About HurricaneJoe

I'm a searcher and a dreamer. I'm a sucker for good food, wine, and adventure. There's more to life than sitting in a cubicle wasting away in front of a computer screen, and I'm destined to find that life. I cultivate music, friendship, and learning. I'm a cynic that wears his heart on his sleeve. I'm hopeful.

Flurry of belated Portugal Memories

It’s hard to believe that I returned from my trip to Portugal almost 2 months ago, and have yet to write about the second half of my experience.  I’ve found it difficult finding the desire to sit down and write about my experience, I think partly due to the crowds (travel during high season), the hurried travel between destinations, and the unfulfilled goals that I had for this trip.  I think it’s apparent that the things I want out of travel are different now and that my approach to it is changing, or will likely change in the future.

When I think of the memories that stick with me while on mainland Portugal, I most vividly remember the following:

Traveling to Porto, and walking the boardwalk and narrow streets of Gaia, and visiting three of the Bodega’s that make port wine: Porto Cruz, Graham’s and Ramos Pinto.  This included witnessing a spectacular sunset as the backdrop of Porto from the Dom Luis 1 bridge.

Rediscovering my enjoyment experiencing the countryside taking a train from Porto to Lisbon.

Enjoying long walks on the beach and incredible sunsets in Ericeira.  I wanted to take surf lessons here, but found that I started to acquire a small cold once I arrived.  For those interested, Ericeira is a small surfing community.  If you’re interested in surf lessons, you should stay at Hostel and Surfcamp 55 – they’ll make all the surfing arrangements  for you.

Touring the castles in Sintra, a 45 minute train ride from Lisbon.

Having my fish-out-of-water experience (I seem to always have one of those), while trying to get through the ticket exit in the train station.  The reader wouldn’t accept my ticket.  After at least two minutes of struggling with the reader, a nice Portuguese woman came up behind me and pushed us both through at the same time.  The hospitality and help from people in the world never ceases to amaze me.

I mostly relaxed while in Lisbon, but while there, enjoyed some amazing fare at the Time Out market.  I also had a most incredible watermelon gazpacho at a restaurant near the bay area.  The night before I left, I also was gifted in experiencing a bit of Lisbon’s burgeoning micro-brewery scene by sampling some beers at Duque Brewpub.

Overall, it was a good vacation, albeit, I was quite tired of dealing with all the crowds.  I noticed, that upon returning home, that I had taken, roughly, 1/4 of the pictures I usually take when I’m gone for two weeks.  Instead of taking my SLR camera, I opted to take my point-and-click.  While walking down the streets of the towns that I visited, I was often compelled at times to take pictures of my surroundings, but decided against that.  I’ve found that taking a lot of pictures takes me out of the moment, and I don’t really experience my surroundings.

Since returning to the states, I’ve spoken with my friend, Lisa, a traveler currently living the dream (she may disagree) in Denali, Alaska, about my changing travel goals.  I think we both agree that the best travel is done while staying in 1 location for some time.  Traveling from place-to-place, only resting for a couple days, with constant planning, and harried preparations is really tiring after a time.  And many times, upon returning to your life back home, you find yourself exhausted and not entirely rested from the life you were trying to escape from (at least momentarily).

When I used to think of traveling for an extended period of time, it mostly encompassed seeing new places, and having different experiences while meeting different people from around the world.  While that’s still a goal, I think spending time in one place for a longer period of time and possibly becoming part of a community, or actually living in one place for a period of time, resonates with me a whole lot more than trying to pack it all in within a two week sprint.

It will be interesting to see what the next adventure brings.  Maybe I’ll slow down and take my time in one place.  Or, maybe I’ll accept the inevitability that I need to experience as much as I can while in my new destination.  Either way, I’m already thinking of my next adventure.

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Açores, beauty discovered

IMG_8477Little did I know, that I was starting one of the longest 24 hours of my life.  After taking off from Minneapolis, I settled in for a quick nap, before tuning into John Wick 2 for some entertainment.  I quite enjoyed it and resolved myself to watch the first one after I got back.  I had a difficult time sleeping afterwards, because the thought of flying through Nantes, France kept bugging me.

After touchdown in Amsterdam, I worked my way through security and spent the next 2 hours researching options for a better arrival time in Ponta Delgada.  Eventually, I exited the main terminal, approached TAP airlines about a ticket from Amsterdam to Lisbon to Ponta Delgada, in which they directed me to Delta/KLM to see if they could reschedule without any detriment to myself (which they wouldn’t), and then re-approached TAP, and bought a new ticket for roughly $300.  It extended my layover time to 8 hours, but I’d arrive in Ponta Delgada around 11:30pm.

I consider this a win for the most part, except, when it comes to questions of letting-go and going with the flow of life, I once again traded a potential adventure for certainty.  It’s not the first time I’ve done this (and probably not the last), but now that it’s done, I have a nagging feeling that something fantastic and wonderful could have happened to me if I just would have given Nantes, France a try (if only for one night).  Now we’ll never know…..  It’s one of the things that I really enjoy about travel – each trip prompts me to question how I approach challenges in life, and beckons me to let go of expectations and judgments for how thing’s “ought to be”.

I arrived at my hotel late, exhausted, and overall feeling disgusting in the clothes that I’ve been wearing for 36+ hours now.  Honestly, travel can be one of the dirtiest experiences you’ll ever experience.  Anybody that says otherwise is either lying, or spends their “adventures” hanging out in “all-inclusives” being pampered and living the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  It’s not my choice for adventure.

I checked into Out of the Blue hostel the next day and immediately felt at home.  Most hostels (at least the good ones) focus on building community and connecting people.  I immediately signed up for their pizza night, where a good portion of the hostelers spent the night socializing and making their own pizza concoctions from scratch.  Over the next 3 nights, I made a number of new friends, some from the states, and others from England, Portugal, France, etc.  I lounged in their hammocks while I spent extensive time catching up my reading.  When I think about the activities I did while near Ponta Delgada, the best memories were (and will always be) the people that I interacted with and the adventures I had.

My two dives were mostly disappointing.  I originally signed up for four, but cancelled the last two.  In fact, I almost cancelled after the first dive, after going through my air tank in record time and getting sick on the way back to port.  But, it’s amazing how much your stomach settles down after you projectile-vomit across the side of the whale-watching-boat-turned-scuba vessel.  My scuba partner was extremely understanding as I soiled the area that he originally was seated.

So disappointment aside, it was great to make up for my diving performance by hiking a volcanic crater, Lagoa do Fogo with three other hostelers the day after.  It gave me some good exercise and good company.  We all spent the night at the Hostel barbecue talking world politics and getting to know each other’s background.

The next day, I was invited to go to the north of the island, but instead, decided to rest up and do my favorite activity, jack-shit.  Due to scheduling at my current hostel, I checked into the 1ofus Bed and Breakfast, 3 blocks away.  After checking in, I took 2 long naps that day, and spent the evening walking the board walk.  I found over the years that I dislike travel where I’m moving from place to place and doing something all the time.  Travel is no different from real-life for me.  I need down-time.  I sometimes criticize myself for not fitting more into my travels, but the alternative is that I’m burnt out and not enjoying myself.

The next day would be my last full day on the island, so I caved, and rented a car for the day.  I hate driving in different countries, but I couldn’t stand the idea of being on a bus for the day, not having any control over where I stopped or what I saw.  At 9am, I picked up the car, and headed for Farol do Arnel, a lighthouse on the other end of the island, just south of Nordeste.  After 8 hours of driving around the island, I can honestly say that it is one of the most beautiful islands I have ever experienced.  Rolling green mountains and beautiful flowers and shrubbery.  There’s nothing a naturist wouldn’t love here.

I spent my last evening here eating and drinking tea at my two new favorite cafe’s, Cafe Cazzif (or the 3/4 cafe) and Cafe Louvre Michaelense.  I love the isolation of being on an island, but I’m looking forward to the mainland tomorrow.  If nothing else, it’s a chance to hopefully get away from the second-hand smoke that is so prevalent on this island.

Introduction to re-discovering my love for travel

Looking at my last post here, you would think that I haven’t traveled at all for almost 2 years.  The truth is, I’ve taken much smaller trips, and which I haven’t felt like I really have anything to say.  I could have written about snowboarding in Vancouver, or hiking the kettles on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound area of Washington state, or even walking Cannon Beach in Oregon numerous times over a week during Christmas 2016.  There’s been a lot on my mind, but no desire to put it down on paper.

So, here I am, mid-2017, and I needed to use a travel credit to Europe.  Namely, I need to use something on Delta/KLM.  I originally planned a trip for Luxembourg, but instead, cancelled, procrastinated, and then finally decided on Portugal and the Azores about a month prior.  I’m not much for planning things out ahead of time lately.  I’ve been asked many times over the last month, why I chose Portugal and the Açores, and basically, it comes down to a picture I saw posted on facebook of Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla (BMX and Adventure Sports athlete) diving in the Açores.  It looked amazing, and I felt like I needed to go.

For the past 3 years, I’ve been re-establishing myself financially and continuing to minimize my belongings……. with the intent of getting back out there and doing some globe-trotting for an extended period of time.  And 3 years later, I’m questioning why I haven’t left yet.  A new found conservative / laid-back approach to life, and a new girlfriend have created an unexpected shift in priorities.  But, travel nags at me from time to time, and I felt I needed to rediscover that part of my soul.  So I decided on 2 weeks in Portugal.

Like all trips, the weeks leading up to it are pretty much the same.  I find myself questioning whether I picked the right place or time to take my trip.  I start to worry about being away.  Some is paranoia of losing my job or something happening to my living arrangements while I’m away.  It’s preposterous – I know – but also a reminder that I need to get out of myself for awhile.  The nights leading up to my departure are usually sleepless with worry starting to set in that I’m continuing putting-off packing.  Do I really want to go?

But, the night before, I find myself 95% packed (I only pack enough to fit in a carry-on and a small bag that fits underneath the seat in front of me), and I sleep slightly better than the previous week.  I squeeze two final moments with the girlfriend into my schedule and ride off to the airport.

I’m already checked in, so I just go to the Delta kiosk to print off my tickets and….. something is wrong.  Instead of flying Minneapolis to Amsterdam and then continuing with KLM to Lisbon, they have my flight going through Nantes, France, and then continuing onto Lisbon the next day, which completely screws up my flight to the Açores and plans for the first day that I’m there.  After 30 minutes of investigation with Delta’s concierge, I find out the KLM flight was cancelled.

I guess it’s like Yvon Choinard once said:  “For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when the adventure starts”.

Francophone

It’s been well over a month since my last adventure, which I think is very illuminating of my inability to focus my time on other things and being unable to reflect upon my recent adventure.

It had been over six months since my last adventure, and I’d been starting to feel that familiar restlessness coupled with burnout from my current job.  So, I had originally romanticized a motorcycle trip up the west coast from California to Vancouver until I did the math and decided on something smaller.  So, wanting to work on my Franglais a bit, I decided to head north to that magical place called Canada and spend a week in Quebec followed by a week back in Minneapolis doing my favorite thing in the world:  Late morning in bed followed by Jack-Shit..

IMG_7940For some odd reason, I was completely oblivious to departure times when I purchased my round-trip tickets to Montreal.  Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, or maybe I had just procrastinated for so long, that I just overlooked the details, but I my flight out of Minneapolis was at 6am, which meant that I would getting up at 3am to make my flight.  And to be honest, when I woke up that morning, I considered eating the cost of my ticket so that I could enjoy two weeks of doing very little instead of one.  But there’s nothing like having hundreds of dollars invested in something to give you that nice, unhealthy, kick in the rear and send you on your way.  Yeah – I’m going on an adventure.  So, being a master of small goals, I decided to just get on the plane and have whatever adventure comes my way.

I arrived at the lightrail station only to find out that they were inoperable for the weekend.  I was lucky enough to hail a taxi at that hour in the morning and get a ride to the airport.  The thing about adventures, is that there are many times when things don’t go your way and you’re forced to find another way.  Here’s hoping that I’ve completed my fill of miss-fires for the duration of the trip.  Upon arriving at the airport, I was immediately greeted by fear and desist propaganda blaring over the airport loudspeakers.  After 12 hours of wandering in airports and being packed into small planes like a sardine (United), I finally arrived in Montreal.

IMG_0603It was raining heavily when I boarded the bus to downtown.  Enroute to my hostel, I struck up a conversation with Gabrielle, a nurse from Montreal, who helped me get to my stop, and set me off in the direction of my hostel.  Being mostly tired from traveling that day, I set off to find some food and then take it easy for the night.

For the next couple of days, I feasted on a Hostel continental breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, apple muffins, and orange juice.  It’s free, it sustains me until well into the afternoon, and the hostel doesn’t care that I lounge around their common room in my plaid pajamas.  Having been oblivious to my departure plans earlier, I did however luck out and book my hostel close to the Latin Quarter and the Old Town (Port Vieux).

IMG_7928I spent my first full day in Montreal exploring the Old Town, where I first entered the Marche Bensecours, a small tourist shopping market in an old Victorian-style building.  I first walked by and then entered Labo Gourmand, an outlet for a Apple Cider Wine maker, I caught the eye of Natalie, a beautiful woman from Colombia, coaxing me into the store for some wine tasting.  Even after explaining to her that I had no room to store wine for my trip, she continued pouring small samples for me to try.  Now that’s salesmanship.  I took her card and was off.  The day was grey and after walking around the mist and melancholy hanging the air of the old port that day, I decided to head into a small cafe for a tea and pannini.  It was there that I met Pam, a tour guide that was speaking both French and English with her friend.  I chatted her up a bit and she gladly gave me some suggestions before heading back to work..

I retired to my room at the hostel for a nap.  Upon waking up, I checked the couchsurfing website and was surprised to find a meetup 2 blocks from my hostel that evening.  Making my way to the bar, I walked through Jardin Gamelin and happened upon a swing dance put on by Cat’s Corner dance studio in the park.  I quickly joined the group and started dancing with some of the lovely ladies of Montreal.  After about 45 minutes of dancing, I arrived at the restaurant to find a very small couchsurfing meetup in progress.  With me, the total equaled 3 people.  It’s sad to see couchsurfing deteriorate in popularity over the years, but things change.  After wolfing down some dinner, I headed back to the swing dance in the park for another hour of dancing.

The next morning, I decided to familiarize myself with Montreal’s Subway system, which is actually pretty interesting.  It is one of the few (if not only) subway system in the world where the cars ride on rubber wheels.  My first goal of the day was to take Pam’s advice from the day before and head out to the Marche de Jean-Talon, a big open market with a number of different cultural eateries in the area.  However, after walking 3 blocks, I realized my laptop bag was insufficient and uncomfortable for carrying my camera equipment. After stopping in Atmosphere, a sports store, I picked up a small Osprey day pack and headed out.

IMG_0585When I arrived at the Marche de Jean Talon, it was packed with people searching for fresh fruit and vegetables.  Being hungry, I stumbled upon a neat little Italian bakery for some homemade pizza, before returning to the market to wander around and play with my Camera.  I picked up a couple of fresh Peaches and decided to take in Mont Royal, a big hill with a huge chateau and spectacular views of the city.  Upon arriving at the Chateau, I was surprised to hear the soundtrack from the film Amelie Poulain being played by a young woman sitting at a piano right outside.  A backpacker giving a free concert to any passerby that would listen.  After an hour or so of walking, I decided to head back.  On my way from the Bus to the Metro, I happened upon The Royal Pickles, a Montreal ragtime band playing “I’m Just a Giggolo” for a small audience.  The wonderful thing about wandering around and exploring new cities is stumbling upon the small concerts and shows that people often put on.  Busking is an art enjoyed by all.  I was looking forward to tomorrow.  New destination, new adventure.

IMG_7957Another benefit of my hostel’s location was that I was only 3 blocks away from the Bus Station.  After settling in to my seat, I was shown a series of safety videos warning me not to play music too loud, not to bang on the seat in front of me, and of course, not to smoke marijuana on the bus.  Canada, you disappoint me.  But after 3 hours, I had arrived in Quebec City.  I was starving so, I grabbed a chicken wrap that tasted about as good as cheese-flavored packing material and caught a taxi to my hostel.  Situated in the old town of Quebec, near the board walk and an old Citadel, my hostel Auberge Internationale de Quebec was within walking distance of everything.  I checked into my 6 person dorm-room and quickly made the acquaintance of my Parisian room-mate.  After walking around the old town, I stopped in and Irish Pub on St. Jean street for another Poutine dinner before heading back to the hostel.

IMG_0642Most good hostels have an area where people can hang out, meet, and usually order a beer.  The Auberge Internationale de Quebec was not different.  I sauntered up to the bar and ordered a fine Quebecois beer from my new German friend Gunnar, a slightly weird, but laughable German, who has been doing his internship in Hospitality here for the last couple of months.  After about 30 minutes, people started piling in, and I came to find out that the Hostel had a Bar crawl planned for that evening.  Wanting to meet people and hopefully practice my French a bit more, I decided to tag along.  After walking about 3/4 mile, we arrived at our first destination.  Aside from two girls from Canada and the US, everyone else was speaking French.  I met a number of people from Quebec and France.  After 2 stops, I headed back to the hostel tired, and ready to sleep.  I got four hours of sleep, before my Parisian roommate returned, drunk.  After collapsing on his bed, he quickly passed  out and started to snore.  After a couple of feeble attempts to quiet him, I resigned myself to a fitful night of sleep.  Life in a hostel dormitory.

Lucky for me, he had an early departure, so I was able to sleep in and get a decent amount of rest.  After a late start, I finally got some momentum and headed out around noon to catch a bus up to see the waterfalls at Montmorency.  Not nearly as spectacular as Iguazu, but nonetheless, it was a cool experience.  One which provided me the opportunity to get out of the hustle of the city, and experience nature a (tiny) bit.

IMG_0651I returned to my hostel and took a quick nap before wandering out for some dinner.  I spent the evening walking along the boardwalk, taking pictures of the mouth of the St. Lawrence, and venturing to the edge of Lower town.  My day was coming to an end, and I had to catch a bus back to Montreal the next day, so I went back to the hostel and decided to hang out with Gunnar one more time before leaving.  Gunnar is a funny guy – after expounding upon my troubles with my loud Parisian friend the night before, Gunnar couldn’t help himself but tease me that with his internship came the benefits of having a private room.

Later, another traveler, John, a motorcyclist from New Jersey sauntered up to the bar to have a beer.  Squeezing in a small motorcycle trip over 4 days to Quebec City and back, John was a perfect example of someone that was time-poor – someone trying to fit in as much as he possibly could before having to return to work in a couple of days.  We talked about travel and he conveyed his desire to travel for a long(er) period of time.  Even at 37, he was convinced it wasn’t possible, the threat of his disapproving father hovering above him.  I encouraged him to go anyways.  Parents (usually) come around.  But it was a reminder, that even though I was able to allow myself a week to enjoy Quebec, that I was somehow slipping back into an old lifestyle where my life is mainly dictated by my work and life obligations.  While I had felt the dread of leaving Minneapolis for Montreal in the beginning, I had finally settled into a travel rhythm and was enjoying myself.  I can feel myself getting restless, now that the thrill of traveling has started to sink back into every pore of my knowing soul.  It calls to me like a siren that I cannot ignore.  It tugs at me, softly compelling me towards certain decisions without ever realizing why.

IMG_7973The next day, I returned to Montreal feeling that my trip was winding down.  I already knew it wouldn’t be enough time to truly decompress.  But I do the best that I can, experiencing what I can in the time I have available to me.  After checking back into the hostel I had originally stayed at, I decided to look up Cat’s Corner dance studio and take their Friday night dance lesson, followed by their late-night dance.  I quickly set out for that area of town, and before arriving at the studio, stopped into a local restaurant for my fifth or sixth poutine dinner.  By that time, I had lost track of how much poutine I had eaten on this trip, but suspected that I had eaten close to my body-weight of fries, cheese-curds, and gravy.  My Canadian friends would be proud.

I headed to their studio after dinner and checked in for the lesson.  It was fairly basic, but I hadn’t expected much.  I was mainly there for the dancing and  socializing.  During the night, I had struck up a conversation with Emily, an attractive dancer who described the experience of Montreal as “orgasmic”.  I tried to talk her into being my guide the next day, but she unfortunately had to move into a new apartment.  I guess I’ll have to experience the orgasm that is Montreal on my own.

My last day in Montreal was gray and dreary, which was fitting, because that is how it was when I had arrived.  It felt like somehow things had come full-circle, and I would be leaving the same way I arrived, but hopefully with something new to take away and influence my life in some positive manner.

IMG_0752I hit the subway one last time and headed out to the Bio-Dome near the Olympic Stadium.  The Bio-Dome is somewhat like a zoo, but with 6 different eco-systems.  There, they let many of the animals roam free, with some barriers to protect the animals from human interaction.  After the Bio-Dome, I headed out to Mile End, a popular area of Montreal.  I had heard of a place called Dieu du Ciel (God of Heaven), a brew pub that supposedly had great beer and food.  I arrived there late in the afternoon and was lucky to arrive just before a line started forming out the door and down the block.  After waiting in line for 20 minutes, I finally reached the bar.  I wanted to order food, but there was no place to sit, so I ordered a drink and headed outside to enjoy my beer.  Here, I struck up a friendly conversation with a Montreal native and his friend from the US.  We discussed politics in which I was told “It’s really up to Ottawa.  If the vote among the liberal parties is split like it was last time, then we’ll have Harper for another term.  But hopefully they get their shit together and unite under the Liberals.”  Imagine that in the most thick Canadian accent you can imagine.  Regardless, I was getting hungry, and my new friend recommended heading straight down St. Laurent and finding a place called Schwartz’s.  Schwartz’s is well know for making an amazing cured smoked-meat sandwich.  When I arrived, the place was packed.  I waited 5 minutes before a person directed me to an open spot next to the assembly area.  My lucky day.  It was in-and-out in this place.  I ordered a sandwich and poutine and it arrived in under 10 minutes.  The meat was so tender it was literally falling apart on its own.  Another satisfying gastronomic experience to add to my travel memories.

IMG_7968And then the evening was spent having dinner at the 3 Brasseurs (3 Brewers) in the old port.  I started to zone out and reflect.  I had been running around for the last 7 days, experiencing everything I could.  It was at a leisurely pace, but one which left me feeling like the trip had been too short.  I walked back to my hostel in a very melancholy rain, knowing I’d be sleeping early so that I could catch the 3am bus to the airport.  If I take away one thing learned from this trip that I might improve about my travels, it is to book my plane tickets later in the day, so that I might sleep in more.

But here’s to one more week of sleeping in and decompressing before returning to work.

Winter Exile

Skyline

It’s been 8 months at my new job, and I’ve been feeling the need to have an adventure.  I was planning a 3 week snowboarding extravaganza through Colorado, Utah, and up to Canada, until the death of my sewage ejection pump in my rental property suddenly nixed that glorious idea.  After its demise, I didn’t really want to spend money on an adventure, but the Minneapolis winter and burn-out from work prompted me to impose a winter exile on myself.  So, I settled on 6 days in Colorado, attempting to hit as many slopes as my body and time would allow.

I was excited because this trip would allow me to try out airbnb for the first time in my life.  Being an avid couchsurfer in the past, I felt it would be a similar experience.  Also, a week before leaving, a friend of mine informed me that he and another person I knew from Minneapolis would be up before the weekend to hopefully do some snowboarding and skiing with me.

IMG_7842After renting a car and having lunch with my friend in Denver, I drove up to Silver Plume, where I met my hosts for the week.  Geoff and Lauren are two extremely laid back and friendly people that have a lifestyle which allows them to work from home.  A modest and beautiful home at the base of the mountains.  Ten minutes from Loveland Ski resort, the location was perfect.  They greeted me at the door along with their two hyperactive but loveable dogs, Jake and Dexter.  After dropping my gear and settling in, I headed out to Lucha Cantina in Georgetown where I ate nachos with their “Ghost Salsa”, the hottest salsa I’d ever had in my life.

IMG_7852The next morning, I awoke early and headed up to Arapahoe Basin ski area.  It was lightly snowing, but not cold.  It has been two years since my last snowboarding adventure in Whistler, BC, so I spent the morning getting my snowboard legs back.  At lunch, I stopped by the pub for a quick bite when I suddenly lost my favorite beanie from Patagonia, which I had bought it in the fall at Midwest Mountaineering and had worn all winter.  I was surprised how quickly my mood had changed.  As I’ve traveled, I’ve gotten used to losing things or having them stolen.  I usually don’t worry about it too much.  But the beanie…. well, it made me start to question the attachments that I have in life.  “It’s just a hat.  You’ll find another”.  Or maybe not – I’m pretty particular about the things I own now.

Welcome flames after a busy day of snowboarding.

Welcome flames after a busy day of snowboarding.

I did a couple more runs for the day, and after being satisfied that I was now carving up the blue diamond runs well, decided to head back.  I was exhausted and ready to bed down for the night.  It’s funny to think about, but after waking from my slumber in the middle of the night, I headed to bathroom, groggily to take care of some business.  While all seem quiet for about 5 seconds, I could suddenly hear a flurry of activity outside the bathroom door.  Both dogs locked in a hurricane of play-fighting which dissipated after 2 or 3 seconds.  As if the dogs awake from their sleep ready to battle at a moments notice.  There can be only one!  Luckily, I could make it back to my bed at this point without getting attacked.

Denver Botanical Gardens

Denver Botanical Gardens

Tuesday, I woke up tired and sore and realized that any attempt at snowboarding would be a waste of my energies that day.  I spent my time getting up and then headed to Denver for the day.  After checking out the botanical gardens and the 16th ave mall, I located a Patagonia store hoping to replace my lost beanie.  By this time of year, they’re rolling out their spring clothing line, which means no beanies were in sight.  I headed back a little dejected to Silver Plume.  My neck was feeling better and I was ready for another day of snowboarding.

Wednesday, I decided to head to Keystone.  I had heard that it was a fun place to go and it definitely didn’t disappoint.  The weather was beautiful, if a bit cold in the morning.  I put on my gear, inhaled an egg sandwich and then wiped away the orange juice dripping from my chin, ready to attack the mountain for what would be my most glorious day of riding snow.

Denver Botanical Gardens

Denver Botanical Gardens

Snowboarding requires all your concentration.  Like other sports, surfing, rock-climbing, etc, you quickly concentrate on your movements.  For me, it’s much like meditation.  Rocking back and forth, applying force to your back foot to steer, it’s like concentrating on your breathing during meditation.  It is meditation, and helps me to clear my mind.  Many times throughout the day, I’d stop on some slope and peer out at the vastness of some of earths glorious mountains and remind myself how fortunate I am to be in this place and have these experiences.  A sunbeam would dance across my face illuminating a smile that didn’t leave until long after I had left for the day.

Ready to go.

Ready to go.

It had only been 3 days, but I was starting to feel the need for some companionship.  I consider myself a pretty solitary figure and enjoy traveling alone, yet, there are times…. when being alone is not exactly welcome and the alone-ness turns to loneliness.  I read so many travel articles on how great it is to travel alone and for the most part I agree.  You can make friends everywhere, but it’s just not possible to create the type of connection that you may really want at any given opportunity.  At least not for me…..

So, I reached out and tracked down my friends who informed me they had made it to Colorado and were in the process of heading up to the mountain.  We agreed to meet in Frisco for some dinner and laughs.  It would be a nice change from the solo trip I had taken thus far.

Denver Botanical Gardens

Denver Botanical Gardens

I burned up the afternoon, grabbing some Starbucks in Dumont and then napping the remainder of the afternoon away.  I arrived in Frisco ahead of my friends by an hour, so I located the bar we had agreed to meet at, ordered up a drink, and sat back while I enjoyed reading Drive by Daniel Pink.  After 45 minutes, my friends showed up and we headed to the sushi place next door where we caught up over jokes and stories about the dumb things we’ve done in the past.  Later, I opted to leave early so that I could ensure to get some time snowboarding the next day.  They informed me that there was a storm forecast-ed for the next afternoon, so I wasn’t sure I’d even get a full day of snowboarding in.  We still agreed to meet up at Copper Mountain the next day for my last day of snowboarding before heading home.

Memories and Laughs

Memories and Laughs

I woke up the next day fairly early to cloudy skies and slight flurries.  I headed out to the mountain, strapped on my gear and sent messages to my friends.  No response.  Being a solitary traveler, It didn’t really bug me.  I’m not much for waiting on friends, which is one of the reasons I choose to travel alone.  It wasn’t going to change the fact that I was going to hit a couple runs.  By 11am, I finally received a text that my friends were hung over and not going to do the mountain that day.  I felt a bit disappointed, until I received a message from one of my other friends unexpectedly.  I hadn’t seen Andrew in a couple years, but he saw my pictures on facebook and wondered where I was at.  Interestingly enough, he had just moved to Silverthorne, just 10 miles east of Copper, 3 weeks prior.  We agreed to meet up later in the afternoon at Dillon Dam Brewery to catch up.  It was as if the universe was letting me know that only by asking, it would provide me with some company for the day.

Old and new Friends

Old and new Friends

Andrew, his girlfriend, Hannah, and I met up at Dillon Dam Brewery in Silverthorne for lunch and caught up.  After getting sick of the Minneapolis winters, Andrew decided to make a change for better weather and country.  He seemed happy and I was happy to catch up with them.  As for Hannah, I knew I liked her after she made a reference to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  The snow was blanketing the town of Silverthorne, and I was already informed that I70 westbound had been closed.  If I had any chance of getting back, I had to leave sooner than later.  We exchanged hugs and I was off.

A bit of advice to all you travelers out there: Before heading into a snow storm where you might potentially be in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it is ill-advised to have a caffeinated drink before leaving.  After an hour in my vehicle, natures forces were telling me that the possibility of returning to Silver Plume to relieve myself was likely impossible.  After a failed attempt using the Starbucks cup left in my car from the day before, I finally came upon an exit where two old men had also stopped to take care of the same mistake I had made.  We gave each other the universal sign of “gentlemen in the same predicament” of solidarity and then went upon our business.

Hell of a storm

Hell of a storm

The trip was over and I was happy to know that I had successfully left everything I needed to let go of on my mountain exile.  My stresses and insecurities white-washed from the edge of my snowboard carving back-and-forth along a powder of opportunity and adventure.  I had played in the snow for 3 full days (some men never grow up) and I felt much better for it.  After returning to Minneapolis, I quietly acknowledged to myself that I was so done with winter.  Spring was on the horizon and I was ready for whatever challenges and adventures lied ahead for the year.

Epilogue

It was two days after arriving home from my trip.  I had returned to work, the stresses of my job already returning.  It was evening, and I decided to take in my favorite deli for dinner, the Afro Deli.  Their Afro Asian Chicken Suqaar, Gyro’s, and Sambusa’s are my personal recommendations.  This night, however, I would get some of their Somalian Tea and Chicken Fantastic.  But before getting dinner, I decided to hit my favorite outdoor sports gear store, Midwest Mountaineering.

Upon entering the store, I quickly moved to the clearance section, and sitting right in front of me was the exact same Patagonia beanie that I had lost in A-Basin.  Things had come full circle and the twin of my stolen beanie had presented itself to me as if to say “From this day forward, I will protect your head and ears from the winter elements, my master”.  I was overjoyed at stumbling upon this beanie for the second time.  Maybe I have an unhealthy relationship with certain items I possess, but I wouldn’t criticize until you’ve experienced the wonder of Merino Wool over your ears during the cold winter months.

And all is right in my universe once again…..

Cooking with Van Keszler: Professional Approach to Basics

It was time to get off my ass and start doing something for myself.  I had been living a somewhat hermit-like lifestyle now for the past 10 months wondering where all my drive to do things had gone.  I was dumbfounded with my lack of motivation in trying anything new. Hadn’t I, while walking a beach in Mancora, Peru, decided that once home, I would do things better and actually pursue the things that gave me happiness. While perusing the Cooks of Crocus Hill website late one evening, I stumbled upon a class titled “Professional Approach to Basics” taught by Master Chef and Instructor from Cordon Bleu, Van Keszler.  A class that teaches many of the foundations for making stocks, sauces, soups, and yummy foods was just what I was looking for.  And just a couple of days after Christmas, I wouldn’t have to worry about sneaking in one last gluttonous moment before my news years resolutions would rear their ugly head.

IMG_7748Arriving early on Saturday morning, I found my place right in front of the chef just as he was starting to cook down two huge blocks of all-natural butter.  Yeah – I knew the food was going to be good.  Van Keszler started to address the class by detailing what we could expect from the next two days.  His dry wit and sarcasm quickly put the class at ease.  I felt like the class was mostly full of people similar to me – people that love to cook, but not necessarily comfortable with all the details.  People looking to bring more to their own personal cooking. After about 45 minutes of cooking basics, methods, and a bit of science behind the cooking, we started creating teams for cooking projects.  “Who wants to do fish?”.  IMG_7750I slowly raised my hand and then 3 followed suit.  After picking teams, we got started.  Everyone, I think myself included, shot up and started gathering supplies, asking each other what we should do, and then realizing that no one really knew how to start.  Our initial mild freak-out sessions quickly abated as the chef moved from team to team offering encouragement and insight.  There were times he’d snarkily respond to something that you were trying to do.  While helping me out, I joked “I hope you don’t go Gordon Ramsey on me.”  He smiled and responded “I don’t get mean, I just get sarcastic.”  I can handle that.

IMG_7752The first day saw all of the teams creating various stocks (Brown, Chicken, Fish), Chicken Marsala, Pommes Parisienne, Sole Meuniere, Cream of Mushroom Soup, French Onion Soup, Various Viniagrettes, Shrimp Bisque, and some sauces / veloutes.  Everyone involved sat down for dinner twice, and by the time all of us left for the day, we vowed that we wouldn’t be eating dinner that night.  Instead, I decided to celebrate my day of cooking instruction by meeting up with some friends for some drinks.  But really, do you ever need a reason to go out with friends for drinks?

IMG_7755The next day, I arrived early so that I could claim a spot in their small parking lot.  I had a half hour to kill, so I went next door to Bread and Chocolate for a Chai and some Cardomon Cake.  I’m not sure why I ordered the cake considering in 2 more hours, I would be stuffing myself with more comfort foods. Class started similar to the day before where the chef talked about Braising techniques, sauces (derived from the stocks that we created the day before), and the various recipes we would be tackling that morning.  The morning session ran longer due to the length of time needed to cook the Balsamic-Braised Short Ribs, Coq au Vin, the Pork Blanquette, and all the IMG_7759accompaniments to go along with it. Cooking in that setting goes pretty well overall, until it doesn’t.  My class members looked over with amusement as I called out “Chef, may I confer with you about my peas?”  Dear god, please, I don’t want to be the guy that screws up cooking peas.  In the end, I hadn’t really screwed up the peas.  The lettuce we had used for that recipe wasn’t the highest quality and tended to bunch up in the mixture.  Our makeshift family for the weekend finally sat down around 1pm for our first dinner.  It was incredible – If I was impressed from the day before, I really was impressed now with the food we were preparing. The menu for the second half consisted of Fish en Papillote (white fish cooked in parchment paper), Roasted Chicken, Stuffed Pork Loin, Glazed Carrots, Steamed Brocolli, Green Beans Armandine, and Rice Pilaf.  To accompany all these dishes, all of the teams were responsible for making a sauce or two.  My team ended up making beurre blanc and sauce supreme (a mushroom sauce).  And, just before sitting down to eat second dinner, the instructor demonstrated the art of making hollandaise sauce.

IMG_7763When we finally sat down for our last meal, everyone, including myself, admitted that none of us were really hungry at all.  Do you think that kept us from eating the food we just prepared?  Not at all.  Like the day prior, we vowed that we wouldn’t eat dinner that night.  I stuffed myself as much as I could, fearing that if I went any further, my liver would turn to Foie Gras.  But, I finally had to admit defeat and lay down my fork.  The food had won, and I had gained a great deal of knowledge to improve my cooking that weekend.  Before leaving, I and several others tried to lend a helping hand to the dishwasher’s that had made our jobs so much easier that weekend, but we were shooed-away.  As we filtered out of the kitchen, we passed by our teacher and mentor and said thanks.  I added that I appreciated his patience and asked for a recommendation on a bread baking class.  I already had my sights set on my next challenge.

Forget the house, travel instead

Saving-for-a-HomeAbout 14 years ago, after I had moved to Minneapolis, my friend Jo had invited me to a presentation at REI.  A young woman in her 30’s had just traveled for 6 months to India and Nepal.  I remember her telling the audience that she had just saved enough money for a down payment on a house, but instead of buying a house, something had prompted her to travel instead.  This was years before I had acquired the travel bug, and honestly I was there because my friend Jo, a fellow traveler, was looking for ways to satisfy his own wanderlust.  I hadn’t thought about it much as I plodded along, working in corporate america, and eventually saving enough money myself where I was comfortable to buy my own home.  And in 2005, I finally did buy my first home.  And now, upon reflection, I wish I would have payed more attention to the possibilities being created in my life and refrained from buying a house.

People acquire houses for many different reasons.  For starters, as young adults, we’re often told that a house is a good investment because a) we’re not throwing our money away on rent every month and b) the house can appreciate over time.  Secondly, owning a house is seen as a sign of success in our society.  It is considered a major life achievement to own a home.  And of course, as a home owner, you can eventually make the leap towards renting out your home if you have those entrepreneurial ambitions.  Property is a symbol of your ever-expanding empire, in a sense.  Let’s also not forget that it is nice to have our own space, something that you can enhance to your liking and have your own creative space.

Upon entering my 30’s, I too, took the red pill and purchased a home.  In trying to be frugal, I finally decided on one half of a small twin home.  At 1200 square feet, it was modest, but perfect for my tastes.  And while I was extremely happy living in this home for the 8 years after I purchased it, I wish that there were some things that I understood before purchasing a home.

Homes are money pits

If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Money Pit” you’ll understand my reference.  While obviously over-the-top in humor and absurdity, the movie does have a good point.  All houses require maintenance and upkeep, and it is usually not cheap to maintain a functioning house.  Even a house in good condition can easily require a couple thousand dollars a year in maintenance fees.  If you’re somewhat savvy as a handyman, you can reduce this cost, but it doesn’t completely disappear.  As a first time homeowner, there’s many things that you’ll likely not pay attention to.  My home has a sewage ejection system that pumps everything from my house out into the street and up a hill to get to a sewage mainline.  When it is functioning, then everything is great.  But when it breaks it’s anywhere’s from $700 to $2500 to repair.  The pumps usually stay in good condition for 2 to 5 years.  Go ahead and do the math and factor that into your monthly costs.  On top of those costs, you need to think about big appliances (washers, dryers, etc) breaking, plumbing problems, exterior maintenance (painting, roof, lawn care, etc).

Your mortgage can make or break the situation

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I was one of those individuals that got caught up in the purchasing boom around 2005.  Being not sure of how long I wanted to stay in the house, I went with a 3 year Adjustable Rate Mortgage, with no down payment.  Anything below 20% down is also subject to mortgage insurance.  There are ways to avoid this, but keep in mind a tax will be added to your mortgage which won’t automatically come off after the loan is paid down to 78% of its original value.  After 2008 when the value of my home fell almost $70,000 in value, I was unable to refinance due to many different factors.  Thankfully, the Adjustable Rate Mortgage (which resets every 6 months) has remained fairly steady and has not increased any.  However, I’m always a bit worried about what happens when interest rates start rising again.  I’ve ridden out the storm surprisingly well, but the issues surrounding my home are a small annoyance and fear, always in the background.

Buying and Selling homes is expensive (and not easy)

Typically, you can expect to pay between $3000 and $5000 for broker and real-estate fees when purchasing or selling a home.  You can get that cost added to your mortgage so that you may pay it off over time, but it’s still something you have to pay.  Also, keep in mind that selling a home doesn’t always go as smoothly as you may have it built up in your mind.  After you decide to sell, there are appraisal costs and inspections that you have to undergo before you can sell the home.  And if the market is soft, depending on how badly you want to rid yourself of your property, you may end up accepting a far lower cost and still owe money on it after you’ve sold it.

Renting your house is not easy, either

If you do decide to travel, you may convince yourself that you’ll just rent out your house. While definitely a viable option (it’s what I did), keep in mind that it’s not as simple as just putting and ad on craigslist or padmapper.  You’ll most likely have to acquire a rental license from the city which requires money, inspections, and in my case, a required renter’s orientation class provided by the city.  If you’re smart, you’ll also hire someone that will manage the place for you while your gone.  Remember, that while you’re hiking the trail to Macchu Piccu, you’ll sometimes have worries about your property in the back of your head.  And let us not forget that unless you sell everything you own, you’ll need to find a place to store all your stuff after moving out of your place.

All the stuff that you’ll acquire

Like goldfish expanding to the size of our environments, owning a home (bigger space) can prompt us to acquire more things.  This is partly what anchor’s us.  All of those possessions that we rarely glimpse and get stowed away somewhere far from regular use.  I spent a full year to year and a half emotionally-parting from all of my things, selling them off or giving them away so that I could travel more easily.  The process was long and cumbersome.  I’ll never go back and am much happier now having gone through that process, but it is painful nonetheless.

Houses are not that great for investment purposes

While houses are known to appreciate over time, there’s ample evidence that suggests that the value of homes increases due to inflation only, and the actual value of the home only increases a mere 0.2%.  And let’s not forget the money you’ll be investing in your home for repairs and enhancements.  Unless you have the mindset where you like to put in a lot of your own manual labor and turn the houses yourself, I think you’ll be spending far more money and having more frustration hiring professional contractors to repair / upgrade your property. If you’re not sure if you’re ready to settle down, you should instead invest your money in an interest-bearing account that conservatively generates 5%.  That’s much better than the 0.2% you’ll see over the long term.

People Change (of course), as does everything else

As much as you’re committed to your vision of settling down, and creating a life for yourself, you don’t really know how your life is going to unfold.  At 35, I realized that I wanted to travel the world.  You may not have ambitions to travel, but you may lose your job, or cease to enjoy living in the neighborhood where you live, or receive a kick-ass job opportunity out in Portland or Vancouver.  Your life is going to change in so many, unexpected ways, and when you’re young(ish), a house is going to make it that much more difficult to flow with the amazing opportunities that are on your horizon.

After my foray into home ownership, I’ve developed a fairly jaded view towards this enterprise.  However, I do not believe that one should never own property.  In fact, while I’m still a bit raw from my experience with the current property I own, I’m sure that I will buy another property in the future.  It’s just that I plan on being much smarter about it the next time around.  I will not buy a home unless I have the full 20% to put down.  I personally think it’s better to buy a home outright, if you can, as a 30 year mortgage can leave you paying 250% of your home’s value after you have made all payments and paid off the interest and insurance.  And, if I was to do a mortgage again, I’d be sure to opt for a 15 year loan, instead.  Or better yet, for someone who is single, I’d recommend buying a tiny home for $30,000, save your money and then retire early.

Now, many people reading this may think I’m advocating a nomadic lifestyle of never settling down or making any kind of commitment.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I’m only advocating taking a moment (or ten) and rethinking your desires to own a home.  While the market might look good and you might feel the pressure of getting a good deal, step back and really look at whether you’re ready for a home and whether it will really benefit your lifestyle.  I advocate that people be smarter in saving their money.  And if your dreams are in owning a home, go for it.  Otherwise, hold off and travel the world (or follow whatever other dream you may have).

The year in review: The year of living uncomfortably

Just the other day, I realized that it’s been over a year since I left on my first extended travel experience.  It was November 2013 when I flew out of Minneapolis and started my journey in Quito, Ecuador.  From there, I experienced 4 incredible months of travel followed by 10 more months of personal exploration, re-adapting to Minneapolis, and adjusting my life to new wants and new needs.  So, below is a slight recap that looks forward with hope and excitement.

The Big Slowdown

I can’t run around anymore.  For many years, I would drive everywhere and try to fit too many things into my life with the hope that I could experience it all.  I’ve given up on that and have become very particular about what events I attend.  I’ve found that I push back more on events when I’m not feeling even 80% excited about them.  I’ve also thrown out my schedules to some extent.  I don’t try that hard to be anywhere at a specific time anymore.  I’ve also come to hate traffic, especially close to rush hours, and have chucked driving for riding the Green Line Transit into work.  Sure, it’s an hour total to get to work and another hour to get home, but I can read during that time.  I’ve found I’m much less stressed and in a better mood on those days.  Now, if only the Afro Deli wasn’t on my way back to my apartment…..

Frugality

It is partially a product of my uncertainty of where my future endeavors may lie, but I’m extremely conservative and deliberate in anything new that I acquire now.  I continue to sleep on a small $70 IKEA mattress in my apartment.  I have my table and chairs from before I left, but no couch.  I’m not entirely happy with the return to apartment-living, but being that I’m uncertain about where I’ll be in the near future, it’s acceptable for the time being.  I also go out for drinks or dinner less than before and when I do, I often stay in my neighborhood where I can easily walk to my destination.

Travel

There’s no turning back.  Since I’ve made this commitment towards traveling, I’m experiencing an even stronger pull to get out there again and see the world.  I’m prompted to head back to South America to see the countries that I missed such as Columbia, Bolivia, and Brazil.  However, I also have a strong pull towards heading east and visiting Iceland, Greenland, Europe, etc.  I’m currently targeting summer or fall of 2015.  And yet…..

Growth

…. there’s a major nagging sensation that I need to figure out my own personal happiness and growth in this world.  I love travel and respect all the people I’ve read that have made traveling a permanent lifestyle choice.  However, I’m feeling the need to contribute more and to get involved more in the causes that matter to me the most.  And while I recognize that the two options (traveling vs. work / professional growth) are not necessarily mutually exclusive, I’ve found that I need to put focus towards that aspect of my life.  It’s very foggy at this point.  I may have to figure out a way to include more growth experiences or entrepreneurial activities within my travels or potentially spend an extended period of time somewhere working to create something of value.  I realize now that expecting to fall into something through wandering the world is unrealistic for me.  I need to start trying some things out and seeing what sticks.  I’ve recently signed up for some cooking classes to expand my knowledge in something that I love.  I’m also continuing to look for volunteer opportunities with organizations I care about to provide me with experience in different areas of service.  I’m starting to recognize my desire to create my own work rather than contribute to someone else’s.

Letting Go

If there’s one concept that I’m trying to embrace fully, it is that I need to let go of bad feelings, judgments, assumptions, jealousy, insecurity for myself or towards other people.  I want to move forward with more acceptance and less stress in my life.  I’m also much better at embracing the uncomfortable experiences and uncertain times that present themselves.  It truly has been a year of discomfort on many levels, but I think I’ve adjusted quite well to the life that is awaiting me.

Resolutions

Yeah, we all make them and often times break them, but t’is the season, and I’ve always been one to set some goals for the future (even if they’re really small so that I’m sure to achieve them).  I want to write more.  I want to create more and put it out there for other people to experience.  This can include cooking, music, writing, software.  If I can be less timid in my approach to life, I think I may open up some new and incredible doors for myself this coming year.  I also want to work more towards my own personal calmness and tranquility.  I’ve always thought passion is a wonderful thing to have, but I want, for myself, to be more calm when challenges present themselves.  And maybe even a bit more excited to take those challenges on.

It’s a new year (in 7 days) and the sky is the limit.

Travel and the eureka moment

Over the last two weeks, my friend Lisa, also a fellow traveler, sent me a couple of links to articles about returning home after a long trip and the adjustment that one usually undergoes.  I was especially struck by this article where the author expresses dismay at not having experienced a “Eureka” moment where he suddenly feels like his life makes sense, or that he knows what his calling is.  Before I left on my trip, I too had hoped that the answers would come to me and that I would find something that might propel me forward in life.  And while I experienced some moments where I stumbled upon some nuggets of understanding, I unfortunately didn’t experience any kind of “Eureka” moment.

After being back and having time to process my time away, I’ve come to see that the expectation or hope that you’ll have some profound experience that will elicit the answers to your questions is unrealistic.  It’s also unfortunate that one would make long term travel plans with that expectation in mind.  Don’t get me wrong – I do believe that people can experience a moment of clarity while traveling that answers what they should pursue as a vocation in life, but I don’t think someone should expect that same outcome.

For me, traveling is no longer about finding THE answer.  Instead, it is an exercise in learning to let go.  To travel for any length of time, you’re required to let go of many things including your home, comfort, belongings, friends and family (for a time), security, etc.  And any notions of who you think you are will likely drift away as you undertake new adventures, meet new people and enjoy new experiences with the people and places that surround you.  You’ll likely let go of old grudges and regrets.  You’ll forgive yourself and the world around you for any misdeeds and misunderstandings.

And through letting go, you’ll free yourself from all the baggage that you had before and open yourself up to the possibilities of this world.  And through your new-found lightness, you’ll shed some of your fears and push yourself to try things that originally frightened you and held you back from living in the moment.  You will develop greater confidence in yourself and better understand how far and fast you can push yourself.  In the end, a clarity will settle upon you and notions will develop within you of what is possible.

And this is where I think the magic starts to happen.  You learn to embrace uncertainty and discomfort, for those are the things that help to propel us forward or to make big changes in our lives.  But it’s not a change that happens overnight, and it’s definitely not a “Eureka” moment.  Nor is it a destination where you finally know all that will make you happy or land you your dream job.  Instead is the realization that you’re living your best life now and that instead of having all the answers to life, the universe, and everything, you’ve learned to enjoy the positive moments in your life to their absolute fullest.  You’ll no longer try to rush those moments or keep yourself on a schedule, but instead you’ll start operating from your heart and making decisions based on what you feel you want.

It’s a commonly held belief that when traveling to the Galapagos Islands, that Charles Darwin was so influenced by the wildlife that he encountered there that he ultimately had a “Eureka” moment where he then developed his theories on evolution.  However, upon further research, it has been proven false and has been shown that he had actually been working on his theories for a substantial amount of time prior to his time in the Galapagos..

So being that answers typically materialize over a lengthy period of time, I’ve come to the realization that it’s more about appreciating and enjoying our lives to their fullest in-between the times where life may elicit those answers.  So, if you haven’t had a “Eureka” moment in your life, fear not – you’re living it right now.  The act of challenging yourself, having some adventures, and stepping out of your comfort zone will ultimately provide the answers that you seek and contribute to the life that you want.

 

Creative Space

StatueIn the 3 months since my last post, I’ve basically struggled with finding a comfortable place to do the creative things that I love (cooking, writing, playing guitar, etc).  Hence the hiatus from contributing ideas to my blog.  Yet the need to create persists, and I’ve come to realize that this is something that I need to make time for.  Recently, I came across the article on Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Non-Conformity site aptly titled Why You should Write and realized how fulfilling it is for me to get my ideas out there.

In May of this year, I joined a co-collaborative, co-networking group called CoCo.  I basically took a risk and joined with the hope that I’d network with new people in different industries and would soon be well on my way towards establishing my own career identity.  I’ve scrambled to fill the gaps in how I effectively network and am still hoping to see the fruits of my labors.  Networking is a full-time endeavor, one which I have a lot more respect for.

Along with the challenges of networking, I’ve come to realize the importance of creative space.  When I was younger, I used to think that musicians paying rent on a place that they could store their instruments and practice, a jam-space if you will, was quite foolish and unnecessary.  But now I get it.  The space to create is an extremely important component of the creative individual.  A place where musicians can leave their gear as well as define the type of work that is created is very important to the overall mental health in moving their artwork forward.

A couple years ago, a friend of mine who’s director of a small IT company embarked on what I consider a really amazing project.  He decided to build a tiny house.  Initially, he found a warehouse 30 minutes south of St. Paul, Minnesota to begin the construction of his house.  For about a year and a half, development went well, before construction got to a point where the house could weather the elements on it’s own.  Soon after, he terminated his lease with the garage and moved the tiny house into his backyard.  Financially it was a very wise decision.  At the same rate, after the move, new construction on his house almost completely ceased and he found difficulty in working on it.  Priorities had obviously shifted, but he readily admits to me that without the garage he used to work in, he finds that he’s not as excited to work on his project anymore.

After moving into my current apartment a couple of months ago, I’ve struggled to work on anything creatively.  I don’t own much at this time, and am reluctant to go out and purchase anything new due to my uncertainty of what I want out of life next.  Do I want to get a new home, or do I want to leave next year on another grand adventure?  Unfortunately, the complacency and inability to commit to any direction has forestalled any progress in making my apartment into any kind of creative space to work on my ideas.  It wasn’t until recently when I finally moved my table out of my friends storage unit that I felt like I had some kind of work-bench again.

Recently, I heard about a friend that moved into an apartment complex that was designed to cater only to artists.  They have an intense and thorough interview process where you have to prove that you’re the type of person that would benefit from living there.  With the emergence of co-working spaces, living spaces catered towards artistry, or places where one can go create, learn, and collaborate, like The Hack Factory in Minneapolis, it makes me wonder if we’ll see more and more creative spaces pop-up in an effort to provide needed work areas for people looking to be creative and explore.

My eyes have been opened to the importance of creative spaces.  People cannot confine themselves to any 4 walls and expect to be creative.  In many companies, there’s an expectation that one can be seated in a cubicle and expected to produce stellar work.  However, that’s not the case.  I’ve found that by exposing myself to other creative individuals, at least once a week, at least helps me to keep my creative juices flowing.  Creative output is a difficult thing to measure and often takes a period of time to manifest, but I do believe that the environment that we place ourselves directly impacts our ability to be creative.