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Author: Mandy Weger

I Don’t Believe In Bucket Lists

I Don’t Believe In Bucket Lists

There’s something about the term “bucket list” that rubs me the wrong way. It seems to imply that in order to do the things you actually want to do with your life, you have to be scared of your impending or eventual death.

That’s bullshit.

It also rubs me the wrong way because instead of making plans to fulfill their dreams right now, bucket-listers put their wish lists off until “some day” where more often than not, they then get too old and tired or less passionate to go and live out their younger, distant dreams. Putting your deepest wishes on a pedestal instead of just going for it and living the life you want to live seems like a waste of time to me.

Mike and I recently had a life or death scare, where the ship Mike was on for work was hit by a drone. All of his possessions were destroyed in the blast, including the chair he had been sitting in not 30 minutes before. He was completely unharmed, but also, strangely, unfazed. Mike said if he had died, well…he went out in an interesting way and had lived a wonderful life with no regrets.

I, on the other hand, was much more affected by the “what-ifs” and the possibilities of if things had been slightly different…it was a torturous and unproductive exercise, but nearly impossible to avoid in these circumstances.

But after taking a step back from the initial shock of it all, I realized that if I died rightthissecond, I’d be sad that I wouldn’t be able to live longer, but I would die without regrets and without any wish for my life to have been different.

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Me in Turkey, April 2013

That’s a very powerful and empowering realization. At 27 years old, I live my life exactly as I want, no fears or regrets.

Granted, I’m a privileged person with the financial means to make it happen, which makes a huge difference, but I’ve also been open to the right opportunities and have worked hard to get where I want to go. Knowing my priorities in life make decisions easy for me–will I regret not doing this? Yes? Then I’m going to do it. If I work extraordinarily hard at my job, will it open up more opportunities, freedom and flexibility? Yes? Then I’ll do that too.

One of my goals when we moved to Spain was to live in the present. To stop looking so far ahead that I forgot to live and appreciate the now. All of the traveling that we were able to do during those short 10 months very much made that possible for me. I can say that I’ve accomplished my goal (for the most part, I have my moments of course) and am a much happier person for it.

In order to fulfill that promise to myself to live in the present, that means bucket lists are not a part of it. Goals and dreams are definitely a part of my life, but they are actionable and I always feel as if it’s not a matter of “some day” but a matter of “when.”

Also, after a scare like we had, life is just too short to do anything else.

How do you feel about bucket lists? Do they inspire you to go, do, or are they distant dreams?

Book Discussion: The Circle by Dave Eggers

Book Discussion: The Circle by Dave Eggers

Recently I read “The Circle” by Dave Eggers and it’s one of those books that has stuck with me.

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The Circle by Dave Eggers

It’s a dystopian novel set in the not-so-far digitally transparent future.The book follows Mae Holland, who is thrilled at her luck in getting a job at The Circle. The Circle is essentially a tech company and social platform that combines Google, Facebook, Twitter, PayPal and meshes them with the world of physical, wearable technology. This fictional world is one where peoples’ online and offline lives merge together as one identity and sharing every detail of one’s life is the norm.

The mantras of “The Circlers” are:

  • ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN
  • PRIVACY IS THEFT
  • SECRETS ARE LIES, and
  • SHARING IS CARING.

It takes the idea of privacy in our ever-increasing digitally transparent world and brings all of the walls down. Politicians’ every word and move are captured on camera, leading the trend to go “clear” in mainstream society by wearing cameras to broadcast one’s life to an audience of strangers.

Mae is quickly sucked into this world, where the benefits to give up privacy start to outweigh the drawbacks, and we get a glimpse into what the world might look like if all of our personal data were held by a private company and available for the world to see.

My Thoughts:

I found The Circle fascinating as I have often talked with Mike about getting “microchipped” so that I’m never lost or abducted, or when the first cancerous cell strikes my body, my mobile phone alerts me and my doctors immediately. I’m always fascinated and intrigued by wearable technology and have considered on multiple occasions to get a Jawbone/FitBit or something of that sort. I have even looked into wearable cameras that take a photo every 30 seconds or wearable video cameras.

Because of my open attitude in terms of privacy (I blog under my real name, I have connected social accounts without a lot of privacy settings, I check in on FourSquare, Tweet and Instagram my food, etc) there were many times in the book where I loved the forward-thinking technology and thought about how much better our lives might be if we only had [fill in the blank here].

But there is a dark side to having those amazing technologies connected to our every move. I couldn’t stand the way that boundaries were never drawn and that being “always on” for cameras and an audience disconnected Mae from everyone in her real life. The extremes portrayed around this disconnection were a bit ridiculous, but served the point well that our online connections do not always enhance our lives or make us happier people – it’s the physical, “in real life” connections that do.

The book is written as a warning sign in many ways, illustrating that the connections that social media gives us are often meaningless or add unnecessary stress to our lives. If we’re always “performing” for an audience, does it mean that we are forced to be our better selves and be held accountable as human beings, or does it mean giving up our authentic selves? If we continue making superficial connections online, will we eventually lose the ability to make real connections in-person?

The Circle was certainly a thought-provoking book, though at times a little proselytizing when I just wanted to make up my own mind one way or another. I still believe I lean more in the direction of having more information at our fingertips than less, even if it means that I give up a little privacy. I suppose that I’m a prime candidate for the way of life in “The Circle,” though I do set boundaries and don’t always care to broadcast my personal life.

I absolutely recommend The Circle to those who work in social media or technology, or who just love it and live it the way that I do. It’s not a great work of literature, and the characters and relationships are shallow, but they are so to prove a point. Weeks after finishing the book, I still think back to passages and certain technologies, having internal debates with myself about the future of connected technology in our world.

What is your attitude toward privacy in this ever-increasing digitally transparent world?

Woman’s Day Annual Red Dress Awards

Woman’s Day Annual Red Dress Awards

This year, I was privileged to attend the Woman’s Day 2014 Red Dress Awards for the second year in a row. The Red Dress Awards honors and recognizes those who do extraordinary work to raise awareness of heart disease in women.

I made my way to NYC, where I stayed at the London hotel and this was my view:

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I go to New York probably about a half a dozen times a year at least, but there is still always something about the city that gives me a thrill. I don’t think I’d want to live in NYC, but I appreciate it for what it is.

I ate at The Modern dining room at MOMA:

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Bread with cow’s milk and goat’s milk butter; amuse bouche; Jerusalem Artichoke soup with sweetbreads and an egg with black truffle coulis; Oven Roasted Trumpet Mushrooms, mussels, Harissa vinaigrette, jamon iberico; Quail in its jus, winter vegetables, foie croquettes and fried quail legs; concord grape ice cream, vanilla meringue, pistachio ice cream.

I highly recommend the Modern, I will definitely be going back because all of the food was just wonderful and there was so much more on the menu that I wanted to try.

I got back to the hotel, dressed up in my new red dress and headed to the awards at the Jazz at Lincoln Center.

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It’s always a beautiful sight to see so many women and men dressed in red, having fun but dedicated to a wonderful cause.

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Plus, the view from my seat once we got into the auditorium wasn’t bad. 😉

Then, low and behold, a few rows in front of me is TOM HANKS!

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Yeah, it’s blurry, but it’s him! I was about to claw my way over the seats just to say hi, but I restrained myself. It was difficult because Tom Hanks is one of my favorite actors, someone I’ve always wanted to meet, and let’s face it: I have grown up watching this man’s movies. I feel like I know him!

Tom was there supporting his wife, Rita who was the host of the evening. She sang a couple of songs (who knew she sang?) and he adorably bopped his head along to her songs and looked with a loving gaze at her the whole time. He’s just as romantic in real life as he is in the movies, guys.

But then, the evening got even more exciting when former President Bill Clinton took to the stage!

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It was wonderful to hear him speak, as I had the opportunity to hear former Vice President Al Gore speak last year. Check this administration off for me! President Clinton spoke about childhood obesity and measures his foundation is taking to raise awareness to families and to give them the tools to prevent it. After his speech, he didn’t stick around, but it was still quite thrilling to see him.

Sara Barielles took the stage and sang four songs. I know a couple of her popular songs, of course, but I’m not very familiar with her. After seeing her live though, I can tell you that she has an adorable personality and is very talented.

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After her first song, she stopped and said to the audience, “I’m really nervous. It might be because Tom Hanks is sitting right in front of me.” And then Tom Hanks threw his head back in laughter.

Overall, it was a great, fun night dedicated to the fight against Heart Disease but the excitement of the celebrity attendees was a wonderful addition and surprise.

I also got to walk the red carpet, which was fun!

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Of course, I had the opportunity to do this through Campbell, so I was working during the event, live tweeting as the awards occurred. Campbell provided some delicious and heart-healthy appetizers that were really fun! Our culinary team does a great job and I love seeing what they can do with our products.

See my write-up of the event on Campbell’s corporate newsroom here.  (and, shameless plug: feel free to leave a comment there too!)

Kitchen Renovation, September 2013

Kitchen Renovation, September 2013

We moved in to our house in 2008, when I was only 21 years old, and we decided right away to paint the kitchen bright orange and yellow (later, these colors would become our wedding colors).

It was bright, it was bold, and while it was a somewhat sloppy DIY paint-job, we were proud and loved it.

Fast forward a few years and we started looking at the kitchen with a little bit of horror, knowing that it was time to soften it up and go for something more sophisticated.

This past September, we finally (FINALLY) renovated our kitchen.

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We used Granite Transformations for the cabinets and counters, and I’m extremely happy with their work. They didn’t have to demolish anything, they just fit new countertops right over our existing ones, and then refaced our cabinets with thin vinyl and new doors. It took 6 business days for the work to be complete.

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The kitchen now feels very “us.” We spend the majority of our time in the kitchen, we love to cook and experiment, so it only made sense for us to make the most of it. Plus, we know we aren’t staying in this house forever and we’d have to redo parts of the house at some point, so we wanted to do the kitchen first so we could enjoy it for the longest.

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Our appliances are all Samsung, purchased at PC Richards (they gave us a far better deal than Home Depot or Best Buy).

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The backsplash is my favorite. We specifically picked the tile out separately from Granite Transformations, as I knew I wanted marble. Granite Transformations still installed the backsplash for us. Also–that’s a brown granite sink you’re looking at!

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Our china cabinet is from Crate & Barrel.
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We plan on swapping out the light fixtures soon for a more modern look, but haven’t found the right ones yet.

The only other thing missing is some artwork! We’ve been toying around with the idea of getting some prints of our favorite food photos that we’ve taken on our travels and create a gallery-style wall with some of the menus we’ve eaten framed as well. I’m a little intimidated by putting art on the walls, as every wall in the house is bare. Hopefully I’ll overcome this fear this year.

I’m incredibly happy with our kitchen and it’s giving me the urge to renovate something else in the house! I think new floors in the hallway/bedrooms/bathrooms are next. Perhaps a whole new master bath as well? We’ll see. 😉

Our Next Trip: Ecuador, April 2014

Our Next Trip: Ecuador, April 2014

If you follow me on Pinterest, you’ll notice that I’ve started a board on Ecuador and if it isn’t obvious, it’s because we’re planning our next vacation there! We’re taking about 9 days to explore Ecuador. Ecuador is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, which means that Mike and I get to experience what we love above almost all else – nature. (Food is one of the other things we value above all else too, it’s a tough call between the two ;))

First up, we’ll take three planes and a two hour canoe ride deep in the Amazon to Napo Wildlife Center.

Your Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest Experience (EntireVersion) from Napo Wildlife Center Ecolodge on Vimeo.

We’ll spend 5 days here, hiking and experiencing the wildlife. You can bet that I will get some great video of our experience here.

After our time in the rainforest, we’ll fly back out (after another 2 hour canoe ride of course) to Quito. In Quito, we’ll visit the Equator museum and Cotopaxi National Park.

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After that, we’ll try to stop in Mindo, Baños and Cuenca.

We might try the “Swing at the Edge of the World” which looks terrifying but awesome:

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Read More About It Here

We’ll go on a cocao tour in Guayaquil:

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And overall, we’ll just have a beautiful, beautiful time.

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I’m looking forward to Ecuador for so many reasons. I get to travel to a new continent, it is a beautiful and diverse place, I get to experience wildlife in its natural habitat again, which we loved in South Africa, and it will be a new challenge for us as it is very different from our previous vacations. Hopefully our Spanish isn’t too rusty and we’ll be able to get by, though I’m sure that the Spanish in Ecuador sounds very different from the Gallego we heard in our corner of Spain.

There is quite a lot of prep work to do for this trip, including preparing physically for the high altitude, buying appropriate clothing for a rainforest hike, and we have to replace our video camera since our last one broke.

It feels like this trip is coming up quickly!

Juggling a Blog

Juggling a Blog

In the year and four months since I started working at Campbell, my blogging dropped like a rock.

There is the primary reason, being that I just don’t have the same amount of time that I used to (you know, when I didn’t have a job) to write. There’s also the fact that I live on my computer until 6-7pm at work, and coming home and writing after working and cooking dinner seems daunting.

An event at work where I got to teach people what Pinterest was & how to use it.An event at work where I taught people what Pinterest was & how to use it.

And there’s also this nagging feeling inside of me where I shouldn’t blog about my silly life, that if I want to blog, I should blog about something useful and work-related to help others in my industry and to use it as a platform to further career and connections.

But at the end of the day, I miss blogging. I miss writing down my thoughts, I miss being able to scroll through the previous year to see all that we’ve done. I miss the connection that blogging gives to myself, where I’m a little more self-aware and reflective of the way I spend my time.

Also, having a blog encourages me to do cool things that I would later want to write about.

But the questions still remain: Where on Earth do I find the time? How do I recommit myself to this practice? Should I marathon-blog on the weekends when I have a little more time? Should I carve out the time in the evenings after dinner? I know that the time exists for me to continue blogging, but it’s about maintaining a realistic schedule. (How the hell do people with kids live??)

Is anyone still out there? If you’re still blogging, what is your schedule like and how do you fit it in? Do you have a routine?

An Open Letter to My Husband on our Third Wedding Anniversary

An Open Letter to My Husband on our Third Wedding Anniversary

Dear Mike,

We didn’t get each other gifts this year, so I decided to write you a blog post. You have always been my biggest fan and advocate for my writing and unfortunately in the last year since I began my job, blogging fell to the wayside and probably no one wants to read it but you now.

Our lives have been and truly are amazing. We have had more adventures in three years than many people have in their lifetimes and I’m always ready for the next adventure with you.

Our wedding day wasn’t perfect, but by the end of the night, we were surrounded by people who love, support and continue to stand by us. We worked so hard on making that day beautiful, perfecting every detail and making every moment our own. Despite everything telling us we were going against tradition, we were ourselves and we know that being who we are makes us happiest, even if it feels like we’re always swimming upstream.

The first year of our marriage, we grappled with uncertainty while trying to apply and plan to move to Spain. It was frustrating, it was a lot of work, it felt like the process that would never end. I lost my job unexpectedly before we left and we settled in for what would be a year and a half of my not working and you supporting our family. I gardened, I cooked, I read and blogged. On the days when I felt like I wasn’t contributing enough to us, you listened and tried your best to make me feel better. You supported every crazy idea I had during that time, whether it was starting a “green lifestyle blog” (it didn’t get very far) or supporting my making of travel videos.

 Our second year of marriage, we were lucky enough to live in Spain. Living in Spain together for a year was a time we will never forget and an experience we’ll carry with us forever. It brought us closer together and we are stronger as a couple because of it. We explored everything. We ate everything. We learned to cook everything. We relied on each other day to day and in unfamiliar cities and countries. We had never been more on the same page with each other. Everything we did, we did together and for each other.

But we had to come home sometime, and for our third year of marriage, we’ve lived back in New Jersey. I began a new and exciting career which you have supported me every step of the way. You encourage me to work hard and to be the best I can be. We traveled to Turkey and Iceland this year, not to mention our trips to Bourbon Country in Kentucky, Montreal and this weekend, New York again. We’ve renovated our kitchen, and mostly, our lives are pretty perfect right now.

I know that it won’t always be this way, and we’ll always have challenges that face us, hard decisions and crises that we can’t control. We’ve been through so much already together that I know we’ll get through anything. Cliche, maybe, but I believe it 100%.

Mike, you are the strongest person I know. You always do the right thing. You are ambitious, a hard worker, a wonderful listener, an incredibly intelligent man. You think and plan for the long-term but are always flexible and open to change. You’re a perfect puppy parent and an indulging, understanding, caring, and positive partner. You always remind me to be optimistic, you challenge me to be a better person, you inspire me to go the extra mile whether it’s at the top of a volcano or glacier, or to go the extra mile for someone else. You expect me to succeed in all that I do and never lose faith in me even when I’m unsure of myself. You clean the house when I don’t want to (which is all of the time), you do the dishes and chop the vegetables and are truly the best partner I could ask for. I couldn’t love you more for all that you do and all that you are.

I love us. I love the way we work together, I love the way we understand each other, I love the way that we support each other. I am happier than I ever thought possible when I am with you.

I’m ready for a lifetime’s worth of adventures with you. Like we both said in our E-Harmony profiles, “My bags are packed and I’m ready to go.”

Love you.

Iceland, September 2013

Iceland, September 2013

Iceland was an incredible, incredible trip. We chose to go to Iceland because of it being one of the most volcanically active countries on the planet and because its natural beauty is just staggering. Think about it: mountains, volcanoes, black sand beaches, volcanic caves, beautiful hikes, natural hot springs, whale watching and glaciers all rolled into one country. It was a no-brainer.

Watch our video here:

If you can’t tell, it was an incredibly demanding physical trip. Climbing glaciers and volcanoes isn’t for the casual hiker, which I am. I still did it, but I was slow and a bit embarrassed at my physical abilities (or lack-thereof).

Regardless of my huffing and puffing, it was all worth it. It was incredibly gorgeous, it was a small enough country to travel to almost all of the major cities in 9 days, and I can really see myself going back at least once again.

I’ll leave you with my favorite photo from the trip that makes me look like such a badass, right?

Iceland Glacier

Turkey, April 2013

Turkey, April 2013

Our trip to Turkey in April was the first time I had ever embarked on a group tour, and we chose On The Go. We toured the country for two weeks and got to see almost every major sight the country has to offer.

Overall, I would say that the group tour is not for me. While I had no issues with the people we were on the tour with, it wasn’t at the pace we wanted to go and the tour company stayed at hotels outside of the main city centers, not giving us the opportunity to explore very often on our own. We did what we could on the evenings where we could get a taxi, but many of the dinners were buffet-style at the hotel, which usually broke my heart.

It would have been difficult to travel the country on our own though, so we tried to take as much of it in stride as possible and enjoy the sights.

If you are curious about our itinerary, we took this tour from On the Go tours. 

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Topkapi Palace

The tulips were in full bloom while we were in Turkey, and they were absolutely gorgeous. The architecture of the buildings was otherworldly, which is what attracted me to Turkey in the first place. The intricate design, the beautiful domes, the bright colors…it was all exactly what I wanted to experience, and it definitely did not disappoint.

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The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia

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Different ruin sites and Ephesus

You can’t go to Turkey without seeing many many ruins. It was amazing how much survived the centuries, and it was interesting to get a glimpse into how ancient people lived. There was a bath house in Ephesus that had a room full of toilets (aka holes in some marble) where men would gather and do their business in a social manner. The mere thought of that horrifies me.

I can’t say that I would center another trip around going to ancient ruins. While interesting for a day trip or two, I wasn’t so interested that I’d make a whole trip out of it. Mike tells me that Greece is amazing though, so I’ll probably want to go there.

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A ravioli dish with yogurt and chili oil, fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, Turkish delight, Baklava

The food in Turkey was not quite as flavorful as we had anticipated. While a major area of the Silk Road where spices were traded, it was odd that many of those spices were not incorporated into their dishes. The lamb stews were very good in a tomato-based broth and we liked their little raviolis in yogurt sauce, and of course the plethora of Turkish delight was a must.

Most stops and stands sold freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juices, which were very nice and delicious.

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Turkish rugs (we almost bought one!), silkworm pods, a woman in process of weaving a rug. 

The Turkish rugs were beautiful. We stopped at a cooperative that helped women in the community by giving them skills and fair pay for their work. We learned how they took silkworm pods and made thread (an amazing process) then watched as women wove the rugs by hand with immaculate attention to detail.

After learning about the process, they took us to a showroom where they displayed rug after beautiful rug, with flair and music. They encouraged us to take off our shoes and walk on the carpets, which were incredibly soft. Mike and I were interested in a particular style of rug, which was blood red and just gorgeous. Noting our interest, they took us into a back room where they displayed more rugs and kept bringing down the price.

I was freaking out because I HATE bartering and I didn’t really want to buy a rug, but Mike thought it was fun and kept talking them down until they couldn’t go any lower. Then we had to finally turn it down, which made me feel awful and guilty and terrible. If we had gotten that rug, it would have been a wonderful piece to have, but with our dogs, I wouldn’t feel comfortable enough with them running around on it to make it worth it.

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Pamukkale, where there are natural hot springs leaving behind mineral deposits that are snow-white. It was absolutely insane and we wish we could have stayed here much longer. 

Pamukkale was a big attraction, bustling with people. We had to walk barefoot on the rock and through multiple pools to get to a point where there were less tourists. The bottoms of the pools were sharp, slippery, and felt AWFUL, but we stuck with it and got a whole pool to ourselves where the sand was much softer. It was worth it to keep going! There was one man who kept lingering by our backpack at the edge of the pool, so I stared him down and kept rolling video on him. He eventually went away, seeing that I wasn’t going to turn away from him, but be aware and keep an eye on your stuff.

I wish we could have stayed a day or two in Pamukkale, and unfortunately since it’s in the middle of the country, it’s not the most easily accessible place, so I’m not sure if we’ll ever find our way back on another trip in the future.

Then we went on to Cappadocia, where we took a hot air balloon ride and had possibly the most breathtakingly beautiful balloon.

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It was gorgeous, it was amazing. There were so many balloons in the air that it was mind-boggling. We saw a few bump into each other, and even heard a week or two after we left Turkey that two balloons ran into each other and a couple of people died. But for the time we were there, it was nothing but magic.

Also in Cappadocia, we saw a Whirling Dervish performance, where men came out and spun in circles for what felt like an hour, but was still probably 10-15 minutes. I don’t know how they didn’t fall over, but it was fascinating to watch.

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The last dancer pictured was a woman whose dress lit up and it looked like a spaceship. The performance had dancers perform cultural dances from each area of Turkey. It was mesmerizing and interesting, as dance seemed to be a large part of the ancient culture in Turkey, but our culture has nothing of the sort short of the chicken dance and the electric slide.

Overall, Turkey was a very interesting country. About a week or two after we left, rioting started in Istanbul. It’s interesting to see this country and culture on the brink of change and social upheaval. The headscarves were very noticeable, as was the role of women in that society. I tried not to pass judgement because it is their culture, not mine, but I certainly thought about how my life would be different had I been raised in their culture or a similar one. Despite all of that, the people were friendly and welcoming.

The land itself is one of the most consistently beautiful countries we had been to. The landscape was diverse: mountainous and lush, beaches, ancient ruins, hot springs, etc. To be totally honest though, it wasn’t one of our favorite trips. It could have been mostly attributed to the fact that we were a part of a tour and didn’t get to explore as we wanted to, but seeing how much ground we had to cover in two weeks, it would have been much more difficult to do it ourselves. We enjoyed ourselves, to be sure, but it’s just not the way we’d prefer to travel.

New Year, New Adventures

New Year, New Adventures

Yesterday, this happened:

We booked a trip to Turkey for April 6-19 of this year.

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Hot Springs “Cotton Castle” in Pammukale

Hot Air Balloon Rides in Cappadocia

I was the one who pushed for this trip, researched it and booked it, and it’s the first time that I’ve truly taken “ownership” of one of our travels. Mike usually does the bulk of the research and planning, so I’m proud that I’ve stepped up and taken this on.

I chose Turkey for a few reasons:

  1. Look at it. Holy shit it’s beautiful. Turkey has a vastly different landscape to anything else that we’ve seen before. The amount of geological, architectural and geographical eye candy is almost too vast to wrap my head around.
  2. I have never experienced an Islamic culture before and would love to learn more about it and seek to understand it. I will have to cover my head at times, but I have no issue with it in order to just experience something so different than what I’ve lived and seen. I wish to wipe all preconceived notions of the Islamic culture from my mind with this trip and truly make my own observations and conclusions based on experience.
  3. Turkey is a blend of cultures that manifests in absolutely beautiful and exotic ways that spills into art, architecture, textiles and food. I want to bustle through the markets and experience the bartering, the spices, the atmosphere.
  4. Food. Come on, you guys know me by now!! Turkish Cuisine is something I don’t have a lot of experience with and I want to learn more through authentic experiences (um…by eating it).
  5. Anyone who has been to Turkey has said that it changed their life, was one of the best trips they had taken, etc etc etc. We’d like to see for ourselves.
  6. I wanted a challenge. I wanted something exotic. I wanted a place that would be awe-inspiring and also a place that could cause me to reflect and think on the world in a broader sense.

This is the path we will be taking:

We’ll start in Istanbul and go counter-clockwise through Western Turkey and end back in Istanbul.

Now, here’s for the part where I feel a little…unsure. We’re taking a tour of the country with a group, On The Go Tours. I’ve never been on a tour with others and I feel a number of contradictions inside of me based on this tour:

  1. I feel like less of a traveler since I’m not DIYing this trip
  2. I’m nervous to be around other people all of the time since Mike and I have our own pace, rhythm and style of travel. I like not having to answer to a group for anything & doing what makes us happy.
  3. But…I’m already going to be slightly out of my comfort zone with this trip, maybe I shouldn’t push it and just experience these things instead of stressing about the details.
  4. This country is huge, there is a lot to see and doing it ourselves could be stressful as it’s unlike anywhere we’ve ever traveled before.
  5. Renting a car & purchasing gas would be very expensive and if we get lost or have car trouble, it could be a much bigger issue in rural Turkey.
  6. But…isn’t that a part of traveling and shouldn’t we just do it anyway?

So we chose a tour because we wanted to see as much as possible without needing to stress about details, car rentals, multiple bus rides, etc. And if we don’t like this experience for Turkey, we’ll know better next time to DIY, but we’ll still get to see most of the sites that we want to see on this trip.

Our tour group will be relatively small ( I think up to 22 people) and it will hopefully attract other travelers like ourselves that we can get to know. Since one of my favorite parts of our South African safari was getting to know the other travelers, I am excited to get to know others like us to swap stories with.

I’m very excited!! Turkey will definitely be a very different country than any I’ve experienced before and I’m looking forward to expanding my horizons once again.

We have some other things brewing in 2013 in terms of travel too, so I’m hoping that this will be the first trip of a few this year!

Mantra #2: Do the Right Thing

Mantra #2: Do the Right Thing

So you all know our first mantra now: Go, Do. It inspires us to think and dream without limits. It inspires us to always choose action over excuses.

Our second mantra started out as a joke, but is now one of the most uttered phrases in our household.

Do The Right Thing

Do the Right Thing was a mantra that started when Mike was having a phone conversation that I overheard. Apparently, the person on the other end of the line had made some promises, but the process to deliver on them was complicated and inconvenient. Mike, frustrated and at his wit’s end, said, “Well, I think we should do the right thing here” to try to cajole the other party into delivering on his promises.

Instantly, it was a new catch-phrase in our house.

Do The Right Thing is very much like Dumbledore telling Harry that what is right is not always what is easy. Anytime we have a moral conundrum on our hands, we remind each other to Do The Right Thing. If we have to choose between a long-term and short-term solution, we push to Do The Right Thing (meaning long-term, in almost all cases).

Do The Right Thing can be silly or serious. Oftentimes, it involves whispering “do the right thing, do the right thing, do the right thing” to each other if we are tempted to take the easy route (i.e. when I don’t want to get on the treadmill). Sometimes it involves a serious discussion about our financial goals and realities. Sometimes it just involves doing the dishes.

Do The Right Thing has also been easier for us as it has become more deeply ingrained into who we are. We have come to take a lot more pride in Doing The Right Thing on a consistent basis. We want to be people who are trusted and counted on, and reminders to Do The Right Thing helps us steer ourselves in that direction.

Should I respond to this completely unhelpful, idiotic person through email with the terse, hostile response that is oh-so-tempting? Do The Right Thing. Should we eat leftovers or go to McDonald’s? Do The Right Thing. Should I really purchase another pair of jeans or another shirt for myself or should I put my money toward something more productive? Do The Right Thing.

Keeping ourselves in check like this can seem silly and cheesy sometimes, but I have noticed that it has become very natural for me as I make personal decisions. It makes it easier to resolve issues with my husband if we disagree. It makes it easier to do most things in life when I am committed to Doing the Right Thing because it makes my choices more obvious. It doesn’t always mean that I don’t get stressed or frustrated, but being committed to Do The Right Thing makes me proud of my accomplishments.

Doing the Right Thing means that Mike and I are almost always on the same page with each other, and we are committed to helping the other person get through the temptation of whatever the wrong thing is that they are faced with. This could mean anything from stopping Mike from eating that whole bag of chocolate chips, to him telling me that I should Do the Right Thing and change my attitude when I’m overly grumpy and committed to being in a bad mood.

Do the Right Thing isn’t always easy and it isn’t even always rewarding (“nice guys finish last,” anyone?). Do the Right Thing is personally satisfying though and is leading us to become stronger and more ethical people. Of course, Doing the Right Thing is many people’s aspiration in their lives, but we like to keep it very front-of-mind, that way it is more who we are, rather than what we wish.

Do you have a similar mantra for yourself? I’d love to know your mantras if you have them!