Today’s topic is my favorite places. What a nice change of pace after that string of introspective, sad pieces. I’m sure I’ll be able to find a way to bring down the mood though, don’t despair. Maybe I will start by covering the places where I’ve spent time in my life so far, and give my impressions of them. Then I will get into “special places” that I may have visited that left a lasting impression. And I will finish by listing out a few places that I want to go in the future, and my criteria for places I would want to spend extended time, or maybe live in the future too. That’s a lot to tackle, let’s get into it!
Where have you been?
Dallas, Texas – Born here, but was long-gone before I hit 1. I have no memory or affinity for it, but it is kind of cool to say I was born in Texas, and might be useful if I ever move back there. I’m a real Texan! Only been back to Dallas once since birth, and that was in 2010 for Super Bowl 45.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin – 1-9, 10-18, 35-39. I’ve spent over half of my life in Milwaukee. And I would say that I’m pretty fond of it. But I have to drill in a little and provide some backdrop. First, Wisconsin is a flyover state that people who have never been here would generally scoff at and consider to be a place with rabid imbedding, opiate addiction, etc. I don’t like those types of characterizations, but it is rural for the most part. The exceptions are Milwaukee, and Madison, so it’s important to note that these places don’t represent the entire state. Within Milwaukee even, there are divides. It’s known as the most segregated city in the country sadly, and there is further segregation along economic and political lines. Blue collar versus white, conservative versus liberal, etc. My small pocket of Milwaukee is right next to the state university, and I would consider it to be the liberal, educated part of town. Walkable, a giant park next door, 5 minutes from the lakefront, and less than 3 miles from downtown. So to be more specific, I like the area of Milwaukee I live in, not the state necessarily, and maybe not even the city on the whole. Outside of my immediate area, there are other aspects of the city I do appreciate. The sports scene – Bucks, Brewers, Packers. Built-in entertainment. The size of the city – I think it’s somewhere around the 20th biggest metropolitan city in the US, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming at all. Frozen custard, cheese, quality beer and coffee – I value all of these things! And there are just vast amounts of parks, and shoreline, open to the public. And I have a base here with my family obviously. The things I don’t like about Milwaukee – it’s not diverse, not racist either per say, but I am generally the only Indian person in the coffee shop for example. The city is broke despite there being high property taxes. It’s a driving city primarily, which is not in line with my preferences. And the weather – cold, dark, and sometimes snowy for at least half the year.
Cambridge, England – 9-10. I forgot about this one! We spent a year in Cambridge as my Dad took a sabbatical with his University. I went to school, made English friends, learned how to play cricket, and played the ass in a school rendition of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. We traveled all around Europe, but for some reason also went to Egypt. That remains one of my favorite travel memories. I remember walking to school with my Mom, and our home which was kind of a row house.
Atlanta, Georgia – 18-24. I lived here for college, and have only been back a couple of times since I left. I can’t say that I know the city well since I was in a college bubble, but I did feel the southern aspects of the city. Outside of New Orleans it was the first Southern city I ever really spent any time in. I had my first job in Atlanta too, first time getting up and facing a morning commute. The first thing I noticed about Atlanta, or maybe the area I was in, were the trees. It’s a green city. Humid and very muggy. Urban sprawl, horrible traffic. I had some good times in Atlanta, and found pockets of the city which I did enjoy. The Virginia Highlands, Little 5 Points, Decatur, later on East Atlanta. But overall it’s not the memorable and I don’t have any strong urge to go back. I think the two biggest detractors are the size and sprawl of the city and being in the South.
Northern California – 24-27. I moved to the Bay Area for work after Atlanta. I drove there, and the cross country drive still sticks in my memory. Especially when I got to the Southwest around New Mexico. I started to see new terrain that I had never experienced before. I remember the landscapes in the Peninsula, around San Mateo. I had never seen canyons, greenery, etc like that before. I was caught by how beautiful and lush everything was. I eventually moved to San Francisco proper, but probably didn’t explore as much as I would have liked. We lived in Portrero Hill, and a highlight for me was getting to take a train to work and back each day. I got a subscription to the Wall Street Journal and walked into work with it each day. That’ pretty funny in hindsight. The city of SF with the hills, vistas, and bridges of course are all very picturesque. And at that point it had not been completely engulfed by the tech scene, so there was some variety. My favorite area was probably just over the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin. The Redwoods at Muir Woods. I would return there a couple years ago, and it was like nothing had changed. Majestic trees.
Singapore – 27-29. I had a brief stop in Hong Kong, but lived in Singapore for two years after California. Another work related move. This was my second experience living abroad, and I felt added pride as I considered myself to be an expat. I lived in a really nice area, right on the River in an expat hub. Small apartment but nice. And I took a taxi to work twice a day which further fueled my international business man identity. This identity prevented me from soaking in culture the way I should have there, but I still saw and experienced a lot of new things. Much closer to India, so I was around more Indians than I ever had been in the past. Also saw more traditional Chinese culture. And of course the consumerism on display – never seen malls like that before. Orchard Road. Another hot, and humid locale, but everything was air-conditioned, literally, so not a huge deal. Best airport in the world at that point, which has gotten even better subsequently. Not even a hint of crime or danger. It almost felt like living in a bubble!
Vancouver, BC – 29-34. I knew Vancouver was supposed to be a beautiful city before I arrived there, but I was not prepared for what I saw. Maybe the most beautiful descent into an airport I’ve ever experienced. Small islands, the Pacific Ocean, a city on a peninsula, and mountains! I will just come out and say that Vancouver is my personal favorite. Incredibly beautiful, easy to navigate, walkable, diverse population, good food. I think I took it for granted while I was there to be completely honest. I lived in Yaletown at the start, but spent my last few years closer to Stanley Park and the water. I started to enjoy walking in the Park, and found a connection with nature there that I had never experienced in the past. I am aware of how corny that sounds, but it’s true! I spent a lot of time in Vancouver complaining – about the lack of nightlife, about Canada in general being inferior to the US. And again I could have taken advantage of the all the beauty around there. I should have driven to Alaska.
Orlando, Florida – 34-35. Back in the US after 10 years out, and to Florida no less! I had some culture shock. Suburban sprawl, churches, gun shops. Everything seemed a little run-down and dingy. Hot, and lots of small lizards running around. Florida is a different place. I stayed downtown and I can’t say anything bad about that little neighborhood (Thornton Park). I could walk to a great Publix, had a few bars around, a lake with lots of swans, and I could walk to Amway Center too which is where the Magic played. But I didn’t like the general vibe. It was Southern, and I didn’t like the driving, and I’m sure the negativity surrounding my professional life was tainting everything as well. Great apartment building though. Stayed for a year then was gone, back to Milwaukee.
Favorite Vacation Spots
Ok, I need to speed up a little, that turned into much more than I expected!
Tofino, Vancouver Island – went there for a wedding, maybe the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.
Hanoi, Vietnam and Sapa – Northern Vietnam. Went into the rural areas on motorcycle and still remember it so vividly. Winding roads, local tribesmen, very atmospheric.
Siam Reap, Cambodia – Angkor Wat. Completely overwhelmed by the place. Knew very little about it going in, but was completely overwhelmed.
Bangkok, Thailand – lots of fun party weekends here when I was in Singapore.
Tokyo, Japan – food, culture. Stayed at the Park Hyatt where Lost in Translation was filmed.
Rio, Brazil – for the World Cup. Ipanema, Copacabana.
Valparaiso, Chile – Something about this specific place stuck with me.
Mexico, DF – recent visit. Loved the vibe in Roma Norte.
Tulum, Mexico – cool little beach town.
Berlin, Germany – one of my all-time favorites.
Copenhagen and Stockholm – maybe a little disrespectful to group these two cities, but I enjoyed about a week here. Riding bikes.
Asheville, North Carolina – one of the nicest US destinations I’ve been to in a while!
Egypt – still remember the awe I experienced as a 10 year-old seeing the tombs and pyramids. Rose a camel.
I have couple of trips I want to bang out post-corona.
US Southwest – National Park tour of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. Take about two weeks and do it all by car.
Hawaii – has long been on my list.
Alaska – same as above, I dream about keeping a place here.
Italy and Greece – Top of my list for Europe. Want to see all the historical sites, go to some islands on the Mediterranean, and enjoy the food.
Safari – I don’t know if I want to do this in Africa, or in India, but I want to see some animals in their natural environment.
Mountain Trekking – Same as above, not sure where yet, but maybe the Himalayas.
What about living?
In an ideal world, I would set-up an 8 / 4 arrangement, where I keep a place somewhere in the US, and use the other 4 months out of the year to try out new cities.
In terms of my US base, I like Milwaukee because I’m already here, know I could buy a place, and it’s good for my family. Also, I have access to anywhere in the world through O’Hare which is only 1 hour and 15 minutes away.
Other US bases could be – Chicago, New York, maybe somewhere in the Southwest although that’s more of a fantasy.
What are your criteria for a good base?
I should clarify that these are ideal criteria.
Don’t need a car – walk, bike, and subway.
Green space and parks
Not defined by a single industry, good variety.
Ok, that’s all I’ve got, out of steam. I know it got a little short and choppy by the end, need to work on pacing. Want me to go deeper on any of these topics? Drop a comment below! 55 Minutes. 2092 Words.