Feeling Our Way Through Portland

In keeping with our new travel mantra, Less Planning and More Feeling, Joel and I moved through Portland, Oregon for a couple of days flowing with its vibe. We walked a ton, rode bikes, ate some food, saw some art, rode the MAX, endured a Voodoo-induced sugar coma and smelled a LOT of flowers. (That last one is not a metaphor, but rather a reference to the Japanese, Chinese and Rose Gardens – all three a stone’s throw from city center.)

Three descriptors kept repeating themselves as we wandered:

Vibrant, Lush, Hardy.

Vibrant – there’s a lot happening in Portland, but not in that rushed, NYC, action-packed sort of way. It felt like more of an intentional, yet relaxed mode of moving and living.

Lush – we had the good fortune to be there on a rainy day. Good fortune with rain – that’s not something you hear very often when traveling, right? The Pacific Northwest has its share of wet days however, so it felt just right to experience a taste of that. And the thing is, when three quarters of the landscape is green, adding water from above takes that green up a notch, sort of like when you blanch asparagus and its normal green turns almost neon and so, so fresh looking.

And hardy – speaking of rain…those Portland folks don’t let a little water keep them inside. We peered out the hotel window at daybreak and saw people running, biking and walking along the river walk in their slickers, hoods up. The outdoor art fair was a go, the Doggie Dash fundraising walk carried on and nobody batted an eye. At some point in the trip we did a quick TripAdvisor search (just a little planning) and found that 9 of the top 10 things to do in Portland were outside and even that single outlier – the Pittock Mansion – is within Forest Park and comes with a suggestion to hike to it rather than park at its front door.

I’m going to add one extra descriptor that I witnessed on my first afternoon there before Joel joined me – Friendly. I rode a few buses to and from the Grotto and noticed that every single person that got off at their stop thanked the driver. Every single one – young, old, men, women, all of ’em. Most hollered ‘Thank you!’ from the back of the bus as they exited and the driver gave them a wave or a ‘You’re welcome!’ back. There were a few though, who weren’t sure that the driver had heard them and so after they were on the sidewalk, they actually hustled back to the front door and said it again with eye contact. Mind you this was a small sample size of four rides over about 2 hours with about 30 or so customers, but I’ve ridden a lot of public buses in lots of cities and I’ve never seen anything like this. Every single person. So natch I went out of my way to do it too even though this Midwest gal probably would have anyway…but I added a little extra oomph to it this time around.

So in summary, if you go to Portland, follow its flow, take in its green, bring your raincoat and ride the bus.

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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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