Posts Tagged With: Brene Brown

The World’s Simplest Scavenger Hunt: Gratitude & Inspiration

Sometimes future blog content clings to me like Saran Wrap until I acknowledge it. Often it sneaks up on me, manifesting in unexpected but repeated ways. Today began with mindless Facebook drifting, after very intense MLS searching, driving a cursor around Dundas in mad circles, wishing and willing a century home with a price tage under half a million to appear.

Kerri Minns, who I arm wrestled for the title of G Adventures Coolest Adventure Travel Intern in 2010 (she won, and talentedly so) often posts engaging and idea-erupting updates and links on her very articulate Facebook page. Sometimes they are Instamatic sugary donuts portraits, or just smartly snapped pictures of an open newspaper. Today she reposted this quote (source unknown): “In order to lead a fascinating life–one brimming with art, music, intrigue and romance–you must surround yourself with precisely those things.”


And, for a reliable creative boost and further inspiration injection, there’s always been Brene Brown and her WholeHearted Living manifesto that serves as verbal Red Bull. She is best known for embracing imperfection and saluting vulnerability. Brown’s site is dense with ideas, and her thoughts today fuelled my run through the breezy, fertilized and newly mulched suburban streets.

Brown’s post was simple, a “play list” of all that she was grateful and inspired by today from the likes of cilantro Thai grilled chicken to Willie Nelson’s latest album Heroes. And, with much credit to her, I am piggy-backing on her post.

Today I’m feeling very grateful for and inspired by:

1. Long Way Down. A few months ago I read Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman’s Long Way Round (2004), chronicling their enduro 20,000 mile ride across 12 countries on tripped-out BMW bikes. This time the macho boys are riding from Scotland to Capetown, South Africa. During my reading epidemic yesterday, I didn’t budge from my lounger until they crossed the Libyan border en route to lunch in Alexandria. Reading their impressions of the oppressive heat, obnoxious traffic and wayward camel crossings brought the carefully preserved memories of our  time in Egypt to the forefront.  The books we brag about are always the ones that successfully take us elsewhere, inward, backward, or to that high-security place in our mind’s matrix.

2. Offloading. Last week, Kim and I were on a “working holiday” in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. We were dutifully helping her parents move into an envy-inducing tony condo space (granite, stainless steel, oh my!) from their idyllic ranch of 30 years, complete with resident foxes in the woods just yonder. I’ve moved my parents once (after nearly 30 years in one house), and several friends (several times). After this recent move, Kim, Scott, Lynne (her siblings) and I came to an agreement. From now on, we are only allowed to collect our thoughts. Kim and I are known minimalists, and still, after seeing how 30 years of living can so easily escalate and accumulate, I couldn’t wait to come home and offload anything remotely unnecessary. My urban space is around 800 square feet, and after moving back and forth across Canada and sojourning to Africa twice, my cardboard box count has continued to dwindle. If something doesn’t have a story or a purpose, I am repurposing it (ie. how many martini glasses does one really need?). In the end, we are only left with our thoughts, anyway. Hopefully.

3. Banana Bread beer and a pale ale made with pinapple juice? I pick up hard copies of The Grid, NOW, City Bites, Food & Drink and Toronto Life for serious ongoing inspired eating research purposes. And, as an already avid thought collector (as witnessed on this blog–three years of blathering thoughts-strong), I like to keep these scavenged places documented in one coveted master list, mapping out all that I need to drink and eat in the city. A Gut Positioning System, if you will. It’s my version of a Five Year Plan.  I had read about the UK Wells Banana Bread beer somewhere in my reading travels and sourced it out at the RBC LCBO on Front. And in bonus beer news, Kim and I discovered Spearhead’s Hawaiian Pale Ale, brewed with pineapple juice at La Mexicana on Yonge. Tomorrow I plan to eat a Hrvati burg to support Toronto’s $5 Burger Week (Ontario beef, smoked mozza and caramelized onions on a Croatian steamed bun). It’s good to have goals. Even Burgers-To-Eat goals.

4. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Whether we are reading about or watching the intricacies, demise or foibles of other lives, it helps frame our own world in a gentle, fluid way. The trailer for this Judi Dench and Bill Nighy flick sucked me in months ago. Like the media approach of Never Let Me Go and Limitless promised, such movies are the scaffolding of coffee shop and bar stool conversations. Not total blockbusters, maybe, but, they force-feed troubled thinking and lend to mind-wandering through internal emotional forests days after. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a genuine and amusing look at an eclectic group of souls struggling to embrace their autumn years in India. The maelstrom of thoughts hummed louder than the handfuls of buttered popcorn being ingested as I watched it.  Could we? Would we? India, no. Never say never, but, no, never. But, where would we want to spend our golden years? I love how movies generate thoughts and engage constant plotting of our own life’s script.

5. Not climbing Everest. I’ve read several disturbing accounts of Canadian Shriya Shah-Klorfine’s death this week. I think many Twitter followers were appalled to learn via rabid feeds from recent climbers like Sandra Leduc (@sandraclimbing) of the number of dead bodies dotting the path to the summit, transforming the peak into a surreal high altitude morgue. Of the 3,000 climbers who have attempted to conquer the mammoth, over 200 have died. Due to the tangible danger and expense of removing the bodies, many remain exactly where they have last fallen. When I read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air a dozen years ago, I found great inspiration in the bull-headed determination and unstoppable emotional force of those who needed to climb the mountain. But, I also found peace in knowing that I wasn’t hard-wired for that experience. I could live very happily without that pull and overwhelming need to summit.

6. Emily Haines! I know I’m late to catch on to her after her storied history with Broken Social Scene and Metric, but, after watching Daydream Nation, I found myself listening harder to the soundtrack strains than the actors dialogue. Does anyone remember Aussie folkies Frente? Their cover of Bizarre Love Triangle? Labor of Love? Very vocally reminiscent.  Another Australian darling is also on my  LOVE-wanna-hear-more radar: Trysette. When I was in Entebbe, Uganda, I drank many bottles of red wine with Trysette’s sister Merryde at the Gately Inn. Silky Fingers is often on repeat at my place, much to the chagrin of my upstairs tenant (payback for her Yo Yo Ma and sugar pop music interference).

7. Petting some dogs along my way. I met and had a heavy pet with “Pearl” yesterday. She lives just around the corner and is the most adorable (x 1,000) beagle, ever. Petting random dogs is just all around good.

See? It’s everywhere. The world’s simplest scavenger hunt, really. From banana bread beer to wagging dogs.

Inspiration and gratitude–where are you finding yours today?

Categories: Eat This, Sip That, Flicks and Muzak, Polyblogs in a Jar | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Task Uncommitted

In case you are just tuning in: I’m taking a travel writing course through Matador U, a new media school for writers, photographers and filmmakers. This week’s assignment zoomed in on social media platforms and our connections to them. We were asked to find and critique five blogs in a geographical area of interest to us. What appeals? Visuals? Design? Content? Navigability? How would we make the blog better?

After this comb over, we were asked to check the Alexa rating of each, which is a web information system that identifies internet traffic stats and metrics. The site where you can find out that .000043 of global internet users visit your blog. Wow!

The final task involved setting up a Twitter account and an additional profile on another platform such as Stumbleupon, Digg or Reddit (insert groan and nauseating feeling of hypertonic trapezius muscles here).


Five Blogs

Having just pounced upon sell-off flights to Belize for February, investigating blogs with a bull’s eye on manatees, quetzels, cashew wine, Ambergris and Caye Caulker seemed obvious. Finding five Belize blogs wasn’t an issue. Google matches revealed a strong presence of blogging expats, some even hawking promotional blog fan t-shirts and hats. However, the format, granny-friendly font and garage-sale advert clutter of most Belize blog pages led me elsewhere.

I decided to examine the blogs that I am already attracted and dedicated to.

Clearly, the strength of a blog’s writing is the magnetic force for me. The content can range from surviving the Burning Man Festival, Oregon’s best microbrews to chimp rescue stories to how to make sushi rolls out of mac n’ cheese. Similar to my writing force field, I read in the same manner. All over the map.

What I know for sure?

I refuse to read white script on black background, or blogs that have been brushed with too much Hollywood (flashing widgets, WIN THIS! and running scripts). I find danger in too many hyperlinks within the text. Like a magpie that spies something shiny, I too have been known to fly off, distracted, clicking a hyperlink to another page, never to return again. (Which means you are NOT allowed to divert from my page to discover my go-to blogs below. An alarm will sound.)

What appeals?

Clean lines. White space. Simplicity. Seductive, high resolution photos and engaging writing that meshes with my interests, or musings that spark interest, unplanned longer runs in the rain, another glass of wine, deeper conversation and restless sleeps.

Writers that mesh and spark:

Andrew Westoll

An automatic network emerges among those who have worked with primates. I was initially virtually introduced to Andrew via a friend in Suriname who thought we might like to share and compare our Jane Goodal-esque love and chimp sanctuary volunteer experiences. His body of work is humble and honest, showcasing the grit of a writer’s life and hope in chimpanzee crusades. A former primatologist, sometimes CBC Radio One science columnist, sometimes vodka expert, the author of The Riverbones and The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary writes intelligently here:    Alexa: 13,226,465

Brene Brown–Ordinary Courage

With a PhD tucked up her sleeve, the University of Houston Research Professor poses big questions about vulnerability, courage and authenticity in a smart and accessible way. She made her rounds on Facebook in a viral way with her TED video (Ideas Worth Spreading) on the power of vulnerability. She captivates and enlarges a sentence in a remarkable way. And, I might just copycat her sidebar that spotlights what she’s listening to and what’s on her nightstand. It makes Brene Brown a little more 3D to me.    Alexa: 256,306

Ryan Coelho

We were both shortlisted for a prized travel writer internship position with G Adventures in Toronto and I admired his rock solid empowerment and personal brand from the get go. He is a former aerospace engineer turned brand & marketing strategist and leadership coach. I gravitate towards his writing because he adheres to his blog mantra when he posts: Dream. Explore. Discover. Inspire.  He is also consistent with his brand via Facebook and Twitter and has a graphically tidy and splashy site:    Alexa:  7,379,662

A Bus Called Forward

A mutual friend in Mexico thought Keph (Matador U alumni) and I would get on like a house on fire with our shared passions. He thought our writing had a similar slant and groove. I was flattered and became hooked on A Bus Called Forward. Keph’s photos will transport you to everywhere she has been in a blink and her succinct words fill in the textures, temperature and tastes.

“When she was 28 years old and I was only 5, my mother bought a renovated 1950s school bus and named it Forward. We left Toronto in the spring, driving westward towards the Pacific. Her incomprehensible plan was to drive to New Zealand but Forward blew a radiator hose in the mountains in the interior of British Columbia. Ever pragmatic, my mother sold the bus for $500 and a wheelbarrow, and started a garden. I haven’t stopped moving, but my mother’s still there, still gardening.”   Alexa: 4,315,987

Julia Dimon: The Travel Junkie

A few years ago I was velcroed to an OLN (Outdoor Life Network) program called Word Travels that followed two scrappy travel writers pitching and landing gigs as fast as their planes around the world. Firecracker co-host Julia Dimon has visited 80 countires on all 7 continents. She is hopeful, insightful and a writing dynamo. Her site is glossy, enviable and the ultimate time-sucker. In a good way.  Alexa: 4,611,331


About the Alexa Ratings

My blog currently perches at 3,206,262 in worldwide blog rankings. Is this good? How many jellybeans in the jar does that equal? This does not change my life in any way. Do I really care that 3.55% of visitors keyed in “he farted in a hermetically sealed suit” and were led to my blog? Did I ever mention farting in a hermetically sealed suit? Should I take note that high impact search queries were tagged on the following terms: cat crap coffee, chips with gravy, bug bite soup, rotten confessions, Czech beer and chocolate covered marshmallows?

The Alexa rating serves a purpose to someone, but, it won’t influence my writing enough to narrow my niche to farts and marshmallows.

About Twitter, Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit

I just can’t. I can’t be responsible for another social platform. I feel like I’m trying to barf up content in too many places already. Facebook obligations alone have angry “friends” upset with my lack of communication (interpreted as “ignored”). I drop off the face of Facebook for a few days to enjoy life as it was before the Techno Whore Wave of the 2000’s and I am berated. I can barely remain verbally active on Twitter. I refuse to Tweetchat or Twitpic. I don’t want to Stumbleupon anything else, there are enough viral videos and cuddly kittens and tsunami dog love stories on Facebook.

If shunning more social media platforms will be the detriment of my writing career, I’m okay with that. I’m not Twitter-friendly enough because I don’t have a cell phone. And I don’t have one for a reason. I would disconnect my home phone if I could. I never check my home phone messages when I’m at work, or away—mostly because I don’t know how to, but also because I don’t need to. I’m not that important, and socialites have to move in mysterious ways sometimes.

So what?

Social media is an accessory, not a necessity in my life. It has its place like shortbread for breakfast, Kobe beef and champagne. I can’t do it all the time. I will commit to my blog, the established blog writers that stretch my static thoughts, to intermittent Twittering and near-daily smartass Facebook updates.

That’s it.

Categories: Polyblogs in a Jar, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at