Archived entries for Travel

Travel 2012

One of my end-of-year rituals is tallying up how much I’ve travelled in the last year. I stayed in Chicago more this year than I have for a few, although I still spent 88 nights away from home. One of the major differences about this year was an increase in personal travel, separate from any work responsibilities. The bulk of this was an amazing road trip out west, which I still need to upload photos for.

In the list of cities below an asterisk means it was my first time there, and a count after the city shows how many times I was there this year. For the road trip I only counted places where I spent the night, but of course we passed through many more.

Last year was full of new places, people, and experiences; I hope that 2013 brings as many adventures my way.

Jacksonville, FL*
Charleston, SC*
San Francisco, CA (x4)
Palo Alto, CA
Pittsburgh, PA
Sturgis, MI
London, England
Detroit, MI (x4)
Minneapolis, MN* (x2)
Kalamazoo, MI (x2)
Eaton Rapids, MI
Sturgis, MI (x5)
Princeton, NJ* (x2)
Columbus, OH
Boston, MA
Madison, WI
Chamberlain, SD*
Douglas, WY*
Boulder, CO*
Moab, UT*
Richfield, UT*
Tropic, UT*
Hurricane, UT*
Williams, AZ*
Tempe, AZ*
Tucson, AZ*
Albuquerque, NM*
Oklahoma City, OK*
St. Louis, MO*
Paw Paw, MI
Umeå, Sweden*
Harads, Sweden*
Archbold, OH
Waukesha, WI
Canton, MI*
New York, NY

Travel 2011

In 2011 I travelled more than any previous year and lived out of the country for the first time. Below is the tally of where I spent my year, based on cities where I spent the night. Places with an asterisk are those where I made multiple trips.

I was away from home for a total of 169 nights, up from 94 nights in 2010. Although life is unpredictable, I assume that 2012 will break this trend and I’ll be seeing a lot more of Chicago this year. That’ll be alright with me.

Chicago, IL *
Palo Alto, CA
Austin, TX
Detroit, MI
Pittsburgh, PA
Sturgis, MI *
Kalamazoo, MI *
Waukesha, WI *
New Orleans, LA
Philadelphia, PA
New York, NY

Mumbai, Maharashtra *
Gurgaon, Delhi *
Jaipur, Rajasthan *
Panaji, Goa
Bengaluru, Karnataka
Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Sivakāsi, Tamil Nadu
Amritsar, Punjab
New Delhi, Delhi
Ahmadābād, Gujarat
Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Sa Pá
Hạ Long

View 2011 Travel in a larger map


On Saturday I’m headed to Rajasthan for an 8 day vacation. I’ll be visiting Jodpur, Jaisalmer, and Jaipur during my trip through the state and taking trains to get between those cities. I’m excited about being in the desert, hopefully riding some camels, and using the Indian Railway system for the first time.

If anyone has any recommendations for those cities please let me know. I’m keeping a pretty loose itinerary with nothing much set in stone accept my hotels.

View Rajasthan in a larger map

Midwest is best

I’ve been in India for two months now. Long enough to feel fairly comfortable and normal here, but also a milestone for homesickness to creep in. I can rationalize away the everyday niceties and norms that I’m missing, those are easily traded for all of the new experiences, but it’s the changing of the seasons that’s gnawing at me. Not the end of monsoon here in Mumbai mind you, but from summer to autumn back in the mid-west. It’s my favorite season, and September is my favorite month. I’ve been away from home for two Septembers in a row (in San Francisco last year) so I’m making a vow not to travel in 9/2012.

No regrets, and it’s certainly not a chronic sickness, but if I could chose some medicine right now it would look a lot like apple cider, a cardigan, trees with tinges of color, fields of corn being harvested, bike rides with scarves, and maybe even a county fair. If there is any season that anchors me to a place and a home it’s this one. Midwest is best in the Fall.

Research Travel

In the last two weeks I’ve been to 8 cities in 7 different Indian states: Panaji (Goa), Bangalore (Karnataka), Madura and Sivakasi (Tamil Nadu), Amritsar (Punjab), New Delhi (Delhi), Ahmedabad (Gujarat), and Mumbai (Maharashtra). The trip spanned the north-south axis of the country, from the southern tip near Sri Lanka to the northwestern edge only 25 miles from Pakistan. It was fascinating to see how each area was different, with one of the major differences being language. In Mumbai most things are written in Hindi and English, with just a few signs in Marathi. This contrasted with the smaller cities where signs were much more likely to also include the local language.

View Research Travel in a larger map

I tried to make the most of the trip, kicking it off with a 3 day vacation to Goa and staying an extra day in Madauri to see the temples there. I’m glad I did, because all the other cities were nothing more than a blur. Moving around in India can be difficult and frustrating, spending 3 hours in a car to fight your way across town for a 45 minute interview. Outside the car my time was spent in homes, hotels, and hospitals. The medical facilities we did research in ranged wildly, from fancy corporate centers that looked passably sterile to extremely dirty and sad government hospitals providing free care to the poor. It’s been a whirlwind fortnight that exposed me to so much, but was also just brutal at times with 15 hour days being the norm and always spending them with an entourage of 7 or 8, including 3 clients.

One of the crazier things I was exposed to during research was watching a live surgery, a bi-lateral (both knees) total knee replacement . I stood on the side of the operating theatre in my scrubs, taking photos and notes and trying not to get in the way. Before going in I was worried about passing out or getting nauseous, but it turned out to be less gross than I expected. It is amazing what surgeons do, and at the same time scary how straight-forward it is, almost like carpentry on the human body. It’s not uncommon for the patients in India to be only partially anesthetized, usually with an epidural. That means they can hear the cut of their bones, the smell of their flesh cauterizing, the sound of a hammer pounding an implant into their femur, and the doctors saying “Oh fuck!” when something goes wrong. I can’t imagine what that must be like.

The intensity of the last two weeks has wiped me out, to the point that I’m laying low and staying mostly inside my apartment this weekend. I needed a couple of a days without the jostling of travel and the stress of constantly new encounters. I love doing and seeing so many new things, but I’m physically and mentally spent.


I’m in Goa a long weekend, a tiny state south of Mumbai on the west coast of India. I’m staying in Panaji, the capital, which is precisely like transitioning from New York City to Savannah, Georgia. It’s a small city, situated on a large river that feeds into the sea. It’s the off season, due to the monsoons, so it’s not very populated right now. Contributing to the slower pace is the fact that the Ganesh Chaturthi holiday is happening now, so many shops have been closed since Thursday.

Goa is beautiful and unique. The influence of the Portuguese, who occupied until 1961, is still strongly evident in the architecture. I’m staying near the old quarter, which feels like a transplanted European city in a tropical landscape. The streets are narrow, the houses are quaint, and scooters are the primary form of transportation. Many of the buildings have balconies overlooking the street, including Cafe Venite, which has quickly become my favorite restaurant here. I’ve really enjoyed sitting on the tiny balcony overlooking the street and trying out traditional Goan food like fish curry and chicken xacuti.

Goa has an amazing number of old churches, from impressive landmarks like Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church to tiny neighborhood chapels that fill up after a dozen people. The most famous churches are in Old Goa, about 5 miles outside of the Panaji, which used to be the capital during the 1500s. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site now and a handful of original churches have been well preserved. I went there today, and it was both striking and odd to experience architecture that feels so foreign to it’s location. At times I honestly felt like I was in Europe until I exited into lush tropical foliage.

Besides churches, Goa is famous for it’s beaches. These are pretty sparse this time of year due to the aforementioned monsoon, which sprung up multiple times today. At one point I was crouched on the sand, maybe 30 feet from the waves, with my umbrella acting as a insufficient roof for my huddled body. My only goal was to keep my camera and phone dry, and that minmum accomplishment was all I managed as the rest of me was thoroughly waterlogged. The rains struck numerous times today with that kind of intensity, but there were enough clear skys in-between to give me a serious sunburn.

I have one more day here to relax before beginning an intense round of fieldwork that will keep me on the road for the next two weeks. I fly to Bangalore very early on Monday to kick it off. It’s likely that the work travel will leave little time for sightseeing, but I’m excited to get even a basic feel for some different cities. So far Goa has been fantastic, and India is living up to what I’ve heard about each area being unique.

I have a lot of images to add to Flickr once I get back from research travel, but here are a few quick-and-dirty photos.

Mumbai Local Trains

I took the train for the first time yesterday. In most cities this task would not prompt congratulations from multiple locals, but the density of Mumbai is pretty unique. I went on a weekend to avoid the rush hour crush and for the most part the trip fine, really fun actually. I’m a sucker for train travel, my second favorite way to get around after walking.

There are multiple classes and types of train cars. To begin with, there are first and second class cars. I took first class, which is over 10 times as expensive but still less than $1.25 to ride to the end of the line. It’s much less crowded than second class, which seems like a heavily subsidized price to make transportation accessible to everyone. There are also separate cars for women, senior citizens, and the disabled.

There are no printed or electronic routes in the cars themselves, but I had one on my iPhone so that was okay. A loudspeaker announces the next stop almost constantly so once you’re familiar with the options it’s easy enough. Some stops have platforms on different sides, which is a bit tricky since you need to make sure you can get over to the right side when it’s crowded.

The doors on both sides of the car are kept open most of the time. When it’s crowded, people hang out the side of the car, which is super fun and honestly doesn’t feel that unsafe. It was raining for part of my ride, and the mist coming in from the doors was cooled everything down.

My only bad experience on the train was getting off at the Bandra stop when I came back home. The train car had been steadily filling since we left Churchgate and was wall-to-wall at this point. Luckily I was positioned on the correct side to get off, right near the open door, and started to step off as the train slowed to a stop. The problem was that five guys bum rushed the train before we even stopped, forcing me back inside and crushing me into a corner. I kept telling them that I had to get off, that there was plenty of time, but they wouldn’t budge. One guy even suggested I get off at the next stop. I sort of panicked and ended up being able to force my way out by taking hold of the door as leverage. It definitely frazzled me a bit.

I’m going to keep riding the trains, they seem like a fabulous way to get around quickly and cheaply. This first trip taught me that I need to have a strategy, and need to be very aggressive about getting off. It’s a common theme here, there is no concept of right-of-way on the street and contrary to my logical expectation nobody is going to let people off before they try to board a train. I’m not normally an aggressive person, I like to know the rules of a system and operate smoothly within it, but that approach won’t work in Mumbai.

Below is a video I took one night last week. Near the end you can see the standard boarding procedure of jumping on even though there’s really no room and the train has already started moving.

Moving to India

In roughly 48 hours I’ll be on a plane to India and won’t be back home until mid-December. I’m going for work, to help out with the new IDEO Mumbai office that just opened. This trip is going to be include lots of firsts for me: first time living abroad, first time away from home for so long, first time in India, first time working in such a small office environment. Actually, the more I think about it the more I realize that nearly everything about this trip will be new experiences, which is what I’m most excited about.

If you want to keep up with me while I’m in India you’re in the right place, I plan to update this blog on a more frequent schedule. I’ll also be adding lots of photos to my Flickr account.

I should have consistent internet access while I’m there, including my iPhone. If you want to get in touch with me don’t call or text my normal number though. Skype is best (username: currentform), and I have a US phone number that redirects to my Skype account — just email me if you want it.

I’m super excited, but trying not to have too many expectations about what this experience will be like. I’m just going to roll with whatever happens and try to soak in as much as I can. If you have any tips, connections, must-see places, or warnings for me then please let me know.

Not Home 2010

I travelled a lot in 2010, more than any previous year; mostly this was for work, but not entirely. This was a year in which being gone was a pretty welcome feeling, where I felt strange if I hadn’t been to the airport in a few weeks. It isn’t sustainable (for me or the earth), and at times it was downright grueling, but in some ways I think it helped me get through this one.

I slept in a different city for 94 nights this year, with July being the only month spent entirely in Chicago. Here’s my list for 2010:

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Beijing, China
Boston, MA
Hornu, Belgium
Kalamazoo, MI (x2)
Los Angeles, CA (x2)
Madison, WI
Milwaukee, WI (x2)
New York, NY (x2)
Paris, France
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Rouen, France
Sacramento, CA
San Francisco, CA (x3 including 6 week stint)
Savannah, GA
Seattle, WA
Sturgis, MI (x5)
Tokyo, Japan
Washington, D.C.
Waukesha, WI