Friday, July 25, 2014

5 Question Friday With David Himmel

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5 Question Friday - The Sarcastic Edition

Where I ask friends and interesting strangers to answer the same 5 questions, it happens on Fridays. 

I'm excited that 5 Question Friday is finally in full swing! I had a tough time motivating people and then my friend David (a comedy writer) pulled through this week. I have a few others are in the pipeline too, voila, that's a blog series!

We always start with a photo, a description of how we met, short bio (David's is very short), followed by the 5 questions.

David Himmel Chicago

David Himmel
David and Leyla have a friendship anchored by a shared love of ironed bed sheets and hating the kids who think they're cool while sitting in a bar they think is cool. Sometimes, it seems, David and Leyla are the only two people who understand each other. They've been extremely drunk together several times. David is a writer.

1. What defines you? (Be descriptive, is it your job, family, a certain skill or talent you may have?)

Malcontent. I suppose that's a word that defines me. I'm happy with my work, my friends, my family and mostly, myself. But I have a hard time being happy.

2. What song that energizes you when you are looking for motivation? (maybe it is more than one depending on what you need to get motivated for) 

When I was a kid and played sports, I was motivated by either Survivor's Eye of the Tiger or Regulators by Warren G and Nate Dogg. Now, my motivational song changes with whatever band or record I've been listening to most. As I write this, it's Braid's Light Crisis off their new album, No Coast. It's not a motivational song, but it's one that I dig musically and relate to lyrically. I tend to like music with a driving beat and some guts, so just playing Brody Dalle's album Diploid Love gets me going. Of course, my all time favorite tune is Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) by The Looking Glass. Whenever I hear that, I want to be lazy and in love and half drunk in a perpetually warm sailor's paradise.

3. If you were to show up to a potluck, what would you bring? (and why? And what kind of potluck is this?) 

My go to dishes are pretty universal, which makes it easy on me because I have trouble deciding what people will enjoy eating. Luckily, these dishes are tried and true. Seven-Layer Taco Dip. Homemade Guacamole in a Red Bell Pepper. Tri-Tip. McDonald's Chicken Nuggets. That said, I tend to avoid potlucks. I love a good barbecue, but potlucks are so often associated with office parties and PTA events and I have no desire to work in an office that has potlucks or be a parent who cares about his kid's school.

4.  Describe your perfect day. 

It starts by waking up and getting to work at 3 a.m. At 10 a.m., my literary agent calls to tell me that my latest novel has made the New York Times Best Sellers List. My girlfriend and I make breakfast. My agent calls again to tell me that the novel has been optioned by a movie studio that doesn't suck and that I'm writing the screenplay adaptation. I go swimming and sailing. I have some sex. I get good and drunk with the girlfriend and a handful of my best pals. One of them pukes on the floor of the bar. Before I fall asleep, my best pal texts me that his latest novel was also optioned for a movie.

5. What would you do if you won $1 million in the lottery? What would you do if you won $100 million?

If I won a million bucks, I'd play that Barenaked Ladies song terribly loud. Then I'd pay back the money I owe my grandmother and father. I'd pay off my girlfriend's student loans. I'd buy a new car and put a down payment on a killer house with a garden for my girlfriend and a yard for my dog. Then I'd buy a boat. Then I'd write a huge check to Gilda's Club Chicago. And then one to the IRS. With $100 million? Same thing, but I'd give more to Gilda's and play that Barenaked Ladies song 100 times.

You can learn more about David in many ways:  

Or leave a comment and ask a question!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nothing Beats Summer in Chicago

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I try to enjoy summer in Chicago as much as humanly possible, so I took a few days off last week. 

My friend Jen was in town, we planned a day at Six Flags and the rest of the weekend was dedicated to enjoying the beautiful weather. Because if you live here, you know, nothing beats a summer in Chicago

An Ordinary Thursday in July

Not bad for my first #Jumpstagram. 
Many followed after this one, we had to ask (and coach) 14 year old kids to take our photos.

When in Rome, you behave like a civilized human being. 
When in Gurnee, you pose for stupid pictures with a larger than life chicken.

Jen and I first started going to Great America together when we were in our 20s. 
Now Jen lives in Houston.

I met Jen at J. Brown and Associates, an ad agency in Chicago (now called something else). When I was laid off in 2002, Jen called in sick the next day and we went to Great America. That's how the tradition started! 

Marigold Madness Six Flags Great America
Marigold Madness!

I will tell you my favorite story about Jen. She was once overheard saying "a monkey could do my job" in the cafeteria of the agency she worked for, the following week she was fired. No need to tell you, Jen no longer works in the agency world. Good for Jen! 

An Ordinary Friday in July 

Veggie Hash and Hot Sauce
Breakfast at 3rd Coast Cafe

I eat the same thing every weekend - a double expresso and the veggie hash with two eggs over easy and hot sauce. I never finish the whole thing, it's my thing. If I'm feeling adventurous, I'll get a short stack of blueberry pancakes, but only if the moment strikes me. 

Swimming Pool Chicago
I live in a building with a pool, I have no regrets. At least none related to the pool.

Whenever someone says, "I have no regrets!" I think to myself... how boring your life must be, I have plenty and hope to have a few more. If you have no regrets, it means you're not taking enough risks. By all means, have some regrets.

Gold Coast Chicago
My walk home on Friday night after drinks with Chanthana on the patio at NoMi
Photo editing was automatically done for me in Google Plus

An Ordinary Sunday in Chicago 

Chicago Lake Front Path
I went paddle boarding at SUPChicago on North Avenue Beach
This picture is just of the lake front path.

Paddle boarding was fantastic. I was nervous at first but it turned out to be much easier than I had anticipated. I paddled north from North Avenue, went past Fullerton and back. I got cocky at the end, a tiny wave hit, and in a split second I found myself hitting the water in the most ungraceful manner. I wish someone had taken a photo of that so I could share it. Next time I am taking a GoPro.

Lake Shore Drive - Summer in Chicago
Lake Shore Drive on a hot summer night.
Photo edited via Google Plus Auto Awesome.

The end to a beautiful summer weekend in Chicago. Until next week! 

Here is what I'd like to do this summer: Visit National Parks and Give Back
Here is what I did last summer: Visit Glacier National Park (Part 1) 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My plan to rediscover America, visit National Parks and to give a little back

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Rediscovering American won't be easy, I'll need your help.

My plan to organize a small travel group of like-minded individuals who enjoy solo travel but want more from their travel experience. And, I am going to start right here in America.

Midwestern Farmland

My Solo Travel Style 
I've been a solo traveller for most of my adult life. I love the freedom and sense of adventure that solo travel offers, I rarely get lonely and I never have to make compromises. Until recently, traveling alone has suited me just fine, but the more I travel, I realize there are certain disadvantages to traveling alone - particularly for a woman. For example, your chances of dying in the woods are far greater when alone, you might be mistaken for a prostitute (or even worse, a German), people have a tendency to ignore, or abhor, you in the Middle East, you're more likely to end up sitting next to someone who smells on an extended leg of a train trip or bus ride. And there is one other big problem with solo travel, it costs more money.

When I hit the road, I need a map, a good guidebook, a journal and about 4 hours of sleep. If there is something to be seen, I will see it. If there is something to be done, I will do it. Everything else is up for grabs, where the day takes me, that's where I go. Most often I travel alone because I have no other choice. I hate group travel, I have no significant other, and even if I did, there would be no guarantee that this person would have the same appetite for travel as I do.

Leyla Solo Travel

Read more about my travel style here: Catch Me If You Can - traveling with me is not for the weak.  

Taking Control of My Travel Destiny 
I want to bring travelers with travel styles similar to mine together. An organization, a travel group, or travel club, of like-minded individuals who have a thirst for knowledge and penchant for adventure (more along the lines of adventure-light, we're not dragon slayers but simple thrill seekers). We are the type of traveler who can spend the morning hiking a trail, the entire afternoon in a museum and end the day with a three-course meal, fantastic libations and stimulating conversation.

When it comes to travel, we are extreme planners and doers but we leave room for interpretation. We have every detail planned but would throw it all out the window if we met a charming local who invited us to have lunch in their village.

We understand the value of living in the moment. We love going solo but have done this long enough to know that there is safety in numbers. Physical safety, financial safety, emotional safety, whatever it may mean to the individual, but we are only interested in calculated risk.


If you want to read more about my trip to Jordan: Petra, Amman & The Dead Sea

Filling a Travel Void in My Life 
There are many travel groups for all sorts of travelers, why should this one be any different? There is something I cannot find in other travel groups I've researched, I see a void. I will explain by telling you about the void in my life, obviously not all of them, but the void related to travel.

Last summer, I did something I had not planned to do, I rediscovered America. Over the course of 12 days I traveled across the United States, I rode the Amtrak for 81+ hours, from Chicago, through the Rockies, to the Northeast and then down the California coast, making 4 stops along the way. Although I frequently visit larger cities within the United States, prior to this trip, it had not occurred to me that there was much to see outside of major metropolitan areas. That cross-country trip made me realized how foolish I had been, my own backyard was filled beauty, mystery and a rich history overlooked by many other misguided Americans like myself. Americans who have lost sight of their future because they don't know their past.
(Feel free to insert your own political opinion here, but I will tell you that this country was not built on greed nor fear. Look it up.)

LeylaExpress Amtrak Trip

If you want to read more about my trip across the country last year, you can check out: #LeylaExpress 

Finding the Inspiration for My Travel Success 
My cross-country trip was a great success. Amtrak was more pleasant than I had remembered it to be, and over those 12 days I met kind and generous people. I got to know more than a few on those extended jaunts between cities and listened to the stories of their daily lives, lives so vastly different than mine. Each one of the four destinations I visited were memorable but one of those stops out shined the others - Glacier National Park.

It was my first trip to a National Park, I didn't know what to expect. I am a city girl - I don't camp, I don't hike, hell, I don't even picnic! But I quickly fell in love with Glacier Park, I saw a lot and learned even more. When I first heard my guide refer to the area as, "Crown of the Continent" I knew exactly why and agreed completely, it was quite easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

The people who worked in and around the Park had a profound respect and understanding for nature and history. I listened to every word they said, I took detailed notes (on my iPhone, looking like a big a-hole) and I bought books from the gift shop so I could learn even more. Reading about the history of the National Parks, the extreme dedication to the project by the founders, the personal finances that were poured into developing Glacier Park, left me with a sense of pride and unity. Something that happens less and less these days and I would like to experience that again.

Glacier National Park
Read about my Hike at Ole Creek Trail in Glacier Park

When I returned from my trip, I continued to explore my new found love of our protected lands. I started to follow the +US Department of the Interior's Instagram account @USInterior (and you should too) but didn't know too much about the U.S. Department of Interior. I decide that any travel community organized by me would be dedicated to protecting national resources and cultural heritage. By whatever means possible, we would give something back.
U.S. Dept of Interior Mission Statement: Protecting America's Great Outdoors and Powering Our Future. The Department of Interior protects and manages the National resources and cultural heritage; provides scientific and the information about those resources; and horns its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives and affiliated island communities. 

New Travel Goal in Life - Join Me! 
My new goal is to visit a National Park each summer. It doesn't sound too hard, but it isn't easy to do this alone. Most of the people I met at Glacier Park were quite outdoorsy, one girl hunted moose(!), they were the opposite of me. They told me about the other Parks they had visited, Denali, Ozark, Grand Teton, Yosemite, Yellowstone… there were so many! I wanted to quit my job and live off the fat of the land, but I knew that was just a silly dream. Maybe I couldn't visit them all at once, but I could easily dedicate a lifetime to visiting them one at a time.

Any travel organization I am a part of would have a responsibility component, whether it was through financial resources or volunteer activity, we would be committed to the betterment of public lands, the wildlife and the people who reside on those lands. Even if you don't want to be a part of my travel group, you should consider volunteering for the US Dept. of Interior, you can find info here.

To truly enjoy all the National Parks have to offer, I know I can't go alone. I found out very quickly that hiking alone is frowned upon (and really scary). And I don't know of any travel groups for soft-core outdoors people, people who have an appreciation for history and a love of clean sheets and hot showers. To join my group, you don't need to be a gung-ho backpacker, I will source ranger led hikes, find guides that will take us safely down a river, and people with horses and guns that can help us not die together. In my travel group, there is no need to sleep outside, but we can if you want to (maybe for one night just for giggles), the Parks have great lodges. I am looking for travelers who can appreciate the tranquility and peacefulness of these wonderful places AND those who to want to give back to their nation and their people.

If you're interested in becoming a part of my travel community, leave a comment and let me know. And, because I have had a hard time deciding where to go this summer, make a suggestion too.

Which National Park have you always wanted to visit? 

More information on National Parks:

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