Volunteering at–The North Pole?

Stepping into the warehouse felt like stepping into Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. Scores of people, some even wearing elf hats, swarmed around the massive room; all were laughing, singing, shouting with joy, thinking of the smiles on the kids’ faces when they would receive the gifts being packaged that day.

OCC8This year 12 million kids around the world will receive a small box as a Christmas gift, about the size of a shoebox, through the organization Operation Christmas Child. The shoebox holds toys, games, stuffed animals, small sports equipment, shoes, hygiene items, and school supplies. Thousands of volunteers work on this project yearly to share the love of Christ, to celebrate Christmas as a season of giving–and to ensure that many children receive a Christmas gift who may not otherwise.

Operation Christmas Child, a seasonal branch of the year-round charity Samaritan’s Purse, has been in operation for 24 years, reaching 146 million children in that time. Shoeboxes are donated by individuals and churches all over the US, Canada, Australia, and several European countries, then brought to a processing center for inspection and final packing before delivery across the globe.

OCC5Last week my mom, my future sister-in-law Megan, and myself volunteered at an Operation Christmas Child processing center in Minneapolis, one of eight in the US. We signed up for three six-hour shifts in a process that was reminiscent of registering for college classes. After completing online profiles in September, Megan offered to awaken at the crack of dawn on October 6 to quickly request the shifts we wanted before they were snatched up by thousands of other eager volunteers.

OCC9After securing our Monday-Wednesday time slots, we booked flights to Minneapolis and planned our ‘Girls Getaway’ weekend! My family has been involved with this organization for many years. I have many memories of shopping for and packing our own shoeboxes as a kid, and heading up the OCC fundraiser during my senior year in college. I was thrilled to experience the next step in the process.

 

Operation Christmas Child by the numbers:
~This year, OCC expects to send 12 million boxes, and approximately 600,000-650,000 of those will come from the Minneapolis center.
~Since OCC began in 1993, it has sent 146 million boxes all over the world. For scale: had those boxes only been delivered to the continent of Africa, only one out of three children would have received a shoebox.
~Ukraine and Mexico receive the most boxes every year.

Entering the warehouse Monday morning, I was impressed by how well-organized the event space was. All equipment, tables, stations, and metal wheel conveyors seemed to be built for the space itself, though it all had been set up a few weeks before. A large decorated tree with red and green shoeboxes beneath it kept us in a Christmas mood, and a prayer wall with pictures of kids receiving the boxes in previous years gave us a mindset of giving throughout the day. Every couple hours the chaplain on duty halted all volunteers to pray over the boxes–we were the last ones to interact with the boxes before they were placed in the hands of the children.

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This chart in the warehouse kept track of our stats day-to-day

Cartons of shoeboxes rolled down center conveyors, past stations with large signs reading ‘Filler Items,’ ‘Shoebox Hospital,’ and ‘Inappropriate Items.’ The cartons were pushed to 18 different stations, each with a team of three to 12 volunteers working staggered shifts.

At each of these 18 stations, two pre-inspectors removed and placed in a safe box any monetary donations which had been included to aid shipping costs. Sending millions of boxes each year is not cheap! Pre-inspectors also ensured each box was labeled with a gender and age group sticker (2-4, 5-9, 10-14) to better help with cartonizing and distribution.

OCC7Four or five inspectors at each table checked the boxes over for ‘contraband’ items. Although in previous years items such as candy and toothpaste have been allowed, recent changes in customs policies in many countries have forced Operation Christmas Child to tighten its standards. Liquids, breakables, and war-related items were also removed. Since some boxes may be delivered to places where war is a daily struggle, OCC wants each child’s Christmas gift to be a reprieve from that reality; a joyful experience, not one that reminds them of the turmoil surrounding them. Items which are removed from the boxes were taken to the ‘inappropriate items’ table, to be donated to local charities. ‘Filler items,’ then, were added to boxes which were lacking if too many items had been removed. The extremely full boxes were then passed to the tape stations keep them from bursting during transport.

OCC10Some people included family pictures and letters in their boxes, with an address in case the kids wanted to write back. In past years I often included my email address, and one year two girls wrote back from the Philippines. We remained in contact for a few years via email, and we are still Facebook friends to this day! Some labels have the option of tracking a QR code so that the sender knows where his or her box is going.

OCC11Tapers passed shoeboxes to cartonizers, who organized shoeboxes by age and gender, about 20 to a carton, to be taped shut and loaded into giant shipping containers by forklift. These shipping containers are then placed on trains and planes for final transport. Boxes packed at the Minneapolis location went to Gabon, Namibia, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, Niger, Native American reservations, and some ‘sensitive countries’ whose names could not be divulged; that is, places where they aren’t allowed to go…but are going anyway!

The warehouse atmosphere was full of hope and joy. Knowing that we were all working toward a common goal for the good of others brought out the Christmas spirit in all of us.OCC15

Footnote: of course we couldn’t go to Minneapolis without stopping at the Mall of America! Featured here: Hard Rock Café, Dough Dough, and the Lego store. There may have also been roller coasters involved.

 

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Big Skies and Long Beaches

‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ -Henry Miller

A series of changes over the past couple months led to many small adventures throughout the spring months instead of my usual lengthy travels.

short15There were several factors. I quit both my jobs and started two new ones (general happiness level = 100000x greater). I had plenty of saved Delta SkyMiles which allowed me to fly farther & faster, as opposed to driving. I decided to lease my horse and wanted to say goodbye, for now. In addition, Seattle had the longest, dreariest, cloudiest winter on record. January, February & March had a total of four sunny days–I needed some sunlight in my life.

When I realized my besties Allison and Elias crossed paths in Bozeman (aka paradise on earth) for only two semesters, I knew I had to get out there at some point. I had hoped for the fall, but February works too. I saw their campus, met their fellow students, stayed in their apartments, played trivia with their teams, danced with their friends.

short2When keeping up with old friends, it is important to me to see their lives with my own eyes. I want to experience what they experience. Every individual is a complex masterpiece of facets and angles, and I want to see and understand every face.

Impossible? Of course.

No harm in trying.

February was just as good a time to visit as October, though perhaps a tad colder. I wouldn’t have minded the snow, but running on a sheet of ice proved to be poor exercise (but I was still sore the next day). My first run through the woods south of town on my old trails was a peaceful experience. Bozeman creates some of my best memories. Though running on the ice in town was a bit treacherous, passing all my old haunts was a great way to reminisce on scattered memories, like looking at a timeline of my own life: that one park, that one coffee shop, that one Thursday at Music on Main when we danced… oh Bozeman.

Another important factor led to a third short trip: my favorite band Journey was playing in Bozeman in March.

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Journey concert

This trip spanned the locations of the first two in the same amount of time: I flew into Missoula and headed straight to Bozeman. I was raised on rock & roll, and that legacy is slipping away as the band members age. I want to see as many of my favorite 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s bands in concert before they quit touring. There is a certain kind of exhilaration, sitting in the second row and singing your lungs out with your parents and a few thousand other 50-year-olds. Arnel Pineda makes for a highly energetic Steve Perry, and brought plenty of his own charm as well as imitating that of his predecessor.

Then it was back to the Home Place in Hamilton to visit my equine son and check in with him at his new home, and spend some time with the family, of course.

I had booked a short trip to San Diego in April before I knew I would be quitting the restaurant in the same week. They were going to have to do without me permanently soon enough, so I figured they could spare me four days so I could visit my Empress.

And anyway, #priorities.

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Miguel, Caslene, Empress and I hiking

Empress, my Italy-roommate, Hawaii-tour guide, Seattle-roadtrip-buddy, recently moved to southern California. I needed Empress, and I needed sunlight. I had not been to San Diego since I was very young, so Empress showed me around the Gaslamp Quarter and the hiking trails of Torrey Pines.

short14We made a day trip to Los Angeles to visit the ArtCenter College of Design high in the Pasadena hills. It looked like an old train bridge with no connecting tracks and felt like an ancient monastery with a modern twist. I napped outside on a giant bean bag while Empress went to interviews.

My roommate happened to be in Long Beach on the same day, so we spent the evening with him at the Beachwood Blendery. On days Empress had to work, I explored the Old Town of San Diego and went for a run on the Mission Trails.

Runner’s Note: Definitely a lifetime Top Ten. If you are in the San Diego area, Mission Trails Regional Park is a must. In six miles I ran up and down a lovely trail to one of the highest peaks in the area, North Fortuna, where I found an old ammunition box with a notebook registry inside. The views were breathtaking.

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Kevin took us to the Miller factory to sample a bit of Wisconsin beer. Note: the samples at the end of the tour were not this big.

In May I flew to Wisconsin to congratulate my brother and celebrate with him. I have visited him at his Concordia-Mequon campus several times, and it was strange to think that this would be my last visit to that beautiful cliff-side campus. Nonetheless I think Kevin was ready to be done, anyway. Being in Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to visit my other Italy-travel-buddy Anthony, and congratulate him on his graduation, as well.

There were several fractured pieces to my winter & spring 2017, but the travels and the jobs and all else worked out in the end and I was able to spend time with people I love.

These days I am currently in a mountain castle in Santa Barbara… but how I ended up here is a story for another time. Cheers!

 

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Dance Until Dawn…(and then some)

‘A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having.’ –V for Vendetta

I first heard about massive morning dance parties about a year ago. My favorite travel blogger, Adventurous Kate, attended a Daybreaker event on the east coast and recorded it live on Snapchat.

A sober, morning rave to jump-start your day? My interest was immediately piqued.

Daybreakers take place in over a dozen cities in the US and in Europe, with more to open up in the coming year. I signed up for emails for the New York City and Boston events, hoping I might be in the area during a Daybreaker, but we never coincided.

dybrkr4When I received an email at the end of September about Seattle’s inaugural event the following Wednesday, I bought my ticket within 10 minutes and decided I would figure out the details later. I picked out my outfit the night before–mostly brightly-colored workout gear. Some Daybreakers have themes, but Seattle’s first was just loud and vibrant.

Not only on-time, but early? You can say I was a little excited. The event staff was fun and energetic, and gave us glitter makeup to put on our faces on the way in if we wanted to. Of course I wanted to!

dbrkr1We began our morning at 6:00 a.m. in the auditorium of the EMP museum with an hour of yoga led by an instructor. It tended to stay more exercise-focused rather than spiritually-focused, which I appreciated because I use yoga as a workout anyway. At 7:00 we rolled our mats off the dance floor and waited for the music to start a few minutes later.

Two hours of dancing in wild abandon ensued. The NYC Daybreaker crew led the event, with a DJ, a drum line, a live band, and a dance team. We all soaked up the music and the energy and let the crazy out!

If you know me, you know I dance all the time (or try to. OK, so I really just move around a lot) and you know I rarely care what people think of me in public settings. Having no shame can be both a blessing and a curse, but I try to see it mostly in the former light. It was so refreshing to be surrounded by so many hundreds of like-minded people. There were no rules and no standards. Everyone was there just to have fun and burn some energy before our work day began.

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As I left the event in high spirits, a Space Needle sprouted from my head.

Speaking of work day, I planned mine just perfectly. I left a few minutes early, grabbed my duffel from the event’s convenient bag check, and scored a few breakfast bars and Greek yogurt on my way out–Daybreaker also had tables offering coffee drinks and other energizers for those who drink them. I ate as I walked, showered at my gym, and still made it to work exactly on time at 10:00 a.m.

 

As we were slowing down near 8:45 a.m., one of the NYC event crew came over the mic and said, ‘No one will ever know what you did before work today, that you danced your heart out before they even woke up this morning.’ And that’s exactly it. As I left the EMP I caught a few stares, but I just smiled and kept my little secret to myself. I bet I had more fun waking up this morning than they did, I thought, my face glowing and my step lighter than normal.

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I snapped only one photo, on my way out as the party was winding down.

Daybreakers are often held monthly. I was grateful to hear about these events through a travel blogger and decided to pass along the favor. If there is not an event in your city yet, look it up for next time you are on the road! (That’s my plan.) Seattle’s next event will be at Foundation Nightclub on October 26. Join us!

Wedtrip 2016: How Chuck, Bucky & Ron Kept Me Moving

‘Out battered suitcases were piled high on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.’ -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Topping off at 6300 miles round-trip, this year’s ‘Wedding Roadtrip’ was by far mine and the General’s most extensive excursion yet.

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Inside the General–probably the most common setting for my snapchats

I was so thankful when I heard the three weddings I wanted to go to this summer all happened to be in an eight-day span–I did not have to consider choosing.

 

midwest15Seeing college buddies again after a year of separation brought me to tears on more than one occasion. Thank you to all the happy couples for gathering everyone together again! I also stayed with friends en route–Matt and Maddy in Portland, The Sean Berry outside Denver, Mitch during one of my four treks across the state of Nebraska. In St. Louis I had three days ‘off’ from driving, and stayed with Emily & Tommy, experiencing St. Louis and relaxing by the pool. I also explored St. Charles with college friend Brittany and Arizona-childhood friend Kristen, the latter of whom moved to St. Louis and strangely enough met Brittany at their mutual church.

midwest12I could not even begin to list all the beautiful people with whom I reconnected at the weddings and during Seward NE’s famous Fourth of July celebration. I love making friends wherever I go, but relaxing in the presence of dozens of people you love and who love you back brings a peace beyond words. We reminisced old memories, made new ones, listened to a lot of country music, shared a few drinks, talked about tractors, and danced the night away. Country people and their gracious communities will always captivate me.

midwest7The mechanical issues on this trip were a bit disheartening, but each situation was better manageable. I left Seattle almost directly from the shop after replacing a severely frayed throttle cable. After 2000 miles, only 100 miles short of my first destination, the bearings in my A/C compressor locked up and snapped the fan belt while I was on the highway at 9 p.m. on a Friday. (Nothing ever breaks during normal business hours, does it?) I tearfully called Dad in Montana and he immediately had a tow truck take me to a mechanic who was open late, and I drove away two hours later. In addition, I knew plenty of people in Omaha NE, and the Doerrs opened their home to me, complete with air mattress, until I could finish the final stretch the following morning. On the return trip I ran out of oil in Kimberly ID at 10 p.m., but a helpful country boy and his sister added oil to the thirsty General, directed me to my campground, and gave me the name and address of a mechanic who opened early the next morning for a proper oil change.

midwest5In regards to timing, I broke down in all the ‘right’ places and without major readjustments to my schedule. The bigger damage was, of course, to my wallet. I had budgeted generously for the trip and even portioned out a few bucks for a tune-up at Chuck’s Auto Repair before the trip, but did not think I would have two more trips to–you guessed it–Bucky’s Express and Ron’s American Car Care Center before returning to Seattle.

midwest3Financially there was one major thing that kept me from complete disaster: an app called Roadie. Roadie, the self-termed ‘On-the-Way Delivery Network,’ allowed me to compare my route with people who needed stuff hauled across the country. Kevin C. wanted his motorcycle hauled from Portland OR to Millcreek UT, and I happened to be going that way. By using the app to contact Kevin, I met his brother outside Portland, who loaded Kevin’s bike into the bed of my pickup, securing it themselves with their own equipment.

I was off! I drove 13 hours with what felt like half the gold of Fort Knox in the bed of my pickup. ‘You’re paying for this trip,’ I whispered continually to the red machine in my rearview mirror. ‘Please don’t get stolen. Please don’t bounce out. Please don’t break.’ I even slowed down around mountainous corners and did not drive more than four miles per hour over the speed limit (vast improvement, for those of you who are unaware of my safe yet cop-infested driving record).

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Castle Rock NE–I also spent time in Castle Rock CO on this trip

Since I was pulling into Millcreek late, Kevin and his wife Katie offered to swap me a night on their couch for two six-packs of Oregonian beer. Another trade in the books, and I not only saved on money for lodging, but got paid enough cash to cover my gas money from Seattle to Omaha! Thanks to Roadie, and Kevin, I was able to finish my roadtrip only $25 over my original budget, which includes expenses paid to Chuck, Bucky and Ron. My diet for the past couple weeks has consisted mostly of rice and Top Ramen-esque meals, and the General’s A/C is permanently condemned–but this trip was worth every penny for the sake of mental clarity and emotional fulfillment.

 

Joining a national gym (24-Hour Fitness) last December turned out to be one of my better ideas in regards to travel plans, because I was able to lift in Denver and Portland to supplement my running and burn off some extra drive energy. I ran around three lakes, in Storm Lake IA, one outside St. Louis, and one outside Lincoln NE. Regarding diet, this was also my healthiest trip yet: I only ate out twice, and bought everything else at grocery stores to pre-make meals in St. Louis, the halfway point.

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St. Louis: penguins, pool time, and a museum exhibit that possibly inspired a future roadtrip…

This year I only spent one night in a campground (sorry Mom) (she hates when I do that) (but it’s cheap and I love falling asleep under the stars while surrounded by the comforting sides of the General’s truck bed) (sorry Mom), as opposed to the four nights last year on a shorter roadtrip. I was also travelling through areas where I knew more people, and to my benefit (?) my friends have spread out more, allowing me to see more people on a given route rather than only at a destination.

 

There was a moment, while crossing the desert north of Moab UT at 84 mph, that I thought, ‘Even if my truck is disintegrating around me, perhaps I can make it just a little closer to home before the inevitable happens,’ and I laughed a maniacal laugh. My windows were rolled down and half my current driving outfit was lying on the passenger seat while I tried in vain to beat the heat, and my left arm became more sunburned with each passing minute, and my hair was tangled and my face was grimy. I was high on hugs and love from all the people I had seen in the previous two weeks, and I laughed. I was rocketing through hundreds of miles of burning sand on a tiny strip of pavement inside an inanimate machine which was the closet thing to a best friend an inanimate machine has ever been to me, and currently my only friend for as far as the eye could see, and I laughed. For a time I did not know if I would have enough money for fuel to get home to Seattle, but I just kept laughing, because my mind was at peace and there was still road ahead of me, so why not laugh?

‘But no matter, the road is life.’

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All Work and All Play

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks disappearing?–it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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It doesn’t rain that much, it’s just overcast. All the time. But it rains sometimes.

Now that I have answered all your questions: Ahem.

seattle2Seattle has been slowly materializing for me over the past year and a half. I had never been here (unless you count flying through the airport countless times–one of my favorite airports, I might add!) until November 4, when I packed up my truck with my living essentials and my Empress and headed west.

How can I speak of three months in one post? Maybe it is not possible. It is mostly work and sometimes not, and occasionally sleep, and 100% life.

It is connecting with friends-of-friends over coffee, smiling uncontrollably while running through the light rain with arms outstretched, packing and unpacking, almost missing the bus, daily sack lunch to save money, dance lessons, budgeting, sitting in a corner next to a cardboard box/desk for an hour trying to unwind after a 16-hour workday, almost missing the bus, morning yoga, packing, drinks at midnight and pancakes at 2 a.m., a new church every Sunday, payday excitement, unpacking and packing, a penguin sweater, pulling off my heels and chasing the bus, free furniture, signing leases and other commitments, going grey, trying to understand football, almost missing the bus, paying rent, unpacking, jumping around and singing at the top of my lungs from the host stand at Hard Rock Café.

seattle10I have had three zip codes in three months, I have worked 50-65 hours per week since my arrival (thank the Lord for getting two jobs so quickly, I had some financial catching up to do!), and I have explored this city much less than other cities because of it. Nonetheless, I have still been up to the Space Needle, had a drink at Starbucks (it actually took me a couple weeks, so it was a milestone), hit up a couple museums, and watched people throw fish at the Pike Place Market.

I love both jobs and am excited where they will lead in the next couple years. Journalism is still on my mind but if I have learned anything in my travels the past couple years, it is that if you set your mind to something, work hard, stay focused, etc. then it will unfold naturally.

seattle7Like Seattle did. One of the main reasons I am in Seattle is because of a conversation I had with a journalist while roadtripping through the South last May. When I had only lived in Seattle a few weeks, he looked me up and said he was coming to the city to cover the Seahawks game and asked if I was in town. It was a God-moment in May, and it was a God-moment in November as well; both times were confirmation that I was on the right path. The journalist had no idea that his words in Jackson MS had such an impact on my life, and having the ability to share that news with him was such a blessing. In addition my words to him in Jackson had also, unknowingly, convinced him to take up running, and now I am proud to say he is a positive, enthusiastic, healthy half-marathon addict.

We have more impact on people than we think. Even if you only meet once you change lives and your life is changed. I was thankful to have the opportunity to see one of those moments come full-circle; the majority of the time we do not have that opportunity, but it still happens.

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She punched me while we were trying to selfie.

After years of travelling off and on, I am taking a step back and keeping the same address for at least six months… which allows friends to track me down, unlike the previous year when ‘What state are you in now?’ was a common good-morning text from a number of people. Currently I have a roof and four walls, and starting tomorrow I will have a couch for visitors, which means–it’s your turn, folks! I have driven all over the country to see you all, so if your heart desires a visit to the pacific Northwest, hit me up for a good time (and free lodging).

 

As for myself, I have yet to visit Oregon or Canada, ever! So those are next on the bucket list.

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The Last Hurrah–Massachusetts, Manhattan, Milwaukee

Well, not my last hurrah, if I can help it. But the last for now.

Times Square

Times Square

Perhaps this was unwise, but I knew I would be pinching pennies toward the end of my time at home… so I planned ahead and bought these flights back in July to make sure I went on the trip.

Could I have used that money to think about putting in a deposit for an apartment in Seattle? Perhaps.

Would I have spent that money on something else between then and now? Most likely.

Besides, by ‘planning ahead’ I was able to get three one-way tickets for $400. I knew the flights would be the most expensive part of the trip, since I was staying with friends for two weeks, so I just tried to watch my costs for food and fun–and I was quite successful, I might add.

newsconsin7In Massachusetts my friend Randall lives just off Cape Cod in the small town of Wareham. His neighborhood was a couple blocks from a small rocky beach and backed up to a random forest, where pine trees grew thickly out of sandy hills. While Randall was at work I ran through the forest every morning and laid on the beach/waded in the water in the afternoons.

One evening we drove out to Plymouth, where Randall showed me around his childhood haunts as well as a few historical points of interest, old churches and courthouses, etc. There was the rock, of course, inscribed with ‘1620’ on the top. Mayflower II was docked nearby, a life-size replica of the original, although it was too late in the afternoon to go aboard.

newsconsin1We spent the weekend in the setting for books, the background for movies, the skyline burned in every mind: Manhattan. We splurged on a hotel just a few blocks away from Times Square, Pod 39. It had a on-the-move/thrifty-traveller/wired-millennial feel to it, somewhat like a hostel but still with private bedrooms and bathrooms. I loved it, and would definitely look into it again next time I’m in Manhattan.

Since we only had two days, we made the most of it, walking until we nearly had blisters on our feet each day, but seeing as much of the island as possible: the first day we headed south to climb the Empire State Building and take in the view of the city. I could see the Statue of Liberty from a distance, but tickets to go in sell out months in advance. Next time, Manhattan.

Ground Zero

Names engraved around fountains at Ground Zero

Further south was Ground Zero, a full hour-long walk from the ESB. The fountains in place of the foundations of the twin towers were beautifully designed, pulling the water away out of sight into the center of each memorial.

newsconsin5Sunday morning we strolled through Central Park. I was amazed at how deep into the park one must go in order to be free of the city sounds. It took even longer to be free of the crowds: the main roads going through the park were packed with runners and bicyclists, and some horse-drawn carriages. Nonetheless, I enjoyed exploring the smaller paths: I felt almost at home in the natural-growth landscapes. I was a little jealous of all the runners: next time I’ll stay long enough to go for a run.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was extraordinary. I appreciated the local New York modern and historical art as well as the ancient collections. One room was dedicated to the rebuilding of an Egyptian temple that was taken piece by piece from the Aswan valley. When the Egyptian government built the Aswan dam, the US government donated money to the project, and as a token of thanks they allowed us to choose which of five temples we wanted to take, since all five would be under water once the dam was built.

newsconsin6We spent a lot of time in the rooms and rooms of paintings, and almost missed some classics: only as we were searching for the exit did we come upon Monet, Picasso, Manet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh.

Of course we didn’t make it to everything in the Met, and we never set foot in the Museum of Modern Art, but…next time.

I’ve just decided there’s always a next time. I’ll always see someone again, I’ll always go somewhere again, I’ll always travel again. Telling myself this keeps me on my toes, but also keeps me from bemoaning anything I might have missed the first time around. Although I never experience everything I would like to, I saw some things I didn’t expect, like a street dance performance or a Hispanic parade of all Latin American countries dancing and singing down 5th Avenue.newsconsin9

newsconsin10The second week of the trip was spent in Wisconsin, mostly in Oshkosh and Milwaukee. However I did have the chance to explore some of the other cities and towns, because for me, this was the ‘next time’: I spent a day in Green Bay, and an afternoon in Port Washington, Grafton and Cedarburg with Jacqui, a Concordia friend.

Anthony at his internship at the radio station

Anthony at his internship at the radio station

After I attended a wedding with my ongoing travel buddy Anthony, we stayed at the Tundra Lodge in Green Bay. He had scored a deal in both the stay and tickets to the indoor waterpark, of which we definitely took advantage! The lodge sported woodsy décor and flair, with animal heads staring down from every wall, and the structure reflected a classic log-home style.

Although I spent a lot of time seeing friends on this trip, I had some enjoyable alone-time. I found the Sand Pond behind Randall’s house in Wareham during one of my morning runs. I got lost in the Downtown Bookstore in Milwaukee and walked out with four “unnecessary”/but-clearly-necessary purchases. I found Riverside Park about three miles north of the Milwaukee city center, and I explored the paths by the water.newsconsin13

newsconsin12Near the park was the Urban Ecology Center. I originally walked in because I wanted to climb their tower to see the Milwaukee skyline. I figured it was a government building of some type. What I found, however, was a community center focused on educating the public on ecological awareness: they hold classes in some of their rooms, they have free coffee and wifi for anyone who wants to just sit and enjoy the atmosphere (as I did), and they have information posted all over the building about how their toilets flush solely on rainwater and the furniture is all made from local wood. They also host a plethora of activities that encourage people to spend more time out-of-doors. The volunteers working that day were overly kind and gracious, and gave me a short history lesson on how and why the center began. It was one of those moments that renewed my hope in humanity.

Kevin and I had lunch one afternoon in Milwaukee at Uncanny Soup. Russian borscht soup was their special of the day–fantastic! It brought back memories of my Italian host dad Rosario spending all afternoon making it for us in Florence. I think Rosario did it better, but Uncanny Soup was a close runner-up!

newsconsin14On the final day of the trip I returned to Milwaukee’s now-somewhat-familiar Third Ward to kill a few hours before my flights, and I spent some time in the Public Market, which reminded me of Florence’s Mercato Centrale in shape and atmosphere (although the Italian one is far larger). I was not expecting Milwaukee to provide so many nostalgic Florentine experiences!

After New York I have only 10 states left of 50. And now I have been to Boston in the fall (for those of you who know the song..?).

Now, off to Seattle.

Travelling Has Two L’s

A wise traveller never despises his own country. -Carlo Goldoni

home1In the past I may have frustrated fellow language nerds with my spellings of ‘travelling/travelled/traveller,’ using two L’s. This is a purposeful decision, though that explanation alone may not calm the most extreme logophiles.

It has taken a while to teach my iPhone to add an extra L; hopefully it won’t take quite as long to explain to you. Then perhaps you will join hands with me, and we will become activists of language, and we will convince Mr. Webster himself or his descendants or whoever runs the dictionary now and we will convert our nation to the Double-L System.

home4I like to dream big.

Here’s my short reason: uhh…it’s just better.

Now join me! Let’s change the world! You may have to do some travelling to get to the DLS National Convention in the boonies of Montana. Since I’m head of the project I get to choose the location.

Travelling.

There’s something thicker and bolder about ‘travelling,’ as though it is capable of holding more experience. It’s courageous in a hardy, rugged, Go-West-Young-Man kind of way.

It also seems to be an older form of the word (probably just because it’s a British spelling. Don’t judge; I like British English. And all things old.)

I am currently writing from Wareham MA (more on that later) but before two days ago I hadn’t done much travelling in about six weeks. I was ‘in limbo,’ chillaxing at home and preparing for the next major transition of my life: THE REAL WORLD (queue music which expresses hardship and impending doom).

home3However, if you know me, I refuse to give in to the norms of what life is ‘supposed to be,’ so to spice up my transition into THE REAL WORLD, at which everyone from random person on the phone from tech support to the UPS delivery guy have been not-so-subtly hinting at for many months now, … I am moving to a place I have never been before. That way, I can ‘settle down’ (for a bit) and ‘travel’ all at the same time: new sights, new people, new coffee shops to test new chai, new parks to run new routes.

I’m still on the job hunt, so hit me up if you know anyone in the greater Seattle area who needs help with words. Or anything related to words.

home2I like words.

Travelled.

.past tense//a state of being.

.I travelled//I am travelled.

I had three goals during my six weeks at home: sleep, ride horses, spend time with family and friends because Seattle may or may not eat me alive and maybe I will never come back and then at least they will have fresh memories of times we spent together.

I doubt that, but really, who knows when I’ll be back in the 406. (That’s Montana, for you Out-of-Staters. There are few states in the Union that use one area code for all their inhabitants, and we’re proud to be one of them.)

Fact of the Day: According to the 2013 US Census, Montana has approx. 29,000 less people than Rhode Island, the smallest state.

I would like to announce that I am fully caught up on sleep. If you are curious about yourself, use the car test: if you can stay awake in the passenger seat for more than 10 minutes in ideal temperatures with a warm fall sun on your face, then you have successfully recovered from all those college all-nighters.

Mom and I found our old horse trails and biked our way up and down the valley, and Dad and I ‘took our guns out for a walk.’ We also attended a number of rodeos.

home7Routine. That thing I have not had since April. That mysterious thing that is so peaceful and so suffocating at the same time. It is a benefit of staying in the same city for more than four nights in a row, which I did not do from the middle of May to the end of August, except a short stint in Haiti. Routine is a benefit of being home.

Home routine is: wake up at the same time every day, so my body can be on a normal sleeping and eating schedule. Workout six times a week. Feed the horses and chickens twice each day. Relax in the evenings.

Traveller.

A traveller can find joy in rest, and peace in routine.

And then there’s the stranger routines that develop: Mom and I decided to test our workout progress by hiking Goat Mountain once a week four weeks in a row. I discovered if I jog the flatter parts I can shave my time down almost to 35 minutes.

home6A traveller has more blood than a traveler. More music. Like the troubadours of old.

A traveller has more focus on the journey: the 35 minutes instead of just the peak.