One Hour Behind - A blog about travel (mostly in Mexico) & design, 06 Jan 2015 17:33:39 +0000en-USSite-Server v6.0.0-3912-3912 ( Hour Behind is a blog about travels (mostly in Mexico), design and life <br/>as a late 20-something. It's all written by Chloe Mason Gray.29 Ideas For My Last Year As A 20-SomethingInspirationTravelChloe Mason GrayThu, 01 Jan 2015 21:07:40 +0000

I turned 29 on Christmas Eve--my last year as a 20-something. My 20s have been strange. There were huge highs and huge lows. 

I graduated from college, tried out about five different career paths, moved to Mexico, learned Spanish, got my heart broken, fell in love, learned to dance, ruined a few friendships, finally understood how to pick good friends, struggled to understand how to pick good men, lost a loved one, more or less figured out what I’m good at, got depressed, got healthy, got happy. 

Here are 29 ideas and lessons from the past decade that I’m taking with me as I live my last year as a 20-something.

  1. Failing (I mean REALLY failing) isn’t as scary as it sounds. Before last year I had never really failed at anything, at least not anything important. There were things I started and then stopped and projects I didn’t do so well, but none of it could be considered a colossal failure––the kind worthy of a nervous breakdown or a 1,100 mile hike alone. This past year I failed in a really big way for the first time in my life. I put money and a lot of time into something that didn’t pan out. And I’m still okay. So, failure doesn't have to be devastating.
  2. Be a fangirl/boy, and don't hide it. It’s important to admire other people because it motivates you to go after your dreams and make stuff happen. I fan girl over Tavi Gevinson, Lena Dunham, Bethany Mota and Kathleen Hannah. Plus Brooke Seward, Madelynn Hackwith Furlong and the women who started Zady.
  3. Learn a new language. It will allow you to understand and consume a much wider range of literature, art and cultures, and you’ll be able to connect with more people.
  4. Living in another country is something everyone should do. I recommend doing it in your 20s because it will give you an amazing experience to take with you for the rest of your life. But if you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s or beyond and you’re dreaming of moving to another country, you can (and should) still make it happen.
  5. Don't hate what's new before you take the time to truly understand it.
  6. Don’t be a purist. You’ll get left behind.
  7. Read above your level. Even if you only understand 60% of something, it will push you to think bigger.
  8. Make time for movement every single day, whether it’s walking, running, dancing or spinning around in circles.
  9. 90% of being a good dancer is about being confident and acting like you know what you’re doing. This is probably true for a lot of other skills as well.
  10. Treat your friends well. True friendships take months or even years to build and only a second to knock down.
  11. Not all friendships are meant to last forever. In fact, most won’t. There will be people that you connect with deeply and then, at some point, you’ll drift apart, maybe because of geography, partners, kids or social politics within your group of friends. This is sad but normal.
  12. Don't expect too much from other people. You will be disappointed.
  13. Ask lots of questions. This is a great way to make new friends, and you’ll instantly become more likeable.
  14. Love isn’t always enough. There are so many other factors that go into making a relationship work.
  15. There's not one kind of romantic love. You can love someone in many different ways, and you have to decide which way is most important to you.
  16. Appreciate how you look at every age. The face you have now is the one you’ll want 10 years from now.
  17. Nothing is more important than your health (no deadline, boss, partner or family member). You have to be healthy to succeed at anything you want to do in life.
  18. If you have health problems, don’t give up hope. I know sometimes it can seem completely hopeless and like doctors have no idea what they’re doing. Just keep trying new things, educating yourself and testing out doctors. You’ll find something that works for you.
  19. It's okay to be a late bloomer (intellectually/creatively/professionally). Some of the most prolific artists and writers were late bloomers.
  20. You can be both creative and analytical. Paradoxes are okay––they make life more interesting.
  21. Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s pretty damn important. Live within your means, learn how to save and figure out how to make the money you need to live the kind of life you want.
  22. Have an emergency fund. A big one.
  23. You don't always have to try to be better. It's OK to just be.
  24. Life is actually pretty long. There’s a lot of time to do the things you want to do, but be deliberate about how you spend your days (including deliberately choosing to watch crappy TV or lay in bed until 1pm... we all need down time).
  25. The death of a loved one fucking sucks. Nothing can prepare you for what it’s like when someone close to you passes away.
  26. People can be pretentious and mean. Don't dwell on it. Be friends with them anyways or do your own thing, but if you chose the latter don't let them take up space in your brain.
  27. If you are close with your family and enjoy spending time with them, you are VERY lucky. Not everyone feels like they can go to their family for love and support, and not everyone gets along with the parents or siblings.
  28. Pets make life better.
  29. Don’t let “life” get in the way of living your dreams. There’s always a good excuse for delaying starting that project you’ve been thinking about. If you’ve had an idea rolling around in your head for a while, write down the first step required to make it happen and do it today

One more: You don't have to have it all figured out. Few people leave their 20s knowing what they want to do with their life, but most leave feeling more comfortable with that uncertainty. And that's a good feeling.

Interview: Meet Marco Bochicchio, A Traveler With Over 65k Instagram FollowersTravelDesignChloe Mason GrayTue, 23 Dec 2014 03:08:31 +0000

Marco Bochicchio’s images capture the Mexico I experience but have never been able to translate into a photograph: the exaggeration of color; the feeling that you are operating in a constant dream state, somehow outside of real time; the patina of nostalgia.

Then again, Marco puts his photographs through several rounds of editing with a number of apps in order to achieve that at once washed out and vibrant, daydreamy, almost quixotic look. So, maybe you can’t actually capture that side of Mexico in one take; you need to paint it on.

Marco’s images have garnered a lot of attention on Instagram - his account @mente_de_rufus has over 65k followers (the handle translates to “mind of Rufus”, referring to Marco’s dog, who you can see in the last photograph in this post).

I first came across Marco’s Instagram account when Vogue published its Mexico City Travel Guide. We met for coffee in the La Condesa neighborhood back in November, and he told me wild stories about his travels, which he documents on Instagram alongside photos of his hometown Mexico City. 

Marco graciously agreed to let me interview him for OHB, so I asked him about his favorite places to travel, growing up in Mexico City and how he creates his stunning Instagram images.

What was it like growing up in Mexico City? I imagine it’s a little bit like growing up in New York City, because the two cities have a similar wild energy.

If there’s a common language that allows us to coexist with so many people at the same time, that language is warmth.

Mexico City is marvelous - full of history, magic and an impressive surrealism. It’s a city that is a truly varied, and, as such, easily relatable. Growing up in a place where there are all kinds of tastes, social groups and people shows you that nothing in life can be generalized. If there’s a common language that allows us to coexist with so many people at the same time, that language is warmth.

In Mexico City people are, generally, very friendly, and that makes it difficult to be alone. Sometimes it’s easy to miss being alone; here the landscape is made up of more city within the city.

What’s your favorite place in Mexico City?

The Historic Center transports me to the time of the colonization of Mexico. I’ve always liked imagining what Harnán Cortés saw when he arrived to Texcoco lake; an island in the middle of two gigantic pyramids and lots of people that had been coexisting for a long time.

Walking through the streets of the Center you’ll see the large houses which belonged to the very wealthy; nowadays the sidewalks are filled with women dressed in traditional garments carrying their children or grandchildren, the man selling camotes, the man selling tamales, the City Cathedral (made with the same stones used for the pyramids, which used to stand in the very same place), the music and, of course, the shouts of the people.

When you want to escape Mexico city, where in Mexico do you like to go?

I like the things that make each place unique: the wind of the Nayarit desert, the waves of the coast of Michoacán, the smell of copal inside the church of San Juan de Chamula, the cold of Tlaxcala, the heat of Baja California, the colors of Quintana Roo and the smiles of Puebla.

Outside of Mexico City you’ll find pre-hispanic Mexico more intact. There are still places that haven't had contact with technology and the new world. What I love most about those places is the people, the landscapes, the colors, the food. I like the things that make each place unique: the wind of the Nayarit desert, the waves of the coast of Michoacán, the smell of copal inside the church of San Juan de Chamula, the cold of Tlaxcala, the heat of Baja California, the colors of Quintana Roo and the smiles of Puebla.

If I had to choose one place as my favorite I’d say it’s the coast of Michoacán. It has the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen in my life, and its ocean is unique.

A long time ago I went to a beach called la llorona in the north of Michoacán. We arrived Thursday to stay for the weekend. No one else had arrived yet, and the sea was extremely calm. We swam, and it seemed strange to us that there were no waves. The ocean behaved more like a giant lake.

Friday, as people began to arrive, the ocean changed and took on a totally different personality. There were six-foot tall waves, and no one could swim. On Saturday two people had to be rescued with jet skis because the currents were so strong. You could only dip your feet in.

Then, on Sunday at around 5pm, when everyone had gone, the sea became like a lake again.

That’s magic.

How did you create the distinctive style you use for your images on Instagram?

It was a very interesting process through which I began to understand the importance of color in photography - the way colors combine with one another and the effects they create.

What is your editing process like before you publish an image on Instagram?

I start by selecting a photo that has an interesting detail, and I do several rounds of editing. Sometimes the photo loses its initial essence and the mood changes completely; that’s when things get really fun.

You're also an architect. Where do you find inspiration for your art (both photography and architectural design)?

Nature has always been a source of inspiration for the majority of artists. Nature has all the secrets of beauty and the complex factors that create something simple, like a sunset.

What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts?

I love accounts that show nature; for example, @sharksdaily posts beautiful photos of the sea. I follow people who travel and take interesting photos of their journeys, like @travellingduff, @popipopi and @maldemar.

@surfistatomato y @le_blanc are are a few good architecture accounts that I like.

I’m also a big a fan of accounts that show people surfing, and I'm always liking their posts (@asp, @edgesurf, @surfline, @timmckenna).

Of all the photos you’ve published on Instagram, do you have a favorite?

Yes, my favorite is one I took of Rufus, my dog.


Follow Marco on Instagram.


How to Work Abroad & live the life of your dreams: 8 tips you need to knowTravelInspirationChloe Mason GrayMon, 15 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000

One of the questions I get asked most frequently by readers is: how do I get a job in another country?

They want to work abroad, but they’re not sure how to make it happen. And that’s understandable; the idea of packing up your stuff, moving to another country whose language you barely speak and landing a job can seem like a fantasy scenario.

How do you convince a company in another country that they should hire you rather than someone who is actually from there? What about the visa stuff... will a company actually pay for that? What if you don’t speak the language?

When I was 24 I moved to Mexico City not speaking a word of Spanish and not knowing a single person there. Actually, I had never even been to Latin America. Nine-months later I had a full-time role at a tech-focused nonprofit, and then I went on to be in charge of marketing at one of Mexico’s most well-funded startup.

So, I actually launched my career in another country.

Working abroad is definitely possible, but it requires you to be adaptable and scrappy. You will probably start out in a crappy job that pays you next to nothing, but if you build relationships and dive into the culture and day-to-day life of your new home, you can transition into your dream job over time.

Here are my top 8 tips for anyone who wants to work abroad:

1. Be Open to a Starter Job

Don’t expect to land your dream job immediately after arriving to your chosen destination. Many people I know, including myself, spent their first few months of their life in a new country working at a bridge job (a job that helps you get on your feet and gives you time to find something you really want to do).

I made about $350 USD a month as an intern at a nonprofit for the first six months I spent in Mexico. Making that little money was really difficult, but I spent the time taking intensive Spanish classes and understanding the culture so that I could get a better job.

And it definitely paid off. I got a full-time job at the nonprofit, and then, two years after moving to Mexico, I was put in charge of marketing at one of Mexico’s most well-funded startups.

Here are a few common starter jobs for expats:

  • Teach English (either as a private tutor or at a school. In Mexico City there are several elementary and high schools that teach entirely in English, and they are often looking for native speakers).
  • Work at an embassy (both the British and American embassies in Mexico are always hiring; I suspect it’s similar in other countries).
  • Work at a hostel for room and board (a friend of mine is doing this right now; they give her a bed to sleep in and feed her two meals a day in exchange for being at the desk for about 20 hours a week).
  • Be a babysitter / au pair.

2. Or, Save Money So You Have Time to Look for You Ideal Job

Another approach is to save enough money to get by for the first few months (I’d plan for up to six months) so that you have time to search for the kind of job you really want.

I know a few people who came to Mexico City and spent several months interviewing with companies until they found the right fit. One got a job in sales at Google Mexico; another, BizDev for a social enterprise.

More inspiration: Brooke Saward, who writes the awesome travel blog World of Wanderlust, spent time living at home after college so that she could save up enough money to travel around the world for an entire year. Towards the end of her year of travel she landed in Berlin, and now she’s running her blog and business full-time as an expat.

3. Find Companies that Have International Offices

Many larger companies have a presence in cities around the world, such as Google and consulting firms like McKinsey. In Mexico, these companies are often looking for talented expats to join their team.

Most expats I know who work for international corporations in Mexico City got their jobs by contacting the company’s local offices and going through the interview process after moving to Mexico (as opposed to starting the process in their own country). So, I still recommend going to your new country on a tourist visa and either getting a bridge job or living off savings while you look.

One exception is journalists: I know a lot of journalists who were brought to Mexico by their company, and many were later transferred to other countries like Brazil.

4. Learn the Language as Fast as Possible

If you move to a country whose first language is not your own, please don’t be one of those expats who never bothers to get really good at the language. Living in another country is the best chance you’ll ever have to become fluent in a second language; take advantage of this!

Also, being able to speak the language well will make it a lot easier for you to get a job you’ll really enjoy (and you’ll probably get paid more).

Let’s face it: American schools do a pretty crappy job of teaching us second languages. I took like 10 years of French and can’t remember a word.

Sign up for intensive language lessons the minute you arrive. Just dive in and learn as fast as possible. I waited a few months to take classes after moving to Mexico because I thought I would just pick it up naturally (silly notion), but I quickly realized that unless you already have a strong grasp on the basic grammar and vocabulary of the language you want to learn, you won’t get very far without classes.

5. Understand Why Expats are Valuable Employees

When searching for a job in a foreign country you might feel like no one will give you the time of day or that the odds are stacked against you, so it’s helpful to recognize what makes you a competitive candidate. Being bilingual is a huge strength, as is bringing a strong work ethic and unique perspective to the table.

However, there’s also a dark side to this eagerness to hire foreigners: In Mexico it’s often a symptom of malinchismo––the idea that people from foreign countries are superior to Mexicans.

Malinchismo penetrates Mexico’s cultural psychology in a big way, and I’ve seen it cause a lot of tension between between foreign employees who receive special treatment and Mexican employees. I imagine there are traces of this in other countries as well.

This isn’t a reason to play down your strengths when looking for a job, but expats should try to understand the cultural dynamics that influence how they are treated in the workplace.

6. Pick a City that is Up-And-Coming

The way in which I wound up living in Mexico City was completely haphazard, but I later realized how lucky I was to have moved to a city that was not a widely-popular expat destination (at least not five years ago when I arrived).

The past five years have been really exciting for Mexico City: tons of startups and social enterprises have emerged, and the art and culinary scenes are flourishing. This means there are a lot of opportunities to find cool work and be a part of a quickly-changing metropolis.

For a while Mexico City felt like one of the best-kept secrets I had ever discovered; it was this incredibly beautiful, romantic, surreal city with a ton of interesting stuff going on, and not that many people knew about it.

More recently, publications like the New York Times and Vogue started highlighting Mexico City and Tulum as must-see travel destinations, but Mexico City still feels like a fringe destination.

The great thing about moving to a city that is on the verge of becoming a hub for business and creativity is that there’s less competition in the job market and a ton of opportunity to be a part of a cool projects and companies.   

7. Don’t Worry too Much About the Visa (at First)

When you first move to your new country, don’t worry too much about having a work visa. I recommend just going there on a tourist visa and then figuring it out as you go along. Doing a little research about how visas work in your chosen country before you make the move is definitely a good idea, but if you really want to stay, you’ll find a way.

You can get the inside scoop on how visas work in your new country by finding a few expats who live there and reaching out to them online. Look for Facebook groups for expats in the city you’re going to move to; I’m part of a few Facebook groups for expats living in Mexico City, and they’ve been an invaluable resource.

The United States is one of the strictest countries when it comes to granting work visas to foreigners; there are many countries that are not nearly as strict. Getting a work visa in Mexico used to take about three months; now, as a result of changes in the immigration process, it takes between six and nine, but if a company is willing to sponsor you it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get a visa.

Here are some great resources about getting visas to work abroad:

  • I used Bunac to get a work visa in London right after I finished college
  • The Working Abroad website has a ton of information on job listings and permits
  • This site has basic information about tourist and work visas in a long list of countries
  • I haven’t used the USIT site, but it seems like it has a lot of useful information on opportunities to work abroad

8. Reach Out to Your Network

The way I got my first internship in Mexico City was completely random. Actually, my dream at the time was to go to Africa and work with a nonprofit that helped disenfranchised women. A friend of mine knew I was looking to work abroad and reached out to a few of her business school friends. One of them had just begun a social enterprise in Mexico City with a nonprofit arm, and they needed some help.

Previously, I had no desire to go to Mexico, but I thought, why not? So I got on a plan to Mexico City, thinking I’d stay three months.

I never imagined reaching out to this friend would actually result in a job in a country I would stay in for nearly five years. But that’s how networks are; many people don’t realize they have contacts that can connect them to something completely life-changing and amazing.

All you have to do is ask.

So, start talking to friends and family about your dreams of working abroad. Maybe they’ll know about a cool opportunity.

And don’t be afraid to reach out to people you don’t know via email or Twitter; I love getting emails from people who are thinking of moving to Mexico.

Get Going

Moving to a different country was hands down the best decision I’ve ever made. As a result, my 20s have been a decade full of experiences I never imagined I would have: I became bilingual, made incredible friends, fell in love, visited amazing places and immersed myself in a culture that is entirely different from my own.

If you've been thinking about moving to another country use these 8 tips to help make it happen. Feel free to email me if you have any questions along the way.

Now I’d like to hear from you. What country do you want to move to? Why haven’t you done it already?

Recipe: Mexican Hot Chocolate from the Free People BlogFoodChloe Mason GrayFri, 05 Dec 2014 16:48:47 +0000

One of the things I love most about Mexico is its rich culinary tradition.

The many different kinds of mole––negro, amarillo, rojo––which traditionally has over 100 different ingredients. Tlacoyos, tlayoyos, sopes, blue-corn quesadillas––creative variations on cooking masa on a comal. Huanzontles.

The way food brings families together for long, lazy Sunday afternoon comidas.

And, of course, the hot chocolate. Those round slabs of pure, sugary cacao that you melt in water or milk, sometimes with a little added spice.

I’m spending some time the U.S. right now and am missing Mexico, so this recipe for vegan Mexican hot chocolate from the Free People blog put a smile on my face.

Vegans and the lactose intolerant will be happy to know that nearly every place that serves hot chocolate in Mexico has a vegan option; simply ask for chocolate caliente con agua (hot chocolate made with water instead of milk, which is just as good as the dairy variety).

Of course, hot chocolate made with water wasn’t developed specifically for vegans; it’s simply a traditional way of preparing hot chocolate in Mexico. There’s also Champurrado, prepared with corn flour, water or milk, chocolate and spices. Whenever I’ve ordered Champurrado in Oaxaca it’s been prepared with water.

Atole, which is often consumed with tamales for breakfast, is also traditionally made with water.

Click here to get Free People’s recipe.

Travel Guide: 24 Hours in NashvilleTravelChloe Mason GrayTue, 28 Oct 2014 15:55:35 +0000 the past six months I’ve taken several road trips with my mom, who is currently living in Atlanta, Georgia. We explore the South’s most charming cities––Savannah, Charleston, Nashville, Chattanooga––eating and walking our way through each one.

Lately I’m more conscious of how special these experiences with my mom are. In the past year or so I’ve come to understand the realness of what was for a long time an intangible, far-off notion that my parents won’t always be around.

There’s a period of your life when you’re very young and your parents don’t seem to age at all. I remember feeling like my mom was around forty-years-old for the first twenty years of my life––ageless, certainly older than me and my friends, but not old––and then all of a sudden she became 60, 61, 62...

My mom looks young––she has beautiful pale freckly skin and wild curly blond hair. Very few wrinkles line her face. Sometimes I wonder when her face will change and become the face of an old person. You know, the kind of face that you would describe as “elderly”. Does that happen gradually or overnight?

I’m cherishing our trips together. So far my favorite has been Charleston with its enormous pastel-colored mansions and romantic, tidy streets that make you feel like you’ve gone backwards in time.

Recently I visited my mom in Atlanta for 10 days, and we decided to take a quick weekend trip to Nashville. Our excursion barely lasted 24 hours, so I can’t claim to have gotten a deep sense of Nashville’s personality or what it has to offer. The day-long trip left me with the impression that downtown Nashville is like Times Square for country music, but you’ll find a lot of heart, charm and personality in the nearby neighborhoods.

The weather was gloomy; it drizzled all day Saturday, and Sunday morning was thick with fog. I’m sure Nashville feels very different with sun and blue skies, but the dreariness was somehow kind of nice, adding a veneer of sweet melancholy.

Here are my favorite things we saw and did during our 24 hours in Nashville:

Tried On Stiff, Stubborn, Lovely Denim at Imogene + Willie

In a wonderful instance of luck, the Imogene + Willie store was just a few blocks from Saturday's lunch spot (BurgerUp), to which we arrived after the four-hour drive from Atlanta so hungry we could barely keep up a conversation. The best part about lunch was the big bowl of fat sweet potato fries.

Imogene + Willie is a clothing and lifestyle brand known for creating high-quality denim. Their Nashville store occupies a former gas station whose exterior is slathered in white paint and has a big red cross––the brand’s symbol––swinging from a pole at the front of the building.

The inside of their store wears a rustic-country-Americana theme with a little bit of urban mixed in. Swaths of raw fabric hang from the ceiling, and they sell a medley of items including blankets, Aesop products, delicious-smelling bundles of incense and Warby Parker glasses. And, of course, denim. Raw, stiff, stubborn denim. The kind you spend at least six months breaking in and you hate every minute of it until one day it fits you perfectly.

In a video that’s shot like a 1970s rock-and-roll documentary, founder Carrie Eddmenson reads a letter she wrote to an early supporter who had reached out to her after the Eddmensons shared their dream of starting a denim brand with their friends online:

My family has been in the denim business for 22 years. I’ve worked in the family business for what seemingly feels like like almost the whole two decades. My hands and my husband’s hands are blue most all of the days. Just would hope that the gas station would become a destination for lovers of good denim and other treasures.

Here are a few stills from their video:

Admired Beautiful Objects at White’s Mercantile

A few blocks down on the same street is White’s Mercantil, a concept store with a mishmash of goods perfect for adding charm to your home or work space, from pumpkin-scented candles and faded copper-colored trays to porcelain pieces, oversized gold piggy banks and old-fashioned mens’ shaving products.

Ate a Family-Style Breakfast at Monell’s

Sunday breakfast at Monell’s was communal and indulgent. They sat us at a big table with other groups of hungry diners and fed us cinnamon rolls and biscuits with gravy. Once all the seats at the table were filled they brought out the main dishes: heaping portions of corn pudding, sausage, pancakes, baked apples with cinnamon, fried chicken and grits. Each plate was passed around the table so that everyone could serve themselves a helping (or two, or three).

Imagined Ourselves Living in An Adorable House in Germantown

Monell’s is in Nashville’s Germantown, which was the city’s first residential neighborhood. After breakfast we wandered around Germantown and gazed at the beautiful Victorian homes––sweet, simple houses made of brick or wood painted in muted, earthy colors. Most seem to have been built as tiny boxes and then extended backwards more recently as wealthier families moved in.

Wandered Around the Wonderfully Gaudy Gaylord Opryland Resort

On our way out of town on Sunday afternoon we stopped at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It’s a ridiculous, gaudy, overdone hotel, but in a good way. Its nine acres of indoor gardens are surrounded by hotel rooms with a white-brick facade and iron balconies painted in black. The experience of being in the hotel oscillates between whimsical and theme park-esque.

A bit of history: The Opryland Hotel opened its doors to guests on Thanksgiving day in 1977. The hotel was originally built to support the Grand Ole Opry, a fixture of Nashville country music, and it now has nearly 3,000 rooms.

Stopped for Lunch in Chattanooga

Chattanooga is the halfway point between Nashville and Atlanta, making it the perfect place to stop for lunch. We went to Grocery Bar: “A chef-driven grocery store that empowers the home-cook and unites a neighborhood around deliciously simple food”.

In addition to selling groceries they serve lunch platters, sandwiches and desserts. I ate a delicious blackened chicken and my mom had a salad, then we both had flourless peanut butter cookies for dessert.

We were only in Chattanooga for about an hour, but I loved its energy and can’t wait to go back. While hunting for food we passed a lot of industrial brick buildings repurposed as restaurants and apartments, and on our way out of town we took a quick drive through the quaint Bluff View Art District.

Things We Wish We’d Had Time to Do

Packing List: Essentials


Design Spotlight: Colectivo 1050° CeramicsDesignChloe Mason GrayWed, 01 Oct 2014 22:26:46 +0000

Water jugs made from black clay, which is the signature style of San Bartolo Coyotepec, a town in Oaxaca.

This post is the first installment in a series featuring (mostly) Mexican designers, from fashion to furniture and home goods.

I’m from New York City, so I developed a bit of a temper during my teenage years that stuck with me in my early 20s (at least I blame it on being from NYC). Maybe “temper” isn’t the right word––more like “reactive”. You know... when things just get to you more than they should.  

For the past year or so I’ve been really good about being less reactive. In fact, this past summer my rental car got a flat tire in Lenox, Massachusetts at 5pm on a Sunday (meaning the rental car place was closed and there was no way to swap it). It cost me over $150 and a couple hours of my time to get it fixed, but I was totally calm throughout the whole thing. Cool as a cucumber.

One of the last times I can remember getting truly upset––like really, really angry––is when our cat, Señor Pickles, knocked one of my favorite pieces of ceramic off a shelf, shattering the top part.

Señor Pickles is highly skilled at knowing which things are most special to me (ceramics, jewelry, etc.) and finding a way to knock them on the floor whenever he’s feeling moody, which is pretty much always.

Truth is, I was devastated. I’m kind of obsessed with my ceramics collection, and each piece holds special memories of the places I’ve visited in Mexico and the people I’ve traveled with.

I might have even cried a little when this happened, which is why it seems appropriate to kick off a new series on this blog with a post on Colectivo 1050°, a design collective from Oaxaca that makes some of the most beautiful ceramics I’ve ever seen.

They describe themselves as a group of designers, artists and artisans working together to make high-quality, unique and functional products. Colectivo 1050º is the commercial branch of a non-profit that offers services to potters and pottery communities in Oaxaca in order to support the development of their craft.

I first came across their work while eating at Café Zena in San Miguel Chapultepec. The restaurant uses their white cups and bowls to serve food; I thought they were amazing and asked where they got them. A few months later I took a trip to Oaxaca and visited the Colectivo 1050˚ studio at Hub Oaxaca.

Often, Colectivo 1050˚ takes traditional styles and techniques and updates them with a modern touch––maybe a more elegant shape or an unusual glaze. They describe their design as “conscious”––their products are lead-free, and they seek to minimize the environmental impact of the production process.

Check out their work below (all photos via the 1050° website or their Facebook page).

From San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca.

From San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca.

Mezcaleros are glasses used to drink mezcal. I love this elegant take on them!

Mezcaleros are glasses used to drink mezcal. I love this elegant take on them!

From San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca.

From San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca.

Tea/coffee cups made from black clay

Tea/coffee cups made from black clay

A family of pig cups, bowls and jugs made with red clay from San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca

A family of pig cups, bowls and jugs made with red clay from San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca

Red clay frying pan from San Marcos Tlapazola

Red clay frying pan from San Marcos Tlapazola

These black-clay wall tiles from San Bartolo Coyotepec would look incredible in a kitchen or bathroom.

These black-clay wall tiles from San Bartolo Coyotepec would look incredible in a kitchen or bathroom.

For further reading check out the book "Barro y fuego: El arte de la alfarería en Oaxaca". It takes you through the many types of Mexican ceramics and the styles of each region, and the photos are gorgeous.

Everything You Think Will Be DifferentTravelChloe Mason GrayWed, 10 Sep 2014 03:07:29 +0000 couple weeks ago I came back to Mexico City after spending four months in the States. It’s strange and unsettling how easy it is to forget the details of what it’s like to be somewhere.

The details are what make you fall in love with and feel at home in a city, but once you leave they are also what fade away the fastest. The overall feeling of what it’s like to be in a certain city lingers and turns into nostalgia––sometimes making your chest cramp up or your gut stir when you think about it for too long––but the little things that make your day-to-day life in a place unique and wonderful dissolve into abstraction.

Here are some of the details I had forgotten:

  • The thick smell of sulfur that hits you when driving back from the airport

  • The beautiful doors of the houses in San Miguel Chapultepec

  • How it feels to wake up next to my boyfriend

  • How good fresh tortillas are

  • The dreary, wet afternoons during rainy season

  • What mole tastes like

  • How cheap it is to buy fresh vegetables at the markets

Tavi Gevinson, one of my heroes and probably my biggest girl crush, talks about the possibility of forgetting the deep feelings you have for things—songs, pictures, colors, each other––in a play she is currently performing in (I swiped this quote from a recent New York Magazine article on Tavi; I haven’t seen the play).

JESSICA: … Everything you think will be different, and the way you act, and all your most passionately held beliefs are all gonna be completely different, and it’s really depressing.

WARREN: How do you figure?

JESSICA: Because it just basically invalidates whoever you are right now. You know what I mean? It just makes your whole self at any given point in your life seem so completely dismissible. So it’s like, what is the point? […]

It’s like when you find an old letter you wrote that you don’t remember writing. And it’s got all these thoughts and opinions in it that you don’t remember having, and it’s written to somebody you don’t even remember having ever written a letter to.

WARREN: I’ve never found a letter like that.

JESSICA: Well I have. Like, a lot of them. And it just makes you realize that there’s just these huge swaths of time in your life that didn’t register at all, and that you might just as well have been dead during them for all the difference they make to you now.

I think she’s talking about memory and growing up, but I’ve continued to have this experience of memory and identity throughout my 20s, whenever I make big life changes and all of a sudden I realize that my current life is so vastly different from what I was doing a few years ago. I guess these big shifts in who you are, what you believe, where you live and how you go about your day happen less as you get older, but if you have a penchant for reinvention and travel then they might always be a part of your experience of living.

That’s what’s so fun and comforting about writing, photography, blogging, social media––anything that lets you document your life. You can always look back and remember who you were a week, a month, a year or five years ago, even if everything is different.

Detail of a building in colonia Roma Norte

Detail of a building in colonia Roma Norte

Blue tile from a building in Roma Norte

Blue tile from a building in Roma Norte

Blue house in Condesa (my very favorite blue that you don't find in many other places outside of Mexico)

Blue house in Condesa (my very favorite blue that you don't find in many other places outside of Mexico)

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Everything You Think Will Be Different
The Traveler’s Dilemma: Love in A World Where Everybody Is Always MovingTravelLoveInspirationChloe Mason GraySat, 12 Jul 2014 22:30:29 +0000

As our world—and the concept of what a typical career looks like—become increasingly global, crossing state lines and even oceans multiple times to build a new life seems more and more like the norm, especially for people in their 20s.

Wanderlust, exciting job offers and a desire to soak it all in pull us towards new cities, countries and continents. But relationships are not always so eager to adapt.

For those of us who thrive on travel and new experiences, the typical idea of what makes a great relationship (stability, togetherness) hasn’t caught up with our idea of what makes an exciting life and career (diversity, adventure, growth, authenticity).

For a while I thought it was a problem with me; that I was the only one moving thousands of miles away and disrupting my relationships. But I looked more closely at my friends and people I admire and saw others making the same decision: to leave love for a great career opportunity, or simply to build a better, more dynamic life. 
What happens if the other person follows you? When does the resentment settle in? I can imagine it creeping into the small, pointless fights couples have from time-to-time. Suddenly me not wanting to go to a party turns into a fight about how my partner is always the one doing stuff for me that he doesn’t want to do, and not the other way around. 

The subtle undertone being that he moved to a new country just for me.

Then again, if you decide to stay together and have a long-distance relationship, the person who got left behind starts to resent the person who did the leaving—it hangs over every late-night Google Hangout and fuels the bickering that surfaces whenever you visit each other.

More and more it seems that relationships require a global mindset and a willingness to not see each other for a few weeks at a time. WhatsApp, Skype and email replace dinner conversations and long weekend-mornings in bed together, at least part of the time.
The truth is, I’m more okay with this kind of relationship than any of my partners have been. I kind of like the idea of a few weeks apart followed by a few wonderful weeks with the person I love. I think it gives us the freedom to live independently for a little while, to focus on our ambitions and passions, but with the comfort of knowing that love is just around the corner. 
A while back I read an article on Medium by a successful entrepreneur who lives between New York and London. She talks about life between two cities, and what it’s like to have a partner in one of those cities—basically a part-time relationship, although it’s never really that part-time because the other person is always on your mind, right? 

While reading the article I thought to myself, “Wow, she’s lucky. She’s found someone who is okay with having a relationship with a woman who doesn’t always want to stay in one place. They seem to be making it work.” 

Is it realistic to think that we can find a partner with a tolerance for distance—do we just have to look harder—or did this women get really, really lucky? Or, maybe making it work is more difficult than she lets on. 
The way I see it, there are two possible scenarios: couples become more open to not always living in the same city, and they build relationships that involve both time apart and time together. Maybe at some point one person moves for the other, and then vice versa, but they agree to accept being apart some of the time in order to pursue their dreams.

(Apparently there’s an actual movement around this type of relationship called Living Apart Together.)

Conversely, they prioritize being together (in the geographical sense) over their careers and dreams of experiencing other parts of the world, and they each vouch to move for the other whenever necessary, or they simply decide to stay put no matter what opportunity comes along.

I’ve done it twice now. A little more than four years ago I left a boyfriend in New York City to move to Mexico City. We tried to make it work for a while, but we just kept fighting. He was immensely unhappy in a long-distance relationship; I, on the other hand, was okay with it. We broke up, and eventually I fell in love with someone in Mexico. 

Then, four months ago, I took a temporary break from Mexico to chase happiness, better health and more clarity in my career, with a plan to return to Mexico in the Fall and build a life that allows me to go between Mexico City and the U.S. Again, this drove a wedge between me and my partner. Again, I chose my career and personal well-being over love, at least temporarily. 
Why? Because relationships don’t exist in a bubble, untouched by the circumstances around them. No matter how deeply in love with someone you are, if you find yourself in a city or job that just aren’t working for you anymore, sticking with them so you can be with someone is going to damage the relationship eventually. 

Here’s what I’d like to know: Will it ever stop feeling like a choice between one thing and the other? Maybe it’s a matter of finding the right person—the romantic in me wants to believe that when a relationship is truly right, there will be times when my partner follows me and others when I compromise and follow my partner, but the compromise won’t feel like a loss because we are both 100% committed to building a life together. Of course, togetherness will mean physically being in the same place some of the time and living apart some of the time.

Or maybe there will always be a tug-of-war between love and location.

For now, I’m waiting anxiously for relationships to adapt to the reality of how many of us live life: moving to new cities or continents to chase our dreams, sometimes setting up shop in more than one city at a time, never settling for apathy, seeking to balance loving relationships with personal fulfillment and refusing to accept that you can’t have both. 

The Traveler’s Dilemma: Love in A World Where Everybody Is Always Moving
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