Category Archives: Inspirational

A note on communication

I’m not sure where I read or heard this bit of wisdom but I really hope I learn to live it:

It doesn’t matter what you are saying, it only matters how the people listening hear what you are saying.

What does that mean? I’ll give my take of it in a story. I was reading ABC News yesterday and came across a story on the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign (pretty basic from my interpretation – just go to Palestine to see what’s up. But I haven’t researched it further yet). The story went on to talk about how Israeli authorities were promising to deport any foreigners who flew in this weekend with plans on going to Palestine for the campaign.

I didn’t like that part about deporting people who want to visit Palestine. As someone who is opinionated, I mentioned it to some people who were sitting near me. We got into a conversation that started with “I turn my brain off when I hear things like that.” I couldn’t believe that a well educated person whom I respect would say such a thing. And that is the first example. I heard ‘I have no opinion on occupation.’ But, as I found out later, he was really saying ‘people on both sides aren’t really talking to each other, there are no meaningful outcomes coming from dialogue, so why waste the time in talking about it?’ (although, this is me paraphrasing what I heard so I might have it wrong again).

We have to learn how to say things that will be heard in a way we want them to be heard.

We also talked about abortion. How the pro-choice people are not talking TO the pro-life people (and vis-a-versa), but rather each are talking to the ‘moveable middle’ and trying to convince those in the middle to join one side or the other. They do this instead of talking to each other, trying to convey their fears and convictions to each other in a way that the other side will HEAR in order to find common ground.

We have to learn to keep communicating in ways that will allow us to come together – especially over such important issues like abortion and apartheid.

I know this is something I have to learn to do. When I first hear someone who disagrees with me on something as important as self-rule and self-determination, I have to remember to HEAR what they are saying and to say what I want to convey in a way that they themselves will hear. And to continue a dialogue where we all hear each others concerns.


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April 14, 2012 · 03:27

ABCs of Travel

I stole this from a blogger I follow:  Fidel Hart is a great writer and photographer and I always wish I could update like he does.

A: Age you went on your first international trip: I was just shy of 21 years old.  I went to Papua New Guinea with Habitat for Humanity.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: I’m not a big beer fan and try not to drink too much over seas but there was a beer in Munich, Germany I drank at Hofbräuhaus.  I don’t remember the name but that could be because there was so much for such a good price.

C: Cuisine (favorite): I am going to have to say the food in Spain – especially the desserts and sangria.  Everything was so fresh because it was made usually that day from goods grown close by.  That is common in places throughout the world but the Spanish cuisine was something close enough to call familiar but still different from American food.

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:  My favorite destination was Ecuador.  There was something so tribal, so surreal about that experience.  I really felt connected to the Earth in a new way.  My least favorite destination was Romania.  It started off by my flight being screwed up.  Let me first say NEVER ALLOW OTHERS TO BOOK YOUR TRAVEL IF YOU HAVE ROUGH LAST NAMES!!  My friend misspelled my last name and even though I told her months before we left the States, it was never fixed.  So we show up in Madrid to fly over to Romania and I’m told we can’t change the name.  Then I’m told that there is only one ticket left on the flight and it costs twice what I paid.  I really fell pray to the oldest and worst travel stories in the book.  I had no choice since I didn’t speak the language and didn’t have the luxury of time to haggle.  End of the story: I ate bread and dried meat on most of the trip because I had to use all my spending money on the flight…

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:  Seeing the stars in Papua New Guinea.  Not only where they different looking because I was in the Southern hemisphere for the first time, they were just SO many!  You just have no idea what we are missing because of the light pollution in our country.  Just. No. Idea.

F: Favorite mode of transportation:  Hands down: trains.  It is kinda like airplanes but you can walk around more, you have more room (head room, leg room, arm room, just more room!), you have better food options usually (steak dinner OR fast food type stuff!?) and the range of types of people is wider.

G: Greatest feeling while traveling: That moment when you feel comfortable enough in a new place that you just entirely trust your sense of directions and just head out into the city.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to:  Papua New Guinea.  It is hot and humid.  Even though Florida summers are also hot and humid, I think I lost 15 pounds in the 3 weeks I was in PNG.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:  This is a tough one.  I tend not to go to places where service is high on the priorities because I tend to travel on the cheap.  But I will tell you that what initially popped into my head was the liquor stand in the Colombian airport.  You could get a shot right there in the concourse!

J: Journey that took the longest:  Well in terms of the entire journey, the month-long European trip was the longest. But in transit time, Papua New Guinea.  I had to fly from Tampa to Atlanta, Atlanta to Tokyo, Tokyo to Port Moresby and then finally to Madang.  It was def. more than 24 hours of travel but I don’t remember all the hours.

K: Keepsake from your travels:  Coins.  Usually just small denominations of the currency.

L: Let-down sight, why and where: Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam.  It is just a huge tourist thing now and expensive.  I wanted to go pay homage but after seeing the line going outside of the updated, modern looking town-home, I didn’t think it would happen.  I didn’t even go in.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:  I have always really enjoyed travel.  I think if I had to say a certain time it would be on a flight from Tampa to New Jersey to visit family.  The flight took off before sunset so I was in the sky as the summer sun was setting just outside of my window.  There is something about sunrises and sunsets as seen from 30k+ feet in the sky that just makes you want to see more.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: This is tough since I work in hotels.  The greenest hotel I stayed in was in Spokane, Washington.  The classiest was in New York City.  But I think the fondest memory I have of a hotel is a random corner hotel in some random neighborhood in Paris.  The hostel I was planning on staying at was full so my travel companion and I just set out to find the first room we could.  This little hotel seemed over prices for us but once we got to the room it made sense.  The second floor on the corner of a block.  We could open our windows wide open and see down the streets.  We could hear the businesses on the streets and smell the pastries and food being baked

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:  Nature and landscapes.  I’m not sure why but I love taking photos of the environment.

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where? Ummm, I don’t have mine with me right now so this is from memory: Papua New Guinea visa, Tokyo stamp, Ecuador stamp, Madrid Stamp, Romania stamp,  I think one from Germany but most of the European countries didn’t give them since I was mostly traveling within EU states and an Israeli stamp (soon to be visa!).  So what is that? 7? Sounds about right.

 Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:  The City of Tombstone in Arizona.  It is pretty much a giant amusement park full of people trying to sell stuff.

R: Recommended sight, event or experience:  Travel to a developing nation.  Travel to a country that you think you have very little in common with.  You will learn to appreciate so much we take for granted and hopefully learn from genuine people a few of life’s great lessons.

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:  Gifts.  I don’t just buy people gifts.  I seldom take a list with me of people who I “have to buy a gift for.”  But if I see something and am reminded of a someone or think someone can use it, I have no problem using a good part of my funds for it.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done:  Horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park in New York City.  I was in community college and was in the city on a group trip with Student Government.  A female friend and I were in that area and I decided I wanted to try my haggling skills.  Next thing you know, we are in the carriage for 25 bucks for the half hour trip.

U: Unforgettable travel memory:  A recent trip to New York City.  I was marching with Occupy Wall Street on December 17th as they tried to take Duarte Park.  The energy was just amazingly high and we really felt like the World could be ours just as soon as we occupied that park.  As we turned the corner and our goal was in sight, I heard shouts of “clear a whole, make a path!”  Then two home-made ladders were brought through followed by about 5 clergymen, one in full rob and cross garb.  They set one of the ladders up against the 6 foot tall chain link fence and this 80-year-old Bishop climbed up, reached the top, turned around towards the crowd and motioned for us all to follow him.  He then jumped down the 6 feet on the other side because they hadn’t gotten the other ladder to that side to complete the improvised bridge.  People started going over the bridge, just climbing over the fence, ripping the fence up from the bottom and going under that way.  It was all so liberating.  But soon the police were also in the park arresting everyone they could catch so I ran back out.  I will always remember seeing that Bishop motion for more to follow him from the top of that ladder.

V: Visas, how many and for where?  Oops, I guess I already answered this.  One so far from Papua New Guinea but soon to be a second from Israel.

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where? Even though it isn’t pure wine, I’m going to say a glass of Sangria made right before my eyes in a random bar that I found will wandering around lost in Madrid.  He took out a huge beer glass, poured in sugar,  poured in the red wine, then added a shot of this, a splash of that and it turned out to be the most amazing glass ever.  So great I had to have another.  After those two, my travel companion and I didn’t seem to be in such a hurry to find where we were supposed to be. lol

X: eXcellent view and from where?:  There is a park in Prague that is near the river I think called Lentenske park.  If you are going to this park, leave the city center heading North, cross the river and you come to a very steep series of steps going up to this park.  There is a giant red time needle at the top overlooking the city.  When you get to the top after going through this lush uphill walk, you turn around and can see the whole city behind you.

Y: Years spent traveling?: Domestically:  16.  Abroad: 4.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:  Barcelona!  We were in town when they won a match that knocked Madrid out of something.  Or something like that.  Whatever the case was, they started burning down their own city in celebration!  They were burning their OWN CITY! In CELEBRATION!  lol

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January 6, 2012 · 09:39

Why do you travel?

A college friend of mine, Phil, was in Tampa the other night putting on a performance with his dance company.  He didn’t have long before he had to leave town but we got a chance to catch up at Starbucks that night.  The topics were many and varied.  But the one I enjoyed the most was his questioning of why I traveled so much after leaving Tallahassee.

The question was kind of strange to me, like a foreign language I just didn’t get.  Why do I travel?  It was like asking why I breathe or why I eat.  I travel to live.  But that answer just wasn’t working for Phil.  And I’m glad it didn’t because to some extent, it wasn’t true.

He told me about his fiance who wanted to go to Hindu Kush.  Hamilton told Phil he wanted to go so he could forget about all his problems, all his bills and troubles.  He also wanted to get some kind of discipline that he could find there (but I didn’t really understand that).  Phil told him that all his problems, bills and troubles would be waiting for him just as soon as he got back and that you don’t need to travel anywhere to find discipline, that is a skill everyone has to work on all the time.

So why was Hamilton so set on going to the Hindu Kush?  Why do any of us travel?  We always here the “I want to get away” excuse but that isn’t really a great reason to travel – in fact that could just make things worse.  Running from your bills?  Traveling will make them worse.

A far better reason to travel is to experience.  Hamilton couldn’t experience a Hindu Kush here in the US like he could overseas.  The sights, the sounds, the tastes, the smells – everything.  The way traveling makes you feel.  These are the reasons to travel.  It isn’t best to travel expecting certain outcomes, the best travels happen when you start a trip off by saying, “Hey, that sounds like fun, let’s see where we end up with that.”

So to answer Phil’s question, I traveled so much after I left college for two reasons.  The first was the wrong reason – I was running away from life – just like so many people who “just want to get away.”  This didn’t help me at all.  But I also traveled for the experiences.  I met new people in Arizona that tought me a lot about myself and what I wanted in life and was capable of.  I met a caring family on the East coast of Florida that brought back my faith in family.  I traveled and learned about life in a way that I couldn’t have by moving back to my hometown right away.

And I’ll continue to travel for the experiences.  Why do you travel?

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Filed under Inspirational

Ode to Travel

I’m going to get this tattooed on my arm someday.  The three boxes (Africa, Asia, Antarctica) will be replaced with a symbol from each respective continent.  It is a part of my life goal of volunteering on all 7 continents.

The large tree represents the Amazon Rainforest, which I spent a week volunteering in with Alternative Break Corps.  The dove above that is the logo for Basida, an oranization in Spain that helps people living with HIV/AIDS.  The bird next to that is a Bird of Paradise, the national bird of Papua New Guinea where I helped build a Habitat for Humanity House.  Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, o man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you.  To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your G-d”

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Filed under Future Travel?, Inspirational

A quote

You’re a witness. You’re always standing around watching what’s happening, scribbling in your book what other people do. You have to get in the middle of it. You have to take sides. Make a contribution to the fight. Any fight. The one you believe in.

Arnold Epstein in Biloxi Blues

This quote speaks to a few different areas in my life.  The activist side of me obviously loves this.  But the traveler side also can take note.  When I travel, I don’t want to be a tourist.  I want to experience the culture, I want to live a part of the life that is the place I’m visiting.  I want to get in the middle of it, to take the side of the local.

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Whose life are you living?

I love social networking sites.  A person that I have not talked to in two solid years was able to speak to, and sum up, my current living situation with a single post today.  The post is below and you can definitely just skip down to that and watch.  But here is my back story on it:

I know my life is not that tough, but I have lived under some pretty heavy expectations.  Expectations from parents (I was in charge of waking my mother up for work every morning after I got myself up and ready for elementary school).  Expectations from friends (I’m still not sure if people realize psychology was not my major and that I don’t know how to solve their problems).  And expectations from myself (being somewhat smart and growing up poor, you are supposed to go to college and lift the whole family out of the gutter, right?).  These are all expectations everyone can relate to.  The natural desire or need to please family and friends, to live a life that is ‘acceptable’ to society.  The burden can get heavy for any one of us.

But after graduation – or rather, after I was unable to make another person happy – I ran away to Arizona.  For forty days I wondered the desert searching for an identity.  I asked questions we all ask ourselves at some point:  Who did I want to be?  Where did I want to live?  What did I want to do?  What will make me happy?  A few ideas kept running through my head:  I was supposed to go back to Hillsborough County, get a job in Tampa and eventually run for some kind of political office.  That was always The Plan.  But as I thought of that idea, it was often chased off by the idea of staying in the desert, starting over and living a low-key life on my own.  I would guess most people opt for the first option: live the life you are supposed to live, maybe tweaking a thing or two.  The other option isn’t the best idea either though – just running away from life altogether.

So here I am.  I am choosing another option.  I am currently sleeping in Brandon, Florida.  But I am also booked for a trip to New York City and Israel in January.  I have resolved to live a life of a minimalist (my goal is one tote and one suitcase).  I am going to spend New Years with friends in Melbourne and refuse to work somewhere that will chain me down.  I have slowly started the process (and trust, it is a process) of understanding where my priorities lie.  I am starting to live my life.  So now the question remains for you:  Whose life are you living?

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Filed under Inspirational