Osoyoos, British Columbia

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Osoyoos, British Columbia is fast become a wine lover’s destination. Still relatively unknown in the grand scheme of things, the Osoyoos wine industry has grown rapidly in the past 3 years. There are easily 50 vineyards within 25 miles of downtown. Despite the relatively young age of the vines, they are producing some fine wines, especially their desert and ice wines.

A small town in the Canadian desert (that’s right, they have a desert) Osoyoos is a summer tourist destination for those in the know. The environment is perfect for growing wine grapes and the sunny days extend well into fall. It combines wonderful landscapes, unique wines, and all the activities you would expect from a town on the shore of a large lake. In the fall, the foliage is wonderful, and in my opinion, October is the time to go. Yes, the summers are warm and that makes the lake more appealing, and yes, more of the wineries are open in the summer, but by October the tourists are gone, the prices drop, and a slower more enjoyable atmosphere takes over. The Silver Sage Winery (among others) is open year round. The Burrowing Owl winery has rooms to rent in their Guest House, located in the vineyard.

The Watermark Beach Resort sits right downtown and on the lake. They offer large 1 and 2 bedroom suites, and in October I got a 1-bedroom suite on Expedia for $129US/night ($20 less than on the Watermark site). Suites offer a fully provisioned kitchen (plates, silverware, pots, pans, etc), washer/dryer, hardwood floors, and beautiful lake views. For you TV watchers, the only downside to the rooms are the small TVs (32in in my suite) in large rooms. The suite I had was easily 900 square feet.

The closest commercial airport is in Kelowna, about 2 hours drive. You will need a car in Osoyoos. The border crossing at Osoyoos is small and can be busy during peak season, but by October they see little traffic, even on the weekends. I would have been through in 5 minutes had my large collection of photo equipment not caught their eye. Two hours later I had convinced them I was not traveling to Canada for work and they let me through.

For more photos CLICK HERE

Categories: Canada, Wine | Leave a comment

Traveling to Marrakech…Stop worrying

I talked to a lot of people as I was traveling on my way to Marrakech. Every one of them expressed concern over my safety. I have now been here two days and I can tell you now… Stop worrying. This is a very easy place to travel in. Most people are friendly. Like most places, people are just going about their lives and have no desire to harass Americans.  The French travel here in droves. Duh… everyone speaks French in Morocco.  The transportation system whether you are taking a train a bus or a taxi is very easy to use. Most people speak enough English to get by. Everyone speaks French. And of course they speak Arabic. I do have a couple of suggestions however.

Don’t eat at McDonalds. If you need fries wait till you get home.

Never… and I mean never get in a taxi until you know the price of your trip.  You will lose.

if you have multiple stops on your flight to Morocco, check your bag only as far as the last non Moroccan stop, reclaim it,  and check it again.  This will make it easier to track down your lost luggage.

Take haggling classes before you arrive. Try arguing with your mother in law if you can’t find a good haggling class.  Just as a tip, when someone trying to sell you something suggests a price, offer them half that much,  and do it with a smile.  And be ready to hear stories about all their kids and how difficult it is to feed them. Most Americans hate to haggle, because we have no experience. It really is a game,  enjoy it

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The Path We Choose

Our futures are determined by a never ending procession of choices that are presented to us by life. Each choice, each fork in the road, leads to the next fork, and that to the next fork, and so on, and so on, and so on. With each decision we make, one infinite set of possible futures is created and lays before us,  while another set of infinite possible futures disappears.  Each choice, and the futures it creates, are the sum total of every choice you have made in your life up to that point. Let me give you an example.

You are walking along and come to a literal fork in the road. To the right is the ocean. If you turn to the right, you will arrive at the ocean in exactly one hour. If you turn to the left, you will arrive in the mountains at exactly the same time. In that moment, before the choice is made, you have two different, but infinite sets of futures before you. You choose the left and take one step toward the mountains. Instantly, all the possible futures associated with going to the ocean disappear. Even if after turning toward the mountains you change your mind and go back toward the ocean, the possible futures that existed before the decision was made are no longer available. They have been replaced with a slightly altered set of futures that now take into account the fact that your initial decision was to go toward the mountains. Because the future is the sum total of all prior choices, the path to the ocean is slightly different than the one you would have taken if you had chosen to turn right in the first place.

Most of us go through life without ever giving this process much thought. However, those people that have difficulties making even the simplest of decisions may understand this, albeit at a subconscious level, and it may be that concept makes decision-making hard for them. The idea that their choice somehow destroys some of their possible futures is more important to them than the decision itself. They are unwilling to make a choice that limits their futures.  What they fail to understand is that when it comes to creating futures, even a simple Yes or No choice has a third possible option that creates and destroy futures. That third choice is to not make a choice. When you don’t make a decision, all the possible futures associated with Yes and No disappear, and the futures associated with not choosing are what is left.

What they also fail to consider is that when dealing with infinite futures, making a choice does not really limit your futures. Our normal math fails us because infinity – infinity is still infinity. You still have infinite possible futures available to you.  Many of the possible futures, even those associated with different choices, are going to be nearly identical. So near to identical that they could be indistinguishable from each other even if we were able to see both of them. When you arrive at the ocean, whether you arrived there because that was your initial choice, or because you first made one choice and then another, the view of the ocean might be nearly the same. However, the possible futures that still lay before you are in some small manner different depending on your past.  Think about this as you move through life. Understand that your future is impacted by every decision, large and small. Don’t be paralyzed by the thought, but use the idea to guide you through the many forks in the road that lie before you.

Categories: General, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Neah Bay – Boats, Eagles, and Quiet

At the far northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula lies Neah Bay. To quote the website of the Makah tribe, 

The Makah Tribe has called the spectacular Neah Bay, Washington area home since time immemorial.

If you are expecting casinos and cheap cigarettes, this is not the place to go. If you need fancy hotels and 5 star restaurants, you will be disappointed. What you will find is a small town at the end of the road, with everything that you would expect from a small town. People going about their business as fisherman, or shop owners, or waitresses in a beautiful environment that has been home for them since the beginning. Friendly, but reserved people not operating in tourism mode, but just living their lives in one of the most beautiful places in Washington. You will find your share of broken down cars, and old fishing boats, not all of them above water, none of which detracts from the feeling of life in slow motion that this place offers. And if you are willing to let it happen, you will find relaxation here.  You will stare out over the water at sunset, and even if it is raining you will know you are just this side of heaven.

The drive to get here, just head west from Port Angeles and follow the signs, will take you about two hours if you don’t stop. But, if you don’t stop, you are not in the right frame of mind for Neah Bay. In fact, it should take you at least 3 hours to make the trip. More like 4 hours if you own a camera.

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There are limited places to stay here. Clearly, the Cape Resort, run the by Makah Tribe, is the place to be. They have RV spaces, tent spaces (showers are available), and best of all a number of small, new cabins. From the outside the cabins don’t look like anything special. They are new, sit on a fairly barren piece of property, and all look alike. Inside, its your own little cubby hole, as far away from the world you are used to as it is possible to get.

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The main room has a queen bed, and notice the bunkroom in the back in case you have kids. It is like being a kid again and playing fort. Your kids will feel that way when they crawl into bed. I did.

If you are the type to barbecue, bring your own food and grill. In the evening, a good number of your neighbors will be setting up on the front porch. The wonderful smells will drive you nuts unless you do the same.

Get up early if you can and walk around town. The quiet will be shock if you are a city dweller. And don’t be afraid of the occasional screeching noise. Those are just the resident eagles and osprey that you will see everywhere.

Make sure you walk down by the waterfront and see the fishing fleet. Unlike big city piers,  you can actually go out and take a look. The feeling of being in the presence of tradition is hard to miss.

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As for food, the Warmhouse is decent, but don’t expect to be overwhelmed. Of course, plan on getting seafood. You can buy basic food stuffs at the general store. As i said before, bring your own if you are staying very long.

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If you are into fishing, plan on staying a few days just for that. There are lots of opportunities and plenty of locals to help you out, sell you tackle, and rent you a boat if you don’t have your own.

If you go for a weekend, you may see all there is to see, but you won’t unwind in just two days. Give it 4 days. Watch life move at the pace it was meant to. Allow your own life to slow down just for a bit. It will pay dividends.

P.S. One last suggestion. If you go with someone you care about, and you should, be prepared to make a promise to return.

Categories: Birding, Fishing, Photography, Washington | Leave a comment

Decision Making Part 2 – The Process

Mexico-7438When you are traveling, particularly if traveling alone, you will need to make a constant stream of decisions, any one of which can royally screw up your day if you are wrong. What time do I need to leave for the airport? Should I check a bag or try to get by with just a carry on? Do I have time to eat before my flight? What is the first thing I should do when I land in Kathmandu? (Hint: Find a Nepali to help you through customs.)

The ability and willingness to make decisions is learned. We are not born with it, and it is doubtful that any of us are born better at it than others. When I say it is learned, I don’t mean you can take a class and become a great decision maker. There are certainly some techniques you can learn that way, but for the most part decision-making is learned in the school of hard knocks. You learn to make good decisions by making a whole lot of them. Some will be good and some not.

Experience greatly improves our ability to make decisions of a specific type. This might be due to subject-specific knowledge that we have, or it could be that our brains simply become accustomed to decision-making of that type. For example, in the cockpit a veteran airline pilot will generally make better decisions than a newcomer to the job, but that does not guarantee he is making better decisions than that newcomer in his personal life. An experienced traveler will move through a new airport or city more confident in his/her decisions than someone leaving their hometown for the first time.

Stress has a major negative impact on our decision making ability. Despite that, we can through experience, improve our ability to make decisions under stressful conditions. Rigorous military training, or hours in a flight simulator are examples of how this can be accomplished. Take actions to reduce your stress prior to the time when you will be making decisions.

The bottom line is, if you want your decisions to be good ones, you have to be willing to practice and that means you will make some bad ones along the way. Avoiding decisions just makes it harder the next time you need to make one.

One of the things you can learn is a process for decision-making. Use it over and over again, and it will become second nature before long. Lots of people have come up with lots of these step-by-step processes. I encourage you to develop your own process if you don’t find one that meets your needs. Most of these processes involve some type of preparation, some type of fact gathering, and then the weighing of the facts. Many of them seem to assume you have the time to sit down and plot out your decision. PDSA is one such process.

In the world of process improvement, PDSA (Plan – Do – Study – Act) is enjoying some popularity right now. This process is nothing more than a decision making system fine tuned for businesses to use for change management. All decision making is related to change management. You are deciding to change your mind, or your actions, or your next step.  However, PDSA, as it is used in business is just not useful when making snap decisions as you stand on a busy street corner in Ho Chi Minh City. So, let me present CTTA.

Compose – Time check – Think – Act

This four step process might take an hour. It might take less than a second. You have to decide how much time you have, or are willing to spend, on making a decision.

Compose: This is where you compose yourself…get yourself ready to begin making a decision. This is the most important of the four steps. If you have 5 seconds to make a decision, you must make time for this.  I do it by simply saying to myself “OK”. That brief pause, where you are not yet trying to make a decision, but are getting your head ready to do so, resets your brain. It inserts a boundary between what you were doing, and what you are about to do. Do not underestimate the importance of this step.

Time Check: Unless you have zero time, and you will know that without thinking about it, take a few moments to decide how much time you really have to make a decision. You only want to rush through a decision if you have no choice. If you really have 5 minutes to make your decision, and there is no downside to waiting 4 minutes and 59 seconds…then do it.

Think: Here is the meat of the process. Gather in your head (or on paper if you have time) the things that need to be considered in your decision. What are the reasonable choices available to you? What are the circumstances? What resources do you have available? If you believe there is only one choice, you are either in a very tight spot or you are missing a choice. Few decision-making opportunities present only one choice. Once you identify the reasonable choices, which one does your gut tell you is best? I won’t say you should go with your gut, but your gut is a good tie-breaker between two equally good (or equally bad) choices. Identify if any of the choices have a clearly unacceptable outcome or side-effect. One choice could solve the immediate problem, but result in an outcome that is unacceptable to you. If this process gives you one clear choice…great….take it. If it leaves you with two or more choices that appear to be equal, let your gut choose.

One final thing to consider. Can you actually carryout the choice you have made? If not, even if it is the right choice, you need to look for another option.

Act: Just making a decision is not enough. A decision made that does not result in action is no better than not making a decision at all. If you have gone through CTTA, and given it your best effort, you should have some confidence that you have made as good a decision as you can. Take that knowledge and act.

 

Watch the heros from The Princess Bride as they go through CTTA. 

It may turn out that the decision you made, despite your best effort, was wrong. It happens. It may turn out that the decision you made was the best possible, and you still might have a bad outcome. That happens too. I am quite certain that many battles have been lost by a commander who made all the right decisions. Making the right choice does not guarantee success. Likewise, making the wrong decision does not guarantee failure. Quite often you get the desired outcome despite making a less than optimal decision. Also, in many situations a decision is not final. You can make a decision, start to act, and change your mind. Don’t be afraid to repeat CTTA if your decision is clearly not having the results you hoped for.

Remember, there is not always a good choice. Sometimes you have to choose between multiple bad choices. Do your best to pick the one that you think gives the best chance of success and then act on it. Don’t get caught in a cycle of second guessing, but if a change of plan is called for, don’t be afraid to repeat CTTA.

 

In the third part of this series we will talk about acting on our decisions. When should you repeat CTTA? How can you learn from your prior decisions..both the good ones and the bad one.

 

rsz_mouse

 

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Categories: Advice, Planning | Leave a comment

Eating Street Food and Staying Healthy

So, there you are in some out of the way corner of Mexico and your belly is empty. You have been out walking all day, and on the corner is a taco stand that has obviously been sitting there since the days of Poncho Villa. In fact, there is a really good chance that the guy cooking up those tacos remembers Poncho. There is nothing that even resembles a restaurant in the area and those tacos smell soooooo good. However, you are no fool and you swore you learned your lesson last year and would never eat street food again. What are you going to do?

Of course, you have to make your own decision. And yes, there is a risk. In fact, every time you eat, no matter where you are, there is a risk of food poisoning. The CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases….in the USA. I was in Jackson, Mississippi and ate at the Bonefish Grill…a very nice place. The 24 hour period after that meal…I won’t bother you with the less than pretty details. But, If I can find street food that meets some very simple criteria, I will chow down.

First and foremost…for food that needs to be cooked, don’t eat anything that you did not actually see being cooked. As with any production line, street vendors might cook up some of their product and keep it sitting on the cart waiting for you to show up. Take a pass. Ask him to cook up a fresh one, and if he won’t, move on. After that food starts to cool off just a bit, it becomes a dual purpose bacteria incubation chamber and insect runway. That would be bad.

Make sure the food was cooked hot and well done. If he is cooking meat, it better sizzle. You should feel the heat coming off of it. If it is soup, it better be too hot to put in your mouth.

Pass on any uncooked, fresh veggies. They will get you. If you really want your veggies, make him cook them.

If you have the time, stand and watch to see if any of the locals buy food from this guy. A lonely street vendor is a bad sign. In many parts of the world, the food cart is a social gathering place at mealtime, but only at the good ones.

Avoid shellfish…end of story.  Shellfish is dangerous enough in the US (16% of all foodborne illness). You just don’t want to mess with it from a street vendor.

If you can help it, don’t use their utensils or plates. Those things are washed in the local tap water and you aren’t drinking that…are you?

Now, you made the decision to fill your belly and it was good. You did everything right, and knowing the risks, you ate. And then, despite your best efforts you feel that rumbling way down there. Now what?

Let’s talk about food poisoning. There are really two basic types. First, you can eat something that contains some toxin. It might be a chemical, or a toxin produced by an organism (most likely a bacteria) that may or may not still be alive. No amount of cooking will make this go away. You eat it, you get sick. Call this type 1. Fortunately, this is probably somewhat less common in street food. Second, you can eat something that contains a living organism. Might be a bacteria, or a parasite. This organism is either going to make you sick by producing a toxin in your gut, or simply by being there. Food cooked well and hot deals with this most of the time. Calls this type 2.

If you get type 1, antibiotics are not going to help you. There is nothing there to kill. Unfortunately, without a trip to the doctor you can’t be sure, and most doctors won’t bother checking anyway. They will just give you antibiotics on the hope they will help. Food poisoning can be fatal, but if it is not, you can wait out type 1 food poisoning. The toxin will eventually move on through. Waiting it out…not fun. What you need is something to counteract or absorb the toxin. While you won’t hear this from most US doctors, I never travel without activate charcoal tablets. At the very first feeling of discomfort, if you believe it is food poisoning…swallow 3-4 tablets. Most times you will feel better in an hour or two. This may essentially be a cure and works on many poisons, even those not food borne.

If you get type 2, charcoal may help. Remember, type 2 is due to an organism in your gut and it might be producing toxins. However, charcoal is not going to kill the organism. It might make you feel better, but it will probably be temporary. You will eventually need to get treated with something to kill off what you have. Whether you try and wait until you get home is up to you.

Since you will never be sure if you have type 1 or type 2, you need a way to make a guess. You can treat with the charcoal, and if it fixes you…great. If not, or if you feel better for a while and it comes back, you you can take an antibiotic if you have one. REMEMBER….AND THIS IS IMPORTANT….you can’t take both at the same time. The charcoal may absorb the antibiotic…and any other medication you might be taking. That is what it does…it absorbs stuff. If you have taken charcoal and you are not getting better, you have to wait at least a couple hours before taking any other medication

You can use anti-diarrhea meds if need be (as per your doctor or manufacturers instructions). Spending hours sitting on a toilet (or squatting over a hole in the floor) is no way to spend a vacation day. These meds work, but they do not really treat the problem. It is up to you if you use them.

Some general things to keep in mind…throwing up and diarrhea are common symptoms of food poisoning and will make you dehydrated. Dehydration is dangerous. If you become seriously dehydrated that is reason for going to the hospital. As soon as you start puking or pooping, start drinking…a lot. (NOT ALCOHOL).

Never take any medication (including charcoal) without first discussing it with your doctor. Do your own research and then decide. Plan ahead and ask your doctor about this before you leave.

Take all medications are prescribed by your doctor. Taking more of something is not necessarily better.

Treating with charcoal

The Health Wyze Report

The Healthy Home Economist

eMedicine Health

 

Categories: Advice, Health | Leave a comment

The Hotel Room Bardo – Traveling Alone

SriLanka-1121There have been times when I traveled alone, for both business and pleasure, and really enjoyed it. There have been times when I have done so and hated every second. When you are lying alone on a king size bed, looking out at the rain and trying to make some kind of plan for the day, you know at that moment whether you are happy or sad about being alone. There is no ambivalence or indecision…you know. Being alone is not the only consideration. On the days I traveled alone and hated it, I knew that having the wrong person with me on that day would only make it worse. I knew at that moment who I wanted to have with me and who I did not. It is in those moments that you really understand who is important in your life…and who is not so important.

We, and by we I mean Buddhists, call moments like those “bardos”. That is when life seems just a bit less complicated. Things that you might not have been sure about tend to come just a little more into focus. What you really value becomes clear to you. You realize then, traveling is not the goal. Living life is the goal, and sometimes life (and your travels) are not complete unless you are sharing it with the right person.

Let me give you a tip. When you identify the person that should be lying next to you in that king size bed and helping plan your day, or walking down the street holding your hand, promise yourself never to do anything that jeopardizes your relationship with them. In the stress filled days of our lives it is easy to lose track of what is important. It is easy to do things that put the important relationships at risk. Don’t do it. If you do, bardos become painful. If you do, the next bardo will not only find you alone, but you will have to deal with the realization that your actions are at least partially responsible for only one side of that bed being occupied. The bottom line…choose where you want to be and who you want to be with. Pay attention to what you feel when those bardos come along, and don’t allow all the other moments of stress, uncertainty, and apathy to interfere. Remember also, traveling with the wrong person is probably worse then traveling alone.

There is still the real question to deal with…why do we sometimes feel better when we share experiences with someone else? There are a number of answers. It is for you to decide which apply to you. Human beings like to have their thoughts and feelings validated. When we see something that evokes an emotion in us…be it wonder, or fear, or joy…we want to know someone else feels the same thing. If a stranger standing next to us validates that emotion, that is something. However, it is far more fulfilling and satisfying if the person doing the validating is important to us. The more important they are to you, the more closely your feelings are aligned with them, the more enjoyment you receive from the validation. If the person standing next to you is “The One”, then sharing those experiences and emotions can be life changing. In fact, according to some studies, we choose our mates based on the similarities we have in emotional responses to life events. These similarities are the basis for the validation that follows.

Another reason we want to share experiences is that we feel we are in part giving that experience to the other person. Giving makes us feel better about ourselves.

Humans are social animals. There is some deep-seeded instinctual drive to share our lives. It is a subconscious thing that has evolved into us probably because of the safety that sharing an experience provided to us when we were still living in caves. Hard to argue with instinct.

rsz_mouse

 

 

 

Categories: Advice, General, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Decision Making Part 1 – Advanced Preparation

Decision making may seem like a strange topic for a travel site, but traveling in today’s world requires a constant stream of rapid, well-reasoned decisions to enjoy your travel and sometimes even to stay out of trouble. For some, it comes easy. For others, not so much. Decision-making is a learned skill and the more we do it, the better we are at doing it. As a learned skill, there are things you can do to improve your decision making ability and increase the chances of making a good decision…even when you are under stress. In this three-part series we will give you some ideas for improving decision making, and help you to confidently take action once your decision is made.
In part one, we will talk about mental preparation. There are ways to get ready to make decisions. In part two, we will talk about a decision making process that you can learn and will eventually become second nature to you. In part three, we will discuss what it takes to act upon your decision once it is made. Failing to act on your decision is no better than not making the decision in the first place.

Be prepared…stay prepared
When you travel, you can never prepare in advance for every possible thing that is going to happen. If you try, you will surely be disappointed when you fail, and you will spend a huge amount of time and effort trying to prepare for all sorts of things that will almost certainly never happen. In fact, dealing with the unknown is a big part of the fun many of us get from traveling. However, it is time well spent preparing yourself for some of the more serious decisions you could be faced with. There are plenty of books on travel that have checklists and ideas of what you should do to prepare for a trip. They will tell you things like carry a list of emergency phone numbers. Have a photocopy of your passport and store it in a bag separate from the actual passport. Don’t put all your money in one place…spread it among your pockets and your bags. All good advice, but I am more concerned with your mental preparation.
People that prepare themselves to make decisions find decision-making to be less stressful and result in better decisions than those that don’t prepare.
One method you can use to prepare yourself is to visualize events that could happen and how you will deal with them when they occur. This is called guided imagery. Studies have shown that visualizing an event or action is similar to having actual experience with that event. This technique is used by athletes and has been shown to improve their performance. Even if the situation you eventually face is not exactly what you visualized, you will be better prepared to deal with it.

The idea is to visualize yourself in situations that require a hard decision. Visualize yourself missing your connection and reacting to it calmly. Imagine the steps you will take if you do. Then, if that event does come to pass, you will have “experience” with that event and it will be somewhat less traumatic. Because of your visualization, you will have the beginnings of a plan already in place. This type of visualization requires very little time. In the 30 seconds it took to read this paragraph you can visualize a problem and your reaction to it. It is up to you to decide what types of event you would find most stressful and visualize those. Missing a connection might not be problem for you, but how about losing your passport, or being robbed in a foreign country.
Try this. You are in a strange city…Lima, Kathmandu, or maybe New York City. You are walking alone when someone comes up and robs you of all your money. Try to feel the emotion of that event while remaining grounded in the realization that it is only pretend. What will you do? What are the next 3 steps that you will take? Some plans might have hundreds of steps, but the first 3 will usually determine the likelihood of your success. Don’t like the 3 steps you identify? Try 3 others. That is the beauty of visualization…you get as many do-overs as you want.
Stress decreases your ability to make good decisions, but mental stress can actually be decreased by physical actions. For these actions to be effective they need to be practiced or you will never remember to do them when the need is greatest. There are three simple actions you can take.

  • Inhale for three seconds, hold for five seconds, and then exhale for three seconds. If you have enough time before a decision must be made, repeat a couple times.
  • Roll or shrug your shoulders a few times back and forward. Try doing this in rhythm with inhaling and exhaling.
  • If time permits, sit or lie down and consciously relax every muscle.

Learning to control your stress greatly increases the quality of your decisions. Just thinking about the physical movements gives you a few seconds to gather yourself and prepares you for the decisions you are about to make.

 

Preparation on the road

Just because you leave home, does not mean the preparation stops. Before you left you were preparing for the trip. After you leave, each day is preparation for the next.

Stay mentally sharp – Lack of sleep, dehydration, drugs and alcohol all negatively impact your ability to make decisions, but these are things that just happen when we travel. If you are going to sacrifice sleep time for play time, not eat and drink properly, or do drugs and alcohol, give some thought to how you can do all that in a way that does not demand so many decisions on your part. Give some advance thought to how you can get back to your hotel after a night on the town in a city unfamiliar to you. What will you do if you find yourself 10 miles from your hotel and you just spent your last pesos on that foo-foo drink with the umbrella in it? Maybe you should have stuck some money in a sock that was only for a cab or tuck-tuck ride home.

Avoid the need for unnecessary decisions. Sound silly? At times we have all been overloaded by the number of decisions we need to make. And yet, we often put ourselves in a position that requires unnecessary decisions. That is fine when you are safe, and warm, and loved while sitting on your sofa. In a strange city, with tons of new and different experiences, you might want to take some steps to limit your decisions. Wondering around back alleys in a strange city at 2AM is just begging for a situation that requires way too many life or death decisions for most of us to handle.
Plan out your day or night – When you get up in the morning (or the afternoon if your night was late) lay out a general plan for the day. You don’t need to stick with it, but the process of planning the day will help deal with things that might come up.

There is an old saying, and I have no idea where it comes from, but it goes like this, “You never have to get prepared if you stay prepared”. Travel is fun, but a little preparation, mental and physical, makes it even better.

rsz_mouse

 

 

 

Categories: Advice, Fittness, General, Health | 1 Comment

Anxious about flying – Consider “Mind Taming”

Anxiety occurs when we lose control of our thoughts and the negative ones begin to take control. A mind out of control is never going to be happy. I am not a therapist, and this article is not going to eliminate your fear of travel or flying, but it might give you some direction for finding relief.

Meditation, visualization, and contemplation are the three pillars of what I call  “mind taming”. This is the name I give to the process of getting your thoughts back under your control rather than letting them control you. Actually, it was Buddha’s idea that our mind needed to be tamed. As “mind taming” is my term, so are the definitions I give below. These are not the standard definitions either from eastern or western philosophy.

Meditation helps break the cycle of negative thoughts that often occur in our minds by helping us think of nothing, or to think of something that does not evoke an emotional response (e.g. a meaningless mantra or music). When these cycles of negative thought are allowed to continue, they actually feed upon themselves and create a stronger and stronger emotional experience that can spiral out of control. Anxiety or panic attacks are the most obvious example of this. Most people are able to eventually let go of these negative thoughts without meditation. They either grow tired or bored with them before they become toxic. Other people are actually stimulated by them rather than becoming tired. These people have more difficulty letting them go without supplanting the negative thoughts with some non-emotional replacement.

Visualization can accomplish the same effect as meditation, but is considered slightly more difficult to do. Meditation is sort of the opposite of thinking. Visualization is not quite the opposite, but still can break the cycle. It does so by replacing the negative thoughts with thoughts that are calming. This only works if you can visualize something calming without allowing negative thoughts to impose. For example, if the visualization is of relaxing on a warm, deserted beach, an idea that might be calming for many, you might begin to worry if you are safe on a deserted beach. Clearly that would not work for you. If safety is a major concern, any visualization that asks you to imagine yourself being alone might be difficult to do without negative thoughts intruding. Many things that are called meditation, are actually guided visualization in my definition. Many so-called meditation classes are actually guided visualization…or guided imagery, not meditation. Visualization can be used to deal with fears or phobias by working through a guide visualization of that which you fear. This is never going to be a good first step. You must first be in a relaxed, non-fearful state before ever beginning a visualization of something you fear.

Contemplation is the focused thought on some positive idea, or an idea that you need to gain insight into. This is not a very effective method for breaking the cycle of negative thought. There is research that says you will subconsciously begin to believe, to some extent, things that you repeat over and over to yourself. A mantra such as, “In this moment I am warm, and safe and loved” is one such mantra that can be used for contemplation.

Anti-anxiety medications work by either putting you to sleep, or by making it hard to think. When it is hard to think you are more likely to let go of some of the negative thoughts rather than struggling to keep hold of them. This may have the same result as a good meditation…although the side effects and addictive properties are not good. The use of anti-anxiety meds, combined with guided visualization, can be effective because the meds help break the cycle and the guided visualization gives you something else to think about without requiring concentration…something not possible with the drugs.

There are plenty of people and organizations that provide help dealing with anxiety. Find one and give it a try. If it does not work for you, you should always feel free to move on and try another. The types of meditation, visualization and contemplation are almost limitless.

Categories: Advice, Flying (general), Health, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Traveling with “The One”

First, what is The One? Glad you asked. It is very simple. The One is that person that makes you feel as if you are on your “good spot” (READ HERE FOR MORE ABOUT THAT) no matter where you are. Traveling with “the one” is like bringing your good spot with you. Wherever you go with The One it always feels as if you are where you should be.

Traveling with The One makes sitting on the tarmac for 3 hours a satisfying experience…even on a domestic flight.

Traveling with The One makes all vacations just the right length.

Traveling with The One makes a trip to the island of Montserrat exciting.

Traveling with The One allows you to miss your flight, sit in an airport for 8 hours, and eat crappy airport food for multiple meals, and still make that trip the subject of a positive travel story.

Traveling with The One makes you really appreciate the fact you are not traveling with that irate, self-centered prick screaming at the woman working the ticket counter right after the airline cancels your flight because of snow.

Traveling with The One makes you a better traveler..a better person.

Do what ever it takes to never lose The One once you find him/her. Otherwise, the regret will be immediate, severe, and will last forever. And, if you think there might be two ones, then there are no ones.

rsz_mouse

 

 

 

Categories: Advice, General, Spiritual | Leave a comment