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Willie Weir : January 31st, 2014

The Reluctant Traveler — Update, or “Did you really buy your dog a car?”

This post is an update on Tiva (aka The Reluctant Traveler), our rescue dog we adopted last year. My column in the Feb 2014 edition of Adventure Cyclist magazine talks about our journey with an amazing, but fearful, dog. Below are answers to questions many people have asked. 

Isn’t it good to have a dog who is afraid of traffic?

Having a pet that is wary of traffic is probably a good thing. But Tiva came to us with a deep fear of traffic. So much so, that it took us two months to successfully get her to walk around our small city block. Garbage trucks are her greatest fear, closely followed by FedEx/UPS trucks and any other rumbling diesel vehicles.

We didn’t truly understand just how ingrained her fear of garbage trucks was until we were on a walk in a city park, far away from traffic. Tiva was walking fine, and suddenly dove under a log, shaking with fear. Thirty seconds passed before we heard it … a garbage truck in a neighborhood a mile away.

Tiva’s sister wasn’t afraid of traffic. Why not?

That was always puzzling to us. How could two dogs from the same litter be so different. Well, we recently found out some interesting news. Tiva and Nigella came to Seattle on the same flight from Taiwan, but they weren’t sisters. Via a Facebook group (for people who have adopted Formosan Mountain Dogs) we met a woman who had also adopted a dog from the same group. She had done some research and found the organization in Taiwan that had rescued both puppies. Tiva and Nigella were from different litters. Tiva was part of a litter of seven puppies who were rescued from a ditch next to a waste treatment facility (Here is the link to the article).

Mystery solved. No wonder our dog quakes in fear with the rumblings of a garbage truck. This information also gave us a much needed dose of empathy. There are times over the last 10 months when we’ve wanted to scream, “Get over it, already!” Tiva has taught us how to be more patient, more compassionate human beings.

Why don’t you just drag Tiva out to a busy street and get her to face her fears?

We are fortunate to have a dear friend who is an animal behaviorist. She let us know early on that working with a fearful dog was a long, patient process. There is a chance that forcing a dog to face its fears will work, but there is a much better chance that you’ll have a seriously damaged dog. The approach that she recommended (and we’ve followed) is to slowly introduce our fearful dog to the stimuli that frightens her, and then back off before it freaks her out. It helped when we began thinking of progress in months, rather than days.

I call Tiva our vampire dog. At 10pm at night, she’ll wait by the door, tail wagging, in anticipation of a walk. At 10am, if you open the front door, she’ll run into the next room. Why? Tiva has never encountered a garbage or FedEx truck late at night. The day-to-day progress (of lack of) is all over the map. One day Tiva will seem emboldened and walk for 40 minutes (as long as no busy streets are involved). The next night she’ll freak out at the silliest thing (one night it was a small plastic snowman blowing in the wind) and our walk is over in 5 minutes. But then Kat and I will reflect on how far Tiva has come since we got her … and the progress is amazing.

Exercising inside … away from evil trucks.

Did you really buy your dog a car?

In a word. Yes. Our car was stolen almost nine years ago. We decided not to replace it. Not having a car saved us money, forced us to live more locally, and resulted in a lot more day-to-day exercise. Enter a puppy with severe traffic phobia, and we were trapped. We couldn’t walk her to the park, because it crossed a busy intersection that might as well have been a river of molten lava. We borrowed a friend’s car and took Tiva to a regional park. It was as if we’d waved a magic wand. Tiva came alive in a way we’d never seen before. She was confident. She loved to run. And she was fast. This was obviously a mountain dog who needed a lot more exercise than we could give her in the house, or in nightly walks around the block.

We bought a used Subaru Outback with 188,000 miles on it. Our car that was stolen was a Subaru wagon, so it was a bit like going back in time. Now as much as the car was purchased for Tiva, you wouldn’t know it by her reaction. Tiva will never be that dog who sits up on the seat with her head out the window. She approaches the car like she going to the gallows. She reluctantly enters and immediately curls into a ball on the floor of the back seat, and proceeds to drool.

The first time we drove up to a regional park, Tiva refused to get out of the car. We had to ask the help of a woman and her dog in the parking lot (Tiva loves other dogs) and we all enticed Tiva out of the car. Months later, Tiva still dislikes her car. She still drools. But when we arrive at our destination, she bounds out of the car ready to “romp and play and sniff all day.” (Yes. We have a song we sing when headed to the park).

This is Tiva when faced with a daytime walk in our city neighborhood.

There are garbage trucks and other monsters out there!


And this is Tiva on a trail!

How about a dog trailer behind your bike?

We have one. Tiva has ridden in it just once. And even that was well orchestrated. It had to be a place where there was zero chance of Tiva encountering a truck. So we packed everything up into the Subaru and drove across Seattle to a section of “Interlaken Park”. This is part of the old boulevard system in Seattle. This small stretch of road was closed to traffic many years ago, and is heavily wooded (which helps to buffer traffic noise). We successfully got Tiva to ride in the trailer, but her stress level was high enough that we realized we needed to wait until her confidence level has risen, before we tried again. Our goal this summer is to go out on some rides far, far from traffic.

Tiva with “Miracle Mattie”

What has been the biggest help?

Sometimes there’s only so much help “humans” can provide. Enter Maddie. I call her Miracle Mattie. Mattie is a Double Doodle (a cross between a Labradoodle and a Golden Doodle). But she could be a Cocka-Doodle-Do for all I care. What Mattie is, is a carefree, confident dog. And the two of them have become best friends. And all the humans involved have become friends as well. There is no medication for a fearful dog that can produce the results of just being around a confident dog. Tiva also gets triple the exercise when Mattie comes along, as they chase each other back and forth along the trail. Another life lesson–if you want help conquering a fear, surround yourself with confident people (or dogs).

What have YOU learned?

To be honest, I was depressed at first when dealing with Tiva’s issues. This dog was restricting my lifestyle. I wanted to go on a bike ride, not walk around my block with a frightened animal. Me. Me. Me. Slowly (slower than I’d like to admit) I came around to focusing on this little animal that had wiggled her way into my heart. It hasn’t been easy for either Kat or me. But I’m the one who needed a serious attitude adjustment. Once I took the focus off myself, and began to focus on how to help Tiva become a well-adjusted dog, it began to be fun. Well. Mostly fun.  And since we couldn’t go on long walks to begin with, we spent a lot of time on training inside the house. Tiva is smart. Really smart. She learned how to close the cabinet door on command in twenty minutes. She learned how to “high five” by watching a friend’s dog do it for a treat. I’m currently training her to do our taxes. She’s afraid of garbage trucks, but fearless with Schedule C.

What now?

We’ll continue to take longer nighttime walks in the neighborhood, and slowly transition to walking during the daylight hours. We’ll drive up to the mountains and rediscover trails that we couldn’t get to when we didn’t have a car. We might have to adjust our travel schedule. Tiva isn’t ready to be left with a house-sitter for three months. But I believe she’ll get there. I still dream of taking a long bike trip with our dog. But for now, I’ll settle on a long daytime walk in my neighborhood. Step-by-step.

Willie Weir : October 23rd, 2013

Portraits of a Garden Spider

I had a great photo session with a garden spider this morning. All nine photos are of the same spider in the same web in our garden. She was very patient. It is amazing the variety of background colors you can get just by changing the angle from which you shoot. The fog only added dimension to the web. I love the garden in the fog.

I was walking down the sidewalk in Fremont a couple of nights ago and heard someone say, “This weather is bull#$!%. F$@#ing inversion.” I resisted the urge to stop and suggest he take an early morning stroll in a foggy garden. From the intense scowl on his face, I realized he wouldn’t understand.

Kat Marriner : March 12th, 2013


Nigella Sativa. It’s the botanical name of a beautiful little wildflower growing in our garden, the cultivated seeds of which are tasty, jet-black, slightly onion-flavored addition to flat bread we first encountered in Turkey. It’s also the pair of names given to two very important additions to my life.

Love-in-a-Mist flower

Love-in-a-Mist flower

For years I flirted with the idea of having a dog once again. I grew up loving all my family pets and while I had cats as an adult, I knew my heart could also include a dog. While we traveled in SE Asia last winter, I looked with amazement and a twinge of longing at the smart, savvy street dogs who could be mine with the right welcoming look and slightest offer of a bite to eat. As always, my heart saddened at their life on the streets, but I knew I couldn’t do anything about it.

At home, the final decision was made to give a puppy a good home. After reading 3 puppy books and researching characteristics of breeds to consider in a mixed-breed pup, I finally looked up the Formosan Mountain Dog rescued from Taiwan by the local group, Salty Dog Rescue. I saw photos of the FMD and read their characteristics and for the first time I felt I knew my breed! There was a litter coming to Seattle that was mixed with black Lab, so I sent in my application and readied our home.

On a Wednesday night, a flight touched down at SeaTac airport and multiple dog crates wheeled out to baggage claim. Beautiful, hungry, travel-weary pups filled those crates and quickly where whisked into the waiting arms of eager adopters. A precious bundle was placed in my arms and I felt unimaginable joy as she licked my face and snuggled close to me for comfort. There were several pure black girls in the litter and I was warned that the bundle I carried might not be the dog “Kenya” I had requested. The microchip reader, inadvertently left at home, would let me know later. What did I care? I had selected a dog based on a photograph of a cute girl-puppy, and they were all cute girl-puppies. As it was, I had adopted “Rosalind”.

That night I named her Nigella, my Love-in-a-Mist, and threw my heart into welcoming her to her new home. Willie was out of town, so I flew it solo, slept little, and sent Nigella reassurance that we were resilient, adaptable, loving beings, and she would be too. The bond was immediate. So much so that when Willie returned home three days later, he had to work hard to gain her trust.

Nigella fireside

Nigella and Kat fireside

We took walks, learned fast, played joyfully and took great care to socialize Nigella to her new world. Every person we met, from kids in strollers, to ladies with walkers, homeless guys at the bus stop, to bearded hipsters, smiled and welcomed her. Late one night on a walk the Spanish-speaking guy in white coveralls coming from a dry-walling job understood my request that he offer her a bite of kibble. This was all in the name of making her not afraid of the community she lived. We took her on the bus for a cup of coffee downtown, on an elevator, over metal grates that moved, by construction sites, and along the woods. We covered lots of ground with the joy of discovering something new. Our dog was a traveler in our city!

Playing at home with feet swirling on a thick wool carpet, Nigella was the picture of a happy pup. After a playtime, Willie began teaching her the next important skill: Leave it. She was quite prone to leaving nothing behind and we were constantly plucking stones and wood chips from her mouth on those walks. After a few treats, she stopped eating, gave a whine, went out to pee and couldn’t. Inside she vomited, then again, and again. A quick message to the rescue group confirmed I should contact their vet immediately. I did and soon we were in a neighbor’s car and at the vet’s office.

By the time she was at the vet, Nigella could barely stand. Her head drooped and she longed to hide, often burrowing in my arms. Clearly she was in distress and we soon learned her temperature was critically low. After a quick test, Parvo was ruled out and the vet had us leave her for further blood test and x-rays. We left the office with heavy hearts that something was causing our little pup such hardship, but I had confidence they would find the cause and treat her. Soon she would be romping like the little puppy we adored.

That evening the phone rang and my heart raced when I saw it was the vet’s office. Immediately I thought they must be calling to tell me she was fine and I could come and get her. But sadly no. She had not made it.

Stunned. Disbelief. Grief. Self-doubt. A hole was ripped in my heart. Nigella with the floppy ears, questioning eyes, furrowed brow, wagging tail would no longer follow me to the ends of the earth.

Nigella explores her city

That night I cried myself to sleep and bolted awake with fears that I had killed her. My watchful eye and had not seen this coming, and I didn’t protect her as promised.

Some 18 hours later, a call from the vet let me know that she had not swallowed something lethal. She had a twisted bowel. A rare thing in a pup, but possibly a little playtime tumble was all it took. And yes, she had tumbled after a ball as puppies do. But she had jumped right back up seemingly unscathed. Such a simple, unavoidable act … or it just happened because it was going to happen.

Many kind and compassionate words from family and friends tried to easy my mind. Many also encouraged me to open my heart and home to love another puppy. I had it all in place and yes, there are always more pups that need a loving home.

A few days later I connected with Amy at the Salty Dog Rescue group again. I wanted to get Nigella’s ashes and I wanted to consider adopting the original “Kenya” if she was still available. She was. She was fostered with a family, the second since arriving in the United States some two weeks ago.


Tiva with her friend Chaka

While I waited to make contact with the foster-family, I set about to examine my heart to see if I could do this again. There are many times in life that things happen that make no sense. There is no fault or blame. At times like these, I indulge in magical-thinking. I make my own sense of the world so I can move forward, find the magic, and embrace what happened and what is to come. I came to think that “Kenya” was waiting for me. She waited while her sister-pup had nine glorious, love-filled, magical days with me. She waited for me through an adoption-event and two foster homes.

Together Willie and I brought “Kenya” home with us one week after Nigella’s death. We call her Tiva, short for Sativa. Nigella Sativa is the botanical name for Love-in-a-Mist, and our two beautiful dogs.

Tiva and Kat fireside


Kat Marriner : December 16th, 2012

Taking the Slow Road

In every trip there is a challenge and a part of myself is revealed or at least rediscovered, and this trip is no different. Over the years there are many things I struggle with, but one that pops up again and again, is that I am no athlete. I fail at the endurance test … well, the thought of the endurance test. Whether it’s climbing a mountain pass or pushing through long miles in the heat, or climbing impossibly steep roads up from river drainages, my mind tells me I can’t do it even when I have proven again and again that I can. It’s a flaw I wish I could change, but it’s part of my nature to doubt my own ability. When I meet other cyclists who think nothing of cranking out 100 kilometers day after day, I feel my own failing.

Foot bridge over a Mekong tributary.

Talking with cyclists who just came north along the road in Cambodia that we intended to pedal south left me with a pit in my stomach for that vary reason. Forced to ride 146km in one day between Kratie and Stung Treng, through road construction and mid-day heat pushing 100F, just to reach a place to sleep has no appeal to me. I don’t want to rise to that challenge. I don’t want to endure that kind of hardship just to get to the next place. Fortunately I have a partner who although capable of enduring just about anything, is also not interested in slogging through miles just to get to a bed. There is no joy in just getting through a place, but there is joy in discovering something along the way.

Farming along the Mekong tributary.

I stumbled upon the Mekong Discovery Trail web site that gave some hope that we could pick our way along the villages, take boats through the islands and find small tracks far from Highway 7. We could do in five days what others do in two by taking the slow road. It would mean greater uncertainty of finding food or where we would find to sleep each night, but this was a fear I could deal with.

Whole families paticipate in peeling, cutting, and drying cassava root so it can be sold to make a small livelihood.

Before even entering Cambodia the idea was put in motion to seek ways to slow it down and see more, experience more, learn more about local life. How does the ricer thrasher work? What are the people planting and tending in that field? Who is winning the game of boules? These are things seen along the small roads and tracks and not often right along the highway. Rather than coasting by with a wave, we stop, watch, smile and learn.

Charcoal is essential for cooking in rural parts of SE Asia, and charcoal is made in mud packed ovens left smouldering for days.

Still in Laos and traveling down the Mekong, we put the slow road to a test as we left Champasak. We found a thin white dashed line on the map and confirmed with a tour guide that we could indeed bicycle that route and eventually cross the river down stream to get to our destination. It would take two days instead of one long one on the main road. They were easy directions to follow: stay on the dirt track along the river as we leave town and keep the river on your left. We even looked at the route on Google Earth to confirm it was continuous.

What Google Earth didn’t tell us, but years of cycling did, is that life happens along these small roads. Our track ran past homes, through school yards, past shops, pigs in mud, charcoal in ovens, games of chance, laundry washing, noodles drying, families working. Some times the track turned to a footpath that looked like it hadn’t been used in some time, other times it was a street bisecting a village and children ran along with us. Ravines and creek beds interrupted the flow, but there was always a bridge — sometimes strong, new steel, others rickety swinging bamboo missing some planks, few were wide enough for a 4-wheeled vehicle. The small road knitted together village life and wrapped us in it’s warm embrace.

Change perfectly manicured lawn for dirt and the game of Boules is much like lawn bowling that we play at home in Seattle.

We only went 45km our first day on the slow road, but we experienced more life then we would have seen in 200kms of highway. It was on that quiet, small track that I fully realized and embraced that I am an adventurer and not an athlete. Travel is much more fun for me when it’s engaging with people, than it is when travel is an endurance test. No more apologies for my short-comings.

Kat Marriner : November 22nd, 2012

Giving Thanks

Bathing at a community well in Mandalay city.

I reach for the faucet to rinse my toothbrush and cup a handful of water to swish in my mouth, something I have done nearly every day of my life. But I stop. Just in time. I’m in a part of the world that doesn’t have purified water running in the taps. They don’t use potable water to wash their hands, clean their clothes, flush their toilets or polish their cars. Clean water in such abundance is a gift. Something I am truly thankful for, and something I think about every day I rinse my mouth with bottle water.

Water is a life. Water is health. Clean water is a given in most of the United States, but not so around the world. I see families bathing in the irrigation canals or local wells, hoisting buckets of water from open tanks, filling drums of water carted on rickety racks hauled by bicycles, oxen, or pushed by hand. None of this water is safe to drink, first it must be boiled. A pot of weak green tea is on every table, boiled and ready for drinking, free for any and all to take. This a gift from the people for the people. And this is daily life in Myanmar — the cities and the villages.

Carting water from a well to home.

I marvel at what we do have in the States. We had the political will long ago to build treatment plants, lay pipes, create an infrastructure for each and every city. It’s no small feat. The cost must be astounding, and the miracle of clean drinking, washing, bathing water happens with hardly a thought.

Usually this time of year I take stock of my life and give thanks. This year, my thanks is for water. I wish us all an abundance of safe, healthy, life-giving water and the political will to help those without.

Willie Weir : January 9th, 2012

Point of Entry (one of the greatest travel songs ever written)

Point of Entry

“Give the world outside a point of entry. It’ll give back to you.”

That lyric stuck in my soul the first time I heard it in Larry Murante’s title song of his album Point of Entry.

Music is an incredible force, and each listener interprets what they hear in their own way. Words can be heard and quickly forgotten, but put them to music, and they will most likely be with you forever.

I know for a fact that Larry didn’t set out to write a bicycle travel tune. But that is exactly what it is for me. My “point of entry” is my bicycle. It allows me to be more engaged, more vulnerable, and more in touch with the world around me.

With that in mind, listen to the tune with added images, and you may agree that this is one of the most beautiful bicycle travel songs ever written.

Originally posted on the Adventure Cycling Association’s blog.

Note: Larry will be performing this song live at my presentation, Come to Your Senses: A Celebration of Bicycle Travel at Seattle’s REI Flagship on Tuesday, Feb 7th at 7pm. Advance tickets at:
Brown Paper Tickets

Willie Weir : December 25th, 2011

The Perfect Gift

What is the perfect gift? Ask a hundred people, and you’ll get a hundred different answers. But when you give one, or receive one — you know it.

I received one of those gifts thirty years ago. I still carry it with me today.

The summer of 1981 was magical for me. I’d pedaled across the U.S. with my best buddy Thomas. The sense of accomplishment was amazing. My connection to the world around me had never been so raw and wonderful.

But coming home after an adventure can be a tough transition. I’d taken a quarter off from the junior college I was attending. I’d been taking general education courses with no particular focus (Astronomy, Geology, English Comp, Theater, Business Math, etc.)

On my bike trip, I knew exactly (well, almost) where I was going. In life … I was lost. Too many options, and none of them was presenting itself as my future major, let alone my future.

I was talking with my mom. I babbled about my frustrations, and lack of any focus.

She looked me in the eye and said, “I want you to know something. Whether you become a biologist, or an actor, or a teacher … or whether you put a pack on your back and wander the world for the rest of your life … I want you to know that I consider you a success.”

That was it. In twenty seconds, my mom had given me the perfect gift. It was as if she had given me a magical gift certificate. I didn’t have to worry about what I did. I just needed to fill in the gift card with whatever my heart desired.

Little did my mother know how literally I’d take her words. Though I’ve used panniers instead of a pack.

And it hasn’t all been bicycle travel. I’ve driven trucks, acted on stage, waited tables, fought forest fires, written columns, and tried many other pursuits.

But no matter what I’ve done, I’ve always known that in the heart of one of the most important people in my life, I’ve been a success.

Thanks, Mom.

Merry Christmas.

Originally posted on the Adventure Cycling Association’s blog.
Willie Weir : October 24th, 2011

A Tale of Two Sundays

Willie Weir : October 14th, 2011

Reoccupy Your Neighborhood

Current signage (left) Improved signage (right)

Do you remember when neighborhood streets were not just for cars, but for people too? Do your childhood memories include hide-and-seek, kickball and kick-the-can? Did you learn how to ride your bike right down the middle of your street, not in some park or empty parking lot? You do? Then if you live in the United States, you must be close to my age. I’m 50.

Forty years ago Americans were just as much in love with their cars as they are today. But they were also in love with their neighborhoods. They didn’t just commute through them, they lived in them. There had to be 30 kids on my block, and summer’s seemed to be one long continuous kick-ball game. We set up in the middle of the street outside the Heffner’s house. Kids outside laughing and playing. As it should be.

When a car came down the street. It approached, waiting for the mob of youthful energy to clear out, and then slowly passed by. The driver usually smiled and waved.

One day an incredible thing happened. Bruce was about ready to deliver the kickball at a crucial moment in the game, when there was a strange mechanical sound. We looked up and Mr. Cook’s  garage door  magically opened. All by itself! We stood there in amazement as Mr. Cook’s car appeared around the corner, and drove right into the garage. There was another mechanical sound, and the garage door closed.


THAT was cool.

Mr. Cook (he worked at the bank) was the first one in the neighborhood to get a automatic garage door opener.

The next day at the exact same time (we were waiting) the magic happened again.

As a kid, Mr. Cook’s magic door was the greatest thing since spongy loaves of Wonder Bread. But as an adult, I now see that it was the beginning of the end.

We didn’t see Mr. Cook much anymore. You see, before his cool gadget, Mr. Cook had to get out of his car to open up his garage door himself. Sometimes he’d watch our game for a few minutes. Sometimes he’d talk with us. I remember him saying, “You all argue a lot more than you play kickball.” He was right.

Americans were already spending more time in their cars, but the automatic garage door opener allowed neighbors to actually never physically spend time in their neighborhood.

Of course, there were other factors, (jobs further away, two-three-and-four car families, the shopping mall). They all played a part in the demise of the livable neighborhood.

The sign to the left in the photo above is from my street on Beacon Hill in Seattle. It is one block away from Kimball Elementary School. ONE block. That’s the school zone.  Why? Well, in my opinion, it is because there is the assumption that kids don’t walk to school anymore. They need to be safe in that one block where their parents park or drop them off.

Unfortunately that assumption is right. Come fifteen minutes to school time,  our street becomes a mess of speeding mini-vans and SUV’s with parents, rushing to get their kids to “the school zone”.

Traffic doesn’t kill a neighborhood. But speeding traffic does.

Mr. Cook never sped down our street at 35mph. Not even close. If he and others had done so, our parents wouldn’t have let us play kickball … or kick-the-can. Many of us wouldn’t have learned to ride a bike.

I recently spoke to a crowd of 200 adults. Most of them my age or older. When I asked them to raise their hands if they had walked or biked to school, almost every hand went up.

A couple of years ago I spoke at a junior college and asked the same question. One hand went up. We are quickly losing our collective memory that neighborhoods are safe places to live and play.

It’s time that we reoccupy our neighborhoods. Forget useless, pathetic one-block “school zones.” We need neighborhood zones. Places where cars are allowed, but slowed to a speed that is, well, neighborly. 2omph.

“It can’t be done!”, I hear the cries. Well. It already has been done. Portland’s Greenways program aims to reduce traffic speeds to 20mph. New York City is getting its first 20mph zoned neighborhood in the Bronx. In England they cut it to 20 too! I won’t even bother to list the gobs of examples from the Netherlands and Denmark.

In Seattle, we don’t have to be leaders in this (unfortunately, we usually aren’t). We just have to follow the great examples already in process.

There is a problem. We can’t legally do this in Seattle right now. The Bicycle Alliance of Washington introduced a bill (HB 1217)l earlier this year that would make it easier for local jurisdictions in Washington to set lower speed limits in residential and business districts. It died in committee.

Do you prefer the modified traffic sign on the right of the photo? Let your representatives know that you are in favor lower speed limits in neighborhoods. Do you want to reoccupy your neighborhood? Then get involved in these groups who are fighting to allow you to do so.
Bicycle Alliance of Washington
Cascade Bicycle Club
Feet First
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways

(Kudos to StreetFilms and the Seattle Bike Blog for great bike coverage)

Kat Marriner : April 7th, 2011

Street Art

Friends are getting ready for their first trip to Spain and feeling a little pressure to “do” all the things in the guidebook. It made me think about how I like to engage with cities I visit, and I realize it’s not much different than what I like to do in my own city.

Kusina Filipina mural across from my Seattle neighborhood bus stop

I visit neighborhood parks and playgrounds, eat in neighborhood cafes, and I walk (or take transit) everywhere. I love it because I get to see real life up close and personal and not what the tourist board wants me to see. Even at home in Seattle I’ll take in the block-buster exhibits at the art museum, but I really enjoy spotting street art on those neighborhood walks and along transit lines. That art feels like much more of a connection to the current trends, politics and emotions of a place.

Here are a few scenes from Seattle, Bogota, Lisboa and Seville