An Ode to Spreadsheets and Scribbles

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I have a spreadsheet that organizes my spreadsheets. If that doesn’t horrify you, you’re my kind of person. My lists have lists. Nothing makes me happier than taking organized notes that get placed into organized spreadsheets that get organized on my computer. I am a freak. 

This is a real thing I use

This is a real thing I use

Recently, a few weekends went by where I felt like I had wasted my time, and though I got some much-needed sleep, I felt unrested and unsettled. Those were the weekends without To Do lists. In the past couple of weeks I have come to embrace the fact that my life just runs more smoothly with lists. I can go with the flow, change my plans, and like to think I’m not an insane control freak (maybe..). But I just work better when I can write something down on paper and then run a ball point pen right through it. 

And yet, I also have a sketchbook with me full of wildly unorganized, sprawling thoughts. If you picked it up and read through it you’d probably recoil at my illegible handwriting, slightly terrifying doodles, and garishly colored highlighter reminders. Not to mention the organized chaos that is my room: endless stacks of papers and books and crumpled old mail that would horrify any sane person.

Lists

It’s taken me 24 years to realize that the reason I need lists and spreadsheets is the same reason I need a messy room and a sketchbook of unorganized thoughts—I cause chaos just to reign it in. Throw every idea at the wall and then carefully sweep up all the ones that don’t stick, placing them into their proper excel cell. Let yourself sink into a messy room for the joy of finally organizing a pile of important papers and alphebatizing old books. Make a mess of a life… and then find the pieces worth cleaning up and keeping. 

And so it’s with joy, and spreadsheets, and sketchbooks that I sit at a coffee shop today enjoying my organized mess of a life. 

And in case you’re wondering, my go to’s for organizing chaos:

  • Wunderlist: a basic but wildly helpful to do list app. You can make recurring to do’s (my Thursday spreadsheet update for work), set reminders (shit, it’s Sunday I’ve got an email to send), and satisfyingly check off your done tasks to watch your list get shorter. 
  • Google Drive: I’m a pen and paper kind of person, but I’ve learned to embrace the power of Drive. When my recipes are all logged in a perfectly organized Google Sheet, I can access them from my phone at the grocery store and quickly see what ingredients I need. Oh, and I guess it helps with real work too. 
  • Sketchbook: Contrary to how it may seem, a blank page is my best friend. Leave your lined pages and gridded sheets for a more strictly organized person. I need expansive blank space to scrawl, scribble and doodle every thought out of my head before I loose it, something that a computer won’t let me do. 

Bay Area Tourist Pt. II: Exploring Berkeley

When my museum plans were derailed yesterday, I decided I was still going to find something fun to do with my day. I did a little poking around online, put together a list of a few places in Berkeley I could check out and headed to the East Bay.

Berkeley was great (more on that to come), but what stuck out to me most about the day was how strange it can be to explore a city by yourself. I had all of Berkeley as my playground and to be honest it was a little bit overwhelming. Should I go shopping? Should I go to parks? Should I wander around the UC Berkeley campus and pretend to be a student doing surveys for a class? All very tempting options, and no one with me to help me decide.

I know there are lots of people who like to travel by themselves. Just do a quick Google search you’ll find endless blogs recounting fantastic adventures of those who are alone but not lonely, tips on solo travel and what to bring (a door stop) and ways to meet up with other people traveling alone. One of my favorite bloggers even said she and her husband agree to always spend a day alone when traveling. It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to, but yesterday got me thinking about whether I’d actually enjoy traveling alone. (Note: I’m not delusional to think the 20 minute drive to Berkeley constitutes “traveling” alone. Exploring? Yes. But certainly not traveling.)

I found that the parts of my dad that I enjoyed the most were when I was doing something: walking through the Berkeley campus, strolling through Cesar Chavez Park at sunset, reading in a Starbucks.* Eating, shopping, trying to make decisions–all of that was less fun by myself. In general I’d say I enjoyed my day, and I loved getting a feel for the city, but there were times I wished I had someone to share it with. Particularly when I was getting glared at by the waiter in the Indian restaurant I ate at. Apparently they don’t get too many solo diners.

My best tips for exploring a new city alone?

  • Take advantage of being alone to do what you really want to do. If you’re a museum person like me you might jump at the opportunity to wander through a museum without being hurried along by that friend who’s really only there to say that she went. If you’re a runner go for a run through the city you’re in to get to know it (being extra careful for sketchy people who abduct runners..). Just take advantage of being unhindered by anyone else to do what seems most fun to you instead of what you “should” do.
  • Get lost. This really works better if you have a smart phone or a map, because otherwise getting un-lost can be hard. But sometimes just picking a direction and walking for a while can be a good way to stumble across new places, shops, etc. You’ll also get a better feel for how the city is laid out when you un-lose yourself.
  • Forget plans. You aren’t accountable to anyone else, so if you don’t feel like planning your day out then don’t. A loose plan is good, but since you’re totally alone you can go where the day takes you.
  • …but also plan a little. Like I said, I looked up a few things to do in Berkeley just to have a good idea of a starting point.
    You don’t want to have to rely on strangers to tell you what’s worth seeing in the city.
  • People watch to your heart’s content! I took advantage of my brief Starbucks break to people watch and I think it’s such a good way to get to know what the vibe of a place is. And let me tell you, Berkeley did not want for good people watching subjects. There were some definite characters.
  • Ask shop owners/workers for suggestions of places to eat. I asked a woman in one of the stores I was in where a good place to eat was and she directed me to the aforementioned Indian food. It tends to be easier than asking someone on the street, since the person on the street inevitably gets frazzled or caught off guard and sends you somewhere really weird. Or abducts you. Jokes I don’t really think I’m going to get abducted in Berkeley.
  • Don’t be afraid to look stupid. This is really just general life advice, but sometimes you’re gonna look stupid when you’re somewhere new and have no idea what you should do with your day. I walked back and forth down the same street about 5 times because I forgot something, and then decided I wanted to see that area, and then changed my mind. The whole time I was thinking “If anyone were watching me right now I’d look really dumb.” Except no one was watching me. Because who in Berkeley cares about the movement of a plain looking twenty-something?

As for my actual day in Berkeley? A pictorial overview. There are no pictures of most of my wandering because I didn’t want to be the weirdo taking pictures.

4th Street Shops

Because I can’t just not go in a book store when it’s there. That would be rude.

Okay I know it’s just trees but look how many trees are on the UC Berkeley campus!!

And I didn’t even spill it on my white pants

The bay from Cesar Chavez Park

There was this great older couple in matching wide-brimmed hats with matching puppies and they were too cute. Hence the awkward picture of two people walking.

OmG awk selfie! Just to prove I was really there and didn’t jack these pics from the interwebs

And the beautiful flowers I came home to from Patrick

*You can yell at me all you want for going to a Starbucks instead of a local coffee shop but I really had to pee and then thought “Eh, why not have some coffee and read.” Could happen to anyone.

Hidden Trails Hiking Tours

Arrived in NY

As predicted, the very act of getting on the train has led to an uncontrollable travel bug bubbling up in me. What did I spend last night doing? Looking at hostels in Montreal and trains between Montreal and Quebec. Looking at hiking trips through Wales. Checking flight prices to London (my sin, my soul).

I know, I know, I’m in New York and should focus on one short trip at a time, seeing my friends and whatnot. But I can’t help it, I’m a multi-tasking million-things-on-the-brain kind of person and right now 999,999 of those things on my mind are travel-related (the other is what I’m going to eat for lunch).

I thought I’d share one of the interesting travel ideas I got from my Aunt. She did a hiking tour of Romania, and while that’s not super high on my list, she pointed me to Hidden Trails, an organization that does guided or self-guided hiking tours through various countries. On a lot of the trips they’ll set up lodging and meals as well as transporting your luggage from place to place. The main thing the organization does is actually a series of horseback riding trips, however those tend to be a little pricier. But some of the hiking tours are less expensive than other travel options I’ve looked at and they look awesome.

An image from a Hidden Trails hiking tour in France

I would absolutely love to do one of the trips in Greece, Italy, Peru or the UK. Now I just need to find someone to hop on board with me..

For now I’m thinking I may try to go to Quebec for a bit in August to temporarily sate my appetite for travel. I’ve never really done any solo travel aside from my semester abroad, which wasn’t really solo if you consider that I was all set up at university with a dorm and plans and all that jazz. So I figure the North American continent is a good place to start before I work my way up to real solo travel. But we’ll see if that actually happens.

For now, however, I should probably focus on enjoying whatever city I’m in. Starting with getting lunch..