Thursday, June 25, 2009

Traveling without Moving

"You can't eat food here! This is a restaurant!"

It's really too bad that this diatribe, sputtered by an indignant waiter at the Copenhagen airport, is among the most memorable statements Sally and I heard on our 2006 European vacation. Well, that and "You're on the wrong train", but that's another story.

The waiter's words came back to me this morning as I was reflecting on the striking similarities between European travel and kitchen remodeling. You may recall that Sally and I are engaged in a remodeling project. Yesterday, after trips to two warehouse stores shopping for a faucet and floor tiles, and an afternoon and evening consumed by planning and revising plans for our next steps, I realized that this process is a lot like a European vacation. In each case:

- We planned the event for months before actually engaging in it.

- We spent an incredible amount of money weeks before seeing any tangible result.

- We planned each day, and then ended up doing something else after finding out that the museum was closed, or what was actually behind that wall.

- We dealt with rude and uncaring people.

- We met some extremely caring and helpful people, even if they didn't know more than we did: "You're on the wrong train." "You can just cut that copper tube, and we'll crimp it off."

- We wrestled with foreign languages: "escutcheon plate", "You'll wanna put down thinset before laying your backerboard", "Nee, Geithorn!"

- We repeatedly pulled out a wad of cash and peeled off bills, asking hopefully, "Is this enough?"

Perhaps the most striking parallel is the discovery that we could actually do a better job ourselves. In the case of European travel, after being seated in the VERY LAST ROW for every flight, and being given an electronic ticket that was only missing 3 numbers, and trying to book a trip to an island our travel agent argued did not exist, we made most of our own arrangements. We may not have done everything perfectly, but it became our trip.

We are now newly baptized members of the DIY (Do It Yourself) remodeling community. The project is going in new directions now that we are without the benefit of rude professionals to tell us what kind of flooring we should like. Cork, by the way, is perfectly appropriate for wine bottles and bulletin boards. Our kitchen may never be featured on Hometime, but it will be ours.

Looking back now, our European trip was an absolute delight. Even the snooty waiter occupies an honored place in our memory. I am so looking forward to looking back on this kitchen remodel in the same light.

And speaking of lighting, do we want a low-voltage puck light there, a pendant, or another can light?


  1. Remodeling, just like traveling, is a transformative process in which you learn about yourself and how you relate to your context, to draw upon yesterday's post.

    I just wanted to say how excited I am about the non-pocket door windows. And I am curious about what kind of lights you're going to put in. I think I like the idea of a combination of track lighting and some puck lights, that way you can have directional and direct lighting over various areas. Pendants are head-knockers.

  2. By the way, while installing different lighting fixtures, keep in mind what kind of bulbs you want to use. You need special kinds of CFL bulbs for can lights, and they don't last as long in fully enclosed fixtures. Just some things to keep in mind! :) I've been there with the CFL's and their issues.

  3. In reading through this post and the comments, the only thing that comes to mind is that I love you all. I don't know if that's me or the cough syrup talking, but I do.

    I really think that only my family would draw such parallels, and draw such depth from the diy experience as you guys have.

    Makes me look forward to my next diy project. But I'll probably just be more amazed that anything actually works than analyzing the experience in any depth.

  4. Yeah, well, drawing parallels, and occasionally even a bit of depth, from ordinary events and greater truth is sorta what I've been trying to do professionally for 30 years. Nice to do it in another setting, I must say.