Comfort Crash Course

Send Christine Words of Comfort!

I’m just a few days away from my big departure on the Comfort Crash Course—my 15-day transatlantic journey from New York to Berlin via freighter ship during which I’ll be investigating the roots of human comfort.

The idea, of course, was to get as far from the city and all its comforts as possible while doing this. But now that the date is nearing, I’m getting a bit nervous.

As I walk around the city each day, I’ve been forcing myself to think: of all the things about the city, which is the one that offers me the most comfort?

The list of contenders is long. It ranges from cafes that serve gluten-free banana bread and corner stores that are open 24/7, to park benches, aboveground subway stops, and graffiti that talks about love. It includes bars and food carts, bike lanes and wide sidewalks, and things so basic I take them for granted, like indoor plumbing, cell phone reception, and abundant wireless Internet.

But the thing that has by far landed at the top of the list is human interaction.

To me there is nothing more exhilarating about a city than the people and interacting with them every day. Whether with my best friends, my colleagues, a traffic cop I only ever see once, or the woman at the grocery store who tells me when blueberries are back on sale because she knows how much I like them, having different interactions every single day makes me feel alive.

Now, it’s not like I’ll be completely alone on this journey. An average freighter ship these days is staffed by about 20 crew members, and there may also be other passengers. But the crew will be busy taking care of the ship, and the likelihood that some other civilian is crazy enough to think it would be fun to sail the North Atlantic in the dead of winter is probably pretty small.

So to help fill the gap, I want to hear from you.

Send me words of comfort!!

My colleagues back on land will be able to send me plain text e-mails through a special shipboard e-mail address, and they’ve promised me to pass on comforting quips from our followers.

Maybe it’s a poem, or a short story about a comforting encounter you had that day in the city. Maybe it’s a favorite quote, or simply a friendly little hello. I’ll take it all.

Send your words of comfort to, and my colleagues will pass them on just when they think I need them the most.

Maybe I’ll even write back. It’s been a while since I’ve had a pen pal.

  • Akster

    Dear Christine, 
    It’s not the dead of winter in Berlin anymore.  You have picked the perfect time to be coming to Berlin.  Days are getting longer and the sun has actually started to shine.  One comfort that I have found in Berlin are the public markets and the community garden     The bakers knows you after a while, as does that lady that sells the organic veggies.  Joining the urban beekeeping trend that is sweeping New York, London, Paris, and well… Berlin, I took a bee keeping course there and started last year with two hives.  When you arrive in Berlin, avoid picnicking in the overcrowded Mauerpark, check out bigger and wilder Tiergarten instead.  

    Have a great trip!

  • Maiwand Maiwandol

    need life for myself first, then will see what to give others for comfort either…

  • Maiwand Maiwandol

    berlin is nice but for which prise…why not will see, lets see…but see

  • Ronn Daniel

    Can you point us to the place where you have posted the bibliography? I am very curious what you will be reading

    • Anonymous

      Hi Ronn, we don’t have a full list handy but we’ll try to post this online when Christine is back on land. Thanks so much for following along!

  • Aki

    You were was seventeen
    and had no idea
    about diego-garcia.  Now keep warm, enjoy the sway,zip up land’s not far away.What seems to be the destinationmay only be with  fascination a new beginning – Berlin.Enjoy the rideThe ocean is wideYou are its guideAki

  • Jose mejia Architect

    Hi Christine,
    For me, Sense of Comfort is the result of being surrounded by Nature, no mere of what inner unsatisfied scenario you are at, Nature will provide you relief anywhere in the world. Berlin is a nice city, just imagine the multicultural society you will be involved with, that is another beauty of True Comfort, Isn’t?  

  • alexandre

    Don’t put that face on you, everybody prefers a smiler one.
    And be tranquil the key answer to good people relationship, no stress.
    All the best for you.

  • Crichter

     at first, learn german

    • Anonymous

      Thankfully Christine already speaks German! Hope you’re enjoying the series so far.

  • Laura

    Christine if the relative silence  on board is deafening are you
    listening to music? This is where I’d
    seek comfort. Or, perhaps you hear the music of the ocean and stars like so many other adventuresses. Good trip!

  • raq

    hi Christine, just to comfort us all also, I absolutely agree with you that the best comfort cities offer is human interaction and I was able to experience that in Havana last week, living in the Plateau in Montreal, I can say that I am a city person, but human interaction in Havana overseeded what can one experience in any major city in North America. Havana’s Prado Paseo, the ramblas of the city is animated day and night with activity and children gymnastic class, the rumba show from the nearby school, the older people hub gathering to meet friends, the Colon and Prado meeting corner for the recent house selling and exchange activity and many many other social activities that make a city and well design public spaces in Havana a confort city amid the lacking reality of almost any “other comfort” expected services from a city. Havaneros are happy, social and welcoming people, that’s more than comfort. Even our Berlin friends that were visiting the city for the first time felt at home!

  • Daniel joseph Keller

    hi Cris i,ll make a cho. malt milk shake carpi diem 

  • Harleydankel

    have been to the hyde colletion I use run the jonit . Its Glen Falls n.y got to se it we have a Mona Lisa done in silver ink have fun and think out of box. size the day!

  • Ucce A.

    Hey Christine! I’m sure a lot of your findings about comfort through this experience will come in retrospect, but while in the moment I’d like to send you a hello! I read where someone mentioned music. Music is for certain a great escape and can make every moment brand new – as every track could be a new moment and soundtrack to your experience. And when that gets old, a one on none game of tic tac toe can hold you for a good minute and seventeen seconds. But that’s not what you’re here for! Focus! Haha. I’m sure you’ll find that your mind can create comfort through tolerance and conditioning. Hmm.

    Keep it up! 

  • Vorny

    Hi Christine
    I’ve never been to Berlin but I find the song Always Take the Weather  With You a comfort. The quality of our experiences can be warmed by our inner states.
    Have fun.

  • Marcy

    Hi Christine,
    I hope that you will be comforted by an awareness of the value of what you are doing.  You can wake up each morning (hmmm, that’s a blessing in and of itself!) with a feeling of being involved with a life-affirming project!
    In my case, I am comforted by this: I have dedicated myself  — after years of creating paintings and drawings and collages and videos – to the presentation of one-on-one, face-to-face interactive performances as an antidote to virtual forms of communication, such as email, texting, blogging, etc. (Yikes!  We are in virtual communication right now.  Oh well, a little bit is OK!)
    So, I work with real people in real time and in real space.  This is extremely fulfilling, on many levels.
    Good luck!  Be well!  Be comforted!
    Marcy B. Freedman

  • Edgar Gonzalez

    hi chistine, 

    congrats on your adventure. My proposal to your comfort readings is this:

    there has been always intrigued me the “comfort food” concept, which is very anglosaxon i think at least in spanish the concept as such does not exist.

    the relationship of comfort and food concepts are somehow at least fascinating.

    I would like to share with you one of my favorites websites about food, with the link of comfort food.

    Edgar Gonzalezeditor in

  • Anne Prib

    Hi Christine,
    a very famous quote Berlin is known for says “Berlin is a city damned forever to become, never to be.” (Karl Scheffler, 1931) So I thought maybe some more questions may comfort you on your journey to Berlin: How much comfort does change need? Which feeling of comfort comforts you the most and why? Enjoy your trip… :-) all the best from berlin, anne

  • Natalia

    Hi Christine, wonderful idea for the cross over! I’m sending you a big hug from over here and a pocket of short stories-portraits we wrote about the ships of our sea-less city: Houseboats, ferries, cargo ships, theatre ships, many water ways, all in Berlin :) You can write back at berlin.storytelling(at), would make me happy. Viel Spaß in the meanwhile! Natalia.

    • Christine McLaren

      This is amazing!!! I’m spamming this far and wide to all Twitter followers! Thank you thank you!

  • Anne-marie Djurfors

    Hi Christine,
    words of comfort,a poem I was reminded of…

    The river is within us,the sea is all about us;
    The sea is the land´s edge also, the granite
    Into which it reaches,the beaches where it tosses
    Its hints of earlier and other creation
    T.S Eliot

    Enjoy your trip and have fun!

    Anne-Marie Djurfors
    of Sweden

  • Pooja 502

    human interaction? Can I come along?

  • Karen

    maggie and milly and molly and may by E.E Cummings 
    ‘ For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.’

  • Rose Bodin

    Christine, Your comfort is a fantastic journey to a wonderful place where you will meet some new friends and through you, so will we, so thanks for taking this journey. My best thoughts about Berlin, would be the 1920’s when they were the most progressive city in the world and Weimar’s Germany produced some of the best art we have today. Enjoy. Rose

  • Carol Z.

    Christine, hello.  I’m excited by the thought of your being on a container ship!  I’ve always thought freighters were romantic conveyances, visually stunning with their colorful, building block-like containers on board.  My ancestors are from Spandau, the old city, located within what’s now Berlin.  I’d love to see it someday.  I recently housed a professor from what was formerly East Berlin for a few months while he was visiting NYC, and heard all about the Berlin.  Sounds wonderful.

    Here’s a quote for you:  ‘Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, which is why it is called the presentHope you have a memorable time on the rest of your journey full of starry nights and interesting chats with the crew.Best wishes from Carol Z.

    • Christine McLaren

      Never have I seen starry night like one I experienced on the ship. My experience of ueber starry skies has always been limited to the mountains, coming from British Columbia and all. But there was one night, dead in the middle of the Atlantic where it was so dark that I couldn’t tell the difference between the black of the water and the black of the sky – until the stars came out, and kept coming and coming and coming. Eventually the sky was nothing but a blanket of silver smudges, and I could tell where the horizon was, because it was where the stars abruptly stopped. Unbelievable. And yes, a present.

  • Christine McLaren

    Yeeeeeeeowsa!! What a response! I received most of these comments when I was on the ship, and some of them I’m seeing now for the first time. You guys are amazing! I’m truly overwhelmed. Thank you for all your inspiring, fascinating, and thoughtful, er… thoughts. I hope you’ll keep reading along and putting the same brainpower into other discussions with me/us.