Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going

This post is a little hard to write, so bear with me.

You might have noticed a dearth of posts in the past month or so. This is because I stepped away from the keyboard for a while to deal with the death of my Dad.

As it stands, we have a memorial service planned for him soon and I’m distracting myself from writing what I want to say for the memorial by writing this post instead. Kinda crappy choices. That’s life sometimes.

He was 73 years old and had recently had a triple bypass of his coronary arteries just before Thanksgiving, so his health was not optimal. But we had hopes things would improve. He struggled with the recovery and in the end it is his heart that gave up after emergency surgery for an aneurism.

The somewhat suddenness of it all and taking care of his business dealings as well as house stuff has been difficult. On top of that, my wife and I are selling our home (thankfully got an offer the first day).

All of this means my attention for the site has been reduced to a small trickle. I posted a photo experiment the other day as a means just to get me back to typing. I might have another today. The Photo Of The Day will start up next week, most likely and I will miss my Dad’s comments any time I post a photo of a ferry boat, his favorite subject and why you often see them posted here.

Things will be a little stop and start for a while as the grief process winds its path. I still want to finish the 31 Days of Photography Experiments as well as 31+ Days To Better Photography series and get them into eBook format for you.

But for now I need to get back to summing up what my Dad meant to me. I still struggle with the first part of the speech and the middle, but I know how it will end; I only regret that I never told him thanks for showing me how to be a great father.


Kids In The City – Expedia’s Useful Tips For Family Travel This Summer


I love planning. I don’t like random email pitches from PR or product companies.

Today the two worlds collide. That’s because Expedia pitched me something I ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT AND WILL USE! It doesn’t happen often.

It’s their Kids In The City program and you might be able to guess what it’s about. Kids. Cities. Doing stuff (with their parents).

The site offers up individually picked attractions and fun-things-to-do in a dozen major cities across the USA. The individuals doing the picking are parenting and traveling experts by the likes of Debbie Dubrow, Jen Miner, Mara Gorman and Kara Williams. These are people I know, personally, in real life, and trust their recommendations. Heck, before this program, I was even going to be asking Jen what might be fun to do with Sabrina in LA as we will be taking two trips there this summer. Now I don’t have to because she tells us in a video!

Expedia will be highlighting 12 cities over 12 days (and it started yesterday, so you need to catch up!) on the site to help with your summer planning.

If you have kids, give it a look-see. Yes, eventually it has links to be able to book things on Expedia, but there is no hard sell and the picks are genuine points of interest moms in those cities think you will find fun. They have first hand knowledge of many of the attractions and have tested them with their own kids. Humanely, I hope.

It’s a resource I have already found useful and will be checking out Portland as well for two trips this summer with Sabrina.


Dealing With Loud Kids On Airplanes – Some Tips You Might Not Like

Throughout the 4+ hour flight from LAX to Miami the two year old in seat 34E barely stopped letting the plane know her disgust. She didn’t have her own seat and was sitting on one parent’s lap or another. It’s not for lack of the parents trying that she was a vocal hotspot, and there were times when she was awake, smiling and happy. Yet, I remember most my struggles to sleep in my seat being broken by her sometimes siren like screeches of complaint.

For all her vocalizing, she didn’t bother me. And I sat there wondering why. Why wouldn’t a yelling child boil my blood and make me twitch with disgust?

Perhaps part of my immunity on this flight had to do with being a parent of a ten year old and experiencing my own child going through phases like this. Two years old is a hard age to travel with because kids want to move around a lot, which usually doesn’t jive with air travel. Many times I looked over to see the Dad hoisting the child into the air or the Mom letting her stand on her lap. The parents were honestly trying to entertain the sometimes unentertainable.

Or perhaps it was because I made a conscience effort to not be annoyed. Sure, loud noises can strike a nerve, but as with most anything in life, our reaction to stimulus is entirely within our control. I’m not saying I somehow became a practiced Zen monk on that flight. Far from it. I gained only 2.5 hours of sleep the night before and had a grinder of a headache churning through the right side of my skull. But I did find I wasn’t clenching my teeth every time the girl let out a yowl.

With that in mind, here are a few tips that might help you when you find yourself across the isle from miniature-human loudness.

1. Realize It’s All In Your Head

The only difference between me being upset at a loud child and not, were the voices in my head. These are the ones that usually tell me “What the hell??! Why won’t she be quiet?!” They are the ones that honestly care about the noise level of others. When I ignore or quiet these voices, that disgust goes away.

In this case, practice makes perfect. You’ve been conditioned to hate loud noises. There are enough complaints about crying babies on airplanes plastering the Internet to make you believe you have only one way to react; to be outraged. But you don’t have to. You can react any way you like. Practice realizing that it’s only temporary and it will stop, eventually.

This is the single most important thing you can do; change your own reaction to the stimulus. You can’t make the kid be quiet any more than the parents are trying to (if they are and most sane parents don’t want their kids to be in any type of pain, comforting as needed). You likely can’t move too far away. You can’t leave. So change what you can and look at your reaction. Is the way you are reacting necessary and the only way you can react?  You might have other crap going on, like a headache, and the yelling is one more thing. But realize it is just that; one more thing. It’s not the only thing.

2. Put It In Perspective

Is the kid six inches from your ear? No? Then, while they may be loud, chances are they are not actually causing you pain, but discomfort. There’s a big difference between the two when you stop to think about it. Pain has to be stopped, typically. Discomfort can be endured until it ends, with the right mindset. As above, know that it will not last forever and find other things to focus on, like the annoying ‘simple’ sudoku puzzles in the in-flight magazine.

3. Noise Canceling Headphones Can Help

“$300!” I exclaimed when I first checked out Bose noise canceling headphones a decade ago. It seemed like highway robbery for something that was suspect. You test the headphones in their controlled environment at the store and it sure seems like they work. But what about on a plane?

Again, unless that kid is six inches from your head (ok, let’s extend it to two feet), the headphones do help. They don’t make everything silent but they will help with one aspect you might not have noticed: engine noise. That’s their specialty and you likely also don’t notice how much it adds to your overall discomfort. The time we do notice it most is when the plane throttles back after ascent and things seem quite for a second. The headphone cut down on noise fatigue which is very real.

When that fatigue is reduced, dealing with a screaming child is a lot easier. It becomes one sound and not all sounds bombarding you.

Most of all, realize all these tips center on you and what you can do. That’s the part many of us don’t like, the fact that we have to change how we react instead of wishing the kid will just be quiet.


Do you have any more suggestions for adjusting to a screaming child on a plane? Share them below on the comments section, please, because we can all benefit!

Grab Yourself A Star Chart Before Your Next Trip


Before you head out on your next gallivanting journey into the unknown world outside your borders, or even if you are heading off on a road trip vacation, do you and your family a favor; buy a star chart.

A star chart is just as it sounds, a chart of the stars. They are often dialed in for a certain set degrees of latitude, such as the one I’m modeling at right. 40º-50º North is about all that chart is good for but it works any time of the year and you can even fudge a little if you made it down to 39º. As this unit is smaller, it travels quite well and was originally purchased in Grand Teton for a mere $5.50 (they are now $7.50 on Amazon for the small and $11 for the large).

Other star charts have wider ranges or are calibrated for the Southern sky. There are, of course, books upon books to buy, but what I like about this chart is that it is simple, lightweight and doesn’t require batteries. And it’s a great way to answer questions of the sky your kids ask.

Really into the app scene? Of course there are a ton of night sky star charts and I’ll readily admit they are awesome looking and packed full of useful info. Check out this very handy iPhone app comparison chart before making a purchase. Have a Droid? Google has you covered with Google Sky Map (beta….of course).

Any way you do it, be sure to grab a handy map of the night sky. It’s sure to spark up conversation anywhere you go.

For Kids Only: 5 Reason You Will Want To Travel To Distant Countries And 3 Tips To Trick Your Parents Into Taking You For Free – No Parents Allowed


Ok, Parents (and I say that with all respect, note the capital P) it’s time to hand the iPad/Laptop/Computer screen over to your kids for a bit. This post isn’t for you, it’s for them.

Pssst, Kids. Are your parents gone? Look behind you, again.  We’re safe?

Ok then.

Travel is an absolute blast, especially to foreign countries. Really! Check out these reasons why:

Free Travel!!!

This one might not seem cool right now but just wait until you are out on your own. Free travel is the BEST travel. I know, you might not always get to go where you want, so try working the “one for them, one for me” routine. Agree, ever so begrudgingly, to go to the museums of Paris while throwing in, at the last minute, “But next time, can we please visit Lego City in Amsterdam?” As you are kinda at their mercy, crafty negotiating is important to visiting sites you want to see. It’s a mix, though. You can’t always take the “I hate this” tack. You need to mix it up and maybe, just maybe, be really interested in something your parents are interested in. Getting along is a great way to get your way in travel. Just remember, if you want true travel freedom, you’ll have to pay for it. Get as much free travel in while you can.

Cool Money

In case you didn’t know, different countries have different money. And if you’re from the USA, just about every country out there has cooler looking money that we do. Just check out this example from Peru.

Bragging Rights

Let’s face facts; as much as I don’t want to admit it, you probably like to brag to your friends about being cooler in one way or another. If you’re not one of those kids, please have your parents give me a call, I want to know their secrets. But kids go through bragging phases and you’re no different, are you?  Well, let’s tick off the things you get to brag about by looking at a quick trip to Europe followed by how you would brag during a typical school day:

  • Homeroom – “Getting up at 5:30am is so much easier when you’re on Europe time.”
  • Algebra – “Can we go over some of the Diophantine equations this semester? I’ve been interested in them since visiting his Greek homeland.” (WARNING: this, as you can tell, is bordering on the verge of brownnosing. Use only in extreme circumstances, such as impending doom of getting detention.)
  • Science – “I already learned a lot about natural selection when I visited Down House, Darwin’s home and laboratory for 40 years.” (WARNING: Again, bordering on brownnosing but easily navigated back to ‘cool’ by showing pictures of carnivorous plants you saw there.)
  • Lunch – “They call these Dopple-Cheeseburgers in German McDonalds and they taste way better than this slop.” Even if your cafeteria hamburgers taste better, lie.
  • Post Lunch Break – “You ever been to the Red Light District in Amsterdam?”
  • Spanish Class – “Soy ciudadano de los Estados Unidos. No la cárcel, por favor.”
  • PE – “This track is not nearly as cool as the one I visited at Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, the site of the first modern Olympics”

As with any amount of bragging, you run the risk of people hating you. As with any amount of being a teenager, you run the risk of people hating you. You see the problem and the liberation here?

Meet New Friends

Chances are your friends here at home are fairly one or two dimensional. I mean, you might have all grown up together living pretty much the same life in the same area. New people come and go as their parents move into town or out, but on the whole, you’re all kinda the same. Travel will give you some cool new friends to augment the normal cast back home. You don’t have to drop your old friends, but you can make new ones as you go and stay in touch via the internet. And with new friends come new opportunities. Consider these:

  • 10 years from now, when you’re traveling on your own, these friends in distant places will likely give you a place to stay, saving money (see #1 above).
  • Friends in foreign lands can give you a different view of world events. If all you see is US news, you need another point of view.
  • Foreign friends can help you with language skills. Specifically, the type of language skills which will get you a date in a foreign country or with cute foreign exchange students at home.
  • Friends in Germany may let you drive their Porsche when you visit. This is not the ONLY reason to make friends in Germany (or Italy) but it should seriously be considered. You know there is no speed limit on the Autobahn, right?

Open Mind

Ok, I’m going to get all Uncle Peter on you for a minute. The cool Uncle Peter. The one who let you have some of his beer last 4th of July? Yeah, that’s me. I’m not your parents and I’m not going to tell what you have to and can’t do. I do know that having an open mind on topics, people, geology, ANYTHING will help you greatly as you move through school and eventually enter the world at large. The more you see of this country and others, the better adapted you will be to have fun, make money or do whatever else you want to in this world. The more languages you learn, the better you will be able to find your way and make friends. The more math you learn the better you can bargain and save money (read: travel longer).

But I’ll warn you; the more you learn about the world around you, the more you will want to explore it. You will, likely, not fit into the mold of 9-5 worker with 2.4 kids and a mortgage. The wonders found while traveling are like a drug and you must be careful. “Once you start down the Dark Path, forever will it dominate your destiny.” Listen to Yoda. The original Yoda, not the new Yoda that does flips and shit.

Things You Can Do To Trick Your Parents Into Traveling Your Way

Now that you want to start down the Dark Path, you will be best served by having your parents pay for your travel as long as possible. For some of you this means up to age 18. If you are lucky enough to get free travel past this point, MILK IT!

  1. Suggest to your parents that you’d like to skip going to Disneyland like all the other drones (make sure your friends are not in earshot at this point, especially if you want to go on THEIR trip to Disneyland because, face it, you’re still a drone too). Can your family spend a week in Mexico or Costa Rica staying with a family and taking a Spanish immersion class? This serves multiple goals: 1) Makes you look like you really want to learn. 2) Gets you better Spanish lessons than you’ll learn in school. 3) Increases the odds that you’ll learn to swear in Spanish when learning from others your age. 4) Much better chance of sampling good tequila in Mexico than in Detroit.
  2. Using the One For Them, One For Me method, suggest a number of museums you would like to see on your listed itinerary. Mask these as museums you’ll see “for them”.  See how we work this? Then you are free to pick your own highlight as well. Your parents are easily duped this way. Just make sure not to pick things like the Sex Museum, even if you really want to go. Your parents will see right through your game at this point.
  3. Download as many useful travel apps as you can to your iPhone/Droid/Whateveriscoolnow (Such as these, or these, or these, or these). Show them how you can help navigate, find cheap places to stay and save money. Parents, it seems, care about money and saving it. You need to play to this. Pick a spot you want to go and skew the numbers in your favor. Want to go skiing in the Alps? Find cheap eats in Switzerland and show them how expensive, by way of comparison, an African safari is.

That’s all I have for now, Kids. I wish you the best in duping your parents into taking you to as many far flung, exotic locations (compared to where you are now, everything is exotic) as you can before you have to pony up your own cash.  Good luck and may the Force be with you.

Are you a kid, or know of one, who has more tips for tricking parents into taking their kids traveling? Leave your suggestion in the comments section below.

Wait a second…..are you a parent??!?!?  GET OUT!!

Do what you love…..and share it with your child

Truck work“I LOVE offroad driving, Daddy!” These words, spoken by my then three year old daughter, were the sweetest thing I could hear at that moment. That moment was the first time we were turning off the pavement for a three day weekend of off-highway camping in central Washington State. My daughter had been on a couple of simple forest service roads before and she seemed to like it just fine. But this moment still had me nervous.

I already knew my wife at the time, Kim, enjoyed camping and adventuring off the main roads but would Sabrina, our daughter, take to it as well. My anxiety was heightened by the fact that I enjoy offroading, or 4x4ing, immensely and want to share it with my family, making the experience far more enjoyable than doing it alone. Plus I know from my own experiences as a child that the memories created doing things together as a family last a life time. But would Sabrina enjoy it? She already complained about spending a long amount of time in the truck and I worried bouncing and flopping around in the rear seat would push her over the edge. Would I be resigned, as some dads are, to hitting the trail alone to enjoy their passion when their family wasn’t willing to tag along?

All those worries vanished with the gleeful outburst from the backseat when our tires hit the dirt path. A broad grin lit across my face and I shot my wife a smile that amply conveyed the joy of knowing we were going to have a fun family weekend. This wasn’t going to be a “Daddy drug us across dirt roads for three days and made us sleep in a dirty tent,” type of trip. This was going to be enjoyable time together. A family adventure. Photographing the moonrise

I’ve thought back to that moment, and many more like it, as I’m now faced with quitting my current job as a senior systems administrator for an internet company downtown. I really like computers and working with them. It’s been a very enjoyable job and I have been compensated well for the past nine years. But I’m not doing what I’m really passionate about and I fell I’m teaching my daughter to do what she feels passionate about in life. Sure, at her current age six she’s passionate about playing and reading and watching movies. Activities not normally associated with a stable adult income. But now more than ever, it’s important for me to follow my own advice and start doing what I love. I received a mug from my Mom for Christmas with the Life is Good® logo on it and the phrase “Do what you like, like what you do”. I have recently mentally appended that with “and share it with your child”. (Yes, Mom, I’m blaming you for making me quit my stable day job :) )

Children learn from their parents. A LOT. More so than most ever realize. Sometimes you see it daily and sometimes it sneaks up on you with perhaps a phrase you didn’t even know was heard being repeated at the most inopportune moment. Your children are watching you and learning how to live, how to love and how to interact with the world around them. How you decide to live your life has a direct effect on how your child starts to view the world and what they do with their time on this planet.

It may seem obvious at first, but a lot of parents still don’t follow the simple example of including their children in what they love doing best. Granted, sometimes it is difficult to include them, but even having them along to watch as you do something beyond their current aptitude will create a sense of bonding and involvement.

Learning to rideKim and I decided early on we were going to include our daughter in as much activity as we could, especially since we have different hobbies and passions (and some overlap as well). Sabrina went on her first day hike with us when she was three months old. She went on her first plane flight when she was four months old, traveling all the way across the continent. Before her first year was over she had been overnight backpacking as well.

We’ve continued this pattern as much as possible as she has grown older, but it is not always easy. When she started walking, the hikes became much shorter and MUCH slower. At first this was annoying until we learned to slow down to her pace and not always focus on getting where we were going. Sometimes stopping and looking at a cool tree or leaf or bug with her provided more reward than simply getting to the beach or lake or what have you. She was also teaching us to stop and appreciate all that is around us. View the world with new eyes. It took me a while to learn this lesson and be happy where we were with her development. There will be time later when she will run ahead of me for a mile or more when she’s eight, or climb faster or take better pictures. So until those times come, I’m also learning to enjoy now for what it is, a gift.

It was three years in the making to get to that point many years ago when we tookOn a hike our first family off highway camping trip (with two dogs in tow as well). It has been three years since and she’s still trying new things, imitating her Mom and Dad. She practices yoga, baking and dancing with Kim. She helps me with work on the truck and literally climbs the walls in the house. She likes taking photographs as photography is a passion for both Kim and I. She’s been read to since before she was born and is now starting to read her own chapter books, well ahead of most in her class.

Getting children to this point takes a while but it is easier than you may think. This is due in part to the fact that children are huge knowledge sponges. They want to learn and for the most part, love it. They probably spend the bulk of their time around you and learning from you. To that end, here are some suggestions for cultivating the learning spirit in your child:

  • Include them. Even if it’s cleaning out the lint screen on the dryer.
  • Explain things you take for granted. Sure, you know how the lint got there, but she might not. Grasp situations as they arise and drop the unimportant things to help them learn.
  • Ask questions to learn what they know. Don’t just ask yes and no question, but instead ask, “Where do you think the lint came from? Why did it come from there?”
  • Learn together. While your child naturally thinks you know everything (at least for a few years), showing them how to find information is a lesson that lasts a life time.
  • Encourage them to ask questions. Make yourself available as much as you can be to answer questions and admit when you don’t know (see the last point about learning together).
  • Expose them to new experiences. Have a look through the ‘What’s Happening’ section of your newspaper and pick an activity you’ve both never done before. It’s a sure way to gain a lot of questions and you both end up learning something new.
  • Let they try. Most of us learn by trying and not watching. The old adage ‘Learn one, do one, teach one’ applies here as well. You can have them teach your spouse what they just learned, thus making it sink in deeper.
  • Let them fail. It’s sometimes the hardest thing for a parent to do, but kids need to fail sometimes to learn the most. Be there to show support and help if needed, but see what happens when things don’t go as planned. You may be surprised.
  • Read to them, every day. This one is so simple. Get them interested in characters and stories and plots and using their imagination. Show them the power of books and always make them available. Libraries are free, get your child acquainted with yours.

With encouragement and involvement, your child’s will to learn will grow as they do. Your direct invGrand Tetonsinvolvement is, I believe, the single largest contributor to how eager your child is to learn about the world around them and to engage it. Do your best not to miss an opportunity to help them grow. If this means changing your work schedule around to spend more time at home when they are around after school, then do it. Maybe heading into work an hour later so you can have a family breakfast on weekdays would work. I’m finding it’s not easy as we begin planning our finances with a period of uncertain income ahead of us. But little and big steps towards spending more quality family time together will be its own reward now and when your child is grown and moved away.

Taking A Break From School To Learn About The World

My daughter is asleep, cuddled in my arms, as we pass under the gate officially declaring our entry to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. I thought of waking her as this park, this ecosystem, these views are what we took more than six flights through four countries to see. But honestly, the start of the Park is rather plain. It’s the same dry, bumpy, monotonous road it was before the gate. Unlike entering a city, where a boundary can be the difference between rural settings and sudden civilization, the Serengeti becomes less exciting when you enter.

It’s not until we reach the first migrating herds in 20km that the excitement begins. I rouse Sabrina from her slumber when we pull to a stop next to a scattered herd of wildebeest and zebras. Some antelope are grazing here and there. She wakes quickly and is enthralled as we stare out the open windows of our Toyota Land Cruiser at the herbivores going about their grass munching ways. “Are we here, Dada?” she asks, pointing me to an adorable newborn antelope and mother. “Yes, honey, this is the Serengeti.” I listen to my own words, still trying to grasp the enormity of the land and our journey.

We are at the Southern tip of the park and heading north for four nights of camping on the hot, dusty savannah. It is March and most of the migration is already rounding towards the West side of the park. More than one and a half million wildebeest will soon lead the other herbivorous, following instinct, heading North into Kenya once the rains come.

I knew, as I planned this trip months earlier, we will not be experiencing the bulk of the herds in this location at this time of year. We will not witness the incredible crossing of the Mara River, when the herbivorous must battle the river and predatory crocodiles to reach rutting and calving grounds. The stuff seen in National Geographic videos. Even without that excitement, I knew back then that I wanted to have this moment, now, with my daughter. A foreign land. A foreign language and culture. And animals we had only seen sparsely in zoos back home, literally running free in the oldest circle of life our planet displays.

She is spending a month out of school for this trip. But I do not believe she fully understands the education she is receiving in the heart of Africa.

Sabrina’s First Snorkel In Mexico And Overcoming Fears

Sabrina on the step Sabrina was very excited to go snorkeling in Mexico last month.  I was happy too, because I was worried her swimming ability would hold her back.  (she’s comfortable in the water, but not solid confident yet)  We rode a catamaran out into the shallows around the Riviera Maya and dropped anchor.  I knew to take things slow, but I wasn’t quite ready for just HOW slow, until it was Sabrina’s turn to get in the water.

I wrote about the experience as a guest post for Shawn’s blog Backpacking Dad. “She is on the back step of the catamaran, snorkel in her mouth, dive mask on and life vest firmly strapped to her chest. But my eight year old daughter wouldn’t budge. This is one of the reasons we came to Mexico and she loves water as much as I do, regularly complaining when she has to get out of the tub, the pool or even a puddle. So why wouldn’t she just jump in?”  Read the rest and find out if my lack of patience manages to sabotage the whole endeavor.

Extend Your Holiday: Steal The Soap (Shampoo, Too!)

The Magic Drawer Of Cleansing

That’s right, I said it. Steal the soap. And the shampoo too. Personally, I usually draw the line at the little mending kits, though.  I have enough of those for now.

Ok, maybe it’s not stealing. They’ve got their name all over it so they must want you to remove it from the hotel and advertise elsewhere, like your bathroom. And the security line at the airport. But maybe it is stealing if you never had intent to use the stuff while on the premises and purposely hid the unused soap so they’d replenish it the next day and you would have two!! I know you’ve done it. Some of you even snatch extra from the housekeeping cart in the hall when they’re not looking. Criminals, all of you.

I come from a long line of hotel personal cleansing product hoarders. Hmmm. Not really hoarding because they always get used. My Dad traveled a lot for his job as I was growing up and the bottom drawer in the main bathroom was always full of little bottles and paper wrapped soap. I swear I learned how to spell Red Lion and Marriott before other words just from playing in that drawer.

The gene has been passed on. And just today I realized the real benefit in bringing those half used bottles home; it extends your vacation. That’s right. That little bottle holds a genie that just today transported me back to Dreams Tulum in Mexico, the sight of my last trip with my daughter. It was the smells.

Using the soap and shampoo in Mexico for a week blended the view of the Caribbean together with the warm breezes and calm waves at night into perfect sensory storage. One whiff of the shampoo this morning in the shower and I was back in that spacious bathroom, getting ready for another adventure on the beach, in the jungle, in a cave, atop ancient ruins. When the shower was over I stepped back into my Washington home with a smile on my face.

I’ll be stealing more shampoo next week in Hawaii. Just warning my hotel hosts to stock up, I want to bring back another genie in a bottle.

Note: Dreams Tulum hosted me for a press trip to the Riviera Maya. And I stole their soap. This makes me a special kind of evil. Just before we left, my daughter asked if she could take the mending kit. It was her first hotel mending kit. With a tear in my eye, I told her, “Don’t forget the shower cap, too.”

This Traveler’s Bookshelf Update

Since the beginning of the year I’ve added a few books to my bookshelf, mainly for travel.  Some have been useful and some I tried, unsuccessfully, to return.  Here’s a quick rundown:

51EbfusJTuL._SL160_ Wanderlust and Lipstick Traveling With Kids

Full disclosure – I have met one of the authors of this travel book, Michelle Duffy, and she’s even bought me a beer.  Does that mean I’ll automatically give the book a good review?  Heck no!  If the book stank I’d let her know, in kind terms.  But thankfully Michelle and her co-author Leslie Forsberg have done an excellent job with a subject I’m just now starting to explore more thoroughly. While I have traveled with my daughter to the East Coast on family trips many, many time, our recent trip to Africa was the first real big test of my parent traveling capabilities.  I found their resource very useful in considering all my daughter’s needs during the trip and I love that they have ample web references throughout the book.  I also like the “Hot Tips!” notes but sometimes they get a bit too numerous on the page, but only once in a while.  Michelle is currently planning a trip around the world with her family so I know she’ll have some great updates for this book in the future. 

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon – A Climbing Guide

If you’re into rock climbing and plan on heading down to Red Rock Canyon in Nevada, this is a great guide.  It’s thick (heavy) and packed with hundreds of routes as a good guide book should.  I took this on a recent trip to the canyon and noticed there was obvious discrepancy with other guide books in the group, but all in all I was happy with the info.  I do wish there were a few more diagrams of certain areas (like Hall Of Fame Wall) and the topo maps to some walls could use vast improvements.  Take a look through the guide and compare for specific areas you may wish to climb as other guide books may have more detailed information if they concentrate on a smaller area.  Black Corridor was also missing a number of newer route in this book.  All in all, it’s a resource I’ll keep.  While there is a Kindle version available for much less, I prefer to have the paper guide book to be able to make easy notes, especially in regards to new routes.

Culture Smart Culture Smart! – Morocco

Before heading to Morocco I thought it’d be a good idea to get a bit more information on not making a complete ass of myself.  If you already are in the know on the location you’re visiting, the Culture Smart series probably isn’t for you.  But if you need a quick hit of how to respectfully travel through a location, they offer a good start to different cultures.  In my case it helped me prepare my daughter for some of what we might expect and eat while in the country.  It’s small enough to take with you and read on the plane on the way over.

Rough Guide A Rough Guide To Morocco & A Rough Guide To Tanzania

I wasn’t happy with the Rough Guide to Morocco or Tanzania as compared to the Lonely Planet versions. I was traveling to both of these countries with a friend who had purchased the LP versions and I found the information in them, especially the cost information, to be superior.  I often looked over at her copies when trying to plan where to stay as cost was an issue on this trip.  In the end I left the guide books at home and borrowed a copy of the Lonely Planet Tanzania book before leaving to help in planning.  I had never tried out the Rough Guide books before and wasn’t happy with this first purchase (and even less happy that Borders has a 30 day return policy making it too late for me to return the book when I came home, my mistake).

Travellers Tanzania & Zanzibar

This book is another quick overview of the mentioned locations.  I liked it for the color photos and maps but it was a bit light on broad suggestions.  It had good background information that was easily digestible and sharable with my daughter.  It now sits on my bookshelf waiting for my next trip to the country as I’d like to visit Zanzibar in the future.

And those are the most recent additions.  I will be selling the Rough Guides if you’re interested.  Otherwise, I find good utility in the other books and they have found happy places on my bookshelf.

I Forgot To Tell My Daughter There Will Be Cats In Morocco

Planning a trip with my daughter in mind always changes my perspective before a trip.  And that is the case with the upcoming trip to Africa as part of the People, Places and Patterns Project (http://pppproject.com).  This project actually branched off the original plan for my daughter and I to travel to Africa because she finally had enough frequent flyer miles.  And we’ll be visiting my pediatrician cousin in Tanzania for part of the trip.  These two facts made it easy for me to decide to go.

But what about getting my daughter excited to go?  If you are a parent out there reading this, I’m sure you are familiar with the difference between kids who WANT to go on a trip and kids who feel they HAVE to go on a trip.  The difference can be huge for everyone’s enjoyment of the experience.  Different kids are different (duh) and some need no coaxing.  Those kids roll with the punches well.  My daughter is that way most of the time, but I know she also likes to have some knowledge before hand.

For Africa it is easy to get her excited about Kenya and Tanzania.  “Wildlife Safari” is about all I had to say.  We’ve watched some videos on the Serengeti and she already knows which animals she’d like to see.  But Morocco and Spain are different stories.  And that’s where the title of this post comes in.  I’d like to see more of the culture, markets and history, not all things she’s excited about (except the markets).  Lucky for me, my friend Charyn sent me this link to a Matador post with a short video on Morocco.

The video contains a number of short street scenes of every day life in various parts of Morocco.  I thought it’d be good for Sabrina to get an idea of things she might be seeing.  And then we saw the cats.  Cats!  She loves animals and especially the cute, furry kind.  Not just one shot of a cat but there are two distinct shots with cats.  It had never occurred to me to point out the common place bits of life that are the thousands of miles from home.  Seeing those cats kept her engaged and interested in the rest of the video, short as it may be.

That video now has me looking for more instances of her everyday life here that we may experience over there.  Some the same, some vastly different.  But in all cases, I believe the more she sees these things (without flooding her with too much), the more comfortable she’ll be about traveling 9,000 miles from home for a month.

Knowing that I don’t know everything (no, really! :) )I’m wondering what the Moms and Dads reading this do when preparing their child(ren) for a long trip abroad?  Or any trip, for that matter.  Have you found one form of introducing the foreign culture and landscape better for your children than another?  Is there something they wish they had known before they left?

Balancing Passion, Risk, Solitude and Family

Back before I got married and had a child, life seemed so simple.  I was young, but not particularly reckless.  I took chances, I drove too fast often and pushed my limits until one day I skidded off the road and into someone’s lawn doing 50MPH on a 25MPH corner.  I think most of us went through phases like that, it’s part of growing up and learning about life.

I got into rock climbing and then mountaineering for a stint, scaring myself in the high places of the Cascade peaks of Washington State.  It was actually during these trip that I started learning a bit more about responsibility.  I wasn’t some adrenaline freak, always looking for a high.  But I did think of only myself a lot.  That ends pretty quick if you have any living cells in your brain when you take up mountaineering.  There are others on the rope and you are a team in every sense of the word.  If you screw up, others can be put in danger.

I distinctly remember coming down from Mt. Rainier one time, roped to someone I had never climbed with, due to circumstances.  He didn’t seem to have the required spatial sense that helps keep old climbers alive in the hills for decades on end.  That sense of space, time, place and fear (the good kind of fear which keeps you alive by activating your Spidey Senses).  I had been blessed to climb with others who seemed to ‘get it'; what it meant to be such a small speck on a huge chunk of rock with only a slight delusion that you had some semblance of control over events.  This guy didn’t have that.  This guy stopped to take a picture.  I looked back as the rope came taunt to see him with his camera out, looking uphill.  It’s 2pm and the sun has been up for hours warming the glacier we’re crossing.  And he’s standing on top of a small snow bridge over a crevasse.  Oblivious.

I try my best to not be that guy.  The guy oblivious to the danger he’s putting himself and others in.  The guy who gets yelled at to, “MOVE, NOW!” while being pulled forward by his tethered rope.  ( I apologized for my tone, but not my urgency, once we were safer)

Fast forward a few years to my daughter being born.  And things change.  For a while.  At one point I become the sole bread winner in the home and take manly man pride in providing for my family.  Sure, I don’t climb any more, in a gym or otherwise.  But I took a look at all that was around me and realized I want to be where I am, relatively safe.  The best father in the world for my daughter is me and I owe it to her to be around to pass on what I’ve learned.  To pass on my love for her and help her grow up happy and healthy.

Fast forward a bit further.  Separation and then divorce means my daughter is not in my physical world every day and we all get used to a new rhythm.  Making the best of the situation in front of me, and with more time by myself, I adapt.  With the bi-weekly bout of solitude I return to activities I engaged in before marriage (while acknowledging it was not marriage which caused me to back off those activities, but instead a decided refocus in life priorities).  And climbing calls to me the loudest.

I’m starting over with only one new climbing partner.  Then two and three and more.  Safe stuff in the gym.  The weather turns to Fall and any ideas I had of hitting local rock outside fades.

And then someone, a local climbing guide named Matt, puts the bug in my ear.  He’s going back to Nepal in April to trek and climb a peak.  At first I’m not too interested but then he mentions it’s something I could climb.  A hit up Google and find an awesome post highlighting the route up this peak just 30 feet short of Denali, the highest peak in North America.  But I’ll need to learn how to ice climb for the 10 or so pitches of AI1 ice (about 60 degree ice for 1000’+).

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this climb.  At first I was all gung-ho.  It was a challenge in the environment I love most; mountains.  It was remote and I’d be in good hands.  But it will be the hardest climb I’ve ever been on, far from modern aid.  There is real risk.  So why the hell am I doing it?  Am I just being selfish again?  My daughter would still be better off having a living father than one left on a mountain in Nepal.

For me, it comes down to the balance.  I have found as my daughter gets older and more capable of doing things herself, I step back more and more.  I’m still very involved in her life but that natural progression is taking place, the one where parents are replaced with a growing ring of friends and sense of an individual self.  Her world is expanding and I’m thankful for that.  I’m pretty sure this feeling I have now is different for Moms than Dads.  We obviously handle our relationships with children differently and I’m only attempting to explain a bit of what I’m feeling, not every parents’ feelings.

With this easing of a feeling to hover and watch every moment (while still feeling the deep down urge to always provide for her), one that slammed into me like a Mack truck the moment she was born and I first held her while singing Little Miss Magic by Jimmy Buffett, has come a void.  I’m curious to know if other Dads have felt this same thing around the 8 year old stage.  It’s not a bad kinda void.  It’s just that I’m not needed by her the same as when she was 3 (duh).  And for me that gradual, natural separation that grows with children as they find their own selves in this world, while knowing they have a solid safety net in their parents, has led to a gradual easing of my risk profile.

I’d classify this climb in the moderate to low risk category, while acknowledging that all climbing contains risk (and driving and running and and and…).  I have no desire to venture up Mt. Everest just 20 miles from where I’ll be climbing.  That type of stuff never has appealed to me.  I don’t like crowds, for one thing.  But I am learning to balance my passion to push myself to find limits within and without, with my awesome privileges of being a Dad.  Having my daughter in my life has surely changed how I look at risk, value solitude, follow my passions and  approach being  a Dad.

If you’re a Dad, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you may, or may not, have changed your views on risks as your child(ren) aged.  I’m not looking for agreement or a rebuttal, I just want to hear your point of view.

Mother’s Day Sale At Hidden Creek Photo

278231731_Y8UiV-S Starting today and lasting until Mother’s Day, Hidden Creek Photography is offering 30% off all print and merchandise purchases!  Prices on the site already reflect the 30% discount (this does not apply to wedding or event photographs, sorry).  Just follow this link to start shopping! http://www.hiddencreekphoto.com

Inventory will be increasing throughout the summer, so be sure to check back often.  And please feel free to forward this email to anyone who may be interested.

If the exact image you have in mind can’t be found on the site, just reply to this message and let me know what you’re interested in.  Chances are I can find it “in the store room” as not all my inventory is currently online.

Thank you and I wish all Mothers a wonderful day today and every day!

Is Your Kid a WebRanger?

bannerThe new National Parks Service Webranger website is seriously cool.  If you’re not sure what a Webranger is and if it’s legal in this country, let me explain; the National Parks Service has a program for kids at most of the popular National Parks called Junior Rangers.  It’s a neat program, well thought out and presented, that engages kids usually between the ages of 6 and 14.  Activities are specific to the park the program is in and usually take 2-4 hours for child to complete, sometimes with help of their parents and always with the help of a Park Ranger at some point.

So how does the Park Service translate this type of program to the Internet?  Easy!  Give kids the same type of task and some structure.  The Main screen for the site is a ranger’s desk.  From there children can pick a type of activity, with different levels of easy, medium and hard.  Once 15 of any level are completed, a special medallion is awarded and you’re encouraged to try the next level.   When all levels are complete, you are awarded the certificate to be a Webranger.

The activities mimic the real world program.  There are a number of easy activities like identifying animals, tracks, etc..  As well as a number of reading comprehension tasks.  Some games are included to keep things interesting while still teaching a bit of how and why parks are the way they are, such as placing forts to protect American bays.   Each task has a badge associated with it and you are given one big vest for them all to fit on.  As the tasks are completed the badges light up giving you a sense of how you have to go.

It’s really a great program full of learning opportunities for the right age group.  If you’re not able to hit the Parks as often as you’d like, this site can go a ways towards piquing your child’s interest in the Parks while you plan your next trip!

If your interested in receiving daily emails with outstanding pictures from our National Parks, click on the link here to subscribe to Focus of the Day’s National Parks update service.