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

Venice on the margins.

by Mike Aux-Tinee.

Traveling is tiring and your normal schedule is disrupted: you are eating at different times, there is a lot of waiting and you are walking more than normal.

Getting up early (or skipping the late afternoon nap) may not be on the agenda and you may revolt at the idea. After all, you are on vacation and need the rest. So why in the world would I suggest wrecking your sleep patterns even more than they already are?

Well… I have several reasons! Where you are staying looks much different at sunrise and sunset. There are fewer people. You are able to take some spectacular photographs and the one thing many people over look…the opportunity to spark some romance!

I love to meander and just poke around. Taking time to look at something that may interest me without feeling rushed or being constantly run over by distracted people, so getting out early or after everyone had left made sense to me.

When we were planning our trip, someone suggested that we take some time and check out Venice either at sunrise and sunset. And, as the photos will show, Venice is really beautiful when you take the time and walk around and get off the beaten path.

The other good thing about doing this, it costs absolutely nothing to walk around, take photos and admire the architecture. Mix in a little hand holding and let the romance blossom!

Could it be possible for a vacation to get better? Well… maybe… it’s entirely up to you and how you plan your time, but you can make it more memorable! Which is one of the reasons for traveling anyway!

This is how I imagined Venice! Once the day trippers left, the gondolas took over and began their leisurely pace up and down the Grand Canal. With the majority of the boats gone, the place was very quiet and we felt as if we were the only ones there (insert more romance!)

The Grand Canal at sundown!

It does not matter which one you pick, but if at all possible you absolutely must check out where you are at either time.

Peace Dudes!

Mike

Inspirational quote of the week.

By Mike Aux-Tinee.

“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves”   -Euripides

 

 

There is only so much we can get out of a book. Sure the photos might have been taken by a professional. The author may have written a superb text, including every need to know detail. It’s possible that you are able to close your eyes and see it in your mind.

But when you open your eyes, you are not there. But the place you closed your eyes. You are sitting at the library, at work or at home. Nothing about what you experienced is real. It is all superficial and flat.

That is the only way you are going to experience the world, unless you venture out past the end of your street. Out past the familiar fields. Over the bridge that you have crossed over your entire life.

What exists over the horizon will be forever a mystery unless you travel to it and see what is there.

What may be there, may be widely known, but by those who have actually been there.  You will never experience the same unless you travel there and experience it first hand.

Sure, it may require you to sit in a plane for several hours, overnight. Then get on a train, a bus or a car to reach the destination.You may have to learn how to speak a new language, convert your money and pack your clothes. But these things are a part of the process of discovery.

As you walk towards your destination, your senses are recording the surroundings. The location of the sun, the breeze blowing, the smells, water dripping down.

You bring your camera up and snap a photo. It does not matter what the object is, but it will forever place a book mark in your mind, a chapter of your life that you can go back and read as many times as you wish.

Only then will you understand. what the book could not teach you.

Travel expands the mind, the senses, more than if we just stayed put. It’s time to get out and explore the world.

Peace Dudes!

A week in London and it was not enough.

By Mike Aux-Tinee.

I love to travel and had the chance to visit London England two years ago. It never fails,  there is always more things to do and see than there is time. We landed at Heathrow airport on Saturday and took the rest of that day to get settled.

On Sunday it was off to Greenwich to see the Queen’s House:

The National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory. Admission to all three are free and you should take advantage of as many of the free options as possible. London can be very expensive.

On Monday, we headed off to see Windsor Castle. It’s about an hour and change train ride from London and then once at the train station in Windsor, it’s about a ten to fifteen minute walk to the castle, more of course if you stop to take photos!

This is a view of the country side surrounding Windsor Castle. It is so beautiful, it was not difficult to set up the camera and take some amazing photos!

On Tuesday, it was a day trip around London. We were able to get front row spots to catch the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.

Yes, the policeman on the horse is pointing at me to get out of the way. And yes, they mean it too. This is the band that precedes the guards.

Each and every one are active duty soldiers in the English Army.

It is quote a spectacle and their lengthy walk ends up at Buckingham Palace. Where they will go through and take the place of the guards on duty. The crowds gather hours before to be able to see and take photos.

Here is a different view of Big Ben with the London Eye peaking over the buildings.

Then it was onto the Tower of London. This is where the crown jewels are kept. We were not allowed to take photos. It is definitely worth the time and entrance fee to see them.   

Of course, right next to the Tower of London, is the Tower Bridge.

We ended the tour with a boat ride up the Thames River and were let off near the London Eye.It was a very nice day trip around London. If you are able to visit London, there is so much to do you cannot go wrong picking these or so many other things to see and do!

Wednesday was very uneventful… laundry day and checking out the town of Islington where we were staying.

On Thursday, it was back to London and this time we had Piccadilly Circus and Green Park on the agenda.

Green Park is next to Buckingham Palace. Getting off the tube at Piccadilly Circus, you can easily walk down to Green Park.

I really liked Green Park. For a very busy city, it’s a very quiet place. During the summer, there are deck chairs you can rent and log in some R&R!

Friday was a R&R day and to pack to leave. We left early on Saturday morning. One tip, if you take the tube/Underground, carry change so you can recharge your pass. The machines would not take paper currency! We almost did not make it to the airport!

I do love England and hope that I am able to go back. If you have any photos or tips you would like to share, please do!

Peace Dudes!

Alnwick, a gem in the rough… part 2.

By Mike Aux-Tinee.

Alright. It would appear technology won out over man yesterday. For some reason, I could not insert all of the other photos. I could have reached a size limit… maybe did not say the right code words…  or maybe it was just good ole knuckle-headedness that kept me from getting it done…. I know… here is your sign.

If I could have included the photos yesterday, here are the ones from Alnwick gardens:

I really loved the gardens. The English take their gardens very seriously and you can tell by how beautiful they are! There are benches throughout the garden. I could have spent more time there, but it was the end of the day…

Cragside was really pretty too: I felt as if I should be in the Alps somewhere waiting for a sled dog team to come along and whisk me off to the entrance.

Take the time to visit. It’s so interesting what he did with the house, where he put it and how the gardens were landscaped.

If you remember the last post, I did say there is a bridge on the property. I guess he wanted to build one more for old times sake. Actually, it links up the other side of the property. It is a really peaceful place and I think that is why he picked it to put his house on.

If you have the chance, travel the world. There are things that you can’t learn in books or from a website.

Peace Dudes!

Alnwick England; a gem in the rough.

By Mike Aux-Tinee.

Alnwick (prounounced Annick) England. Never heard of it before I started planning my vacation last year. It’s a very (emphasis on very) small town north of New Castle along the northeast coast. It’s also very likely that if you asked the English where the town was, most of them would not know either. But this little gem in the rough made for a very nice place to visit for my vacation.

I went to London two years before and there were so many things I did not get to see. But aren’t most vacations like that? I decided I wanted to go back and my first idea was to head to Brighton along the English Channel. 

Finding a place to stay was down right frustrating. I did not know it’s the vacation spot in England. Scratch that idea and head back to the drawing board. If I wanted another vacation there I needed to do something different. So when the pack heads one way, head in the opposite direction.

That idea to head in the opposite direction came during the flight back from London. I sat next to an Englishman and we were talking about my trip. He said that if I wanted to get out and see what England was really like, I needed to get away from London. And the farther away I got the less expensive it would be.

I have no explanation how or why my cursor landed on Northumberland. I was playing around and that’s what I clicked on. It’s definitely in the opposite direction and once I started looking at what was there I never thought about looking anywhere else.

From the moment I stated planning this trip and the pieces starting coming together, I had the feeling that this would be one of my favorite vacations.

 England: Northumberland

I am a find a place to stay first kind of guy and then plan the rest of the vacation. Your vacation planning can go no where very quickly if the place you want to stay is booked or does not have room availability for your entire stay (Brighton remember Brighton). It is easy to arrange transportation, there is always another flight or train departing.

I came across several bad reviews about a hotel in Alnwick I wanted to stay in (Golden rule about traveling, if you come across bad reviews, avoid that place like the plague). I changed my search from hotel to B&B and what popped to the top of the list was a place called Greycroft Bed and Breakfast. I read over guest reviews and they were glowing! In fact, there was not one bad review. I now had the place to stay and it was just a matter of picking out the dates and availability.

The website is very easy to use; I was able to check availability, make reservations, check out places of interest around the town of Alnwick and the region. The B&B has six rooms to choose from and I picked the Green Room. It has a great view of the back yard, the windows could be left open and a nice breeze would blow in and knock me out. Click and make the reservation.

The owners were so helpful answering our e-mails; how to get from the train station to the B&B, places of interest and restaurants. Buyers remorse…? Never happened.

The two and a half hour train ride from London through the English countryside was relaxing. You can purchase your tickets on-line and save a lot of money.

Our reservations were from Saturday through Thursday and had no problems filling up our days with things to do, places to eat and time to log in some R&R.

And here is what we did there:

One of the first places we visited on Sunday was Barter Books. This is one of the largest used book stores in England. It’s located in an old train station in Alnwick and if you are headed to this part of the country and love books, you must stop by.

On Monday, we bought tickets to visit Alnwick Castle and gardens. This is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. They open the castle, grounds and the gardens in the summer for visitors.

Don’t let the clouds in the photo intimidate you, they pass by rather quickly. The tickets are good for the entire day and you have nearly complete access to the castle and garden. While I did like walking around the castle, I really loved the gardens.

On Tuesday, we took a day trip to Cragside. This place was the first house in England to be power by hydro-electric power. The first owner was an engineer who built nearly every bridge for the railroads in India. So it’s no surprise that when he came home, he was going to put his skills to work and build a really cool house. It’s built directly on the hill-side. The front yard drops straight down to the small stream that runs through the property. The ahem, front yard  is terraced and every path leads you down to the small bridge on the property.

Wednesday, we took some time to visit the Alnwick International Music Festival. Every year, the city holds this festival and musicians and dancers come from around the world to perform. I liked the dancers from India and the Scottish bagpipes. There are so many places to see the performers throughout the day.

Thursday we checked out of the B&B and headed back to London.

This was one of the most relaxing vacations I have taken. The Englishman I spoke with on the flight back was right. If you are able to get to England, take the train ride to Alnwick, stay at Greycroft and just relax.

Peace Dudes!

My first experience in minimalism.

By Mike Aux-Tinee…

My first experience with minimalism was not your ordinary run of the mill variety. I was not up to my neck with too many things that were encroaching into every aspect of my life. I did not need my friends and family to stage an intervention to shake me free from my obsession. Actually, it was quite the opposite and here is my story of my first experience with minimalism.

Four years ago, I set off on my first trip to Italy. I rented a villa for a week in a town called Spoletto in the state of Umbria. It’s about an hour and a half from Rome by train. To prepare for the trip, I checked weather reports, train schedules, restaurants and places of interest in both Spoletto and Rome. It was going to be a really cool vacation.

My plan was to have a suit case that I would check and a backpack that I was going to carry on.  

Getting to the airline check-in counter, the girl checking in my suit case asked if I could take some things out of it to make it lighter. I took out an extra pair of socks, jeans, t-shirt, boxers (guess that secret is now out) and a shirt.

These new additions and what I was wearing would be the only clothes I had for an entire week abroad. What became a travel nightmare, became a crash course in minimalism nirvana!

I was to connect with the overnight flight in Chicago. I was on time, so was my first ride. Chicago was experiencing high winds and flights into and out of O’Hare were delayed. Sitting on the tarmac while things calmed down was no big deal. I eventually arrived in Chicago and I missed the connecting flight by mere minutes.

I was rushed to a ticket counter and rebooked on a flight to Poland… yes…I did say Poland. It was not exactly the direction I wanted to go, but at least I was heading out of the country.

While I was making my way to the rebooked flight, my suit case was sitting somewhere, waiting for someone to put it on a plane and escort it across the Atlantic.

Short and sweet of the story, it never arrived and ended up in ‘suit case’ never-never land.

Once the shock of losing the bag passed, I proceeded in having a really cool vacation.

Here is what I learned from this ordeal:

1. Forget traveling with a checked bag. Things can happen that are out of your control and you can lose everything. Now, I travel with a carry on bag and my back pack.

The places I travel have wash machines and dryers. So, I get to pack less and spend part of one day washing and drying clothes. It is not the end of the world and has become a part of my subsequent travels abroad.

2. If I could make it an entire week with just two sets of clothes, what could I do once I was back home? I started thinking and looking at my possessions differently. It occurred to me, I did not need so much to survive.

3. Remember why you are where you are. It is about the experiences, not about the things that matter.

Luckily, the camera survived and I was able to get some very cool photos! So what if I am wearing the same outfit in nearly every photo… there are only two people who know that little tid-bit and I have them well paid.

4. Hey, once off the plane, I am headed out the door and off on my adventure. I do not wait in any more lines than I need to. Hence, I start my adventure sooner than most people.

When I am out and about traveling, I see so many Americans with so much luggage. I am so thankful I am not like that anymore. I am much happier that I do not have to struggle with a heavy suit case et all…  I wish they knew what I did.

Peace Dudes!