This post is, for a change, not about Living Travelly. It’s about hair.

I consider myself pretty open to new things, and I admire people who show daring beyond what I am comfortable with. So why is it that going to the hair salon is such a source of existential dread for me?

My hair style hasn’t changed much since high school, except for the thick Sixties bangs I had then, or one foray into a perm when I was swimming before work and had no time to dry my hair. Not my best look, I must reveal—fortunately, I think all photographic evidence has been destroyed.

I don’t want anything even slightly different, just straight chin length blunt cut, thank you very much. I worry inordinately that it will be cut too short ( meaning maybe an inch more than I wanted). That was all I had to worry about before I started to cover the gray, and I got into the world of hair coloring.

In the last year or so, my body chemistry has changed in some way that affects my hair’s ability to take color.  The first time this happened, my hair turned orange. The second time, it looked great when I left the salon but had turned a  deep olive brown by evening.  Finally, i got a formula that worked, and I was good until about six months ago when a stylist on the ship decided that surely I must want a lemon meringue pie on my head. Seriously! I told her I was not leaving the salon until I didn’t look like Carol Channing.

All of these mishaps are pretty drastic, and it’s easy to see why I wasn’t willing to just go with the flow. But yesterday’s trip to the stylist was different. Yesterday made me dig a little  deeper.

By the time my hair has been out in the sun for a few months it is an almost white blonde I think is unflattering. I suggested to my stylist that maybe we go a little darker to cut down the natural bleaching process.  She overdid it a bit with the lowlights and I came home with hair that is more of a reddish brown.

My first reaction was to go back and have her fix it.  My second reaction was, well, you wanted darker blonde, and you were wondering  a while back what you would look like with a hint of red from those Scottish genes, so voila. My third reaction was once again,  geez,  go back and fix it! My fourth reaction was, this doesn’t look bad at all, just different.  So that’s where I am, and the hair is staying.

Actually , I am getting kind of pleased with it.  It’s interesting and different, two things I love, and I am getting in lock step behind it.  Maybe it’s the start of something….

But it got me thinking about why I care so much about an inch of hair, or a shade different than I wanted. Really, how shallow is that?  I have friends with involuntary boldness because of cancer or alopecia, for heaven’s sake. I consider myself strong, confident and well self-actualized, but I guess I should reconsider whether that is as true as I want it to be.

I suspect we all have an internalized view of our physical appearance we carry around with us. I am rarely taken by surprise when I see my reflection in a store window, because I look pretty much the way I thought I did.  Now I look in the bathroom mirror and see something I wasn’t expecting, and that makes me uneasy about myself in the world.  There is some truth in the idea that we dress for other people and maybe I care more about what others think of my physical appearance than I wish to admit.

At any rate, I am not happy with myself for reacting as I did.  I see young people with colored stripes in their hair and think , “if I were young I would do that!”  I think it’s true, but then again, if I haven’t changed my hair much since I was a teenager, maybe I wouldn’t.  Why is it that someone who thrives on change can be so weird in this one area? Why is it that I am so cautious about something so minor, when I will step on a plane and go halfway around the world alone?  I don’t get it. Do you?


Excitement Building, Work Never Ending

I am so used to these short interims between cruises since I began Living Travelly, that I quickly fall into a routine that works something like this.

First few days: recover from jet lag and stagger through setting up appointments and contacting friends for lunch, tennis, etc.

Remainder of first week:  deny how much work I have to do, but find myself pulled toward my computer anyway.

Second and third weeks: work compulsively, broken up by going to all the appointments, lunches, and tennis I have set up.

These days, that’s about all the time I have.

Right now now I am in the second week, working like a dog to be ready to leave for Dubai early in November. From there I will float across the Indian Ocean and eventually arrive in Singapore, then on to Sydney for holiday assignments on Silver Muse.

Today, I am feeling the weight of it all. I’m  not quite to the point where leaving again feels all that positive. Too much to do, and even the fun I usually have thinking about what to take hasn’t kicked in yet.

It will, though.  As I review my lectures, I fall in love again with my topics, and can’t wait to share.  I think about how much I prefer the sound of waves to traffic outside my window, and how great it is to have every new day dawn with the promise of something out of the ordinary.

Just writing this is all I have to do to feel the first frissons of excitement.  Hello, wonderful world out there!  I’ll see you soon!







I arrived back in the United States day before yesterday, after a cruise that took me from Lisbon to Greenwich, then across the Atlantic to Newfoundland and down the eastern seaboard to New York, where I will disembark tomorrow.

After decades of travel, I can’t count the number  of times I have come back into the United States from abroad.  Until recently, I have always felt a strong sense of belonging when I would see airport signs saying “Welcome to the United States of America.” I would grin from the inside out at being home.

Not any more.  There is no sense of welcome, no sense of home. 

I feel ashamed  and disconsolate at what my country has been reduced to, and so deeply, deeply betrayed that when I approached the immigration agent, I could not even offer a polite smile. I feel knocked to the ground by unutterable sadness, at the same time almost airborne with anger,  as I reencounter a country that for all its flaws,  I used to feel proud to be part of, a country that undeniably has worked well for me.  

Yesterday, I accompanied a group making a quick tour of historic Boston’s main sites.  A couple of times I had to turn away and will myself not to tear up at the reminders of American patriots who were willing to pledge their  “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to create a nation I owe so much to.

I am too much of a skeptic, and have read too many alternative histories of the United States, to go overboard glorifying any of them, but yesterday in Boston the country I want to believe in was on full display, while the papers are full of stories about the president refusing to cooperate at all with a constitutional process that is at the heart of our democracy—the right to hold our leaders accountable to us.  Stories about abandoning Kurds to die, probably because  there’s something for the president to gain personally out of a conversation with a foreign leader. Stories of quid pro quo’s for venal ends on matters that affect my country’s safety and standing in the world. Yesterday  was a time for tears. Every day is a time for rage.

This afternoon I will arrive in New York Harbor.  I am honored to be asked by the captain to be on the bridge to provide commentary as we sail in, so I will have a view of the Statue of Liberty few civilians get to see.  If Boston was emotionally hard, I suspect this will be harder. I think of the children with their shiny blankets on floors in detention camps. I think of exhausted people hoping only that their fears for their lives will warrant asylum in an America whose president, when told they couldn’t simply be shot down if they tried to cross illegally, wondered aloud if perhaps non-fatal bullets in the legs might be a sufficient deterrent.

One time years ago, when I was walking in Battery Park and feeling the  beautiful benediction  of the statue in the harbor,  I felt such a rush of emotion that I called the people I love most, just to share being there with them.  It felt like such a blessing that day to be right where I was, part of this country. The loss cannot be measured, but perhaps our wholeness can be restored  I don’t know. I don’t see how.

I picture the beautiful woman in New York Harbor, saying the America she represents is a land of tired and poor who came and made good.  Perhaps the statue we now deserve would not be raising a torch but aiming a gun down the Narrows, or pointing to a sign quoting the president, “Sorry, We’re Full.” Or perhaps she would have uprooted these gigantic feet and gone to stand in reproach on our southern border. I am certain at the very least her face would be stained with tears. I suspect mine will be too when I greet her..  



I am listening to a novel in which the narrator, a mother of preteens, is at a a party where, for the first time in years, she gets stoned.  She tunes in to the conversation the other stoned mothers are having around her, and is bewildered that the conversation doesn’t seem to have changed.  They are still talking about their children, and their teachers, and the ups and downs of their lessons, sports, and other activities. She is feeling disaffected  and dissatisfied with her life, and wonders, “where is the yearning?” 

No one ever talks about that.  It’s as if we all hide behind superficial conversation and call that friendship, when in fact we almost never reveal what we really think, the things that are too scary to talk about, the things that, once spoken of, would require actions we don’t want to admit we need to take.

Looking back on my own life, I see now that when my toxic first marriage was taking such a toll on me that there were times I though just driving my car at high speed off the road would solve my problems, I never said one word to women I considered my best friends. I look back on those times and I don’t even recognize the person I was, and the cowardice of my lack of ability to be honest with myself, or to hint of my reality to others.

We are so good at hiding. If we should start an sentence with anything as daring as “I yearn for…,” would it dissolve into something hip, or shallow, or silly, like wanting a fabulous massage, or our all-time favorite cocktail or glass of wine? No wonder we feel adrift. We don’t even have the words for what we want, because we have dumbed down our vocabulary for feelings, or maybe we never really had more than a few words to speak for the gamut of our emotions to begin with.

Since this is my blog, I wish I could say, “Look at me!  See how I have worked through this and I have this sage advice to offer.”  Well, I don’t.  I think only that I need to be able to complete a sentence that starts with “I yearn for,” and once I can complete it privately,  to say it out loud to others and, in doing that, make a commitment to turning it into reality, whatever I am brave enough to determine  that is.

This is a form of living traveling too.


When Plan B Involves Crepes

This morning we anchored in the bay of St. Pierre, part of an overseas collective of France, tucked into the southern tip of Newfoundland. I had this gorgeous thought that I would go ashore early and find a cafe where I could indulge in what, bar none, is my favorite breakfast.  Honestly, a piece of fresh and perfect baguette, slathered with good French butter and equally awesome jam, cannot be surpassed in this world. Better even than the best croissants, although they are close behind in second place, and can also be enough to make me swoon straight out of my chair.

St. Pierre is truly part of France in its orientation, and I just assumed this goal could be easily achieved.  Indeed, I saw the typical scene of shoppers coming out of the boulangeries carrying one, two, or sometimes a dozen baguettes, but they were taking them either home, or to shuttered-up restaurants in preparation for lunch. The bakeries didn’t have any tables, so fulfilling my fantasy right on the spot was out.

I wandered all around the little town and didn’t find a single place open for breakfast.  Poor me, or should I say “pauvre, petite moi,” in a bid for Gallic sympathy.  I was thinking of heading back to the ship for a baguette breakfast that would be almost as good,  when I saw one ice cream shop open that was advertising coffee and crepes.

Well, okay, I told myself. It’s not my dream meal, but really, crepes are pretty authentic too.  So that’s what I had.


It wasn’t the world’s best crepe, or more than just a good cafe au lait, but it was a moment to savor nonetheless. As Plan Bs go, this one was just fine. I’ll save perfection for another day.


New World


I have crossed the Atlantic on ships before, but usually it has been from west to east, Florida to Europe. My one crossing the other direction took me from London to Iceland and Greenland, an then to Montreal, which had a very different feel from just going straight over the course of five days, as I just did,  from the Old World to the New.

This afternoon, the coast of Newfoundland showed up through a light dusting of hail on my balcony after a day of gale force winds and a fairly bouncy and choppy ride on the North Atlantic. I have gotten used to crossings and didn’t feel any sense of hallelujah at the sighting of land, but as I stood in the observation lounge on the ship overlooking the bow, I did feel a sense of camaraderie with the other people there, that we had all done this together.

When the ship was cleared by Canadian immigration around 5PM, surprisingly few people hurried down to go ashore to touch land, but i was one of them.  I packed totally wrong for wet weather in the 40-50F degree temperature range, and overnight temperatures close to freezing. I hate cold feet, so I hurried off to an outdoor outfitters store to buy a pair of wool socks and waterproof shoes. I have both these things at home and it drives me crazy to duplicate things I rarely use, but I want to enjoy the rest of this trip with warm, dry feet, so enough said.   It was funny though, because by the time I tried on shoes and got to the cashier, everyone in line was from the ship, having come away from home equally unprepared,

This is all a preamble to what I really want to say, and that is that at dinner tonight, by myself for a change,  outdoors on the pool deck with heat lamps and blanket (my favorite solo venue), I got to thinking about what it means to have crossed from the Old to the New World.  I felt a little giddy at the sense of being home. It was, of course, home in the most abstract of ways, because I am in Newfoundland, to which I have no personal connection.

Still, I found myself thinking about what it means to have one’s psyche formed in the New World.  I don’t pretend to know what is it like to be raised in the  British Isles or mainland Europe, but it seems to me that one must feel something about being the inheritor of well over a millennium of history, whereas I grew up in a culture where the meaningful past barely spans a generation or two.

I am part of a culture that traditionally has responded more to  open spaces than boundaries. I know I am speaking from the privileged outlook of being white in the world of which I speak, but still, being of the New World does relieve one of at least some of the burden of history, as much as it equally leaves one adrift without much sense of history at all.

This continent opens itself to possibilities, is steeped in reinvention, and  asks few questions about people’s pasts (tabloid journalism aside). I have been throughout my life so blessed with opportunities to change course, to  change me. It almost seems a requirement in this culture to be dissatisfied, and a defect of personality or character not to do something about discontent. It can be a scary, insecure world indeed, but an exciting place if one is at home in it.

I left the town of my childhood at age 12, and moved again at 13 and 14 to new schools in new cities.  Every time, I felt elation at being able to shed what I didn’t like about myself and embrace what I  believed I was becoming. This rather nomadic life made me very comfortable with change, eager to try new things, and not particularly attached to anything.  I think I would have done well as a pioneer in a former time. Now, in the 21st century, my pioneering means something different, keeping my life  interesting, growing, and productive.  Welcome home, I tell myself tonight, although part of being from the New World is to be home wherever I am.