Friday, May 1, 2020

An Amazing Journey


Now that travel has been suspended for the time being, it gives me time to reflect on all of the trips that I've taken, or perhaps, all the trips that have taken me.

It began when I was just a girl, taking the train or bus to see my family in another state.  I was mesmerized by the simplest things along the way.  It was all so new and interesting and more than a little terrifying.  I suppose that was the feeling that sparked my intense love of travel.

Growing up, my brother and I would explore abandoned buildings and old rail yards.  Playing make believe games and pretending we were living some extraordinary lives.  I particularly loved the trains and imagined the wonderful places they would go.

Later, I spent time visiting beautiful locations near my home.  My world was beginning to expand.  I realized that even a short distance could make me feel as though I was very far away.

My first time out of the country was during a family trip to California.  We drove across the border into Mexico.  It was the most incredible experience of my life.  I was captivated by every sight, smell and sound.  I knew then that I wanted to see more. 

Now, 50 years later I think of all of the countries, cities, towns and villages that I have had the great fortune to see.  All of the wonderful adventures I’ve had and how each and every one has touched my heart and changed the way I look at the world.

So for me, this isn’t a time of no travel but a fantastic opportunity to relive this amazing journey.



What I Learn from Travel

It is so amazing to me that no matter where I go, near or far, I learn something new every time I step outside of my door.  I used to think that I had to go far away to have a great experience and now I realize that it can happen in my own neighborhood as easily as on the other side of the world.

What is important for me is to stay open to my surroundings.  When I'm out and about, I make a point of not burying myself in a book or my phone.  I like to look around and notice the little things that are going on and always love to chat with people I meet along the way.

In many ways I feel like a child, full of wonder and awe and I am so grateful for each and every lesson on this incredible journey.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Joyful Memories

I heard something recently that resonated deeply with me.  When you remember something from your past, think of it when it was just beginning.  Recall how you felt happy and excited at the very start of it, when it was fresh and new.  Leave out any concerns or disappointments that came later. 

Just let it be a beautiful joyful memory.

For me, the very first thing that came to mind, was Ireland.  I remember my first trip there like it was yesterday.  I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw the stunning green countryside stretched out before me.  It was one of  the most beautiful moments in my life and changed me forever. 




Thursday, April 9, 2020

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Little Things Make a Big Difference

Years ago, I had a wonderful conversation with a man on a flight to Europe.  We started talking about where we were going and of course as you talk with fellow travelers the discussion almost always turns to where you have been and what you have encountered along the way.

The experience doesn't have to be extreme for you to develop an overall impression of the place you are visiting.  It reminds me of the old adage - you only get one chance to make a good first impression.  That is certainly true for the international travel and hospitality industry. 

This man had traveled from Germany to the US to give a lecture at a medical conference that was being held at the hotel where he was staying.  After arriving very late at night from his international flight he called room service to have a beer delivered to his room and was told he would have to wait over an hour. 

After almost 2 hours and still no drink he went downstairs and collected it himself.  Just that one small request was all it took for this to be an unpleasant experience for him, so much so that he does not stay with that particular hotel brand when he travels and always shares that experience with other people he talks to. 

Anyone who travels on a regular basis knows that it is the little things that can really make a difference - for me it is having food and drink available at off hours.  There isn't anything better than arriving after a long flight and checking into my room to find 2 bottles of water with a lovely assortment of candy, nuts and sometimes even cheese and fruit.  If there is a mini bar or drinks available that is fantastic.  It really sets the tone for my trip be it business or pleasure.

While I understand and truly appreciate getting "special" treatment for being a member of loyalty programs it is even more important to see what effort you make when I am just the average paying customer.  If I can get something to drink and a snack before I go to sleep chances are I'll stay with you again and again. 

Luxurious Langoustine

Last night I watched a cooking program where the chef prepared a lovely langoustine dish.  I have only had this delicate crustacean once and it was on my trip to New Zealand.

I had taken the Coastal Pacific rail from Picton to Christchurch, the journey through the countryside and along the coast was so beautiful.  It was late when I checked into my hotel and I went downstairs for a bite to eat.  There were 2 restaurants, one casual and bustling with people.  The other, elegant with a peaceful atmosphere, that was the one for me.

As I looked over the menu, I realized that this would be beyond my meager budget but I wanted to stay so I ordered a starter and thought that would be sufficient.  I ordered the langoustine with cream sauce and a nice glass of local red wine.  I'm not sure if it was the food, the atmosphere or just the entire experience but it felt so luxurious and tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten.   

For me, that is one of the great joys of traveling.  I can savor those precious moments and relive them again and again, just like they were yesterday.

Monday, March 2, 2020

What I didn't know about Ireland



As an Irish American, I grew up thinking that I knew certain things to be true about Ireland.   Of course, I had always heard how beautiful it was and how friendly the people were but I was surprised to discover that there are so many things that as Americans we don't really know about Ireland.

Here are just some of the things that surprised and delighted me during my travels to the lovely green isle.

Top o' the Mornin - I've never heard an Irish person say this in over 15 years of traveling there.

Corned Beef and Cabbage is not the national dish.

The most common or traditional meal I found all through the country is boiled back bacon (pork), potatoes, cabbage and a lovely parsley cream sauce, it's just like the country boiled dinner my grandmother made when I was growing up.  I found out that the corned beef and cabbage tradition was developed in America due to the cost of food and immigrants living in the same communities with some who did not eat pork.  


Irish Bacon is not the same as Canadian Bacon - it a gorgeous slice of pork loin that I adore!

St. Patrick's Day began as a religious holiday to honor their patron Saint.
Until 1970 pubs were required by law to close for the day.  Irish immigrants in America began celebrating in remembrance of their homeland and it has evolved into the green madness we know today. 

The Republic of Ireland (South) and Northern Ireland (UK) are different countries. 

Pubs in Ireland are truly Public Houses - a place to meet, gather and conduct business.  You are as likely to find a hardware store or linen shop in the same establishment.  Yes, there are many that have become more of a bar but you'll still find many true pubs throughout the country.

To say that the Irish are heavy drinkers, is not a fair reflection of the culture.  Drinking is much more of a social activity and many prefer soft drinks over alcohol when they are out.  My favorite was black currant juice mixed with water, very refreshing.

Having said that, there is a very healthy respect for the black stuff.  Many times I saw Guinness mini vans driving through the country to inspect and service the tiny pubs in the towns and villages.  As a woman you are more likely to be offered a glass instead of a pint when you order a beer, just tell them you want a pint and you'll get a smile and a wink.

We've all heard of Irish Wakes but I was very moved to hear the story about families having American Wakes for their loved ones who were emigrating to the US - they knew they would probably never see them again.  

Christianity/Paganism/Spirituality - As I trekked up the Hill of Tara I was excited to see the shrine to St. Patrick.  I was very surprised that all of their history and traditions were honored there.  That is something I found so fascinating that wherever you go there is great respect and reverence for what was.  Just because they accepted Christianity doesn't mean that they disregard their pagan past.  You'll see monuments and sacred symbols all over the country.

That is something very unique in Ireland - they don't remove something just because it is old or seems out of date.  A lovely caretaker I met at the Kylemore Abbey gardens explained to me that anything that thrives there stays there. 

Taxi drivers are more like professional tour operators - they will give you great information about the local area.  It will also be the most interesting conversation you will ever have.  The Irish are very well informed about news and world events and love to chat with travelers about all of it.

How lovely and social they are is not a myth - if they ask you about yourself, this isn't simply being polite - they really want to know.  I was told early on, when you go out to allow extra time to chat with the people you meet and it was a true pleasure.

The Irish have an incredible, irrepressible, independent spirit that is perfectly displayed on the Painted Doors of Dublin and at the same time have deep love and loyalty to their country, like singing the national anthem at the end of a night of drinking and dancing.  Try that at an American bar on a Saturday night.

They are the warmest and kindest people I have ever met and the countryside is absolutely stunning.  If you've been there then you know what I'm talking about.  If you haven't, then you must see it for yourself to understand the true beauty of this very special place.

To say I was charmed by Ireland would be a tremendous understatement.  It's not only the home of my ancestors but has become the homeplace of my heart. 







Friday, February 7, 2020

Finding the Path with a Heart

As we age, it becomes apparent that we must create new lives.  Will we change careers, begin retirement, travel, downsize or stay where we are?  What often comes with that are the fears associated with making those choices.  We begin to worry about money, our family, our health, where we should live, should we settle down or roam the world.   

When we were raising our families, those decisions seemed to be made for us - we must keep a job, take care of the children with all of the responsibility that entails.  There was very little free time and what there was usually consisted of weekends or once a year family vacation and then back to the routine.

Now, in our 60s we have to make a conscious choice about what we want in our lives.

Our work is not to make something happen but to learn how to let it reveal itself.  It is that time in our lives when we have the opportunity to allow the soft flowing of events to become clear to us and then follow the path that has the most meaning in our lives.

It can be very easy to remain in our old patterns, letting familiar circumstances drive our daily lives.  If we look more closely, we realize that we are entering a brand-new chapter and are being given a tremendous gift.  The possibility, maybe for the first time, to do something just for ourselves. 

For many of us, as this realization sinks in, we employ the same principles of how to get things done – we take action.  What is really ironic about this concept, is that the harder we try to make anything happen the less likely it is to turn out in a way that is pleasing to us.

If we can learn to let go we will discover things that we never thought possible.

Letting go is much easier said than done.  We are taught our entire lives that we must work and struggle in order to get things accomplished.  That hard work is the only way to achieve the results we desire.  Always trying to control external circumstances is exhausting and in the end never really possible.  We cannot control anything outside of our own self so that is where the work must be done.

That is why so many spiritual teachers advocate practices like Meditation, Mindfulness, Yoga, Prayer and Journaling.  Anything that allows our conscious mind to relax and release resistance will provide benefits in all areas of our lives.  Just like any other skill, we must learn to develop techniques that work for us.  This is not a one-size fits all solution so we must do what feels right for us personally.

It doesn’t matter where you start, you just have to begin.

Like everything else, it is very easy to approach this as something else to manage or control.  Trying to unlearn that is the most difficult thing I will ever do in my life.  Even now, after many years of practicing many aspects of letting go or allowing, I find myself slipping back into my old habits.  It is important for me to do something each day, even for just a few minutes, to reclaim my balance and continue forward. 

What works best for me is to keep it simple and find those things that bring me joy.  Sometimes it is writing in my journal or going for a walk.  Other days it is playing with my grandchildren or planning a trip to some faraway place.  It really doesn’t matter what it is, all that matters is that you find ways to release the anxiety and tension so that you can learn to experience the peace that comes from just being in the world.

With that peace comes an unfolding of events that we never could have planned.  Bringing to us those very things we thought we had to chase after.  It is ultimately more satisfying to have everything we desire come to us in the perfect way and at the perfect time than to try to manipulate or coerce it.

For me, appreciation is a key factor in everything I do.  I am grateful for what I already have in my life and look forward to whatever new surprise is on the horizon.  I always trust that something wonderful is about to happen and my only job is to relax and enjoy it.