Preview: Labyrinths

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At one of the church groups I attend, we rotate among members’ churches. The most recent one was this past June, and I was delightfully surprised to see a labyrinth in their courtyard. I didn’t walk among it; I simply admired it from afar and took a few photos.

While planning my family’s vacation to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I tried to find a shrine or a religious destination that I could take some time for myself to meditate and pray. I really enjoyed the spiritual time that I had in Ireland, and I would like to…not replicate it, but have that become a tradition on my travels. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that spoke to me. I did however, find a public labyrinth in a park as well as about half a dozen more in the surrounding area of Toronto.

I began to think about how I wanted to approach it, and before I knew it, I was doing research into labyrinths as part of religion, as part of spirituality, as part of history, and discovered to my wonder that we have several within easy driving distance.

I’ve been taking notes and taking pictures, and it may turn into some kind of a book in the future. In the meantime, this is the first labyrinth that caught my eye, and I’m sure that I’ll share more in the coming weeks.

Enjoy the last week of official summer.

Travel – Know Before You Go

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​It may be the aspect of traveling with children, but I have always found that planning for a vacation is practically a full time job, and if you already have a full time job, whether that’s out of the house or in the house, it’s even worse. I have also found that it doesn’t matter if the vacation is a weekend, a long weekend, or a week long holiday. It still takes the same amount of work for the preparation of a short time away or a long rest.

Some items may seem obvious, but we’ve all gotten halfway to our destination and wondered about leaving the stove on, and that thought continues over the entire course of the vacation regardless of how many times we absolutely, positively know that we turned off the oven. One way my family avoids this is that we get our coffee and morning drinks out of the house. NO COOKING! No oven, no stove top, no toaster, no coffee maker. No argument.

Our last three vacations have been to foreign countries (twice to Canada and once to the United Kingdom) and those take on slightly more planning prior to leaving. I’m including those details to eliminate missing items. As you read this (and other writings that I have on traveling), you’ll weed out what you don’t need or will not use, and hopefully you’ll comment on things that you did need that I haven’t included. I love the community we have here online so we can collaborate and advise each other. We are in a wonderful time, and we should embrace to positive aspects of it. This networking and sharing is one of those positive things.

We have three children and the youngest are teenagers. While they are certainly [th] more independent [th] and actually better able to help with packing than they were during their elementary years and younger, it is almost more work to get them ready for a vacation. They never think they need as much as we parents think they’ll need…like underwear and socks. Some people do laundry on vacation; I do not. I prefer my vacations to be vacations.

Where to start?

1. The first thing is to use timers for lights so they go on. Many of them can be set to go on and off randomly. Another option is to set one to turn one off in one room and then turn the light on in another room, so you’re showing movement as well as the lights aren’t in a set pattern.

2. Hold your mail. Do not let your mail pile up on your front porch or in the mailbox. You could have your neighbor collect it for you or you can go to your local post office or set it up online to stop your mail until you return. They will deliver it on the day you request. Go to usps.com, click on Quick Tools, and then click Hold Mail.

3. Same for your newspaper delivery.

4. Unplug your toaster oven and your other electronics that aren’t quite off when they’re “off”. Some of those items are computers, wifi routers, remote control televisions (who doesn’t have these?), chargers that are not being used. Mentally walk through your house and figure out which plugs need to be unplugged.

5. Set your thermostat higher. We usually set it for 79/80F in the summer and lower it to 65F in the winter.

6. Do you have pets? Will they be coming with you? Will you be kennelling them?

7. I go to Starbucks on a regular basis, and have their card. Will I be able to use it in Canada? I couldn’t use it in the UK, so I left it home. A small thing, but I still need to find out.

8. Will you be driving? Even in the UK, we rented a car and drove. Will we be using the rental company’s insurance or your own? We couldn’t use our own in the UK, but we can use it driving in Canada, including using a rental car. However, we did need a special insurance identification card for use in Canada (Canada Non-Resident Inter-Province Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card). This can be obtained from your insurance company.
9. Cell phone service. The last time we went to Canada (2015), we were in Niagara Falls and for the most part, our phone calls and texts bounced off the Buffalo cell towers so we didn’t pay roaming charges. Now, for the most part, roaming charges don’t exist in North America; at least with Verizon Wireless, Canada and Mexico are included in our regular wireless plan, so no roaming, no long distance, no fees. Check with your carrier.

10. Call your bank about using your credit and debit cards. You will be able to use them, but you’ll have to notify most banks so they don’t flag your cards as stolen. This is important even if you don’t leave the country. If you live in New York, and you’re visiting San Francisco, your card will be flagged and if it’s the weekend it will take time to sort out. There may also be usage fees. Again, check with your bank.

11. Currency Exchanges can be done at airports, most large banks, and AAA offices. Often, however, they need to be ordered and will take a few days to receive. There are more than likely fees.

Summer Scavenger Hunt

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​One of the things the past seven years of Gishing has taught me is that there are many ways to interpret something. It’s allowed me to rethink my concept of the scavenger hunt for one thing. Rather than collect things only to get rid of them at the end, I’ve really incorporated [th] the idea of re-purposing, finding and documenting, and being a force for good, whether that’s as a Good Samaritan, doing good deeds, or making the world better through my time, talent, and treasure, abd of course through civic responsibility. All of those things will be different depending on the hunter’s perspective.

I’m planning a mini Scavenger hunt for my kids for our upcoming vacation. This is not an easy task as they are somewhat spread out in age: 13, 14, and 22, as well as personality and tolerance for this sort of thing.

Some items will be for collection, although not many. Most will be photos or videos. I’ll share our specific ones when we return.

In the meantime, here are a few things you can add to your own scavenger hunt item list:

  1. On the first day, journal/draw: What are you most looking forward to?
  2. Draw something from your first day; then turn the paper over and draw something from your last day.
  3. Find a street sign with your name on it.
  4. Find a roundabout.
  5. Find a cow crossing sign. Bonus points for a photo of a cow and a cow crossing sign together in the same picture.
  6. Journal My Favorite Thing Thus Far (do this on or after the third day)
  7. Photograph or Draw (or both) a tower.
  8. If you are in a foreign country, try something different on the menu of a popular fast food restaurant (ie. McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks, etc.)
  9. If you are in a different state, try some local food. Write about the experience.
  10. Write down the date/time/town and take a photo or draw the following: Horse, Cow, Sheep, Moose, Beaver, Goose, Bridge, Flower, Water (river, waterfall, stream, etc)
  11. Pick a random day – Count the change in your pocket/purse.
  12. Nap Time – What did you dream about? Journal.
  13. Find a raccoon.
  14. Eat some poutine. Write about the experience.
  15. Find a waterfall.
  16. Take a picture of hockey equipment.
  17. Find and photograph a maple leaf
  18. On the last day, journal/draw: Did it (the first item listed) meet your expectations? If not, what surprised you?

Travel Essentials

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It’s summer vacation for many, and many of those go on actual vacations. I can’t be the only one who overpacks. I know I’m not. I’m certain that we will continue to overpack, and maybe this list will help you identify what some of your essentials are. If your essentials are different than mine, please share them in the comments.

  1. Surge protector – bringing the chargers go without saying.
  2. Ear phones – I prefer wireless.
  3. An extra Tote bag – I use this for quick hotel room clean-up, pamphlet collection, newspapers, ticket stubs, that sort of thing that’s not garbage, but you’re not sure what to do with it.
  4. Nightlight and a flashlight
  5. Sunglasses and sunscreen – regardless of the season, winter or summer, these will come in handy..
  6. 3 prong adapter
  7. Water bottle – bring it empty and fill it in after security. Stay hydrated.
  8. Lightweight Sweater – again, like number 5, this is a good thing to carry with you regardless of the season. In winter it’s a great extra layer, and in the summer, it will protect you from the air conditioning.
  9. Always carry an umbrella. Or leave it in your rental car. But keep it nearby. It will almost guarantee clear weather.
  10. KIndle or other E-reader to pass the travel time.

Check out these two links for other travel essentials:

Luvvie’s Travel Essentials
In-Flight Essentials

Packing for a Trip Around the World…Or Around the…Town?

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Author, Matthew Goodman was asked by Random House in the interview about his book, Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World:

RHRC: Nellie Bly carried only a single handbag [KB: carpetbag, not handbag at least not by today’s definition  – think Mary Poppins] for her trip around the world. How would you pack for such a trip? What would you consider the essentials to be brought along?

As a prompt, I posed the following question and promised an answer by July 10th: 

How would you answer the question?

I apologize for missing my self-imposed (but  publicly shared) deadline of July 10th by five days. In actuality, on July 10th, I was unpacking from a quick overnight for my niece’s graduation and then repacking for a retreat weekend that I am was enjoying this past weekend. However, here is my answer to Random House’s question of Mr. Goodman:

Using modern standards, I’d take a carry-on size suitcase with wheels that turn in all directions. I think the carry-on size is about the same as Nellie Bly’s carpetbag.

I would also need some kind of a small day bag or pocketbook with a crossbody strap to keep on my person with money and documents as well as my cell phone.

Nelli Bly didn’t just jump on a steamer and go. While she may not have needed a passport or visa or vaccinations, she and her team gave her an itinerary. It was not exactly spontaneous.

My carry-on suitcase is already an advantage over Nellie’s soft-sided carpetbag. It glides easily on its four roller blade wheels and because of that, I cn make it heavier than I might if it was in a carrying bag. However, since I’d still need ot lift it over curbs and into overhead bins, its weight needs to be reasonable; on the lower end even, especially if I want to buy things abroad. I’m partial to scarves, pins, and postcards, which are quite small and take up little space, but preparation is everything for any size journey, big or small, long or short.

I’ve also planned this excursion based on unlimited fund, meaning that I’ll have access to some kind of communication device, smartphone or satellite, whichever proves most reliable. Internet access for information, Instagramming, and blogging, and writing, of course, in journals or as notes for my book. There’s always a book. My smartphone will have maps and itinerary confirmations, emergency contacts (backed up with paper copies), and whatever modern world information and resources are necessary.

What are my essentials to pack?

How long will I be away? Will I need to dress up? Are there any cultural dress codes that I need to be aware of? Is there anything I should avoid wearing?

Let’s assume, instead of Nellie’s three months, I’ll travel for three weeks using a combination of plane, train, and public transportation. Since I don’t believe in disposable clothes, I’ll have to account for washing. Most hotels and hostels have washing facilities, and since this is 2019, I can buy washing supplies as I go, and if they’re too cumbersome to carry, I can leave them in the public space for the next person. I can also wear some items of clothing more than once between washings, but I will need a bag to keep the dirty laundry in while also keeping it away from the clean. I don’t normally go in for shoe bags, but if I have more than one pair of shoes to travel with, they will need a clean space to be packed in, so I’ll need one shoe bag per pair of shoes: dress shoes and sandals if needed; I’ll wear my sneakers daily (just like I do every day when I’m home).

I think four or five days worth of clothes that can be mixed and matched and swapped out to create other different looking outfits. I’d bring about seven days of underwear and socks. For me, two bras would be enough plus one to wear. This of course, depends on how hot it gets. It may just necessitate more frequent washing. Layers are essential: cotton t-shirt, 3/4 or long sleeve overshirt, lightweight cardigan sweater, and a foldable jacket if needed. This can remain in the front pocket of the carry-on for when it’s needed. When we went to Ireland in 2017, my daughter packed all shorts since it was August despite my telling her it would not be the same 90 degree temperature it was in our home state. She was freezing when the rain came down and the wind blew. My advice: check out the average temperature and weather expectations of anywhere you’re planning on traveling to.

For toiletries, the simpler, the better: Deodorant, q-tips, hairbrush (if I don’t bring it for my short short hair, I will need it desperately, and it doesn’t take up that much space), feminine hygiene products, hand lotion, Tylenol, and of course, my medications – enough for the entire trip (with copies of my prescriptions in my travel document case).

Chargers for all of my electronics, including investing in a solar charger just in case I’m in a place that has no electricity. I wouldn’t be planning on it, but you never know. I’d also have international converters/adapters. My essential electronics include my smartphone, Kindle Fire, wireless earphones, camera. My essential non-electronics include a journal and supply of pens as well as my sketchbook and mechanical pencil. I don’t think I’d carry my colored pencils. I’ve found that when I’ve brought them, they sit in the bag. I can sketch without them and write down the colors to use later on, kind of like a paint by number.

Definitely umbrella and sunglasses. A neck pillow (if there’s room enough) and an eye mask for sleeping on the train. I like to bring my own tea. Obviously some countries do tea extremely well (United Kingdom, Ireland, India, China), but for those other destinations and train station cafeterias, I prefer my own. I also like to have a scarf with me. It’s good for dressing up an outfit, covering a stain, rolling up as a pillow, and curling up under as a blanket if it’s too cold as all transports tend to be.

As I come to the end, I feel as though I’ve forgotten something. I must have forgotten something. Please remind me in the comments of what I have forgotten or what you’d bring in place of my listings or in addition to – I’d love to update my plans!