What’s Your Vacation?

 

We had 3 guests visit us over the last 2 weeks (when it is winter, people like to vacation in Florida–who would have guessed?). It was interesting because we try to be sure when we have visitors, we give them enough space and offer some novel things to do that we think might interest them. We also want to be sure they have a chance to do everything they wanted to do if they came with ideas of their own.

Each of our 3 guests, I think, had a completely different vacation.

Guest Number 1 came here to relax. She wanted to spend time coloring and having drinks with friends. She was up for pretty much any adventure in between those things–so we took her ziplining, paddleboarding (but it was too windy so we bailed on that), and walking along some trails on the Bay.

Guest Number 2’s ideal vacation was straightforward: spend time on the beach. Wake up on the beach. Lay out in the sun on the beach. Eat oysters by the beach. So we went to Clearwater Beach, Treasure Island, and R-Bar…a highly recommended oyster bar (I had tater tots).

Guest 3 was younger and wanted to see the nightlife and get some sun. Clubs, girls, drinks, sun, and laughter–perfect vacation for this one. Ybor City, St. Pete, the River Walk, Hard Rock, and Pier 60.

When I go on vacation (even if just around Tampa), I want to explore and find great vegan food. I will walk for miles, enjoying the architecture and scenery of a city, in between dropping by local coffee shops and veg-friendly restaurants. Drinking is optional. Beach is optional. I don’t care about museums or history tours or bars or dancing or sitting on a beach. I want to go on an adventure, see the parks, look at the buildings, and do at least one  thing I haven’t done before.

It turns out the ideal vacation is the one you enjoy, not the one you travel the farthest to or pay the most for.

It was great having friends and family visit. As the host, you can never be sure people are having a great time (unless they keep coming back, I suppose, but not everyone wants the same vacation twice).

Maybe the best part of vacation, though, is when it is over. Looking back and enjoying the memories again. Maybe the best vacation is the one you are quickest to remember with a smile.

 

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Weak Nights

Most nights we are in bed around 10pm. With a friend visiting from out-of-town, though, Nicole and I spent the evening strolling downtown and trying a new restaurant.

I realized I had not seen the downtown river walk at night for months. A lot had changed and it was well worth the trip to stay out a little later than usual.

Do something outside of your routine now and then. The world is full of surprises.

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Life Style

Everyone struggles to find work-life balance.

That struggle has made me a firm believer in managing by results over location and I am helping our organization transition to a workplace where the “place” is not part of the “work”.

A team-mate told me his plan is to move to another state in a few years and he is hoping we have an opportunity for him in Georgia. He quickly added, “But, by the way you are leading the company, we might all be working from wherever we want by then. You might already be living there when I get there!”

I was happy to hear his confidence in me, but it also got me thinking… when we are no longer location-centric because of work, what might life look like?

For me, I imagine designing my life in the style that works best for me and Nicole. Maybe we use technology, like Airbnb (for timeshare living), Uber (to get around), and Skype (for team availability) to stay connected and on-the-move at the same time. Maybe we have temporary set-ups in the places we most want to live, planning each year ahead.

It would take some planning but we could always live in our favorite places while working the same job. Nicole and I could spend Summer in Grand Rapids–June, July, and August. Fall in Portland–September. Winter in Tampa–November and December, Orlando–January and February, and Miami–March. Spring in Savannah–April and May. The next year it could be Chicago, Austin, Key West, San Diego, Detroit, and Seattle. Then Hawaii, Costa Rica, Paris, Ireland, and Montreal.

The only reason to limit the possibilities of Work, Life, and Balance is for fear of the alternative: limitless possibilities. 

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Catch That Train

 

On my way to work the other day, I heard the most jarring sound. A sound I had not heard since I moved to Tampa, Florida from Grand Rapids, Michigan. It yanked me into reality and I had to find the source.

The sound was a train horn.

It was so strange and familiar. I did not realize I have not heard the sound of a train in almost a year, a daily interruption in Michigan.

Clearly, there are trains in Florida (I just told you about one) and I do not know if not hearing them is strictly a coincidence of where I live or if they are rare, but what strikes me is how quickly I have grown accustomed to not having that sound in my life.

There are many forgettable things in our daily lives, thankfully. The important thing is, of course, to remember the really important stuff. I wouldn’t suggest a train horn is a good or bad thing to never forget but whatever the good stuff is for you… don’t let a day go by where you let it fade into the background, only to remember it later, when it stands out because it has been gone for so long.

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Winter In Paradise

I share a life-lesson learned every weekday. Today’s lesson is about living where you love to live.

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December 7 , Tampa

 

This picture is from December 7th, 2015. Nicole and I were at Clearwater Beach in Florida, enjoying the sun and sand. We weren’t on vacation. We live in Tampa Bay.

For most of my adult life, I have lived in places like Michigan and Indiana, where cold weather encompasses nearly 8 months of the year. We moved to Tampa at the beginning of 2015. This is our first full winter in Florida, and I have to tell you… I should have done it sooner.

I never liked winter. Sure, the leaves are pretty in the Fall, for a week, and then I am ready for Summer again. I always figured the trade-offs for living in Grand Rapids and Detroit were mostly worth it (MUCH better vegan food, more art and culture, nothing in the water wants to eat you, etc.). I was wrong.

Looking at a tent full of Christmas Trees for sale next to a bunch of palm trees is both jarring and satisfying.  Having one wardrobe is great. Being able to be physically active all year round is great. Maybe most of all, having weekly moments of zen while sitting on white sand or paddling blue surf is great.

I lived up north for the last 23 years. The only thing I wish I had done differently is move south sooner. The ironic part is, it was not my idea. In fact, I resisted it. I wanted to move to Portland or Chicago, and I am sure I would have been happy in either of those places, but only for a third of the year.

If you know where you want to live, go. Don’t wait to live there–waiting is the enemy of success. Living is about living, not waiting to live.

 

 

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Just My Luck.

Each weekday I share a life-lesson learned. Today’s lesson is about having “bad” luck…

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“That’s just my luck,” I thought. “I’m spending my vacation going back and forth to Orlando to take the dog to the vet. Just figures. Not the vacation I wanted…”

Then I remembered a few things…
I live where I choose to live, not where I happened to grow up or simply ended up.

I have a job, an apartment that more than meets my needs, a car of my choosing, and lots of toys like a smartphone, tablet, paddle board, and bicycle. I have a great partner in life, an old loyal cat, and a new lovable puppy.

I’m surrounded by things and people I love, I have the means and will to live a life I choose (not everybody has the luxury of being able to be vegan and spend almost every weekend at the beach).

Basically, I live a charmed life. A few unexpected trips to Orlando and the inconvenience of not having the perfect vacation is pretty minor compared to the joy of being somebody I love and living my life (mostly) on my terms.

It is definitely a better deal than I could have asked for and, my guess is, if you have the means to read this blog then your deal is also pretty damn good.

Our luck is not relative to our current situation. It is relative to our lives as a whole.

Or, put another way… stop whining. You don’t have it that bad.

 

 

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Squirrel!

On weekdays, I share a life-lesson learned. Here is today’s lesson…

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I know the angry chatter of a Michigan squirrel. I have seen them shaking their tiny fists at me from the tops of trees I have strayed too close to. They yell, “Hort! Hort!” and “Ch-ch-ch!”

I was completely surprised to find this Tampa squirrel right outside my apartment today, yelling at me in a foreign squirrel language. He sounded more like, “Hach, che-che! Hach! Hach! Che-che-che!” I tried to capture it on video but my mic could barely pick up the sound. If you’re from Tampa, I’m sure you already know the sound anyway.

I thought it was a bird at first. I was trying to find it in the branches, when I spotted this tiny squirrel dressing me down, basically yelling at me to get off its lawn.

I have wondered if dogs in other countries bark in a different language than dogs from the U.S. I also wonder if they have regional dialects. Are dogs from New Orleans tough to understand if you are a dog from New York? Can an American dog understand a Parisian hound?

Just because something looks the same does not mean it is the same. 

Regardless, watch out for foreign squirrels. They don’t like it when you get close to their nuts.

(So sorry for that–you were going to say it if I didn’t though, right?)

 

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Back To Minimalism

I share a lesson almost every day. A lesson I have learned in life, not just something interesting I read, heard, or remembered. Something significant that helped shape my view of the world that day. And then I share it with you. Here is today’s lesson…

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We did something crazy when we moved to Tampa… we left everything behind. Aside from what Nicole and I could fit in our cars, we abandoned our furniture, trinkets, clothes, kitchen gadgets, all of it.

Then, something interesting happened. Within a few months, I think we had actually accumulated more stuff than we originally had. As a sort-of minimalist, that can be despair-inducing.

It makes sense, though. When we clear space in our lives, our habits and social training compel us to fill it back up rather than protect it. We are pushed from every angle to acquire and consume. For example, when we see an empty wall, rather than appreciate the simple beauty and freedom of space, we want to fill it with framed pictures and artwork. I am not against art but having empty, open spaces can be artistic, too (and beautiful design).

We just moved again, and again, we left a LOT of stuff behind. Moving is a great way to de-clutter, for sure!

I have been re-committing to getting back to minimalism, though. There is little that has given more back to me than simplifying the way I live. With less clutter in the apartment, there is less to dust, clean, or accidentally break. I gain time I would have spent only maintaining the status quo of my life. Instead, I can use that time to try new things, explore, experiment, or go on adventures. With less clothes to choose from, I do not have to waste time debating what to wear each day. With a simple hairdo, I don’t waste time grooming.

You get the idea.

Having less (stuff) often provides more (time, freedom, breathing space, peace).

In the new apartment, I am focusing on keeping less so I can do more. Again… as with any lesson learned, practice makes perfect.

 

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The Lanai

Life teaches us a lesson every day. If we pay attention, we might even figure out what it is. I share the lesson I think I learned each day on this blog.

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Living in Tampa has its perks. One I never expected is the Lanai–a screened in porch. This is a feature of our new apartment, and it is maybe my favorite feature.

With the lanai, I can open all the windows and the door to the lanai without worry of “uninvited guests” (our euphemism for “bugs”). It offers a great breeze with a view of a big tree and a sliver of Tampa Bay. My cat loves it, too. She enjoys the freedom of being able to “go outside” whenever she wants and it is a treat when a bird perches in the tree or some critter goes crawling up the screen. I wish I had the kind of focus she does in those moments.

Anyway, I like to enjoy breakfast on the lanai when I can. Having the added perk of being able to work from home (or from the lanai) when I want makes it especially enjoyable. It is easier to spend 8 hours in front of a screen when you are in shorts, enjoying both sunshine and shade with a nice saltwater breeze wafting in.

It is the little things that make me smile every day. Sometimes the little things are the big things.

The lanai, it turns out, is one of each.

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Bullies Suck

Life teaches me a lesson every day. I figure out what each day’s lesson is and then I share it with you… so life teaches us both lessons every day!

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I would like to tell you about a terrible business I dealt with recently but I can’t. In parting ways, I agreed to sign a gag-order which detailed that I could not talk about them, or disparage them on social media, or acknowledge that they bullied me into signing something that essentially said I could not bully them back.

I do not think it violates the terms of the gag order, though, to tell you I moved recently, and I will just leave it at that.

I struggled (a LOT) with whether I was going to sign it or tear it up in front of them and fight it all the way. When I say I struggled, I mean, there were late nights and tears involved, and it took a lot of time to swallow enough pride to do something I feel violates my own moral code (not to mention my First Amendment right).

I hate bullies. I can not help but stand up to people who think they have the right to push others around. Even worse, I hate businesses that do the same. If I lose a customer, I want to know if I can save them. If I can’t, I want to know if I could have, and when. I want to know what I could have done differently.

What I don’t do is make my customers sign something that says they can’t tell anybody I am a shithead. I understand there are people who I am not a great flavor for. There are people who talk bad about me. There is probably somebody doing it now. But that’s okay. They have a right to feel however they feel and they can tell whoever they want about it. My actions, integrity, and character speak for themselves and when they don’t, other people will step in to defend me if they feel I am being attacked unfairly.

I have as much right to defend myself as anyone has to attack me. In the end, though, I realized two things… and I signed the paper (though still heavy-hearted about it).

  • A year from now, it won’t even matter. I will be living somewhere happily and the experience would have just been a bad day I barely remember.
  • A business that needs gag orders is already doing a better job of destroying their business than I can.

 

The great thing about bullies is that they are their own worst enemy.

 

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