The Spaces Between Us

We examine space in some of its many forms, from our commutes to our offices, our dating habits to our personal comfort zones.

Space: a five letter word that simultaneously represents nothing and everything. Whether you are being asked to give someone room to breathe or considering our glorious galaxy above, space can be a real mind fuck. From “Are we alone?” to “Should I leave him alone?”, space will always be one of those heavily laden terms that forces us to examine ourselves, dig into our heads, and search for answers.

For our third podcast, Frida, Monica, and Laura examine space in some of its many forms, from our commutes to our offices, our dating habits to our personal comfort zones. So take your protein pills and put your helmet on, and join us as we head into the great beyond.

High-Pitch: Space Case

From the vast expanses of the universe to the smallest nook of an open-floor-plan office, music can evoke the celestial and blast us off and away from the spaces we occupy, but it can also take us home.

By Laura Gardiner

Space: The final frontier, but also the final blow to so many human relationships. From the vast expanses of the universe to the smallest nook of an open-floor-plan office, music can evoke the celestial and blast us off and away from the spaces we occupy, but it can also take us home.

Our Podcast Returns

Journey with us as we talk about our favorite trips, travel anxieties, and opinions on fashion trends that have traversed time and space to once again earn a place in our wardrobes.

In need of some banter, laughter, extreme oversharing and hyena-like screeching?

We heard your call and have (at long last) returned with our second episode of the High-Strung podcast. Download, stream and nod along as Laura, Frida, and Gabrielle discuss the art of travel. Journey with us as we talk about our favorite trips, travel anxieties, and opinions on fashion trends that have traversed time and space to once again earn a place in our wardrobes.

Buy the ticket, take the ride and let us know what you think!

The Best Travel Advice From…You!

Suggestions and tips for exploring the world, from our readers.

We know you’ve been around, so we gave you a chance to share your best – and most specific – travel advice for your favorite destinations. The less obvious, the better. See something you’d like to add? Email us at highstrung@highstrung.co! The Internet is infinite, you see, just like our travel ambitions. 

  • If you’re traveling to Iceland don’t forget to bring your favorite hot sauce. They have none.

 

  • If you’re traveling to Paris, don’t forget to bring good walking shoes! The best way to experience this city is to walk. Everywhere. And go to every Boulangerie. You’ll need the best bread, cheese, and wine in the world to keep your energy up.

 

  • Be realistic about what you do and don’t need to bring. That floppy hat that you can’t fold but looks great in pictures? Yeah you may want to leave that at home.  But if you are planning to tour the town, your sneakers, while heavy and possibly stinky, will probably need to find a place in your bag.  

 

  • Remember bag weight limits for planes. The last thing you need is to be told you have to unpack and move things around or even throw things away. 

 

  • If you’re traveling to enjoy, don’t forget to!

 

  • If you’re traveling to a park, landmark, etc., and you’re on a non-flexible schedule where you can’t switch your days around, don’t forget to check if they’re closed on specific days! You may drive up to a closed gate 😦

 

  • Sometimes the best way to explore a city or countryside is on a bicycle. Ark around!

 

  • If you’re traveling to the backcountry, don’t forget whisky, chocolate, and cigarettes.

 

  • Take pictures but don’t go crazy. Enjoy the moment and remember that no one cares about that painting you saw at that museum so just get the hell off of Instagram already.

 

  • If you’re traveling through Mexico by bus, don’t forget the Vomisin.

 

  • If you’re traveling to a country that doesn’t have the same electric plugs as you, don’t forget to to bring a VERY portable and heavy duty external battery for your phone with multiple USB ports. YOU WILL THANK ME…and so will your travel crew!

 

  • Check in to let everyone know you are safe and well, but leave it at that. Work will go on without you, and checking your inbox while dealing with spotty phone service on a beautiful mountainside in Switzerland will only give you anxiety. 

 

  • If you’re traveling to the annual friend group reunion, don’t forget to take off your shirts.

 

  • If you’re traveling to chill with your partner’s family, don’t forget the earplugs.

 

  • Sample the regional cuisine. Don’t go to a Planet Hollywood in Tokyo, or anywhere really. If the town you are in is known for goats head soup, then by golly you order the goats head soup. 

 

  • If you’re traveling to Japan, don’t forget to bring snacks on the plane because that’s a long ride, my friend.

 

  • If you’re traveling at all, don’t forget to pack at least 3 books. 

 

Travel Q+A: Myths and Realities From a Deaf Perspective

One globetrotter sets straight misconceptions about traveling while deaf.

by Frida Oskarsdottir

In our country, hearing individuals likely do not encounter deafness or sign language in their everyday life. About 2-3 out of every 1000 people in the US go deaf before the age of 18, unrelated to common hearing loss due to aging. This causes a gap in understanding between the hearing and hearing-impaired communities, which can be exacerbated by lack of representation in media, politics, and culture.

Given our travel theme, I reached out to Sigríður Vala Jóhannsdóttir to hear more about her experiences with extensive travel as a member of the deaf community. Sigríður is a Cultural and Communication Specialist at the Icelandic Association of the Deaf and a graduate of Gallaudet University in Washington DC. She lives in Reykjavik, Iceland.

What are your top three travel destinations?

– Otranto, Italy

– Canaima Park, Venezuela

– Munich, Germany

What are common misconceptions about traveling as a deaf person?

That a deaf person traveling is very lonely — in fact in every destination, there is a deaf community waiting for a deaf tourist to be immediately accepted into. I basically have a home everywhere I go.

Another misconception is that the barriers would be immense, but a deaf person is a visual being, so traveling is, in my opinion, more natural for us than most hearing people who depend on their hearing and spoken language to get through their days. I am quicker to find clues that help me travel with less difficulties. When communicating with a foreigner who speaks no English, gesturing comes to me as natural and even fun. I can say that it is not so for most of my hearing friends and family.

switzerland on motorcycle

What are some of the advantages/disadvantages to traveling while communicating through sign language?

Advantages:

Conversations – they continue as normal whilst being across a crowd, being underwater, through windows, or across train platforms.

Better seats – ‘Hello ma’am, welcome to our airline, I see that you are disabled, here’s a better seat and you get the chance to board first.’

A means of getting out of harassment – if someone is annoying me trying to sell me something or trying to get my attention, I either ignore them on purpose or simply start signing. They get the message and walk away thinking I can’t understand them. Also, most people feel guilty about taking advantage of a deaf person so I am less likely to be targeted.

Disadvantages:

When dealing with a signing tourist, people seem to tend to forget their manners. All of sudden they are free to communicate with us in gloriously insulting ways. For example, once on airplane after handing me over a cup of coffee, the stewardess grabbed her boob and squeezed it in anticipation that I would understand it as her sign for “milk”. I was mortified for her!

Independence thieves – people seeing me using sign language brings out the protective instincts in them. They want to look after me and do things for me because I just ‘quite can’t do stuff’. Ignorance again, I guess.

Do you prefer to travel alone or with a group?

I do not have a preference. It depends on the destination and the goal of the travel. On solo travels, I simply enjoy my own company, am with my own thoughts without anyone intruding, and have time to reflect. When I am traveling with other people, there is always someone else around to share in my good times. And there’s always someone to take my pictures!

sydney

What resources are important to you? What travel tips and tricks do you have?

Networking is important.  The deaf world is not a big one so we have an advantage of quickly connecting to people from far away. I can easily ask my old classmate if he knows someone from Israel. Even if he does not, he will connect me to someone who does. At the end of the day, I am on FaceTime with someone deaf in Israel who is asking me if I want a tour of Tel Aviv.

It is essential to always ask for a receipt and count my change.  In poorer or grumpier countries, they are always looking for ways to suck money out of tourists.

A practical tip is to always take along a notepad and pen. It is not always for booking a hotel room with the receptionist– I also use it to converse with the stranger next to me on train or at hostels.  The best thing about this is that I get to keep all of our conversation. Memories of my travels come flooding back when I read them years later.

What do you wish people knew (while travelling or in general) about the deaf community?

There is a question I know hearing people would not dare to ask because they feel that it would be offensive, which is understandable– “if you have a chance to become hearing, would you?”. My answer is NO, I would not change a thing. I am happy and proud to be deaf. I have accepted that it is a part of me. I would not be where I am today and doing all the things I am doing. I would not have traveled or met so many people along my journey if not for my deafness. Although I am speaking for myself, this applies to many deaf people as well. So next time you meet them, have this frame in your mind that they are happy as they are.

 

 

Ticket for One

If women travel more often than men, why do travel guides treat us like babes in the woods? 

by Gabrielle Sierra

Any woman who announces her plans to travel alone will inevitably be faced with some form of the following helpful suggestions.

“Be careful.”

“Make sure to check in.”

“Watch who you give your information to.”

Don’t get Taken, or I’ll have to use my special set of skills.”

Friends and family, who know and trust your ability to live and exist in the world every day as an adult female, suddenly revert back to giving advice that should only be delivered to a child walking alone to school. Gone is the faith that you wouldn’t take an open drink from a stranger in your hometown let alone a town halfway across the globe. It is as though as soon as you pick up your backpack and a ticket you suddenly lose all ability to tell right from wrong, adventure from stupidity, bright street from dark seedy alley.

This impulse to give safety and planning tips to quivering helpless waifs is a strange one, especially because women are leading the way when it comes to travel. Eighty percent of all travel decisions are made by women, even when accompanied by a group or a big strong man. Additionally, according to research performed by the George Washington School of Business in 2016, nearly two-thirds of travelers are women. Closer to home, a 2014 study by Booking.com found that 72 percent of American women are actively taking solo trips. And those numbers are only on the upswing, as seen by the 230 percent increase in the number of women-only travel companies created in the past six years.

What’s more is that these traveling women aren’t necessarily in their twenties or thirties: in the UK solo female travelers with an average age of 57 are currently dominating and driving the travel industry.

Yet this need to, above all else, highlight safety and security tips in women’s travel guides persists, often to the point of being downright insulting.

A listicle aimed at women traveling alone on a blog called Nomadic Matt opens with this passage: Traveling the world as a solo female? Worried something might happen? Nervous? Think your friends and family might be right about the world “being dangerous”? Not sure where to begin? Fear not. Many women travel the world alone and end up fine.”

(Well I am glad “many” of us end up fine. The rest are, obviously, fucked.)

Sadly, Nomadic Matt isn’t the only author offering adventurous women safety guides instead of destination guides.

A quick internet search brings up a plethora of similar results. Typing “woman traveling alone” into Google surfaces a never-ending scroll of content created to “help” women travel safely. Articles like  “Best Places for Women to Travel Solo” and “26 Best (And Safest) Places To Travel Alone For Females” and “46 Incredibly Useful Safety Tips For Women Traveling Alone” are a dime a dozen, offering advice and guidance not based on the most beautiful or unusual or friendly places, but the safest. These lists don’t focus on helping you select the best backpack to take for an eleven day journey, but instead on which tool is best when fighting off scary strangers.

“Mace (which you can’t bring on the plane, but you can put in a checked bag) or a whistle or a cat keychain all work for self defense, just in case,” advises Buzzfeed.

A quick Google search for “man traveling alone” is pretty much the opposite story.  Solo Traveler advises men to wear a condom when having sex with women abroad. Some lists advise solo males to keep an eye out for pickpockets, which seems to be the extent of safety and fear-based tips given to men.

(A fun aside: Googling “man traveling alone” also surfaces this piece by Elite Daily which is an actual guide on how to find yourself a man while traveling alone as a woman, and features the statement, “Don’t just bring your athleisure and sneakers… break out the flirty dresses and espadrilles while you still can. And if you’re planning a trip in winter, bring some cute booties and skirts with tights.”)

Other articles either aimed at men or written without a specific gender in mind offer general travel tips and list the exciting aspects of spending time by yourself, such as this piece by Smarter Travel that promises, “People who have never traveled alone often describe their first solo trip as an almost religious experience. To take in new surroundings unfiltered by the prejudices, tastes or preferences of a traveling companion can be heady stuff. Traveling alone gives you the chance to indulge yourself fully.”

Where were these articles when I was searching for “woman traveling alone”? Five pages in? Six? How many bullet points of “dress modestly to minimize attention from men” and “wear a real or fake wedding ring, and carry a picture of a real or fake husband”, must I scroll through before I find the tip that tells me the best sneakers for hiking or the best city for off-the-grid art museums?  

Look, life can be scary, and women are not always safe. We have all seen Taken and Brokedown Palace. We have read the articles about women who disappear while traveling alone, or are assaulted or kidnapped. We know there are places we probably shouldn’t go, alone or otherwise, due to unstable governments, violence, trafficking, or high rates of terrorism. The world is not always easy or kind, and women in particular have to be aware of where we go and what we do. Safety tips are sometimes really smart and great, and it is nice to know that people probably have your best interests in mind when they provide that sort of content.

But leading women’s travel guides with fear-based tips is simply ignoring the obvious: women already know how to exist in the world. We know how to dodge catcalls and avoid shady men and extricate ourselves from shitty situations right here at home. Women already know what it is like to have a guy follow us down a block or attempt to lull us with drinks. We know.

Adventurous women who decide to travel alone or with a female friend or a mother or an aunt or a sister are already confident in their ability to exist without the “protection” of the familiar. Check the stats buddy; leading with the antiquated notion that we are helpless is not recognizing our dominance in the world of travel. The underlying message of every, “Be careful walking into your hotel room” is “Are you sure you want to do this?”, and the answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

Yes, yes we do. We considered the safety aspect within the first few minutes of this decision, and have come to the conclusion that we are capable of undertaking this journey. So thank you for asking.

It is time for the travel journalism industry to catch up to the times, and cater to their prime market. So next time instead of a sweet tip warning about stranger danger, just let us know where to get the best cheese, tour the most incredible architecture, or join the best mountain climbing tour. We can take it from there.

15 Things That Might Just Happen When the L Train Shuts Down

The L is the quickest way from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Here are some prophecies for what might happen on that first fateful day.

By Frida Oskarsdottir

In New York, the subway falls under the umbrella of things people are as quick to defend to outsiders as they are to deride to their fellow citymen, like cash-only everything, or muggings. Brief commutes are heralded; half empty rush hour trains are discussed in the hushed tone usually reserved for urban legends. We console each other about our missed appointments, and the cramped compartments wherein people refuse to heed the conductor’s pleas to please, stand clear of the closing doors. 

New York City’s transit system is a clusterfuck the most complex in the world, with its twenty four subway lines spanning 659 miles of track, and that’s without the 5700 buses. So many moving parts and an average of 5.7 million riders each day make it a struggle for the city to find the stressors that most need addressing to avoid disaster and to keep commuters happy, or whatever the word is for when you don’t see a penis on the train.

One teeny-tiny wrench in the already strained system is the apocalyptic 15-month shutdown of the L train slated to begin April 2019. The L is the quickest way from Brooklyn to Manhattan and the lifeblood of 400,000 daily riders. So far, the MTA’s plan for mitigating the impact of the shutdown has been met with audible groans skepticism and continued uncertainty for how its policies will play out. The countdown clock has officially begun, so here are some prophecies for what might happen on that first fateful day.

1. New Yorkers will recognize they’re all in this together, and face the challenges of the shutdown with respect and dignity for their fellow commuters.

2. Just kidding – you will get hit by a train after a wave of rerouted passengers becomes a rat king-esque cluster of intertwined arms and legs, moving as one, squirming until it shoves you off the platform.

3. A new app will help you calculate how many items on your person you would have to barter in order to take a the newly surcharged Lyft home instead of waiting six hours for the train at 1 a.m.

4. Private vehicles may see serious restrictions from the city, following in the footsteps of other progressive metropoles. As a result, flowers will spring forward through the pavement, lush green will overcome the concrete jungle. Man and beast will once again live in harmony.

5. You will get hit by a car because someone’s grandma who has been taking the L train like a champion for the last 20 years had to renew her license to make it to her craft circle. But don’t worry, it will have more than 3 riders in thanks to the HOV3 requirement.

6. The soar in Lyft Line and Uber Pool prices will make way for new ride-sharing experiences – think PiggyBack and WheelBarrow. These will also double as dating apps.

7. You’ll save money by cancelling your gym membership – who needs it with all the extra steps it takes to walk over the Williamsburg Bridge? Bonus: the angrier you are, the faster you’ll go!

8. Despite the fact that bus ridership in New York City has decreased by over 100 million rides over the past eight years and is the slowest out of all big cities in the nation, everyone will seamlessly switch to buses and for sure make it to work on time during rush hour.

9. You will get hit by a bus.

10. Anyone remember this article about a woman in San Francisco who wakes up at 2:15 am to get to work by 7:00 am? Don’t worry if not, you’ll have time to read it again while you’re tucking yourself in at 5:00 pm.

11. The new additional cars on the G train, until now the stumpiest of all lines, will serve as makeshift studio apartments for those who have had to sell their billion dollar Williamsburg properties at a loss.

12. On April 1st, 2019, 1-2% of The Rerouted will take the form of cyclists, removing the tags from their spandex and strapping on their shiny new helmets, triumphant in newfound liberty and pursuit of a fun and exhilarating personal commute since the city’s plan proposes a two-way protected crosstown bike lane on 13th Street, the first in Manhattan.

13. You will get hit by a bike, because all of a sudden there are thousands of uneasy bikers on Manhattan’s only crosstown two-way protected bike lane.

14. #EastRivering will trend when a desperate workforce population braves a swim in the murky green waters rather than sit on the stopped J train for another second.

15. Everything will be OK because New York is the greatest fuckin’ city on Earth and I’m walkin’ here alright???

Thinking of Riding Really (Really) Far on Your Bike? Read This Zine!

If you’ve ever thought of trading in stale AC and cramping legs for fresh air, maybe bike-touring is for you.

by Frida Oskarsdottir

The first thought that comes to mind when someone says “cross-country road trip” is probably not a bicycle. But if you’ve ever thought of trading in stale AC and cramping legs for fresh air…and cramping legs, maybe bike-touring is for you. For stories from all types of people embarking on the open road with nothing but what’s strapped to their backs and in their panniers, check out “Must Be Nice,” a zine compiled by Jessica Garcia, a social worker and jack of all trades living in the Pacific Northwest. Contributions include funny stories about flat tires and one-horse towns and real advice for newbies. Among the hot tips for someone considering his or her first bike tour: “Don’t overthink it. Just go.”

For your own copy, email mustbenicezine@gmail.com.

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High-Pitch: Gone Baby Gone

No matter where you’re staying or going, you’ll need a soundtrack to guide the way.

Travel is as much an enlightening experience as it is an escape. These rhythms and refrains can allow us to traverse time and space while remaining stationary or can lead the way as we cross the globe. Let the canticles keep you grounded; let the strains shoot you into outer space. No matter where you’re staying or going, you’ll need a soundtrack to guide the way.

Wait, this was supposed to be about 2017? Sh*t.

I made a typo so this is about 2007.

By Frida Oskarsdottir

Are you tired of hearing about 2017, reading think piece after think piece about this absurd, surreal, soul-numbing year and worrying about impending nuclear disaster? How about we take a trip in our time machine back to the year 2007 to peek at a few reminders of the state of politics and pop-culture (when there was a difference between the two) 10 years ago. Which celebrities were dating? What constituted a political scandal before our collective outrage meter imploded somewhere around Mike Pence? Most importantly, what was I doing?

2007 was the year I turned 20. TWENTY. A glance through my shockingly inactive Gmail account reveals some desperate post-break-up emails sent to my best friend who’d just moved across the country. They included a lot of angst but not much punctuation: “i just feel as if im not really living, im not really meeting my full potential or complete self.” These were followed alarmingly shortly with sappy emails to and from my new boyfriend, one of which included his senior philosophy papers as a way to impress me. To be fair, I was so impressed I married him ten years later. Our budding relationship is also featured prominently in 66% of my Amazon purchases from that year, which in 2007 meant literally two out of a total of three. One of the gifts I got him was a fun retrospective of Woody Allen, his then-favorite director. Ah, youth!

“But enough about you, Frida, what was going on in the zeitgeist?” is probably what everyone who is not my immediate friend and family member may be wondering. I’ll tell you! Please note that I’m still the person writing this, so it will largely revolve around what was interesting to a 20-year-old college student who believed adding tuna to Tuna Helper was cooking.

In 2007 it was a joy to have a celebrity obsession. Instagram didn’t exist, putting absolutely nobody at risk of figuring out how mundane or racist their favorite actors were. We still stalked Perez Hilton and US Weekly had real A-listers on the cover, not the most recent contestants of Dancing with the Bachelor: Teen Mom Reunion. One of the biggest scandals was a dude getting fired from “Grey’s Anatomy” (a show I recently found out is STILL ON THE AIR) for using a gay slur. Britney Spears shaved her damn head. Lindsay Lohan went to rehab, like, four times. Paris Hilton went to JAIL. Break-ups that sent the collective unconscious reeling included Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz (!), Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling (!!), siblings Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson, and Puff Daddy/P Diddy/As-of-two-days-ago-Love and Kim Porter.

The final installment of the Harry Potter books, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” was released—the end of an era for millennials if there ever was one. 2007 also marked the year the US housing bubble burst, the end of the era of finding success and earning enough money to purchase a house and avocados. Being 20 and having a limited understanding of the economy meant I likely wasn’t paying attention to that news, but rather watching “Chocolate Rain,” which also debuted that very year. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed as hard as the first time I saw little Tay Zonday awkwardly move away from the microphone while the words “I move away from the mic to breathe in,” flashed across the screen. Memes today feel inevitable—let’s all take a moment to remember those early days when your friend couldn’t wait to show you a video in her living room, and you huddled around the warm glow of the computer together. Speaking of computers, I was on Facebook in 2007. I’ve been on Facebook for more than ten years. I wrote and received a lot of personal messages on my wall, like “Hey wow I remember u from Mclean how are u doing?” which is pretty hilarious considering I’d graduated high school two years earlier. Save the remembering for a little later, bro!

Politically speaking, W. was President and we thought we knew the extent of what having a dangerous ding dong in office meant. I can almost see us now—complaining about his grammar and his goofy face. I want to run but my feet won’t move. As his two terms were nearing their end, a woman named Hillary Clinton announced her intent to run for Democratic nominee for President. So crazy—a woman in the White House! Anyway, glad we gave up on that dream before things got out of hand. In other extremely unfunny news that shouldn’t be political but is, in April a Virginia Tech student went on a shooting spree and killed over 30 people, which at the time was the largest mass shooting in American history. That record is now held by the Las Vegas shooter, who in October, 2017 killed 58 people and injured 546. Ten years later, I still remember sitting in my living room in Richmond, Virginia —three hours east of Blacksburg— feeling the world hold its breath. Family from around the world contacted me, worried. Now when a shooting happens, we blink.

For less devastating political fodder, does anyone remember Larry Craig, Senator from Idaho whose political career ended in 2007 after he propositioned an undercover police officer in an airport bathroom by surreptitiously tapping his foot and waving his hand under the stall? Me either, but apparently that was the scandal of the year, which is as unsurprising for its ubiquity (anti-gay politician is gay AF) as it is surprising that we still care so deeply about people’s sexual proclivities and pay law enforcement to hide out in bathrooms hoping to entrap people just trying to get laid. Let them at it airports are so boring!

2007 was a long time ago, but not so long. The language to describe the passage of time in the new millennium has always eluded me —the aught’s, the 2010s—- it never comes as easily as the 80s or the 90s. Similarly, a memory I thought about in one way when I was 20 could mean something entirely different to me ten years later. Maybe that’s how it feels to anyone who is coming of age, until they decide to look back. Maybe in 2027, when my digital footprint has reached epic proportions, things will have arranged themselves in a way that’s easier to understand. But probably not.