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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

A friend and I carpooled to Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act talk, taking our combined 11, 12, 13, and 15-year-olds. Not many others in the audience brought their children, and I had a moment part way through where I thought, “am I being a good parent?” We don’t usually talk about some of these issues with our kids: the Iranian widows and mothers grieving their loved ones killed in the Iran-Iraq war knowing Iraq was funded by the USA, the results of the Netherlands’ marijuana policies compared to the USA’s, or the price of braces vs. providing a well to a community that has to walk to their water source.

I cringed at a couple of Steves’ generalizations, but mostly admired his willingness to speak up on issues, suggest we can learn from other cultures, and get involved in improving our own. The two younger kids in our group felt his presentation was a little confusing, but the discussion with all of the kids since hearing the talk has been worth taking them. Policies and politics are confusing, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid them. I used to have a bumper sticker that said, “Think – it’s patriotic.” If I want my kids to think, I make need to make sure they have access to real info to think about, just like if I want them to be savvy in the outdoors, I need to give them opportunities to navigate or put up the tent.

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Rick Steves feels like a neighbor, since we both call this corner of Washington State, USA home, but he’s also a neighbor with a global heart. While I’ve used his Europe Through the Backdoor books for trip planning, I’m particularly interested in his more recent speaking out on travel as a political act.

I know our family’s international travels – bicycling in Europe and Canada, backpacking in Mexico –  have added meaningful experiences to my kids’ becoming adults engaged in their world. I didn’t set out to make them political, just thoughtful, and with more information than they might get in school. Now my son is taking Spanish in middle school and has facebook friends in several countries, while my daughter is a sixth grader involved in her school’s social action club. I’m proud of them.

Rick is speaking in our community later this month, and my family will be there. After discussions of Haiti lately, thinking globally means also admitting to my kids that travel is complicated and political. Travel has shaped our worldview, and should shape our action as well. We’ll hear what Rick has to say, and continue those family discussions.

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Arms Up For Adventure

Standing atop something, like a rock or a mountain, somehow lends itself to throwing one’s arms up like Tour de France racers crossing the finish line.

I’m not sure if it is the accomplishment of the climb, the joy of the height, or the connection of being outside, but whatever it is we’re celebrating.

Happy new year, and happy new adventures to all.

Hope in 2010, you too will be atop or across something that makes you want to put your arms up in accomplishment, joy, and connection.

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Inspired by Others

Sometimes you read about other folks’ adventures and you feel pretty darn inspired. Being of a family who often travels by tandem bicycle, I am drawn to couples and families traveling similarly. We’ve been following Family on Bikes as mom, dad, and twin eleven-year-old boys pedal Alaska to Argentina (they’re past Panama now), and today I read about a European couple who rode for several years from Germany east. They bicycled Iran, India, Indonesia – wow.

Now they’re back in Germany with their baby daughter, and like adventurous parents everywhere, starting to think about family adventuring someday. The article that got me thinking is on the Times Live, out of Johannesburg, South Africa. I could relate to what the he said about really living while on the road, and how they felt welcomed by so many people as they traveled. It’s an amazing world out there. And important to share that and show that to our kids.

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PA301994Last year at this time, we were living in Mexico. It was Halloween at the kids’ school and with American friends, and Dia de los Muertos everywhere else. We had an incredible family adventure, and I find myself thinking back about it a lot lately.

This is Dana and her friend Danae dressed as a squirrel and a fox for their class Halloween play. Their friend Maura was a witch, and I had to check my assumptions when I talked to her mom about costuming. I asked if they wanted to borrow a black shirt, and the response was, “Black? Oh no, a witch is colorful!”

The memories make me homesick for being there, only I’m not sure what you call it when you’re not missing home but another place.PA312082 I think about the school Dia de los Muertos altar, pan muerto (bread of the dead, shaped as a skull), wandering the alters all over town, and the community of remembrance we got to be a part of for awhile.

It was an incredible adventure. You can read more about it in my Traveling Simply blog, if you’d like to stroll through our adventures back when we were making those memories.

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P9130797While Noah and I camped out on Table Mountain (see previous post), his sister and dad slept 24.5 miles down the road. On Sunday morning, they lined up on their tandem bicycle with hundreds of other folks who were generally not on tandems. For a race. Uphill. 4500 feet of elevation gain.

While Noah read a book at the finish line, I scrambled down a trail and intercepted the road. Then I walked it chalk in hand, writing messages. Some directly for Tom and Dana, some for other friends riding, some general you-can-do-it type messages for everyone, and a few comments on others’ messages. “Podium girls ahead!” someone wrote. So I added, “Podium boys too!”

Two switchbacks from the top, I heard my name. I turned to find Tom & Dana cranking up to me, she smiling, he sweating hard. I ran alongside for a bit, but then they went on. By the time I got to them at the finish, they were accepting congratulations from people and fruit from the snack table.P9130807

My favorite tandem team finished in two and a half hours (faster than Tom had thought they’d be) and as far as I saw, Dana was the only girl involved in the event.

It was a beautiful day, an impressive challenge, another incredible Mount Baker Hill Climb. And I was just a little tempted to try it next year.

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P9130783Getting outside with my now teenager seems to involve a little more cajoling to interest him in an adventure. The weekend of the Mt. Baker Hillclimb (his sister and his dad tandem bicycled that), I proposed a mother-son overnight on a little mountain above where the hill climb would finish.

He was skeptical. Complained some. But eventually packed his backpack.

I made sure I had cider mix and good breakfast food, back up warm clothes, and enough water since it is a dry camp. But this time I made sure that he was carrying his share of the weight. And I promised him it was a short hike, but a supercool spot.

And it was.P9130789

Due to dropping off the hillclimbers to camp at what would be their start the next morning, we hit the trail after sunset. This turned out to be a highlight. Hiking with a headlamp makes a simple hike into an incredibly different experience. We felt our way, reached the top appreciating the trail with our remaining senses, and searched for a tent site by arcing the headlamp in circles around us. Did I mention I’d only brought one?

We saw millions of stars, I listened to him chatter in the tent while he skimmed Popular Science, and we awoke to a beautiful sunrise the next morning. Headlamp hiking is definitely to be repeated and the mother-son overnight was a success. He thought so too.

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Family Book Club

PC260401Books have been on my mind. In the last few weeks I was lucky enough to win Jane in Bloom by Deborah Lytton through Cindy Hudson’s Mother-Daughter Book Club site and two writer books from Christina Katz’ Writer Mama site. Thanks gals!

I also got my copy of Cindy’s Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. And in thinking about her perspective on sharing books with daughters, I reflected on our family’s book sharing.

On our bicycling trips, each person gets to take one book in their pannier. So after someone finishes their book, we often trade. Then we can operate as a family book club, discussing what we’ve read in the tent at night or over peanut butter sandwiches at lunch. I like reading the young adult literature my kids have read – I get to know more about what they’re experiencing, I read books I would not have ordinarily picked up, and we have interesting discussions.

When we lived in Mexico we shared even more books, because English language books were hard to come by. We packed 40 books along with us, then shared many of them. My son even made a calendar and filled in when he would read each book, so as to make them last the length of the trip (didn’t work, he sped through the books and we had to start trading with other families).

How often do families read the same book at home? For us, the Harry Potter books, but not too many others. But on a trip where space and weight dictate condensing our book possibilities? Family book club happens.

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backtoschoolckAs a writer mama, I have learned from and been supported by Christina Katz’ Writers on the Rise, then Writer Mama, and most recently Get Known Before the Book Deal books and websites.

This month, for the third year in a row, The Writer Mama, Christina Katz, is giving away thirty books in thirty days. All you have to do to enter is answer Christina’s question of the day. At the end of each day, a winner will be randomly chosen from those who posted responses -and there is no limit to how many days you can enter. You don’t have to be a mom, of course, though the event is created with moms in mind. Stop by, be inspired, and maybe even win a book!

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P7310543Four years ago, I was leaving the grocery store a few blocks from my house and noticed a guy waiting outside with two backpacks. He looked like he’d been hiking. Figuring the other backpack belonged to his partner who was probably inside the store getting food, I strolled over, and inquired about his trip.

Turned out that Mike and his girlfriend Emmy had just hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail across the North Cascades and hitched a ride into town. I promptly invited them to my home for showers, dinner, use of our washing machine, and a tent spot in our backyard.

They accepted and we walked to my house – where I introduced them to my family, my husband covering his surprise at sudden guests. Interesting and interested college students, they were fun visitors and headed off the next day by bus towards Seattle to eventually get back to their college on the east coast.

They were among the first travelers we’ve had stay with us, followed later that summer by a bicycling Dutch couple, and most recently our first warmshowers guest this past June. And in turn, we have met people while adventuring who have shared their hospitality with us.

This week we came home from a swim at the lake to find a note and a bottle of wine at our door. Emmy and Mike had stopped by, “just passing through on our sailboat and remembered you and your kindness.” They left no phone number or directions as to where they might be moored, so we didn’t have a way to thank them. I’m so sorry we missed seeing them, but we’ll just have to enjoy the wine and toast them, travelling, and saying hello to strangers.

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