Travel notes to self

Hello Friends,

My usual Saturday share is on holiday as I am traveling on my honeymoon/1-year anniversary trip with my husband until the 19th. As I work out final travel details for this trip, I thought I would reflect a bit on the best and hardest parts of this trip so far, and what I am “filing away” for future reference.

We had a lovely visit to Loch Lormond, Glencoe, Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness yesterday. I definitely recommend a visit to the Scottish Highlands if you travel here – the beauty of the landscape is worth it. We used Timberbush Tours, because I found a brochure in the train station in Glasgow that offered some options we could consider. Definitely worth trying to book a few days in advance or a couple weeks, since a couple of the tours we considered were already full for just one day in advance.

It was definitely a satisfying day though quite long, starting at 7:45 a.m. to meet the bus and not returning to the city center until 7:30 p.m. at night. But the drive was worth it. My hubby got some excellent photos and I will be sure to share them in future posts.

Urquhart Castle
Castle Urquhart, taken September 14, 2018.  Use only with attribution to mexi-minnesotana, please.

This morning I woke up thinking about how to modify our trip to perhaps cut one long(er) train trip out and replace it with a short flight. We have one night in Edinburgh, one night in Manchester and two nights in London reserved via AirBnB for the final days of our trip. I realize that having only one night in a place versus two can feel too rushed on a trip like this.

In our first 6 nights here, we had two nights in each location, and that felt like a good pace, time to settle in and also time to explore. Then we only had one night in Liverpool, and I could have used two. Arriving in Glassgow I felt very tired and trip weary.

I am researching a change to two nights in Edinburgh, and two nights in London, canceling the visit to Manchester and flying directly from Edinburgh to London, making it a shorter trip back. I am considering that idea, though it looks like our Edinburgh host does not have a second day available so we would still have to find a 2nd night there.

What I am learning is that my exuberance in seeing so many places needs to be balanced with our need for rest and relaxation on a trip. I think in the future, I will try to book 2-3 nights in each place and be more selective about the number of locations we visit. It is so hard to choose! I want to see everything and go everywhere!

But in the end, I do not want to arrive home exhausted, feeling like I need a rest to “recover” from my vacation. So I will make mindful choices after this trip experience and with our needs and desires in mind.

Cheers & happy weekend, all.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

State Fair – time to play

The Minnesota State Fair has begun. Around here it is known as the “great Minnesota get-together.” Typically the fair attracts over 120 thousand visitors per day. Last year’s records showed a couple of days of nearly a quarter of a million people in attendance for a total of nearly 2 million over the 12-day event.

MN State Fair.JPG
Photo credit link

We do love our State Fair, or at least those extroverts among us. Actually, I really like seeing animal barns and some of the exhibits. Oh, and I love the fried green tomatoes, the cheese curds, and the roasted corn. Almost nobody can escape without a bucket of Sweet Martha’s cookies.

sweet martha's
Sweet Martha’s Cookies

The last gasp of summer for us, or at least how it seems, is upon us. Typically public schools do not open again until after Labor Day, so this Fair marks the end of the school vacation period.

It is time to grab the family and head down to the Fair. Best to use the Park & Ride system if possible, since parking can be a nightmare if you try to get to close to the fairgrounds.

It reminds me of that feeling at the end of the summer before the weather changes, and when we used to shop for school supplies. I love school supplies. Ah, the smell of new notebooks, freshly-sharpened pencils, and new erasers! I was a classic geek in school – loved it, and was always ready to back.

By the end of the summer I had usually gotten a little bored and was ready to go back to class. This year, I am having such a blast and enjoying my sabbatical so much, that it is really hard for me to imagine getting bored.

It is a privilege to be able to enjoy the State Fair. It’s certainly not cheap, but there is a lot of fun to be had if you attend. I am reminded how grateful I am for the resources in this state, and for the ability to enjoy them.

As a slight introvert, my maximum endurance is typically 4-5 hours. Beyond that, I get a little peopled-out. But as an annual event, it can be well worth the time to get out to play, and enjoy a final day of summer as it winds down for 2018. Make time to play this month, friends. It is good for your soul.

cristy@meximinnesota.com

 

Throwback Thursday: time enough at last

As the end of my time in my current company draws near, I return to a post from December of last year. I am looking forward to the month of August, since I have a road trip planned with my sister, LOTS of reading and thinking time ahead. What a relief! Time enough at last!!

***

Do you remember that episode of the Twilight Zone called “Time Enough At Last“? I own the Twilight Zone complete collection on DVD, and this is an episode worth watching if you have ever wished for “time enough” to do what you want.

henry bemis
Photo credit link – episode wiki page

Henry Bemis wants one thing in life: more time to read. I have so much empathy for Henry. There are times when I really long for more solitude, reading (and writing) time. Henry works at a bank but sneaks down to the vault during his lunch hours to read.

But not only does he do that, he tries to read while he is doing his job, which means he does not do that job so well. He clearly feels “put upon” by the world, his job and his wife, since nobody seems to understand his thirst for books and reading time. But I have deep empathy for his suffering.

Prior to my appendectomy in December, I was really wishing for some reading time and contemplation. I wanted some time off from work when I could just read, relax and enjoy some time to myself. I looked forward to the holiday break coming up – my workplace shuts down between Christmas and the New Year. I was feeling rather “put upon” at work myself, and I just wanted an escape. I had in mind a sabbatical, and while I think this was not so practical in my current job, I viscerally ached for this kind of break.

I would not have chosen to go to the hospital to have emergency appendectomy surgery in order to get out of work. But I was fortunate to recover very quickly, so it felt like a blessing in disguise.

One day while reading down in the vault Henry Bemis is knocked unconscious by a shock wave. He awakens to discover that the world has been devastated by a nuclear war. At first he is in shock, walking through all the devastation around him, and he decides to commit suicide. But then he sees the ruins of a library, his paradise!

henry bemis and clock
Photo credit link

Henry gleefully piles up the books, thinking he has a supply to keep him busy for years to come, with all the time he needs. But as he settles to read his glasses slip off his nose and smash on the ground, trapping him in a blurry world forever. “That’s not fair! That’s not fair at all! There was time now. There was all the time I wanted! That’s not fair!” (I found a 3-minute video on YouTube if you want to see that scene. It still breaks my heart).

Poor Henry. Life is not fair. Bad things happen. And yet this is the way of life. We get sick, our plans go awry, and we have to adjust. We must get extra rest. We must slow down and respect our body’s limits. We must acknowledge that we do not control everything, and stop resisting and arguing with reality.

Oh, Henry. I am giving myself the gift (in August and September) of time enough at last! It has been so long since I had more than 2 weeks off for a summer vacation. I am beyond grateful.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Hours fall off the clock

I may need to reinforce some limits around my writing time, allowing myself just an hour each day. At least while I am still working full time in clinical research. I can lose literally hours off the clock when I am researching or writing on a topic that interests me, and I get to play with words, ideas and stories.

This week I am at a regional work meeting in Belgium and I am called upon social with my colleagues. I enjoy the opportunity to meet 1:1 or in small groups and have face-to-face conversations with those I usually interact with via phone or email. However all of the initial small-talk required when meeting so many new people drains my energy.

It occurs to me that maybe my soul is asking for a more minimalist approach to work networking and people-time, and this is another reason I am bringing this current phase of work to a close by September.

melting clocks
One of my favorite Salvador Dali pieces – photo credit link

I feel at my best when I am doing “deep work” which involves thinking, reading, writing and synthesizing research. I still intend to make time for teaching, offering workshops and facilitating small group meetings. But my best ideas and most productive periods seem to emerge after periods of luxurious solitude and reflection.

This summer I am planning for 4-6 weeks off starting in August/September, if I can make it work between work “ventures.” Let’s see if I can honor that and keep the personal and family budget discipline it will require to make this break happen without undue stress.

I know if I declare this intention in writing, there is a higher likelihood I can make it happen. I am not as good at having accountability to others (it can sometimes cause me to rebel), but I tend to be better at honoring my word to myself.

What makes you lose hours off the clock? Do you have a creative practice or hobby that, when you start working on it, causes you to lose all track of time? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

When in Belgium

Yesterday I made an exception to my usual no alcohol rule and had a “Pink Killer” Belgian beer which had grapefruit juice and a lovely fruity finish. It was on the lighter side in terms of alcohol content, and I enjoyed it.

Pink Killer
Taken in one of the “Delirium” bars near Jeanneke Pis statue in Brussels.

This was during a walk around the historic downtown area with two colleagues, one who had arrived a few hours earlier than me on Sunday. He had headed straight out to explore, as it is his first work-paid trip to Europe, and he does not want to miss a minute of the experience.

I used to do more of that, but this time, when I arrived after no sleep on the overnight flight, I treated myself to an short nap and some quiet and solitude during the afternoon my hotel. While I felt a little guilty about not making use of the sight-seeing time, I know it is a necessary part of centering myself for a busy and people-filled week.

I realize now that my choices reflect a feeling of sufficiency instead of scarcity in my beliefs. I do not feel a desperate and grasping sensation of never having this opportunity again. Instead of telling myself that “I’m missing out” I say instead “I am taking care of myself.” That makes a huge difference in the way I show up and honor my needs without guilt or shame.

Granted this was not an automatic process, and involved a little self-coaching when I started feeling bad about not getting out. It was a conscious choice to tell myself a different story, to help take a perspective that is nourishing to me. It takes practice, and requires patience with old patterns. But the more practicing I do, the easier it gets.

Have a great week!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Travel for introverts

I write this entry after venturing down to the lobby to get coffee to bring back to my room. I really love travel, and I always enjoy visiting Mexico, but my introvert self can get a little over-stimulated with all the meetings, people, traffic, noise, etc. Part of my survival strategy involves using the hotel room as a personal sanctuary some of the time.

It was a long day, yesterday but a productive one. We held four interviews for the position we have open in the Mexico office, and all candidates had their merits. Each was quite different from the others, so my colleague and I will have to think on it, and consider which qualities are the most important for this particular role.

tacos de pollo - fiesta inn

After returning to the hotel around 7:30 I ordered room service and did a little writing and reflecting in my journal while listening to some podcasts. For those of you who are “foodies” I give you a photo of my tacos de pollo con tocino. I have never had chicken and BACON in tacos before, and I will definitely do that again someday.

I had intended to wind down early after dinner, but for some reason while writing, something “broke open” in my brain, or perhaps my soul had some insight that had been buried under the surface. It was about a dream I am writing up for my coaching assignment, and I realized it had gotten buried under the weight of expectations for my life.

My colleague had asked me a question earlier in the day that reminded me how I’d shared that dream with others on my team, that I want to go on a honeymoon in Europe with my husband. Originally we had planned to take a month off work for our 1-year anniversary to spend at least 3 weeks traveling in the U.K. and Spain specifically, with a little connecting trip through France along the way. I have been to the Netherlands and to Switzerland on work trips, and thoroughly enjoyed each trip. But that is not the same as traveling with a loved one and having shared adventures.

I had really gotten excited about that possibility, and was dreaming up the details, and somehow that dream got sidetracked. After the wedding, when we talked about it, I felt some pressure to instead work on saving for a house. (Not really from my husband, but more from family, who want us to be responsible and not frivolous.) I realize buying a house is a dream for a lot of people but last night as I was writing, something dislodged in my brain and I realized that on a one-year time horizon, that is not my dream.

I still want to travel with my husband in Europe, and I want to have this experience together earlier rather than later in our lives. For me, since I have bought and sold homes twice, to me that is not a dream, it feels more like a societal obligation. While parts of me know that eventually it is something I may enjoy, right now it does not feel like a priority.

london kingmaker.JPG
Photo credit link

So while I had intended to wind down last night, my brain actually cranked up to examine: why did I let go of that dream so easily? What is stopping us from returning to it? Is it too late to re-engage in that planning? I realized the thought of it excites me and gets my pulse racing a bit.

In contrast, when I consider buying a home, my feeling is kind of a “trapped” one, which may be telling me something. While I tried to calm my thought, meditating, playing soothing music, and the like, I ended up not dropping off until 3 a.m. so I am running on less than 4 hours sleep today. Oy. Well, I have done this in plenty of times in my life. Though it is not ideal, I will be very gentle with myself and it will be okay.

Travel is a joy to me despite knowing that my introvert self needs to take restorative breaks and to have “sanctuary” in a part of each day. There is a sense of creativity, of possibility, of observation and reflection about the world that gets activated by my travels.

This morning, thankfully, I do not have meetings so I am going to the office around 11:30, after some time to gather my thoughts and plan for the rest of the week. I have appointments with colleagues over lunch and in the afternoon. Self-care in advance will ensure I can be fully present with them.

I am struck with this incredible sense of privilege and gratitude for the life I live and the opportunities I have. While my choices in life may be unconventional, I know that denying or ignoring my dreams does not serve me or anyone else. We cannot always articulate the reasons for our deep desires because they come from somewhere within our souls. When we do not honor them, or work toward them, something within us dies.