could go and get your fill of delicious Oysters at South Africa's famous Knysna Oyster Festival (July 3-12).  Nom Nom Nom.  I mean what could be better than half foodie fest, half sporting event?  Shucking and eating competitions are followed by an actual marathon, although running on a full stomach of oysters doesn't sound all that great.

And if drinking is more your scene, head on up to Portland, Oregon to the Oregon Brewers Festival (July 22-26) for it's 28th year of boozing.  The festival will serve up the best from across the country, including a few from here in San Diego.

What will you be doing this July?

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Guest Blogger: Sexual Assault & A Failed Police Force In India

He pretended to repair something under my seat when he started touching me. More than fear I just felt a huge amount of anger, started yelling and slapping him. Then, shortly after getting rid of this rickshaw driver at Lajpat Nagar, another man came from behind, snatched my bag and left on a motorbike. I was shaken up by the feeling of being sexually harassed and robbed within 5 minutes in a place that I had considered safe. Just 10 minutes before had I left an event at the Max Mueller Bhavan with many impressive artists and feminists. Now I felt like I was in a different world.  Fortunately, there were several people stopping and calming me down.
Unfortunately, these empathic reactions were by no means continued at the police station. After being pushed towards not reporting at all, I was sent from one police station to the next. From what I have heard about the police before, I was not expecting empathy or sensible behavior, but I was expecting them to do their job. Instead, they were just standing in the middle of the hallway, where everybody passing by took a glance at my report and then wandered away. It was only after three hours that one of my friends used her connections to the ministry and suddenly everything was done within minutes. Although I was glad that I could finally make my report, this made me even angrier since it clearly shows that they were lying when they said they could not help me. They just did not want to.
Both of the incidents, the failure of the police system and sexual violence against women are closely related. The former is surely not the sole cause of the latter, but a functioning legal system does set the framework for everything else. My experience at the police station clearly shows that all the existing laws are of little use, when the police is not doing its job in enforcing them. The officers who had clearly neglected their work in my case did not even have to face any consequences. As for everybody else, also police officers have to be encouraged to do the best they can at their job- and there have to be consequences if they do not stick to the rules. Incentives such as promotion should depend on the quality of their work rather than solely on the number of cases that are reported in their area which only encourages them to push people towards not reporting or directing them to another station. Then, on the other hand, pushing people towards not reporting, corruption and any other kind of misbehaviors have to have consequences.
As a psychologist I generally do not believe in bad people but bad systems. I do not believe that the police officers in India are born as bad people not willing to help anybody, and neither do I believe that my rickshaw driver was born as a bad person with the intention of sexually harassing me- but obviously something between the time of his birth and the incident was not quite right.
Apart from consequences on a legal level, education plays a key role in this point. Parents and teachers have to be aware of their responsibility as role models. If a father is beating his wife at home you obviously cannot expect the child to have a healthy and respectful relationship towards women. Just last week a five year old boy touched me on my back. He certainly did not know what he was doing, but was just copying behaviors that he must have observed similarly before. The fact that he was running away and laughing shows that he did know I would not quite like this, but that- well, it`s just “Eve teasing”, right?
We need to have a system that encourages appropriate behavior. Young children like this boy have to be encouraged for respectful behavior and any form of violation has to have consequences. Not only at home, but also in the public sphere, it has to be clear that the society as a whole is not tolerating any forms of sexual violence. I have been touched many times in the metro and I spoke up, but nobody supported me. I do not expect – and do not want- anybody to use any physical violence, I am only talking about a simple “Hey, do not ever touch her again- get away from her”. In many psychological studies, social pressure has in fact shown to be much more powerful as most people think.
Lastly, there needs to be more room for discussion. How should a child understand that it is punished at school for the very same behavior that it has observed many times- may it be on TV, in public or even at home? We should use the curiosity of children and young adults to discuss topics (appropriate to their age) as “What does it mean to be male or female?” “What is it that people call Eve teasing?” “What is rape?” and encourage them to take different perspectives. Ever thought about the victims of eve teasing as your daughter or sister? Well, she must be somebody`s.
For adults, there is obviously still a lot of topics to be discussed as well which is partly already happening- but not equally for every group of people. New Delhi has a lot of impressive feminists, but the society is made up from the 90 percent non-feminists that carry the same responsibilities as a citizen. It is important to put a focus on reasons for the current situations and ways to change the system rather than being only paralyzed by “Another sexual assault”-reports and defensive mechanisms as blaming the victims. We especially have to think about long term solutions. Although I sometimes gratefully use the women wagons of the metro myself, this does not fight the cause of the problem. While a complete separation to prevent all cases of conflict is neither possible nor desirable, this partly segregation might even intensify the problem since it reduces the already underrepresented presence of females in the public sphere. If every second person on the metro would be female - as it should be according to the natural distribution - men would surely not keep on staring at the women like they do now and it would subsequently become much easier for women to claim their space in the public sphere.
Another important aspect that has to be addressed here is the role of foreign women. I noticed that the facial expression of the rickshaw driver showed surprise about my intense reaction after he had touched me. He might have thought that my blond hair was an invitation that made everything I said before meaningless. In the end I have since then often had the impression that there was a cultural misunderstanding partly induced or at least amplified by the media about western women being very “easy” and thus justifying what I learned was “Eve-teasing” or sexual harassment as I like to call it.
Obviously all of this is just a limited perspective on the whole issue of sexual violence and the failure of the police in India.  My story is one out of many that happened to get attention from the media. I wonder how many more sad stories are out there and how many cases of sexual violence are left unreported partly because of the police. Just imagine what happens to all the women who don't happen to have any connections to the ministry. Women from a lower cast. Women who are on their own. Women who had to face worse crimes than me. The attention from the media seemed to have encouraged the police officers in charge to be a lot more helpful in my case later on. Not only for this reason, I hope that more of these stories are reported- if not publically, but than at least to the police so they are on the record.

In the end, we will not be able to solve problems when we don't even know what we are talking about. 

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Crossing the Border

Living in a border city is interesting to say the least.  For one, there is a constant flow of people coming to and from, exchanging languages, food, culture, as well as drugs, sex, and money.  The border is more than just a fence, it's a symbol of separation.  As an American citizen I can freely walk between the two countries, physically with ease through a revolving door.  For others, families are separated by the fence, sharing a meal through the metal bars.

 They are physical, emotional, financial, and can literally tear the world apart.  While other borders are simply metaphorical lines on a map, where one can stand freely in two or three places at once.  In a world where we are seemingly controlled by lines, borders try and remain black and white in a world that really only allows for shades of grey.

Belgium and the Netherlands

On the border of Baarle-Hertog, Belgium and Baarle-Nassau, Netherlands, only markings along the pavement show the lines between the two countries.  There is no security, no check points, no passports needed.

Canada and the United States

The Saint Croix river cuts through the wildlife of the Northern United States and Canada with pristine beauty while in other areas, it's better known as The Slash. 

Poland and Ukraine

There is something truly fishy about this border between Poland and Ukraine.  Designed by Jaroslaw Koziara, these crop circles were part of an exhibition for the Land Art Festival.  The fish symbolizes the strong history of trade between the two countries and was made over time by planting 23 different kinds of plants to form the fish.

China and Macau

Macau is defined as a "special administrative region" of China.  But borders aside, while in Macau locals drive on the left side of the road, instead of the right.  Therefore the border is all about switching lanes on the freeways.  Talk about a traffic jam.

Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil

Is the grass really greener?  Known as the Triple Frontier, the Parana River meets the Iguazu River, separating the three countries.

Germany and The Czech Republic

While there is no fence between the two countries, there is a clear distinction between how each country is fighting a bark beetle infestation.  The Czech republic is leaving nature to it's own devices, as their trees clearly fight a loosing battle, while Germany has removed the trees to stop the bark beetle from spreading further.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Barnacle Goes to White Castle

The neon lights wear nearly drowned out by the Vegas strip, but there it was "White Castle".  The mythical fast food joint visited by stoners and adventure seekers from all over the globe.

Being from New England, I had never encountered the epic restaurant, nor did I have any real expectations other than blurry bits from the 2004 "classic" Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.

"You know we have to go in" my friend said as the clock struck just after 3 a.m.  So in we went, joined by the drunken throngs of after hours partiers, girls holding their painful heels in hand, as their dates ordered endless mini-cheese burgers.

This is the only White Castle in Las Vegas and only opened this past January.  In fact, the demand for those little sliders was so great, their opening day lasted less than 24 hours after they ran out of product.  But fans say it's worth the wait, as the next closest White Castle to Vegas is 1,500 miles away in Missouri.

But I digress.  The 3 a.m. experience at White Castle was indeed everything Harold and Kumar promised; a meal fit for the munchies.  Without an appetite, I ordered one slider and took a seat by the window of the brightly lit store.  I bit into what I can only describe as the soggiest meat concoction I've ever tasted.  If I had been blind folded, I would have bet my life that whatever it was that I was consuming was not meat.  As I swallowed the sponge like product, I realized that perhaps with enough drugs, I too, may drive a thousand miles for whatever this was, but without them, I'd never be back.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Film Review: Odd Thomas

When Netflix suggested I watch Odd Thomas, I must admit I was tad bit skeptical.  Sure I've been on a horror binge recently but this? 

Picture this, a small town fry cook with one huge paranormal secret; he can see dead people.  Not only can Odd Thomas, yes his actual name given to him by his paranormal secret-hiding mother, see dead people but he can see the demons that feed on death.  He describes them as Bodachs (bow-dak-s) and says they always show up before something really gruesome happens. 

But Odd Thomas isn't just odd, he's pretty normal actually.  Normal and happy.  His fiance Stormy, yes her name is Stormy, dreams of opening her own ice cream shop and growing old with her childhood sweetheart.  Beyond adorable.  Of course Stormy knows about Odd's powers and loves him even more.

So when a large group of Bodachs arrive in town along with a creepy stranger, it's of course up to Odd Thomas to figure out what type of blood bath is about to happen.  

The film isn't terrifying but it does make you think and at times even cry.  The ending got me good on this one, So sit back and enjoy this battle of good vs. evil and remember to have some tissues handy for one helluvah ending.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

There are Two Types of People in this World...

I am constantly hearing that there are indeed two types of people in the world.  Cat people vs. Dog lovers, coffee drinkers vs. tea drinkers, the people that put the jam on their scones before the cream and those that know it's supposed to be cream first, then jam.  As children we are raised to know the world is divided.  Men vs. Women, pessimists vs. optimists, night and day.

But is it that simple?  Tumblr sure thinks so!

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Travel Upgrade Tips

Flipping through my instagram, we've all got that friend that is constantly traveling.  And while they're posting their destination pics left and right, they're also posting those airport lounge shots.  First class all the way.

We get it. Not only are you seeing the world, but you're doing it in style.  We hate you because we want to be you.  Sadly when I'm booking flights, my miles only go so far and my bank account denies any luxury upgrades before I even consider them.  But fear not fellow travelers, there are some things we can do to feel like a major boss next time you're boarding.

Book your flight "from" somewhere else. I always wondered why it was SO much cheaper to book round trip tickets from London to Boston and back, than the other way around.  It's because your "from" destination makes a world of a difference when it comes to the price tag of the flight, especially if you're heading somewhere with a lower cost of living.  Start by using the domain for the regional website instead of it's U.S. counterpart and suddenly you're booking your flight to Mexico, from "Mexico".  If you're really tech savvy you can even change your IP address to a fake location to really fool the Internet.  And try paying in the foreign currency, which furthers the lie even more, and usually ends up saving you moolah in the long run.

When booking, try to 'make' that impossible connection.  "Don't worry I've got 15 minutes in between flights to run the 2 miles across 400 terminals".  Ha, good luck.  In reality these tight connections are one of the best excuses to land yourself a direct flight. Just give the airline a polite pre-flight panicked call and explain you were being an idiot when booking that connection and voila!  95% of the time, you'll be bumped onto a direct flight instead.  Not that we don't all just love those lay overs but it'll save you time and money.

Pack restricted items.  Seriously, paintball guns, scuba equipment, you know the deal.  Once you declare them (oh goodness remember to declare them at check in), it'll ensure your bags get extra attention, which means they're not going to get lost.

Swipe for a free movie.  Ok this I'm not proud of, but you can pretty much swipe anything with a magnetic strip to "pay" for those in flight movies.  Of course this only works if the plane does NOT have wifi to verify the purchase.

If you need a car rental, book it for their busiest time.  I know it sounds crazy but their bottom line is to get your happy butt in the seat.  So book their most popular (cheapest) model for their busiest (Monday morning or Friday night) pick up time.  That's when they're most likely to run out and give you a free upgrade to a nicer model.

And when it comes to booking your hotel room, use their local listing. Call the hotel's local number directly instead of using their 1-800 number or website.  Most of the time the hotel's 1-800 number is out sourced, meaning whomever you reach really doesn't have much power (or incentive) to book you with extra specifics or even give you a discount.  And remember to do your research so you have legitimate competitors rates to 'discuss' when booking.

Talk the talk.  I can tell you from my experience working in a hotel, when a guest uses industry jargon we're much more likely to do whatever ridiculous thing you're asking instead of giving you a flat out "no".  For example, instead of asking to "check in early" you can call ahead of time and say you'd like to "pre-register".  Maybe the staff can't accommodate you early, but using the right words will at least give them the motivation to try.

And always remember to say Thank you.  Trust me it goes a long way.

© The Traveling Barnacle  

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day

Full disclosure, if you don't get a bit teary eyed we can no longer be friends.  To celebrate all the Dad's out there, Toyota Japan came up with this heart felt advertisement that tells the story of a Father and a Daughter, growing up together.

Enjoy the emotional ride kids.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

The End of a Friendship

The moment I met you we connected.  Suddenly it was as if I had known you my entire life.  You knew when I was feeling low, when the smile was genuine and when I was lying.  And I knew you.  I knew when you had, had your morning coffee and when you were recovering from a fight with your soon-to-be-husband.  But that's just it.  Sometimes people come into our lives and we know instantly they can remain there easily forever, change with us, grow with us, and we don't mind.  The thought that one day we'd barely exchange eye contact never crossed my mind, until it happened.

Relationships are funny.  And I'm not just talking about the romantic ones, I'm talking about all the people in your life.  Whether you're friends, lovers, enemies, or just the doorman you smile at every morning.  You've got a defined connection with each of them.  Some of them hold potential that give us hope, brighten our lives, and keep us going, while others we barely give a second thought to.  But each one is unique, special, and ever-changing.

Like you and I.  What Happened to Us?  I replay the last few days of our friendship over and over again like a broken record, trying to figure out what it was that changed the course of our relationship.  I was at your wedding, you left with your new husband, returned two weeks later and have avoided my eye contact ever since. When I approached you about it, you said we were fine.  I'm not an idiot.  Fine is never actually fine.

So what happened?  If someone asked me two months ago what friends I knew I would grow old with, what people I would make an effort to keep in my life, you would have been on the top of that list.  And now, I've given up trying to say "Good Morning", after all your reply is simply "yes?" or "yeah I'm busy".

So why did our friendship die?  Obviously friendships, all types of relationships really, are fluid.  They're ever changing and rarely without conflict.  It'd be nice if we could freeze our relationships in time, keep them just as they are, forever.  But of course friends, lovers, family, even the doorman, all change overtime.  That's part of life.  In fact, according to research by leading sociologists, we swap out of friends, best or just simply a gym buddy, fairly often.  Even when it comes to our "besties", we change them out every few years.

Maybe it's because there is no formal ceremony to bond us to our best friends.  We don't necessarily marry them (unless we're lucky enough to find a bestie in our significant other) and we're not related.  There is nothing officially tying us to one another other than an emotional effort.  And holy moly does it take effort.  I can only offer to bring you coffee so many times to a lack of eye contact, no smile, and some response about how you're busy.  It's defeating, it's heart breaking, and after a while I'm not going to put in the time and effort if you aren't.

And because there is nothing legal binding our relationship, there is nothing official to declare when a friendship is over.  It's not as easy to shut out a spouse or family member as it is a friend.  You don't have to sign divorce papers or see them awkwardly at holidays around the Turkey.

And those legally binding relationships seem to take priority in an instant.  Like you, you got married.  I gave you space, time to experience the change from fiance to wife.  And understandably I will never rank on the same playing ground as your husband.  Suddenly your friendships fall to the side.  You can end friendships the same way they begun; in an instant, without rhyme or reason.  

Perhaps the key to a lasting friendship, like any relationship, is flexibility.  Compromise is key, understanding, love, nourishment, all of the things you would give a living thing in order to keep it healthy and alive.  My best friends know that regardless of whether I speak to them every day, or perhaps only have time for a phone call once a month, we can always go back to where we left off.  And not only that but we can call in a time of crisis and know that even at 3 a.m. after 3 months without any interaction, they'll pick up.  These friends become your family, they'll overlook your flaws and love you for your mistakes.  So why them and not us?

Maybe we've got the wrong attitude about relationships and the way they last.  Perhaps it's not about their length or intensity but what we can take from them, as well as what we give in return.  As our lives are in a constant flux, so are our relationships.  Some are simply built with super glue, while the rest come undone with their cheap elementary level glue stick.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Friday, June 19, 2015

By The Time You Are 30

I'm about to turn 27 and the idea of 30 is ever looming in the distance.  I've put a lot of thought into my 30 before 30 bucket list and what I feel I should be able to do by the time the big 3-0 rolls around.  Something that always seems to crop up on those lists have to do with the kitchen.  I should be able to use more than just a microwave to make dinner for myself.  And while I may single handedly be the thing that keeps the taco shop across the street in business, I probably shouldn't get take-out 6 out of 7 days a week.  After all I'm almost 30, and by the time we're 30 there are just some things we should know how to do.

Cooking for yourself.  According to Thrillist, these are 11 dishes you should be completely familiar with before you reach 30.    An addition to that list would be Bruschetta.  Seriously could live off perfectly toasted french bread, topped with tomatoes, spices, herbs, and the perfect virgin olive oil.  Apologies for the drool.

Cleaning for yourself.  I know this is an easy one but seriously, you should know when it's time to hit the showers.  Other than that, by 30 you should know when it's time to do laundry and be able to do it yourself.  Maybe you're busy and have it sent out, but you should still know how to do it yourself if needed.  Same goes for dishes.

Changing a flat tire.  We may not have all been there, but at some point in your life, you will get a flat and you will have to change that tire.  You're welcome.

By the time you're 30, you should also know how to give a pretty awesome Interview.  Since you're half way to (an early) retirement age, you should have gained the social skills to give an interview and at least impress the employer, even if you don't land the job.  Professionalism isn't necessarily something you're born with, but it can be learned so get on it.

It's never too late.  Definitely one of the biggest things to know before moving onto the next decade, it's never ever too late.  There is always something to learn, someone to meet, and always something to fix.  It's never too late to turn things around, start over, or say how you feel.  After all it's your life, grab it by the balls.

And sacrificing yourself is never a good idea.  I know, I know, I write a lot about being selfish, but that's only because it's super important to do things for yourself and no one else first.  Of course there are always times when we feel as though we are meant to put ourselves last, but it's up to you to stand up for yourself.  Know your limits, learn how to say "no" and how to say "yes" and feel good about your answer.

Because after all you are responsible for every action you make.  What a terrifying thought, but by the time you're 30 this shouldn't come as a surprise.  If you take action, then you should be prepared to deal with whatever comes of it, whether it's a huge mistake or an overwhelming success.  Think twice and weigh your options.

Trust your instincts.  Not every authority figure it right, not every criminal is wrong.  Whenever someone goes right, there will always be someone who feels they should go left.  By 30 you should know the world isn't black and white, but billions of shades of gray and it's up to you to decide what is best.

Life is uncontrollable, sometimes uncomfortable, and completely fluid.  There is a saying about the weather in New England, if you don't like it, just wait a minute.  And much like life, the weather in New England can go from sunny and beautiful to a thunderstorm to a freezing hail storm and back to sunny all within the blink of an eye.  Sometimes you simply have to embrace the fact you can't control every single thing in your life.  There will be times when things are uncomfortable, painful even, but just give it time.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Thursday, June 18, 2015


I'm a bit of a control freak.  I've tried meditating, breathing exercizes, and even happy pills, but nothing seems to really work.  I always envied those who are able to turn their brains off like a light switch, like some super beyond earthly power.  Imagine your brain on overdrive all the time.  Welcome to my world.

My overdrive personality follows me into all aspects of life.  I prefer to use the oven and cook from scratch than turning my brain off and using the microwave, I prefer to sew and hem my own pants rather than take them to a seamstress, and when it comes to exercizing, I'll choose cardio or hard core bikram yoga over a meditation yoga any day.

So recently when I was invited to a basic yoga class, I was more than a little hesitant.  I was fully prepared to be bored for the next hour as I laid down my mat next to a fit blonde thing in an itty bitty piece of spandex.

It's been about a month since that first class and I've got to say I'm impressed.  And while I still prefer my cardio and Bikram Yoga, I'm not bored with the namaste-ing, in fact I continuously look forward to that hour on the floor.

It's called a "practice" for a reason, which is a bit of a silly thing to announce but it's the first step to loving it.  And if you're going to give yoga a chance, you're going to have to accept that every single time you take to your mat, it's simply going to have to make it your practice.   You've got to accept that every class is going to different.  And the
best part?  It's just practice so if you screw up or have an off day, bring it tomorrow.

And with enough practice comes the result.  Can't touch your toes?  Practice makes perfect.  And just like with Bikram, you're allowed to take breaks.  Obviously that 'flow' through out the postures feels incredible, but if you're not there yet, don't fret.

One of the most valuable lessons is being willing to fall.  Yeah we're talking headstands and crazy poses you see on those fit-instagram feeds that are both annoying and fantastic all at the same time.  Falling during your practice is huge.  It means you tried.  You tried something you were not sure you could accomplish and isn't that one of the biggest lessons you can learn in life?  Go for it.  It's not falling, it's learning, it's practice.

And finally that control freak is slowly falling in love with her practice.  I'm learning to let go of the things I can't control, embrace spontaneity and accept that sometimes you have a bad day.  But that's life.  You can't control the things that have happened good or bad, you can only control how you embrace the present and what you focus on moving forward.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Learning Outside the Classroom

When I was young I loved school.  I loved learning about history and why 1+1 always equaled 2.  I day dreamt about seeing the world, learning how to cook, reading novels about the far off places with cultural differences that truly made you think about how humanity works.  So when I turned 18, I left the United States and decided to live and study abroad, accepting a 4 year course at a British-American University in West London.

I bought new books and enrolled in classes that I thought would bring me more knowledge about the people and places of the world.  1+1 still equaled 2 and I felt like I could do anything.  But what I didn't realize was how much I learned outside of the classroom. Once I put the books down and began to navigate my own math problems I quickly realized 1 and 1 rarely ever equals just 2.  And somethings you simply cannot learn in school.

Words suddenly loose their meaning, like home.  Home will never be a physical place ever again, but a state of mind that is constantly and forever changing.  And you wouldn't have it any other way.  Sooner or later, home becomes something you're neither living in nor that far away from.  Sure, your mom's cooking may taste more like home than the vendor on the side of the road in Mexico, but home is where the heart is, right?

Normal doesn't actually mean anything.  As a kid I wanted to be normal.  That mean owning an L.L.Bean Backpack and a North face Jacket and not carrying the extra weight around my middle.  Of course that was "normal" for a small, Anglo-Saxon city of New England.  But when I left, I wanted nothing more than to find my own version of normal, a community of people who accepted me for who I was, what I wanted to be, and who I ultimately will become.  And that idea of normal is in a constant flux.  My version of normal will never be yours, nor will it be the same tomorrow or in ten years.  There is no such thing as normal, only boring.

And beautiful?  Yeah, try infinite meanings.  I recently ventured to Vegas and found the city to be completely and stunningly beautiful.  The bright lights cutting into the night sky, while people threw away their inhibitions underneath millions of dollars worth of artwork that only weirdos like me notice.  Another example?  On my recent trip to Hawaii, I found myself disappointed with the lack of beauty, while my travel companions were "oo-ing" and "ahh-ing" left and right.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the more you travel, the more defined your idea of beauty becomes.  It's not just what is aesthetically pleasing but what speaks to you, makes you breath, and lights a fire in your belly.

You learn how to enjoy your own company, put yourself first, and hold onto the people who cherish that selfishness.  Someone once told me to be 49% selfless and 51% selfish simply because at the end of the day, it's your life and no one else's.  And while I may go out of my way to show my admiration and respect for others, my life lessons have taught me to be selfish in the best way possible.  Others notice when you put yourself first, taking care of your needs before anyone else's.  It's sexy to be independent, to love yourself unconditionally, regardless of the mistakes or quirks that drive the rest of the world crazy.  If you can love yourself no one else will.

Food isn't just nourishment, it's an adventure.  One of the most valuable lessons one can learn.  Not only how to feed yourself but what to feed yourself.  Try something new, branch out, don't be afraid of the heat.  Get in the kitchen and figure out who you are and what your idea of adventure tastes like.

Laughter sounds the same in every language and is one of the most honest forms of communication.  There have been moments in the back country of places where I suddenly realize that no one within 100 miles speaks English and if I were to have any major problems, I'd have to rely on body language alone.  Like this train ride through Poland.  But language aside, no matter where I have been, who I have met or whom I have spoken to, a smile is the same regardless

And finally you learn it is the differences that we all have that simultaneously prove how much we all have in common.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Looking Up in the City of Sin

The beat had been continuously pounding for as long as I could remember, and my hips were sore from moving to the requests of the DJ's, all of them raking in 6 figures to keep us going until the sun comes up.  In my hand was a $15 cocktail that slowly numbed the idea of any regrets I may have tomorrow morning, after all this was Las Vegas and you know what they say; what happens here...

When he said he was going to head back to the hotel, it was one of the most exciting sentences of the entire evening.  Soon the base was behind us and strip before us, neon lights bouncing off all the windows of the backseat of the cab.

"Forget the hotel, I want to show you something".

And whilst you may think those epic last words would lead us deeper into the sin of the city, this is not one of those stories.  This is a story about the Vegas that no one ever bothers to notice, the city of art, culture, beauty, all offering refuge to sin seekers and night-owls at the black jack tables.

We got out of the cab at the Venetian, little did I know it would be at least an hour before my eyes looked anywhere but up.  Romantic figures flew above us, dancing amongst the columns of gold and luxury, all leading to the famous canals.  The gondolas remain docked in at the edges of Venice at 3 a.m. whilst the light blue skies overhead glow with clouds and faux rooftops of Italian shops and top floor apartments.  Time is an illusion and suddenly you're not quite sure where or when you are and it's enough to take a deep breath, make a wish on a small copper coin and flip it into the fountain.

Stepping into the warm air for mere seconds you remember it's now closer to 4 a.m. but the streets are still filled with tourists snapping shots in front of the hundreds of fountains, while girls stumble around barefoot, their heels in the safe hands of their male companions.

Reaching out from the lobby of the Bellagio are the floral tentacles of Chihuly's Fiori di Como.  The 2,000 hand blown glass blossoms reflect the neon of the slot machines.  Your lungs freeze for a moment as the surrounding vibrancy breathes new life into you.

Meandering through the never ending casinos, thousands of people gather with chips in hand, cashing in on their luck.  Never once looking up to see the beauty above them.  Another pull of the machine's arm, another quarter into the slot, just another part of the din of the city of sin.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Film Review: Housebound

When Kylie gets caught yet again on a meth and alcohol induced bank robbery, the judge says she needs more than a rehab facility and sends her to her mother's house in the middle of no where.  She's literally Housebound, complete with an ankle bracelet.  And not only does Kylie have to move back home as a 30-something year old, but when she overhears her Mother call into a paranormal radio show and confesses her childhood home is haunted, she realizes her dear old Mum, may be loosing her marbles.

As a 20-something, there are way too many terrifying things in that last paragraph.  Being forced to move home with the rents? Shesh.  And on top of that, not being able to walk more than 25 feet off the property without my ankle bracelet letting every local law enforcement in the area that I'm breaking my very leanent probation.  Sounds like a horror movie to me.

Housebound plays with just that concept.  The fear of reality and the paranormal. The reality being forced to move back in with your Mother whom the main character Kylie, hasn't spoken to in nearly 15 years. And the paranormal activity in your childhood home that said Mother swears has been happening your entire life.  Is Kylie's Mother a nut job or has she always been like that?  Kylie can't quite remember.

Kylie Bucknell: You honestly think this house is haunted?
Miriam Bucknell: I do not want to get into this with you, Kylie. Obviously, you are just going to make fun of me.
Kylie Bucknell: There is nothing funny about having a mother with dementia. You realise they put me on house arrrest to get some stability.
Miriam Bucknell: Well, obviously, you have got a very selective memory.
Kylie Bucknell: What is that supposed to mean?
Miriam Bucknell: I am not the only one who thought there was a ghost in this house, Kylie. I fact, you used to be so terrified you could not sleep.
Kylie Bucknell: Yeah, I also used to think the Moon was made of cheese. It is called childhood.

The film focuses on their strained Mother-Daughter relationship and when strange things begin happening around the home, Kylie isn't sure what she believes anymore.

The film has everything from shocking moments to blood and guts, to strange neighbors and dark humor. But when it takes a dark twist, even the viewer isn't sure what to believe.  Is it reality or the paranormal?

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

An Open Letter to the Adulteress.

Dearest former-acquaintance,

Let me start off by confessing that I know.  I know what you did that weekend of our friend's wedding.  We stayed in rooms next to one another and when I went to sleep, you stayed up with my boyfriend.  You kept drinking until perhaps the booze gave you the green light to invite him into your bed, a bed in the room separated by mine only by a thin wall.

I call you an acquaintance because we were never really friends.  To me, you were always simply in the background, and I was nothing more than an obstacle who was sleeping with the thing you wanted.  Perhaps that was my mistake to never quite have you on my radar, perhaps that's why you thought it was okay to make a move that night.

I woke up in his arms the next day and knew nothing of the night before. That morning you were all smiles, sitting next to me at breakfast, walking along side me as we explored the local sites.  It was mid-morning while he was driving that he asked me to send a text message from his phone, that was the moment I saw your messages.

02:32 a.m: "No matter what you were always the one for me".

I didn't read anymore, I didn't need to.  My stomach flipped and you laughed in the backseat.  I swallowed the vomit and glued a smile to my face, wondering how you thought everything was ok.

An hour later we were looking at paintings in the museum gallery, just us two, that's when you asked me what was wrong.  I brushed you off, smiled, and said nothing all whilst thinking about our heart-to-heart chat about how lonely you were the night before.

We dropped you off at the airport and turned to one another.  He looked into my eyes and said "I need to tell you something".

Whilst I wish I could give you good news, tell you your advance had made him feel good, it merely put him in an awkward position.  A sleeping girlfriend of seven years in the next room and a drunken woman asking him to commit the ultimate in adultery in the room next door.  The thought made us both sick to our stomachs as we drove in silence to the peak of the city.  We got out over looking the expansion of Texas, the sky really does go on forever you know.

A few weeks later you sent me a message, a family recipe for something you thought I'd like the taste of.  I felt like telling you then I had lost all respect for you, that you would never be an
ything more than a worthless body who tried to steal my world in the middle of the night.  But I didn't.  You weren't and never will be worth my time.

You continue to blip now and then on my radar, you like my facebook posts, photos on instagram, and sometimes you'll even send a message here or there.  We are not friends.  We will never be friends, you deserve the loneliness you told me about.  And like those skies in Texas, I genuinely hope it continues forever.

Sincerely the Girlfriend.

© The Traveling Barnacle

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

America! America!

After spending much of my 20s abroad, it's still strange for me to admit I live in not only the United States, but in California.   Sometimes I feel like somewhere along the lines I fell into a permanent Beach Boys song, but then I jump in my woody with my bros and dip my toes in the Pacific and it doesn't seem to matter.

I've been back for over two years now.  Back in good ole' Amuricah!  Land of the free, home of the brave.  And yet most of my impressions of my home-country I gained whilst away from it's soil. Most of the time I feel like a stranger in this country.  After all my first legal drink, the first time I voted or even really cared about politics, and my first life or death situation all happened whilst in the United Kingdom.  I haven't seen the Grand Canyon or the Golden Gate Bridge, I haven't really tasted a real beignet from New Orleans or met a legitimate cowboy from Texas, so am I truly an American?

So I started googling maps of the United States.  But not just geographical mountains, city borders and town names, but maps of stereotypes, maps of assumptions, maps based on numbers and stats.

Like this map from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that shows the most distinctive cause of death in each state between 2000-2010.  Apparently I'm most likely to die from Hyperplasia, which thanks to Wikipedia is still a pretty confusing disease.
Then there's this map that shows each state's favorite TV show.  Of course this doesn't include Netflix binging or I'm sure there would be some seriously different results.  The results are based on longevity of the shows, their audience and critical acclaim.  Kind of find it weird that majority of the winners take place in the state that watches them the most.

Then there's man's best friend, compiled with data from the American Kennel Club.  Which, lets face it, proves only one thing; You have to love Labs to be American.

One of the newest things to come out of the USA is good beer. This map was put together using 2014 data from The Brewers Association.  It's something I was taught in Europe to believe was a myth but now after living in San Diego, I know my craft breweries, and man are they fantastic.  Speaking of San Diego, the city is home to 4 of the top 50 in the country, so maybe it's not such a bad place after all.

One of the first questions I get working with International students is "Where can I get the best Burger in the USA"?  Maybe it's America's obsession with fast food, or maybe it's because the Hamburger is the epitome of American Cuisine, either way it's easy to see we love them.  To be completely honest, I'm not a fast food lover and haven't actually eaten at more than 5 of the listed joints.  Guess I'll have to conquer a fast food bucket list sometime soon.  Road trip anyone?

Then there's rent.  We all gotta pay it, unless we're still squatting on our parents couch, wondering when they'll finally get fed up and chase us away with a shotgun.  This is also one of the most recent maps, compiled in January by Movoto, a real estate company.  Unfortunately for me, I'm livin' in the red baby.

And this one was pretty interesting, ever wonder what internet speeds are like elsewhere in the country?  Yeah me neither. Also seriously Virginia?

© The Traveling Barnacle

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