Posts Tagged With: Experiences

Of Life Postponed

As an Executive Life Coach there are some things I emphasize to a lot of my clients: The power of choice, the importance of accepting responsibility and accountability as the keys to being truly free and the absolute necessity of knowing what matters to you and what you’re all about if you are to truly live your life. Some get it and some do not, much like the population in general. Many times, we fear doing what we want and, in fact, need to do. We abandon what often truly matters for the illusion of security. A friend of mine, who enjoyed a very high-paying position is a multinational corporation noted that “all positions are temporary.” He understood that security, especially absolute security, is an illusion. While it has certainly been misused, the oft quoted words of Benjamin Franklin come to mind:

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

With due regard to Franklin and the context in which he wrote those words in 1755, I nevertheless find the words force me to ask myself what I have given up to purchase some temporary safety (security).

Sometimes, I find it necessary to examine my own life and see if I have been taking my own advice. What do I need to do? What risks have I avoided, or from which risks have I fled, in the interest of a position of security that is temporary at best? How much of my life have I postponed?

I’ve recently written several posts about travel and boats, here, here and here. The need to travel, and more, to live in a vibrant and vital way, grows with every passing day. While it may take a while to realize, the dream, I understand, will not go away until it is either fulfilled or I die filled with regret about what the things I did not do.

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” (Mark Twain)

Sterling Hayden put it this way.

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… “cruising” it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

“I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of “security.” And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

What is it you need to do? What dream calls to you? What is that thing that will not leave you alone, that wakes you in the middle of the night. What is it, the very idea of which fills you with both unspeakable dread and an almost palpable anticipation?

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Of Holidays and Food

I love the holidays. My wife and I like to cook and the holidays give us a chance to do some things we don’t get to do very often. That’s good, because the other 2 residents of our house, our daughter and an elderly parent, as well as many of our friends, are uh “gastronomically challenged.” Still, even for the holidays, we can’t wander too far afield or we’ll be the only ones eating what we cook. Sometimes, that’s okay. There’s a lot to be said for cooking and sharing seared ahi tuna with a honey-soy glaze, or shrimp fried rice with kimchi, with your spouse at 2 am. For Thanksgiving dinner, though, we need to do something more traditional.

Anyway, this year I dry brined a turkey. I’ve had traditional wet brined turkey before and I found it rather unsatisfying. Tender? Yes. Moist? Very. And largely devoid of taste. I like turkey and it frustrated me to have a beautiful looking bird that had everything you might want in a traditional Thanksgiving meal except the most important thing – taste. What to do? As it turns out, dry brining was the answer! I do it every time I roast a chicken, so it seemed reasonable to try it with a turkey. It was gratifying to look online and find that dry brining is pretty highly recommended for turkeys. The result was a moist, tender and flavorful turkey, with none of the hassle of wet brining. Sadly, I neglected to take a picture of it. In the interest of tradition (there simply must be a picture of a roasted turkey in a post like this) I offer the following.

Did I say one turkey? Actually, it was two. On Thanksgiving we enjoyed our meal together as a family. The next day, our daughter’s friend and family arrived (due to work schedules they’d been unable to have a Thanksgiving meal on Thursday) and we did it all again. And, a ham (7 additional people requires quite a bit more food). There are some complex recipes out there for dry brining turkeys. Here’s the one I used. Please note, all temperatures are in fahrenheit.

Ingredients
  1. 1 turkey, fresh or thawed. Size is dependent on how many you need to feed. I used the same recipe for both turkeys. One weighed almost 13 pounds and the other almost 18 lbs. Fresh is best. If possible, avoid self-basting and kosher turkeys. The risk of it being too salty is very high.
  2. Kosher salt. How much? Some.
  3. 1 navel orange, quartered
  4. 3-6 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  5. 2-4 celery ribs
  6. 2-4 carrots
  7. 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
  8. 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  9. 1 bottle of Reisling
  10.  1 stick melted butter
  11. 1 1/2 tablespoons of smoked paprika
Instructions
  1. 24-36 hours before roasting, remove all giblets and rinse and dry your turkey, inside and out (you don’t want to introduce more water into the equation, diluting the flavor).
  2. Liberally coat the outside and cavities of the turkey with kosher salt. I coated it like I do chicken – until the skin seems to sparkle with salt crystals.
  3. Place it in a food grade plastic bag and refrigerate. Alternatively, you could put it in a cooler surrounded by ice. Just make sure to check the temperature frequently. You don’t want the turkey to freeze or let the temp get above 40 degrees.
  4. Approximately one hour before roasting, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and allow it to warm a bit. Lightly rinse the outside and inside and dry.
  5. Preheat your oven or roaster to 450 degrees.
  6. Thoroughly mix the smoked paprika into the butter. Using a brush, coat the turkey with the butter/paprika mixture.
  7. Place the garlic and rosemary in the body cavity. Pour the wine into the roasting pan and lay the remaining ingredients in the bottom of the roasting pan.
  8. Place the turkey, on a roasting rack, in the roasting pan. Cover with lid or foil. Place in the oven/roaster and cook at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and continue roasting to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  9. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.

Note: if you want gravy, do not use the pan drippings as they will be far too salty. Instead, use the giblets for making broth. Do not stuff the bird as your dressing will be too salty, also.

Our oven was in constant use so I resorted to using an electric roaster. I’m glad to report the results were fantastic. A wonderful bird and I was able to place the roaster on our patio. This freed up counter space and reduced heat in the kitchen.

I’m not roasting a turkey or ham for Christmas, this year. I think it’s going to be prime rib, instead. Recipe ideas, anyone?

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The Mighty Mulberry Project

Ah, the around the house project. Travel is great but home is where we live, so the projects are inevitable. For those of us of the married persuasion, those projects are sometimes referred to (dare I say, derisively?) as a “honey do” list. In my case, it revolves largely around our back yard which has become sort of overgrown and neglected. The truth is, that to enjoy the benefits of an inviting back yard, you have to first put in the effort to make it that way. My wife and I like to cook and entertain. Eating outside can be a delightful addition to a meal shared with friends But our yard and patio need work. I’d like to say they need attention, but they need enough attention to call it work.

The first task was taking care of the rather large mulberry tree on one side of our yard. It’s a frequent dining spot for a woodpecker, which means it has a number of dead limbs and branches that attract bugs. It’s also sitting close to the house and one of the tool sheds. The challenge was reducing the risk of damage from falling branches while preserving the buffet for the woodpecker. With the help of a couple of friends, I removed the limbs most likely to fall. The best part is, I didn’t damage the house, the tool shed or myself!

The Mighty Mulberry, before removal of the dead and dying limbs.

The Mighty Mulberry, before removal of the dead and dying limbs.

Eventually, I had everything off that needed to be removed.

The now far less Mighty Mulberry. Notice that the buffet (dead branches) are still there for the woodpecker.

The now far less Mighty Mulberry. Notice that the buffet (dead branches) are still there for the woodpecker.

Now, we don’t only need to not worry about limbs falling onto the house or tool shed, but we also have wood for the fire pit.

A good amount of firewood...unless you need to heat and cook with it

A good amount of firewood…unless you need to heat and cook with it

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Why I’m Here

As a coach, one of the most important things I do is help my clients achieve clarity. I do that in part by exploring some basic questions. When I say basic, I mean really basic – as in the dictionary definition meaning “fundamental.” That’s important because the answers to basic questions largely determine the answers to later questions and how each of us defines success in any area or field. It also influences whether or not we achieve that success. Two of the most basic or fundamental questions I ask my clients are “who are you” and “why are you here?”

If those are valid questions for clients, they’re equally valid for coaches like me. If they influence success in any field, then they influence success as a blogger, too. So, who am I and why am I here (why am I writing a blog?).

Rather than repeat all the “about the Retired Mustang” stuff, I want to say who I really am. Not always easy for an introvert like me, but here it comes.

I am, as of this writing, a 52 year old man. I’m a divorced father who loves and desperately misses his children from his first marriage. I’m fortunate in that I’ve found, this late in my life, someone who largely shares my goals, dreams, ambitions and outlook on life. I’m also fortunate to have a step-daughter I love and who loves me. We are a family.

I am a retired U.S. Navy officer who began his military career in the enlisted ranks. I’m a registered nurse, a hypnotherapist and an Executive Life Coach. I like to help people change and grow.

I am a man of faith. I ride motorcycles, fish, hunt, play guitar, cook, write and do woodworking and gardening. I’m a nerd who reads way too much. I like role playing games, movies and the theater.

I love to travel. More than that, I need to travel. There is so much to see and do in this world that to not see and do as much of it as possible seems to make a life less rich and fulfilling.

I suppose I could write everything in a journal rather than here, but that seems somehow less significant. I think it is, at least in part, the need to be significant in some way that has led me here, to blogging. The opportunity to somehow make a difference in the lives of others is part of what compels me to share what I see, do and think about travel and about life.

This is primarily a travel blog. My plan is to write about travels I take and have taken. I want to share my experiences, my thoughts about them and the way they have affected me. Maybe to make it more clear to me how they have shaped who I am. I also want to write about some other things from time to time. As important and compelling as travel is to me, there is far more to life than traveling. Traveling, though, is a great class for learning things you might not have learned, otherwise. It’s an amazing way to gain some real insight into yourself and “what makes you tic’ (or what makes me tic, in this case). I’m real big on insight.

I’d really like to connect with others who love, or are at least interested in, travel. I’m not all that concerned that everyone who reads what I write agrees with me. After all, travel, even with others, is in many ways a pretty individual experience. I do hope that I’m able to help some who are perhaps “on the edge” about travel make the decision to go ahead and take the plunge. I want to encourage others to perhaps go places and do things they haven’t previously considered or done.

By this time next year, I hope to have accomplished a few things with this blog. Those include having built a significant reader base through quality content and being ranked as one of the best new travel blogs. Why the reader base? Because a larger reader base means I’m reaching more people. It’s related to my comments about significance, above. The quality content part is important. I have no desire to attract readers to something other than a really good (travel) blog.

I look forward to the coming year with a lot of excitement. I hope you’ll join me.

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The Most Important Lesson

I wrote earlier about the 11 things I’ve learned from traveling. It was fun to write. I got to include some things that I learned on fun trips and a few not so fun ones. For the most part, it was pretty light-hearted, I think. That was deliberate. Who wants to read a blog where the blogger pontificates all the time? Not me. My kids tell me I tend to lecture, so I try to avoid lecturing when I write. After all, you aren’t one of my kids (if any of my kids are reading this, you still get lectures). All that said, there is one thing I’ve learned from traveling that isn’t all that lighthearted. That’s what this post is about. The single most important thing travel has taught me is that life is not about how much stuff you can accumulate. As one much wiser than I noted, “life is not measured by how much you own.”

In my previous post I mentioned that I’ve moved a lot. In spite of the distinction I made on the “About Ken” page, moving is a form of travel. It’s just travel with the specific goal of relocation. Because we moved so much, my family often had very little money, though my parents, like most Depression era folks, worked hard, really hard (far harder than the hardest working people I know today). We just didn’t stay in one place long enough to accumulate much. A lot of what we did accumulate would get lost or damaged in a move.

I’ve met a lot of people, traveling around. Some of them have a lot; some have very little and most fall somewhere in-between. What I’ve learned is that none of them seem to be happy or sad based upon what they have. I’ve seen plenty of happy, and sad, people in all three groups. That’s what I want to dig into for a bit.

We have some funny ideas in America, when it comes to money and possessions. On the one hand, we have this tendency to think we’d be happy if only we had X (pick the possession or possessions of your choice). And yet, we also tend to look at those with a lot whose lives fall apart or end in despair and say “see, money can’t buy happiness” with an almost gleeful sort of relish. Here’s what I’ve come to realize. From wealthy people who are still pursuing more and more to the poor who look at them jealously and long to be wealthy under the belief that then they’ll be happy, we have largely accepted a lie. Both fail to understand that if we depend on things for happiness, there is no end of chasing after stuff. I get stuff. I feel happy for a bit and then life happens. How can I regain my happiness? I know. I’ll go get more stuff! But then, life happens again. So, I go get some more stuff. Then, life happens…

We have accepted, almost without question, the idiocy of “the one who dies with the most toys wins.” As I said above, it’s a lie. Stuff doesn’t bring happiness. Things don’t provide a rich and fulfilling life. To think they do is foolish. Think about this: Biographies of the great and respected people of the past spend little or no time talking about what they had. Instead, they spend time talking about what those people did, what they accomplished and how they impacted others. Broadly speaking, happiness (especially in the sense of joy and contentment) is about experiences, both alone and with others.

I’m self-employed these days. I haven’t always been. Between my military career and time in the corporate world, I have about 40 years of trying to find happiness with the wrong formula. I grew up accepting the formula that our culture says brings about both success and happiness. That formula has been characterized as “study hard so you can get good grades so you can get a good job with good benefits and a good salary.” This has been touted as the formula for a successful and happy life for longer than any of us have been alive. More than that, it and the ability to acquire stuff, has almost become what our culture accepts as the purpose of life. The result, I believe, has been a society of people who are increasingly unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Before I go any further, let me say that I don’t believe there is anything wrong with earning a significant income (however much that might be to you) or with having nice things. Nor do I think there is anything wrong with planning or plans. In fact, in spite of the romance of a life spent in perpetual rambling with no specific goal, the old saying “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there” is still very true. What I am saying is that we have largely not only accepted the wrong plan and goal, but we’ve done so because we’ve accepted the wrong definition of a happy and fulfilling life. A happy and fulfilling life isn’t lived because of what we have. It’s lived because of what we do, what we experience and the lives we touch and that touch us.

Travel offers us the opportunity to do more, experience more and touch and be touched by more people than almost anything else. When you are in your later years, sitting with those you love and who love you, it is almost a guarantee that you’ll reminisce about the things you and they did, together and individually. Likewise, unless it’s connected in some way to your experiences, it’s also almost the same guarantee that you won’t reminisce about that car you drooled over and eventually bought. You aren’t likely to speak fondly and at length of the Rolex on your wrist, though you might talk about the person who gave it to you. You probably won’t talk about flying first class…except in terms of what it was like. It’s all about experiences and people, not stuff. The stuff is incidental. The experiences (including relationships with people) are the story.

Travel isn’t magic. It’s just that it if we travel and do more than stay in insulated places that are as much like home as possible, it forces us to experience more. It exposes us to real people who aren’t simply faceless staff members at an over-priced resort*. Travel, in a real sense, exposes us to life the way others live and experience it. How cool is that?

Travel a bit. Experience more. Meet people. Touch lives and let other people touch yours. In the process, you just might find yourself living that rich and fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of for so long.

*NOTE: Resorts aren’t inherently bad. They’re just artificial. They give the illusion of having experienced a place while insulating guests from a significant part of the local culture. Does anyone seriously believe you can “experience the islands” (or anywhere else) at a resort that’s too expensive for the vast majority of the locals to visit?

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