Saturday, July 30, 2011

In the Eyes of a Child

I can remember many trips I went on when I was little and each one has a unique feature that makes it stand out in my memory.  I took both my first and second airplane rides in the same year, when I was in kindergarten.  The flight to New Jersey for my aunt’s wedding will be forever ingrained in my mind for its truly amazing display of turbulence.  While being served our sandwiches and pops as we were passing through a thunderstorm, the turbulence began with a vengeance.  Sandwiches were launched into the aisles looking much like the Mississippi river looks now with the inundation of flying fish.  My dad happened to lose his Coke on his lap looking quite disgusted with the situation as he remained seat belted in the soggy, sticky mess.  I fell in love with flying after that, even saving the decorative plastic trays our sandwiches were served on as a memento.  J  Yes, I believe this enjoyment of turbulence to be abnormal and I’m ok with that. 
My cousin and I outside ofthe Shoshone Indian Ice Caves
The other flight took us West where we enjoyed time with family in Idaho taking in the Shoshone Indian Ice Caves and traipsing to the top of a mountain of lava and ash-amazing when you contemplate what you’re walking on and the circumstances surrounding its current placement.  Craters of the Moon National Monument is quite the sight to behold even to a six-year-old.  A short drive took us south to Promontory, Utah, where we "experienced" the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.  Thankfully I had parents who took my simple curiosity for the past and helped me to seek some understanding for where things stand today in the world.  I can thank them for my love of history, politics, and travel.  J
My brother, mom, and myself Promontory, Utah
Other trips we took as a family didn’t take us as far from home.  Instead, my parents took my brother and I through the picturesque Badlands of southwestern South Dakota and Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the Black Hills.  The marvel of both locations is fascinating to both adults and children alike.  Who can resist peering across the ragged and yet peaceful natural Badlands and the size and architectural craftsmanship of Gutzon Borglum’s four magnificent stone faces?  But kids enjoy more than just the suggested educational and sightseeing trips so my parents had my brother and I imagining we were part of the Three Little Pigs at Storybook Island in Rapid City, South Dakota, and walking through Oz at Storybook Land in Aberdeen, South Dakota.  The creation of these two parks were a fabulous idea as kids can literally walk into the stories they have before only been able to see in their minds and on the pages of a book.  Now they can recreate those tales as their favorite character.
What do you remember from your trips as a kid?  Was it your first time going tubing at the lake?  Did you fall out of a boat while fishing?  Maybe it was meeting your cousins on their turf for the first time.  Think about what made those trips special, how can you do the same thing for your family now?  Didn’t get to make trips like that when you were younger?  That’s all right.  It’s hard not to have memories that everyone else seems to have, don’t get me wrong, but what can you learn from your own experience?  We all can learn from our pasts and use that knowledge to better the future.  Not able to take a vacation with your family due to lack of time, finances, or something else?  It’s ok.  You don’t have to go somewhere out of town to enjoy time with your family and make special memories with them.  Pack a picnic lunch and head to the neighborhood park, have a water fight, play some games, or take silly pictures.  I can guarantee it’s something your children won’t forget.
Water fightwith some cousins
As children we’re more susceptible to the ideas of our peers and the culture that surrounds us.  Making yourself an active part of your child’s life, even through something as simple as a day trip or picnic, will have a strong and lasting impact on them as they grow up.

*Check out my links page to find more information regarding the locations mentioned.

*I realize that these examples are more for the warm seasons.  With winter being my favorite season, you can rest assured that I’ll fill you in some suggestions for that later.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Making the Most

How often do you get that urge to go somewhere—to just get away?  I’ll be the first to admit that once I experienced traveling on my own I’ve had a hard time staying put.  Those who know me well will agree that I have a penchant for staying busy and that includes my travels.  I’ve been blessed by both job and volunteer opportunities that have allowed me to travel across the world as well as just having the desire to see something specific.

There are numerous points rolling around in my head with what I’ve already said so I’ll start with this, take every chance you get to travel.  And I truly mean that.  Visit friends or family you may not get to see frequently, go with your family to spend quality time together, go alone to relax and clear the clutter from your mind, or if you’re willing, volunteer or take a job with a business or organization outside of your area.  Through these opportunities in my own life I’ve had the opportunity to live in Vietnam, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Austria as well as make short trips to Washington State, California, and Texas.  From those locations I took advantage of my time and traveled to numerous other locations.  Still a little hesitant about where to look?  What about that family vacation to an amusement park?  I had the chance to go to two during my growing up years including Valleyfair in Shakopee, Minnesota (Twin Cities Metro) and Arnold’s Park along Lake Okoboji in Northwestern Iowa.  Not a fan of that many kids? Or maybe like me, it’s the roller coasters.  That’s all right, I completely understand.  Why not stay in a hotel nearby or at the closest larger city (if you’re from a small town) and spend time at the pool, going to local parks, and catching a local sporting event.  I’ve found the atmosphere at the amateur and college level can be more fun and inviting than the professional, not to mention the smaller crowds and cheaper prices.
For that trip by yourself-maybe you’d enjoy relaxing at a spa, or wandering the halls of art or history museums, or the quiet of a cabin in the woods with a good book to keep you company.  State tourism websites or historical societies are a great source of information when planning where to go and locals are great at helping you find spots once you're there.   There are a lot of fun historical places that can get missed and these are great ways to find them.  Be sure to do something that will be fun and help you relax.  Not everyone is comfortable traveling alone.  If that’s the case for you don’t fret, you’re not alone.  Instead, take a good friend or your significant other along.  Maybe you can wear the soles off of your shoes at a mall or pass time camping in the foothills of the Rockies with the hopes of catching that trophy fish.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about you adventurous ones.  There are so many options out there for you.  Initially, I thought this would be the most difficult travel bug to satisfy for myself because of the need for something exotic, challenging, and longer in duration.  Instead I found myself embracing opportunities of varying kinds and styles.  *I’ll take the risk of losing some of you by stating that my beliefs and stance as a Christian have largely influenced what I’ve chosen to do and it is a part of my everyday life and thus will be a part of my writing though not the focus of it.* I want to help people whether its spiritually, emotionally, or physically—through the tangible and the intangible.  You can teach the English language or business classes overseas, there are many organizations located across the globe searching for both young and old willing to make such a commitment.  I had the privilege of teaching English to high school students in Vietnam.  You can volunteer with a relief organization; I respond to needs through my local chapter of the American Red Cross and when I’m able, go when called for national disasters.  Maybe you love children—consider being a nanny or an au pair.  I got to care for three children in Austria.  It can be a great mix of challenging and growing experiences and fun and excitement.   There are other obvious organizations such as the Peace Corp, Job Corp, AmeriCorp, or numerous missions organizations who would gladly love to have people join alongside them or help you find work somewhere.  And I’ve even known a few acquaintances that chose the option of the military-note that this decision takes special consideration for those of strong character, determination, and drive.

Whatever it is that your travel bug is craving, and maybe it’s just travel in general, there is always an option for you.  Next time I’ll break these down a little further and share some stories from my experiences that have led me to believe as I do about traveling and how important it is.

**To those serving in the National Guard, Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard; to those at our boarders and in our hometowns, thank you for your decision and commitment to serve-whatever your reason may be.  We are blessed to have you.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Enjoy the Ride

Who doesn’t love to travel?  Ok, so maybe there are a few people out there who would prefer to stay in the comforts of home.  Maybe it’s too much hassle-planning and packing-making sure everything is in line to go away for a few days, a week, a month-you get the picture.  Or maybe you don’t like to fly or don’t like driving long distances because of motion sickness.  Or maybe it’s some of the more popular reasons like not having the time or finances to make such a large commitment.  Whatever the case may be, we all fall into these traps, myself included.  It’s working through these issues that allows us to truly enjoy the experience-to let ourselves go and become a citizen of a new and different location if only for a moment of time, to see things from a new perspective.

For those of you unable to go at this point in your lives I want to share my experiences with you.  To let you sit back, close your eyes, and see yourself in beautiful cities both here in the United States and around the world.  Who knows, maybe my stories will help to pave the way for you to step back from the daily grind and take a trip, to become a citizen for the day somewhere new and exciting.

Take heed, travel on the prairie can be a bit slow, but I think that just allows for a little more time to relax and fully enjoy the scenery.