“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher
One of my coworkers mentioned this quote to me yesterday and it really struck me as so insightful. When we travel, we open ourselves to seeing the whole world with new eyes. It changes our hearts. It grows our spirits. Traveling helps us to reimagine our purpose and path. If we can change our minds, we can change anything and that is the most empowering benefit of travel.
Phin and I are on the road to D.C. today, only our second solo road trip together. We’re just taking it one mile at a time. We’ll have plenty of tunes to keep up company, a couple of pit stops along the way, and with any luck the snow will be cleared off the road by the time we reach Washington on Thursday. The journey really is one of the best parts of life. Here’s to adventure!
This weekend I finally saw the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey, the story of a restaurant-owning family in Mumbai who loses everything and finds a new life in France. Though that trip was full of experiences, the journey that really transformed their lives was the hundred-foot walk from their new home and restaurant in France across the street to a rival restaurant.
It’s a beautiful story about challenge, love, loss, dreams, redemption, courage, and risk-taking. Go see it. It prompted me to realize that while travels around the world have so much to teach us, the travels that make us who we are often happen just around the corner from home. What’s your hundred-foot journey, the great life lesson you learned close to home? Tomorrow, I’ll tell you mine.
I’m planning a trip to Iceland in April and my friend, Sheldon, sent me a BuzzFeed piece that confirmed my suspicions: someone crawled inside my mind and built me a country! Why I should live in Iceland, and maybe you should, too:
Happy and friendly
Iceland is the 4th happiest country in the world. I’m now building up my cheek strength by excessively smiling. (I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.) Also, there is virtually no violent crime and the police don’t carry guns.
Books are everywhere
Iceland has a 99% literacy rate and publishes more books per capita than any other country. Books are the most popular Christmas gift. It’s an Icelandic tradition to exchange books on Christmas Eve and then spend the rest of the night reading. They usually take their books to bed with some chocolate. (There’s a pickup line if ever I’ve heard one!)
Beauty (and clean energy) is everywhere
The sun basically never sets in the summer, it has the dazzling Northern Lights in the winter, and is famous for its rejuvenating hot springs. The houses are unique and colorful and the landscape is rich with wildlife including cuddly horses, the adorable arctic fox, and magical reindeer. (Phin will have a diverse set of friends!) It’s also a very clean and environmentally sustainable country. 25% of their power is generated through geothermal sources and they plant more trees per capita than any other country. And here’s the real kicker—Iceland has zero mosquitos! (Now you’re speaking my language!)
It’s the #1 country for gender equality and was the first country to elect a female president (Vigdis Finnbogadottir was President for 16 years). The former mayor of the capital city of Reykjavik was a punk rock taxi-driving comedian.
Their traditional yogurt is actually cheese (WHAAAAT?) and they have a special sauce for everything they eat. (Just stop it, Iceland. THIS is too good to be true.) There’s no McDonald’s in Iceland and they’re famous for making the world’s best hotdogs.
Iceland is the most web savvy country in the world. 97% of people have broadband.
Most Icelanders believe in mythical creatures such as elves, trolls, and fairies. (Iceland, where have you been all my life?)
April can’t get here fast enough! I’ve got fairies, cheese, books, and smiling faces waiting on me. Skál! (“Cheers” in Icelandic.)
A couple of weeks ago I read E.O. Wilson’s take on the basis of all transformative events in our lives. As I thought about his ideas, I realized all of my writing and the stories I love start in one of the three ways he outlined:
You (or your characters) take a journey to an unexplored land
This might be to a foreign country (or another planet if you love sci-fi like me!) or it could be around the corner to a new cafe. Daily adventures are important. They give us the opportunity to expand our minds and heart by interacting with newness. I whole-heartedly encourage taking them as often as possible. I plan to take quite a few myself.
You (or your characters) search for the grail
We’re all in search of the secret – how to be happy, how to find and keep love, how to be more creative, why it all matters. There’s no shortage of quests we can take to find the meaning in everything and everything. Go in search of something that matters to you and let your characters do the same.
You (or your characters) engage in a battle of good against evil
And it’s all the better if we have a hard time figuring out which side is which, and if the battle is as much about brains and courage as it is about brawn. Things are never as good as they seem nor as bad as they seem. The same is true for people. We all have light and dark within us. It gets really interesting when the light and dark meet, and when we’ve got some difficult decisions to make. The very best of life, and writing, is often found if we are willing to go into the shadows, our own shadows.
The most compelling reads and lives practice more than one (or all!) of these beginnings on a regular basis. In 2015, go have adventures and discover newness, seek out something that really matters to you, explore your own shadows, and get down all the juicy details. I can’t wait to hear about what you (and your characters) find.
The only essential for a good trip, an adventure that sticks with you long after it’s over, is happiness. Pack it in abundance. Seek it out, in all the people you meet, places you go, and things you do. Be a joy seeker and a smile junkie, and give both away, as much as you can possibly muster. What you’ll find is that you won’t feel spent. Instead, you’ll feel more fulfilled than you ever thought possible.
Travelers go out on a limb. They see with fresh eyes. The sounds and scents of the new get their blood pumping and their imaginations churning. We can be travelers wherever we are, even in a city that’s familiar, even in our own hometowns.
Florida’s been my second home for over a decade and over the past few days here, I’ve spent a lot of time taking it all in again as if it’s the first time I’ve ever been here: the morning light, the dramatic thunderhead clouds, the wide open space, the peace. I appreciate all of it now more than I ever have before. I’m grateful for the small moments and details.
Travel isn’t just something I do; now it’s who I am, everywhere I go.
I planned to Twitter and Instagram my way down the East Coast as I made the move from New York City to Florida. Fate intervened and long story short, my phone was stolen at JFK airport on my last day in New York. Because I didn’t have time to get a new phone before I left, I made the trip without one. I was forced to enjoy the scenery and be in the moment for over 1200 miles of our beautiful country. It was wonderful to disconnect from my device and connect with the world, even for someone like me who loves technology.
I was able to capture a few pictures with my digital camera. Here are some highlights (literally) from the road!
I don’t ever write anything unless I believe it and support it 100%. That kind of standard has a price. I have a client that wanted me to write a post about crime in Central Park. This is a perfect topic for me because I live on the park and go at least once a day with Phin. I’m very passionate about the park and I like to share my passion for the place with readers. In the past couple of months, I’ve been alarmed by the crimes reported in New York City’s parks, Central Park included. In addition to analyzing crime stats of Central Park for the piece for this client, I also wanted to include a list of safety tips, particularly geared toward tourists who visit the park for the first time.
The client wants a rewrite. They want the piece to be softer and to position the park as a very safe place as opposed to being more data and safety-oriented. They also want it filled with links back to other parts of their site that have nothing to do with crime. I won’t do the re-write and here’s why:
1.) Crime and safety are not soft subjects and they are not topics that should be sugar-coated. Balanced certainly, but being soft on crime in content development is irresponsible. Readers need to armed with the facts: Central Park is far safer than it was 20 years ago and visitors still need to keep safety top-of-mind. They shouldn’t take safety in Central Park for granted because crime is down compared to 20 years ago.
2.) I’m protecting the site from a potential PR disaster. Let’s say that a tourist reads this “softer” article on crime and is lulled into a false sense of security during their visit. If something should happen to that visitor and they say, “I read on (name of site) that Central Park is so safe and look what happened to me” the site could be held responsible. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take with someone’s safety.
3.) Link loaded pieces, under the guise of content marketing, are no better than spam. A few links are helpful. 20 links in one article looks ridiculous. Whenever I see a piece loaded with links, I don’t even read it because I assume it is no better than a paid advertisement. I think this type of piece crosses an ethical line for the sake of marketing. I’ll leave that to other people who want to write those kinds of pieces. It’s not for me.
I did publish the piece, as is, on Allvoices.com. As freelancers, we cobble together our living from a number of different sources. Every dollar counts and sometimes it can feel like we’re backed into a corner, subject to extreme editing (many times by people who are not writers, nor editors) for the benefit of paying clients and at a detriment to our own standards. It’s tough to walk away from money. It’s even more difficult to walk away from money for work I’ve already done and won’t be paid for because I refuse to compromise my principles. However, I go to bed every night with a clear conscience knowing I’ve helped a lot of people and not harmed any. And that’s much more important.
When I get out Phineas’s travel carrier, he never knows where we’re going. Sometimes, we get on a plane. Sometimes, we head for a car or the subway. We’ll go over to Brooklyn and visit two of our favorite friends, Amanda and Jordan. Sometimes, we’re going to the vet.
No matter. Without fail, Phin enthusiastically jumps around at the site of his carrier because he knows we’re going somewhere to do something out of the ordinary. He doesn’t need to know where he’s going; he’s just prepared to enjoy the ride. We, and by we I mean me, should live more like Phin.
Thanks to my friend, Alex, for this beautiful photo – and the reminder to enjoy every adventure.