Happy is as Happy does. This post is a simple reminder to follow your passions and do what makes you happy.
Happy is as happy does. Some of my friends love to bake. A few of them have not had any professional training in baking. They have been taught by family, learned along the way, or researched their ass off to do the things they enjoy with baking. Other friends enjoy hobbies like rebuilding bicycles, carpentry, gardening, stained glass, and even collecting leaves. Happy thoughts and happy actions bring positive moods. Positive moods and happy vibes make us a hoot to be around.
My happy place is rebuilding boats. It’s the feel, the smell, the tiny baby steps of a project that puts a smile on my face. Years ago, I read a book titled This Old Boat. It explained in detail how boat parts worked back in the old days. I still have that book. It’s beaten up, water-stained, and smells funny—kind of like me after a good day working in the bilge. Hobbies are the best therapy. It gives our hands and minds something to do. Yes, it digs into our financial pockets, but it is worth it. One of my friends has been building a barn out on an old piece of property. The barn doesn’t have a purpose in the traditional sense. It won’t hold an old tractor. No hay will ever see the inside of these old repurposed wooden planks. Not even a mule will walk through the doors. But it makes him happy to fiddle with it on the weekends. He packs a sack lunch and a cooler of iced down cheap beer, drives to the barn, and hammers nails on the weekends. It’s his happy place.
Where is your happy place? What are your hobbies? Do you have an activity that you call therapy?
I keep my politics private. A big mystery among my friends is which side of the aisle do I lean. My Republican friends tell me jokes about the left. My Democrat friends joke about the right. It’s as if I am the human form of Switzerland. In reality, it’s more like I am a private island.
Do you know what I have found on every island around the world that I’ve visited? Trash:
Some of my favorite people are trashy. But that doesn’t mean they throw plastic out and about. Last year I posted a blog article about waterway trash pickup meetups. A lot has changed since then.
These days, when I’m in town, I co-host a Saturday beach clean-up in Miami. It is on Key Biscayne at the Bill Baggs State Park, to be exact. Every weekend we go out with our buckets and long-handle grabbers. Every weekend we return with full buckets of plastics.
One misconception that I’ve learned is about plastic straws. Rarely do I find those on the beach. The politics of the matter will steer the topic to the left or the right. “It’s because more people are using paper straws.” “It’s because the turtles are eating them before they make it to the beach.” See, even that can be polarized. The real question is, do you really need a straw at all? It’s more of a want than a necessity. I will argue that there are reasonable conditions for straws. I’m referring to the ADA. (You just googled ADA, didn’t you? Good, you probably should. That’s why I placed it there.)
The thing I find the most on the beach are bottle caps. Yep, those little things that go on top of the water and soda bottles. This is another good reason to drink beer on the beach or a boat. Skip the plastic and reach for the glass option.
In December 2020, a theatre troupe commanded my attention while they were on stage at the oldest house in Miami, Florida.
In December 2020, a theatre troupe commanded my attention while they were on stage at the oldest house in Miami, Florida. This Equal Play Production called Quickies was written and produced by my friend and crew member, Tracey Jane. Tracey captured her memories of a summer sail with a pencil on paper. From there, the real magic started. Quickies is a concept of four short plays with the same four actors. In reality, the idea is brilliant, and it works. The plays were named Save the Pets, Build a BOB, The Morning Menage, and Saving Sapphire. Sapphire, as in Aquatramps floating abode, was the centerpiece of my excitement. This performance was about the resilience of the crew during a week-long summer sail in 2020. Just like a lot of things in 2020, the trip did not go at all as planned. The words personified the ups and downs, like the crowns and troughs of waves. For this humbled Captain, it was a relief that the actors showed humor and warmth on stage. Opposite the stage sat the audience, where other crew members of that trip watched and even laughed at the inside jokes we all share. I overheard a stranger in the audience say, ” the writer has spent time on a boat!” Some things are difficult to describe about the follies of sailing unless you’ve spent time on deck.
After the show, I met up with the crew at a local outside Pub. We drank, stretched our memories, and realized that we share a bond of those days out on the water. Agua es Vida – Water is Life
The choice is thick or thin. Families have been at stalemate for centuries with knife and fork in hand.
The thing to know about pizza is that there is no middle ground for thick or thin. As you read this, you already know your favorite style. Unless God forbid, you are a carb counting, card-carrying, cauliflower crust loving Karen! If that’s you, go ahead and stop reading now.
For the rest of us, we want flavor. We like cheese, especially for Americans; we want every topping, including the kitchen sink on our pizza. I mean, can you really be a Fun-guy without mushrooms? For me, I’ve always favored thick crust, double mozzarella, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, and dare I say it… pineapple. Yep there it is. Perfection.
During a recent trip up North, I started daydreaming about pizza. I messaged friends who I know live or have lived in Chicago, asking for authentic deep-dish pizza location recommendations. They all messaged back with the name Lou Malnati’s. With an honorable mention, they named Giordanos as their second choice. From where I was in Michigan, I charted my course to the Windy City. It was three states and two hours away. With a full tank of gas and an address plugged into my GPS, I was on my way.
Chicago signage has a sense of nostalgia. Maybe it reminded me of the way Hollywood portrays the strong economic era before the 2nd World War. Strong, confident, and welcoming. The sign to Malnati’s is no different. It beckoned me from across the street as soon as I saw it.
I was that guy. I was the hungry guy who followed my nose through the front door. My timing was perfect. It was that sweet spot between lunch and dinner. Lucky me, they had a table at their rollup glass garage door. On a 1-10 level of food excitement, I was a 10. So excited that I ordered two pizzas. I wanted to experience all of it.
The uniqueness of Lou’s is the Butter Crust. It coats your fingers and prepares your tastebuds for the boldness of the pie. I chose “The Malnati.” The sausage had a little kick that made my nose run before I finished my first slice; thats a good thing. Along with the vine tomato sauce and extra cheese, it would be hard to beat. My second pizza choice was “The Lou,” named after the founder. In my opinion, this is an excellent complement to the first pie. The three kinds of cheese bridged the void from the plate to my mouth. Add the flavor of spinach, garlic, basil, onion, mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes!!! Yes, please. I washed everything down with an Italian beer and took in the moment. I was sitting in Chicago and happy in a food coma on deep-dish pizza.
Our Friend Gina is this weeks Guest Writer. She writes about her escape from the normal 9-5 life, and how she has become happy as a modern day nomad.
“TRAVEL IS FATAL TO PREJUDICE, BIGOTRY, AND NARROW MINDEDNESS, AND MANY OF OUR PEOPLE NEED IT SORELY ON THESE ACCOUNTS.” ~ MARK TWAIN
I began my solo travel adventures in September 2016. If you meet a lot of solo, nomadic travelers, there is usually a story behind what motivates or inspires this traveler. We are seekers, searchers, hopeless romantics, Vagabond’s; tramping our way across the globe is not only what we do, but it is a way of life. It’s a conscious choice. Seeking a way to spend our days free from the daily norm or what today’s society or even our own family and friends dictate as a “normal way of life.” Real, deep, true happiness is the primary motivator.
I only ever wanted to be happy; blissfully happy, from the core of my soul, to my skin, JUST HAPPY!
The only way my story is unique compared to yours, is that I took the leap! “Everything you want, is on the other side of fear!” I read this somewhere once and it stuck! It resonates within me and became my mantra.
At the end of 2014, after suffering for over a decade from a debilitating back injury, I was facing a series of spinal surgeries. Not the way anyone would choose to “ring in a New Year,” but it was my reality and also my chance to research and plan for my “great escape” while I was healing. My research and learning became a respite and something to occupy my time and my mind in between various physical therapy, pool therapy, a very intensive pain management program, and countless other medical appointments. It was also a preview of possibility. Was this life of unending travel around the globe possible?
I could no longer envision my days spent in a corporate cubicle life. How much longer would I have the physical capabilities to travel? A voice in my head asked me over and over, “What do you want your life to look like?”
In September of 2016, after being released from my arduous regime of therapies, I took my first solo trip, a road trip starting from Eastern Washington, traveling as far east as Ohio, south to Tennessee, across Kansas and Oklahoma to Colorado and down to Utah, Nevada and up the California Coast back to Eastern Washington. With my National Park Pass in hand, my route was planned by National Park destinations. I researched car camping hacks on the internet and Pinterest, packed up my Toyota Rav 4 and away I went.
My goal by the end of this trip, using November 15, 2016 as a return trip date, was to REALLY choose to A: Go back to corporate cubicle life or B: Sell everything and use the money that I would spend on daily living (car, rent, insurance, utility bills, etc. ) to fund my travel. My lease was ending on November 30, 2016. That would be the perfect time to free myself to travel or extend my lease and go back to work.
I have always been extremely independent, love to be challenged and not really afraid to put myself out there. I march to the beat of my own drum and have a bit of “Gypsy” mixed in with “explorer” so maybe this has always been my destiny. I’m the square peg and it’s ok with me if I don’t fit into “the round hole!” My path and choices in life lead me to having never been married or to having children. (I always get asked these 2 questions so figured you might also!)
My road trip was a gift! It reinforced that solo travel wasn’t lonely, it was exhilarating! Any challenge I came upon, was temporary and I was able to solve it, rise above it and most importantly learn from and empower myself!
After 3 months on the road camping, crossing 20 states, visiting 12 National Parks, and driving several thousand miles, my choice was clear. I wanted to travel, full time, unencumbered by “stuff” and possessions. Free to live my best life on my terms for as long as my physical health would allow.
I returned mid-November as planned, sent my letter of resignation, gave up my apartment, sold all of my furniture and large possessions and packed a few boxes and put them in storage. (This would prove to be a “test” in case I needed to return and start “over” I’d have some staple items to do this. In 2019, I emptied the storage unit and sold the last bits.)
I flew to Florida and for the next year, lived in Airbnb’s in some of those beautiful Florida cities and near those beaches that I’d dreamed of during those miserable, grey Northwest winter days while I recovered. All the while, reading and researching how I could take my travels globally.
Two huge discoveries would prove to be the tipping point. I came across a book called, “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day”, a book by Matt Kepnes (@nomadicmatt) and a website for Work for Stay called workaway.info. Workaway helps you locate a host, ANY WHERE IN THE WORLD that, in exchange for 25 hours of work per week, will feed and house you and provide a cultural exchange! WHAT??? How does everyone in the WORLD not know about this?
Reading Matt Kepnes’ book was a huge “Ahhh-HA” moment that gave me the confidence to know that I could travel globally inexpensively and smartly. The work for stay, with Workaway.info, would help me to extend my dollar and provide what has been a cultural awakening, priceless new friendships and global networking connections that have opened even more travel opportunities! Through Workaway I have worked at a family run B&B at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, tutored English in Poland (3 times in the last 2 years and I’m headed back for the 3rd year April 2020!) and worked at a non-profit for 3 months in Cape Town, South Africa that provides job training for adults with disabilities, like Down’s Syndrome. I’ve also had the most amazing experience doing Workaway right here in the US, supporting hikers on the Appalachian Trail at a Hostel and Welcome Center.
My most valuable takeaway is that PEOPLE in any country, in any city, town or village throughout this big, beautiful, amazing, diverse world we live in are fundamentally THE SAME!
When you are a guest in their country, city, town or village, they want to share and show you the very best they have to offer. Be it food, music, history or iconic landmarks, people are proud to share or to teach you about their way of life and their culture. They also want to learn from you, to share ideas and stories. Myths are dispelled, friendships forged.
Yes, there is always good and bad EVERYWHERE in ANY PLACE, even in your own backyard, but people around the world are basically true and good, free from agendas. If you look for and expect good, treat all people with mutual respect, dignity and kindness, have a genuine thirst for learning and experiencing new things, your cup runneth over my friends, in the most profound and life changing way!
What draws me to travel and keeps me thirsty? THE PEOPLE! I have had the opportunity pleasure and honor to meet and learn from the most amazing and diverse people from over 33 countries and counting!
I no longer collect things or stuff! I am a collector of memories, friendships and experiences! I am the sum of my experiences and my sum wouldn’t be as great, had it not been for the people I have met along the way.
What are you waiting for? What do you want your life to look like?
Be adventurous, always safe!
**A special thank you, to my friend Captain Gary, for inviting me to write this blog post. ~ We go way back to our days as young Airmen, serving together as squadron mates in the US Navy. He has inspired me to live my life with passion and perseverance, on my terms! I hope you are inspired by Aquatramp to live your life the way it looks to YOU!