Gypsy Wednesday – Wandering Carol

Welcome to Gypsy Wednesday!  Every Wednesday, I strive to highlight all the juicy morsels related to travel and beyond.

When I conceived of this wacky idea I never imagined meeting a woman of Carol Perehudoff’s caliber.  Carol is a Toronto-based freelance travel writer and blogger.   She writes a travel column at the Toronto Star, Canada’s biggest newspaper.  While somewhat new to the blogging community, writing a fantastic site full of quips and travel stories at Wandering Carol, the Toronto Star is only the tip of the fountain pen, the meat of her work is in the ink.

Her articles have appeared in a variety of magazines including Spalife, enRoute, Review Magazine, Pure Canada and Royal Wings and a whole slough of newspapers like the Chicago Tribune, New York Post, San Francisco Chronicle, St. Louis Post Dispatch, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Hampshire Union Leader Post, the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Vancouver Sun and St. Petersburg Times.

Oh, that’s not all.  Her narrative essays have appeared in the travel anthologies A Woman’s Europe, published by Travelers Tales, 2004, and Go Your Own Way: Women Travel the World Solo published by Seal Press, 2007.   She’s currently working on a travel memoir.

Head spinning yet?  Mine certainly did, but a precious opportunity lit up my interview sensors.  If travel writing is a kernel bubbling, why not ask the source?  With gumption and a lack of starstruck inklings, I’m the perfect thick headed gal who would ask De Niro for an interview, not even realizing the significance of De Niro.  Carol Perehudoff is resoundingly significant – read on to find out more.

Q: You’ve written for many periodicals, newspapers and anthologies, how did you get started doing this?

A: Here’s how I became a travel writer.  Read it and avoid my mistakes.

Step One) I was trying to write fiction and getting nowhere, so I signed up for two back-to-back workshops at the New York Summer Writers Institute in Saratoga Springs.  The second fiction workshop was full, so I joined the nonfiction group.  James Miller was my grumpy, brilliant teacher and to this day I haven’t had a more insightful workshop leader, except maybe Philip Lopate.  This class changed my world.  From being a crappy fiction writer, I went to being a not-quite-so-crappy nonfiction writer.  All my essays were about my travels and it wasn’t great art but at least people were laughing.

Step Two) I attended the Book Passage Travel Writing Conference in Marin County near San Francisco.  This taught me the basics of travel writing so I went home and wrote two articles.  One was about how not to learn rock climbing in Thailand (i.e.  climb up a mountain roped to a stranger) and the other was about a state-run German spa where, to my therapist’s knowledge, no North American had ever been.  It really helps to get noticed if you’re writing about something unusual.  A local weekly paper bought the rock climbing piece.  The spa article I sent to the San Francisco Chronicle.  Eight months later it was picked out of their slush pile and my career began.  It truly makes me wonder if some things are just out there waiting to happen.

Adventure in Wales

Q: For the novice travel writer – how does one go about making contacts? It can seem daunting!

A: I don’t think contacts are as important as the writing.  In fact, that’s what I loved about travel writing.  I could do it all by email and no one knew me.  I didn’t have to impress anyone with my wit, looks or charm – especially important as I have none of those qualities.

But – you do need the addresses and names of editors.  There are various ways of getting lists of these.  I believe I bought mine from travelwriters.com.  After I wrote my first article I sent it out to about 5 places.  Then I pooled my addresses with a couple of other emerging writers and we ended up with a spreadsheet of over 100 editors.  I’d write a piece and then mass email it to all of them.  After you send an editor enough articles, she/he gets to know you … even if they never buy your work.

Q: Many new writers don’t know how to write a query letter or pitch a story – can you give us a quick lesson?

A: I took a different route. My approach was to write an entire travel article then send it out on spec – spec meaning the editor can look at it then reject it or buy it. This works well for newspapers, but for magazines, pitching is required. I hate pitching. I probably pitch about once a year. When I do pitch, I try to make a snappy first line, maybe exactly as the first line of the article would be. Then I say what the article would be about, why it’s timely and why I’m the one to write it. I usually only pitch spa articles, because I do go to a lot of European spas that many writers don’t know about.

Loving a Tiger in Thailand

Q: Why did you choose this path versus penning travel guidebooks?

A: I have never wanted to write for a guidebook.  I hate gathering details like phone numbers and I hate touring endless hotels – though I use guidebooks when I travel and admire those who write them.  For me, though, it’s always been about craft – about narrative structure, humor, dialogue, etc.  Articles and essays give me the freedom to write what I want.

Q: What are some of the perks doing what you do?

A: Ah, the perks.  Of course, there are the free trips and hip boutique hotels full of beautiful people that I normally would have no part of.  I just got back from Montreal to shoot this demo for a travel video and we stayed at a couple of the coolest hotels in town.  How can people be so chic?  If I wasn’t a journalist I don’t think they’d let me past the door.  Unfortunately, most beginning writers who email me about getting started are mainly concerned about how to get free trips.  When I started I was obviously quite stupid because I’d never even heard of press trips and freebies.  I just wanted to write and I wanted to travel.

The other perk is going on a press trip with a group of journalists from all over the States, or Canada or Germany or wherever, and feeling like you are so lucky to meet these articulate, cynical, hilarious people.  Especially when you’re all doing a night train through Turkey together and feel as if it’s the wildest adventure ever.

Q: What are some of the negatives?

A:Apart from exhaustion and jetlag, it’s going on a press trip with a group of journalists from all over the States, or Canada or Germany and feeling like you are going to throw yourself in front of the train if you have to hear anymore about their bad knees, their husband, Harvey, or how the bellman didn’t carry their bags upstairs.  Travel, like any profession, attracts all types.  Not that I’m any better.  I love to complain and whine.  It’s one of my favorite hobbies.  My biggest complaint is the long dinners I have to endure on press trips when what I really want to do is have a hot bath and read a book.

Q: Everyone has a backstory to their chosen profession.  Why travel?  And not day trader or lawyer?

A: I was born with a terrible urge to travel.  It’s so bad I take a homeopathic medicine to stop me from traveling so much.  I am not making that up.  I take four little pills a month.  I tried, in London, England, to work in an office and felt like I was in prison.  That cured me of 9 to 5.  Then I got a scholarship to study in Seoul, Korea and ended up with an MBA.  But I knew I’d never use it.  I also knew that no one in their right mind would ever hire me.

Shooting a Demo for Possible New Travel Series “Wandering Carol”

Q: What wise words can you pass on to those interested in pursuing travel writing?

A: Revise revise revise.  I know people who spend way more time marketing than writing, whereas I spend almost no time marketing.  Granted, it’s easier for me right now because I have a column.  But I really believe that if you have a polished thoughtful well-written product (and don’t use as many adjectives as I just did), you’ll find a home for your story.  Although, in all honesty, my friends who put in more time marketing than writing do as well or better than I do, so try everything and stick with whatever works.  And don’t take rejection personally.  I’m quite proud of mine.  My favorite rejection is from a piece I wrote about visiting a prison in Russia and talking about my ancestors that were imprisoned and exiled when they wouldn’t fight for the Tzar and an editor wrote back, “This is too trite for me.” I wish I’d framed it.

Here here!  I look forward to hunting out the perfect Ikea frames for mine.  Get your dose of Carol’s acerbic wit at Wandering Carol or the The Toronto Star.

By |March 31st, 2010 |Categories: Write |10 Comments

Shameless Promotion? Nah

Could be fate.

Divine gift from the Gods.

Just my lucky hour.

Louise Brown from Travel Blog Sites laid down the news in her usual nonchalant, easy manner:

“Just so’z you know, Nomadic Chick is ranked #73 on our Travel Blog Sites leaderboard.”

My response:

“OH MY GOD.  Seriously?  Wow.  I.  Am.  Speechless.  Figuratively, not literally.”

And I was.  Speechless, that is.  With the blitz of information coming at me on a daily basis, I had a trickling of Travel Blog Sites, but didn’t comprehend that some of my contemporary travel heroes and heroines are on it.

73 is not massive, but nothing to whine about.  It’s respectable.  The slippery slope could be to fall into the hype, let my ego and focus wane.  Fame is the spring water delivery boy, distracting and enticing.  Oh, is he ever.

However, my Canadian humbleness always wins.

The fact is #73 wouldn’t be possible without readers.  So, THANK YOU.  Thanks for enjoying this site.  Thanks for encouraging my creative process.  Thanks for enjoying the writing.  Virtual high fives all around!

Woo Hoo!!

By |March 25th, 2010 |Categories: Life |24 Comments
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Gypsy Wednesday – 100 Places Every Woman Should Go

Welcome to Gypsy Wednesday!  Every Wednesday, I strive to highlight all the juicy morsels related to travel and beyond.

It is the Oprah Winfrey of travel books.  Seriously.  If you’re a solo woman traveler, or looking to tailor a trip with girlfriends, get this book.   In 2007, Stephanie Elizondo Griest amassed a comprehensive source built on sensory overload in the most pleasurable ways, oozing with female power.  Not power that crushes the weak or sickly, but it made me remember why I love being a girl.

Griest deftly organizes 100 Places Every Woman Should Go to suit any personality, because women are as varied as orchids.

If you’re a thrill seeker, partake in a ship wreck dive for pearls in the Persian Gulf, or face the formidable conditions in Antartica by landing a job at a base camp.

Seeking a dialogue with enlightenment?  Climb Mount Kaliash in Tibet and experience a symbolic death at the apex of Zutulpuk Monastery, cause every gal needs rebirth once in a while.  Discover peace in the chaos at the River Ganges, a sacred portal representing the life-force of the universe.  What you’ll witness in Varanasi, India will test your assumptions about faith.

I adored the section on important women and their places in history.  Imagine yourself channeling Frida Kahlo or Catherine the Great, ladies who battled convention to emerge wholly unique and strong.  It was reassuring to know others blazed a trail before us.

Any travel guide worth the typeface has a section called “Just-Go-There Places”.  My mind injected with vivid, ecstatic visions after digesting descriptions of Dubrovnik, Croatia and the best places to spot a mermaid (pssst.. Eleuthera, Bahamas).  I was thoroughly convinced, and my bucket list suddenly expanded.

What sealed my appreciation for this book is the massive index of travel companies at the ready to realize a woman’s dreams.  Some of the companies may have folded, but even seeing them in print opens the door to ideas and a fresh Google search.

Sistas Doing It - Travel!

Perhaps I’m overreaching by saying this, but 100 Places appeals to every facet of the human being – physical, emotional, mental, intellectual, spiritual.

Some past criticisms were a minor bias on Griest’s part, by mentioning beloved travel spots Oaxaca, Mexico or her hometown of Austin numerous times throughout the book.  When I began backpacking, very few guides existed, so I’m just grateful women can pick up an encyclopedia of resources period.

No guide is 100%, nor will it be the source for all.  I can guarantee this book offers new discoveries for seasoned travelers and generate bowled over excitement for the novice.  It’s that good.

Sistas photo courtesy of Lucas Janin under Creative Commons.

How to Maintain a Blog, Work F/T & Plan a Trip Without Killing Yourself

It’s becoming clear that I almost did.  Over a month ago my immune system buckled to a cold, and now this. For the past two weeks a meltdown occurred in the form of bacterial pink eye.  I woke to swollen slits for eyes, appearing more Asian than I thought possible.  With full knowledge of what a plastic surgery disaster must cart around on a daily basis, I’d rather not return to that state.

In some respects, I regret starting this site so early.  However, the people I’ve met, potential friends I’ve connected with, has been worth it.  It’s just overwhelming at times.  The title of this post speaks volumes to that.

If you’re in the same boat as me, working towards new doors opening, but trying to shut old ones, how the heck do tasks get done without succumbing to a heart attack or life-threatening virus?

Some tips for the constantly exhausted, over stimulated round-the-world planner.

1.  Get a whiteboard. In order to stop little pieces of paper from piling up on your desk, because honestly piles of notes is exhausting to sift through, buy yourself a stick on whiteboard at the dollar store.  Mine is below.  I write big action items on it – trip planning, blog related, gear purchases, and the like.  Having those ‘to do’ items in a central area makes it seem less daunting.  Plus, a whiteboard is more environmentally friendly than paper.  Goodbye paper cuts!

‘To Do’ in One Place

2.  Put websites into a single source. An Internet marketer friend recommended I buy a cheap address book to list all the sites I use alphabetically with username and passowords.  Any techie will warn you to never write down passwords should thieves gain access.  Thus, I write my passwords in code.   Why is this useful?  Travel bloggers are members of hundreds of sites, it’s difficult to remember what you signed up with last week, let alone today.  Another great idea is Access My ID, a secure website to store vital documents like passports, credit cards and ATM card info.  It’s easy to upload via scan or digital photos.  You can store up to twenty important username/passwords.  A yearly price is only $19.95, which is worth the peace of mind.

Stepping Stone to Access My ID

3.  Inbox zero. A snazzy term for a very simple concept.  I get easily distracted and stressed when emails stack up.  It’s gotten worse trying to juggle work email and travel website messages.  @foodgoesinmouth (Caleb T.) turned me onto Merlin Mann, a dude devoted to creative production, by showing others how to manage time better.  Check out the presentation he did at Google in 2007 about the concept of inbox zero.  Instead of allowing emails to sit unattended, it’s important to make quick decisions about each message.  Why?  You will screw up.  By not responding when asked, not taking action, or procrastinating.  I’ve easily fulfilled all three.  I literally started using Mann’s methods 3 days ago, and am less stressed, more proactive about my inbox.  Mann proposes 5 steps.

  • Delete or Archive. Anything that has no relevance, delete it.  Any message to be viewed weeks later, archive it.  Create a transparent folder called “archive.”  Don’t build a complicated filing tree, that just adds more to a saturated mailbox.
  • Delegate. If action is required by another party, immediately forward it to that department or person, and set up a reminder to follow up.  Keep in mind, this might not be viable when running your own travel site.  If you have a spouse or well trained animal in the house, use them.
  • Respond. Treat responses like an SMS text message.  Keep it to fives sentences or less.  Again, @foodgoesinmouth lead me to Sentenc.es.  Marketed as a low-fi solution to email overload, Mike Davidson’s website accurately gives an example of a long-winded email response. Ack, it was like reading myself.  If you respond quickly and concisely, the message is swept off, done.  At times, a long response is called for.  The other day I was emailing my website designers and had to explain my vision, that takes more than five sentences.  Always ensure short responses are nicely worded so you don’t come off as a snarky, dismissive jerk.
  • Defer. Put any messages to be dealt with later into a folder called “DEFER, ACTION LATER”.  Bloggers I subscribe to or new Twitter followers land here.  I’m attempting to clean out this folder at the end of each day.  So far, so good.
  • Do. This is not related to responding to an email.  This means capturing the message and actually doing an action.  Whether that means conferencing, shifting documents in folders, or leaving the computer to do a task.
  • Spam. I’m adding a 6th step.  Always check your spam folder on a weekly basis.  I missed an important message because it landed there without notice.

4.  Relinquish control. My mission was to save a few bucks by implementing a site design by myself.  I lack the time or energy to study CSS or HTML intimately, so I found myself stuck.  Eventually I had to give control to experts, people who can realize my ideas for me.  Sometimes it’s smarter to seek others who can save you hours of time.

5.  Don’t post everyday and seek guest bloggers. Here’s my dilemma, since opening that creative can of worms, I can’t stop writing.  I dream writing.  I want to hog the limelight, but that could be dangerous – burning me out before I even leave Canada.  Alas, I can’t be everywoman, so I hope to post a minimum 2 days a week  and sheepishly ask some amazing writers to contribute to Nomadic Chick.  Watch out, you might be asked.

6.  Automate some tasks. Twitter has become a special friend, one that allows me access to some talented, engaging personalities.  The negative side?  It’s a time suck.  Thanks to @monica530 of A Pair of Panties and Boxers for introducing me to Twuffer.  Tuffer can post-date tweets.  Just sign in with your Twitter username/password – from there it’s easy to configure.  I typically use it for #traveltuesday or #followfriday.  This frees up time to interface with my tweeps live, instead of worrying about repetitive tasks.  If you know of other automated programs, please contribute in the comments.

7.  Nourish yourself and sleep. Two big ones I was ignoring.  Your blog stats won’t dive drastically if you leave the computer for an hour.  My biggest crime was forgetting to drink water, a nutritional component in my regular routine.  Yeah, it’s not a good plan to run your immune system till it grinds metal.  Keeping healthy will benefit your upcoming travels.

8.  Become a zen task master. Leo Babauta is responsible for a nifty website called Zen Habits.  Babauta offers 10 practical solutions to your task nightmare aptly coined Zen To Done.  He smartly splits goals into two groups, MIT goals and Big Rocks for the week.

MIT (Most Important Tasks) - 3 important tasks that must be done today.  Examples could be calling the printer for your business cards, making a doctor’s appointment, or contacting a site to pitch an article.  Psychologically it’s easier to handle 3 tasks per day than 50 at once.  And imagine those 3 tasks furthering your larger goals.

Big Rocks for the week - Entails the major items you want to focus on for the week.  Potential goals might be redesigning your site, implementing a healthier diet, or spending quality time with friends or family.  Always start the week with your goals in mind and re-check that you’re on track.

You can purchases his ebook or try out Leo’s methods for two or three weeks.  Give me feedback on your experiment, I’d love to hear the results.

Extra  Sources

43 Folders.  This site assists those looking to optimize creativity – sustain your own personal renaissance, if you will.  Created by Merlin Mann in 2004.

Lifehacker.  Downloads and tips for getting stuff done.

LifeRemix.  A merry troupe of bloggers showcased in one place to enrich your life.  Scroll through sites for a list of bloggers or tap the blog for regular posts.  LifeRemix is less technical than Lifehacker, but just as useful.  Example: 8 Tools That Ensure You’ll Never Lose An Idea or 10 Simple Ways to Do Only Three Things Today.

Honorable Mentions

Caleb T. started a cool website named 100 Days of Less.  He plans to ditch material goods in you guessed it, 100 days.  A stupendous idea!  Hi, to Caleb’s mom.  She posted a comment here once. :)

By |March 21st, 2010 |Categories: Life |51 Comments

Gypsy Wednesday – Our Travel Lifestyle

Welcome to Gypsy Wednesday!  Every Wednesday, I strive to highlight all the juicy morsels related to travel and beyond.

Something has been disturbing me of late.  My links page is sorely lacking in the family way.  For every ten solo travelers, there are one or two families choosing a nomadic lifestyle.  If I’m wrong, correct me.  Add yourself to my links page, I’d love to have you.

Based on that unsubstantiated statistic, I sought out Colin and Tracy Burns, a lovely couple with young children who recently left their native Australia for Asia, and who knows where else.  Colin and company launched a website to share trials, lessons, and successes as a traveling family called Our Travel Lifestyle.

The Burns Family, Cute Aren't They?

Why choose such a path?  It’s seems contrary to the standard family model.  Find out, and perhaps deep seeded ideas that were previously dashed away might come alive.  Despite my links page, families do this, why not yours?

Q: Give us a little backstory on Our Travel Lifestyle?

BOTH: For a few years, we had been discontent with our life in Brisbane.  Sick of living in a city, we were debating moving to a smaller coastal town to have a better day-to-day lifestyle.  But the cost of living in Australia was still an issue for us.  Neither of us particularly wanted to work the long hours needed to afford a nice lifestyle in Australia and miss out on seeing a lot of our children’s formative years while we worked.  Halfway through 2009, we discussed the idea of traveling the world, focusing on staying in more affordable countries where we could continue working with our current web design clients in Australia, but work much shorter hours each week due to the cost of living being less.  This would give us more time with our kids and the chance to see if the cost of living in Australia was really worth it.  Excited with the idea, we sold our house and decided to rent until we were ready to go.

The actual decision to go happened quite quickly.  One day we were a normal family and the next day we were packing for a new lifestyle.  We booked our tickets for six weeks time, broke our lease and started organizing everything. We decided to create Our Travel Lifestyle for two reasons.  One reason was to document our travels and the second reason was to provide information about travel with young children on a budget.  There are a lot of informative websites out there for traveling with kids, but not too many for people who wanted to travel long term on a budget.  Accommodation suggestions and recommendations where the nightly price ranges anywhere upwards of $200/night precludes a great many people.  Although in it’s infancy, we hope to make our website a general resource for families that want to travel and show them that traveling long or short term with young kids is possible and doesn’t have to cost a great deal.

Q: Why choose this over a conventional life?

COLIN: Our discontent with the lifestyle we were living had been gathering pace for a few years.  We were struggling with mortgage repayments, running our own business and enduring the day-to-day drudgery of working whilst raising two young children.  In 2008, I sold my business and worked for the company who bought us out.  This was a fantastic decision as it gave me the opportunity to dream again rather than just work, work, work!  So, in late 2009 we decided to pack it all in and start traveling.  We knew we had the ability to generate an income while we traveled because I am a web developer and my wife a graphic designer.  We also had a number of clients who were happy for me to communicate with them only via phone, email, and video-conference if needed.

Ultimately, we choose this life because we feel that it can’t be any more difficult than the life we were living.  Juggling work, mortgages, bills, maintaining a house, and raising two kids isn’t easy.  We have offloaded our mortgage, packed all our belongings into a storage shed, confident in the knowledge that at anytime if we make the decision the nomadic lifestyle is not for us as a family we can return home (wherever that might be) and pick up basically where we left off.

Q: What do you hope your kids will learn from this experience?

COLIN: My wife and I have discussed this a number of times and (I think) we both agree that there are three things that we would like our kids to learn from our nomadic lifestyle.

  • Speak a language (other than English) fluently. Although we aren’t 100% certain of which language we would like the kids to know we are both agreed that having a second language that you speak as well as a native is incredibly useful.  Living in Australia and having a second language is rare, because we just don’t generally need to have one.  At this point, we are thinking perhaps we will live in Central America for a year or two to give the kids the opportunity to learn Spanish, otherwise it might be Indonesian as the proximity to Australia would be quite useful for the kids.
  • Understand that not all kids in the world are lucky enough to go to school, have lots of toys, and have a big house like we do in Australia. This one is a little more esoteric, but we want the kids to realize that the world is made up of many different people, with many different situations.  If we can teach our kids the ability to empathize and understand the factors that influence these situations (even to a little extent) I think it will be creating a new generation who can help effect change.
  • To know that they can choose the life they want to live. This one is particularly important to me as a father.  Children often follow in their parents’ footsteps, but I want my children to know that it is up to them to choose the life they live.  I want to ensure that I give them the tools (the frame of mind, the unrestrained imagination) that allows them to decide how they would like to structure their life.  Whether that is a life of 9-5 work, with a house in the suburbs and a mortgage etc., or a nomadic life of travel.  Life is for living, and having CHOICES is about doing it the way YOU (as an individual) want to do it not just following the example set by your parents or others in your society.  I want my children to be brave enough to make decisions for them and their families not default to a norm that others have dictated.  I want to reiterate that if my children choose to live the 9-5 life, then I can assure you I will be more than happy as a father because it will be their choice to live that style of life.

Daughter Hayley Leading the Way

Q: How do you plan on dealing with schooling when the kids are older?

COLIN: Our son, Noah, was actually due to start school this year in Australia.  This first year of schooling isn’t mandatory but we are trying to cover most of the content through homeschooling as we travel.  From next year we will enroll him in distance education, unless we have found a place somewhere in the world to settle for 12 months.  In which case, we will enroll him in school in that country. There are a lot of really good distance education programs run by different schools in Australia and we made contact with several before leaving to discuss the best way to arrange schooling on the road.

Tracy is also just finishing a Primary School teaching degree, so hopefully teaching the kids ourselves won’t be too difficult.

Q: How is traveling with a family different than in a couple or by yourself?

COLIN: I have done all three types of travel and long-term travel with young children is infinitely slower.  There is no such thing as quickly ducking down to the shops.  Or ducking out for a quick bite to eat.  Having said that, nothing is done quickly living at home with young kids either, so really nothing is different from that perspective.

Ultimately, when travel with young kids you need to set and expect a slower pace, which in many ways is just what we want.  Instead of rushing from one tourist attraction to the next and packing multiple destinations into a long one-day tour, we stay in a particular place longer and try to get to know the place better rather than just seeing tourist attractions.  It also means that some things we just can’t do.  A two-day hike through the jungle isn’t exactly going to suit a family with two young kids where one of the children is allergic to mosquito bites and the other hates getting dirty shoes.

After a couple of months of traveling with the kids we’ve found that even our two year old is very aware of the difference between this holiday and a normal 2-3 week trip.  As well as needing more time to see each place, we find with young kids that after 2 weeks in hotels and budget hostels they just want a home that they can sit on a couch in front of a TV, eat sandwiches and gets snacks out of a fridge.  They also crave some stability.  If we were traveling by ourselves we would happily change locations every few days and try to see as much of the world as possible.  We are finding traveling with a young family, it’s better to do a mix of short term travel and 2-3 month stays in one place where you rent an apartment and have a home base for a while.  Often renting an apartment for a couple of months is cheaper anyway and lets us really get to know the culture.  It also gives the kids the chance to accumulate a few toys, become familiar with different foods and get in a routine, which keeps them much happier.  Young kids like the familiar.

Colin Dancing with a Baby Elephant - Kuala Gandah

Q: If a family contacted you for words of encouragement, what would you say?

COLIN: One of the things I did before starting this lifestyle was to talk to a few families with grown up children who had either embarked on a gap year with their kids or considered it, and choose not to for one reason or another.  Not one of the families who choose to spend the time with their kids regretted it.  On the other hand, most of the families I spoke to who chose not to regretted that fact that they didn’t take the opportunity.  Unfortunately for them, with their kids all grown up now, the opportunity will never present itself again.

I honestly can’t see a negative to what we are doing at the moment.  We have an emergency savings account squirreled away so that in the very worst situation we can afford flights home to Australia plus a little bit of money to set back up again.  We could be living the life we used to live within two weeks if we had to (but we have absolutely no intention to do so).

Q: You seem to subscribe to the 4-Hour Workweek.  What’s so dang  great about it?

COLIN: OPPORTUNITY! A lot of the negative criticisms that I have seen about the 4HWW are statements like “this can’t work for me” or attacking Tim Ferris’ credibility.  For me, the true value was the encouragement to think outside the square.  For example, freelance web design is one of the most portable professions around, but realistically how many web designers out there are taking the opportunity to travel and work?

If you are reading 4HWW and you find yourself saying, “I couldn’t possibly do that” or “Is he serious, I bet he couldn’t do that” then perhaps you need to take change your tactic and start asking yourself “WOW, what would my life be like if I could do that?”  Once you ask yourself that question, it’s time to start imagining and planning ways to bring your life in line with your dream (whatever that dream may be).   My wife and I are completely aware that working while traveling is still working and not spending time with the kids, so we are actively developing additional income streams that will help us free up our time and enjoy the time with our kids more. We are hoping that within the next 2 months we’ll be able to share with our new products that we are certain will help hopefully thousands of families who want to travel with young children.

TRACY: I haven’t actually read the 4-Hour Workweek, but I’ve heard Colin talk about it a lot!!  From what he has said, the three major things that a person can get out of the book is 1) to question the need to work 9-5 for most of your life, 2) ideas for how you can reduce the number of hours you need to work while still making the same amount of money.  You may never get it down to 4 hours a week but most people would be overjoyed if they could work a few hours less every day or one day less a week.  And 3) to consider the lifestyle you want to lead.  If you want to lead an expensive lifestyle with a big house and flash cars, and send your kids to good schools in Australia or America you need to work hard to do this, and may not be able to enjoy your lifestyle anyway.  The book offers an alternative suggestion: think about whether there is another country where the cost of living is cheaper where you would be happy to live and have the same lifestyle, but at a fraction of the cost, so you have to work a lot less to maintain this lifestyle.  This third part is really what got us started on this path.  So, I guess listening to all Colin’s ramblings about the 4HWW and Tim Ferris were worth it.  :)

Q: Finally, my readers adore puppies and babies, tell us a kid travel story – one representative of your journey thus far.

COLIN: We’ve had lots of funny things happen along the way.  For example, in the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali the baby monkeys decided that they just had to have Hayley’s bright pink Dora hat.  You can see in the two photos that in the second photo Hayley has the death grip on her Dora hat.  No little crazy Bali monkey was going to get her Dora hat.

Monkey and Hayley Shaking Hands, Awwwh! :)

One of the most memorable events to date was actually in conjunction with another family from Norway who we had just been on a full day tour to ride and swim with the Elephants in Kuala Gandah just outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

How Dare You? My Dora Hat!!

When we returned to KL after the day trip, we decided to have dinner together along Jalan Alor, a famous food street.  The evening turned into the perfect storm.  Two families, both storms in their own rights, collided together to produce the perfect storm (and quite frankly the perfect dinner out).  The kids were all tired and by the end of the meal, there was more rice and Chinese food on the tables than there was in any of the tummies or even the original plates the food arrived on.  But, the storm of children hit in such a way that all the adults still had the opportunity to chat and enjoy ourselves.  Towards the end of the meal, another group, led by the owners of the apartment we were staying in, arrived to join us.  As they stood around our perfect storm, they look shell-shocked and amazed.  As I introduced myself to the new arrivals, my 2.5-year-old daughter who had been eating her rice decided to get down onto the floor and eat the rice that had fallen off the table.  My wife discovered her about 2 or 3 minutes later.  Ultimately, she was fine and no ill harm came from her decision to eat off the floor (this time).

Dinner is Never Boring - Ahmed, Bali

I don’t know if this is really representative of our trip, chaotic, ill planned or just generally unsanitary, but hey, it was a great night and we all had great food and fantastic company. :)

Dora hat or not, Colin and Tracy are alighting the bushes, clearing all the obstacles blocking their path,  illuminating a new way for families to travel and exist.  Life is not an unforgiving box, and they prove it.

Denial

This article is part three of a seven part series on unplugging from the cubicle.  Read the full introduction here.

It’s Not Goodbye, We’re On a Break

12 hours.  That’s how long I worked one fateful day.  Not my normal hours, but 8 + extra adds up to 12.  Exhausted, annoyed, and angry to sink so much of my day into this.  The worst?  I hadn’t even noticed the sun setting.  My eyes blinked away from the monitor towards darkness.  A fully lit office tower amidst the black of night always strikes me as wrong.  A strange scene of forced production in a serene setting.  That night I cried.

The next day I woke to a new day of work.  A fresh slate.  I chalked up the previous night’s reaction to tiredness.  After all, I need this job.  It’s important to meet critical deadlines.  I mustn’t turn such trivial worries inward.  The luxury of my neighborhood are the delightful shops devoted to my two loves: shoes and fashion.  After work, I found myself at a store trying on a few items.  My black dress slacks are getting frayed, should replace those.  And the office is bloody cold all the time, a wool sweater is in order.  I really should replace those lost earrings.  Those were my favorite baubles.

As the salesperson rang up my purchases, contentment suffused through me, a heady rush of joy filling the spaces of anxiety.  Any thoughts of those 12 hours dissipated, my mind occupied with these new finds.  Even though my love affair with the job turned sour, probably eons ago, somehow I resolved to keep it coasting, because yeah, I need this job.

Codependent relationships always dance the line between disaster and bliss.

Deny Much?

How Denial Keeps that Crap Relationship Alive

I’m betting you can relate to multiple days of breaking points, ones you gleefully ignored, because the past is the past – time to move on.  What I fought, what you’re ignoring now is the inevitable.  And we do so with denial tactics.

What are denial tactics?  What is the point of them?  Sigmund Freud split human behavior into three modes: id, ego, and superego.

The id - consists of the basic survival instincts that drive humans: sex and aggression (oh my).  If id were captain, humans would be dancing naked around a bonfire to the pipes of Pan.  Oodles of food and orgies to follow.

The ego -  logic and rational thinking.  The ego moderates risks or benefits with a situation in a realistic fashion – the yin to impulse-driven id.

The superego – a big ball of our moralistic standards, essentially our conscience.  Though the superego dictates our sense of right or wrong, some of those run the gamut of extreme, unrealistic notions of moral fiber.

All three combat gladiator style for dominance. The ego acts as the child in between battling parents the id and the superego by adopting a common method – defense mechanisms.  Defense mechanisms are roundabout ways of tackling anxiety, such as rationalizing a crying session to exhaustion or blaming the client for a lousy day in the cube.  There’s a laundry list of mechanisms, the one we’re after is denial.

The chief goal of denial is to ignore or bury an unpleasant reality.  If I purchase 50 TVs, all my bad feelings will melt away.

I'll Take Em' All!

Denial Tactics in the Cubicle

  • A series of days deemed normal at work cause massive hemorrhaging in the stress areas of your brain, but you decide it’s just super busy at the moment.
  • Always on the verge of tears or so gnarly you bark at innocent people, you convince yourself it’s general moodiness.
  • Puttering in the early morning hours on items that have zero to do with getting ready for work, or dawdling, coming in later than usual.  Hey, you’re just a busy person with lots on the go at the home front, and you validly missed a transit connection.
  • After working late several weeks in a row, your contentment level plummets, because spending more than an allotted 8 hours forces a stark conclusion – it’s time for a change.  Oh, but you push those feelings down by going for the big guns – self reward.  I had a vicious week at work, a nice meal out on Friday night will ease the pain.  How about those TVs?  We so need that new iPad honey, what’s the harm?

Cutting the Fat of Denial

The Skinny

Defense mechanisms are vital for dealing with childhood trauma or tense situations, but denial won’t solve your cubicle misery, only hasten it, sometimes for years.  Instead of facing the anxiety-producing source head on, we hide.  Rationalize, dismiss, purchase, binge, smoke, drink, ignore… anything to not man up.

My best advice for combating this pervasive stage is waking up to your situation with honesty and clarity.  The honesty will hurt, and the clarity fine tunes it.

What hurt for me was accepting that I made terrible choices, grasped at ideas that I never believed in, and face that time was literally gone.  I couldn’t tap myself on the shoulder at eighteen to say do A, B, C, and you’ll be happy.  And honey, ditch that bad cowlick and perm at the same time.

Clarity is that moment of pinpointing the actual source of distress – what you’re doing everyday.  Even who you’re doing it for can be a factor.

A crucial question to ask as you reach for that next pacifier to ignore the obvious, when you’re eighty swaying back and forth in that rocking chair, how many regrets are you willing to live with?  Regrets sting, leaving a job that gives no pleasure won’t.  Trust me.

Source: Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders

Photos: catskillgrrl and A30_Tsitika under Creative Commons.

By |March 15th, 2010 |Categories: Life |16 Comments