Inspiration by the Sea

Writing can be a healing, soothing, exciting and a fun thing to do.

However, writing can also be excruciatingly painful when the mind becomes an endless desert of nothingness. When inspired the words flow out in sweet cadences to form magical sentences, but the dry well and muted voice is always lurking near by.  This is why, the desire to seek places of inspiration runs deep in all writers.

I’ve been in Dubrovnik, Croatia, the last few days.

I didn’t come here for inspiration to write, but inspiration to write found me.

Given a choice between the mountains or the ocean; I’m twice as likely to choose the mountains however, this trip made me realize the ocean just might be a source of inspiration for me. There’s something about staring out to sea that opens my mind, relaxes me, and allows me to hear what I have to say. I suppose that’s what inspiration is after all – the ability to hear what one has to say.

This “self-discovery” made me happy about picking Lake Atitlan, Guatemala as my destination to go write my first (technically second) book. While not the ocean, I’ll be surrounded by water and also close to the mountains. I was looking for the best of both worlds during my search, and it seems I unknowingly set myself up for writing success. Of course, I won’t know for sure until I get there, and my theory is tested by having to produce a book in a few short months.

In the meantime, I’m going to take advantage of the cadences pouring out by typing them and taking short breaks to enjoy the view.

Sunset Dubrovnik
Sunset Dubrovnik, Croatia

Making of a Friendship

I met someone this past week. He’s a younger male version of me.

He’s a seeker of adventures, challenges, and new things. Much like me, he bores easily, and has many interests. As he listed things, activities, and sports he’s tried or is interested in trying – I listened in awe of the similarities. His struggles of balancing his desires for the unconventional with life’s expectations, and responsibilities also rang with familiarity. His yearning to commit to a relationship, but fear and inability to do so, hit right at home. He needs to feel free, to explore and to push himself. When he starts something, he wants to be good at it/master it. He jumps into things completely and fully; but can also be totally lazy about other things. Again, I’ve never heard someone describe themselves and feel like they were describing me.

He is however, a lot of more outgoing, energetic…and “youthful” – a term to kindly describe the biggest difference between us. He still has a few of the flaws/issues I’ve worked through over the years. I don’t doubt he’ll figure them out too.

He made me laugh…a lot. I had fun with him and enjoyed being around him.

We often found ourselves pedaling in front of the group, sometimes in silence (mostly because I was actually out of breath), and sometimes chatting. We sat across from each other the first night at dinner, and became pretty inseparable from that point on. We shared rooms, a tent and even a bed, but there was no funny business. It wasn’t like that between us.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s an attractive guy. I can definitely see why women pursue him. Especially younger women, who think it’s possible to tame a lion…who get caught up in his charisma, energy and drive, while unaware of everything else going on underneath. He knows how to be sweet…and if he wanted to, I’m sure he could have followed that with quite a bit of charm, but he didn’t. He knew about my faith, and belief and respected them…or maybe he wasn’t attracted to me, or he was afraid I’d fall for him, and felt a need to protect me from himself (clearly not knowing who he was dealing with). Who knows? It really doesn’t matter; I just know I can trust him, and I can be fully comfortable and myself around him. There was no expectation. No weirdness. It just was. There was such a simplicity to it.

Meeting a truly kindred spirit in my opinion is pretty rare. At least, it has been for me.

I have very few friends. I usually rather be alone than in the company of others, but I didn’t mind being around him, dare I say, I even liked having him around. I have what I consider a couple of work friends, but much of what we have in common is rooted in the work we do. With him, it’s different, it’s rooted in being so alike.

Friendship requires effort. To no great surprise, we’re both crappy at nurturing and maintaining friendships. He did invite me to come visit him, and to participate in a run that he and his family put together to honor his father. That puts the ball in my court, and it freaks me out, which is why I’m writing this blog post. I need to remind myself that sharing the week with him was a lot of fun. Further developing the friendship, and possibly having someone to go on some of my future adventures with could be pretty awesome. He’s up to just about anything, he’s physically fit, totally able to keep up (makes me push myself), he’s low maintenance, quick to get ready, and he makes me laugh. As far as what I would look for in a friend…he’s a pretty solid match. The only way to really know, is to work on keeping in touch with him.

 

Dries and Ann
Dries and Ann

 

How About You?

Have you ever met someone unexpectedly?  Were you able to maintain a long-distance friendship? Feel free to comment below or contact Ann’s Adventure Tour Writer and Blogger here.

Capturing Beauty

I never had an interest in photography, not even when it became everyone’s favorite new (expensive) hobby. I am not even sure I’m into photography now, but I do have thousands of pictures on my phone. I do take the time to edit some of my pictures, and I have a pretty active Instagram account.

The Edited Image
The Edited Image

Some people have told me I take great pictures, and I have quite an eye; I don’t know if that’s true. All I know is that in the last 15 months of traveling, I’ve been exposed to so much beauty; I’ve grown a desire to capture it.

The desire to capture the beauty grew out of wanting to share it and memorialize it.

The Simple
The Simple

 

The Unique
The Unique

When I look through my pictures, I see the difference from the pictures taken during my first trips and my more recent pictures. Along the way, I grew more patient. I stopped rushing to click and move on. I began to take the time to really see and watch what I was blessed to experience and then click to take pictures. It’s actually a very interesting cause and effect.

Slowing down to better see what’s in front of me has resulted in better pictures.  Creating better pictures has caused me to look at things in a new way.

Capturing beauty has motivated me to seek out more beauty to capture. Becoming more patient, has allowed me to notice a lot more.

The Artistic Vision
The Artistic Vision

I don’t own a fancy camera. I have my phone camera and recently, I purchased a GoPro (which I’m not familiar with at all, yet). I know the type of camera matters, and understand there are many tricks to taking better picture.  Even though I don’t actually know any of the tricks and techniques that’s where not being a photographer comes in. I’m not interested right now in complicating the process I have.

While I want to capture the beauty of my travels, I don’t want the photography to overtake what my experiences are meant to be.

Simple Scenes (this one from Paris)
Simple Scenes (this one from Paris)

Which brings me to another point about captured beauty, it doesn’t matter how incredible the photographer is – seeing it for yourself is much better. Looking at some pictures might feel like being there, but trust me, it isn’t the same as being there.

I would hope the pictures I take, allow you to see the world (as I see it).  More importantly, though, I hope these pictures encourage you to go see the world for yourself.

Capturing Art - Horse Mural in Salzburg
Capturing Art – Horse Mural in Salzburg

How About You?

What have you seen in pictures that you are planning on going to see? Leave a comment and tell me about it!  You can also contact Ann’s Adventure Tour Writer and Blogger here.

Yes to God, Goodbye to Grey

I read a blog post on Boundless after seeing it come across my Twitter feed, and thought it was well written, worth a read, but missing something…which is why I want to open up a little more about myself, to hopefully give more context to what Lisa was trying to say.

I’ve obviously heard about the book Fifty Shades of Grey, and I’ve also seen one of the movie trailers.

I haven’t read the book, so I’m making assumptions about the storyline based on what I’ve read about it. I have however, experienced/lived similar experiences.

I can see the appeal of the book and movie for women…even to Christian women. While I was raised Catholic, I was not a follower of Christ in the truest sense until about 5 years ago – you could say I had a few promiscuous years.

I had an adventurous, risky and sexually driven time of my life. Okay…not sure that’s properly stated, I’m still very adventurous and filled with sexual desires, but it’s now all contained within the bounds of obedience for my Lord and Savior.

I can understand how Christian women, who have made their vows to wait until marriage, and have been kept waiting, and waiting by God (with no sign of a husband in sight anytime soon) are attracted to a movie like that. They’re likely curious, and have been living off some sort of fantasy of their own, about who the man is, that will finally end their torturous wait.

But a “Christian Grey” is not the answer…not even the idea of him. Trust me.

The men of my past were not billionaires, but they had a fair share of other qualities with the character depicted as Christian Grey. They had issues, some more than others (I had issues too, so not placing blame solely on them) but they were also hot, sexy, and intoxicating. I used men. They used me. Some hurt me emotionally and mentally, and one or two bordered line on the physical. They were an outlet for my anger, hurt, and pain I was feeling. They were also an escape from reality. Sex made me feel, albeit very temporarily, amazing and in power. For a brief moment, it filled a void.  I used to love losing control to the intoxicating animalistic need for passion, flesh and raw desires.

When I first dropped to my knees and gave my life to the Lord, I struggled greatly with those urges. They were like a drug and without them, how would I feel sexy, needed…how would I have control and power?

How would I be empowered as a woman?

God worked in my life to fill those needs and to show me true and unconditional love. I don’t look back on my past in shame or regret. I didn’t know God back then, like I know Him now. He hadn’t taken hold of my life. However, with that being said, I certainly have no desires to watch who I used to be through the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. I feel very sorry for all those who will watch and yearn to have a similar experience, like Anastasia’s because it’s a shallow, meaningless, hurtful, and demeaning experience. It isn’t love…no matter how the story ends. Christian women should have a greater understanding of what love is.

God has taken all my pain, anger and hurt away. He has forgiven me and I have forgiven myself, but I still know I was a mess back then without God in my life. I made poor and bad decisions. I didn’t know what real love was. I gave to men what they hadn’t earned, or deserved to have from/of me.

As I sit here writing this, I’m still single. My desires to know the love of a man, here on earth, in the flesh, burns feverishly, but not as hot as how it burns for God. His love is more than enough. Whenever I have moments of weakness; after all, I too get tired of waiting, and I have physical needs and wants, I spend time with Him, basking in His love.

Ladies, don’t undo what God has planned for you by getting side tracked. It’s not worth it.

It will require additional discipline and faith to forego joining others in indulging in what you know you should not watch, but it’s a small sacrifice to pay for the endless well of love God constantly offers you.

Again, I have no interest watching what a fool I used to be on the Big Screen. Don’t go watching what a fool you can become by stepping out on God.

How About You?

Do you have an opinion about the 50 Shades of Grey movie?  I would love to hear from you!  Comment below or contact Ann’s Adventure Tour Travel Writer and Blogger here.

The Plan for 2015: A Year of Adventures

I believe deep down in all us there are yearnings and desires that are engraved in our DNA, and while they can be ignored for a while; they can never be fully extinguished. These yearnings are no doubt the greatest source of regrets for those who constantly battle, put off, or discount them.

I know of two such yearnings for me; the desire to write and the desire to have adventures. More specifically, to have outdoor, active and physically demanding type of adventures. I’ve been scratching the itch this past year with my traveling around Europe, and on my one multi-day bike trip I took around Lake Constance, but you know how itches go…if you can’t scratch them enough to stop itching – they just get a lot itchier.

My trip to Paris opened my eyes to the truth of what I want from my traveling. I will continue to visit the major cities and attractions in Europe while living here, but I plan on focusing a lot more on taking trips that lead to having adventures in the great outdoors.

I made physical fitness a part of my life at an early age. I started running when I was 9 or 10 to lose weight…at first it was just a few blocks, but it eventually became miles as I got older. I also did a lot of other type of cardio exercises…I owned many of popular aerobics tapes in the late 80s, early 90s, and then at 16, I discovered weight lifting. I’m a bit of loner and didn’t feel very coordinated as a teenager, so I never participated in team sports; instead, since running was already something I was familiar with, I ran track and cross country. I loved running cross country because it was alone time in the woods. From sixth grade on, we lived in Massachusetts with plenty of woods behind our house, and even then, I took much joy in just wondering around in the woods. I knew I had a thing for nature and fitness, but didn’t fully understand my full yearning yet.

The Marine Corps really appealed to me because it promised to be physically demanding, had the potential of taking me to foreign lands and would teach me new useful skills (combat, marksmanship and survival skills to name a few, so I thought). It didn’t quite deliver, but it did scratch the itch for a few years. After I got out, I submerged myself in business and making it as an entrepreneur. It didn’t quite work out and the failures and brokenness of those pursuits left me tied up picking up the pieces for a few more years. As 2014 came to an end, all the pieces had been picked up.

Fully recovered from the past, but displeased with the present, I’ve been looking forward into the future. The unfilled gap left from what the Marine Corps didn’t turn out to be, and all the unexplored desires to be outdoors and not behind a desk have made me determined to pursue options that will lead to spending a lot more time outside, and experiencing many new adventures while learning useful skills.

The opportunities to have outdoor adventures in Europe are insanely numerous…which ironically makes things more difficult than what one would otherwise think.

Must Make Life Changes

I fell out of the run early on. Not much of a distance to fall out from when you’re already in the rear. Years ago I was a great runner, but after a series of injuries and bad knees I began to run less and less. Eventually, it boiled down to running for the PFT only. But make no mistake about it, it wasn’t an easy pace, I couldn’t feel my legs because of the cold and I couldn’t breathe. Also, I didn’t see the point of killing myself to keep up since my days of having something to prove are over. I wasn’t that far back from the formation and I could see I wasn’t the only one falling back. I kept my pace and began passing people going up the hill. They had hung in there, but were now having a hard time catching their breaths. As I was making my way up to one fellow Marine, he fell over. Not the type of falling over in order to lie down and say “f’ck it I’m taking a rest” but the type of involuntary falling over because you’re no longer in control of yourself. I recognized him immediately, it was Ryan Hansen.

I looked down at him and he appeared to be having some sort of seizure. I yelled out for the corpsman, looking ahead at the stragglers continuing to run up the hill with their best efforts knowing the corpsman wasn’t there, and then looked back hoping to find the safety vehicle. I kneeled down by his left side. His face seemed paralyzed. His eyes were wide open staring at me, his mouth open grasping for air. His skin color was turning gray. Another Marine appeared from out of nowhere on his right side and lifted up his head and turned it to the right, as was being directed by yet another Marine who clearly had a better idea of what to do in these type of situations…but Ryan’s eyes remained on me. For a very brief moment I gently rubbed his arm but stopped and felt foolish, as if that was helping him. I kept wondering “where’s the corpsman…why isn’t here yet?” I’ve had to yell for a corpsman very few times, but every time I have…one was always there almost immediately.

I felt relief when I finally saw one of the vehicle pull up but as the driver stepped out, he said he didn’t have the corpsman with him; the corpsman was in the front vehicle. Why the f’ck would the corpsman be in the front vehicle?!? More Marines appeared on the scene crowding around Ryan. I felt utterly useless. I didn’t know what to do; I wanted the corpsman to be here. The GySgt assigned for keeping up the rear showed up and asked everyone to keep moving along. He and the Marines from the safety vehicle had it under control. I didn’t want to leave but I did…a part of me thought I could catch up and somehow finally find the corpsman.

I ran back thinking about how screwed up this run was. I passed more people who had fallen out and could see how strung up the formation had actually become. What was the point to this?!? Who is trying to prove what? My thoughts turned to how much I’ve hated this week. How miserable I am and how I don’t get why I stay. Ryan was behind me lying on the side of a trail suffering from what might have been a heart attack for all I knew. Just a few nights prior, we walked out together to our cars and he confided in me how he had way more work than he could handle. Everything thrown his way was a #1 priority and there was no way he was going to get it all done. My parting words to him were to focus on his real #1 priority – his family. He thanked me and said he would remember that.

He didn’t make it. He died that morning. The expression on his face and his eyes glaring at me are always going to stay with me. What more could have I done to help him? Should we have done CPR on him right away? Why did I keep waiting on the corpsman? He had a look of shock on his face. Why didn’t I keep gently rubbing his arm and talking to him while everyone else was trying to figure out what to do? Why did I leave? I hate myself for leaving.

I’m extremely angry at everyone who planned this run and at the Deputy Commander for setting the pace he did. Mistakes were made and exactly what those were will come out in the investigation. I’ll get over the anger and I know the people involved are going to deal with their own level guilt.

In truth, I know it wasn’t the mistakes that killed him…I believe when it’s your time to go and the Lord is calling you; it’s your time to go. But I don’t know why it was Ryan’s turn to go. He was a nice, good, decent guy. He wasn’t one to stress work, which made our conversation a few nights earlier, really stick with me. Plenty of people at MARFOREUR/AF are dealing with multiple top priorities and working long hours to figure out how to complete them all, but that hadn’t been his normal. He leaves behind two little girls. I’m sure he was a wonderful father. Thinking of his little girls growing up without him is heartbreaking. I must have faith God knows best, even if it makes absolutely no sense to me.

What I need to figure out though is my life, because my life right now doesn’t make much sense to me and I need to start living a satisfying life not continue to live a miserable one. It is not God’s Will that I be this unhappy. I’m not bringing him much Glory this way, so no matter how hard it is to make real change happen – I must figure out how to make it be. My life could end just as suddenly as Ryan’s and it wouldn’t be much of a tragedy…I’m a workaholic with loose ties to family and friends. I’m not tied, connected or attached to anything or anyone. I’m choosing it to be like this so I can choose to have it be different.