About Megan McDonough

Megan McDonough

Megan Eileen McDonough is writer, blogger and social media specialist based in New York City. She also runs Bohemian Trails, a lifestyle blog designed for the savvy and stylish traveler. Bohemian Trails aims to feature must-see places around the world, covering everything from revamped neighborhoods and vibrant street art to innovative tech hubs and everything in between. Her cultural escapades have taken her to Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Megan is also a freelance writer and social media specialist based in New York City. She contributes to various online and print publications in the travel and fashion industries and is an international correspondent for both Jetsetter and Northstar Travel Media.


Latest Posts by Megan McDonough

Kito Mbiango Integrates Ikebana Into His Japanese Art

September 30, 2014 by  

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When it comes to artistic talent, sometimes living in New York City makes me feel like I’m a kid in a candy shop. Today’s featured artist is Kito Mbiango and while he currently lives in the Big Apple, he has traveled all around the world. His work reflects many of these travels and what draws me in the most is his clever use of color. See below for the full interview.

Kito, how did you find your way into the art world?

I never really sought out art, but art world found its way to me, for since my childhood, I spent time with my grandmother who traveled often to Japan to study her passion for ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. I also learned some techniques from my aunt Rose, a painting teacher who produced exquisitely feminine oil paintings. This exposure led me to develop a deep appreciation for beauty and gave me the freedom to explore and experiment with different tools and textures of my own. I initially took to photography but after almost 10 years as a professional photographer, turned to painting and mixed media to produce the images that previously lived only in my imagination.

visual artists in New York City

Where are you from? Has your hometown and/or travel influenced your work?

I was born in Belgium but my father is from Congo. My parents were one of the first interracial couples at a time when the US was in the throes of the civil rights movement. My mixed heritage and the bloody history of the Congo weigh heavily on my mind and drive me to create works that remind us at the most visceral level of our shared humanity.  I have vivid childhood memories of living in Congo and through my work seek to reconcile cultures by demonstrating our collective yearning for transcendence. Traveling for me is like moving through one of my works – only through my work, I can travel across the world in a dreamlike state, across cultures and through time and memory.

New York Artist Kito Mbiango

What is the inspiration behind many of your pieces?

Feminine energy is often the driving force behind my pieces – some of my female muses bear silent witness to the exploitation of natural resources, the loss of innocence and native culture but more often than not, the feminine form in  my work reflects a deep understanding of our collective consciousness, of motherhood and earth. In my mind, artists give us souvenirs we can consume, provide us glimpses of the other and in turn, show us reflections of ourselves.

Can you explain your choices in mediums and materials?

Photographs are my favourite choice of medium because of my background as a photographer. I like to think that photographs can capture a person’s soul as the philosopher Henri Bergson surmised. I like to tell stories with images and combine them with symbols that call to mind our ancestral origins. I’ve developed my own technique of transferring images on canvas, wood and other materials as this process calls to mind the techniques of tribal tattoos.

cultural travel art

What is your favorite travel quote?

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back; a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” – Anais Nin

What is your favorite destination and why?

I love anywhere I can immerse myself in a local culture and go unnoticed – most recently I would say it’s Brazil as my experience allowed me to commune with locals in the Bohemian heights of Santa Theresa to the dizzying energy of the children dancing in the favelas.

art exhibitions in New York

What inspires you most as an artist?

Music inspires me most as an artist and I listen to and deconstruct music obsessively in my mind as I work – everything from Glen Gould’s Goldberg Variations to electronic musicians such as Nosaj Thing whose mathematical patterns make their way into some of my works…

What are your three favorite places in New York City?

A little restaurant in the West Village called “La buvette” because it reminds me of the cosy places I love in Europe, The Brooklyn museum because of its African and Egyptian collection and Central Park where the trees provide solace from the frenetic energy of the city.

travel and art in NYC

 

A Chat with London Urban Artist Hannah Adamaszek

September 18, 2014 by  

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This is a chat with London-based artist Hannah Adamaszek. It’s been awhile since I’ve done any artist features and I hope to do many more in the near future. Hannah reached out to me on social media and I’m so glad that she did. Hannah works with a variety of mediums and her work is as bohemian as they come. See below for a full interview below.

Hannah, how did you find your way into the art world?

I’m an urban artist currently based in London, UK but have lived in Austria, Switzerland and Australia in the past. I studied art at university in the UK about 8 years ago, and fell out of love with some of the contemporary art scene, so swapped painting for travelling and skiing for about 4 years.

I first got into art and painting when I was very young. My Dad was a painter, and a huge influence on my work today. I always had a love for drawing from an early age, I remember entering competitions at primary school and it was a real passion then. Then I started studying at College, I did the foundation course which was a brilliant way for me to try as many mediums as I could.

I was drawn towards painting, photography and design. I then went on to do a degree in photography in Bournemouth, but it wasn’t really the right course for me. After that I changed to Fine Art, but soon fell out of love with painting. After studying I stopped painting for about 6 years. I think it helps to know what you want to do as a career before you start a uni course. At the time I didn’t know I wanted to be an artist. It was only after having some time away from painting that I knew it was what I wanted to be doing.

Emerging street artists in London

 Where are you from? Has your hometown and/or travel influenced your work?

I’m originally from Kent in UK, its a lovely peaceful place with plenty of green around, I was really lucky to grow up there. I got to travel shortly after leaving uni, to work the Ski seasons, and ended up living in Austria, Switzerland and Australia for a little while. Each place was unique and hold special memories for me. It was impossible to not be influenced by these places. I try and paint emotions, and my memories are part of that process. I’ve also taken colours and shapes from photos I took whilst travelling. There are so many places I still want to visit.

London Street Artist Hannah Adamaszek

What is the inspiration behind many of your pieces?

I love the outside, when I’m not painting I’m often found out running or biking in the forests. A lot of my influences come from the great outdoors, nature is the greatest artist, so I try to use shapes or patterns the I gather – whether it be feathers or animals or plants. I attempt to capture the feeling of being in my paintings, a state of mind where the beauty and timelessness of the world come into sharp focus.

Can you explain your choices in mediums and materials?

I start by doing a pencil drawing, so I can work out already what does and doesn’t work. I then make this into a stencil and get going on the background. Once I have spayed the stencil up I work into it with acrylics and spray paint, adding and deleting parts as I go along. Sometimes I make some extra stencils for more details like the eyes and some patterns in the clothes. I use charcoal too to add a bit more definition which makes a huge mess wherever I paint. I painted a few pieces on vintage tiles and furniture last year and want to do more of the same this year. Part of the fun is finding the pieces to paint on.

street artists in London

Is the girl featured in many of these paintings and drawings you or does she represent anyone with a bohemian spirit?

The emotion and spirit in the painting come from me, but the outward appearance of each girl is a mixture of different features I’ve found of different people, so its not a ‘real’ person. The great thing about art is it talks to people in different ways. I love hearing why someone has decided to buy a certain artwork, often their story is quite moving, and they have connected with the character in a way that can only mean something to them.

What is your favorite travel quote?

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.” – Jack Kerouac

bohemian travel style

What is your favorite destination and why?

I love anywhere with mountains, my favourite so far has been Austria. Seeing how bleak some places can be reminds me of how insignificant we are and how our own battles can be the most rewarding. Having recently seen some pictures of Mauritius, its somewhere I want to go next.

What are your three favorite places in London?

Shoreditch in London is great for some Street Art and some independent cafes, and not far or that you can get to the south downs, which has some amazing scenery to escape in. My favourite restaurant in the town I live in is the Gigglign Squid, I’m a huge fan of Thai food and the food they serve there is amazing.

GIVEAWAY: Hannah will be giving away the Aztec print on the bottom left. To enter, tweet @BohemianTrails what bohemian travel means to you. Make sure to use #BohoTrails so we can track all the entries. The winner will be announced October 1st!

revamped neighborhoods in London

 

Looking at the History & Architecture of Lisbon Portugal

September 8, 2014 by  

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Now that we’ve covered Lisbon’s gritty yet glamorous side, let’s turn our attention to the city’s unique mix of old and new design influences. Perhaps the most visual representation of this is the range of architectural styles used on many of the city’s most noteworthy buildings. Lisbon is a rather large city and there are three main touristic areas: Parque das Nações in the north, Barrio Alto in the south and the Belém District. I’ll be covering each area in this article, starting with Barrio Alto and Chiado. Shown below is one of the neighorhood’s historic squares.

Neighborhood Guide to Lisbon

Lisbon is a city of many hills so you’ll get plenty of exercise during your stay. Besides a reliable metro, there is a tram system and a few elevators that make the steep inclines bearable. I snapped this photo while waiting for one of these elevators and there in the distance is The Castle of São Jorge. For first-time travelers, I recommend breaking your day into two parts. Maybe spend the morning in the north and after lunch head downtown for a few museum visits. Many of Lisbon’s top attractions are located in one of the three areas mentioned in this guide and if you plan it right, you can see them all.

Old and New Architectural Influences in Lisbon

Featuring Moorish architecture (my personal favorite!) this fortified citadel dates back to the medieval period. Once within the castle walls, there’s quite a lot to see and do. We opted to walk around on our own rather than taking a guided but those are offered daily. Due to the earthquake of 1755, most of the castle was destroyed but I still found it pretty easy to imagine what life might have been like hundreds of years ago. The grounds are rather spacious, so definitely plan a few hours to visit the castle in its entirety. Views from the top are unbeatable and well-worth the hike.

Lisbon castle

For upscale shops, head to Avenida da Liberdade. Built in the 19th century in the same style of the Champs-Elysees, it’s the main avenue in Lisbon. It’s about a mile in total and extends from Restauradores to Marquês de Pombal Square and is 300 feet wide. On either side of the avenue there are luxury boutiques and 5-star hotels in addition to a few outdoor bars and plenty of small gardens, trees, fountains and statues. Pictured below is the Monument to the Heroes of the Great War, constructed as a sign of respect for the 50,000 Portuguese soldiers who died during WWI.

Avenida da Liberdade

Known as Lisbon’s cultural center, Barrio Alto is just as much of a shopping mecca as it is a popular nightlife spot. Dating back to the 16th century, it almost feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Despite the hustle and bustle of city life, Barrio Alto and Chiado still have a bohemian atmosphere and if you wander past the main drag, this becomes more and more obvious. Straight ahead is an outdoor plaza with restaurants (we watched a World Cup match at one of these) and an access point to the water. There’s even a little beach area to dip your toes in the sand and surf.

Barrio Alto in Lisbon

We made it to the Belém District on our last day in town and it turned out to be quite the adventure. Having mastered our Segway skills in Indy, we decided to rent them for an hour to see all the monuments along the shore. The Monument to the Discoveries shown below was unveiled in 1960 in horn or the 500 year anniversary of Prince Henry the Navigator’s death. It celebrates the Age of Discovery that took place during the 15th and 16th centuries. From afar, the monument is extremely striking but there’s no comparison to seeing it up close. The real beauty is in the details.

Belém District

A short distance away is Belém Tower, another symbol of the Age of Discovery. Built in 1515 in the Manueline style, this fortress is pretty enough for any fairy tale. There are different sculptures depicting historical figures like St. Vincent and various discoveries on the time. Having already worked on other Portuguese fortifications in Morocco, architect Francisco de Arruda incorporated some Moorish-style watchtowers into his design. A statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming was included to symbolize protection for sailors. We opted not to enter the tower but it is open to the public.

Belem Tower

I wasn’t expecting to like the Parque das Nações area as much as I did. A mix of residential apartments, office buildings and outdoor public spaces, this neighborhood has emerged as Lisbon’s main innovation hub. After being chosen as the location for the 1998 World Exposition, many of these changes were implemented in the 1990s. One of the coolest aspects of this area are the cable cars that glide through the air above the Promenade.  Other highlights include the Lisbon Oceanarium, the Vasco de Gama Tower, the waterfall at the Nations’ Park and Torre São Gabriel.

architecture guide to Lisbon

What’s your favorite city for architecture? Tell me in the comments below!

My airfare and accommodations were on behalf of Visit Portugal. All opinions are my own.

 

Behind the Scenes in Lisbon Portugal

August 31, 2014 by  

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July started off with an unexpected trip to Lisbon. My husband had been invited to speak at The Lisbon Challenge and I was fortunate enough to tag along for the weekend. Technically, I had been to Portugal before but it was very short lived. I spent a memorable day in Faro during my semester studying abroad. It was meant as a pitstop on my way to see a friend who was living in Sevilla, Spain. Well, I had a fabulous time in Portugal and after hearing stories about how beautiful Lisbon is, I’ve been dreaming about visiting it ever since.

Our high-rise hotel, Tivoli Oriente, was located in the northern part of the city, which is mostly characterized by impressive modern buildings featuring varied architectural styles. It wasn’t until later that day that I headed to the Barrio Alto area and wow, was it different! I had a field day walking on cobbled streets, exploring hidden alleyways and taking pictures at every turn. What fascinated me most was the vibrant street art that appears in pockets of the downtown neighborhoods.

I quickly learned that Lisbon is truly a city of contrasts. The graffiti-covered walls are a stark change from the historic monuments and the modern architecture seen in the north. I assumed that I would pick a side so to speak; that I would either appreciate Lisbon’s gritty side or I would applaud it’s more glamorous aspects, but the truth is that one without the other wouldn’t mean much at all.

Street Art Guide to Lisbon

For anyone specifically in Lisbon for the street art, here’s a helpful guide. I was honestly there to wander until my feet could wander no more and even though I had no set plans or even a map to keep me on track, I still stumbled upon plenty of art on my route. Unlike other cities that I’ve visited, street art is not only respected in Lisbon but it’s revered. In fact, traces of street art date back to the 1700s when formerly all-white buildings were rebuilt in bright colors due to damage from the earthquake of 1755. What a great example of rising from the ashes.

Exploring Lisbon's Gritty yet Glamorous Side

Although I’m no expert in Portuguese, I had my husband translate this phrase and it roughly comes out to “I wish I were the eyes of people who look at you with indifference.” As as listened to Diego’s translation, I looked back and forth between his eyes and the message covering the wall. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to or even being able to look at him with anything other than love and admiration. Sure, it’s safer for us to keep our emotions at bay but then again, who wants to live a life devoid of feeling? Regardless, it’s a powerful message.

street art in Barrio Alto

In addition to Barrio Alto, there’s plenty of graffiti in Alcantara, Parque Mayer, Avenida de Liberdade and the small passage that connects Rua da Madalena and Largo São Cristovão. I didn’t have time to research famous Portuguese artists but I do know that many of their work is here in Lisbon—Vhils, Bray, Tosco, YUP, Odeith and Chure to name a few. Based on the graffiti that I saw, some of them convey deeper meanings that reflect or perhaps challenge the country’s history, culture and lifestyle while others are there simply for one’s amusement.

neighborhoods for street art in Lisbon

Beyond the passageways and corridors where street art serves as open-air galleries, the same distinctive, alternative vibe is present throughout all of Lisbon. Although I didn’t ride one of the famous trams, I found the graffiti on the outside rather charming. I’m not sure if the locals would agree with me or not but I think it adds an extra layer to complexity to Lisbon; just when one thinks he has this city figured out, it throws another curveball. Speaking of trams, Lisbon is a hilly city so definitely take advantage of public transportation.

public transportation in Lisbon

Even in Lisbon’s most picturesque spots, like the split-level viewing point at the The miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, there are gritty secrets to uncover. After taking in the view and photographing the park for nearly an hour, it wasn’t until we headed back toward the street that I spotted this lavender graffiti on one of the green wooden benches. In a way, it blended in so well that I didn’t even think of it as graffiti, but rather, just another interpretation of Lisbon’s art scene. If nothing else, it’s proof that grit and glamour can co-exist in the same space.

scenic viewpoints in Lisbon

What city is both gritty and glamorous to you? Tell me in the comments below!

My airfare and accommodations were on behalf of Visit Portugal. All opinions are my own.

 

Exploring the Best of the Greek Islands

August 14, 2014 by  

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Ever dreamed of setting sail over the choppy ocean waves to seek adventure, and perhaps a quenching, rum based cocktail to boot? For those with piratical fantasies, or aspiring to plunder lesser known experiences from a far-flung isle, holidays to Greece are the new holidays to the Caribbean. Mark a cross on your world map and set sail for the Greek islands, where a treasury of sun, sand and superior sights awaits, just over the horizon.

The Desert Island of Anafi

With a population of fewer than 300 people, this eastern isle of the Cyclades was told to be a gift from the gods to shelter the Argonauts from a vicious storm. Despite its hot desert climate, Anafi is the perfect size to navigate on foot, and hiking is a popular activity with visitors to this arid little spot. The unspoiled landscape unfolds its 18km of natural beauty in monolithic limestone, historic charnel houses, and the ancient temple of Apollo. Be reassured, hungry and thirsty explorers can find succor in one of the traditional Greek restaurants on the island, as well as a bed for the night in a cozy B&B.

Travel Guide to the Greek Islands

Photo: Flickr/Yiannis Chatzitheodorou

The Party Island of Mykonos

Beautiful people flock to the glamorous beaches of Mykonos for the vibrant, thrumming nightlife like oiled up, narcissistic moths to a flame. Summer months are high season, when prices soar in this popular beach resort but in autumn and spring the climate, and costs, are far more favorable. Travel from nearby Piraeus or Rafina to arrive in style by catamaran, or fly direct from the mainland. Embrace the glitz of beach life for a day, then sneak away to the north of the island, where the untouched sands of Agios Sostis make for an altogether more tranquil beauty away from the commercial clamor, just perfect for the morning after the night before.

The Best Greek Island for your Travel Style

Photo: Flickr/Alfredo

The Historic Island of Kythnos

Home to one of the oldest historic settlements ever recorded, Kythnos is home to an old Mesolithic settlement dating back to 80000 BCE on its northern coastline, predating the legends that whisper around the temples and ruins of Greece’s other islands. However, the island still bears signs of habitation from other settlements, wearing the signs of Venetian and Ottoman occupation. Kythnos also has one of the largest cave systems in Greece, which has become a tourist attraction in its own right.

Tips for first-time visitors to Greece

Photo: Flickr/chris

 The Paradise Island of Kato Koufonissi

This completely uninhabited island can only be reached by boat from Pano Koufonisi, but the rewards are great for those who choose make the journey. Crystal clear waters, a single tavern and the chance to camp under the stars in its undeveloped wilderness could make it the perfect place to escape the world. Visit one of its three beaches and meditate, explore the old settlement of Panagia or hike up a gentle elevation to look across the Aegean to other islands and consider how lovely it is to be at a complete remove from the incessant demands of civilization.

It’s no myth: Greece will charm you with its history, culture, intrigue and beauty.

Best beaches in Greece

Photo: Flickr/Anne-Claude Faillétaz

This is a guest post by Samantha Vowles.

Exploring Jamaica in Full Color & Vibrancy

August 9, 2014 by  

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It’s hard not to go camera crazy in a place like Jamaica. Everything from the blue skies to the yellow and pink sunsets are just screaming to be photographed. I have narrowed down some of my favorite photos from my most recent trip.

A Jamaican sunset

After spending a week in both Negril and Montego Bay, I’m pretty much convinced that Jamaica is one of the most laid-back, relaxing destinations one can visit. Sure, people actually do work here but everyone here wears a smile and tends to approach life as a series of adventure. This is a generalization, of course, but I really appreciated meeting some of the locals and getting comfortable with the lifestyle here.

As picturesque as the beaches are, some of the most beautiful parts of Jamaica require a bit more time to truly appreciate. This delicate flower, for example, deserves a closeup, don’t you think?

Photo Highlights from Jamaica

Rick’s Cafe in Negril is a party spot for anyone seeking a bit of adventure. People can eat, drink or cliff jump (not pictured). I opted for the mini cliff, which is more of a high dive, but there were plenty of people who took the plunge.

cliff jumping in Jamaica

This fabulous male peacock was roaming around the Sandals property in Montego Bay. Clearly, I was hoping he’s show his colors for me but I guess I’m just not his type. He finally did give us a show the morning we headed back to the airport.

Photo Guide to Jamaica

resorts in Montego Bay

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to enjoy the many spas we visited during out trip but I really enjoyed the calm spa grounds at the Rockhouse Hotel. Everything about this property was top-notch and this quiet fountain was the cherry on top.

spas in Jamaica

As one might imagine, Jamaica is perfect for couples or really anyone hoping to fall in love. Everything is romantic here, especially this view from the Sandals resort in Montego Bay. There’s noting better than curling up with a great book and lounging next to “the one.”

romantic beaches in Jamaica

Can you believe that this creation is my favorite photo? I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who noticed him during our tour of Rockhouse Hotel but I appreciated these quirky characters right away. I’m not sure who or why they are hanging from the trees, but I think it’s  nice touch.

local Jamaican culture

 

What is your favorite destination to photograph? Tell me in the comments below!

This trip was hosted by Visit Jamaica via Finn Partners. I stayed at Couples Swept Away in Negril and Sandals in Montego Bay during my stay. All opinions are my own.

Exploring Portland’s Neighborhoods by Foot

July 31, 2014 by  

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Despite the fact that my trip to Portland was short, I did my best to explore as many neighborhoods as possible. If you’ve never been to Portland, let’s start with some basic orientation to help get your bearings. The city is divided by the Willamette River, with the more walkable neighborhoods on the west side and the slightly more spacious, residential neighborhoods on the east. If you remember from my recent post, Portland sports every type of bridge architecture so crossing from one side of Portland to the other is the ultimate photo op.

I’ll be starting with two neighborhoods on the west side, from north to south and then will move along to the east side. There are plenty of neighborhoods not mentioned on this list but these five are the ones I spent the most time in, so they are the ones that made the cut!

The Pearl District

We all know how I adore revamped neighborhoods and Portland’s Pearl District has a great rags to riches story. Former warehouse turned stylish hub, this neighborhood is effortlessly charming. The cobblestone streets contrast the modern lofts, showcasing how both old and new influences can exist in perfect harmony. This area is very walkable and feels like a city in that there are cross walks and plenty of fashion boutiques, bars, restaurants and cafes. I highly recommend stopping by Powell’s for a reading break, Blue Star Donuts for a delicious snack and the Multnomah Whiskey library for what will probably be the best cocktail you ever drink. Alder & Co. is the perfect one-stop-shop for unique gifts for your friends back home.

Neighborhood Travel Guide to Portland

Old Town Chinatown

Technically two different neighborhoods, they basically work as one. In fact, the Pearl District connects  to Old Town Chinatown so you can easily visit both neighborhoods in an afternoon. As you get closer to the river, things start to feel a bit more lively. Voodoo Donuts is a must for any new Portland visitor and you can also see some funky street art nearby as well. Also worth visiting is the Lan Su Chinese Garden, which is a walled garden that stretches for a full block. If you’re in town on the weekend, stop by the Portland Saturday Market to shop for artisan crafts, sample exotic dishes or mingle with the locals a bit. Further south you have Portland State University where the Portland Farmers Market takes place every weekend.

Neighborhood Guide to Portland

Central Eastside

If you’re on the hunt for a microbrewery, look no farther than Central Eastside, the area just across the Willamette River from downtown. Beyond the large warehouses and urban train tracks there are a slew of popular restaurants and breweries located in this part of town. It’s also quite the scenic area, as the river is right there and the views are pretty spectacular. Many of the breweries on our Brewvana tour were located in this area like Commons Brewery and Cascade Brewing Barrel House. The cool thing about Portland is that if you continue biking just a few minutes beyond these hotspots, you’ll find yourself in a series of quiet, residential areas. The green grass and tall trees overhead feel like a suburb right in the middle of the city.

Lifestyle in Portland

Mississippi / Williams

Heading over to the east side now, Mississippi / Williams showcases a completely different side of the Portland you thought you knew. I mainly stuck to Mississippi Avenue, a long stretch of trendy bars, up-and-coming restaurants, outdoor beer gardens and quirky shops. The North Williams shops are located about a half mile away, so depending on your endurance level you might want to bike there. Plan ample time to walk around, as each shop is more interesting than the next. Mississippi Records is a small, independent record store selling everything from blues and jazz to some of our favorite rock legends’ albums. Shop for new and vintage clothes for both men and women at Animal Traffic or scarf down some fresh food at the Mississippi Marketplace.

Art guide to Portland

The Alberta Arts District

This neighborhood is an artistic explosion that is ready to happen. Actually, it’s already happening but I sense that even more creativity will appear in the coming years. Similar to the Mississippi Avenue, The Alberta Arts District is a mix of vibrant street art, cool bars, independent fashion boutiques and artisanal bakeries. As soon as I arrived to this area I knew I had found my “place” so to speak. There is so much to see and do here so if time permits, plan a few hours to walk at your leisure. Pie Footwear sells eco-friendly, vegan shoes and if you’re curious as to what that is, you aren’t alone! Gallery hoppers can hit up Monograph Bookweks, HiiH Gallery and Guardino Gallery. For vintage clothes, try Tumbleweed or Frock.

Street art in Portland

 

This trip was hosted by Travel Portland. All opinions are my own.

 

Jamaica on Happiness, Being Present & Life’s Magic Moments

July 23, 2014 by  

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I am sure you’ve all had those moments, where, for whatever reason we are prompted by the inner working of our minds to face our fears, accept our failures and forgive our faults. I wasn’t expecting these emotions to sweep through me while in Jamaica but as I watched the sun set on my last day in Montego Bay, I realized the tides were shifting, both externally and internally. Maybe the waves of emotion I’d been experiencing the last few months were because I was moving forward, not backward. Jamaica brought everything to the surface, exposing the truths I had too long forgotten.

On Happiness

I guess it all started on our first day in Negril, where we volunteered with some local children. Assuming that I was a burden to them, sent there for my own amusement, I approached the students timidly. How was it that a 27 year-old seasoned traveler felt intimidated by these young, vivacious children? Well, that was just it actually.

As I watched the students during their recess break, my mind drifted back to my years in elementary school. I went to a private Catholic school in a pretty building, with pretty teachers and pretty classmates. During recess, I’d go out and play on our pretty jungle gym and fix the pretty ribbon in my hair. Don’t get me wrong–I’m grateful to my parents for sending me to a great school. I learned a lot, was challenged daily and slowly discovered the things that made me happy in my life as I knew it.

Most of my fond memories as a child were ones spent with my family. Heading to school every morning brought me stress. I was always so lively, so sweet and loving at home with my family and for whatever reason, arriving at school put me in defensive mode, draping a heavy cloak of shyness over me for many years. I never quite felt “myself” at school, a problem that would eventually resolve itself during college.

Yet, as I watched the children at Negril All Age School, I saw only joy on their faces. Maybe I was being naive but I envied their playful nature, their bright white smiles and their uncontrollable laughter.  It was like they were all in on a joke and I desperately wanted to hear the punch line. They didn’t have much but it didn’t matter because they had tapped into the secret of life and already knew that happiness had very little to do with material possessions. They lived completely in the moment, which brings me to my next point.

Local Volunteering in Jamaica

On Living in the Present Moment

Living in the moment is a lifestyle that I’ve always found difficult to master. Why is it so hard for me to toss my worries aside for a few minutes? A few months ago, I look an Art of Living class: The Happiness Program to improve a few things about myself that had been plaguing me–namely, accepting things as they are, dealing with stress, depression and embracing life to the fullest. It might sound strange to hear this from someone who travels for a living but sometimes the loneliness of the job overshadows the joy it brings and that shouldn’t be the case.

The children at Negril All Age School, not to mention every other local I met while in Jamaica, seemed to have perfected what I, in 27 years, still struggle to attain. I watched as a group of school children gleefully jumped rope and more than anything I wanted to join in the fun. Why was I standing like an observer when I could be part of the action? As more and more children walked up to me and introduced themselves with a grin, I became aware that my barriers were quickly tumbling down.

Later in the day I did get involved by reading a book to a younger group of students. In these moments I felt alive, grateful that my insecurities did not keep me from embracing the moment for what it was–one person helping another. As our group headed for the door I was nearly struck down by the dozens of children running up to me, hugging me and waving goodbye. One girl held me so tightly that I felt I might cry. It wasn’t that she was hurting my waist with her unbreakable embrace but because I felt so utterly loved that I might burst. I have plenty of love in my life but there was something so pure, so tender about their goodbye that I felt blissfully content.

Pondering Life's Clever Mysteries in Jamaica

On Travel

Before leaving, one of their teachers later mentioned to me in passing that the children loved when visitors came to the school because it was their way of traveling and meeting new people. Immediately, my face reddened. Of course, me being a travel writer and getting to visit a new destination every month has nothing to do with the local students there, but I felt guilty because I so often take this for granted. I’m always telling others that you don’t need to travel to learn; that you can learn a lot just from exploring your own backyard. It seemed that perhaps my words contained some truths.

The same thing came up a few days later during our visit to a traditional Rastafarian village. One of the leaders mentioned that they had Internet there on site and that surprised me. I couldn’t imaging this group of men and women being interested in surfing the net. I wasn’t alone on that, and seeing our perplexed faces, he explained that traveling isn’t as easy for them as it is for others and that using the Internet is a form of travel. He was so proud, so hopeful about humanity and his fondness for life was contagious.

Sunset in Montego Bay

As I pondered all these lessons on my last night in town, I began feeling confident about where my own path might lead. Almost routinely, I had used the hour leading up to dinner to reflect on my experiences from the day. After dinner, I often found myself drifting away from the group toward the water where I could stare out into the abyss that seemingly had no end. Oceans have a way of making you feel small but this time, I felt like I had far more to offer the world and the idea that I could make a difference, however small that was, gave me strength.

Thinking back to my favorite book, Peter Pan, I remembered the single most impactful passage that assured me that adulthood wouldn’t be so bad. J.M. Barrie writes,

There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a little boy who was staring in at the window. He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.

Inspired by this fleeting though, I resolved to take the lessons I learned while in Jamaica and live and love as if nothing else mattered.

sunrise in Jamaica

What travel experience reshaped your outlook on life?

This trip was hosted by Visit Jamaica but all opinions are my own.

The post Pondering Life’s Clever Mysteries in Jamaica appeared first on Bohemian Trails.

 

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