Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Your Responsibility: Vote

Photo:  This is my ballot

The ability to vote is something that has been a hard-fought battle all over the world.   
100 years ago, this would have been denied to me as a woman.

Our ancestors fought for some of our rights.
We fight for more rights today.

Your right to vote matters.

Vote for causes you believe in.  
Vote for who you think do the most good (or the least harm).
Vote for your family and friends.

Just vote.    

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Yes, You Can Take a Month Off to Travel (The Thailand Series)

I love to travel, and it should come as no surprise that I read other travel blogs as well to get encouragement and inspiration.    One topic that comes up is "How can you take an extended period of time to travel?"   I realize that a month isn't the same as someone taking a year or two to travel the world (I still aspire to that).    But a month is achievable.   I didn't have to leave my job or find a new home for my dog.   I didn't have to cancel anything.   I didn't have to find a renter or put my stuff in storage.   

Taking a month to travel while employed full-time does take some advance planning.    Today is October 27.    If you went to see your boss and said "I'm going to take the month of November off...see you December 1," that probably wouldn't go over too well.    

In the summer of 2008, I talked to my boss about taking my three weeks of vacation, plus one week unpaid for a trip in 2009.   His response "Are you sure you want to use everything at once?" (yes) and "Make sure that your co-workers are ok with this since they'll be covering for you while you're gone." (they were ok with it)

In 2009 I took a month off to go on a volunteer vacation in Thailand.   I did a three week volunteer abroad with Cross Cultural Solutions and then had some pre/post travel time in Bangkok, Chaing Mai and Taipei.  

The truth:  Volunteer vacations are not cheap or free.   Part of what you're doing is supporting the local organization as well as providing employment for the local staff that helps coordinate the work, housing and other activities.   That is what I wanted.    I wanted a safe place to stay, cultural activities, transportation, meals and other volunteers to hang out with.     Budgeting for a volunteer vacation is just like budgeting for any other kind of vacation - but there is a little tax benefit.   My program fee was a tax-deductible donation, and friends and family could also donate towards my program - in fact, I asked for donations in lieu of Christmas and Birthday gifts. 

Without further adieu....if you'd like to learn about Thailand or what it was like to go on this kind of volunteer vacation, pick a few posts and read on!

Countdown to Thailand
Practical Procrastination
It Looks Like Iowa
Fun with International Restrooms
Chao Phraya
Wat Arun
My Amazing Race Moment
The Elusive Kanoon
Thai 101
On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful
Thai Mythology
Aroi Mai?
Makabucha Day
The First Day of School
Saibaidee Tao (Happy Feet)
Too Many Shoes
Ko Lanta
Crazy Transportation
Home Sweet Home Base
Wat Kok Yang Daycare
Pink Day
House Maa
Funny Signs
Ko Phi Phi
Beach Games
Thai Pancake
If it's Bob Marley...
Last Day of School
Sawadee Ka from Thailand
Which Wat?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Use Your Voice

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Voice.   Even more impressive is that I'm writing it on Friday eve instead of on Saturday - my normal style.  
I'm loud.   It's true.    The thought of voice (other than The Voice being the only TV show I'm watching this fall) makes me think of singing.  Talking.  Communicating.  Connecting.
This morning at our 3 person department meeting at a cafe across the street I broke into "Party in the USA."  Just a little.
About an hour later we cranked it up in the office and had a little dance party before a conference call.   We offered to sing on the call.   Very thankful that no one took us up on it.  
We were discussing the Strength Finders assessment on this call.    My number 1 strength?  Positivity.   Didn't shock my co-workers in the slightest.    I practically bounce with it.   
(My second was Woo - Winning Others Over)
It's not always what you say.    In reality, it's what you do.   That's the best way that your voice can be heard.    There is a quote that I'm going to paraphrase:  What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
Am I using my strengths to the best of my ability? 
Am I using my voice for good?  
Making my little corner of the world better?  
Even if I don't say a thing?  
I'm excited to use my voice for two blogger events this fall.      
The first event is called Passports With Purpose (read more here) - stop back here on my blog on November 29 and you can start making donations to   All the travel bloggers also have to secure prizes.   Everyone who donates at least $10 will have the option to select a prize they would like to win.
I just read about The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap today which is an online fundraiser and a real cookie swap for food bloggers.    I think I'll have to get in on that over on my food blog: Traveler in the Kitchen.  
To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on Friday Eve (aka Thursday night) or on Friday/Saturday then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wells for Haiti: Passports with Purpose 2012

Photo Credit:  Passports with Purpose

Traveling Friends, I'm very excited to participate in Passports with Purpose this year.   PWP is a travel blogger fundraising event.    This year, the goal is to raise $100k in about 2 weeks time for to build wells in Haiti.    This post is simply an appetizer....whetting your appetite for what's to come.    

I've been fortunate to enjoy safe drinking water every day of my life.  
Participating in this event is just one way for me to help give back.   

As we dive into the holiday season (you know, the one that seems to stretch from Labor Day through New Year's), think of all the things that you enjoy and how rewarding it would be to give a small gift (talkin' $10 here) to improve the lives of others.  

Beginning November 29, a whole slew of travel bloggers (a technical term to be sure) will be posting about Passports with Purpose and how you can get involved.    Each blogger has secured a prize.   For every $10 you donate, you have a chance to select what prize you might like to win.    When this travel blogging fundraising craziness is done, the winners will be drawn.

My good friends at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center and Grand Hyatt Denver have each donated a weekend night stay for this event.   Talk about awesome!

A few water facts from to get you thinking...
  • More people have a mobile phone than a toilet
  • 780 million people lack access to clean water
  • In one day 200 million hours of work time are consumed by women collecting water for their families
  • 443 million school days are lost each year due to water related illnesses
Guatemalan boys win prizes at a run sponsored by
Healing Waters International (Aguas de Unidad)
June 2010

Monday, October 22, 2012

What about 2013?


I don't have ANY trips scheduled for 2013 other than a ski trip with Mom to Beaver Creek.   BC is only 2 hours away and still in state.  It will be fun, but I don't consider it a trip, per se.

Normally I have things on deck.  Reservations.  Visas.  Plans.

Right now, I don't.  

{I'm not much of a planner EXCEPT when it comes to travel.    I have it down.  Just ask my friends.   In the spring one friend blithely asked me if I wanted to go someplace warm later this year.    Before she could blink, the trip was planned and the deposit made.}

I've talked to family and friends.  Pondered volunteer vacations.

I've thought about the states I've neglected. 
Alaska.  North Dakota.  The Carolinas.  Mississippi. 
Rhode Island.  Delaware.  Connecticut.

My blank slate is refreshing.  And terrifying.

What should I do in 2013?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Look! (at the amount of mail)

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Look.
Look!  It's Saturday.   I can't seem to find the five minutes on a Friday.


My sister and I both registered to vote (yay! - sidenote: I hope you are too).    We are not registered with the same party.    In the past 6 weeks or so this has led to an unprecedented amount of mail.   With online bill pay, we don't get a lot of mail other than the store ads and a few magazine subscriptions.

Every day we play a game, "Guess how many political ads are in the mailbox?"  We each make a guess and then get the mail.    Sometimes we even get more than one ad for the same candidate (there is a local candidate who must have a large budget for glossy bulk fliers printed on card stock). 

Some of them are in bad taste, such as the one that had the candidates head superimposed over the cartoon image of a caveman dragging a woman by his hair.    Some of them are positive - just telling what the candidate is about and not bashing anyone. 

Aside from the Look at the mail game, it's Look at social media.   This week I got a synopsis of the debate by reading my friend's news feeds.     And that my friends is how a phrase like binders full of women goes viral in under 12 hours.    It's a whole new world.    Look!  

I can't wait until the election is over. 

To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on Friday (or Saturday) then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Kindle of my Own

I'm not sure what took me so long.  

I didn't stand up on a soap box and scream to the masses "If it's not bound, I don't want it!" 
Nor did I jump on it when it first came out "This is new technology and I MUST have it!"

But like almost anything, you need to try it for yourself and see if it works for you.    There was a best-selling trilogy that my sister and I wanted to read (Let's call it FSOG for short).       Good luck trying to get one of the books from the library, you'll be hold #131 and will get your copy in 2013.

And then an unlikely hero saving us from having to spend money or wait endlessly.  A friend loaned us her Kindle.   It was my first time giving an e-book a chance. 

I wasn't sure how I'd feel.    Would it be as comfortable as reading a book?  As easy as throwing a magazine in my purse?  Would the dreaded "blue light" that comes from my computer and cell phone be there, waking my brain up when I was trying to read before bed? 

Yes.   Yes.   No. 

It just took one book (well, actually three, since it was a trilogy) and I became a believer.  

Now I have a little kindle all of my own.   The $69 special.   I don't need color.   I don't need apps.  
I just wanted something small and light.   Perfect for my daily ride on the light rail.   Perfect for my upcoming vacation, and the quality time waiting in airports and flying that it will entail. 

If I needed another reason to love the public library: you can check out e-books for free.  My love for book and magazines won't go away.   I enjoy browsing in the library to see what's new.   What catches my eye.   

I'm not going paper free.   
I'm just expanding my reading horizons.
And lightening my load.

When did you make the switch to e-books?  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Journey or the Destination?

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Race.  Obviously I'm not much of a racer, since I seem to be more of a Five Minute Saturday person...


The word race implies one of two things.    1) a finish line   2) a defined winner

I'm not big into competition.   I don't really care about winning, I just want to have a good time.    It seems there are a lot of motivational memes comparing life to a race.   You can't win if you don't play and all that.    So I feel that I fall into the "journey is the destination" camp.   I enjoy the process more than the final result in many situations.     

A few weeks ago I jogged/walked quickly in a 5k called Color Me Rad.  It was not about the time or the finish, but about being with friends....while people were throwing color on you.     Now, there was in fact a finish line.   And that's where the fun continued with a giant color war.   Two of my friends waited there just to pelt me with color.   And then it was on.  

There is joy in planning, plotting, organizing, and preparing.   I liken it to travel.   The trip itself is always amazing and you come back changed, but the pre-planning is part of the fun.   What are you going to do?   Where will you go?   What will it feel like?  

Coming home with a souvenir or tan is the "finish line."   The training (planning / prepping) and the race itself (the trip) are the real prize. 


To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on Friday (or Saturday) then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Two out of Ten Small Towns....

There are lists everywhere.  
What you should do. 
What you should read.
Where you should shop.
What you should buy.
Where you shouldn't go.
Restaurants you should try.
Weird food you shouldn't try.
Things that are stranger than squid on a stick.
Best places for a do-nothing vacation (this was intriguing, since I'm not good at doing nothing)

You name it and someone has written a list. 

In the most recent issue of Budget Travel magazine, there is a list of the 10 Coolest Small Towns in America.   That's the kind of article that I would normally skim right through.   Of all the small towns in America, and there are a LOT, the chance that I've been to one of the ten is very slim.

Imagine my surprise when I read through the list and realized that I had been to not one but TWO of the Coolest Small Towns!    My coolness factor just doubled!  Just now (blink and you missed it).  Of course, at the time I visited, I didn't know of their coolness.

#5 Nashville, Indiana:  I spent three years in Indianapolis and went to Nashville a couple of times.  It's a chill little artist colony.   I have a Christmas ornament (of a palm tree - not very Indiana-like) that I bought there that I put up every year. 

#10 Cooke City, Montana:   I spent a summer working in Yellowstone National Park, and Cooke City was just outside the park. 

Maybe that's what makes a cool small town cool.   You don't know it.  You don't seek it out because it was featured on a list.  You just find it. 

What's your favorite small town?



Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Story of the Pineapple

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Welcome.


What is the international symbol of hospitality?    On one of my college exams, I wrote "smile."  The answer was wrong, but I still got credit.    The pineapple is the international symbol.    Once I told that to family and friends, I started getting random pineapple shaped gifts.   A welcome sign.  A jewelry box.   A magnet.     

I studied hospitality management (under the guise of a degree in Food Science and Nutrition) in college.  Twelve years later, I'm still in the field and I know that hospitality - the act of taking care of others - suits my skills and personality.    My job is to make others happy.   To make them feel welcome.   

I do this outside of work as well.   Often with gifts of food, since that's how I roll.   

A warm welcome goes a long way.   Introducing yourself to a neighbor.   The person who sits next to you at church.    Someone new to your city.    A new co-worker.    The over-worked cashier at the grocery store.  

People may not remember the nice person - they're more likely to harp on the one who didn't tip, or who caused a scene.    But you'll remember.    Be the welcome.   Be the smile.   Be the person who, one small act at a time, makes the world better.


To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on Friday (or Saturday) then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gnome Nabbing - Would You Do It?

Photo Credit:  Travelocity
Yesterday I read about The Great Gnome Nabbing contest that Travelocity is running.     The winner and a friend will be taken (hence the nabbing) on a month long trip to six unspecified locations around the world (well...they are kind of specified in the all the official rules, terms and looks like the winner will hit 4 continents.   Awesome.) 

Valued at $65,000.    
I don't think the winner will be hosteling.   
Maybe they will even fly business class.

Side Note:  I aspire to fly business or first class without paying for it.    In all my travels, I've only been upgraded once, and that was on a four hour flight from Puerto Rico.     I milked those four hours for all they were worth.   Another cocktail?   Yes, please.  

The trip departs on 11/29/12 and returns on 12/23/12. 

In under two months.    
This kind of contest appeals to the real adventurer.  
Someone who has at least 10 open pages in their passport. 
The kind who can and will pick up and go.   

The thought of this kind of trip is very exciting.   Not in a "wouldn't that be nice someday" sort of way.   But in a "could I really make it work right now in 2012?" sort of way.    In a "could I sell it to my boss?" sort of way.  

Like the lottery, you can't win if you don't play.    If you want to win you have to submit a 60 second video telling them why.

Where would you want to go if you nabbed?


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