Road Trip!

Zero Dark Thirty, we rolled out. Regardless the hour, the excitement and anticipation were palpable. Over a great highway, southbound. And we chatted and the kids dozed and woke again.

After several hours we arrived. And immediately we set to work, “having fun.” We learned pretty quick from the kids’ reactions to various proposed rides, what their courage levels were, what they wanted to do. We made the most of the mixed bag of excitement and anxiety. Some rides we rode twice because we had the chance.

Lessons too learned along the way. There were some tears, along with the fears, and honest assessment of desires and drivers in our plan. A better plan there could have been, to balance a bit more and spread out the work of having fun. Funny the lessons that come from vacations, outside the box, fresh lessons about life and love and living together. Lesson learned, lesson learned.

In the end we did have fun, didn’t we? Was it the sparkly things or the magical place or the whoop-dee-do ? I hope it was a mix of it all stirred up in the Disney Bowl if so many options and shiny lights and loud sounds and smiling faces and story-book settings.

I hope they had fun. There were tasty treats and sparkly bling and a fuzzy new friend and keys of magic, all came together as we barreled along through three days at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Soon it would be time for shifting minds back to normal during the final long ride; sealing the memories in the pictures and souvenirs and fun we had.

Feeling thankful for the chance for this big adventure, mindful of all it took, grateful for all the planning, the efforts poured into it all for our family to have fun.

Yes, we had fun; “it’s all about the kids”, as the wise saying goes, seen in the back of a vacation shirt on Friday afternoon.

Then in a flash, or maybe a fade? It comes to an end. It’s time for the ride back home, down the long road north, through an autumn Sunday afternoon. As the sun fades in the west, and darkness settles in, as we ease back into normalcy, to the normal of home and the day to day, we think back with a smile.

Fun we had! A big adventure we did!

And we’ll do it again. Yes, we will. And soon!

All GOOD.

I Didn’t Know This About Sushi

[NOTE:  This excerpt taken from the always AWESOME Seth Godin blog.   Full credit to his experience, insight, and great writing.  I read his piece, got the underlying message, but also learned something about Narita airport, sushi, and where to get the good stuff.]

“One of the best airport restaurants I’ve ever encountered breaks my first rule of airport eating. The sushi bar at gate 30 of Narita airport is a special place (though I wish they didn’t serve tuna).

The rice is extraordinary.

The nori is crisp.

The service is efficient but friendly.

They have wonderful vegan rolls, flavorful shiso, and yes, it’s hard to believe but true: real wasabi, grated to order.

My guess is that the very best sushi restaurant in your town doesn’t serve real wasabi. But I digress.

When I was there a few months ago, I apologized to the entire staff.

I apologized to them on behalf of every traveler (many, if not most, from my country) that was dredging this extraordinary product in soy sauce, bathing it from top to bottom in the style created to mask the flavor of generations-worth of mediocre, lazily-created sushi.

The Japanese equivalent of putting ketchup on your food in a fine restaurant.”

Lesson:  I’ll never saturate another piece of sushi with soy sauce.  I promise.

 

 

 

Leaving the Grind Behind


It’s time to head out on the highway.  The first family road trip is dialed in and coming soon. Leaving the usual day-to-day behind, packing up, and on the road once again.

Very excited for a bunch of reasons.  I’ve loved road trips as long as I can remember. Going new places, seeing new things. Taking the kids on such an adventure, all the better.

No dishes to speak of?  GOOD.

Change up of schedule?  GOOD.

Living out of a suitcase and van for a few days?  GOOD.

Change up of surroundings and scenery?  GOOD.

Spend time with friends we haven’t seen in a while?  GOOD.

Kids get to hang out with new kids, similar ages?  GOOD.

Going to a new park?  GOOD.

Spending long stretches of time with the kids, drenched in ordinary activities?  GOOD.

Spending long stretches of time without screens on?  GOOD.

Let the soul be refilled.  I’m ready.

 

Far Away Lands, Moving Mountains, and a Cry Down the Hall

An old friend from high school has been traveling and living in Asia, Africa, South America, and even Antarctica, for some time now.  Thanks to social media channels, I’ve been able to follow his wanderings, and be inspired remotely by his adventures, insights, stories.  I love reading his posts, hearing about his latest experiences in other parts of the world. The vagabond spirit within me is stirs every time.

I’ve been an opportunistic traveler all of my adult life.   I’ve visited maybe fourteen countries so far.  Those pleasure/adventure trips lasted anywhere from a few days to at most a couple of weeks.  I was lucky to spend one year living and teaching soon after college in Donetsk, an industrial city in eastern Ukraine [and of late, sadly in the news with the violent civil conflict happening there].

When I think about a life of travel and the call of the road, nearly every time John Steinbeck’s words from his book, “Travels with Charley” come to mind. There he described his wanderlust, how his “toe starts tapping when he hears a train’s whistle…”, or something like that.  Since I read that book some 25 years ago, I’ve felt that simple characterization describes well my own feelings about travel.  I love it. I long for it. It inspires me.

I’ve lately been following the adventures and work of another person I recently became acquainted with via social media. This person started her professional life as a social worker, then turned to entrepreneurship, and finally blended the two skill sets to be a force for meaningful, measurable, positive change.  The first project was borne from time spent teaching and living in Nepal. in the states now, she’s leading an effort to build a solar system to provide reliable electricity for classrooms and a local monastery.

Project Exponential and Khata:Life are two additional manifestations of her drive to change lives for the better. My wanderlust stirs again with thoughts of Nepal, and my soul is sparked by the inspiration this new friend creates.

Then I pause and juxtapose all these thoughts to about four and a half years ago, when our first child was born.  This event changed my life in a dramatic way, and even a little different from the obvious, expected manner.

You see, I became a new dad later in life. While many of my friends were married and having children in their 20’s, kids weren’t in my present nor future at that time. I was married but had no plans for children. That marriage ended when I was 39.

As life (and luck) would have it, I met my second wife soon there after. She knew with certainty that she wanted to have children. The rest, as they say, is history. We started our family four years back. But the wanderlust still bubbles up from time to time. The desire to “change the world” on a massive scale still heats up within me.

And so I find myself, now with three young children – 4 years old, 2 year old, and 1 year old — trying to reconcile my previous, more self-centered life — yearning to travel the world, meet new people, see new things, get in adventures; and also my drive to bring positive change to as many people as possible, willing to drop what I’m doing to help others — with my new, family-focused life.

As I’ve looked into the eyes of each of my children, I’ve NEVER seen the opportunity, nor felt the responsibility, to shape lives for the better as with these three little people.  It’s an awesome, joyous, sometimes frightening prospect:   these little people rely on their mother and me for everything.  And we can’t let them down.

Then it dawns on me.  Being a parent is maybe one of the most inspired jobs anyone can have.  For someone like me, who thought he’d never be a parent, that feeling is intensified. We should think of our role as parents in that manner, and treat it with the hallowed respect and gratitude that it deserves.

The excitement, learning, insights, meeting new people (at daycare, school, playgrounds, etc.), even language challenges (try to understand little kids, as any parent knows, is quite an experience!) parallels in many ways those very similar opportunities that come with international travel and work.

The sleeplessness, the unexpected changes to schedule and activity, witnessing the wonder in the seemingly mundane, even some strange meals (if you’re a parent who eats his kids leftovers so as to not waste food, that can make for odd culinary combinations):  it’s all swirled together in the everyday life of being a parent.

What’s more, I have fresh inspiration as a father, to help other dads be the best they can be for their children.  I’ve quickly felt the desire and motivation to share my insights, my struggles, my support mechanisms, and have found a ready audience in friends, and also via social media channels like twitter.  Indeed, I’ve connected with a whole new sub-set of like-minded folks who seem to appreciate what I have to give, and who also share with me their wonderful lessons on parenting.

And that wanderlust?  I’ve found two avenues to help satiate that need for adventure, new discoveries, and excitement from the road.

First, that same wonder in the mundane one finds over and over traveling to distant lands also exists right in our own backyard, quite literally. And also in the neighborhoods, parks, museums, libraries, playgrounds, etc. that I’ve started to wander in a whole new way, following little people around, seeing the world through their eyes.    As they discover, so do I, the simple joy waiting patiently until you shift your perspective and suddenly think, say, “Look at that!  THAT is amazing.”

And what about the literal call of the road?  New thoughts and plans of exploring the vast and varied lands of the American West — road trips to Yellowstone and Joshua Tree and Yosemite and Bryce and Pinnacles and Redwoods and Crater Lake and…the list goes on…I find myself already plotting the time of year for each destination, the number of days I’ll need off work, how far we will drive each day, what snacks we’ll bring, etc.

I can’t wait to hit the road with my wife and a car full of kids, my stomach buzzing with the excitement and anticipation traveling stirs within.   No doubt there will be plenty of challenges during those adventures. As in life,  the lessons and bonds and new things we’ll see and experience together as a family…well, that’s just priceless, as least as far as I’m concerned.

So as I follow my friends’ lives and the cool places they travel to and good works they’re engaged in, I take heart anew because I know that I too am living the life I’m meant to live.  Indeed, by simply living, shifting perspective to find joy in the now, nurturing and promoting a deep sense of gratitude and finding satisfaction in my every day, I am who I want to be.  Now not just for myself, but for others too.  Especially three little people who are with me on the journey.