Mini-Farming in Florida!

Alright, three months later, and I am back! 2015 was a year filled with excitement, happiness, and new experiences! To top it off, in early November I moved from Massachusetts to the panhandle of Florida!

My sister bought ten acres in the suburbs of Pensacola, and I moved down here with her and her fiance to start a “mini-farm”.

She named it Prickly Pear Plantation, because of these little cacti called prickly pears, which are actually edible… in theory. I have yet to get more than a couple nibbles out of the center, because they must be cooked to the point where all the bristles, and small bristly hairs are gone. But by this point they have shrunk and shriveled so much, that it is nearly impossible to get any meat out of them. What I usually end up with is tiny hairy bristles stuck in my tongue and lips. I think some grow much larger than the ones on our property though, so hopefully I can find a better specimen to try.

pricklypear.jpg

We will be growing vegetables, and started double digging out garden plots which we will plant in February. We will be keeping chickens for eggs as well; we got seven baby chicks three weeks ago and already built the chicken coop.

0104161616

They grow up so fast!

We have also cleaned up the property, built a shed, planted a few fruit trees, built/ repaired fences, and built a “catititat” (habitat for cats) all in just about six weeks!

0103161255.jpg

Don’t worry, there’s a shelf for them to jump back through the window if they want to go inside.

Everything is going great so far, and we are getting a lot accomplished. We keep moving towards ours goals, and even though some days are slower than others, we can already look back over the two months and see tremendous progress! For instance, the piles of trash the previous owners left all around the yard have been cleaned up.

Pensacola is a beautiful coastal city with a nice little strip of bars and restaurants. We have been to the Wednesday night runs at the World of Beer a few times, where after a three mile run the bar provided runners some complimentary food and beer specials.

The dogs are enjoying the large property as well, pouring seemingly endless amounts of energy into sprinting around the fields and roughhousing with each other. When I arrived a week after my sister and her fiance moved into the house, I surprised her with Leo, her cat who I had been looking after in Massachusetts while she moved.

1216152001c

Well… I guess they tire themselves out sooner or later.

It all feels like a dream come true. The work we are putting in is already starting to show, but we also have lots of toil ahead of us. That is okay though, it is just part of building something to be proud of. Getting down here was a big step, and now we just need to keep the momentum going to keep building (and growing) our dreams. And with beautiful warm weather, it is easy to stay in high spirits!

And it gets to be a little harder to pull myself away from the outdoors and plunk myself down on a computer. But hey, that’s a good problem to have!

Be sure to follow Steph’s blog, “Steph Matt Stella Become Southern”!

Fewer Posts, but More Experiences

What’s Going On Here, Where Am I At?

When I started this blog, I said that a long absence from posting could mean one of two things:

…it probably means I am failing. Or it could mean I am accomplishing my goal so well that something crazy and unexpected has hampered my posting, like a spontaneous visit to the Yanomamö tribe of Brazil to participate in their ash eating ritual of cremated relatives. But hopefully my experiences will be somewhere in between and I’ll post regularly.

The truth is I have been doing tons of fun stuff, and truly enjoying my life, which made this blog take a back seat. Why stop in the middle of an excellent adventure to tell the internet, who is probably not even listening, about it? I’ve found myself thinking less about trying to make money or promote blogs, and more about enjoying the moment.

In that sense, this blog fulfilled its purpose. It started as a catalyst to get me to have more fun, move out of my shell, promote happiness and positivity, and live a life that is not mundane! As my posts have taken a steep nose dive in number, I have also noticed that the energy I felt when I first started this blog did not go away, it was just transferred into my daily life.

Pretty much, I faked it until I maked it. Well I was never really faking it. But sometimes it is hard to be positive, accomplish things, and keep things interesting. When I couldn’t do it in the outside world, I would turn to this blog for help. And help it did! This blog served as a foundation, which I am now building a structure on top of that I call my life. Surely there will still be updates and the spreading of that positivity that I have been able to capture. But I also want to make sure this project doesn’t become a stressor.

Partially motivated by this blog, I will be moving south this winter. I think not having a bitter-cold environment where I am essentially cooped up indoors for six months will greatly contribute to my happiness. Also, this is my first real opportunity to see how much I can produce on my own, working the land, and being as self sufficient as possible. I’m sure the move and the new project of homesteading will give me plenty of fodder for Explaining It All moving forward.

Year in Review

I started this blog almost 14 months ago. It has been with me as I published my first book, which was a huge accomplishment for me, helped along, undoubtedly, by this blog. I posted about pursuing those sorts of dreams, turning off the flow of negativity from certain people around us, and taking steps, large or small towards your goals. I wasn’t writing from a high horse, for the readers’ benefit, so much as I was writing while in the pursuit, planning my future, and encouraging myself to keep going.

I am still very much in the pursuit of many things. Publishing a book is cool, by it is not synonymous with selling a book. That remains on the forefront of my goals.

Buy “Anarchy in New England” now! LOL

But life is always a balance between properly planning to make the future great, and ensuring the present is great as well. In addition to career/ self sufficiency progress, I did a lot of having fun/ enjoying life, including a trip to Florida, a cruise, PorcFest (where I met some AMAZING new friends), camping, the Cape, and finally, Iceland!

So enjoy these pictures of Iceland! I will be making a better effort to post more regularly!

iceland blue lagoon

Blue Lagoon, the required stop for tourists. How did I get the whole pool to myself? Went straight from the airport at 8am when they open!

iceland falls

A waterfall of which I don’t know how to say the name. It was big though. See the tiny dots in the background over my left shoulder? People.

iceland hillside

Stopped on the side of the road when I saw this awesome hill and rock. Jumped the barbed wire fence, and gave it a good climb.

iceland lagoon

A glacial lagoon! Saw some seals swimming around.

iceland reykjavic

I was trying to pose like Leif Eriksson, but I didn’t have my longsword and giant ax with me.

iceland silhoette

Reset Button Hit!

RESET! I just got back from Porcupine Freedom Festival in New Hampshire. At first I was worried that with such high expectations, with how amazing of an experience it was the last two years, that I would be setting myself up for a let down. Such was not the case. In three years, it has gotten better every year!

I didn’t use the internet from Monday through Saturday of last week–not at all! That is the first level of reset. In fact on the radio on my way home from the event I heard that we may all be constantly overstimulated by the internet, and can benefit from periodical internet fasts. Being surrounded by wonderful people in this little microcosm of freedom was all I needed.

This is like my yearly injection of positivity and energy, which I hope to replicate in the future to a year round lifetime of love and joy. It is a goal to strive for. It shows me how good things could be, and the power of individuals and voluntary groups to affect the type of change we want to see in the world. It starts with the individual.

That is the biggest thing I took away from this year’s event. Instead of focusing on everyone else–you should do this, they should do that, “we” should (when we really means you)–it is beneficial to first be the change you want to see in the world. That is sort of a cliche phrase, but for how often we may hear it, I am not sure people much think about what it means.

floats boat

At PorcFest, we all value freedom. But everyone has a different idea of freedom. The people who want marijuana to be legal are not always the same people who value gun ownership, or the same people who seek equality when it comes to gay marriage and such. At this event, everyone that I met and saw realized that their preferred freedoms are not the only ones that matter. Everyone should be free to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. So there were gays, stoners, gun lovers, Muslims, Jews, Christians, rednecks, executives, rich, poor, black, white, Asian, free range children, and on and on. This was true diversity. This was the live and let live philosophy brought to its logical conclusion for one week in a microcosm of New Hampshire.

Being the change we want to be for those of us at PorcFest meant tolerating things we are not necessarily comfortable with, because we realize those things do not affect us directly. I’m sure not everyone was comfortable with people doing mushrooms, and I am sure not everyone was comfortable with the guy driving around on his ATV flying a confederate flag. Some might have been less than excited about guns, and some might have never been around gay guys cuddling by the fire before. But it didn’t matter, because the people at PorcFest walk the walk: do whatever you want, until it starts to negatively affect me, then we’ll talk.
And I think that is why I feel so mentally refreshed after the weeks I spend at PorcFest. I see my philosophy on life working without contradictions. But we aren’t all as lucky as I am, to have a specific event tailored for my worldview; and one that actually is what it claims to be.

I also have my setbacks. Writing a book, Anarchy in New England, was a huge step towards being who I want to be. But there are many more. I am an amateur forager, but the next step is seeing how self sufficient I can be. At PorcFest I attended a talk on beekeeping, and also a talk on soap making. When I move down south before this winter these are two things I would like to try my hand at, as well as growing vegetables, and raising chickens for laying eggs.

I criticize the government a lot, and something I need to continue to strive for is setting up my life so that the government is unnecessary, as I often preach. I need to be the change I want to see: I need to set up a self sufficient town where everything from trade, to currency, to conflict resolution are handled privately, in order to practice what I preach.

And after seeing things work so well for one week without government at PorcFest, it is time to expand the microcosm, and attempt to set up a full time version. This seems like the natural progression; it has been tested for a week as best as we are allowed within the confines of current government. Now we need to test it more permanently, in order to move beyond theory.

A Stranger in Your Own Town

I have a challenge for everyone. Find a new, amazing, beautiful, or interesting spot in your town that you have never been to.

My home town is approximately 10 square miles, with a population of 6,000 so don’t give me the whole, “my town’s too small, I know every inch of it,” excuse! I am moving south by November, and through my omnipresent attempts to not take things for granted, found myself stumbling around an awesome little section of my town that I have never really explored before.

hope3

There is a gigantic abandoned building that used to be the Draper Mill in my town, Hopedale. I may see it everyday, but it isn’t everyday I see the structure from the back side. Indeed I had to cross over to the other side of the tracks–literally–in order to view it. A friend and I walked across the street from his house where an abandoned parking lot hosts an abandoned ramp that used to lead to a large bridge, built to go over the railroad but long since dismantled.

hope1

I knew of all these places, and never gave them much thought. But leave it to the inspiration of a couple beers, and these places warranted some exploring! The abandoned building made me think of something I have seen in Russia, and the view from the “bridge” made Hopedale look like a village nestled somewhere in Europe. I have always had an affinity for abandoned places; I don’t know what it is about grass and shrubs forcing their way through cracks in the pavement that strikes my artistic sensibilities.

hope5

The abandoned bridge entrance was my favorite part. There was actually a pretty decent view from the top; over that concrete block is a good 20 foot drop. It could actually be a nice little attraction if not for the big fence telling you to keep out. So I guess it will remain an attraction for those with enough will to get there, and just a little rebelliousness.

hope2

And you always need a selfie or else it didn’t happen.

hope6

Go out and find a new place just minutes from where you live! Appreciate the scenery, architecture, or new perspective! Find a new place to meditate, or sneak off to. You might find yourself a mini-adventure, and you might just take the place you call home a little less for-granted.

Prime People Watching on Mount Chocorua

I felt like a scientist studying different sample groups of humans, as a dozen or so people stormed into Liberty Cabin where Eric and I were brewing some coffee. We had already been to the clear summit of Mount Chocorua, trudged through the snow, taken the wrong trail, fell a couple times, backtracked, and finally arrived at the cabin all by around 1pm. That meant we were happily inside the basic structure with wooden platforms as beds, sipping hot coffee, when the dark clouds rolled in.

20150418_112805

Lightening streaked across the sky. First came the downpour, then came the hail, and the wind. It would have been quite scary to be on the peak in such weather, and we would soon hear first hand accounts. It was hard to distinguish who was with who as three different groups of people and a lone hiker came streaming in. With only 9 platform beds in the cabin, Eric and I were glancing at each other and thinking the same thing, “Are they all staying here tonight?”

20150418_141053

The answer was no, two groups were just out for a day hike, and had not anticipated how snowy it would be at 3,500 feet. Compared to them, I felt so very prepared for this camping trip, but I must admit that I had not expected the snow either, for some reason. It melted around my house, so snow was out of sight and out of mind; it is springtime!

I lucked out that my hiking partner Eric was much more prepared than I. He even brought extra hiking poles, which I don’t generally use, but proved invaluable on the snowy and icy trails. He also had a lighter, which I had forgot to pack. If I was alone, that could have been a disastrous mistake, being unable to light my camp stove to heat water. I still had enough other food, but it would have made the overnight uncomfortable.

I also lucked out with the temperatures. I brought many layers of clothing, but nothing extremely warm. This ended up being fine, but had it been ten degrees colder, which it easily could have been, I probably would have froze all day and night. So I am not trying to act like I was all set to hike Everest, but I at least brought plenty of extra socks, a map, flashlights, etc.

Party at Liberty Cabin!

As I stood in the cabin, trying to discern who was staying, a girl with booty shorts and a tank top walked in, bleeding from both shins. She was in good spirits, which could have been her disposition, or shock, or perhaps she had more than the two beers she admitted to earlier. See, it was her 21st birthday! And it was either hike a mountain, or go to clubs in Boston. Apparently she decided to dress for the clubs, but go hike the mountain.

I assumed the girl patching up her legs was in the same group as the bloody birthday girl, but I soon learned the healer was with another female friend. The bleeding girl’s two male friends (I use the term lightly) seemed more interested in getting back on the trail. One added that maybe they could stop at a liquor store on the way home. It seemed a hospital might be more appropriate, since the now patched up girl (no thanks to her hiking partners) had removed her wet socks, and put her unlaced Tims back on her numb red feet.

Since more important matters pressed, that group of three got back on the trail, at least taking a picture of my map with the phone that had 9% battery left. That is when we realized the other two girls were not with them, and only slightly more prepared. They seemed equally caught off guard by the conditions and weather, but at least possessed mental toughness.

They had pants on, but their thin canvass, flat bottom vans were not helping in the ice and, I kid you not, over 3 feet of snow in some places. Luckily their phones had more battery, and they took pictures of our maps. We offered them a map to take, but they declined. However when we heard at 3:30pm they didn’t have flashlights for the 4ish hour hike back over the summit, and down to their parking lot, I insisted they take an extra flashlight (I had two plus a headlamp), and the father of two from the third group also sent a flashlight with them. And they were off.

The Overnight Crew

Now the smoke cleared, and everyone who was left exhaled. We had a few jokes at the booty-short-wearing-birthday-girl’s expense, and situated ourselves in the cabin. It was me and Eric, the lone woman hiker, and Brian, his 11 and 13 year old sons, and an 18 year old girl he had adopted at some point in the last few years.

We really had such a good time, getting to know each other, laughing, joking, and commiserating. See, the family wasn’t super physically prepared either, but they were chalk full of mental preparedness. Not to criticize too much, but taking extra socks is like hiking 101. But Brian had only been hiking with his sons for a year, and it was great to see the enthusiasm. They had plenty of water, which was a lesson learned the previous year. Next camping trip, I am confident they will have plenty of socks.

So even though it was technically against the rules to start a camp fire that close to the cabin, we all looked the other way while Brian got one going to dry their socks and shoes. Rules are made to be broken, and this seemed to fall into the survival category. We certainly weren’t going to start a fire, but that didn’t mean we weren’t going to enjoy one that someone else lit.

Brian seemed like a really great, fun dad. They discovered hiking sort of by accident last year, and fell in love with it. There is a big learning curve with camping that I take for granted. My dad was a seasoned camper before I ever went with him, so from an early age I learned all the do’s and do nots of camping and hiking. And even then so much is unforeseen, and new experiences every trip teach you more.

I give Brian tons of credit for getting his family out for camping trips, and enthusiastically making the best of everything, even when they were a bit cold and unprepared. Plus, his kids enjoyed the whole experience, and didn’t complain at all, which is probably more than could be said of me at the same age.

Liberty Cabin with Mt. Chorua peak

Liberty Cabin with Mt. Chorua peak

Over the course of the night, we learned more about what transpired on the mountain in the hours and minutes leading up to the storming of the cabin. Brian was already feeling guilty that his family was on top of a mountain in a lightening storm, but weather is unpredictable, especially on mountains, and I don’t think it was negligence on his part.

His group, the group of two girls, and the birthday girl’s group all came together in the storm on the mountain, counting on strength in numbers to get them to safety. Birthday girl apparently panicked when lightening cracked nearby, and running in hysterics fell in some icy snow, lost a boot (but reclaimed it), and cut her shins on the ice when her feet punched through the top layer of snow.

The lone woman camper followed the trail of blood from the birthday girl’s shins, and arrived at the cabin minutes after the rest of them. She was a 31 year old seasoned camper who was the most prepared of anyone (and even she got her foot stuck in the snow at one point), except perhaps Eric who I was with, and probably made me look more prepared than I was. I have a habit of packing and planning last minute, which makes things harder when your phone dies, and you didn’t bring a charger. But that is when it actually helps that I don’t have a smart phone. I have a phone for texts and calls, a tablet for everything internet, and a GPS for the car. All these would have been on the same device if I had a smart phone. What is normally an inconvenience therefore proved to be an asset.

Brian’s sons were fine that night, since they shared a double sleeping bag that kept them warm. But Brian froze all night, with just a thin blanket, and the clothes he was wearing—sweatpants and a light jacket. He joined Eric and me for the sun rise, which was amazing. I decided not to take a picture of the sun rise since it would not have done the view justice. You’ll have to stay at Liberty Cabin for that image. But maybe wait a few more weeks if you don’t want to have to deal with the snow.

20150418_112721

How Quickly We Adjust, for better or worse

After the February that Massachusetts had with the snow and cold, it was nice just to be warm! Pumping gas suddenly had a refreshing quality to it. Just being able to walk to the car without your hands aching was a treat. And hiking around outdoors was nirvana.

cruiseocean

The funny thing I noticed though, is how quickly I get used to something. Not just the weather, but also the stimulation; no matter how much is going on, it seems to level out, and I return to my typical demeanor. Shouldn’t I have been energetic and filled with excitement for the entire cruise?

There’s a lot of pressure when you have committed time and money to a vacation. I need to have fun, I need to not waste my time, I need to make the most of it! But this can make it less enjoyable and more stressful sometimes. Sitting in a pub on the lower decks of ship suddenly becomes boring. Sitting in a pub in Massachusetts a week before was my entire plan for the night, and possibly the most exciting thing I did all week.

cruisebar

But on a cruise ship, I wasn’t contrasting the pub with work or shoveling snow, I was comparing it to swimming in crystal blue waters, and scaling a rock climbing wall. This relates to an earlier post about stress levels: it always seems that no matter how great we have it, the amount of stress on us feels relatively the same. And it didn’t matter how awesome this vacation was, there were still going to be highs and lows.

cruiseclimbing

Even though the low of the vacation is still higher than a typical high in a winter week in Massachusetts, it is hard to recognize that in the moment. How quickly I forget! Two weeks ago I couldn’t imagine ever being warm again, and one week ago I couldn’t imagine ever being cold again.

Likewise, the first couple days in Florida were spent doing things like lighting a large bonfire in order to clear some brush and junk wood from my cousin’s land. Now, I just so happen to like this sort of activity, but I can’t express through words the joy and satisfaction I felt spending all day outside doing yard work. I hadn’t been outside for that long in three months, possibly longer! And when I was outside in New England, it just hurt.

cruisehammock

And yet a week later I had adjusted and strolled lazily around a beach in Mexico, napping in a hammock under palm trees, standing just feet away from huge crocodiles at an exhibit. How drab. Yet if I could immediately teleport back to that hammock right now, my elation would be untamable. I would probably even go swimming, even though it was only about 74 degrees, and breezey.

cruisecroc

It all gets back to appreciating things and making sure to enjoy each moment. I certainly never complained about the heat down there, and when I felt annoyed that it wasn’t warm enough, I had to remind myself where I came from. The psychology of it all is fascinating; you would think everyday on the cruise I would feel as alive and happy as I did burning dead wood at my cousin’s house. But it is easier said than done.

cruisewindow

Really, it was an awesome vacation. But again a comparison poses a problem: last year’s cruise was even better. Had this been the first cruise I ever went on, there would be nothing to rank it against, and therefore nothing to be disappointed about.

My main takeaway from this is that without effort, things call fall into dreariness. It actually takes work to have fun and enjoy yourself sometimes! But stepping back and having appreciation for the opportunities offered can always kick me back to that place of gratitude. I had an awesome vacation, and I have an awesome life, for which I am grateful everyday!

cruisewavrid

Did I Accomplish My Vacation Goals?

Before I went to Florida I wrote down a short list of things to accomplish, just to get me into vacation mode. Overall I think I did pretty well. Let’s go through it point by point to be official.

  • Starting conversations with strangers was pretty easy. I knocked this off day 1 in Savannah, and then kept going through the rest of the vacation.
  • Find out someone’s unique philosophy on life. I am going to call this one accomplished, because I did get some good perspective. Think of this: depression is a luxury. I’m not trying to minimize anyone’s suffering, and there are some real reasons to be depressed. But general short lasting depression could be considered a luxury in the sense that you have time to be depressed. Most people starving to death trying to scrape together enough food don’t have time to be depressed. They may think, I’m sad, I’m in pain, but they probably won’t be thinking, “what does it all mean?”
  • Not only did I get to the coast, I got to two coasts, the Gulf and the Atlantic (in Georgia). I also flew over the Gulf of Mexico in a small plane.

20141201_114908_resized

  • So I may take a technicality on the foraging goal. I found a few wild edibles, but I didn’t actually forage any. My cousin has a bunch of bamboo in her yard, and I’ve had bamboo in some Thai dishes. But when I looked up bamboo, turns out there are over 1,000 varieties, and only about 15% are edible. They all may be fine if treated properly, but I didn’t want to take the risk this time. I did however find some edible glasswort on the beach in Georgia on my drive home. I didn’t pick any, but now I know for next time.
20141201_115624_resized

Glasswort

 

  • Got a picture of the sign that warns you to use the historic steps in Savannah, at your own risk.
  • I’m going to use this as my picture of something Florida. Turns out bamboo burns really well. But I think I was being a little prejudiced when I said I wanted a picture of “something Florida”. I didn’t see anything that bad. But I did go to an auction where the specialty item for the night was frozen food. And a dancing, singing, mechanical 4 foot tall Santa sold for over a hundred dollars.

IMG_20141129_205950_resized

  • I don’t think I did anything that redneck. I really failed on this front in fact. I could have at least ridden my cousin’s horse without a saddle, or grabbed an ATV for a ride through the mud. Well I’ll be back there in February, hopefully I will get to go mudding then. (I got a pedicure, which is essentially the 100% exact opposite of doing something redneck…)
  • I accompanied my cousin to a horse supply store that is 3 minutes from her house, which she had never been to. But I figured I would use the roller skating rink for this accomplishment: to go somewhere nearby my cousin had never been. I went with her to her friends’ daughters’ birthday party. Roller blade rentals were $3, and after making sure I would not go down hard in a heap, I thoroughly enjoyed gliding around the rink for an hour. It was probably the first time I rollerbladed in a decade.
  • Eating something unique to the area: I totally blew this one out of the water! I tried raw oysters and alligator from Apalachicola, a coastal town on the pan handle. I also tried home made (and hunted) venison summer sausage, and deep fried turkey. I enjoyed all of it, though the turkey tasted the best. I guess it is hard to make something taste bad when you deep fry it in a vat of oil. I still didn’t try boiled peanuts, but I hear I’m not missing much.
  • As for doing some suggestions from the comments, as I’ve mentioned, I ate gator. But I also went to the Pirate’s House in Savannah.

And that is that. It was kind of fun checking things off the list. Maybe I will make up a sort of scavenger hunt adventure to do over the holidays in order to try to capture the vacation feeling while at home.

20141124_132200

 

Wait, Why Did I Leave 80 Degree Sunny Florida?

I am now back in the desolate tundra that is wintertime New England. It was a great trip. I realized how much easier it is to drive around in most of the country. Straighter roads, fewer people, and you can keep an eye out for the cops from a longer distance. No exaggeration, I saw more revenue collectors cops during the hour or less I spent driving through New York than the entire rest of the trip. Seriously.

From the radio, you would think there were only five songs ever written, two by Taylor Swift. Quite the percentage. But it was a good drive; my Mustang made it, and now has over 230,000 miles on it… time for an oil change. Here are a few highlights from the last couple days of my vacation.

My Aunt and Uncle were kind enough to take me on a trip in their plane up to Apalachicola on the pan handle. I felt like a little kid I was so excited. The only other time I have been in a plane that small was when I went parachuting.

20141129_130414

My Aunt (a lawyer) said they call these doctor/lawyer killers because they are affordable enough, but when you’re busy with work, you don’t get a lot of practice. Her husband was flying this time.

 

20141129_132118

See how legit I am: I even had the headset. (It was really loud without those noise canceling headphones)

 

Flying low, approaching the Apalachicola airport

Flying low, approaching the Apalachicola airport

Hard "likker", or as we would say in New England, Hahhd Likka.

Hard “likker”, or as we would say in New England, Hahhd Likka.

I tried raw oysters (not bad, but next time I'll probably have them cooked)

I tried raw oysters (not bad, but next time I’ll probably have them cooked)

I also tried alligator puff pastry. Tasted like chicken.

I also tried alligator puff pastry. Tasted like chicken.

...might have come from this guy.

…might have come from this guy.

And finally on my drive home near Savannah, I couldn't resist one last stop to soak up the sun. Here is the little piece of paradise where I ate lunch.

And finally on my drive home near Savannah, I couldn’t resist one last stop to soak up the sun. Here is the little piece of paradise where I ate lunch.

Tomorrow I will go through my list of goals to let you know how I did. 🙂

Do It For The Perspective: Money Isn’t the Only Valuable

I’m back! As in, vacation me which is my natural state of happy existence. Even my cousin could tell the change in tone from when I started this blog in July, and as of late. But there is something about getting out there, seeing new things, and talking to new people that breaks down this mundane and lethargic shell. The shell that says it is not that important to enjoy every minute of life, the shell that convinces us money is more important than living life to the fullest.

[By the way I’m going to mix in pictures of Barrow throughout this post for no apparent reason other than it makes me happy.]

20141124_164719

Being a relatively responsible person, I was a bit stressed about money before this trip. And it helped that I spent about $70 fewer dollars on gas on the way down. But really at the end of the day, I know I am not going to go into crippling debt. So why would I let a few hundred dollars make or break a vacation?

20141124_164646

So of course my advice to you all is go do it. Whatever it may be for you. Catch up with college friends, family members; this week will hopefully be full of that (as long as you don’t get snowed in). The more often I change my scenery, the easier it is for me to understand that it is far more important to live than exist. But it is a good thing I planned this trip far off, because when I am out of real-me-mode, it does seem a lot easier and cheaper to just stay home. If I had waited until last week to make a decision on this trip, I probably wouldn’t have taken it. Kind of like my New York City trip, where I was on the edge until the night before: “It is going to be such a hassle!”

20141124_164706

Yea, you know what, it is a hassle. And everything in the world is a cost benefit balance. The benefits of enjoying myself and growing as a person far outweigh the monetary, time, and energy costs of taking these trips. I don’t see the family that is down here super often, so having the chance to connect over the last few days (and the next) has been amazing. What if I had forgone this trip, and not spent time with my relatives, reconnecting, and getting to know each other more? Well maybe it wouldn’t have been so noticeable on the outside, but really it would be another crack in the pillar of happiness. Instead, I threw down some mortar, and popped another block on top of that pillar.

20141124_164815

Perspective is valuable.

In a material society it is hard to place value on things that you can’t hold in your hand, or buy for $300. But maybe we should stop thinking of our lives as separated: the family self, the friend self, the work self. Maybe it is time to think of skills and knowledge as something that will make us whole. Life experiences should grow you as a person, not separate you into different people. It could help to think less of, “How will this increase my earning potential?” or “Is this the most I could gain during my only 6 hours off this week?”

I used to only read non-fiction political books. I wanted to go into politics (what was wrong with me?!) so I didn’t want to waste my time reading non-fiction. This is especially ironic since I am now writing fiction books; turns out all that fiction wasn’t a waste of time! But even if I didn’t want to write, it would not have been a waste of my time. That is because A, it was enjoyable, and enjoying your time is not a waste, and B, perspective!

How can you think you know what is up with the world if you have only viewed it from one angle? How can you think you know yourself if you have only viewed you from one angle. I’m finding I like vacation me best. I’m more positive and I have more fun. It is a struggle to keep that attitude while not on vacation, but at least I have a marker, a goal. When do you like yourself the most? That is the real you. You do you.

Perspective makes you less judgmental.

Yesterday I stopped by an outdoor bar on the Gulf of Mexico. I ordered a Yuengling which just so happened to help strike up a conversation with the grey goateed man with a Harley hat named Eric sitting next to me. He was from Philadelphia, where one of the breweries is based, and my bartender was asking me if I noticed a difference between southern and northern Yuengling because of the different brewing locations (I didn’t).

So anyway we get to talking and he is telling me about all the redneck guys in the area. Sure, there was some poking fun at them, but the crux of the story was that they were some of the nicest guys he has met. One big burly man walked up to Eric while Eric was with his friends. “Is that Eric?” The friends tensed up, was trouble brewing? “JOE!!” Yells Eric and jumps to his feet to give Joe a big bear hug, because that is how they greet each other whenever they cross paths.

At a local bar Eric once walked in, and some ZZ Top looking fellas said (or maybe it was their beer that said it), “Who’s this f**ing guy?” Eric just laughed, “How you doing boys”, and bought them each a round of beer ($2.50 for a PBR, not bad). The rest of the night, they were like old friends. Now THAT is how to diffuse a situation. Eric had perspective, and was not going to be brought down. Turns out he was a Sociology major, just like me.

Perspective makes you less stressed out.

It could be so much worse. I could have been left alone from 15 up raising a younger sibling while Dad just dropped off groceries once a week. Maybe that is why he can’t read so well. I could be called weekly by a parent’s neighbors to come round them up. Maybe that is where his stress comes from. Those are real people I met: awesome people who are productive, nice, and don’t complain.

I’m not immune, I still complain. But the more perspective you get, the more pathetic you feel for complaining that you had to wait 30 minutes to get picked up from CCD (you like the plug Mom and Dad?). Oh right, and I have a Mom and Dad who care enough to encourage me with what I want to do (even though it doesn’t make me money yet), and read my work. Thanks 🙂

I could break down on the drive home halfway back. But you know what? I wouldn’t be alone. Yea, physically I would. But it would not rest solely on my shoulders to get me out of there, and that is priceless. How can I be stressed out when I think of the worst that could happen, and it really isn’t that bad.

I’m happy, I’m grateful, I’m energetic, and I want you all to be too! I love positive people. Be positive. It is not always a competition, you can encourage others without feeling less about yourself. Do what you love, when possible don’t stress. Set goals, big and small. But most important, don’t just exist, live.

20141124_135236