Life in the slow lane – Amsterdam

by Mike Aux-Tinee.

With all of the snow that’s fallen lately, I’m so unmotivated. I’ve still made it to the YMCA for yoga and cycling. I visit with my family and friends. And I spend time thinking about writing. Past that, my life is in the slow lane.

With nothing (a-hem) better to do today, I parked myself on the couch and scrolled through photos from my trips. I’ve had some pretty interesting adventures: I’ve climbed Mayan ruins, gazed at Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower and stood in the middle of the Roman Colosseum sharing what I knew about it with a mother and daughter from Ohio.

One thing I noticed about nearly all of my photos, (outside the fact that I am smiling), is that it looks like I am constantly on the go. I am wearing different clothes, the scenery is never the same and there are hundreds photos to look through when I get back. Even I get the impression that I am a mover and shaker once I hit the ground – and I was the one there.

But that’s not always the case. My recent trip to Amsterdam, was much different from my trip to say Rome-Venice-Lake Como. Before I headed to the Netherlands, I had to do a lot of research. I knew next to nothing about the place, except for tulips, windmills and Dutch dating. (hint… what I found was really cool!)

The first piece of my trip that I squared away was a place to stay. I found an apartment on Vacation rentals by owner located in the De Pijp neighborhood. I waned to find a place that’s accessible to mass transit and that’s in a quiet neighborhood. I got both criteria met with the rental. I discovered that if I do not sleep well at night, then I don’t enjoy the next day (and I hate that burnt out feeling).

The next piece of the trip was to find something to do that’s off the beaten path. I love to get out of the big city and see what the countryside is like. I headed to Keukenhof gardens. This place is amazing! There are over seven million tulips throughout thirty-two hectares – check out the photos. The weather cooperated and it was partly sunny and a little on the cooler side. And this will come as no surprise, there are some awesome photos!

With my tip-toe through the tulips over (sorry about that), I found myself in the bustling town of Madurodam. Well, I know what I said earlier about getting out of the big city but I could not resist a visit to this ‘little big city’! From the moment I came across the website, this was definitely going on the must see list. The park is a miniature of the various places around the Netherlands (ex. the airport, etc…). The weather did not cooperate and it rained all day. But with my trusty rain jacket and an umbrella, I had a pretty good time.

The weather forecast for the remainder of my trip called for cooler temps and rain. Yea great. It was time to abandon my jaunts through the country side and find something to do in Amsterdam. There is nothing better than a nice and dry museum. This part of town is called the Museumplein. This is the place to go if you’d like to see an entire museum devoted to Van Gogh. Or maybe check out Rembrandt’s The Nightwatchman. But be prepared for a little (major understatement) sticker shock when you buy your ticket.

Amsterdam is one of the most unique cities I have visited and has a lot going on. If you want to get off the beaten path, Amsterdam is the place to go. Of course with the rain and cooler temperatures, it was difficult to get a vibe on the cafe culture.  Hummm… sounds like I’ll need to head back!

Peace dudes!

Mike

Conquering your Mt. Everest

by Mike Aux-Tinee

What’s towering in front of you seems immovable, majestic and utterly impressive. The longer you stand and gawk the more you feel a sense of inferiority. This is a very unnerving feeling. You think to yourself, ‘I’ve chewed off more than I should have. I’m in way over my head. Maybe it’s better to tuck my tail between my legs and run and hide.’

The thing is you need to get to the other side because something is pushing you forward. The brain goes to work examining all the possibilities to overcome this obstacle. It dawns on you the only way is over the top. Your worst nightmare has just become a reality.

Bring on the one man rain delay. You stall hoping a better solution will present itself. Or maybe your fairy godmother will come along wave her magic wand and presto you are transported to the other side. Let’s be realistic. Whatever delusion you come up with is not going to happen. It does nothing more than provide a temporal escape for your brain. All the while you experience a brief and false sense of happiness or euphoria. But don’t fall for it, your Mt. Everest is still there, snubbing its nose at you, knowing all too well, who the badass of the two of you really is.

You sigh, which is a sign you are not committed. Hey, let’s give it the old college try and when you fail (because if you aren’t one hundred percent committed to conquering what is in front of you, you will fail.) you can walk around, spouting out jingoistic babble as to why things went wrong. Always pointing the finger and lying blame everywhere else other than where it really belongs – which is you. It’s nothing more than a façade and the prettier yours looks the more you will be able to bullshit the masses.

All the while, your Mt. Everest is still there, maybe even getting bigger as time passes.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

The problem will never go away until you take the first step, then another and yet another. It’s time to find out what you are made of and make a mole hill out of a mountain. And here’s how you can do just that.

1. Clear your mind

We have a lot of background noise that filters in and is distracting.  You need to shut it all out. Finding a sanctuary where you focus is very important. This is the place that will provide you the time you need to think, rest and marshal yourself for what you are about to do.

2. Take inventory of abilities

Jumping out of the gate without having the knowledge or skills that will be imperative for your success is going to lead to your failure. You need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are and prepare accordingly.

3. Establish realistic goals and objectives

You cannot run before you learn to crawl. Chances are the task in front of you will demand a great deal of time, patience and change before it’s eliminated. Having short term and achievable milestones to reach will keep your motivated.

4. To error is human, expect to make some

You are going to experience some setbacks. So it’s best to expect them right from the start. But the strength and courage your muster to pick yourself up and keep going will help you achieve what you’ve set out to do.

5. Adopt the never surrender mentality

To be successful, you must absolutely, beyond a reasonable doubt become tenacious. Let hell or high water come before you quit. When you look at successful people, the one trait they all possess is the determination to complete what they set out to do. A great example is Thomas Edison, do a little homework and check out how many tries it took him until he invented the light bulb.

6. Never ask for advice, only someone’s help

Everyone has an opinion and is very willing to give it to you. When you ask the question, “What do you think?” You are giving the other person enormous power and stating to them, you are smarter and I am not. And their advice may not always be the best course of action.

7. Even though you’ve reached the summit, push past to the next horizon

All cylinders have been firing and you’ve knocked the stuffing out of your Mt. Everest. Stopping at the top may seem like the no brainer. Your life is better. You’ve gained a great deal of self-confidence, self-reliance and hopefully more independence. The thing is there is something that’s very cool just waiting over the horizon for you to come along and discover.  Now is the time you can explore more of what life has to offer, which you could not do before you started.

While this is a rather broad outline, it is a place to start. Take what I have written and customize it to fit your circumstances. Go forth and conquer.

Peace dudes!

Au revoir 2013 and Bon Jour 2014!

By Mike Aux-Tinee.

Now that 2013 is finally over and 2014 is here, it’s time to look back at what I did (and didn’t do). There were many firsts last year and I was busy as a little beaver. While I notched some major accomplishments, there were many things that slipped through the cracks.

In January I began taking yoga. I was in a 2012 post-holiday slump and needed to break out of it. I also realized I hadn’t been exercising as much and I was three months away from heading back outside to cycle (so long as the weather cooperated.)  I needed to take every opportunity to keep myself in shape and yoga helped a great deal.

In February I began the editing process for my first children’s book, The Voyage of the Sharky Sloop and the Quest for Orange Marmalade. I had written the book the previous fall and as soon as the calendar flipped, it was off to the editor for her review.

March was a rather busy month. To start off, I celebrated my one year anniversary of being debt free! As I wrote in my book, Islands of Happiness, which was published in November of 2012, it was the best decision I had ever made. And I am still debt free to this day (soon to be celebrating my two-year anniversary in eight weeks!)

Also in March, I began writing my second children’s book, Red Stocking the Pirate and the Search for the Golden Cutlass. Which I will be sharing more with you when I chat about 2014.

April-May: I put these two months together for the simple reason, I was busy rewriting my first book, writing my second, taking yoga and trying to find some time to cycle!

In May, I headed back to Europe for a vacation to The Netherlands. When I left here, it was in the 50’s and rainy. When I got to Amsterdam, it was in the 50’s and rainy! I thought I would get some sunny warmer weather… but no! I will be writing a post about that trip, so I’ll keep it short here, I had a good time, the people were very nice but I did not get outside as much as I would have liked… because of the cooler weather and so much rain. Oh well.

June-July-August: More of the same. I did finish my second children’s book and put it away. My editor and I feverishly worked toward completing The Sharky Sloop. In July and I hired an illustrator to create the interior art.

September-October-November: I was in panic mode. The interior art was taking much longer that I anticipated and it looked like the book would not come out before the end of the year. Thank goodness for YOGA! Since I was short on projects, I began writing my third children’s book and completed it in late November. This one will be coming out in 2015 (I hope!) The final round of editing on The Sharky Sloop book was completed and the interior art was in the last stage… the art was finally in color!

October I hit the big blue skies and visited New York City. It was my first visit there and from the moment my feet hit the ground I was whisked off. I saw the Broadway play Newsies, which was very good, especially from the front row. I spent a lot of time in Central Park, made it to the top of Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and had lunch a Carnage Deli (HUGE sandwiches!) but very good!

December: A lot more yoga… And on December 18th, my first children’s book was published! As soon as I approved the final proof and saw it on Amazon, I felt the weight of the world just lift off my shoulders.

2014:

With the New Year just three days old, I am eagerly looking forward to what this year will bring and what my priorities will be.

The first thing I’d like to point out is that I have not made any New Year resolutions. Let’s be honest, good intentions aside, they last only a couple of weeks anyway and by late February/early March they are gone by the way of Disco. Instead, I have several priorities that I will be focusing on in my free time and work to keep that list to a dull roar.

Last year, I did not spend as much time writing posts as I would have liked. I am not going to drudge up all of the reasons, but let’s just say that I am focusing more on writing posts and hope to keep the momentum going through the year.

I am going to celebrate my second year of being debt free! I will continue to look for more ways to live a smaller but more productive life.  I have come across several more websites about minimalism, travel and some exciting others that I hope will keep me focused and on track.

As for exercising, I am continuing with yoga, swimming and as soon as the warm weather returns, cycling.

On the travel front, I am mulling over going to Ireland, Portugal or Spain. As you know, January is when I begin making my travel plans and those are the front-runners. I have my Rick Steves’ books waiting at the library to be picked up. I will reveal my choice in a post once it’s completed.

As for writing, I am beginning to edit my second children’s book and with the experience from the first, I will not be waiting as long to start the interior art. I hope (but don’t hold me to this) to have it out by September-October of this year (finger’s crossed.)

With the New Year just three days old, it would appear I already have a lot going on… Calgon take me away!

Let me hear from you and what you are up to!

Peace dudes!

Mike

Insider Travel Tip: Small ideas can blossom into real vacation gems!

AmbleAlong

Let me start by saying that I am a Rick Steves’ fan.  He does a great job of giving you jam packed 30-minute TV episodes focused primarily on travel to Europe. Anytime I travel in Europe I see plenty of Americans traveling with their Rick Steves’ guidebooks, so I can tell you that I am not alone in thinking he is pretty darned good at his job. Instead of personally carrying a guidebook, though, I prefer to do trip research in advance, plan a few keys things scattered throughout the trip, and then let the vacation take me where it will once I hit the first airport.

About a year ago, I saw one of Rick’s travel shows that shined a spotlight on Madurodam. Try as I might after that segment, I could not stop thinking about how much fun this playground of sorts (built at 1/25 scale) would be to…

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Insider Travel Tip: Savvy Travelers Don’t Wear Khaki!

AmbleAlong

Most of us have heard fellow travelers warn against wearing tennis shoes on vacation because you will “look like an American.” Let me expand the tennis shoes argument, however, to specifically include what I consider to be a more egregious travel foul: wearing khaki.

629px-Avoid-Looking-Like-an-American-Tourist-Intro

For those of us who travel a fair amount, we always want to pack what is easy, washable, and matches other things in our suitcase. Those khaki pants may work well for us as a “uniform” for our weekly 9-to-5, but there is no place on a vacation for khakis to truly be the right choice. Let me elaborate:

     Point 1 – Khakis – all colors, all styles – just don’t look polished. If your pants are two days old or two years old, all khakis wrinkle and show wear.  If you sit, stand, or breathe, you are guaranteed to look unkempt.

     Point…

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AmbleAlong

Though I may constantly be evolving, one thing I always have been (and always will be) is a baseball enthusiast!  I am a life-long St. Louis Cardinals fan, and darned proud of it!

From times long ago, when I hid a transistor radio under my pillow to hear the finish of a game on a school night, to swiping the Sports Section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from a guy in the college dorm cafeteria to look at the box scores, those Boys of Summer have consistently beckoned to me through the nearly nine fantastic months of each baseball season. I can honestly think of few things better than enjoying Opening Day with all of its festivities or crowding in along the World Series Champions parade route to Busch Stadium to welcome our Redbirds home from another successful campaign! Now that you know these things about me, I suspect it will…

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AmbleAlong

From as far back as I can remember, I have always loved words. It is probably my mom’s fault (or perhaps her gift to me) since she always told us to “look it up” when we did not know how to spell something or were not sure of the meaning of a word. There are a couple of dictionary sets in my parents’ house that still bear the brunt of our frequent review and investigation.  (No Dictionary.com for us back then!)

As I continue to translate that love for words into my writing in emails, letters, and even on this blog, I find this a fascinating area for discussion. While two of us may visit the same place at the exact same date and time, there is virtually no chance that our write-ups of those trips will be the same. I propose this happens for several reasons, not the least…

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