The last week has been utterly heartbreaking and traumatic as we’ve watched our city fall apart. My family is all physically safe however our hearts are broken and it will take years and years to rebuild our city. Instead of focusing on all the scary, heart-wrenching news, I wanted to share a post I published two years ago that shares some of the beautiful multicultural street art that paints these very neighborhoods which have been destroyed. As we slowly start to mend and rebuild as a city, I hope that these murals will bring a sense of culture, community and much-needed hope in such dark days of grief, pain, and heartbreak. As soon as things calm down, I will add the new George Flloyd mural that has gone up at 38th and Chicago.
“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless in facing them”. – Rabindranath Tagore
It is rather unbelievable how much our lives can change in a matter of weeks and even days at this point. As the world moves into the unimaginable lockdown, many of us are feeling scared, isolated and anxious about the future. I read a post from a fellow travel blogger, Lexi of One Foot Out the Door called Hello from Houston and it sparked a glimmer of hope and connection in this uncertain, unprecedented time. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of us checked in and shared with each other what we are all going through in our own parts of the world? Maybe it would bring us more together and help us feel less alone? Without further ado, here is my own “Hello From Minnesota” update. While honestly, this post is a far cry from any of my travel writing, I feel like it is the least I can do right now to feel connected to my online community.
Please share with me your story. If you write your own “Hello from” post, please share a link in the comments as it would be nice to start a thread of messages from around the world.
I’d love to know how everyone is doing. Stay well!
Hello from Minneapolis, Minnesota my home of over twenty years where we are blessed with a cosmopolitan city and a state of over 10,000 lakes.
As I sit here at my desk in my home office, I think how bizarre it is to be entering our second full week of the “new normal” with my entire family working and learning from home under one roof. My son’s high school was the first to close indefinitely on Friday, March 13th and my daughter’s middle school was next. A few days after, every school in the entire state was ordered to close until May but I’m wondering if that is even realistic. Meanwhile, my husband’s office officially closed and locked their doors last week and he has been working in his home office in our basement. It feels so odd to all be under one roof 24/7! But it also brings me peace in this isolating, scary time.
While we aren’t on a “shelter in place” order yet (this starts tomorrow, Friday March 27th until April 10th) we are told to stay home and if we do venture out to social distance of the standard six feet. Our restaurants and bars have closed until at least May but again probably longer. Malls and theaters shut down while more and more stores are trying to offer order online and curb side pick up. The streets are empty of traffic yet on nice days it feels like everyone has come out of hibernation and is walking around our lakes (which is a problem with social distancing!).
Almost two weeks into the “new normal” is not only hard to believe but mentally hard. I keep re-reading all the quotes I have on mental toughness and strength to get me through this pandemic without losing hope. I also have truly tried to stop reading too much news as it just seems to increase my anxiety levels. I have always been a worrywart and it is hard to not be one right now. Yet on the positive light, I feel so blessed to live in a state with amazing leadership by our governor and excellent health care and businesses that are all doing whatever they can to help out. Medtronic is making more ventilators, 3M is ramping up their mask production, and Mayo Clinc is helping with the backlog of tests. Minnesotans are stepping in to help the vulnerable by donating food items, creating makeshift food pantries, volunteering and more. I have never felt so proud to be a part of this community. We are all in this together.
Since this all began, I have realized how much of my normal everyday life that I took for granted. Yes it was too busy. Yes it was a bit crazy, but it was my life and I loved it.
The morning early rises to drive my son to school. Listening to music and the radio in the car while I ran my errands. The ease of going grocery shopping or the delight of going out to eat with friends. Seeing my community. Going anywhere besides being stuck in the house save my daily walks. It is unimaginable how much our lives have all changed and how quickly. If I think about it for too long I know I will start to cry.
As we prepare to really hunker down even more before our two week order to stay home except if absolutely necessary I remind myself in such difficult times like these what I’m grateful for:
- Getting outside for a walk each day in nature and seeing people I know from afar has been wonderful.
- Lots and lots of family time while we are all cooped up in the house.
- Making slow cooker meatballs and other homemade treats with the kids.
- The birds are singing and Spring is on its way meaning I can spend more time outside after a long winter.
- More Zoom, Skype and Facetime calls with friends and family around the world.
- An overall feeling of a stronger community. I am encouraged by how much we’ve all been able to come together.
- Food, shelter, water and love.
- My home. My Minnesota.
Things that I miss and will be so thrilled to be able to do again someday:
- My extended family! We all live so far apart and all across the US. I long to be near them but simply can’t for awhile.
- Being out and about. I have never been a homebody and have always had a hard time being in the house for an entire day. This has been a real test for me to find joy in being “trapped” inside my house when I long to be out wandering about and part of something bigger than my home.
- Travel. Travel. Travel. This is a selfish thing to miss in a time like this one but travel has always been the one things that I love so much besides my family. I am not sure when travel will resume again but I am so incredibly blessed to have been able to do what I’ve done over the years.
- My community. From the restaurants to the coffee shops to the stores and schools and even my gym. I sure miss seeing each and every person that makes up my community.
- My travel work and blogging. I was just getting started working with some really amazing travel outfitters around the world but that has dried up as has my travel writing.
So like I said above, this is not by any means an excellent piece of writing but it is writing from my heart. I want everyone who reads this to know that I am thinking of you all, wherever you are in the world. Please let me know how you are doing. I will leave with this quote, a silver lining to this difficult time.
“We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value – the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it’s all about”. – Joseph Campbell
Update: I’m going to keep a running list here of fellow bloggers who are updating us from around the world on what their lives have been like and the impact. It is a great way to keep us all connected. Please check out their posts and offer words of encouragement. We are all in this together!
If you have written a similar post, please let me know and I will share.
Moxie. Determination, courage, or nerve. A force of character to contend with. The ability to be active and move.
Moxie is the name of the workout studio I joined this past fall when I was feeling isolated working from home and in search of a new community. Like almost everything else around me, Moxie Movement Studio has closed yet the lessons I learned there are even more important than ever in the midst of these uncertain, unprecedented times. But let me back up a bit and tell the story about finding my moxie.
For the past 15 years, I have been a dedicated mom, volunteer and devoted to my local community school where my kids attended for almost a decade. I made a wonderful world of friends and built an incredible community. Then life happened. My kids grew up, moved on to new schools and so did I or at least I thought. I never realized how important and essential my community was to me until it was gone. It was especially evident as I began spending more time alone, working at home. I was isolated and lonely. It became obvious that I needed a new community for this phase of my life.
I searched and searched all throughout last year testing out many different “communities” to find my place but nothing truly took hold. I tried volunteering more, going to a coworking office space and frequenting a community coffee shop to work at (which I loved until it closed). Then, out of the blue, I found Moxie.
I heard about Moxie Movement Studio from a friend in the community who had tried it out and loved it. At first, I was quite skeptical as I’m not a gym person and prefer to be outside in the fresh air and nature as opposed to being crammed in a smelly gym. But I was desperate to get my endorphins flowing again especially since I had to quit running. In the midst of middle age and a passion for being active, I knew I had to find a cure to get my body and mind flowing again and perhaps find a new community. I had to find my Moxie.
Wow, so much has changed since I penned my last post on the coronavirus. From a major concern to a global pandemic life as many of us know it has indefinitely changed. I would be lying if I wasn’t filled with worry or concern about all of the uncertainties of how this will all play out. So much is unknown. However, I am trying my best to keep calm and carry on. That is all we can do in such unnerving times.
While toilet paper has officially run out at most stores, and life is slowly but inevitably shutting down, it just all feels surreal. As I try to go about my day to day business, I’m constantly reminded even from the pet food supplier of what I need to do to prepare for the dreaded virus. You can’t escape it no matter what you try to do. Turn on your computer and log on to email, it is there. Turn on your car radio, it is there. Schools, gyms, museums and even churches have closed. Offices have advised employees to work from home. Every day something unexpected shuts down. Even going to the grocery store feels odd while shoppers hurriedly rush through the aisles, stocking up on supplies that could last a year, and God forbid, you accidentally cough and then come those accusatory looks of fear that you may have it. I feel like we are living out a bad dream. It is simply not like anything we have collectively ever experienced in our lifetime.
To Travel or not to travel. That is the question.
We’ve all been following the news of the spread of the Coronavirus. It is hard not to. With the overload of information coming out online it is hard to ignore it and also at times hard to not fall into the media hype and worry. What makes matters worse is that every single day the situation is changing and there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty about how this will all play out. The shelves at the store are running bare of hand sanitizer, hand sanitation wipes, canned goods, and even toilet paper. Doctors’ offices and clinics are resorting to hiding their once free face masks since people are running out the door with them. Grocery stores are passing out hand sanitizer wiped down grocery carts, and the list goes on.
The World Health Organization warned that panic buying and market manipulation are depriving health workers with the supplies they need to fight the virus while others are profiting by buying all the supplies up and making money off the panic by selling marked-up face masks on eBay. Life in the age of coronavirus has become for some people clear pandemonia and for others a wait and see approach. While the situation is alarming, I am tending to lean more towards the wait and see how this all unravels before stocking up my basement with supplies and going off the deep end of fear. I also am doing my homework and reading good, reliable articles on the situation so I can remain educated and informed.
So what do we do when it comes to travel? Obviously, I’m not going to go to a place that has a large outbreak however I’d be lying if I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about getting on a long haul flight or a cruise ship with a bunch of strangers. Fifteen years ago I caught full-blown influenza from the passenger next to me who was slouching in his seat and coughing all over the place. It was the sickest I have ever been to this day but I recovered. No one in my family got it. I never wore a mask. I didn’t wipe down the house. But I washed my hands and stayed home in bed, away from people that I could spread it to (which was my biggest fear). Since that day, I have always gotten my flu shot, washed my hands frequently and followed basic hygiene that you always should do regardless of an epidemic.
As of now, I’d get on the plane and fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you want to look at it) we have an international flight approaching soon for Spring Break. But it is hard to know how I’ll feel this summer as we have a cruise booked leaving from Rome in June. Do we panic and cancel now? Of course not. First of all, it is hard to know what will happen. No one knows. It could all simmer down with warmer weather or else it could become a lot worse and a lot will change. Second of all, if we canceled all our travel plans now, we would lose an awful lot of money and things may be fine to go by the time the trip comes. While we purchased trip insurance (I always do for every trip) I did not purchase “cancel for any reason” which I have sometimes booked in the past. Cancel for any reason is the only travel insurance that will cover something like coronavirus.
So for now, all I can do is “keep calm and travel on”. The future like with anything is uncertain.
Instead of reading the “Breaking News” headlines, I stay connected to real news and have found these resources very helpful for keeping informed of this constantly changing situation. Here are a few of the best resources out there:
As 2019 draws to a close it is time to take a moment to reflect with gratitude for those special memories of the past year. While of course there were plenty of difficult times and mountains to climb, as there always is throughout the journey of life, for me those hard times led to a newfound understanding and insight into myself. A bit of a silver lining. For if it wasn’t for those really hard times, I wouldn’t have personally grown and changed the things that I could and brought peace to the things I could not change.
I stepped out of my comfort zone plenty of times in 2019, taking more chances with travel and even with my day to day life. I got a part-time job, traveled on two small group trips without knowing a soul, I skied with my family, went on a three-generational hike around Mont Blanc and finally got my feet back onto solid ground (something I’d been searching for over the past two years). So all in all, I ring in the New Year being in a much happier, more peaceful place than last year when I was in the midst of a mid life confusion trying to figure out what the heck was the next step in the journey. While I haven’t figured out the entire road, at least I took the first step and for that I am most grateful.
That said, here are some of the wonderful travel memories in 2019 that I am extremely grateful for.
One of the best things about blogging is the people you met along the way. Over the years I’ve been really fortunate to have met a lot of wonderful people through my blog who have inspired me deeply and have helped me plan my own travels to new places. When we began planning our family trip out to Northern California I knew I’d have to reach out to one of my favorite photographers in the Bay Area, Jane Lurie, for some advice on where to go and what to see. I have been following Jane’s beautiful photography blog for years and I love her inspiring work. No one knows how to capture the Bay Area and Northern California better than Jane.
Jane gave me some ideas on where to go, and while we were in California I realized how difficult it truly is to capture such a stunning place on film. We were there in early August which is normally quite foggy in the along the northern coast. I have never shot in fog before so it was quite a challenge. A few of my photos came out alright (which I will show later in another post) however I realized what a true art it is work with varying light and fog. I knew instantly that I’d have to contact Jane and find out how she does it so beautifully. I also wanted to learn more about the woman behind Jane’s Lens so I invited her to do an interview with me. Here is what she had to say.
How long have you lived in the Bay Area? Where are you originally from?
I’ve lived in San Francisco for five years and part-time for ten. I grew up in New Jersey and worked in the education field there throughout my career. Then, my husband Bob and I lived near Charleston, South Carolina on Kiawah Island for many years before moving to San Francisco.
When did you learn photography?
I have been interested in photography for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I proudly created photo albums with pictures from my little Kodak Instamatic and received my first “big” camera, a Minolta DSLR, in high school. I always had that camera with me taking photos of my friends and family. I studied photography and darkroom early on and continued when I switched to digital photography after my career in the education field ended.
I currently enjoy courses at SFAI (San Francisco Art Institute)— the photography department, by the way, was founded by Ansel Adams – a lifelong inspiration.
We’ve all seen it. You arrive at the Taj Mahal or the Louvre, filled with pure anticipation to see a world-famous landmark for the first time. Yet when you finally reach the perfect spot for your long-awaited view you get hit in the head with a selfie stick. As you inch your way into the mass of fellow tourists, craning your neck to get a peek, you are rudely shoved aside by an Instagram wannabe star who elbows you in the ribs to get their winning shot. Disheartened, you step aside being engulfed in the swarm of people beside you.
Welcome to the distorted world of social media, a world filled with Instagram influencers who are literally falling to their death to get that perfect shot or buying their followers, comments and likes on some underground website to reach their dreams of becoming a wealthy, world-famous star.
Sadly it does. In a world where social media has the ability to make a nobody suddenly rich and famous or even a 7 year old child bringing in $22 million on YouTube reviewing toys, it seems like everyone wants a piece of the pie these days.
But the obsession with social media comes with a huge price. Not only to our sanity but to the way we view and see the world. Here are some of the problems we face and how we can survive online without jeopardizing our soul.
Contributing to Overtourism
One downfall of social media is its influence on overtourism in already popular, ecologically or culturally sensitive places around the world. Think about Iceland, Machu Pichu, Angkor Wat and beaches in Southeast Asia filled with trash and being trampled almost to death, and it is heartbreaking. Even once far-flung destinations such as Myanmar and Palawan in the Philippines have become Instagram sweethearts with millions of pretty posts. The world is your oyster and up for grabs for anyone with a cellphone and a social media account. However, the surge in tourism for that instagram-worthy photo of that popular place does not come without a price.
A recent article in AFAR states: Social media is increasingly taking its toll on some of the world’s most photogenic locations, with growing numbers of Instagram-inspired travelers causing concerns about site crowding and conservation. Recently, hugely popular destinations have implemented new rules aimed at combatting overtourism. Just this year, Machu Picchu introduced a stricter ticketing system and Venice announced a visitor tax. Now, an extremely recognizable natural landmark in the United States has joined the expanding list. For the first time ever, travelers must pay an entrance fee to visit Horseshoe Bend, a regularly photographed spot in Arizona’s Glen Canyon National Recreation Area where the Colorado River takes a dramatic U-shaped turn.
Esteemed travel bloggers such as The Expert Vagabond also question Instagram and Social Media’s role in hurting travel. In his thought-provoking piece, Matt states that “Instagram has become a publicly accessible bucket-list of places you NEED to visit, fueling a FOMO (fear of missing out) attitude. We’re trying too hard to impress everyone with our list”. I couldn’t agree more.
As always, I cannot believe that another year has simply flown by. I swear, time seems to go faster and faster each and every year. 2018 has been yet another whirlwind year awash with highs and lows. It hasn’t been the easiest year yet there have been plenty of wonderful adventures, special moments, time with family and those not so pleasant yet necessary life lessons.
For some reason, it always feels like a shock to jump into another new year and perhaps that is why I love to take a moment to reflect on the year that has passed and be filled with gratitude.
We welcomed in the New Year in San Diego after spending the holidays with my family in Tucson, Arizona. Over the years, San Diego has become a special place for our family and we enjoy spending time hiking, watching sunsets, building sand castles on the beach and taking in the perfect weather. Torrey Pines Reserve is always a must see as well. My favorite post of January: “Why I Will Always Love Torrey Pines” shares some of my favorite photos of this magical place.
We also drove to LA where we discovered another treasure, El Matador Beach in Malibu which is lovely especially if you arrive before the crowds.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” . – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Life is a fascinating journey. It is always changing and leading us down many different paths, some of which are planned and others that are unexpected. Regardless of whether you like change or not, life is never meant to stay the same. It is impossible. However, how you react to the change is what truly matters.
Last weekend it was a beautiful fall day and I wanted to spend an afternoon with my thirteen year old son outside. We could have done the normal standby mother-son activities like go on a bike ride or walk the dog but this time I wanted to do something a little bit different. I had recently tried a trail running class and truly enjoyed the new challenge. Since my son Max had expressed an interest in running, I thought maybe we should try a mother-son trail run.
We chose Theodore Wirth Regional Park located on the edge of Minneapolis and Golden Valley, which has an extensive labyrinth of running, mountain biking and hiking trails. Max had been there this summer during a biking camp and loved doing a run along one of the challenging, hilly mountain bike trails within the park. I had never run there before so thought it sounded fun. When we arrived at our destination, I felt pretty on top of the world. I love to run and have been a runner all of my adult life. Although I no longer run long distance, I still run year-round even in the cold and feel relatively fit and in shape. My son however is new to running and I was secretly curious to see how he’d do. Would he be able to keep up with me? Would I leave him behind in the dust?
We got out of the car, laced up our shoes and did a few quick stretches before heading off into the woods. The trail we were originally planning to take was closed due to the torrential rain we had over the past couple of days. We would have to take a different path. As we ran into the forest, I looked around me and in every direction there was a different trail. I had no idea where they went, how long they were or which path to take. My carefree teenage son looked at me with a smile and took off running down one of the trails. “Come on mom! he said. “Follow me“. And off he bolted into the woods.
I ran as fast as I could up the trail huffing and puffing thinking how wrong I had been about me being the one who was in shape. Before I knew it my long-legged 6’1” son Max was off like a lightening bolt and gone. I desperately tried to keep up, calling out his name but to no answer. I tend to be rather directionally challenged so my first fear was I’d get lost and my next fear was he would get lost. I yelled out his name in vain. I tried not to get frantic with worry. It was just me, all alone in the thickness of the woods, with paths leading in every direction. I had no idea which way to go.
“The only person who can open the door to inner truths and lead to the light is yourself.” – Baron Baptiste
I met Elena a few years ago while I was working on a United Nations Foundation campaign with Shot@Life. Like me, Elena was a travel blogger at the time and we were both involved in social good campaigns. We had stayed in touch over the years through a community of blogging friends and our paths crossed again two years back when Elena launched a new career as a life coach. She reached out to let me know what she was doing and invited a handful of friends to participate in her first group-based life coaching seminar. It was a six week program all done online and once a week our fantastic group of ten women came together for a live online talk with Elena leading us along the way through life coaching, meditation and yoga. It was a life-changing seminar for me which stirred many emotions I honestly didn’t know I’d had. I continued on after doing a summer session of 1:1 coaching sessions with Elena and have followed her work ever since. She is an incredibly inspiring woman who has reinvented her career three times, beat cancer at a very young age and is now working to help others like me chase their dreams. Naturally, I invited Elena to participle in my Inspiring Women series. Here is what she has to say.
Where did you grow up? What were some of your favorite activities during your childhood?
I grew up in Michigan after moving to the United States from Italy when I was 2 ½. My favorite activities were reading, playing teacher with my dolls, and playing tennis. Most of my summers (until I was in junior high) were spent in Italy with my grandparents, in Venice, at a beach, and in the mountains. I loved being at the beach and getting gelato with my paternal grandparents and being in the mountains and searching for “fragoline” (mini-strawberries) with my maternal grandparents.
What/Where did you study in college and what was your first career outside of school?
I studied International Affairs and Russian studies at George Washington University. My first job was as a study abroad liaison in Florence Italy until I returned to the U.S. and went to graduate school to pursue a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and eventually began a 12-year career as an elementary school teacher.
What shaped you into the woman you are today? Was there one defining moment?
Oh my goodness. I feel like there were several defining moments. Moving to Italy on my own after completing my undergraduate. Being diagnosed and then treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in my early 20’s. One failed engagement, the birth of my miracle baby daughter, my divorce, and then day I tried paragliding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (Read about Elena’s experience here). If I had to choose one, it would probably be the process of watching my daughter become a young woman – she has always been one of my greatest teachers.
Has there ever been one of those magical travel moments when you decide on a whim to explore the area around you and uncover a hidden treasure? That is how I felt late one afternoon when I decided to take an evening walk to the neighboring village of Waltenhofen near where we were staying in the outskirts of Schwangau, Germany. I had just returned from an emotional afternoon revisiting the fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein, the very place my husband proposed to me 19 years ago, and needed some alone time to reflect on the experience. My husband had unfortunately not been able to come along on the trip as planned due to an injury and I ended up bringing our two children and my father to this special place despite it all. It had been a difficult few months since my husband’s back injury and this trip was in a sense a sort of revival of my broken spirit.
I left my daughter Sophia back at the hotel for some downtime while I set off into the Bavarian countryside with my mind full of thought. I wondered what the summer would hold for us as a family once we returned from our three-week trip in Europe. Would my husband’s back injury be resolved or would we continue to live in a gray cloud of uncertainty.
I walked slowly along the beautiful country path looking out at the pastures of horses and cows and taking in the nostalgic beauty of such a place. It felt like this area hadn’t changed much at all since the day King Ludwig II built his sensational castle Neuschwanstein as a testament to his love of the middle ages. Farmers rode by on their tractors. Cows grazed. Horses neighed and galloped gently across the unfettered fields of joy. Bees buzzed and drank the rich nectar from the flowers. It was lovely.
The dark sky had slightly lifted and let in a few rays of light, bathing the dark green fields with warmth. Unintentionally I knew where I was headed. To the place I saw the day before during lunch. The mysterious church standing proudly at the foot of the village of Walfenhofen. It beckoned my curiosity as I always am fascinated by the interior of a good European church. I normally find that once I open the large wooden doors, that what is hidden inside is incredible. Ironically enough, this visit I would never step foot within the church doors and I’d find myself instead mesmerized by what laid in its exterior.