Seefeld in Tirol, Austria

My Ever-Changing Path of Life

“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.

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Juncal Glacier, Chilean Andes

Serenity Found in the Chilean Andes

“Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity”.- Thich Nhat Hanh

I just returned from a little over a week in Central Chile and am filled with the serenity of being in one of the places I love best, the mountains. While I have much catching up to do, I will take it slowly and allow myself time to reflect on what a remarkable experience I had. There is nothing like being outside in the mountains to take you away from all the worries and problems in this world. Far away from the internet, the ugly news and media, I feel so utterly free I could cry in tears of joy. If only I could keep that serenity inside me forever. But we all know it is not possible. The constant bombardment of news is difficult to ignore and hard to bare. So I will work on trying my best to avoid it.

I look forward to sharing my trip with you. In the meantime, here are a few pictures from my six-hour hike to the Juncal Glacier, located two hours outside of Santiago in the heart of the Andes.

“Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people”. –  Jawaharlal Nehru

Juncal Glacier, Chilean Andes

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The Turbulence and Chaos of the US Election

“Americans may cringe watching their own election at close range. But the world’s reaction has been even more poignant and foreboding. People in small and distant countries who count on the U.S. to stand up for democratic values have been astonished to see the essential components –  a free press, the rule of law, respect for the outcome of elections – trammeled. Long-standing allies have been left to wonder whether the essential American character has changed, and whether the United States can be relied on when it  counts”. – Washington Post, “World Watches, Winces”. 

 

If you are like me, then you are probably sick and tired of even thinking about the horrendous United States Presidential Election. Never before have we experienced such a chaotic, turbulent election fit only for a trashy reality tv show. It is darn right deplorable and I have done my best to not discuss it on my blog which has been very difficult for me since my blog is all about using my voice.

We are sadly at a time when you must be extremely careful using your voice and even mentioning politics. A time where people go after you if you view things differently. Where journalists on “the other side” are targeted with hostility, hate and death threats if they speak up. What on earth has happened to our so-called democracy? What has happened to the founding belief in freedom, liberty and justice for all? We have made a laughingstock of ourselves and our beliefs. We live in fear where the media plays on us to make more money by sputtering nonsense. We can’t even put up a political lawn sign or comment on Facebook for fears that we will be mocked, targeted and trolled. This is not the America I’ve always believed in. This is not the America I want my children to be raised in.

Xela, Guatemala

I am so utterly disgusted, saddened and heartbroken by what has become of our country. At times I feel so hopeless, I just want to give up. Pack our bags and leave. But sadly it is not only America that is threatened. Europe too is feeling strained and stretched with an ever growing refugee crisis and a rise themselves in the extreme right and nationalistic sentiments. Scary things are happening there too. Hatred, intolerance and disrespect for humankind is growing other places besides the backwaters of the United States.

So I ask where is the utopia?

There are a few places that may fit the bill but we all know that utopia does not truly exist. Certainly the devil’s advocate and my inner traveling voice tell me that there are so many places that are so much worse. Think of all the places where people are dying every single day and have no hope. Think of other countries where you can’t even speak up against authority in threat of imprisionment or death. Yes it could be so much worse. Yet I still am truly frightened for our future, no matter who wins. I am terrified of what we have become and what my children will inherit.

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I have always been an optimistic dreamer. Let’s hope that we will be able to mend ourselves after all the damage that has been done and somehow move forward as a nation. Let’s hope.

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Chaos. 

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My Quest to Live a Meaningful Life

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. ~ Maya Angelou

Sometimes in this rapid, almost dizzying pace of life, we all need to take a step back and simply breathe. Throughout our days, we are inundated with a never-ending list of commitments, obligations and distractions that at times can be utterly overwhelming. That is when it is time to take a step back and simply just be still for a moment. To listen to that inner voice within your heart asking you what matters most and why am I here.

Put simply, I am here to live a meaningful life. And how? Through my never-ending quest to….

Explore

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself” – . Danny Kaye

Condoriri trailhead Bolivia

Climbing up to top of Austria Peak

Kilimanjaro hike to Barranco Camp Machame Route

Our group heading down the trail on Kilimanjaro.

Annapurna Trek Nepal

Me and my Dad at the start of the Annapurna Trek. November 2010.

Be Curious

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The Best of 2015: Looking back over a wonderful year

Just like that the year is coming to a close. It feels like yesterday when I was thinking the same thing. Time just seems to go way too fast. It is frightening at times but I’ve realized that you can’t dwell. Time is time and it goes rather quickly when you are doing the things you love. 2015 was another year of amazing growth and travels. It was much better than 2014 which was a difficult year for me.

I finally had the time to become more committed to my writing. My children are both old enough that I have the freedom to do a little more for myself which is bittersweet. My son has already turned 11 meaning he is over half way through his childhood before he leaves home. That is a sobering thought! My daughter is already nine. It is hard to believe it.

As always I try to focus on the positive, beautiful things in my life. It is the only way to live. Looking back at 2015, here are some of my greatest moments and memories.

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Hike to Karanga Camp Machame Route Kilimanjaro

My Happy Place

Life is abundant, and life is beautiful. And it’s a good place that we’re all in, you know, on this earth, if we take care of it. – Alice Walker

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog and know me, then you will not be the least bit surprised when I tell you that my happy place is being outside in nature. I prefer being in the mountains, hiking and breathing in the fresh, magical air but of course it isn’t possible that I’m always in this special place. Instead, I find beauty, peace and solitude in being anywhere outdoors and at home I generally find my happy place at my favorite neighborhood lake, Lake Harriet in Southwest Minneapolis. I walk and run around that lake year round, rain or shine, snow or sleet. I watch and marvel at the changing of the seasons  and the cycle of life. I reflect on the migration of the birds who come and go with the changing of the wind. If I’m lucky, I see a pair of bald eagles or a distant loon. I’ve even see a wild turkey and a group of deer which seems crazy given the fact that I live in the heart of a city.

Fall is by far the most beautiful season in Minnesota and I take advantage of being in my happy place as much as possible. The air is so fragrant, the sun so bright and the sky is usually a deep, dark sapphire blue on most days. But best of all, is the magical tapestry of leaves in their deep scarlet reds to pumpkin and burnt orange and golden yellows. It is a time of year that I always feel incredibly vibrant and alive.

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”. –Albert Camus

Lake Harriet Walking/Running Trail Minneapolis MN

Lake Harriet Walking/Running Trail

I took this photo just yesterday on my walk around Lake Harriet, one of four urban lakes in Southwest Minneapolis that make up the “chain of lakes”. We are so fortunate to have over 10,000 lakes in this state and many in the city have walking, biking and running paths that are plowed year round. 

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Lake Superior, MN

In the Blink of an Eye

“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time”. – Steve Jobs

Time seems to go by in the blink of an eye. It seems like just yesterday I was a child playing in the sun. The next blink I was graduating high school and off to college. Another blink I landed my first job, and then was married, had children and turned 43. It took a whirlwind weekend in New York to realize how insanely fast life is going and how time never seems to slow down.

I was out dancing with some of my dearest friends from the social good blogging world to Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and it struck me how long it had been since I’d heard that song and furthermore how much longer it had been since I let go and danced. It frightened me.

Lake Superior, MN

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On Being Connected

“What I know now is that we’re all interconnected and that’s a really beautiful thing. We have links to everyone else in our lives and in the world. Different people have different journeys for different reasons. You can’t judge, but you can celebrate that there are connections everywhere”. – Jane Seymour

One of the things I love most about traveling is the connections I make around the world. Being connected to other human beings is essential to understanding the ever-changing world we live in today. As our world becomes more connected, it is critical that we understand other cultures, people, religions and beliefs. I find that the more connected I feel to my community and the world, the happier I am.

Connections can happen near or far. In fact, you don’t even have to travel to be connected to someone. You can read a blog post and connect online, you can connect with friends and strangers in your own community or you can simply pick up the phone and talk to someone. Everything you do in life is about connecting. Even stepping outside your door, makes you connect with other people. It is all a matter of paying attention to the connections we make with others and how they make us feel.

Here are some of the best connections I have made in my life. Connections that have made me who I am and what I stand for. There is always room for growth and expansion. The more I venture out into the world, whether it be physically or even through my blog the more connections I will make. It is incredible how large and how small are world has become.

Connections with family

Connections with strangers or new friends

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Mosebo Village, Ethiopia

The Meaning of Humanity

Today I have the honor of hosting the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. When asked to come up with a theme, without skipping a beat I decided upon Humanity. Here is my own answer to the question and challenge below. To see the official WordPress Photo Challenge: Humanity and to respond, please click here. 

There is so much conflict and heartbreak in the today’s world: Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Gaza, Ukraine and the raw memories of 9/11 to name a few. Sometimes it makes me wonder what on earth has happened to humanity and compassion for others. Has it all disappeared?

The more I see the world, the more I realize that although people are all different, we are also very much the same. We may speak different languages, have different cultures, religions, values and physical traits, yet we all share common hopes and dreams of love, family and survival.

When I travel, I am inspired to take photographs that show the common humanity of us all. I aim to capture images of everyday people around the world hoping to provoke compassion for others and an understanding of their differences. My favorite photos are the rare ones that capture the raw emotions of others and spark a curiosity about their lives. For me, these images reflect the common humanity the human race shares and creates a connection between us.

Some of my favorite photos of humanity are the ones where I feel as if my photograph is touching their souls like these ones below. 

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I met these two girls inside an unauthorized slum in the heart of New Delhi. Although their clothing was tattered and torn, their eyes were full of joy, innocence and curiosity about the  outside world and a tall, blond-haired blue-eyed woman asking to take their photo. They reminded me of my own children.

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I met this woman in southern Ethiopia at Project Mercy, a not-for-profit relief and development agency working to alleviate human suffering and poverty in Ethiopia. Although she could not read or write or speak the same language, her pride at her handiwork was evident. 

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Lake Harriet Winter Minnesota

The Art of Surviving a Minnesota Winter

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

Anyone who lives in the Midwest or who has ever traveled to the northern quarters of the country, know for a fact that winter in Minnesota can be brutal. It is often a test of endurance, patience, humor, semi-hibernation and mental strength to survive it especially when it happens to be a winter like we are having this year. Countless days well below zero, dangerously cold, bone-chilling wind. Snow. Black ice on the roads. Days upon end where it never even reaches freezing. This has been one heck of a winter so far and it isn’t even half way over.

Lake Harriet Winter Minnesota

Winter can be stunningly beautiful after a big snowstorm. Lake Harriet.

So how on earth do we survive it? With skill, perseverance and conquering the power of the mind. That is how. Here are my top ten tips to surviving an extreme winter (Warning: Over 20 degrees farenheit for a low doesn’t count. We’re talking endless days below zero!).

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Tour de Vanoise

When Travel Becomes a Dangerous Escape

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination or forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” – August Wilson

Tour de Vanoise France

Like most travel bloggers, I have been completely shocked by the tragic news of the death of fellow travel blogger Anita Mac. Anita Mac, the vibrant face behind the popular travel blog Travel Destination Bucket List took her own life.

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