Who are you? What do you do?
I'm Bridget Gleeson. I'm a travel writer based in Buenos Aires. Occasionally I've taken assignments in the US or Europe, but I mostly cover destinations in Latin America.
Where in the world...
What I do on both weekdays and weekends really depends on where I am in the world. In my years as a Lonely Planet writer, I've worked on projects that require me to spend weeks and even months on the road, waking up in a different hotel almost every morning.
Coffee is a priority everywhere. At home, I drink a liter of water just after waking up. Then I make café con leche, quite methodically with a timer and measuring spoons and a French press, and serve myself one cup after another while I work. Usually, I forget to eat, unless I happen to notice an apple sitting on the counter. While traveling and staying in hotels, I have no control over how my coffee is made, and so I'm less interested in the coffee and way more interested in the pastries on the breakfast buffet.
Hotel breakfasts in Brazil are the best – strong coffee, gorgeous tropical fruits – and hotel breakfasts in Chile, often consisting of Nescafé and white bread or crackers, are truly the worst. (Disclaimer: I absolutely love Chile, I just hate breakfast in Chile.) Argentina falls somewhere in the middle. Once on a seven-week work trip through Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, I had dulce de leche with medialunas, the Argentinian version of a croissant, every single morning. That was the only breakfast item available in those remote towns. Delicious, and an occupational hazard.
My concept of 'home' is unconventional. In the past few years I have rented and sublet so many apartments – in Buenos Aires, Santiago, Prague, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, a couple of other cities – so I travel light and I'm not overly attached to domestic objects, apart from a few things I take with me everywhere. That said, I've been renting a loft I really like here in Buenos Aires. It's starting to feel more like home than many other places I've stayed.
I live alone, and I work alone. So when I am at 'home' and writing, my weekdays folIow the same rhythm. I listen to NPR and have coffee outside on the patio, staring at a long to-do list in my notebook. I spend the morning e-mailing with editors, working on the projects and stories I have on schedule, and making travel plans. At any given time I am running Kayak searches for at least one or two plane tickets. My browser keeps crashing. Then I have more coffee. I forget to eat.
I like to write and read and take pictures: I do all of that for my work these days. One of my favorite things to do in the world is to play the piano. My mother made me study it for ten years, from the time I was five years old, and now I am so glad she did. But of course my semi-nomadic lifestyle does not usually include access to a piano. I actually considered renting one apartment in Buenos Aires for the sole reason that the listing said the place came with a piano. But the barrio seemed a little on the dangerous side, so I decided against it. I do carry some of my favorite sheet music with me sometimes, just in case I have a chance to play somewhere.
Takeout and wooden spoons
I am absolutely an aspiring foodie, though I never want to take that too seriously. I always liked to bake cakes, probably because I have such a sweet tooth, but once I started my career as a travel writer, I became really interested in the particular cuisines of the different parts of the world I've been so lucky to explore, trying to recreate those dishes for my friends and family when I return. Whatever skills I have as a cook have been greatly enhanced by the fact that I spent the past decade living outside the United States. I learned how to debone a chicken in Italy when I was nineteen. I remember standing over an open flame in this rustic outdoor kitchen in Nicaragua, at a house I lived in for four months in Granada, stirring this gigantic pot of gallo pinto with a wooden spoon. That's how I learned how to cook, with basic ingredients and whole foods. I come back to the United States, take one look around, and realize that if I had stayed in my country, I might not know how to scramble an egg – I would probably just be living in New York and ordering takeout every night.
On weekends I give myself permission to spend the whole morning in the kitchen, making strata or lemon cake from scratch while listening to KCRW's Good Food or The Splendid Table. This is especially true if I'm going to a brunch later, or any kind of get-together. I am always trying to organize these things with my friends and family in Buenos Aires: I need an excuse to make food. I threw my own birthday party, a brunch, on my friend David's beautiful terrace in Palermo Hollywood. I spent hours at the market and in the kitchen, starting with a cutting board and a knife and pile of potatoes and lemons and apples. I made a feast, and it turned out to be a perfect day.
I listen to NPR News first thing, then certain podcasts while I'm making coffee – Slate's Culture Gabfest, Fresh Air, Freakonomics. I listen to so many podcasts, but I have clear ideas about what time of day is right for each: more educational programs during the workday, food podcasts while in the kitchen, The New Yorker fiction podcast while in the bath.
At night I usually read before sleeping. I finished The Goldfinch about five seconds before Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer prize for fiction. Now I am reading two books at once, a habit I picked up from my father: The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud and a biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Instead of the news, I turn on music. When I was growing up, my parents used to play Billie Holiday on Sunday mornings, so turning on Lady Sings the Blues feels wonderfully nostalgic. On weekend mornings, I allow myself some little luxuries: it's one of the only times I write something that I'm not paid to write. And I make myself breakfast. Instead of accidentally starving myself like I do during the week, I'll have delicious fresh eggs scrambled with zucchini and portobello mushrooms. By doing this, I make myself remember that it is the weekend. Sometimes I will go for a walk through Palermo Soho and buy flowers for myself. Then, if I have even the slightest excuse to make more food, like an afternoon party or a merienda with friends, I will go back to my kitchen, put on an apron and stay there all morning.
Ideally, a blissful balance
I spend so much time by myself, whether traveling alone or writing at my desk. On weekends I crave the opposite. On Sundays I like to camp out at a sidewalk café with my sister, make food for my friends, take my niece Luisa to the park, or open a good bottle of wine and just sit around the dinner table with my family. My idea of a perfect weekend is, to draw a parallel from the Proust Questionnaire, the same as my idea of perfect happiness: a blissful balance between solitude and companionship. I think I'll spend my whole life striving for that.