Summer (Movies) In the City

Movies are like Netflix, but you pay more and have to leave your house!

by Frida Oskarsdottir

I go to the movies more in New York City than anywhere else I’ve lived, which is ironic given the prices and wealth of things to do here compared to a lot of other places. Yet something about entering a cool, dark room in which you have nothing to do but let someone else’s best attempt at art wash over you is hard to resist. I know I’m not alone in my affinity; in more than half of the screenings I go to I’m forced to sit in the first row of a sold-out theater because I refuse to show up more than 5 minutes early to anything, really. Here are some thoughts on the 2018 summer films I’ve air-conditioned my way through:

Eighth Grade
Director: Bo Burnham
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Runtime: 94 minutes

Eighth Grade - Still 1

Alternate Title: Puberty: A Horror Anthology

Why should you see it? This movie might break you. A specific, unsentimental, smart, profound glimpse into my deepest insecurities adolescence, perhaps the best part about this film is that it clocks in at just over an hour and a half. PRAISE BE – as someone who sees a lot of movies, let me tell you that they just keep. Getting. Longer. CUT IT DOWN, FRIENDS. Brevity aside, I loved Eighth Grade. The euphoria of a new friend, the singular gut-punch of loneliness and the widening chasm between teenager and parent, it all felt a little too real for this formerly acne-ridden viewer. I give it 4 headgears and would pair with an oily appetizer that will go straight to your T-zone.

Most memorable scene: The gloriously specific choices made in this movie are what elevate it past a lot of other coming-of-age films; what especially killed me dead was the perfect casting of Kayla’s love-interest, Aiden (of course his name is fucking Aiden). When this kid materialized at a pool party with his scrawny pale body and icy blue eyes in oversized swim trunks, I went into a middle school blackout, right back to drooling over an equally pubescent Chris Redacted who, looking back, bore more resemblance to Gollum than a man. Aiden holds complete power over Kayla while doing exactly nothing to earn it, which hit so close to home it might have knocked on my door.

Related reading: Eighth Grade’s #MeToo Scene Will Shake You To Your Core by Anna Sillman for The Cut

Emoji Story: 😬🍌😢📱😭


Sorry to Bother You
Director: Boots Riley
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Runtime: 111 minutes

sorry-to-bother-you.w600.h315.2x

Alternate Title: Capitalism is Evil: Bet You Didn’t Think There’d Be Horse Penises

Why should you see it? If you’re bored of seeing movies that you can predict the ending to after the first five minutes, maybe check this one out. Boots Riley’s surreal satire is equal amounts comedy, social commentary, and sci-fi, and its unabashedly socialist leanings are sure to entertain viewers fed up with our failed two-party system. Peppered with just-realistic-enough absurdities about workplace culture and income inequality, Sorry to Bother You extends its metaphors gleefully past the place where other films may have stopped, which I always appreciate.

Most memorable scene: Lakeith Stanfield being forced to rap at Armie Hammer’s cocaine-fueled, yuppie-nightmare party was just as horrifying as it was hysterical, and I’m definitely not allowed to recap the lyrics for you.

Related Reading: Searching for Detroit: Sorry to Bother You’s Female Lead Is More Symbol Than Person by Jourdain Searles for Bitch Media

Emoji story: 📞💸👀💀🐴🍆


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Director: J.A. Bayona
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Runtime: 128 minutes

jurassic

Alternate Title: Escape from Trash Island: She’s Not Wearing Heels This Time

Why should you see it? You absolutely should not. That being said, if you, like me, have a shitty day and decide to drown your sorrows in a bottle of red wine surreptitiously mixed with a giant Coke (don’t judge, it’s Spanish) and some DINO DNA, go forth my friend. As far as easy to digest action movies with, wow, another crazy hybrid dinosaur go, you could do worse. Just don’t be let down that even a brief Jeff Goldblum cameo can’t take this story back to its 1993 glory.

Most memorable scene: When they reveal 30 minutes before the movie ends that a tertiary character is a clone and everyone in the theater collectively goes “Wait what?” and then you realize that this is the second movie in a trilogy and the stakes could not be lower for plot points that they can wrap up next time.

Related Reading: The ‘Jurassic World’ sequel achieves the impossible: It makes dinosaurs boring.” by Travis M. Andrews for The Washington Post

Emoji story: 🏝🦎🏰👫😑


Ocean’s 8
Director: Gary Ross
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Runtime: 111 minutes

oceans

Alternate Title: I Wanted To Like This So Badly: A Film Starring Everyone

Why should you see it? Full disclosure, sometime last year I spent the majority of a hungover Sunday watching all three Ocean’s remakes. And I LIKED EM. Part nostalgia, part socially-ingrained worship of charismatic male lead actors, part ignoring Don Cheadle’s unbelievably bad Cockney accent, whatever it was they worked. My point is that this all-ladies sequel was tailor-made for me – I watched the trailer about 30 times. Maybe over-hyping was my downfall, because 20 minutes into this movie, I peered over at my husband to mouth the words “I’M BORED” and was met with his “I already know what you’re going to say and don’t say it because this is a quiet place” look he always does when I inevitably start whispering. But I was bored and I felt bad about it – something about the pacing and clunkiness of the ensemble left me cold. And now you know my darkest secret.

Most memorable scene: Despite my lackluster review I certainly didn’t hate this movie, which I thought made a lot of clever choices. The best of which is that while the viewers are behind the scenes with the criminals watching the master plan come together, we aren’t totally in on all of the secrets. Watching them unfold at the Met Gala was genuinely fun, the whimsy of which I wish had continued throughout.

Emoji story: 💎👗👠😴

Related Reading: Anne Hathaway Wins Ocean’s 8 by Jia Tolentino for The New Yorker


Hereditary
Director: Ari Aster
Rotten Tomatoes:89%
Runtime: 124 minutes

hereditary

Alternate Title: Will I Ever Feel True Happiness Again? Toni Collette Says No

Why should you see it? A lot of people loved this movie, which has a lot going for it. I don’t know that I can use the word “love” about something that essentially held me captive, A Clockwork Orange style, and force-fed me series of deeply upsetting scenes until my body went numb, but it was definitely something. Toni Collette will never fail at anything she does, so she can check “disturbingly unflinching portrayal of a woman on the edge of sanity” off her list and head back to “quirky Australian” now (please).

Most memorable scene: As a fan of Rosemary’s Baby, the homage at the end of Hereditary winked at me, but it also was kind of a let down. The movie was nothing if not original and it felt a little bit like the ending was picked off of a horror-movie dartboard. Oh also, the part where the kid’s head gets chopped off.

Related Reading: It’ll just scare you.

Emoji story: 😱😱😱😱😱💁


Crazy Rich Asians
Director: John M. Chu
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Runtime: 121 minutes

crazyrich

Alternate Title: Everyone Is Hot: This Movie Was Made of Air and I Still Cried At The End

Why should you see it? If you’re expecting dissent from the praise heaped on this movie since it came out, look elsewhere because I freaking loved it. Simultaneously silly and meaningful, Crazy Rich Asians was just straight-up fun to experience, with the added bonus of knowing it’s proving anyone who thinks people won’t go see movies with a predominantly Asian and Asian-American cast deeply wrong. This film also had a lot of abs, colorful outfits, and jokes, which means I was doomed from the start.

Most memorable scene: Crazy Rich Asians was elevated above a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy for a lot of reasons, but we all still knew how it was going to end. Why then, did I find myself weeping and thinking about how much I loved my family while two very attractive people embraced and brandished a giant ring on screen? Just movie magic, I suppose.

Related Reading: This Twitter Thread by Kimberly Yam

Emoji story: 🌹🌴🍇🍭🌈🌀🍸💅💖

Summer’s End Astrology

The psychic is in.

By Gabrielle Sierra

August is upon us, and as hot days melt away into hot nights you may be wondering – what should I be doing with myself? How am I to know how to live my life without a psychic providing me with guidance?

Well fear not, dear readers, for I have gazed into my crystal balls and read the cards and monitored the planets, and I am now fully prepared to offer you all the blind life advice you will need to finish out your summer.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

August is your time to shine! If you were nervous about your birthday just remember – age is but a number, and that number is 78, the average lifespan for a person living in the United States. Time is on your side so relax and enjoy! But also don’t forget to be realistic. Take into account all those boozy nights you had in your 20’s that will probably shave a few years off your life. Also the drugs; those can’t help with aging. Plus you probably spend most of your day sitting at a desk which is actually killing you. Oh and senility, that happens at some point. Anyway, happy birthday you!

Virgo  (August 23 – September 22)

It isn’t your birthday yet, Diane, no one wants to hear about your potential party options.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Beautiful, kind Libra soul. Embracer of harmony and peace all around. This August go a little crazy! Spread a rumor, foment insurrection. Stand up in the middle of your yoga class and start calling people out for their shitty downward dog. Get onto a train before letting others off. Go to a public pool and splash around, shove a kid. You keep your zen for 90 percent of the year, you deserve one cheat month.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

You are known for being passionate and jealous so August is the perfect month to finally let Kevin know you have been following him. Maybe give him the dream journals.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

Sagittarius is basically the best sign. Your positive traits – confidence, positivity, intelligence, energy – basically cancel out your negative ones. Superficial? So what, you are confident about it. Inconsistent? Eh, you are intelligent enough to know that you don’t have to follow through on everything. Basically we get it, you own every month, so just stop posting it all on Instagram because it is really getting annoying.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

You are known for your ambition, but also for your practical nature. You set standards for yourself and others, and value responsibility. This month, pull the stick out of your butt and throw caution to the wind! Hit up a party, adopt a pet you are not ready to take care of, miss a few loan payments. Live your life and follow your impulses for once. This can finally be the August you join that fight club. YOLO, baby.

Aquarius  (January 20 – February 18)

Aquarius is an air sign, so this month you should get yourself out there into the great wide open! It is the perfect time to take a vacation: make sure to pick somewhere beautiful and clear where you can breathe deeply and let your hair down in the warm wind. If you can’t get away from work, step out into the hot stagnant air! Scream into the void and think about all your lousy choices as a crazy man pees nearby.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Pisces are known for being selfless so you don’t get a horoscope. Thank you for your sacrifice.

Aries (March 21 – April 19)

Independent, ambitious, and always up for a chance to trail-blaze, August is the perfect month for an Aries adventure. Grab your pack and head out on the open road. Climb that mountain, take the solo hike, camp under the stars. Document your trip relentlessly. Make sure to have that stranger take the photo from a few different angles so you can choose the best one to post on Facebook. See if the Grand Canyon has Wifi. Don’t forget to Instagram story your breakfast, the world must know.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

Taurus people are known for being stubborn. This month, use your persistence for good! Ask for that raise at work and don’t take no for an answer. Camp out in your bosses office and refuse to leave until you are forcibly removed. Security has nothing on you, Taurus.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

You are two personalities in one, and no one knows which to expect. This month celebrate your clever nature and your dual set of traits by fluctuating wildly between emotions. Sob and then laugh hysterically. Throw something in anger and then act very afraid. Be your best self-s.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

Your birthday already happened, Ashley, get over it.

High Pitch: Summer Sabbatical

Steamy winds recede from the subway grates and a chill is felt anew; summer sings its swan song. Daylight declines as we approach another equinox, but we hold tight to the hits that carried us through the dog days.

By Laura Gardiner

Steamy winds recede from the subway grates and a chill is felt anew; summer sings its swan song. Daylight declines as we approach another equinox, but we hold tight to the hits that carried us through the dog days.

Where Are We When We’re Online?

As technology enters evermore spheres of our lives, we spend more and more time in virtual space.

By Frida Oskarsdottir

While we humans have always looked to whatever forms of entertainment were available as escapism, smart devices have taken our ability to escape full circle, allowing us to participate in an alternate virtual space. I’m not talking about VR, I’m talking about group chats, work emails, status updates, and online dating. In science fiction, cyberspace is depicted as an infinite stream of 1s and 0s, zooming past each other against the inky black universe. We now reside in this mysterious void: “talking” to loved ones, “laughing” through emojis, “experiencing,” “being” “online”.

Even before the release of the first iPhone, it was clear that our actions in the virtual realm didn’t always mirror those outside of it. Psychologist John Suler describes this as “online disinhibition effect,” or more plainly put, why people act insane online. According to Suler, six factors comprise the phenomenon: dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimization of authority. Both violent trolling (toxic disinhibition) and surprising acts of kindness (benign disinhibition) can result from this volatile cocktail of factors, much like the varying results of any type of cocktail consumption. To extend the metaphor, some people will (usually drunkenly) tell you that it is our “true selves” that come out after a few drinks. Can the same be said for who we are online?

As people become comfortable living part of their lives online, we begin to normalize behavior that deviates further from what we might accept in real life, even from ourselves. We can do this because there is always someone a little bit nuttier than you posting too much about their marital issues or 25 consecutive identical selfies; the bar gets pushed further away from reality. Sure, you interrupted a meal to take a picture of your food and share it to an audience that includes your third grade teacher and your coworker from 11 years ago, but it’s not like you’re arguing with a bot on Twitter, right? Right??

Over the past two years, the actress Busy Philipps has emerged as an Instagram story darling by sharing mundane aspects of her life with her ravenous viewers (author included). Much has been written about her success with this endeavor versus as an actress, but what is missing from the discourse is how bizarre it is for her to have an endless, real-time, one-sided conversation with hundreds of thousands of strangers about her medical history, small children, and job. In fact, we don’t think it’s weird at all; she is simply an early adopter of a new social media platform. And lo and behold, the rest of us followed: Instagram reported last summer that over 250 million of its 500 million users posted stories every day.

Philipps’ brand is authenticity; we are to believe only the narrowest sliver exists between the woman we see on our screens and the one we could run into on the streets of L.A. But the thing about virtual space is that we can be whoever we want. We don’t have to enter until we’re perfectly groomed; so we can plan out exactly what we say in just the right amount of characters. The more time we spend as this version of ourselves–snarkier, funnier, prettier, smarter– the more comfortable we become, but the differences between the screen and the person behind it remain.

Millions of people looking for love– one out of four straight couples and two out of three gay couples now meet online–have to contend with these discrepancies, which are more complicated than just lying about your height on your dating profile. Articles are devoted to exactly how much time should be spent flirting online before meeting up; too much time means the other person is probably married, too little time means it’s just sex. What is implicit but unstated in these guides is that who we are online is fundamentally different, otherwise we’d never have to meet. When you do agree to get together the opportunity for virtual space is far from diminished. Maybe you answer some emails while you wait at the bar, rather than anxiously wondering if your date will recognize your unfiltered face. If it goes well, you might text your friends about it on the way home, and then dive into everything your date has posted publicly on social media.

While online dating presumes that at a certain point you get together and see where it goes in the real world, virtual space still finds its way into more established relationships. I might say goodbye to my husband in the morning before work but as soon as I step outside of our door, I can instantly connect with him at any point throughout the day. There’s no need to wait until we occupy the same physical space to share my thoughts with him. Imperceptibly but undeniably there is a difference between seeing one another at the end of the day and having been in constant communication. So too is there a difference between a disagreement online or in person; one of us might wait to bring up some annoyance at a careless remark made until we’re chatting online, putting space between our feelings and reactions. On more than one occasion I’ve found it easier to resolve a squabble online than in person, only to realize when we are back in the same room I’m not quite over it. On the other side of the coin, you only have to Google “online flirting cheating?” to see that for a lot of people, virtual space can get a little crowded.

In the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History of You,” the focus is a society wherein a growing population of people implant devices into their brains that record everything they see, allowing for total recall and playback of memories and the ability to jump into the virtual past at any moment. There are obvious benefits to the technology; we’re shown examples of improved homeland security and child safety. But slowly, the ways the “grain” impacts the protagonist become more sinister, from preoccupation with a lackluster job interview or obsessing over his wife’s interactions with another man at a party, to watching an old memory of himself having great sex while having boring sex. The most unsettling part comes after the TV is off, when you think about how close we are to realizing a similar future of full integration between ourselves and technology. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe before we travel to the end of the virtual universe we’ll come up for some fresh air, blinking in the sun. Our kids might eschew the iPhone 22S for a rotary or a telegraph, rolling their eyes at the infinite photos their parents used to take of themselves, floating in the cloud.

#MeTooLOL

We are officially living in the “it is now okay to make bad jokes about #MeToo” space.

By Gabrielle Sierra

Welp, that was fast. I mean, we all knew it would happen, but damned if it didn’t arrive licketysplit.

We are officially living in the “it is now okay to make bad jokes about #MeToo” space.

First, I heard it from a male coworker in a meeting when he discussed the order in which we would be presenting a project. “And I’ll go first,” he said. “Me first. Like Me Too, right? #MeFirst.”

Then it was a male friend. “You all ordered beers without me? What about mine? #MeToo!”

After that it seemed to come from everywhere. There were jokes on podcasts, jokes overheard in bars and restaurants. The bubble of care and tip-toeing was popped, and men were free to make light of something that made them very uncomfortable.

I have yet to hear a woman make a #MeToo joke that wasn’t delivered in order to highlight the actual movement and not to make light of or jokingly appropriate a phrase.

I know that these jokes are silly, and not intended to inflict any pain or offense. I know that many may read this and call me a feminist killjoy. Afterall, the #MeToo movement and others like it are still front and center in the public discourse and being taken very seriously. It is something that a number of industries and businesses are finally addressing in a real way, and it is spreading around the world.

You may also argue that the world needs laughter and banter and we should have the ability to laugh at ourselves. I agree. But I can’t help but feel that jokes like these open a door, and welcome in a hint of mockery, a breeze of doubt and double-talk.

Because the wounds are still fresh and they reopen all the time.

October 2017, the month in which both The New Yorker and The New York Times released their heart-and-gut-wrenching pieces on Harvey Weinstein’s history of abuse and sexual assault, was less than a year ago. Attendees wearing all black to the Golden Globes in a nod to Time’s Up? Yeah that was January of this year. Bill Clinton’s abysmal responses to questions about sexual harassment were a few weeks ago. Just a handful of days ago we found out that Haim fired their agent after discovering that they were making ten times less than a male artist booked for the same festival. And it was earlier this month that Jeff Sessions announced that asylum seekers can no longer cite fears of violence or domestic abuse as a means to enter the United States.

Every day, stories of mistreatment, assault, abuse, harassment and coercion are coming to light. We aren’t cured, and everything isn’t safe, fair, perfect.

So is already okay to make light of something so huge? So important? Turning #MeToo into a phrase that can be used as a bad joke about forgotten beer?

I am not ready to fake laugh at that quite yet.

The 9 Worst Things We Have Witnessed in Open-Plan Office Spaces

The unpleasant experience of working in an open-plan office space.

By The Editors

Open plan office spaces are pretty hip these days. Cubicle-free desk arrangements encourage employees to communicate out loud and in direct sight of one another, giving the impression of an inclusive, democratic, and youthful company.

But with the lack of offices and walls comes an obvious lack of privacy. While some have responded to this by moving their personal business to the seclusion of a closed room or restroom, others have embraced the public nature of these spaces by going public with their once-private acts.

We here at High-Strung have all experienced working in an open plan office space at one point or another, and we are here to tell you: it gets real unpleasant real fast.

Here are nine of the worst things we have seen and experienced.

1. One of us noticed a man flossing his teeth in the office. While walking around. Barefoot.

2. Personal boundary issues are amplified —discussing your medical history with your proctologist? Yelling at the delivery person who forgot to bring extra soy sauce? A fight with your partner? Why book a conference room when you can horrify all your coworkers instead?

3. We didn’t know how vigorously someone could pick their nose.

4. Your headphones might obscure the sounds around you, but they don’t save us from your disgusting wet lip-smacking while you savor every bite of your lunch. We hate you.

5. We can’t hate that hard on wedgie picking. We’ve all been there.

6. A collection of half-drunk cups that are slowly piling up into an ominous mountain.

7. Seriously why is this one patch of carpet so wet?

8. Sometimes working with older people in an open office means they don’t understand how volume works through their headphones and you get free access to whatever they’re listening to on their lunch break —which is usually Rachel Maddow.

9. Shared office space means sharing. But why is it always a dude who thinks it’s acceptable to fill the shared trash can with his plastic bottles and smelly leftovers? Just saying dudes are gross.

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.