It’s a Wander-full Life

This year has taken me to some amazing places. Some new, some familiar but all ever-changing. So grateful for this amazing ride called life. Can’t wait to see what explorations are in store for 2017. Join me, won’t you?

JANUARY was spent quietly at home, plotting, planning and preparing for my next big trip, India. I did take the time to wander my neighborhood trails. There’s nothing quite like a crisp Florida winter morning to energize!

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Oviedo, Florida

FEBRUARY sent me back to India. This time I immersed myself in the culture and magic of just one place – Rishikesh. I had been before but just for a few days, this time I spent nearly two weeks living on the banks of the Ganges. I’ll be going back this March and this time I’m taking people with me.

Rishikesh, India

MARCH – After India, I stopped over in Croatia and Slovenia for a week. It was still chilly but the air was so refreshing and invigorating. Zagreb was a bustling city, but it was the entire country of Slovenia that stole my heart on this trip. Going back later in 2017 to both places, exploring more of the Croatian coast and, of course, wandering back into that gem of a country nestled between Austria and Italy.

Zagreb, Croatia

Lake Bled and Ljubljana, Slovenia

APRIL Back home but not for long! Time to take a road trip across the state to Cedar Key for an uber relaxing natural Florida experience. Then a quick one day wander through Rainbow Springs.

Cedar Key and Rainbow Springs, FL

MAY A day trip or two a month often satisfies my inner-wanderer. Lucky for me I live in a beautiful, lush state. My own little town of Oviedo, working hard to maintain its small town feel with 30,000 people, then two hours west to St. Petersburg and an hour east to Indian Harbour Beach.

Oviedo, St. Petersburg and Indian Harbour Beach, Florida

JUNE A few days away in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia to check out an amazing retreat and spa. Dahlonega GA

Beautiful Dahlonega and Kitschy Cool Helen, Georgia

JULY An out-of-town friend wondered how far the Kennedy Space Center was so I took him there. The answer is about 45 minutes. Science is a whole different kind of wandering.

Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida

AUGUST  LA in August for some fabulous friends and food and a little scoping out of retreat potential.

Marina del Rey and Pacific Palisades, California

SEPTEMBER Then on to Sequoia National Park to be mesmerized by the stately ancient redwoods. Then later in the month up north to explore all of New Hampshire, bits of Massachusetts and a few seaport towns in Maine.

Sequoia National Park, California | Rye and Portsmouth, New Hampshire |Rocky Neck, Newburyport, and Gloucester, Massachusetts | Cape Elizabeth, Maine

OCTOBER  Back to the north Georgia mountains to take a lovely group to explore the mountains and do some yoga. Straddled the coast of Florida again with a quick trip to New Smyrna Beach to scout locations for a beach retreat and St. Pete to visit family.

Roswell, Amicalola Falls and Blairsville, Georgia | New Smyrna Beach, Florida

NOVEMBER Can’t get enough of California. Wandered the trails of Fullerton on an almost daily basis. Trekked into the cold hard streets of Hollywood to watch a friend play at a dive bar.

Fullerton, Hollywood and Brea, California

DECEMBER Ended the year much as it began, quiet and close to home. Spent an evening at a beautiful barn in Geneva all decked out for the holidays then meandered amongst the alligators, otters and birds at the Orlando Wetlands.

Geneva and Christmas, Florida

Reviewing this past year in photos and trips fills me with such gratitude for this life that is unfolding before me. I have always wanted to travel and once I consciously made the decision to make that a huge part of my life, opportunities began dropping into my lap. Thanks for coming along here and I hope you’ll join me along the path soon this coming year.

2017 promises a few new passport stamps in preparation of more fantastic retreats and adventures ahead. Stay tuned…

Become a Noticer

One of my very favorite things to do is to find an area that I want to explore, block off some time, and get lost. Even in my own town.

When I travel it’s easy to find new and interesting things. I love architecture so buildings ancient and new captivate me and cause me to look up a lot. The graphics of signs and lettering, especially old faded advertising painted directly on old buildings, also curl my toes. People watching from an outdoor café or from the window of a gelateria is a guilty pleasure – because let’s be honest, they would also include a frothy hot drink or a dollop of something creamy and cold.

But perhaps the most effortless state of observation is outside in nature. I feel less compelled to categorize all that I see. I just allow any movement to capture my attention. A squirrel, the wind, a bird.

Noticing is more than just visual, it is a full sensory experience.

What does the air smell like? Cooking food, earth, exhaust from cars, the woman’s perfume who just passed you? What’s the texture of the building materials used to make the structures around you, the bark on the trees, the consistency of the soil or sidewalk you’re walking on? What do you hear? Can you parse the many sounds from the city down to their individual sources? What about in the woods; can you hear the leaves rustle or the the urgent nibbling of a squirrel?

Allowing yourself to be steadied by the activity around you can be a very powerful practice. If you can take slow, deep breaths, the experience is almost meditative – even in the city.

Get lost.

If that word creates some anxiety, take some of the guess work out of the equation for now. For now. Look on a map and find your edges. If you’re exploring a city, determine areas that may be unsafe and avoid them. Same goes for out in nature – don’t meander around the woods during hunting season without something brightly colored on. Or find a confined area like a park with lots of hidden treasures.

You’re not looking for new. Your seeking a new experience of the familiar.

How you notice is up to you. You can simply observe without any need to remember. Perhaps you’re a writer; a small notebook may be in order to record your experiences. Or maybe you want to capture these moments visually with photos or sketches.

But know that you need not record any of it. Simply allowing the experiences to be absorbed can be the best antidote for a stressful world.

You can’t do this wrong.

Wander. Notice. Be.

A Natural Friendship

Today I met an alligator. A new one.

A little over a week ago I had met a few others here at the Orlando Wetlands Park; a pile of babies, some smallish – maybe teenagers – at a safe distance and one a little larger and closer than I was comfortable with. I quickly took his picture then pretended to be invisible.

I came upon my new friend today peeking through the water grasses. He at me, me at him. When our eyes locked he asked if I had a minute. I said, sure, but I’m going to stay here on the land and I ask that you stay there in the water. He agreed.

He wanted to teach me a few things. He shared some information about himself and offered quite a bit of advice on his observations of me. Terribly talkative and opinionated, but I listened nonetheless.

About himself, he shared that he was perfectly happy sitting in the cool water with just bits of him visible to the world and the sun. He said during warmer times of the day he may meander onto the bank to soak in some solar energy but that often caused humans to run toward him or away from him. In any case, the ruckus unnerved him, causing him to whip his big tail around and head back into the water. So why not just stay here most of the time?

He also told me he wasn’t hungry and if he were there were certainly much smaller and less combative morsels than humans to be had. He was telling me, for the most part, I was safe. I think he rolled his eyes a little here, it was hard to tell.

He told me it was okay to take his picture, I could even get closer as long as I didn’t make fun of him or show any disrespect. His skin may be leather but he still has feelings.

And he shared quite a fantastical tale about the millenia his people have roamed the earth and what they’ve learned and THAT’S why I’m still lucky enough to see him. He could have come off quite condescending, but I found him almost charming in a-conversations-with-a-dragon sort of way.

Then he started telling me about me. I listened at first with resistance but what he had to say made some sense and ‘his people’ have survived a lot, so I listened.

First he told me I did not have to fear him. And by that he meant I simply did not have to have fear. I should quiet my mind enough to trust my gut, to use my senses rather than my ego and all its programming.

He also told me I should go slow, take my time. Be the turtle, gliding gently under nature’s radar instead of the hare that captures the attention of all her predators. In going slow I get to have conversations like this one. I can sit and observe and wait for critters to come in and out of my view, watch the changing colors of the sky and become acutely aware of every tiny movement. “It’s like that when you’re still,” he said. “When you’re not moving you notice everything else that is.”

He reminded me that I too am nature, that I have the ability to adapt to whatever surroundings I find myself in and to know the differences. He wanted me to know that I am not the alligator whisperer, nor is he the human whisperer. He said he often talks to others like me, but they don’t always hear. Instead they spend a lifetime avoiding that which is not coming toward them anyway. They spend so much time walking a wide berth around a perceived threat that they miss the magic it may show them. That seemed to make him a little sad. Me too.

But then with a sigh as if to let go of that thought, he invited me back. “Come often,” he said, “bring friends.”