Tagged: just me

A Real Life Interlude

Today is an absolutely perfect fall day here in Atlanta. I’m sitting out on the back deck trying to convince my cat that no, when you’re three stories up it’s just not the perfect time to jump up on the safety railing watching squirrels play, enjoying the breeze, and noticing the start of the leaves changing. So location-wise, I’m not having mass amounts of FOMO….

Mom in a hammockBut all that said, life has been especially tough for the past few months. My beautiful mother passed away following a long illness, I had to move house through the thick of it, and one of my freelancing opportunities came to a natural, if unexpected, close, which kicked up a lot of financial anxiety.

Most days I wasn’t exactly sure how I would make it through everything, but that’s exactly why this blog is important to me. When things feel out of control or the bottom drops out, is there a way to trick our brains into giving us a moment of peace? I keep coming back to the study I talk about on my About page, that suggests that vacation planning can significantly boost your happiness.

I’m not saying it magically makes everything OK when the going gets tough, but it’s at least a tool to add to your belt. For me, writing here combined with doing something active each day (usually yoga), finding ways to practice gratitude, sending compassion to people who are experiencing their own troubles, and accepting support from my amazing family and friends have all helped me enormously.

And so I’ll keep writing here for as long as I can, in the hopes that I can help us all breathe for a moment, make our day a little easier — who knows, maybe even laugh! — so that we can get through life on our terms, not our fear’s terms.

Much love to you all,


It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Spooky Halloween Activities in NYC

I’m originally from the Northeast, and since moving to the South I start longing for my temperate home state right around mid-August, without fail. It just doesn’t look like I’ll be able to get up there this fall — truly the most wonderful time of the year — and that’s a tough thing to deal with. So today we’re going to say so long to some of my own personal FOMO and chat about Halloween in New York City!

I lived in New York City for quite a few years and can almost unequivocally say that no place does Halloween better. Sure, sure, I may be biased, and to be fair, no, I have not been to Salem since middle school, but New York just does the (BESTBESTBEST) holiday right. So let’s kibbitz about all the bone-chilling things that are available for you to do!

Starting with…ghost tours! Ghost tours, ghost tours, ghost tours. I’m a history nerd who loves thrills and chills, so forgive me for straight up GEEKING OUT about this:

  • Merchant’s House: The Merchant’s House is supposedly the most haunted house in NYC, so they really get into the Halloween…spirit (muhahahaha). During Halloween they decorate to look like a 19th century home during a mourning period: black crepe everywhere, memento mori accessories, the whole deal. They also host candlelight ghost tours, lecture series, readings, and live music. Here’s the full October calendar of events for you to peruse.

  • Robert Gonyo as Professor Mortimer

    Robert Gonyo as Professor Mortimer

  • Haunted Manhattan Tours: My super-talented friend Robby, otherwise known as Professor Mortimer, hosts a tour of Greenwich Village that is not to be missed. His good friend Frankie the Bartender also hosts an East Village tour where you can hear about ghosties as you have a pint.

  • Green-Wood Cemetery tours: There’s nothing like a trek through a historic cemetery to get you in the Halloween mood. Green-Wood hosts a few tours that are just the ticket: a moonlight walking tour (accompanied by live accordion music?!?), Into The Veil: An After-Dark Exploration, and a Spirited Stroll that’s held during the day (and also lets you go into the catacombs, ooh!).

  • The Halloween Extravaganza at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine: Missing the Halloween events at St. John’s is one of my major regrets. Not only do they host crypt crawls where you can hear stories of those entombed at the cathedral, they also show silent movies, accompanied by with the organ. This year they’re showing F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, über-creepy and absolutely perfect. Need another reason? Check out this amazing video of 2009’s Procession of the Ghouls!

  • Make your own tour! Time Out has a spooktacular list of the top ten most haunted spots in the City. Explore on your own and find out what sort of things go bump in the night.

Well kids, I still have A LOT to say on this topic, but I’ll end here and continue another day. Until then, stay spoooooooky! (And for those who are more faint of heart, I promise I’ll deliver something for y’all, too.)

[Arcade Fire lyrics about neighborhoods go here!]

When it comes to FOMO-chasing trip planning, one of the key parts is figuring out where to stay. Depending on the town you’re looking at, there may be a huge variety of neighborhoods to choose from. This is where the answers to your questions from this post about travel preferences come in handy once more.

If you have lots of tourist sites on your agenda, that’s an easy one: you’ll probably want to stay as close as you can to these, budget allowing. I’m about the opposite of that — no shade! I’m just not a fan of crowds — so I usually have to do some creative research. Here are some of the ways that I’ve narrowed down places to stay.

P/c Iain Cameron

Torvehallerne, in Copenhagen (p/c Iain Cameron)

  • Googling “Hipster [city name]” (Shut up, I hate myself)
  • Looking for online neighborhood guides. Airbnb has a handy one, as does Fodor’s and TripAdvisor, though the guides aren’t on a central page, so you’ll have to hunt. Here are Paris ones from Fodor’s and TripAdvisor as a start.
  • Reading through the New York Times’ 36 Hours In… series. I love these, though to be fair, they’re basically a combination of my Googling “Hipster [city name]” (see above!) and “Completely blowing my budget in [city name].”
  • Picking a neighborhood based on its proximity to:
    • A restaurant, coffee shop, or yoga studio I want to check out.
    • Food markets, flea markets, or farmers’ markets. (The best one so far as been Torvehallerne in Copenhagen. Oh man, I’m drooling just thinking about it!)
    • Holiday markets, I can’t forget those! ChristmasMarkets.com is a great resource if you’re like me and are positively obsessed with mulled wine once there’s the slightest chill in the air.
    • Weird tourist attractions. I looooooove bizarre museums, creepy graveyards, strange statues (the Mary Tyler Moore statue in Minneapolis, anyone?): stuff that’s just generally off the beaten path. I’ll punch stuff into Google like “Weird things to do in [city name]” and inevitably find sites like Atlas Obscura, Roadside America, Cool Stuff in Paris, and so. Perfect Internet black hole material!
  • Crowdsourcing on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll see if anyone else I know has been there and has recommendations on where to stay.
  • Going analog. While my research is normally digital, I still love to go to the bookstore and browse the travel aisle. You’ll of course find the Lonely Planet and Time Out guidebooks, but Karen Brown’s Exceptional Places to Stay books are also hugely helpful.
  • Checking out a map, plain and simple. I want to see the geography and get an idea of what’s nearby, how walkable it is (or how close public transport is), and if I’m around any neat spots that my research hasn’t turned up.

So those are the basics I follow for picking a neighborhood. I know, I know, it may sound pretty crazy to put so much effort into a trip you may not ever take (and don’t get me wrong, it totally is). But I’ve always found that the more detailed I get, the more excited I get, and the easier it is for me to forget about the FOMO in the first place!

Let’s get started!

LaurenHi, I’m Lauren!

So at this stage in my life, I don’t have the time, money, or heck, maybe even the personality to be a travel writer. Travel writers probably spend 50-60% of their time, maybe more, on location trying to get the story. Me? One of the main things I need to do to maintain my sanity is stay home and and lounge in yoga pants and drink all the tea. I mean, like…all the tea.

I’m not exactly the type of person who goes to Ibiza (is Ibiza even still hip anymore?! I’m old!!), makes a dozen new friends, and then stays out all night discovering the hottest clubs.

And yet, I feel like such much of my life has guided me toward something travel-related. Despite my more introverted tendencies, there is still a massive part of me that loves to travel, to see new sites and cultures, and to learn new languages (well, words in new languages, let’s be real).

Almost the very second I have an inkling to take a trip somewhere, near or far, I open up a blank document and start listing sites I want to see, restaurants I want to try, neighborhoods I want to stay in. These itineraries have become the stuff of legends among my friends, usually in a way that leaves them wide-eyed and really, really, I mean really confused. But I won’t be stopped!

Travel itineraries have long helped me deal with FOMO, Fear of Missing Out. It’s certainly not the typical advice you hear about taking a deep breath and trying to be in the moment—it’s pure wish fulfillment, a grownup version of playing pretend. It lets me connect, albeit briefly, with the vacation version of myself: someone who is adventurous, brave, creative, spontaneous…and above all, grateful.

I’m sure we’ve all heard by now how much gratitude can decrease stress and improve your well-being (if not, you can read more here; you’re welcome). By putting myself in touch with Vacation Lauren, I feel more like myself, and more equipped to handle what life throws at me. 

So join me, won’t you? Let’s get started making some travel itineraries and seeing if it helps quiet that pesky little FOMO.