Boarding Pass – Leela Cyd

Today’s Boarding Pass features is one of those connections that fell into place. Thanks to the blogosphere, I was connected to Leela Cyd when she commented on a post a couple weeks ago. Professionally Leela works as an art and special ed teacher in the States, but is a food writer/eater/aspiring travel writer by night with the dream of eating her way around the world. After getting married on the 4th of July, she and her husband David embarked on a 9-month journey through India, Vietnam and Turkey (a trip four years in the making), leaving Portland, Oregon for a taste of the rest of the world. And while they’re on the move (they’re 2.5 months into it), I adore that they’re taking the time to enjoy and experience the place. Leela is currently working on a cookbook (check out the links to recipes below), while, meanwhile, David is working on an ink series based on the architecture and jungles. {Thanks, Leela!}
last trip taken:
We visited Northern India, “the Golden Triangle,” last week – New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur – We felt that while living in India, we must see the Taj Mahal and all the amazing Mughal architecture of the North. The Taj was every bit as gorgeous and out of a fairy tale as I could have possibly imagined and then some– The most symmetrical, harmonious, lyrical, romantic piece of architecture I’ve seen. We walked around in a stupor, totally dumbfounded by the beauty. The marble floors were perfectly slick for dancing on as well!

next trip on deck:
Vietnam, then Turkey

one place you would go back to again and again:
New York City – My Dad and all of his side of the family are from Brooklyn, so we grew up going there all the time as kids – my passion for the city started with a walk across the Brooklyn bridge at age 6 (I thought the distance was almost insurmountable – my teeny feet hardly made it!) into the city with my Grandma, Aunt and cousin… the river and the wind were so exciting to me, even then. From this point on, I was hooked – the art galleries in Chelsea – my husband Dave and I spend days on just a few streets… the museums – PS 1 is worth the hoof up to Queens, the Temple of Dendor is the most magical place to chill out and think about Egypt in the Met . . . the shops—I always buy some wacky tennies (I recently had to retire my gold and red patent-leather asics) from a David Z on Broadway and the food, oh the food! – We worship the red spicy sauce at Vincent’s on the corner of Mott and Hester (my Grandfather used to go here when it was just a food cart), the pretzel croissant at The City Bakery will make you die and reborn a happy little fat kid, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes will do the same, I love all the Jewish delis – Katz’s is the best for an egg cream . . .
place you’d most likely recommend a friend go visit:
Laos, Northern Thailand and Myanmar – I traveled to this end of the world as 12 year-old girl and the people, traditions, culture and food made a huge impression on me. The temples were so beautiful and all the young monks and school kids were outgoing and talkative – they were so open with their life and way of doing things . . . and very curious about me, an awkward White girl with “bracelets and decorations” on my teeth (I had braces.) The chanting, singing and daily life of the Buddhist monks struck me – so different than my life in the States – peaceful, simple and beautiful. Watching the sunrise behind Mt. Popa, near Bagan in Myanmar, while munching on a flavorful papaya was an incredible feeling . . . Another great part of this trip I’d recommend would be to get on a boat in Laos and buzz down the Mekong River, stuff bread in your ears to block the sound of the crazed motor!
preferred method of transportation:
In India, we love the trains – we’ve been on every class imaginable, including no-seat-have-to-sit-on-luggage-rack class. I love trains for the conversations you have with your neighbors. Around town, I love to walk—I have a horrible tourist/Teva suntan on my feet from all my walking here.
place you’ve never been but dying to go:
Istanbul (we are going in the Spring! Hooray!) and Denmark, looks so chic, stylish and bicycles galore!
place you’d never go back:
Anjuna Beach, GOA – lots of people hustling you to buy their goods while you are trying to take in the beach . . . Crappy flea market . . . really hot. I don’t think I’m a beach-all-day person.
most memorable trip in 2 sentences or less:
The epic 9 month trip (India, Vietnam, Turkey and Paris—hopefully, Paris. . . ) we are 2 ½ months deep into RIGHT NOW is by far the most intense travel experience I’ve ever had – so much different to live abroad, rather than passing through. This time-line changes the way we think and experience every country, in a good way.
how do you prepare for a trip?
I decide none of my clothing is good enough for the non-tourist look I’m going for and ponder shopping (and wind up going with my old digs and splurge on a nice new journal, sensible girl that I am), I poll all friends, family and co-workers about the place I’m going, trying to get a little scoop or sense of the place, I read novels that take place in said country – I went through a HUGE Indian literature phase before this journey – Shantaram, Death of Vishnu, a Fine Balance, White Tiger are a few great books that take place in India. I stress about all the preparation and packing. When I get on the plane, all my worries melt and I relax about traveling and get super excited (and then commence snacking on chocolate of some form – it’s my flying tradition.)
how do you record your travels when you’re traveling?
As a kid, my Dad made my brother and I keep a journal everywhere we went – He’s a photographer, so we went a LOT of places as kids, lugging his equipment and keeping notes as assistants. This habit stuck with me and now I look forward to journaling (drawing, collage, writing, pasting found items) as a way to process new experiences and think about where we’ve been/what we’ve seen. When I was 14, I received Dan Eldon’s journal book, The Journey is the Destination, got me thinking about journaling as a high art/personal art form – his work showed me the infinite possibilities of what a journal could be—best friend, narrative, collage, photo, family album . . . He was so awesome. I also keep a cooking/thought/travel blog,, which I love for gathering my thoughts in a cohesive way—treating my written pen-to-paper journal more of a rough-draft space – full of sketches, lists and ideas/quick writes and the blog as more of a final draft space – keeping it helps me hone my ideas, test and post recipes. Lastly, I take a ton of photos.
what is your favorite thing to photograph in a new place?
As a cook and an artist, I love to photograph food in its natural environment, it is a wonderful subject, as it never moves! – I also love to photograph small details about a place – a little shrine in a tree, a weird phone booth, a cookie – lastly, I love to take pictures of Dave, my sweety, looking ridiculous (climbing trees, posing with monkeys, enjoying a cup of perfect tea with blissful expression, etc.)
on an average, how many pictures to you take on a trip?
Too many!
what’s in your “designer travel kit” ?
A small backpack, mine is black and made by Ben Sherman, I love my moleskin journals and my camera for this trip is a Canon G10, super compact and easy to carry but takes high-res photos and video – I love the low-commitment of a camera this small and unobtrusive compared to our old, and much larger, Nikon D70. And, we bring a serious art-supply kit – brushes of varying size and quality, gouaches, pens, pencils, glue stick and I insist on glitter because I love sparkly, shiny things. I like little notebooks of graph and lined paper to jot down recipes, which I test later, then post on my blog. This is a habit I picked up by my ever-prepared, former newspaper reporter Mom. She also has an insane amount of writing implements.

{my current kitchen}

what do you do after a trip?
I recoup with foods I miss – usually a giant salad (oh how I long for this in Asia!) and a slice of the perfect chocolate cake, I shower aggressively . . .Then, I show my parents and close friends my journal (then it goes on a shelf forever!) and print a book of photos/musings using Blurb or a program like it – It’s amazing how quickly we all tend to move on and get back to “regular life” after a big adventure. It’s hard for me to describe a trip adequately . . . Having the blog has helped with this – keeping myself and everyone else updated on current state of affairs and what I’ve been cooking. This is the first big journey since I started my blog, almost 2 years ago. . . so this is a new documentation tool for me.

how long after a trip does this happen?

I do the book pretty quickly, or else it won’t ever happen. I like the feel of a little photo book in my hand.

{cooking class in Goa}
favorite souvenir/thing to bring back?

I’m obsessed with paper, stickers, envelopes, postcards, stamps and mail – anything you can buy at a stationary/office-supply shop or stand—I love to journal this stuff or use it for little packages/gifts—It’s a fun souvenir because it’s very budget-friendly and I can be a bit reckless while shopping. Also, recipes are a great way to remember a place – I always try to re-create what I’ve been eating; it always comes out different at home. My parents collect signs, so I always try to find some obscure sign for them. The best souvenir I ever got was a crazy white/gold and bejeweled turban for our friend, Juilen.

My question to your readers and yourself is : How do you stay self-motivated for projects (i.e. travel writing, a cookbook, a blog, a series of artworks, etc.) while on a long-term trip? Do you carve out a work routine in a new place? If so, what does it look like?

David’s site:

A few recipes:

Click HERE for past Boarding Pass features!


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