Swamp Thang

It had been too long since I took my camera out and photographed for the fun of it.  I decided to go to a local nature area to get some fresh air and snap some photos of the Fall before it disappeared.  And then something unexpected happened.  These are some of my shots from my impromptu photo shoot with my always willing subject, my brother.  And yes, he did get in the swamp.  Sometimes you just go with it.  

Travel Is Fatal.

Many of my friends are out traveling right now.  I've got some in Edinburgh, Scotland, some traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.  I would by lying if I said I was not a tad bit jealous.  But hey, I've stood outside temples thousands of years old in Sicily, been inside a 5,000 year old passage tomb in Ireland and stepped foot over the doorway of stave churches in Norway over 1000 years old.  Those are a few of the incredible things I've done.  And my traveling days are far from over.  Next on my list?  Pretty sure it will be Paris.

I've been pretty fortunate to travel as much as I have.  Below is a favorite quote of mine from Mark Twain, and it is absolutely true.  Whether you are traveling to a "Westernized" country or not, even going to somewhere that speaks a similar language to yours the customs are different and you are out of your element, rushing headlong into the unknown.  I found this to be absolutely true when I spent a month in Ireland.  That is what shakes the rust off.  Getting out of your "little corner of the world".

And I'm not talking about staying in a fancy hotel in the touristy areas.  I'm talking about living where the people live, getting to know the culture, how they live day in and day out.  I have found that is where the magic of travel is.  Nothing wrong with luxury, but you miss out on the things that make a country or a culture most spectacular by staying on the beaten path.  You find hidden little gems you would never have known about if you are willing to venture even a few blocks outside the tourist traps.

So I would encourage everyone to get out, travel.  In a time where our leaders are working very hard to instill fear of others, go experience a country or a culture not your own. Travel IS fatal to prejudice because you get to see first hand the beauty and the cruelty of the world and you are often relying on the hospitality of complete strangers.  The times I took those risks turned out to be the best and most life-changing experiences.  I've made some life-long friends and connections from these experiences and I would be a much duller person without them.  So don't buy into the fear, get out and see the world.

Vegas Baby!

Two weeks ago I wasn't even thinking about Vegas.  Then all of a sudden, a week ago, I find myself getting ready to head out on a "shotgun" trip to Vegas, as my brother and I like to call them.  

I did all the usual Vegas things you do.  Wander the strip, shop, gamble, eat, drink.  Wait, no I didn't.  I didn't do anything I might usually do in Vegas.

I went to opening night of the Wrangler National Rodeo Finals.  Spent 4 HOURS at Cowboy Christmas.  4 hours!  That's as much shopping as i might do in 3 months! I am very proud of myself because I did not buy one thing.  Except for a 1/4 lb. of sweet, roasted pralines because I was starving.

I helped celebrate my niece's 21st birthday with her friend and her mom, my best friend.  For me this was less about going to Vegas and more about being with my best friend of more than 30 years.  We also managed to fulfill one of her bucket list items, to see Reba in concert.  And if you have to ask "who's Reba?" well, shame on you.  She and Brooks & Dunn have a residency at Caesar's Palace.  Nothing like deciding to go to a show last minute.  

My mom used to say things like "you may never pass this way again" and "sometimes you gotta jump the fence".  Pretty appropriate for a rodeo-themed vacation.  We took the proverbial "bull by the horns" and got ourselves to that show Friday night.  

None of these things would I have ever done on a trip I planned to Vegas.  But you know what?  It was awesome.  I was sad when the rodeo ended that night.  We criss-crossed the strip with so many Lyft drivers they all start to blend in my head and we shared some simple moments of time with some pretty cool people.  

And I remember how much I love traveling.  Every. Single. Bit. Of. It.  Traveling shakes the rust off, puts one in uncomfortable places and forces you to learn new things and interact with people you might never have met otherwise.  I talked to some incredible vendors at Cowboy Christmas.  Sat inches away from strangers on the plane rides.  Rediscovered my love for Brooks & Dunn and nearly cried when Reba sang "Just Like Them Horses".  

I am so very grateful for the time spent with my best friend, my niece and one of her best friends. We talked late into the night, squeezed into tight backseats and traipsed from one end of the exhibition hall to another.  I don't know how it happened that I ended up there, but some angels must have been working overtime.  

When I was thinking about whether I should go or not, rearrange my work schedule and put in a six-day work week to make it happen, I lay in bed thinking "if I was dying, would I go?" the answer was a resounding YES!!!  Would that I could frame all my decisions in that light.  Wait.  I can!  

And on the plane ride home, I sat and scribbled notes for not one but two more future books.  One inspired by my very favorite Brooks & Dunn song "Red Dirt Road" and another idea I have been kicking around for 10 years or more.  Not to mention a plan to finish my first book and get that draft completed and move on from there.  A plan to shrink the things in my life that are of little value, and to enlarge those that are.  For me, that is writing.  

I can't tell you everything that happened in Vegas because after all, you know how the saying goes.  "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas".  But I'm sure thinking about the next time I can go.  Take the opportunity to travel every chance you get.  For me, it is not a luxury, it is a lifeline. 



How Travel Took Over My Life.

I took my first big trip when I was 11, going overseas to England with a school group.  Just a small-town girl from Banks, traveling to England opened my eyes to the world.  I've never looked back.  I always loved flying, loved hotels.  Not scared for one second.  I loved the adventure of it all.  I even dated a guy who lived in Norway and spent a few months there.  Had a next-door neighbor who ended up stationed on the naval base in Sicily and so my brother and I visited him there and had an amazing time!  That same trip, we visited London and Dublin.  

For a long time I told myself I "couldn't afford" to travel again, and that was partially true. As I started to look at my life and design it over these last few years, I realized traveling was very important to me.  I made a vision board of the places I wanted to go and bought a carry-on suitcase patterned with a map.  Instead of feeling constricted about it, and not looking at places I wanted to visit, I opened myself up to the possibility.  If I needed a break from the mundane, I went on Airbnb dreaming about all the cities I would visit.  

In January I took a month-long trip to Ireland. It was the first international trip in 10 years, and a dream come true.  A month in a rural Irish cottage?  Yes please!  I've been been to San Francisco multiple times, Napa Valley and the Palm Springs area, not to mention road trips through Idaho and Montana, in the last year.  I've been asked many, many times how I'm doing it.  It's easy.  I made traveling a priority. Well, maybe not that easy.  Traveling does take money, it's true.   I had a little help with that in the way of an extraordinary job opportunity last year which made these trips possible.  

I saw this photo on Facebook the other day, and I've been thinking about it ever since.  I do not view travel as a luxury, but as a necessity.  Last night for dinner I made some gluten-free pasta, with a pork cutlet and fresh veggies and squash.  You know what that cost me?  $3.00.  No joke.  So, think about it.  If you want to travel, start looking at the areas in your life you can cut back.  And start eating at home more often, if you don't already .When you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. It is no different with traveling.  If you want it bad enough, you'll figure out how to make it happen.    





This last week I finally sucked it up and "drove" 30 hours for Lyft.  And by drove, I mean logged in to the app for 30 hours.  There were some times when I did not have rides, but being logged in at home still counts.  What do I get for 30 hours?  A 10% bonus, as long as I drive 10 "power hours", and have a 90% or above acceptance rate.  

What are "power hours"?  Designated times by city when driving is deemed to be the busiest.  For me in Portland, it is Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night.  And by night I mean starting at 5-6pm and going until anywhere from 11pm-2am.  By acceptance rate I mean the rides I say yes to.  Lyft gives me 15 seconds to decide, and then off I go.  

I'm going to show you a real picture of my earnings summary from yesterday, Sunday.  


You see, my brother referred me as a Lyft driver.  And, because I used his code, we got a "double-bonus".  Once I completed 30 rides HE got $250, but so did I!  Yes!!  My paycheck for this week should be right around $500.  Guess what - you can do it too!  If you want to become a driver and have fun meeting some awesome people, use this link: https://www.lyft.com/drivers/JENNA389228

Yesterday I had one semi-mishap that I totally blame on Apple Maps.  I picked up a couple in North Portland, to take them up to the Wonder Ballroom area on Russell.  Being the good Lyft driver and following the navigation, Cyrus put me on Skidmore, the longest unimproved road in North Portland!!! The car bottomed out more than once, I cussed a few times and once I got in there was no way getting out.  Who knew you could bushwhack in North Portland with a car?  Well, I found out you could.  The other stupidest navigation thing Apple Maps did was to try and take me from downtown, across the river, all the way down the East side and then back over the river to take a passenger to her hotel at the South Waterfront from just off of W Burnside and 13th.  Thank god I did a double-check!

On Saturday I met an artist who has a gallery in Mexico where she lives most of the time, a concert pianist home for a weekend from her program in New York and a really awkward guy who sat in the front of the car with me but said about two words.  Those were the highlights of the weekend.  Oh, and the group of 4 youngsters who were face-timing their friend in Korea while we were on our way to Wurst.  I guess I should try driving some really drunk people around to get even better stories.  

I love this job like I've loved no other.   I get to meet mostly cool people, drive around my beloved city and share interesting tidbits with out-of-owners.  Yesterday I even played part counselor and invited an aspiring musician to open mic.  You never know who is going to get in your back seat, which is really fun.  

What do I love most?  The flexibility.  F**k working a 9-5 job.  I don't think I ever want to do it again.  My favorite time to drive?  After 7pm, when the sun starts its' slow descent to the horizon.  Driving across the bridges while the sun is setting is nothing short of magic.  I am learning so much about my fair city and it is awesome!