Austin, Texas: Yes, Please.


In just the past six years, monthly rent in Austin, Texas has doubled.  Despite what one of the misanthropists in Lonely Planet’s forums say, the quirky city of nearly a million is booming and thriving.

I expected to enjoy myself in Austin, but instead this city treated me to the time of my life.  Every. Single. Day.

North Loop Mural in Austin Texas - photo by top slow travel blog Half the Clothes

How can your pulse not quicken at the thought of a city with a rainbow love bird mural? See? Exactly.

Even the plane ride into the city was the best I’ve had in years.  My seatmate, Eric, and I talked for the entire flight.  Before landing we discovered we were both INTJs, and suddenly our inexplicable connection made sense.  It’s a rare personality type: crossing paths with a kindred spirit is always unlikely… and always a real treat!

I argue that much of my Austin fun has to do with the fact that I travel (and live!) without a smartphone.  Maybe I’m right.  Maybe not.

Austin Levels Unlocked

Even with ten days at my disposal, many places went unvisited and things went undone.  However, I knocked out my top priorities and many from the second tier.  Including:

  • Alamo Drafthouse
  • Torchy’s Tacos
  • Barton Springs Pool
  • Mt. Bonnell
  • Hill Country
  • Lake Travis
Oasis Brewery overlooking Lake Travis in Austin, Texas' hill country. where slow travel expert at Half the Clothes slow travel blog went with a local Austinite

Who already knows I love storms? And therefore this stormy day on the third story of a brewery overlooking Lake Travis and tasting microbrews easily ranks as one of the best moments of 2017?

  • North Loop
  • Blanton Museum
  • Greenbelt Hiking
  • BBQ
  • Cathedral of Junk
  • Broken Spoke Two Stepping
  • Egos Karaoke
  • Whitehorse Swing Lessons
  • Amy’s Ice Cream

Plus things other Austin visitors might not prioritize:

  • Yoga with Adriene
  • Hackerspace Welding Class
  • Storytelling Events x 4
  • Women’s March @ the Capitol

100% of my priorities and 25% of my “would-be-fun” objectives is not a terrible outcome, hey?

Unicorns – So Many Unicorns

I’m still a bit shell-shocked at just how many incredible people I met in Austin.

The foundation of it all was my work-exchange host, Tony.  Prolific and talented artist, expert life-hacker, fantastic conversationalist.  He reminded me repeatedly of my best friend: both put the energizer bunny to shame, both can slam together a gourmet meal in under ten minutes, and both are wildly brilliant individuals who have little patience for the painfully slow people and world in which they must exist.  This man made all other Austin epic-ness possible.  So grateful!

The most organic connection I made was by doing what I do best – talking to strangers.  People never believe I’m an introvert, because my curiosity almost always supersedes my innate desire to be alone.  I’m like a gambling addict: the diminishing bank balance ain my case: energy balance isn’t enough to get me to turn away from the thrill of possibility bfor the gambler – the win.  For me – the possibility that the person I’m talking to might have something cool to say or be really awesome..  Chi Chi and I met at a storytelling night and spent a whole other evening rocking Austin’s socks off.

Top slow travel blog half the clothes author Jema likes slow travel because it allows for connections like this one

The coolest people ever. On a great hike. On a January day so warm we’d be swimming an hour later as the sun set.

My fellow work exchangers were amazing – Jaime and Noemie, the latter a Canadian woman after my own heart with one of her many mottos: “Gratitude is confidence in life itself.”  My welding instructor was a fascinating man with more answers than I had questions… which never happens.  OKCupid (a dating platform that I leverage for friendships) had me spending an afternoon trash-walking and dining with a fascinating introvert, then a night out two-stepping at Broken Spoke with an awesome local couple, then a great series of adventures with a fellow nomad who happened to be patronizing Austin at the same time as yours truly.  And a friend connected me with her local bestie – a dynamo with whom I got to hike, learn about epyphites and the chlorophyll-rich cleaver plant, swim, eat tacos, and sing karaoke.  Love.

If I were a plant, I'd be an epiphyte.

Epiphytes! Air plants that grow without soil These things are always falling out of trees. They litter the concrete cityscapes, like brave little upstarts swimming upstream.

The only bomb: I couchsurfed for the first time in several years, and it was the weirdest couchsurfing experience ever.  I can’t say it was bad, because an entire day of it was great – off the charts amazing.  I can’t say it was good, because the second day was weird and then ultimately mean.  (Dude asked me point-blank in the middle of our dinner convo if I was sociopath.  Say what?!) It really threw me for a loop.  I’d like to say “lesson learned,” but I still have no idea what happened or how to avoid it next time.  My guesses range from:

  • Dude thought we were going to shack up (nope).
  • I reminded Dude of someone who’s hurt him in his past.
  • I’m more honest and forthcoming than many people so he thought, “No one is like this. She’s obviously being fake.

What ev.  I’m not about to stop wearing my heart et. al. on my sleeve.  Just wish I knew how to dodge this bullet the next time around.  C’est la vie!

Nerd Alert

Skip this section if you aren’t madly in love with learning like me.

Several hours before Dude called me a sociopath, we spent a morning in his garage working on his many motorcycles.  He was a fantastic teacher, and I learned so much!  Like:

  • How motorcycle suspension (and one would presume other types) works! There are two one way check valves that enable compression damping.  g. fluid or gas is forced through one valve as the tire and vehicle are forced closer together.  There’s also rebound damping, which is for the part when the tire and vehicle have been squished together and now they’re returning to their original positions.  The valves are adjustable, allowing one to speed up or slow down the flow to control ride smoothness and lots of other stuff that matters in both general wear and racing environments.  Cool!
  • A swing arm doesn’t controlled lateral movement like I thought.
  • How to change clutch fluid (and really any hydraulic fluid) in a bike. Because the reservoir is at the highest point in the system, and because it’s vacuum based, squeezing the handle creates pressure in the system.  If the drain valve is open, that pressure pushes out some fluid.  Then you have a vacuum.  Then the fluid in the reservoir gets drawn into the system by the vacuum.  To keep air from getting sucked into the system, the reservoir needs to always contain fluid.  Once we were ready for a clean flush, we held pressure on the system, wiped out the reservoir, filled it with clean fluid, and flushed until clean came out the bottom.  Boom!  Because the clutch system isn’t as critical as something like brakes, Dude reckoned it was okay to use an already open jar of fluid so as not to waste.  With brakes, because hydraulic fluid (which is corrosive!) readily absorbs water which then makes it less effective, using something opened risks contamination which risks effectiveness which risks your life.

Keep Portland Austin Weird.

Several Austin-ites claim that the local motto I’ve known as belonging to Portland, Oregon for the fifteen years of my life apparently originated in Austin.

He said, she said? Who cares?

Final say: Austin is awesome.  And weird.  And not “past its prime” and those Thorntree curmudgeons might have you believe.  Go!  Enjoy!

Happy Travels! ♣

References   [ + ]

a. in my case: energy balance
b. for the gambler – the win.  For me – the possibility that the person I’m talking to might have something cool to say or be really awesome.


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