Tag

Inspirations

sagres, portugal
Culture, Europe, Travel Advice

Some Stuff I Liked in Portugal: A Rough and Tumble Guide

Portugal has made it onto just about every top travel list this year, and with good reason.

I loved the month I spent there in every way, and I want to share some of the goodness with you.

If you’re looking for the definitive guide to the country, this is not it. On the other hand, if you want to know about some of the places, food, and other things I really enjoyed, I’m so happy to share my favorite spots with you.

Enjoy this rough and totally incomplete guide to sunny Portugal. And feel free to ask if I didn’t mention something you want to know about—maybe I forgot!

I give to you…some stuff I liked and things I did in Portugal, in no particular order:

Praia da Areia Branca

Just 70 kilometers (1.5 hours by bus) North of Lisbon, Praia da Areia Branca is (one of) the chillest spot(s) I know to surf, yoga, and write songs in Portugal. Granted, I only went to two areas on the beach, but I’d go back, and that’s saying a lot. A week is perfect; I think less than that would be too short.

Stay:

Lemon Tree Hostel

Gorgeous garden out back, choice of shared or private rooms, super affordable if you go in low or mid season and opt for the surf-yoga-stay package. Comfortable, clean, and graced by the warmest and most welcoming hosts.

Pura Vida Surf Hostel

Dorms, doubles, and privates. Not actual sure how it’s different from Lemon Tree. Maybe cheaper and closer to the beach?

Surf:

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Ripar Surf School

Nicest (and, in my roommate’s opinion, cutest) surf instructors around. Great value for money. Packages available for surf/yoga/stay, or just surf/stay. As it turns out, I don’t like surf lessons, but if you’re looking to learn, this is the deal for you.

Yoga:

Yoga lessons with Carla (organized through Ripar/Lemon Tree) are a necessary complement to hours of surfing in the cold Atlantic. She is a gem of a teacher, and I was lucky to wander into her class for a week.

Eat/Drink:

Foz—

Fresh seafood, sunset views…what else is there to say? Go for one of the grill options. I won’t ruin it for you, but the skewers are served beautifully.

Sol Mar—

Catch the sun from the open terrace and relax to the sound of the waves, or sit inside and enjoy some particularly well-chosen beats. Veggie burger isn’t bad, and I hear their beetroot salad is excellent. Lemon-ginger infusion is perfect for post-surf warm-up.

Bar Central (or maybe it’s Cafe Central…you should probably ask) (Lourinha)—

If you have a car, or a friend with a car, this cafe is worth the 10 minute drive from Praia da Areia Branca for some of the tastiest Pasteis de Nata in the area. Buy a box and bring some back to share.

Dance:

Baracca Bar—

I did not go on working-surfing holiday expecting to stay out dancing until two in the morning, but that’s exactly what I did my last night in Praia da Areia Branca. The DJs on a Saturday night were unexpectedly exceptional.

Shop:

Kidding. This is not where you go for shopping.

Porto

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Porto and I are totally going steady. Portugal’s tiled, hilly, artistic northern city won my heart within twenty-four hours. I even forgive it for being uphill in every possible direction. A three-hour train or bus ride from Lisbon, it’s an easily accessible (and, in my humble opinion, unmissable) stop for any itinerary.

Stay:

Salema Cosy Home

I would highly recommend the Airbnb studio apartment I rented just to the north of the city center. Ideal for solo travelers, couples, or really good friends. Hosts were kind, solicitous, and excellent communicators.

Eat:

Ristorante Sai Cão (Rua do Bonjardim)—

Keep walking up past Trindade metro, cross the main road, and look for a blue awning on your left. Great local spot—according to my hosts people come from all over Porto to eat here—and menus for 4-5 euros.

Raiz—

Menu looks great. Comes highly recommended. I didn’t actually get a chance to eat here.

Foz Fish Restaurants—

Follow the Douro River toward the sea (walking). When the ocean comes into view and Foz is just around the corner, you’ll come to a strip of seafood restaurants on the sidewalk. Pick the busiest one, and enjoy some of the freshest, cheapest fish around.

Francesinha—

The famous Porto sandwich—layers of meat and cheese, and covered with a tomato-based sauce—available at just about any restaurant for 5-8 euros. I recommend sharing with a friend to avoid instant heart attack.

Drink:

Bar Candelabro—

Enjoy a coffee or port wine surrounded by old books. This quickly became my favorite spot to read and write in the whole city. Social hub by night, calm cafe haven by day.

Cafe Majestic—

Gorgeous (almost over the top) explosion of mirrors, brass, candelabras, and overdressed waiters. Have high tea for 20 euros…or sit down, take pictures, look at the menu and walk back out and head for Bar Candelabro instead.

Maus Hábitos—

Art gallery with bar/restaurant space, situated above a parking garage (you have to know to look for it). Funky, creative ambiance, perfect for a drink with friends, and supposedly there’s dancing on the weekends.

Dance:

Rua Cândido dos Reis—

Take your pick from a whole street full of standard bars-with-dance-floors. Nothing exceptional, but they serve their purpose if you’re looking for a party on a weeknight. Bar hop to get the full experience—Britney Spears one minute, Kizomba the next, and old school hip hop after that.

Party Boat—

Not sure how to give instructions for this…Walk along the river in the early evening. Look for a cruise boat blasting music and crowds of young people waiting to get on board. Get lucky, and buy the last two tickets to a sunset cruise dance party. Alternately, river sightseeing cruises are available daily (without the party).

Shop:

Out To Lunch

Tiny but ultra-chic selection of footwear, bags, and a few clothing items, owned and stocked by a man from Tokyo with a great eye for functional-yet-beautiful style. Boutique prices.

Pop-Up Store—

Good luck finding it, as it comes and goes, but if you do manage to stumble upon it there’s a whole world of local designers and cooking classes inside!

Do:

Rent a Scooter (140 Rua da Alegria)—

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They think of everything, so you don’t have to. Equipped us with helmets, smartphone charger, maps, plans for the day, goggles. All we had to do was hop on and get lost—and we did this spectacularly well. Set your map directions to “bicycle” to avoid highways and get into some interesting wooded situations.

 

Matosinhos

Don’t go here unless there are waves. Maybe for an afternoon to eat fish (Matosinhos has the best fish in the world, according to their tourism office).

Surf:

If there are waves, Matosinhos is an easy day trip from Porto. Take the A metro or the 501 bus from Porto center, and hop out half an hour later in the dilapidated, possibly haunted, urban surf spot. Many surf schools on the beach where you can rent equipment.

Stay:

Fish Tail Sea House

Good value for money. Well-equipped kitchen. Free bikes. Comfortable beds. Private rooms and suites available.

Do:

Kidding. Go for walks on the beach. Enjoy the downtime.

Lisbon

Charming, imperfect, and full of unexplored corners, this is my kind of city. Come for the food, the walking, and the music.

Stay:

Dom Dinis Studios

This one’s a splurge. Save it for a special occasion or for traveling with your mom. 😉 Ideal location if you like things quiet at night, walking distance to Bairro Alto and lots of funky bars and restaurants, but situated in a local, not too touristed part of town.

Be Lisbon Hostel

Budget option. Basic, but nice breakfast, clean rooms. Basically all you can ask for from a hostel.

Do:

Take a Cooking Class

lisbon, portugal

Another splurge, but a day-long adventure complete with visiting a local food market, learning loads about Portuguese cuisine, and cooking a ridiculously tasty multi-course meal, wine included.

Visit Sintra—

Again, I didn’t actually do this, but my friend did, and suggests taking a train to Sintra, renting scooters there, and then motoring out to the Westernmost point in continental Europe, Cabo da Roca. I’d take her word for it.

Walk—

Everywhere. The famous Tram 28 is crowded, to say the least; if I had to do it again, I’d probably just pull on my walking shoes and take a three hour wander from Bairro Alto to Alfama (wonderful twisty little roads) and back.

Go to Belém—

portugal

The port of departure for some of the most famous naval expeditions in history, Bélem is an easy (though hot and crowded) bus ride from the center of Lisbon. Wander over to the fort, but by all accounts don’t bother going inside, eat the Original Pastel de Belem at the cafe of the same name, Pasteis de Belem, and pause to soak in the ornate architecture of the Jerónimos Monastery.

Listen:

Fado—

A Tasca do Chico in Bairro Alto came highly recommended for a Fado music experience. Don’t make the same mistake we did; you need a reservation or you will not get a table in this tiny spot. Go for the music, not the food.

Eat:

Everything.

 

Sagres

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I couldn’t resist visiting the farthest southwest town in Europe, and it far exceeded my expectations. This place is definitely magic. According to my airbnb host, it has something to do with the rocks. Whatever it is, this would have to be my top pick for a chilled out beach holiday. Go out of season; I hear the summer gets hectic.

Stay:

Sunshine Guest House

I loved my stay at this laid-back oasis right at the edge of Sagres. Liz is a wonderful host, the garden is as peaceful as peaceful can be, and you could comfortably fit two people in the double room.

Memmo Baleeira Hotel—

If you’re going for upscale, this four-star hotel has some truly beautiful views of Sagres harbor. That’s all I can tell you about it, since I never actually stepped inside.

Do:

Surf—

Watch out for the rocks at Tonel Beach, especially if you’re like me and wipe out more than you ride waves. But the water is beautiful, not as bitingly cold as farther north, and the dramatic cliffs surrounding the beaches make an unbeatable view once you make it past the break point.

Cabo de São Vicente—

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This marks the actual farthest southwest point in all of continental Europe. It’s a slightly-hilly-but-enjoyable 6km pedal from Sagres town; if that’s not your windy cup of tea, I believe the regular local bus goes that way several times a day. Leave time to wander the paths along the cliffs

Wander—

The beaches. The cliffs. The harbor. The one sleepy main road that cuts through town. Time slows down here—let it.

Eat:

Mum’s

This could not be more inaptly named—definitely not home cooking. A little pricey, but a good “last night of vacation” kind of treat.

Agua Salgada—

Casual, affordable, tasty. Fast wifi…if you’re into that kind of thing.

Mar a Vista—

Another beautiful view. Pricey-but-delicious food.

Drink:

Kiosk Perceve—

Unassuming local cafe overlooking Mareta Beach. Nice spot for a morning coffee; I’d skip the pastries.

Dromedario—

Apparently where all the surfers hang out at night. I went too early. Good atmosphere. Drinks are pricey but good.

 

***Note: If I have not linked to something, that’s because you 1. can’t miss it, 2. can’t find it online, or 3. can easily Google it. Enjoy! Xx

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Poetry & Fiction

An Artist’s Statement, Kind of

In addition to the travel, culture, and adventure writing I focus on here, I also dabble in poetry, fiction, and other creative writing. Through these pursuits, I have come to collaborate with a wonderful artist named Paula Barkmeier.

We hope to make a book soon.

To that end, I have started thinking—and writing—about my creative process pretty much for the first time in my career. This is what I have so far…feedback is welcome!

On my Creative Process

I typically begin a piece of writing in one of two ways. Either I have a specific story I want to tell or article I want to write, and I do that—or I have a vague idea pushing at my fingertips, my tongue, my belly, a somewhat undefined urge to create bubbling to the surface, and I follow it.

I’d like to talk about the first one, very briefly. I know, it’s really not glamorous. I just decide to be creative and write something down? No blood, sweat, or tears? No agony or writer’s block? That goes against everything we’re told about creativity: You have to wait for inspiration. It’s a delicate process. Creativity can’t be forced.

I have a secret for you: It can.

You see, storytelling isn’t just a passion for me; it’s also my job. I write, I edit, I blog, I copywrite, I ghostwrite, I create marketing materials… I don’t always have the luxury of waiting for inspiration. Especially when I have a deadline. So I don’t wait. I just sit down and write.

A writing teacher once told our class of young, bushy-tailed university students: “Writing is a craft. You can force it—and you should.” It was some of the soundest advice I have ever received about writing. In the past few years, it has proved true for me time and time again. I think it’s an important thing for creative people, working in any medium, to remember.

This, whatever “this” is, is our craft, as well as our art. Inspiration will come and go—and we all know how it feels when it hits!—but we have to carry on regardless.

Poetry, for me, is the exception to that rule. Poetry falls into that second category I mentioned, of fluid, spontaneous, elusive creative impulse. I do not force it. It is not a craft for me. The pieces that emerge out of that hazy, insistent urge to create become some of my favorites—perhaps more so because when I look back on it weeks, months, or years later, I almost can’t recognize the writer behind the words. She is transfigured by the creative process. She became a conduit for words, rather than their source, and I almost suspect she is another person entirely because of it.

Poetry—and, let’s not be too strict, lyrical prose and some stories too—involves for me a semi-mystical process of creation. When I sit down to write, not because I have a story to tell that day, but simply because I feel I must, I enter into a different kind of creative space. This space is not always productive or focused, but it is inspired, intoxicating, and kind of magic.

At its best, I believe writing—or any art—can express the inexpressible: It can take the inarticulate, murky language of dreams, hopes, fear, or loss, and translate it into words, images, and form. This articulation of the formerly formless is at the essence of my broadest aspirations as a writer, an artist, a creator. I write to give wings to heartbreak, and thus allow it to take flight. I write to put words to my wandering heart, and thus allow it to sing. I write to give a voice to my spirit, and thus—I hope—allow it to speak to yours.

This process is both the most personal—drawing on the intimate details of my lived experience to imbue my work with raw truth—and the most universal—discovering the shared fears, joys, loves and losses at the core of every story. And so the archetype enters the scene. By its very definition the archetype is both universal and personal; the every man, the every woman, the every child speaks to the most profound depths of our souls.

My work centers on the following themes:

joy, adventure, fear, seeking, discovery, wildness, and transformation.

And it often draws on archetypal models almost by accident—such is the nature of the archetype, that we cannot wander far without stumbling across its path.

The hero’s journey. The goddess. The winged woman. The seeker. The gypsy. The lover. The masked man. The trickster. The vagabond. The wildling.

To call it an accident is perhaps to sell the archetype short, however. It is through the exploration of archetypal forms that we understand ourselves more fully—or, that is what I believe. These figures people my dreams and my poetry. Together, they create the thematic loom into which I weave my words.

But that is only the beginning. I write to express, it’s true, but lately that is only one layer. Lately, I also write to connect, to inspire, to, in the smallest of ways, engender change. I believe in the potential for stories, words, art to build understanding, teach joy, promote healing, and sustain peace. It is my hope that I have accomplished this with this collection. If my words encourage anyone to go out, explore and seek meaning in the world, I’ll consider my writing a great success.

Seriously, feedback welcome! (I already know it’s long.)

Photo Credit: Zen Monkey Photography

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Europe

This Blog Post says, Thank You!

Do you ever experience moments of sudden and unanticipated gratitude?

I do—every day.

Thanksgiving, for me, is a lovely excuse to eat good food with friends and/or family; it is not, however, a better occasion than any other to feel thankful.

Gratitude hits at unexpected moments…

A twist of recognition in my stomach as I look up from my work on my computer and out the cafe or apartment window.

A spark of acknowledgement when I slide my latest lunch or dinner creation out of the frying pan and onto my plate.

A glitter of exhilaration as I study my schedule for the week ahead—free of routine and full of adventure.

On the street, metro, train, bus, airplane, ferry; in bed, at work, in a cafe, at a dance class; in movement, in stillness, in quiet, in noise—the sharp-sweet realization that this is my life (I have made it exactly to my measurements) hits often.

It is a feeling of thankfulness free of guilt or regret.

Here is my body—strong and able to pull me up boulders, hoops, surfboards, poles and mountains. Here are my hands, agile and capable of earning me my daily bread, with enough left over for a steady supply of plane tickets. Here is my heart, free and open to love, to poetry, to wonder.

Here is the sun, the sea, the mountains and the city, and I am in it. The sun on my skin, the salt in my hair, the mountains at my back, the city at my fingertips—I am in all of it.

Here is my life—mine—and it’s hard to say exactly how it came to be as it is, but I feel only gratitude for the paths it has taken.

The thing is…the thing is…hmm…

The thing is, I’m not grateful because I can travel freely, move freely and think freely. Well, of course I am (I’d be crazy not to appreciate such vast freedom), but it’s more than that.

If I look at those twists, sparks and glitters of realization—I mean really look at them—I notice something. My acknowledgement is not only of opportunity, ability and freedom granted. I am not just grateful that I can do what I do; I am grateful that I am where I am, doing what I’m doing.

It’s a fine distinction, but I think it matters. Opportunity—freedom of movement, thought, speech—is only meaningful when taken. We honor the gifts given us when we use them, make the most of them and (maybe) direct them toward the service of some greater purpose.

That’s why I’m here—writing this blog, working for elephant journal, seeking to learn and share what I learn every day—and I hope being where I am, doing what I’m doing with gratitude and purpose, I might inspire someone else to do the same.

Yes, that’s the thing.

Oh, and when you’re ready to take advantage of that freedom of movement you’ve been blessed with, drop me a line—I’d be happy to make some suggestions.

***
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Nomadism, Poetry & Fiction

Ah, The Life Of A Vagabond (Poetry)

It’s rare that I share poetry here (if you want more of that, check out my column on elephant journal). But I would like to share this piece with you, as I think it gets at the heart of something bittersweet and utterly beautiful, which I and my vagabonding friends sometimes struggle to express.

I hope it will speak to you.

***
Ah, the life of a vagabond—
We all say it with the same
self-mocking irony
and laughing-sad eyes.
The same funny mix
of melancholy
and mad joy.
 
Ah, the life of a vagabond—
We choose to be the mad ones,
don’t you think?
Must keep choosing it,
lest the madness
Slip
through our twirling hands
and leave us with
mundanity.
 
So we love
madly—
and leave
And dance
wildly—
and believe
Seek ceaselessly—
and receive,
Maybe.
 
Ah, the life of a vagabond—
Do you ever wonder
why we don’t
just
stay?
I do, but then I remember
we are all following the same
piper,
dancing a rhythm only some can hear—
The call doesn’t stop,
and neither
can
we.
 
Ah, the life of a vagabond—
Keep choosing it,
lest the madness
Slip
out of reach
like tears,
lest passion
settle back down
to the silt
at the depths of our eyes,
lest love become
a rarity.
 
Ah, the life of a vagabond—
They intone,
and I echo their prayer.
Call
and response.
A psalm
for swirling, wandering
souls,
A litany so powerful
we must believe it,
An incantation writ on the horizon—
we go to it dancing.
we go to it dancing.
***
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Europe, Nomadism

The Modern-Day Renunciate

Sobrado de Monxes Cathedral, Galicia, Spain.
He asked if there was water nearby.
The two dogs, attached to his belt by lengths of thick rope, were thirsty.
We were about sixty kilometers (or several days) outside of Santiago when we met him. I regret that we didn’t get a chance to ask his name.
He carried a huge walking stick, clearly decorated and carved by him, and an unraveling straw hat with a green band around it advertising for Amstel. He carried fishing gear, slept in a tent with his dogs and was running out of money. He had lost his passport one night in a flash flood, given away his watch. His hair and beard were unkempt and reddish brown. His eyes, wide, never quite focused on ours.
In a thick, thick accent, he briefly told us his story.
He had been a farmer in the Czech Republic. In December of 2015, the bank took his farm and everything he owned. So, he left with his dog and started walking. The second dog they found drowning in a river one night—still a puppy, it had huge paws, sure to be a big dog.
When he reached Santiago via the Camino Frances (the most popular route, a bit farther south), he turned around and started walking the other direction along the Camino Norte (the Northern Way, where we met him). After telling us about the dog, the money, the passport and the watch, he concluded:

“So probably I will spend my life walking. Just me, the dogs. I speak Spanish, so when I run out of money maybe I will find work somewhere, for a while. I think it is a good way to live, just to walk.”

I think I can empathize. If I lost everything like that, I would probably lose any faith I had in property, money, things. I would probably—maybe—start walking and settle into a state of non-owning, non-needing, non-grasping, too.
On the Camino, you run into a few of these modern-day renunciates.
They’re not out for a month-long holiday, or even a six-month sabbatical. They’ve dropped—or lost—everything, and they’re walking, not for pilgrimage, not for a temporary detox, but for life. 

I admire them, just as I admire anyone with a single-minded passion so single-minded that it borders on pathological. I think I understand the impulse, though I can’t imagine ever committing my life to just one activity. Different strokes, is all.
More than anything, I’m fascinated by what appears to me to be a growing global trend, as the “real world” becomes harder and harder to stomach, of starting walking (or traveling, or what have you) and never stopping.
Society has always had its renunciates. Those who live outside the bounds of normalcy—normal time, normal family, normal work, normal life—and follow another Way. I suppose the only difference is that our modern world doesn’t know as well what to do with them. It demands passports. It requires that we identify our place, our role, our function. It is, quite frankly, nonplussed by this growing race of outsiders. And yet, they are growing. 
If you ask me, there will always be renunciates—those who chose not to participate in the world offered to them. And if you ask me, it’s not a problem; rather, it is for the rest of us to accept and allow their presence, walking the narrow paths between the borders of society.
We told the former Czech farmer that there was a small shop in a house in the next town, just a kilometer farther along. He woke the dogs from their nap on the sidewalk, and we set off in opposite directions.

Without a doubt, he is still walking.
***

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Poetry & Fiction

The Men Who Saw (A Poem of Sorts)


Happy New Year!

This is not the typical style of work I share here, but I’ve been sitting on this whimsical little poem for quite a while now, and I figure now is as good a time as any to share it. May this be a light-hearted reminder to open our eyes (in all senses of the phrase) to the beauty of those people and places around us in the coming year…

***
The Men Who Saw

Once, the world was full of men who looked
with eyes as big as pans to cook—
Jaws hanging low, right down to the floor,
they looked and looked, ’til they could look no more.
The women and girls, and little boys too,
Could not understand all this looking to do—
And they shouted and pleaded to those big staring eyes
To just once sink deeper, and see them inside.
But the men who looked did not know what they meant;
Their days in looking and staring they spent…
Until one day a blind man appeared in their midst
And taught the men the lesson they’d missed.
At the first the men could not see why
This blind one’s attention brought so many smiles—
The women and children explained it all:
Though he could not look, he saw straight to their souls!
The men who looked hemmed and pondered;
They scratched their heads and thought and wondered.
At last one of their lot closed his eyes in amazement,
And refused to open them, despite much persuasion.
“I’ve got it, my friends!” He shouted with glee.
“The blind one’s vision is fine; the fault lies with me.
Though we look and we stare every day of our lives,
The world that we know is a palace of lies!”
And so the men who looked became the men with eyes closed,
and they finally knew what it meant to see souls.
Nevermore would they suffer such empty stares,

when the truth which they sought—beyond closed eyes was there.

***
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Adventure, Nomadism

I Want to Do All of the Things

This is not a bucket list.

I wrote this list a few weeks ago as the realization dawned on me that, without exaggeration, I want to do “all of the things.”

There is not a country I wouldn’t want to visit, a language I wouldn’t like to study, an art or dance I wouldn’t want to learn or a food I wouldn’t want to try.

Whenever someone shares a story of adventure, I listen carefully—not only out of friendly curiosity, but also out of a vested self-interest—making mental notes for the day I can follow their trail, or blaze my own.

In the invigorating—and overwhelming—rush of ideas that tends to accompany an “I want to do all the things” epiphany (it’s not my first) I decided to try something new.

I decided to write it all down.

This list is a work in progress. I have surely forgotten things, and will doubtless add other ideas I haven’t even thought of yet. The list of places on the left is woefully incomplete, and I know I’m missing something major… no matter.

One thing is certain, however: This is not a bucket list.

These are not things I’m hoping to do some day in the future, before I “kick the bucket”; rather, these are (all) things I want do do now. Tomorrow. Next month. As soon as possible… It might take a decade or five, but I’m starting yesterday.

My list includes the following items:

  • Travel the TransSiberian (or TransMongolian) Railway
  • Go to Argentina to study Tango—and Spanish
  • Go to Brazil to study Capoeira—and Portuguese
  • Travel across a country by horseback
  • Join the circus (learn a circus skill first)
  • Travel through Poland and Eastern Europe with my grandmother’s suitcase.
  • Chase the Northern Lights (I tried last week… no success)
  • Hike the Long Trail (VT)
  • Climb some tall mountains
  • Find a way to contribute—anywhere… everywhere.

That’s just a few.

Is it an extraordinary privilege to be able to look at every single item on this list as a real possibility? Absolutely yes. Am I still searching for the right way to be of service as I pursue these passions? Of course—although, since starting work at elephant journal I feel more assured of that side of things.

Perhaps most importantly, why? Why do I want to do/try/learn/see all this?

Why the tireless pursuit of adventure?

A little secret: There is no why.

There are secondary reasons—to learn, understand and grow are all real and valid motives. But they are secondary. The primary “reason why” is formless.

Because.

Adventure, travel, wandering, journeying for me have always been (and may always be) a raison d’être. A “why” unto themselves.

That is, I do not wander because ______, or travel to _______; but rather, when in movement, when in the pursuit of adventure, I have no need of why’s.

I do not wonder why I am here, what I should be doing or what my purpose is… I simply am.

And so I want to do “All of the Things,” because so long as this list (and its much longer mental counterpart) are close to my heart, my wings beat of their own accord. Existence, then, is its own end—and that is every thing.

So… what’s on your list?
***
[I’ll be in London now through (almost) the end of October. Checking in after 2 weeks in Helsinki, Finland, which were so packed with adventure I haven’t had time to write about them yet! Much more to come on that very soon.]

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Africa, Nature

Other Words for Turquoise

Over the last week, I have been struggling to find other words for what has always been one of my favorite colors: turquoise.
As I help to write new website content for a Zanzibari hotel, and as I research other accommodations in the industry, I am struck by the dearth of alternatives. Hundreds of hotels, lodges, hostels and villas, and all any of us can come up with is, “the warm, turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.”
Really? I mean, I love turquoise—the color, the word, the evocative sound of it—but there must be more creative ways to describe this coast.
The following words are officially out, for overuse: stunning; warm; turquoise; aquamarine; tropical blue; island blue; exquisite.
Not to say the Indian Ocean isn’t all of those things… only, words begin to seem trite when used in such limited permutations.
The ocean here is truly a bevy of hues, none of them simply blue. When the tide is out, there is a short stretch of water a few shades lighter than teal, then a wide bay of deep and surprising periwinkle, tapering into indigo at the meeting point with the sky—azure fading to white. Throughout this vocabulary test of colors emerge hints of sea green (a color none can replicate, it is mined from the ocean depths to fill a gap between green and blue). And at the border between every pair lie colors without names, achingly beautiful blues never seen before that moment and never to appear again.
Everything changes with the sun, of course. In the rain, add a few shades of grey to every hue. In full sun, the color at the horizon brightens to sparkling sapphire. The faraway depths become a cobalt seasoned by saltwater. The shallows at high tide almost insist upon the label of “turquoise,” yet if you look very closely you will find each and every shade from the imperfect white of the surf to the navy-black of the shadows. And in-between, a spectrum of blues, named and unnamed, which, lacking more and better words, we call turquoise.
Are there other words for turquoise? Undoubtedly. Can any one of them truly describe the explosion of color that laps at these shores? Unlikely.

And so, I am back where I began, watching the warm, turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean recede with the tide. Any other words I chose would be equally insufficient.
Bonus: Massive double rainbow spotted last week!
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A Picnic Revolution

I’m starting a picnic revolution! Here’s how it came about:

Yesterday, my friends invited me to an outdoor concert at Lincoln Peak Vineyard (about 3 miles north of Middlebury, VT). After a busy day at work, this seemed like the perfect way to spend my evening.

Sunlight dripped like honey into the Adirondacks on the horizon, and its warmth melted away the constant action of the past few days of work. Vibrations lifted from violin strings. Blades of grass sprouted between my toes while Bluegrass music washed over my nose. For the first time in some days, I felt totally at peace. (I’m realizing that I need to step back from work, ‘other work’ and other ‘other work’ far more often.)

Due to my new-found engagement with social media, I snapped photos of my friends, lively grape vines, and, of course, our new picnic innovation and the subject of this post…

Naturally, Lincoln Peak Vineyard offers glasses of wine for sale during their outdoor summer concerts. Now, my parents, and probably many others, own special wine stakes meant to hold your wineglass in place while you use your hands for other things, like eating your beautiful picnic food. These stakes are somewhat unruly, however, and regardless, I don’t have any.

Feet, I discovered yesterday evening, are equally, if not more, effective, and you never run the risk of leaving them at home! How had it taken me so long to stumble upon such a simple solution? In no time, all four of us were holding our glasses up with our toes while we feasted on tomato basil and feta salad, millet bread muffins, chicken, cherries, and chocolate.

I suggested that this idea could revolutionize picnics, and I was only sort of kidding. Rise up with me against the tyranny of wineglasses over our picnic fun! Join my picnic revolution and take back your two-handed freedom! But seriously, give this a try and you may never picnic the same way again!

~

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