An Adventure in Being

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I’m not in it for the adventure.

Travel seems to be at the top of all the lists these days. It is always at the top of mine and always on my mind.

But it is not always adventure I am seeking.

I have no need to prove anything to anyone or myself. I’m beyond the stage when I need to walk a literal precipice to show that I can. Or to get my adrenaline pumping by jumping off a bridge tethered to a rope. I’m at that stage where I want deep experiences, rich soul-shining experiences.

I want to walk. A lot. All over. I want to consciously wander.

I want to sit in front of swamis, gurus, comedians, authors and even charlatans. I want to wander the streets of vibrant cities, take public transportation and interrogate locals on their favorite places to eat.

I want to sit in nature in a foreign country and remark – to myself – how nature is nature and no matter where in nature I find myself it’s healing. Nature has its own universal language.

I want to sit on rooftops sipping chai, coffee, wine, ouzo.

These are my adventures. Being in other places. Being wherever I am. Being. Observing. Noticing. Absorbing.

These are the adventures I want to share. I want to take others to all the magical corners of the planet and allow them to be. To notice. To create their own shift.

It really doesn’t matter where. The park 2 miles from my home can be as impactful as meditating on the banks of the Ganges. Probably. Although there is something mighty powerful about the Ganga Ma.

It’s not about accumulating. It’s not about becoming an experience junky. It is simply about immersion in this great adventure called life.

Our next adventure is coming fast – Rishikesh, India for 10 days in March. If India is calling, take a look at the details here. It’s an intentionally small group of soulful travelers.

Care to join me for a cup of chai on a rooftop overlooking the Taj Mahal?

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…

To Florence with Love

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Florence is a love letter to the secret artists, tentative writers and hopelessly romantic wanderers of the world. She is gently rolling hills and curving waters; she holds cathedrals of art and temples of religion with equal care and love.

It’s easy to fall in love with Florence but it doesn’t happen immediately, at least it didn’t for me. On that first day, I entered the city from high above it – took her in all at once. The view was familiar, I was clearly standing in the same spot as myriad photographers before me, and perhaps that’s why I didn’t fully trust it.

To get from my perch to the banks of the Arno, the beautifully pristine river that bisects the city, I followed a path through flower gardens filled with playful, large bronze sculptures, allowing time and space for us to slowly introduce ourselves to one another.

I was one of a group wandering together in a pack. We were on a mission so once we selected which bridge to cross, our pace accelerated. I felt hurried, off balance. My flirtation with Florence cut short, hand slapped away. I tried snapping photo after photo to come back to it somehow but it caused me to lag behind so I slung the camera over my shoulder and stuck with the group. I would be coming back to this town two more times without the group so I gave into the flow and followed along.

We went to museums, the Uffizi among them, walked ancient streets, waited for each other, wandered off a bit, passed by the Duomo then all met back to return to our accommodations. It was lovely. I had done Florence and it was … nice.

But I was wrong; it was so much richer than that. It helped tremendously to be guided for that part of the trip, but the real gifts were revealed when just one friend and I had time to wander our own way.

For the first half of the day we saw what we felt we missed: a more thorough examination of the Duomo – we walked its looming circumference and marveled at its stunning beauty, but never entered; a more leisurely stroll along the banks of the Arno; and an extended stay at a cafe sipping espresso and people watching. We chatted up street artists, purchased a few souvenirs and took some photos.

As we sat for lunch, al fresco, with a view of street life, the magic began to reveal itself. It’s fun to get swept up in the activity of the city, to be guided this way and that by shiny things and crowds, but to truly know a place, one must become still. Lunch gave us that opportunity.

Seated in one spot, resting, taking it all in, Florence began to open her arms, show us her heart, share her pulse. We ate in near silence as we chewed slowly and simply observed life around us.

Get to know Florence slowly, romance her, seek out her treasures, ask her the right questions and follow her leads.

It’s important, as a traveller to have some objectives – some points of interest you’d like to see or experience. But it’s far more important to let go of plans when a city, such as this one, invites you to linger in secret little places you didn’t even know existed.

There are many ways Florence invites one slow down and notice life. The river, the Arno, hosts rowing clubs on weekend mornings. Street artists set up along the same river to work and sell their efforts. Any bridge across the river will offer you the most magnificent sunset on the water, but the preferred perch is the infamous Ponte Vecchio, full of its padlocks of love and star-crossed lovers with selfie sticks.

On Sunday mornings operatic choral music can be heard throughout the city but most notably, and perhaps most suitably, near the Duomo.

The gardens are never as crowded as they should be which is an especially nice secret and the best shops are off the main thoroughfare.

Unlike any city I have been to in Italy, Florence is perhaps the most welcoming and accepting. But you must invite her in. And if you close your eyes, you can feel her hand in yours as you wander her streets.

At Home in Ljubljana

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Old, historic downtown Ljubljana was the most pleasant surprise. I fell in love with it immediately.

We arrived at twilight. Our hotel was a short walk from the train station and easily found. We had the option of walking through the bar or taking the steps to the lobby. We took a moment to imagine the path of destruction we would likely leave with our coats and suitcases and opted for the stairs.

Once settled in our room we headed out on foot. Less than a mile, maybe even less than half a mile, we found the center of this welcoming city. Its fringes felt very urban and clean with modern office buildings and hotels, but these structures seemed to respect the ancient and medieval architecture just a block away by not towering over them, not stealing the spot light.

As we walked down a side street in the direction we hoped would lead us to some restaurant options, the city slowly came into view. Lights shimmered along the river,  artfully lighting the buildings on its banks. We took a moment to take in our surroundings. To take a breath. Then we set our sights on dinner. Our options seemed limited where we stood so we crossed one of the many bridge to investigate what options the other side may have.

A few steps over the river we found restaurant row. Every restaurant offered outdoor seating. It was early Spring in eastern Europe, just a stone’s throw from the Alps and the temperature on this evening was in the high 30s. Fahrenheit. Blankets are placed over each chair and some patios were warmed with torches, but mostly it was cold. We opted for an indoor table.

The next day we explored in earnest. Beginning with the famed Saturday morning market. It felt like a street festival. It was huge and bustling, full of music and dancing and life. There were sections of local crafts, clothing, flowers and especially food. Mostly it was produce from nearby farms, rows and rows of it, but there were also packaged goods, like local honey or butter. We learned the entire history of Slovenia from a very animated local goat’s milk butter and cream guy. Moving away from the center, we found a bank of food trucks for additional fortification, alongside the many cafes that flank the river.

There are many distinct bridges, each with their own personality and story, that cross the Ljubljanica River bisecting the city. Three of them exclusively pedestrian. But that hasn’t always been the case. About 8 years ago the new mayor closed the downtown area to vehicles. It apparently created a small uproar and some traffic snarls, but this city of 250,000 quickly adjusted and now the area is vibrant with commerce and entertainment.

The bridge or bridges we crossed the first night, known as the Triple Bridge, all had the same balustrades, creating an almost Venetian feel. The center bridge was much wider than the two adjacent; it was meant for cars when they were allowed. Aside from the Triple Bridge, there are two others meant for pedestrians: The Cobbler’s Bridge and a much more modern span whose name I can’t recall. The Cobbler’s Bridge, while nice, is relatively plain, but just a few steps away from it, at the top of an alley, sits an art installation of hanging shoes. The more modern bridge boasts railings made of cabled wires that are full of the padlocks of lovers. The edges of the bridge itself are made of glass  to view the river below as you walk.

The driving bridges are also quite beautiful. The Dragon Bridge is made spectacular by the giant verdigris bronze dragons that guard either side.

This is a country that celebrates its poets and writers. They love their wine and coffee – and are quite proud of their number three standing among coffee consuming nations – and hike for fun on the weekends. They are kind, open people who enjoy being outside with friends.

Geographically, Slovenia is nestled between Austria and Italy, whose influences can be felt in the architecture of old, historic Ljubljana. A touch of the contemporary can also be found in recent repairs or refurbishments. It has all been added with care, layered in a way to blend and appreciate the history without disrupting the past. Old gas lamps still post sentry from the buildings.

Did mention the castles and views of the Alps?

It would be easy to try to compare Ljubljana to another country or city, but it has a definite personality all its own. It is fresh, youthful and inviting. It is familiar enough to welcome the most timid traveler and unique enough to entice the most seasoned. I would go back tomorrow. It felt like home.