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FOTOFRIDAY: Matchbooks Spark BreakAway Memories

Posted on: Friday, March 22nd, 2019
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When a large, long shelf collapsed recently, a million mementos and countless photos came crashing down. Ironically, I had gone into that closet to clean and purge. Guess I was about 555 pounds too late!

The matchbook collection—dating back decades to the days when such things (and smoking) were commonplace—was to be the first to go. But once I dove in, I realized most of those memories had no other mental cue. Needless to say, I ended up saving a bunch. And getting lost in the cities, restaurants, resorts, bars, and other places I had been back when.

Memories are priceless. So is the art of getting away, whether for a quick drink or a RTW sabbatical. So those matchbooks aren’t all garbage, after all. Perhaps there’s a performance piece in my future where an audience member picks a random one out of a fishbowl and I must tell the story?

Don’t count it. But don’t throw away your memories, either!

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Even NBA Stars Suffer from Screen Abuse

Posted on: Wednesday, March 20th, 2019
Posted in: Unplugging | Leave a comment

My memories of playing and coaching sports, though fading, feature animated pregame rituals all about team and game. Sure, each player had their own routine. But few experiences compare to the upbeat team banter and camaraderie—which remains one reason why I am emphatically pro-sports for youth. That pre-game power was more than palpable; it was virtually electric.

It’s less like that these days. Now “virtual” and “electric” take on more literal connotations, as phones, headphones, and SM take over the minds and attentions of athletes.

An article by Timberwolves/NBA writer Chris Hine last week peeked into the locker room—and saw millionaire hooper studs with their heads down, staring at phones. Rather than shouts and slaps, there was silence (except for headphone noise). Rather than high 5s and clapping, hands were scrolling and tapping.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has noticed, describing some athletes as “unhappy” and “isolated.” Celtics superstar Kyrie Irving has stated of his fellow round-ballers, “People are dealing with anxiety, depression and other disorders that affect their well-being,” … “Some people can’t handle all of this, and we need to be mindful of that.” Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns talks of having to deal with the “keyboard warriors”—rabid and rude fans that lurk and stalk from the cloud.

  • Beyond the NBA

While the NBA leads pro sports in SM attention—they have more Instagram followers than the other 3 big pro sports combined—the malady has, shall we say, gone viral. Strib writer Hine describes it as a “millennial condition.”

That’s certainly been my experience as a college instructor. Back in the day, the gathering of the students before class was a meaningful time of connection, chat, and even cornering students who had fallen behind or otherwise needed attention.

Over the years, that time has become evermore reserved and self-centered—to the point that teachers are often trained not to pressure students about their screen focus; you may feed into anxiety, sometimes called nomophobia, and make the problem worse.

  • Some sports offer hope?

All young athletes love their tech toys. Yet some sports remain more old-school, at least at times. After all, baseball games take hours and teams play and practice almost daily, but do you ever see players sneaking their screen into the dugout? Unlikely. A football player, meanwhile, would get thwacked by a coach. And an iPhone on a hockey rink would get smashed to smithereens, splashed with blood, and then eaten by the enforcer.

Of course, sports represent just one microcosm of the digitalia addiction conundrum. And the problem no longer just applies to millennials; I routinely see grizzled grandmas and grandpas stuck on their screens whether walking, dining, or driving (of course).

Thank goodness athletes must at least unplug to play the actual game. So far, anyway.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Faith Springs Eternal

Posted on: Friday, March 15th, 2019
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Here in MN, winters last long and test sanity. So we create curious pastimes that might strike Californians as crazy—like ice-fishing, snow-shoeing, and (of course) snow-sculpting. Some call me the Snow Whisperer.

This particular creation required fast photography action, or the flowers that dot the i would freeze and droop, just like we humans do. But faith pays; even the longest winters eventually end. As will this one. Someday…

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FOTOFRIDAY: The Empire State Building’s Weathervane

Posted on: Friday, March 8th, 2019
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Looks to me like someone stole a sweet weathervane from a barn in Iowa and plopped it under the ESB in NYC!

While the vane actually sits atop a building near the ESB—not on the ESB—they make a lovely pair. It’s true: You DO see it all in New York!

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Big Entrepreneurs Push Tiny House Getaways

Posted on: Sunday, March 3rd, 2019
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

What you see here is indeed a tiny house. For ice fishing, mostly. Similar castles dot Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes by the gazillions for months, and then must disappear by midnight the first Monday in March, as mandated by the MN DNR. We call it a bittersweet sign of spring.

To out-of-towners, this endless trend seems bizarre—further proof of our faraway, Minnesota-meets-Fargo quirkiness. To us (and, trust me, not everyone participates) the allure of the ice house is quite simple. And it’s not the fish (should you get lucky), the c-c-c-cold (most huts are actually heated), or the adult beverages (though the bar is often open).

No, it’s the art of getting away. And honestly, the experience can be beautiful, even magical. I have an interest in one and my shanty shindigs are always packed! Some gatherings chill, read, play games or music, do a date, spend the night. One Sunday sundown tradition with my brethren is singing familiar hymns in harmony. “Take it to the Lord in prayer…

But usually, it’s a party. A Getaway party.

  • Meanwhile, on the East Coast…

Out East, tiny houses are popping up thanks to a venture called Getaway, as created by entrepreneurs John Staff and Pete Davis. Their vision for your less-is-more quest includes natural surroundings, eco-friendly digs, and an unplugging mentality. Any guests spotted using their phones are immediately, and aggressively, kicked out. (Kidding.)

  • “A day off for the always on”

Those seductive words appear as one of Getaway’s website headlines, and suggest the uber-busy lifestyles of their clientele: A day off apparently challenges the calendroid, while turning off devices evidently tests their digitalia addiction. Clearly, these people NEED that getaway! Or rather, they’re just like people just about everywhere.

Check out ongoing press, instagrammers, simple recipes, and T-shirts.

  • Let’s go!

I’ve long fantasized 68-hour retreats with BreakAway experts, good food, and parties (optional). Possible diversions from focus might include yoga, mindfulness, travel planning, and financial coaching. Everyone would leave with an ACTUAL plan. Or, at least depart refreshed and re-faithed.

Until then, ice fishing will do. As will Getaway’s tiny houses. Sign me up!

THINK TINY!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Robolights in Palm Springs

Posted on: Friday, March 1st, 2019
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For six weeks around Christmas every year, Kenny Irwin transforms his 2-acre yard into what may be the world’s biggest, unique-est light display, Robolights.

He uses found art, bizarre garbage, constructed creations, and endless holiday lights. Art? Kitsch? Trash? That’s for the visitor to decide. And visit they do—at least 40,000 annually—transforming the neighborhood into a crowded chaos of shock and awe.

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FOTOFRIDAY: When Teen Travel Turns Tiresome…

Posted on: Friday, February 22nd, 2019
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Advice to parents: Run away with your kids. Far away. Which, in this photo, meant ambling alone through Hamlet’s Kronborg castle in delightful Denmark. Sounds cool, right? But my son wasn’t buying it. And I get it: Travel at times feels so foreign, so laborious, so irrelevant.

Still, my children have seen the world, experienced extended and exotic stays, and even survived months of home schooling with assignments like creating a travel blog, BreakAway Kid. So they’ve learned things schools can’t teach—including that post-castle activities might include invigorating midnight-sun Frisbee on the beach.

Now THAT sounds like something even Bill Shakespeare would enjoy!

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FOTOFRIDAY: BreakAway W/ Your Besties at the MN State Fair

Posted on: Friday, February 15th, 2019
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Everyone wants to get away. It’s particularly cool when a hot August day feels like another planet—yet you’re close to two cities. That’s the Fair!

What do you see? I see one sheriff who looks grumpy. Another who wants to go home. Lots of pale faces seeking sunburn. And beer—lots of beer—because the Fair has relaxed its rules and been over-run by umpteen craft beer vendors and upscale eateries.

Why not? It’s a party! It’s summer! No wonder 200 million fans attend the 11-day get-together each year. I rarely go. But this year’s visit resulted in dozens of great shots—including this one of my new best friends.

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Belize BreakAway Triggers Travel Reminders

Posted on: Sunday, February 10th, 2019
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BreakAway is largely about travel, obviously, though Mgt sometimes get hitchhiked down adjacent paths. We DO still travel—if not lately in the career-break, 3-months-away model. A recent trip, though, sparked reminders of why travel is vital, and how many cool places are a mere 12-hour travel day away.  : /

Like, Belize, which remains off most travel radars. It is small, after all (pop. 320,000), even though Madonna made its #1 destination, island San Pedro, famous with her 1987 hit “La Isla Bonita.” The island still embraces that nickname, of course! Belize is young, too; they only stopped being the British Honduras in 1981! Tourists will encounter some 3rd world conditions, and drugs allegedly float through.

Reality checklist recognized, Belize is charming. And booming. Waterside construction is common. And for the Retiree RE Speculators of America, it’s become a red-hot spot—with mega-developments popping up all over. Belize also happens to host the #2 coral reef on earth. So Belize offers a perfect place to thaw a northerner’s soul, re-juice the travel jones, and inspire reminders of why many of us love to travel in the first place.

Stuff like…

  • Relaxation will find you 

Although many travelers arrive with a must-see/to-do schedule, snowbirds know better when simply seeking warmth. I’ll confess: I had a sight-seeing agenda of sorts. But I think it blew off my lap and into the water I first hit the beach. That’s when you kmow you’re on vacation.

  • Nature rocks

I’ve seen more stunning tropical scenery. But who cares? Belize offers quintessential Caribbean beauty; the surrounding palm trees, iguanas, puffy clouds, and aqua water were magical. And have you ever noticed how your senses notice things more keenly when exploring beyond everyday avenues. 

  • Travel reveals the best in people

When I boarded the packed ferry from the mainland to San Pedro, I ended up on the sunny but uncomfortable stern. Where I come from, you can’t sit there. So I asked the Creole gentlemen next to me, “Can I sit here?” Our sunglasses met, and he cheerfully answered, “DEES BOAT EES FAH WE!”

Having gotten rusty on my Carib patois—and forgotten that Belize is not so much Spanish or English after all—I replied, “For who?” “FAH WE!,” he sang, in classic Caribbean patois, “SEET DOWN AND EEN-JOY DA RIDE!” So I did, salty spray and all.

Waitresses were sunny and funny. Cab drivers discussed history—the country’s and their own—and offered logistical tips. And I again experienced that travel truism: It often seems that people who have less seem to enjoy what they have more. As natives on other islands have explained to me, just about all locals have family, food (fresh fish, fruit, and vegetables!), and a place to sleep. They consider that bounteous.

Belizeans appeared to be genuinely kind, happy to be alive, and grateful to be there.

  • Indigenous dangers may lurk

Belize (or what I saw) showed few signs of crime, unrest, or violence (never saw a cop). Still, locals sometimes urged caution and offered safety tips—and were deadly SERIOUS about not wanting guests to become a crocodile snack!

  • New friends appear easily

I come from the land of Minnesota Nice. Yet we can as cold and harried as anyone anywhere. So it sure was fun to experience festive and gregarious strangers all over—like these condo neighbors from Toronto. Hey, we had OJ, they had vodka. Any questions?

  • Travel assures spine-tingling, 6-degree experiences

On the first morning, I headed out with a friend to explore the island via golf cart (which comprise ~90% of the vehicles on San Pedro). Our first stop was a beach bar. Naturally, the owner/bartender was from MN—and had procured the bar’s namesake (Paco the giant wooden monkey) from a Twin Cities Trader Joe’s.

Small world, or what!?! Well, the next person to sit down and chat had not only grown up on my hometown, but had gone to my high school. SCREEEEEEAM!

  • Every place has its attractions

In Belize, it’s all about the barrier reef. Oh sure, many tourists are happy just to bask in sun, sand, and surf. But only Australia has a bigger reef. So the dive boats are omnipresent, as is the dive chatter.

(Worth noting: Partying comes a close second in popular activities. To paraphrase the t-shirt of every warm sailing/surfing/diving destination, “Belize is a drinking island with a diving problem.”

  • Events will wow you

Sure, the sports bars (or any place with cold beer and a functional TV) were rocking for the NFL playoff games that Sunday night. And Saturday night brought all revelers—tourists and locals alike—downtown for the bars and clubs. But the MAIN event was Sunday’s super-blood-wolf total eclipse of the full moon, courtesy of a clear sky and brilliant reflections.

  • Local humor thrives

Warm-weather vacations are a big thing for North Americans. But remember: When you go south, it’s winter there too. So while January temps range from ~65 – 85, you’ll likely experience varying conditions. Thank goodness for the local coconut weather-caster to help us make sense of the shifting weather!

  • Authenticity will overtake you

San Pedro caters largely to northern tastes. Yet local color rules. And most eateries served creations with Caribbean twists. Flavors aren’t shy, and fresh ingredients abound; a stop at a F&V stand will land you a football-sized papaya for around $2. And as for seafood? It’s so fresh you might eat it raw—like this sublime tuna poke on crispy plantain cakes at Rojo Lounge and Beach Bar.

  • “Island Time” works just fine

As vacation days fade away, workaday worries feel much less relevant than, say, kicking back poolside. In fact, that book may go untouched due to the urgent distraction of repose. The clock disappears and Island Timegently kicks in. Nothing better.

  • You must go home again, but don’t stop Belizin’!

Like some of these pics, vacations quickly seem blurry. After a few days of January chill back home, the left brain rightly asks, “Did that just happen?

Well yes, it did. And God willing, it will again. So embrace the souvenirs and stare at the pictures. And of course, start scheming the next vacation, the next destination, the next BreakAway…

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FOTOFRIDAY: A Panorama Near Portland

Posted on: Friday, February 8th, 2019
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TGIF! And finally, a new feature! The photo trove is full of pictures that are worth at least 1,000 words—ideal both the writer’s frozen fingers and today’s readers’ attention spans.

This image comes from a panoramic overlook near popular Portland (OR) last March. The grandstander on the bridge is my fearless friend, Brian. Naturally, the wind was as gusty as my pal is gutsy. But no, he didn’t fall off!

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