2017: The Year I Say Hello

I’m not always a New Year’s Resolution person, but I am constantly setting and refining goals. I never pass up the opportunity to re-assess. aIt’s fitting that as a permanent nomad, my to-do lists tend to be location oriented. Generally something like: To Do Before Leaving Location A; To Do in Location B; To Do in Location C. Don’t get me wrong – these aren’t lists of sights to see or activities to enjoy. They are things like, “research bitcoin investing,” and “write ‘How To Get Free Flights,” and “Call Staci.”

I have four resolutions this year.

top slow travel blog half the clothes author has lots of 2017 goals, both travel and personal

Look out 2017. I’m gonna burn. you. up. photo: gratisography

I can’t remember making any in 2016. Probably because I was headed off to circus school – an item that spent years on my bucket list. Here’s what I can remember:

  • In 2015, I wanted to stop using too much toilet paper and to try and combat depression induced by my autonomy vacuum with a daily swim in the ocean.
  • In 2014, I finally broke myself of the constant bodily application of unvetted chemicals in the form of shampoo, conditioner, face wash, deodorant, and toothpaste. The alternatives have rocked my world.
  • In 2013, a trip to Australia stretched out before me and I was in the best shape of my life. No resolutions needed.
  • In 2012, fireworks in the Philippines prefaced a whole additional year of round-the-world travel – another long-term dream – also no resolutions required.
  • In 2011, I was slinging drinks at a redneck bar in New Zealand and planning a year of epic backcountry trips, farm work, and sightseeing in the “Land of the Long White Cloud.”
  • In 2010… hell, I’m too old to remember.

Without further ado, my 2017 Resolutions are…

1. Greeting People Appropriately

In my utopia, greeting protocol would consist of both parties saying, “Presence Acknowledged” and moving quickly onto the business at hand.

Maybe this is because my parents have the same modus operandi. Maybe this is because I’m an INTJ, a personality type that abhors “…blindly following precedents and rules without understanding them.” Maybe it’s because I’m a Capricorn, and apparently we tend to have little use for pretense and social constructs like holidays and saying hello to people. Regardless of why, the outcomes aren’t pretty.

With friends and family, the pragmatist in me takes over. Basically they get the “presence acknowledged” protocol. If that. I cheat them (and myself!) of the warm, fuzzy moment of appreciation for our connection.

Top slow-travel blog Half the Clothes author Jema really sucks at saying hello to people. Which is weird for a traveler. Especially a slow traveler. She's going to stop being a robot in 2017

“Uh, yes. You are here. Just as we planned. Three weeks ago. And confirmed this morning. We both knew this was happening. It’s a pretty normal thing that always happens. I’m not really sure why we have to perform a little ritual. Plus I’m busy stirring lunch. I’m making you food. Isn’t that more important than running over to the door and pretending I’m surprised to find you there? Or confirming again that I do enjoy your presence and prefer to experience it regularly?” photo: Robin Zebrowski

With strangers… oh god. What a can of worms. There are handshakes and hugging and often – when I’m traveling – kissing. Help! When home in America’s melting-pot, our culture doesn’t even have a clear-cut script to reference. Plus, I’m an introvert who came by all her social skills via plenty of blood sweat and tears. Strangers get from me either an awkward avoidance of any greeting ritual or a rushed version of whatever they initiate.

top slow travel blog half the clothes author Jema is terrible at greeting people according to social protocols... because she doesn't understand them

Oh shit. They’re coming in for a kiss. Which cheek first? Seems like right. Oh, nope left. Okay, now we just awkwardly smashed our cheekbones together. “Oh look everyone. Squirrel! ….Did you know squirrels also eat birds’ eggs, in addition to acorns?! Uh – here’s the wine I brought. Do you have an opener?” photo: gratisography

Clearly, with my loved ones I am a tin man in need of a heart, and with everyone else I am terrified of what I don’t understand. It’s time to dredge up some tenderness and school my fears away.


Well, your help is appreciated. In the comments or via the contact page, I’d love a list of what you think the American rules are for greeting people. (Or the rules in your country – I’m a learning addict!)

So far, I’ve just been:

  • reminding myself about this goal regularly
  • chastising myself when I realize I’ve forgotten and missed an opportunity to practice
  • scoping out people who are actually good at it so I can get their advice.

Observation and Interviews, I guess. That is my plan. I’ll be in touch.

2. Meditation

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but apparently sitting really still in a slightly uncomfortable position and trying not to think is supposed to be really good for you.


Kind of.

Top slow travel blog Half the Clothes author Jema is going to pick up meditation in the new year

When I first came across this photo, I dripped with sarcasm. “Yup! 2017 is the year I’m going to plunk myself down in traffic to do all my not-thinking.” But then thought, “Well, actually, meditation is about being present. Maybe meditating in the middle of a road is a Russian Roulette test of your ability to be super-present and tuned in. Will you maintain the awareness necessary to feel and hear the car coming? Let’s hope so!” Either way, I’m probably going to procrastinate on trying this trick for…ever. photo: nickolai kashirin

I briefly got my act together in 2012 when a neighbor in the Balinese compound I lived in motivated me. Those months of making meditation a daily priority were the most content I’ve ever been in my life. But… I’ve struggled to resurrect the habit.

Action plan:

  • Explore other people’s experiences with mediation by reading one book every other month
  • Learn about meditation via another type of media or experience on the opposite months.
  • 3 minutes a day as I try all these meditation styles on for size and figure out what will be sustainable for me.

Already I’m relieved to discover many things that count as meditation have been part of my habits or thought style for years. Maybe this won’t be so hard after all? Maybe by the end of the year I’ll be ready for my bucket-list Vipassana retreat?!.

3. Photo a Day

No, I am not going to record what I look like with a daily selfie.

I believe with the ubiquity of modern photo ops, we no longer treasure the value of visually documenting our lives. Seeing something remarkable and desiring to capture it is no longer followed by having to evaluate its worthiness to become one of 27 or 36 exposures. I miss the level of engagement that came with having to constantly reference moments against the grand scheme. I also miss the the presence required to take exactly the photo you want, instead of snapping 200 possibilities and then pouring over them for hours.

top slow travel blog half the clothes' author Jema has four new years resolutions - one of which is to take a photo a day pretending her camera isn't digital

Remember film winding? And turning on the flash? And viewfinders? And ruining several exposures when you accidentally opened the cover before the film wound up? And waiting week to see how your photos turned out ? And dropping off film? And picking it up? And actually getting together with your friends to “share” your photos? photo: April Killingsworth

Action Plan:

  • One photo per day. Not 12 scenes and then I’ll pick the best one at the end. One shot. That’s it.
  • Posting each week’s photos as an HTC blog post. bI tried to get Instagram, but the camera phone I’ve been lent for this project is old and doesn’t have the iOS required. Oh, and don’t worry. This isn’t your luddite finally getting a smartphone. It’s a wi-fi enabled camera (with no carrier service).

Hopefully the awareness this project is intended to generate will translate into thinking more critically about what I’m doing with my time and life.

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6

4. Study Storytelling

This is about as close as I’ll ever get to a “professional” goal cgiven I have no desire to ever return to “professional life” after quitting seven years ago.


A poster on a bulletin board at a tiny ferry terminal I passed through in Washington in October invited people to come hear a woman sit on a stage and tell stories. My immediate reaction?

  1. Intense disappointment I was missing the event by several weeks.
  2. “Wait. Storytelling is enough of a thing to be on a poster? I had no idea. I’m constantly telling tales. I would love to do this thing that I didn’t even know was a thing.”

As I began to research, I discovered that I am apparently the only person in America who still lives under a rock. There are storytelling nights organized in cities across the nation, and I guess some podcast called “The Moth” that has been listened to by every single human save yours truly.

Top slow travel blog Half the Clothes' author Jema is going to learn about the art of live storytelling and maybe take her slow-travel stories to the stage!

I clearly have many things to learn. Taking offers for study buddies. Hit me up. photo: CollegeDegrees360

Despite the fact that I’ve been writing and publishing stories online for years, it never occurred to me to say them out loud to strangers.

Action Plan:

  • One monthly “continuing education” experience (TED talk, workshop, etc).
  • One monthly live telling of a story to strangers.

Oh… and travel, too!

Given that this site is sometimes called ‘a travel blog,’ I suppose I should tell you where I’m currently headed in 2017.

January: Austin, Texas
February: Tucson & Phoenix, Arizona
March: Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina
April: TBA
May: TBA – Wyoming
June: Boise, Idaho
Pacific Northwest – Portland, Eugene, Humboldt, Seattle, and many points in between.
July: Pacific Northwest – Portland, Eugene, Humboldt, Seattle, and many points in between.
August: Pacific Northwest – Portland, Eugene, Humboldt, Seattle, and many points in between.
September: TBA – Tennessee, East Coast
October: TBA – Tennessee, Hawaii, Philippines, Indonesia
November: TBA
December: TBA

Everything is loose and “we’ll see” – like usual. When things don’t work out or plans change, I have plenty of understudy locations at the ready. Like:

Costa Rica
Any place with a yoga or meditation retreat that looks awesome
Any place with a storytelling workshop or class that seems fruitful

I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

The end. But, I have a massive crush on goals dthird in line after farmer’s markets and bookstores. I’d find it absolutely scintillating to hear your current action plan(s) either in the comments or via email.

Happy Travels! ♣