It takes us 39 minutes to get from our Montclair, New Jersey train station to Penn Station in New York City. We are, literally, at the doorstep of one of the cultural meccas of the world, which is probably why I don’t consider going “into the city” traveling. We are so fortunate and I think I take it for granted, most of the time. But today, we traveled to NY to experience Traveler’s Company’s pop-up event at the Ace Hotel in New York, where they had many of their beloved items for sale, plus a number of special collaborative items that featured traveler’s notebooks and the Ace Hotel.
And, then there was a feast of paper. Set up like a culinary buffet, were papers displayed on dishes, there for you to select, as you chose, to create your own spiral notebook. Everything was customized from the cover, down to the color of the spiral binding. Then you got a chance to watch, as a craftsman assembled it. The spiral snaked through the holes of the paper effortlessly, while he did a simple movement with his hands. It never caught or snagged. My 8-year-old said it looked like magic, and my 13-year-old was equally enthralled. We didn’t even get video footage of it because we were so mesmerized by the experience for each of the four notebooks we made. We’ve been home for hours and they are still talking about it.
Traveler’s Company is dearer to my heart than any other notebook I’ve used because I associate it with my ever-evolving personal fortitude. I purchased my first one during a very traumatic and defining moment in my life, and I associate it with a fierce independence and personal awakening. We don’t get to physically travel far these days, but our experiences allow us to travel deeply, and this was confirmed when the woman I first encountered at the Traveler’s Company table at the Ace Hotel began to explain that she was from Japan. I said I knew that. I mentioned that I knew Wakako from Baum-kuchen, a name she immediately recognized. She introduced herself as Yuri, and introduced me to another member of the Traveler’s Company team and there I was connected to so many people because of a simple notebook. Then I was lost in the experience, never speaking to them again. I don’t know if I should be disappointed about that, or happy that the experience was so deeply engaging for me and my sons.
It was surreal being there. I felt like I’d traveled far further than I had, for as soon as you step into the Ace Hotel lobby, you feel like you’ve left the bustling streets of New York and been transported somewhere else. The dimly lit lobby of the Ace Hotel, a bustling, boutique hotel in midtown Manhattan was a perfect setting for this event. Filled with a buzz of people socializing, working on computers, reading books, having drinks, writing in notebooks, amidst a backdrop of elegant, dark wood, amazing staircases, it is simultaneously full of life and peaceful. It’s full of people, but not noisy like a bar. The energy is different somehow. Richer and more sophisticated. The atmosphere feels handcrafted like the beers they sell in the bar and the notebooks were, today, being made in their lobby. Perfection.
I’d told the boys about the spiral notebook event, a chance to make your own notebook. Quite frankly, they were unenthused. My boys did not care about the opportunity to make a notebook if you can believe that. They were far more interested in our return trip on Sunday to see an early screening of a movie and visit the tree in Rockefeller Center. That is until they entered the lobby and saw the papers on the plates. A veritable feast of paper. It is in their DNA to swoon over paper. It was inevitable. They didn’t see it coming, but I did.
They wanted to make notebooks. In fact, there was no stopping them. I could barely keep up with their sudden desire to design notebooks, as I struggled to wrap my mind around the process. Traveler’s Company had paid attention to every detail. You chose your cover and placed it on the silver, paper-lined tray. A cardboard guide on the tray helped you determine the correct thickness of your notebook. Nothing was overlooked. And me, a seasoned photographer, got no photos of all of this because honestly, I was dizzy with excitement. I’ve been in love with paper my entire life. It has been an extension of my actual self. It was like an out of body experience.
We chose covers and pocket pages and different types of beautiful paper. We talked and moved amongst other people doing the same, deep in concentration. Deeply in love with, not just the paper, but the experience that Traveler’s Company had brought to us. Creating these notebooks was more about the experience and the process than the end product. Had I an endless supply of money, I would have made notebooks all day. If ever they should return, I will be more fiscally prepared.
I purchased a new leather traveler’s notebook cover today. The Ace Hotel captivated me so much, this experience moved me so much, and being at a pivotal point in my life, a new cover seemed fitting. I want to remember this time in my life, as challenging as it is. It will make me or break me and I’m betting on make me. I’ll open the new notebook on Christmas Day, as it will likely be one of the few gifts I receive. Waiting will be difficult, but there’s nothing sweeter than anticipation.
The artist who designed the Ace Hotel insert was at the table beside the craftsman who assembled the spiral notebooks. I spoke to him briefly and asked him to sign my insert. He seemed surprised, and I noticed that he might have a developmental disability, which moved me to quickly investigate by Googling his name. It turns out that Michale Pellew, Jr. is a talented artist with a developmental disability. I am so greatly intrigued by this collaboration and touched by my autographed notebook, which he carefully and painstakingly signed. I am in love. I don’t know how I will bring myself to use it, but I will, and I will do so with more love and gratitude than I have ever used any insert.
We traveled 39 minutes by train, but we met with experiences that will do something to shape us as individuals. That’s the thing about life. You don’t have to travel far to travel wide.