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It’s Time to Write Again.

It’s time to write again.

This blog started as a way for me to practice writing and learn how to blog. I run the blog where I work, and I wanted a way to write with material that was comfortable for me without having our company logo on it. It was an experiment, it was enjoyable, and it was time-consuming. Now, having put TravelingChicha down for practically a year, this blog has become or will become something else for me.  It’s an outlet for those life convictions that finally sort themselves out on my hour commute to work in the mornings. It’s a way for me to chronicle my travels and the ups and downs in between. It’s a life portfolio that I can look back on years from now and shake my head at my foolish thoughts and ideals. It’s both public and private.

For me to write at all, I need to let go of the structure and promotion. Posts will be published, but not promoted on Facebook, Twitter, and any other outlets. SEO will be abandoned. Forget searching for outbound links. If they exist and I know about them, great. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter. Most of all, I’m letting go of the publishing schedule that I tie myself to with work and what anyone writing a “blogging 101” article will tell you to do. When I go on a trip, when I’m moved by a thought, when I see God working in my life, I will write. Otherwise, I’m not forcing it. I’m sure there will be intense periods of writing and intense periods of drought. In any case, it is what it is.  It’s an outlet for the lessons I’m learning in life and my adventures, plain and simple.

And yes, I am aware that I abusively use the comma. It’s difficult for me to write a sentence without one. I legitimately get a jolt of happiness when I can. There’s one now…!

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How to Slow Down Time

That day I painted a rainbow by the mall

“Wow, this year is going SO fast! I can’t believe it’s the end of August, it feels like summer just started.” “School has started already, it’s unbelievable. My baby is a junior. He’ll be graduating next year! “It’s September? Wow, I need to get more work done.”

And likely in three months, you are going to say,

“It’s almost Christmas! 2012 has almost come and gone.“Another semester under my belt, it went faster than I thought.” “Time goes so fast… it feels like yesterday that I…”

The changing of seasons, the start of a new school year, birthdays; starts and ends have a way of demarcating the time and pointing out how fast, how very fast life goes.  Often acute feelings of nostalgia and anxiety follow suit, for a brief moment. Then we settle comfortably back into our normal blur.

We can go through life in a haze. Wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed. Wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed. Wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed. Stuck in a constant cycle, we run in place until we dig a rut for ourselves so deep that we can’t see the life going on around us at the surface.

Routine kills our ability to celebrate life. Winning the rat race still makes you a rat.

So, how do you snap out of it? How do you climb out of your rut and live in the beautiful life on the surface? How do you slow down time? When will you say, “Wow, it’s still August?”

One of life’s sweet moments. I can taste the blueberry tea and popovers now. What a great August day in Maine.

Call them tricks, call them strategies, call them goals, call them resolutions.  Call them whatever you want as long as you do whatever you need to do to wake up, to shake up your life, to become acutely aware of what you are doing right now and how truly blessed you are right now. When you wake up, when you savor, when you notice, life does and will slow down.  My suggestions:

Around You, to you, or you, because of you: Journal, blog, or write letters (yes, real letters). Document what is happening to you, for you, because of you, and around you. The process of putting your experiences into words renders active reflection and causes you to notice. Most importantly, you think about things instead of moving on to the next immediately. Make bullet points to save time, just reflect.

Pack up and go: When you travel, life feels richer because you make time to slow down, to be adventurous, and to notice your environment. If you are in a new place, you are constantly taking in more information and learning. You are soaking in every moment. I encourage you to travel more, even to the town close by. Make more time for adventure, for enjoyment.

Shutterbug: Take more pictures of daily life. Take pictures of the dinner you just made, of your neighbor’s dog, of your friends. Don’t reserve your camera only for travel. Take a photo a day. Make a conscious effort to document small special moments and life will slow down. You will look back over them and smile, remembering that day.

Catch Z’s: No one likes the guy who brags about sleeping for 3 hours. They don’t. When you are rested you are ready to take on the day’s challenges. You think more creatively, are more productive in your day, and hold more interesting conversations. You are happier and more fun to be around. When you are really awake physically, you can be awake mentally. Life is better, time slows down. Live with intention and make it happen.

Celebrate:  Make a big deal out of small victories and small moments. Go out for ice cream, toast at dinner, do a happy dance. Say I love you, say thank you. Again, make a conscious effort to both notice and pay tribute to small moments in the everyday.

Be Skillful: What have you always wanted to learn? Take an active effort towards it. Sign up for a class, subscribe to a blog, read a book. Then you will remember this season, this year, as the time you learned x,y,z. You will remember that experience.

What will you do to slow down time? What do you already do that works for you? Comment below!

Airplane Etiquette and 8 Rejected Olympic Events

photo metrostarhotels.blogspot.com

Ahh, airplane etiquette. Some days I think a debriefing should be included after the airline safety presentation. Common courtesy goes a long way in making the flight enjoyable for everyone.  Having flown 20 times since June 1, I have compiled a list of events that won’t be added to the Olympics any time soon, despite what some passengers may think.

  1. Bag vs. Passenger Face Boxing: When boarding the plane, carry your purse/bag in front of you; not to the side, not overhead, not behind you. Stop hitting people in the face, in the shoulder, and in the ankles. No one likes it.
  2. Window Seat Vaulting:You have an aisle seat. They are at the window. When they want to sit down, unbuckle your seat belt and stand in the aisle. No one is skinny enough to maneuver the three inches of space available, nor agile enough to vault into place. Get up!

    photo housewifedownunder.blogspot.com

  3. Drink Cart Jousting: You have to pee. The flight attendants are serving drinks to 200 people. Let them finish and then use the bathroom. You can wait another 20 minutes and avoid royally inconveniencing them.
  4. Seat Back Climbing: When walking down the aisles or entering your row, avoid grabbing the seat backs. You likely just woke up someone who spent the last 30 minutes trying to fall asleep.
  5. Chair Luge: Just because your seat reclines, doesn’t mean it should!
  6. Armrest Wrestling:  Let’s settle this once and for all. The person with the middle seat gets both armrests. If you are by the window, lean against the window. If you are in the aisle, you have the outside armrest and easy aisle access. Stop being greedy!
  7.  Synchronized Standing: When the seatbelt sign turns off and you are in row 27, there is no need to stand. Relax for 15 minutes, you have time. If the guy across the aisle exits before you, it really is OK.
  8. 40m Aisle Dash Immediately After Landing: The people in the rows ahead of you have the right away. They exit first. Unless you have a connection in the next 20 minutes, wait your turn.

What events would you add? Comment below!

6 Must-See Places in Washington D.C.

Ceiling of the Library of Congress

I spend a considerable amount of time in Washington D.C. as a tour leader. Regardless of where I travel, Washington D.C. holds its place firmly as one of my favorite cities in the world. It is remarkably beautiful. On any given day, one can walk in the footsteps of great leaders of our country and be a part of living history. You would be hard-pressed to find another place in the world where you can learn and experience so much in such a short period of time. Although this list can be heavily debated, the following make my list for my 5 favorite places in Washington D.C.:

  1. Library of Congress: The Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building, is absolutely stunning and hands-down my favorite building in Washington D.C. See Thomas Jefferson’s library, the Gutenberg bible, artifacts from the early America’s and much more. Numerous touch-screen kiosks are dispersed throughout the library to further engage visitors. View the reading room or take an art tour. The Capitol can also be accessed via an underground tunnel.
  2. The Capitol Building: Go on a free tour of the Capitol and marvel at the artwork of Constantino Brumidi. The Capitol rotunda will not disappoint.
  3. Arlington National Cemetery: Our nation’s most sacred and hallowed grounds, Arlington National Cemetery is incredibly peaceful and picturesque.  Soldiers are buried here from every war in our nation’s history, from the Revolutionary war through the war in Afghanistan, as well as President Kennedy and President Taft. It is a beautiful place to walk and to feel gratitude for the men and women who have served our country.
  4. Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns: Although occurring at Arlington National Cemetery, the Changing of the Guard deserves independent recognition as a Washington D.C. must-see. This solemn ceremony never fails to issue chills. It is a huge honor to be a member of the honor guard, and the men and women of the 3rd infantry conduct themselves with admirable reverence and respect for their duty. During spring and summer, the guard changes every half hour and during fall through winter, every hour. It is certainly worth the wait to see.
  5. Udvar-Hazy Center, National Air and Space Museum: Personally, I prefer the Udvar-Hazy Center, located near Dulles International Airport, over the Air and Space museum on the National Mall. The Udvar-Hazy Center is an actual hanger, with cement floors and high ceilings. The set-up is more open, and the crowds are minimal. Despite the historical aircraft, it feels as if a pilot could walk right in and take a plane for a spin. The SR-71 and Discovery space shuttle are located on ground level, where visitors can walk around all sides and view the air/space craft up close.
  6. Smithsonian American History Museum: What is not to love about the American History Museum? View artifacts from your favorite pop culture icons and presidents. See the star spangled banner. Tour Julia Child’s kitchen and see the Greensboro sit-in counter. Watch live performances from museum personnel.

What makes your list for a Washington D.C. must-see? Do you agree or disagree with the items on this list? Comment below!

6 Tools for Integrating Walking into Your Travels

This is a guest post by Sherry Dryja. Sherry blogs at Jet Planes and Coffee  and is most at home when traveling the globe, meeting new people, and exploring their communities. She and her husband spend half the year visiting places near and far. Each location is experienced to the fullest by taking tours, eating where the locals eat, and soaking in as much culture as can be found in museums, theater offerings, markets, and festivals. Jet Planes and Coffee documents her travels while sharing what she learns along the way. I have truly enjoyed reading her articles and have gained both knowledge and inspiration from reading them! 

Forget about renting a car. Book your stay in the heart of a city and get walking! Walking is one of the best ways to learn about a place and get fit at the same time. Below are six tools to make it easier to choose walking when you travel.

1. A well-placed hotel or vacation rental: This will make or break it for you if you’re trying to integrate walking into your travel plans. For a more local experience, try a vacation rental. Both VRBO.com and HomeAway.com can help you connect with property managers and home owners with condos or houses near the places you’d like to visit. Save some pennies by eating in for breakfast and lunch. There are lots of options available, both domestic and international, which fit all types of interests and budgets.

2. A map app: This probably goes without saying, but a good map app on your smart phone or computer goes a long way in strategizing integrated walks.

3. FitBit or other step-tracking device: Pedometers are great motivators.

Step tracking device

Knowing how many steps you take or don’t take in a day can help you make little decisions that have a big impact on your fitness goals. I choose FitBit because it not only tracks my steps, it helps me keep track of calories I’ve eaten and burned, and hours of sleep I get.

4. Good shoes: In the summertime, I recommend sandals by Naot or Ecco. The soft leather straps and cork footbed on the Naot sandals are a little better than Eccos for keeping blisters at bay.

My recommendation for excellent winter footwear is any boot by Aquatalia by Marvin K. These boots are truly meant for walking in any weather, rain, snow, or shine, and they are are built for comfort and durability. They’re also surprisingly stylish.

For the guys out there, my husband swears by Hush Puppies slip-on loafers with Zero-G technology. For casual summer outings, he reaches for OluKai slip-on sneakers for a smart, comfortable look.

Pack clothes that transition well from the sidewalk to the theatre

5. Clothes that can take you from the sidewalk cafe to the theater: My go-to brand for travel wear is Eileen Fisher. They move easily from one situation to another. Plus, they pack easily, hardly wrinkle, and layer well.

For budget shoppers, try eBay to pick up deals on pre-owned Eileen. Her clothes stand up to abuse and time, so don’t be ashamed about seeking out the pre-owned stuff. I do it all the time.

Hubby finds Original Penguin to be a good brand for mid-range-priced items which can be dressed up or down. For the summer he’s living in Original Penguin shorts and graphic tees he finds on Zazzle.com. When he wants to dress that up, he throws on a dark pair of jeans or dress pants, keeps the graphic tee, and adds a lightweight blazer.

SpiBelt!

6. Cross-body bag or backpack: A good, lightweight cross-body bag or backpack is a must. Cole Haan’s Jitney Ali Crossbody is great for accessing ID at the airport quickly and tooling around town with all the essentials, including cell phone and Chapstick. The brand “Picnic Time” makes an insulated backpack I’ve been eyeing for trips to the farmers market or grocery store. It could double as a carry-on. I also own an elastic belt called the “SPIbelt” that hides pockets beneath loose-fitting tops when I don’t want to carry a purse. Trust me. It’s not your grandmother’s fanny pack!

Mount Vernon: Who, What, Where, When, Why

Mount Vernon Mansion

Mount Vernon Photos

Who Lived There: Mount Vernon is where George Washington lived as well as his wife Martha, his step-children John and Martha, and his grandchildren George Washington and Eleanor.

Where is Mount Vernon? Mount Vernon is located on the banks of the Potomac, 16 miles south of Washington, D.C. and 8 miles south of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, at the southern terminus of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

What You Can Do There:

  • Tour the Mansion: See George Washington’s chair, bedroom, kitchen, etc. The rooms are restored to their 1799 appearance, the year that George Washington died. The outside of the mansion appears to be sandstone, but it is actually pine! The wood was beveled, painted, and then sand was added to give the appearance of sandstone.
  • See the tomb of George and Martha Washington.
  • See the demonstration by the working blacksmith.
  • Visit the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center which included over 500 original artifacts and video presentations. You must see the 4D-film on the Battle of Yorktown, Trent, and Boston. You feel the vibrations of cannons in your seat and snow falls during the movie!
  • Watch the inspiring film, We Fight to Be Free, in the Ford Orientation Center
  • Visit the heritage animals, including hogs, chicken, sheep, lambs, oxen, and more.
  • Talk with a Martha Washington, a character performer who is happy to discuss life at Mount Vernon.
  • Visit the dozen original structures on the plantation.
  • Walk through the vegetable and flower gardens.
  • Dine at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant
  • Hang out on the back porch of the mansion and gaze out at the Potomac
  • Shop at the shops at Mount Vernon
  • Walk to the demonstration farm and go inside the 16-sided barn.

When You Should Go: Plan to spend several hours there, 2-3 hours passes very quickly! Mount Vernon is open 365 days of the year. April through August, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. March, September, and October, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. November through February, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m The least crowded time of day is in the afternoon, as school groups tend to go when Mount Vernon opens until right before lunch. Mondays are the least crowded days of the week. Peak season is during holidays and March 15-May 31.

Why You Need to Go: Personally, I think visiting the home of our first president is an incredible opportunity. The fact that it even exists should be enough of a reason to go. However, visits to Mount Vernon are very enjoyable. Life at the plantation is active, the grounds are beautiful, and there is plenty to see and do.  It is a great place to spend an afternoon outdoors and you inevitably walk away knowing something you didn’t know before you arrived. The education center will teach you in an hour what you likely learned in a year of school using engaging, hands-on exhibits. Go see Mount Vernon! You won’t regret it.

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Have you been to Mount Vernon? What did you think? Comment below!

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