Friday, June 26, 2009

Article: Things every traveler should do

I ran across an article out of Real Simple, and thought I'd post it here to keep it in mind for when we hit the road. Though I've taken out a few that didn't make sense for our particular US trip, I thought it entirely appropriate:

Things every traveler should do

Visiting a new town is like having a conversation. Places ask questions of you just as searchingly as you question them. And, as in any conversation, it helps to listen with an open mind, so you can be led somewhere unexpected. The more you leave assumptions at home, I've found, the better you can hear whatever it is that a destination is trying to say to you.

Savor every moment of your first few hours

First impressions really are worth a thousand others. I often scribble a hundred pages of notes when I visit somewhere new. But then, when I get home, it's always the first page or two -- the taxi ride in from the airport, my first foray out onto the streets -- that captures something vivid and essential before my ideas and prejudices begin to harden.

So stay away from e-mail, the news and anything that reminds you of home and just soak the place in.

Embrace the prospect of being a tourist

Some snooty types will tell you that they're "travelers," not tourists. But if being a tourist means wanting to see all the attractions that make a town unique, then what's so bad about that?

Take the three-hour city tour on your first day in Atlanta so you know where things are and what you wish to return to. When traveling abroad, visit the shops recommended by tour guides, if only to see what's available from people who speak English. Don't be shy about asking a local stranger how to find the national museum; she may just offer you a guided tour along the way.

Run an errand for a friend

She's asked you to get, say, macadamia popcorn on Maui or to track down that wise monk she once met in Phnom Penh. The very search for what someone else wants or values (and it doesn't really matter what it is) will lead you to places you would otherwise never see.

Take in a performance or a sporting event

A ball game or a symphony is transporting and doesn't require you to speak the language. And watching opera in Beijing or soccer in Rio will be nothing like seeing opera or soccer at home. It would take a mighty effort to get me to "Swan Lake" in Santa Barbara. But put me in Beirut and I know it will be a night to remember.

Check out a bookstore

It's a great way to learn about the interests of the locals. On almost any street in New Delhi, for example, a bookshop is bulging with works on palaces, textiles, spirituality and the Kama Sutra; in Salt Lake City, the offerings are somewhat different.

And in a store like the independent-minded Elliott Bay Book Company, a local institution in Seattle, you'll find a universe so compendious that it seems to be an anthology of the city's distinctive grace notes. Poking into even the smallest of these places not only opens a new door to a city but also offers the promise of a good read to keep you company at night.

Ride a bus to the end of the line

It isn't wise to do this everywhere, but riding the bus to even the next six stops can be useful. At the very least, you'll see something of the city, get a front-seat view (literally) of what the Romans do in Rome and end up in surprising destinations. I did this in Miami once and found myself in a spicy part of Little Havana that nobody would have mistaken for South Beach, and yet it seemed to capture the essence of the city.

Read the daily newspaper

Almost every big city anywhere has an English-language paper, and even papers you can't read will startle you with their pictures and their different types of tiny print. Whether it's pages of "matrimonial" ads in The Times of India or headlines in the Key West Citizen (300-POUND MAN SMASHES HEAD IN WALL), newspapers always tell you much more about a place than they think they're telling.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our First Homeschool Fair

Jill's Journal: We went to our first homeschooling fair today. The homeschooling crowd is certainly…different (for lack of a better word) from the rest of society, but after getting past the initial “culture shock,” I think it’s in a good way. It’s a more wholesome crowd and everyone just seems more polite and open and well, nice. Yes, there were several females wearing long skirts and long hair and looking like that large and unusual Duggar family from Arkansas, but that’s not a bad thing. I’d take them for neighbors and friends and classmates for my children any day over most of the rest of society, that’s for sure. The whole place and all the attendees just seemed like a lovely community, not afraid to march to the beat of their own drummers, and it makes me all the more pleased with our decision.

Sonlight Curriculum was there, as was A Beka and several others. I’ve done so much research already that I didn’t learn much new. However, the highlight was getting to talk to several Moms who already homeschool, especially one who uses Sonlight and another who uses Calvert! That was very exciting and getting their insights was helpful and wonderful.

The best part of the day was hearing the Sonlight Mom tell me that she uses completely individual curriculums for each of her three children (who were all about two years apart, just like ours). That’s been one of my biggest concerns – everyone (including Sonlight) advises you to combine the programs and teach all your kids the same thing. I've never felt comfortable with that. I figure they’re all individuals and will be (and should be) at different stages of learning. I don’t want to hold Erika back so she can be on the same page as Madelyn, nor do I want to push Madelyn too hard so she can be on the same page as Erika. And that doesn’t even take into account Victoria, who is 3 1/2 years behind Erika.

This particular mother I spoke to does what I want to do – separates each child’s schooling – and it was so incredibly nice and encouraging to hear that she does it and loves it and recommends it. She is seriously the first one I’ve ever heard of doing that! She had the same reasons that I do and says that it simply makes it a little harder on the Mom. Well, I can handle that! I just want what’s best for my kids. If it takes a little extra work from me, so be it.

It was also wonderful for Rob to be able to be there and get a little glimpse into all this homeschooling stuff. It opened a few nice little opportunities for discussion.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ditch the Stuff; Focus on Family

Jill's Journal: I’ll admit it: I love reading blogs. And today I found something so profound on Simple Mom. It fit our trip and our philospophy so beautifully that I had to share it. It’s a guest post from Nicole at Burning Bridges and this is the part that I simply had to include:

"Be Rich in FREEDOM.
"When I loosen my grip on money and things in order to give to others, my things and my money loosen their grip on me. Letting go of something I
think I need reveals that my need is not as deep as I thought. Letting go of some portion of my money or some thing I’m keeping as a safety net or luxury — if I can finally let it go — helps me redefine my needs. Am I dead? Am I freezing? Am I hungry? Am I bleeding? Most probably not. When we hold tightly to things, we start to fear the day of their release. And yet, ironically, it’s often our holding them so tightly that binds us up with fear in the first place.

"If you’re like me, then the more stuff you have, the more you’re consumed with managing it all. Cleaning, sorting, organizing, and analyzing. Things have mass and the more mass we own, the more we are weighed down with it all. When we use our things and our assets to bless others, we remind ourselves that people are of primary importance and that relationships will outlast everything else."

Isn’t that profound? That’s what is at the heart of our trip: the simplifying of our lives to focus on our family. Because in the end, that’s what matters the most.

Continuing Research

Jill's Journal: We went to an RV show at the Horse Park a couple of weeks ago. Tomorrow we're heading to car lots to see some of the possibilities for trucks to pull our future fifth wheel. Our research marches on!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Where do you Thrive...

Jill found a note that I wanted to publish here to show it to the world, and to give a little insight as to our trip and the many reasons behind it. I like what he has to say, and I think that's going to be a large part of what we are doing. I've seen this first hand over the last year or so, and I'm even more keen to watch for it in others now. There is something about being happy where you are bringing a sense of happiness to other aspects of your life.

So, without further ado and no more gilding of the lily...

Today, June 08, 2009 • Michael Davis

Comedian Patton Oswalt gave a commencement speech to his former High School where he told the story of man who told him about the 'Five Environments'. The story resonated with me. I grew up in San Diego, a lovely city that most people would feel lucky to live in.. I hope it makes sense to you too.

"There are Five Environments you can live in on this planet. There's The City. The Desert. The Mountains. The Plains. And The Beach. You can live in combinations of them. Maybe a city in the desert, or in the mountains by the ocean. Or you could choose just one. Out in the plains somewhere, perhaps.

"But you need to get out there and travel, and figure out where you thrive. Some places you'll go to and you'll feel yourself wither. Your brain will fog up, your body won't respond to your thoughts and desires, and you'll feel sad and angry.

"You need to find out which of the Five Environments are yours. If you belong by the ocean, then the mountains will ruin you. If you're suited for the blue solitude of the plains, then the city will be a tight, roaring prison cell that'll eat you alive.

"He was right. I've traveled and tested his theory and he was absolutely right. There are Five Environments. If you find the right combination, or the perfect singularity, your life will click... into... place. You will click into place."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Craig’s List, eBay, and Purging…Oh My

Jill's Journal: No one can say I’m not taking downsizing seriously. A little more than two months ago, I started cutting down on stuff. Probably 99.9% of people in this country have more things than they could ever need and we’re no exception. I’ve always hated clutter and always liked living minimalistically, but that doesn’t mean we’re down to the bare bones, by any means. Not yet, anyway.

My first big foray into cleansing the “stuff” palate was finding new homes for all my horse racing videos. We’re talking videotapes of every Breeders’ Cup race since its inception (1984), all Triple Crown races from the last 20 years, and literally thousands of other races and racing industry events.

This was a big step. This collection of videos held a very special place in my heart. For Pete’s sake, we moved to Kentucky for horse racing and this wonderful game puts food on our table and is our sole source of income. To say we’d be lost without racing is an understatement. It’s more than a passion…it’s a way of life and a major love.

I knew after saying goodbye to these videos that everything else would be relatively easy, so that’s why I started with them. I’m pleased to say I found good racing homes for all of them and they promise to be loved and cherished. :-) It was bittersweet to part with them, but I did it.

And then I delved into Craig’s List. It’s not my favorite thing, as I hate having to meet people to exchange an item for money, but it’s working out well. I’ve already sold several larger items – mostly baby stuff – and gotten cold, hard cash in exchange for them. It feels good!

And now tonight, I just closed on my first eBay sale – it was just a few dollars for some scrapbooking scissors, but it was a start. I had dabbled in eBay 10 years ago and I certainly had to jump through a few hoops to reactive my seller’s account, but I couldn’t be more excited. It’s such a thrill to start parting with things and get some money for them! Every item sold represents another step closer to our adventure of a lifetime.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lightbulb at the Library

Jill's Journal: My girls are voracious readers, but strangely, we’ve spent very little time at the library. We’ve always bought them books, mostly because then they are available to be enjoyed over and over (and over) again. And, with three kids so close in age, it made sense to build a children’s library. It never dawned on me to borrow books, which is strange as I spent many, many hours at the library as a child with my own mother. But, I’ve recently rediscovered this wonderful resource and in the last month, I got the first library card I’ve held in probably close to 25 years.

We checked out four books in our first visit and the girls thought it was pretty much the neatest thing they’d ever seen. We returned them today and left with another 19. When I told the girls we were heading to the library, there was much celebrating in the land. I cannot even express how excited they were – literally bouncing off the walls and acting like we were going someplace so supremely special, like Disneyland or the zoo!

And then we checked out the books and the girls could not wait to be strapped into their car seats so they could delve into the titles on the ride home…and they could not even bear the wait to start reading together at home.

Their reaction pleased me greatly. (It also made me smack myself on the forehead for not utilizing the library earlier in my parenting years!) And it gave me an epiphany. The Sonlight homeschool program is based so heavily in reading, something they love so deeply, that it gave me even more of an assurance it’s the right program for us. I’m so excited about it! Rob still needs to be convinced, however…

Monday, June 1, 2009

Launch Day…One Year Away

Jill's Journal: I have begun looking at our RV adventure as very long-term. I’m seriously thinking in the five to 10 year range. I’m in no hurry to settle down – we’ve got our whole lives to do that, but only this short window of time with all our kids young enough and schooling flexible enough and this wonderful work-from-anywhere ability in Rob’s career…it’s just perfect. The only hard part is waiting another year.

Our “soft launch” date is May 1, 2010. In an ideal world, we’d like to have the house sold and be moved into the RV by that point, living the following month at the Kentucky Horse Park. It gives us a bit of time to work out the kinks, get fully accustomed to living in a fifth wheel, finish up Erika’s kindergarten and Madelyn’s first year of preschool, and say goodbye to everyone and everything local. The school year finishes at the end of May and we’d like to be on the road by June 1st.