How to navigate a complicated world, one near-miss at a time.

Traveling is difficult. Let us help. Ask me anything at

Q: I’m going to New Orleans and want to spend a day outside the highly traveled parts of the city (mainly I’ve spent a lot of time in the French Quarter, Garden District, and Uptown) while still seeing sights and eating meals that are specific to New Orleans. I won’t have a car—any recommendations?

For this one, I turn to former New Orleans resident and current R&K editorial fellow Karen Gardner. Karen, where shall we go?

“I love the adjacent neighborhoods of the 7th Ward and Bayou St. John. Tourists don’t often make it this far from the river (except during Jazz Fest, when this area should be avoided at all costs). It’s a beautiful, walkable, friendly part of the city full of New Orleans charm and architecture. I got married in the 7th ward, so this part of town holds a particularly sweet space in my heart. A perfect day can be spent as such:

Start with breakfast at Pagoda Cafe. Sit at one of their picnic tables and enjoy your coffee and breakfast in the morning air before it gets truly hot. Then walk down Bayou Road toward Broad Street: look for the book store, thrift shop, and record store. If you’re craving gumbo (I always am), cross Broad and head up to Liuzza’s on the Track. After lunch, grab a coffee to go and a buttermilk drop from Fair Grinds and walk to Fortier Park. Relax on a bench amid the flowers and, if you’re lucky, watch a chess game. Then walk to Bayou St. John. You can walk along the bayou all the way to City Park and head to the New Orleans Museum of Art. When you leave the museum, walk the loop around the big lake (on your left as you exit the museum); it’s lovely to sit under the Singing Oak at dusk and be serenaded by its wind chimes. Next, head back down Esplanade for dinner at 1,000 Figs, Lola’s, or Cafe Degas. Afterward dinner, take a taxi to The Broad Theater for a movie. Finally, if it’s a weekend night expend what energy you have left dancing at Club Caribbean and end the night with jerk fish and a cold beer in their courtyard.

Q: I travel a lot for business and I always try to bring something back for friends and family, but often get stuck buying tchotchkes as I don’t have time to shop for something special. How can I find souvenirs in a hurry that aren’t airport trash?

A: In these cases, I always turn to food. While a monogrammed, handbound book from Cairo will be treasured forever, no one has time for that when you’re running around all day working and then collapsing into your sad hotel room with a beer before passing out. But do not be tempted by that sphinx figurine in the airport. Anywhere you go wll have local culinary specialties that are easy to grab, even if you’re not able to visit specialty shops. Grab tea and spices in Istanbul, a (VERY carefully) sealed bottle of fish sauce in Vietnam, or a package of gris sel in France. Often, I like to just wander through a random grocery store for a few minutes and see what looks interesting. Sure, some version of these items will probably be available wherever you’re headed home to, but there’s something about knowing your beautifully decorated can of sardines was sitting on a shelf near the Tagus River that makes it that much more enjoyable. Plus, it’s something people can actually use, and no one wants more useless crap in their lives. Just make sure you’re not getting something that will be nabbed at customs (or if you are, hide it well, although you didn’t hear that from me).

Q: On a recent flight, I was stuck in the middle seat and the guy sitting on the aisle kept his arm on our shared armrest the entire time. It sounds petty, but it made my already limited space feel even smaller. Doesn’t the person in the middle have dibs on those armrests?

A: Truly, this is one of the great questions. Perhaps not this exact question, but the struggle to understand who gets to benefit from shared resources. Neither one of you has a clear right to this armrest. So is this a war of all versus all, and may the larger forearm win? Should you put it to a vote? Try to persuade one another with reason? Does the person with the most need deserve a greater share? This is some political philosophy 101 shit right here.

That is to say, there is no single, definitive answer. But reasonable people agree that the person in the middle seat should, in fact, get an unspoken “dibs” on the inward armrests. Should they choose to forfeit this, by all means, aisle and window should enjoy the spoils. But middle seat is already in for a rough ride. I was once offered the choice between a 15-hour layover and a middle seat and I seriously considered sitting in the airport all day. You can’t lean on anything, you have to ask for permission to use the bathroom, and you have twice the chances of sitting next to a psychopath. Just cut middle seat a break, why don’t you? We’re all just trying to keep images of a fiery, terrifying death out of our minds so we can watch reruns of Will & Grace. Let’s treat each other like human beings while we do it.

One more side point: I’d argue that preemptively claiming the shared armrest is a primarily male faux pas a la manspreading, and I hope that it will gradually become a more pointedly discouraged activity as well.