LandLopers Sun, 04 Oct 2015 16:47:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Virginia’s Blue Ridge and Thoughts On Going Home Again Sun, 04 Oct 2015 15:55:36 +0000 In 1999 I finished up graduate school and moved to the Washington, DC region, a part of the world that I still call home. Even at that point I hadn’t … Read More

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Virginia Blue Ridge

Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia

In 1999 I finished up graduate school and moved to the Washington, DC region, a part of the world that I still call home. Even at that point I hadn’t lived full time in Southwestern Virginia for more than five years, and calling it home was a stretch. Moving around a lot as a kid I’ve lived in 10 states and Roanoke, Virginia was my home city for a scant three years before graduating high school and leaving for college. And yet I consider it to be my hometown, a spiritual connection to a place we all experience but in my case it was a tenuous one. I recently had the chance to revisit this beautiful part of Virginia and along the way I couldn’t help but wonder why I call this unlikely region home.

What is home?

This is an easy question for most people to answer and they’re lucky. Most people don’t move around a lot growing up and so their hometown is easily and quickly identifiable. For me it’s different and I began to wonder why it is that I consider Roanoke, Virginia to be my home instead of Mountain Top, Pennsylvania or Lexington, Kentucky, two other towns I’ve had the fortune to call home at different points in my life. Like all things in life, the answer is bound up tightly with emotions, my emotions. High school is a time of change and confusion, and it was a brief period of time that greatly influenced the person I am today. Friends I made back in the early 90s are still my closest friends today and our adventures and experiences serve as the base for my personality – for better or for worse. But there’s something also inherent about the Blue Ridge Mountains and Southwest Virginia that makes it seem like home, it just feels like a place where people can be comforted and sheltered. It was a long drive, so I also had the time to think along another tangent, what is it exactly about Southwestern Virginia that makes it so very attractive not only to me, but many others who call this beautiful part of the world home.

Beautiful inconvenience

After I graduated high school I couldn’t wait to leave Southwestern Virginia – I even stayed away during most university breaks. That means when I packed up the U-Haul in 1994, I never looked back and certainly never returned to live full time. The reasons were many, a fiercely independent person I couldn’t wait to just be me and start my own life. But I also didn’t feel like there was a lot for me in Roanoke, and there wasn’t. With just around 100,000 people, Roanoke may be the largest city in Southwestern Virginia, but that’s frankly not saying much. It has an airport, but it’s small and pretty much just connects to cities like Charlotte and Atlanta. With two degrees in international relations and no access to the rest of the world, I always knew that Roanoke could never be my forever home. But now, as I approach 40, it’s those qualities that endear the community to me.

There’s a lot to be said for not being able to access everything immediately and even saying that, Roanoke isn’t all that bad. Having lived many years of my life in small and poorly located towns I understand that sometimes you have to drive a few hours to get anything done, from really good shopping to a major airport. But it’s inconvenience that I think many of us relish, the ability to separate ourselves every now and then from the rest of the world is a beautiful thing. It was driving through the stunning mountains of the Blue Ridge that I remembered how precious this inconvenience can sometimes be. Driving south of Roanoke, passing Blacksburg my phone failed to pick up a signal. Nothing, not even an inkling of a data network but instead of worrying, I actually looked out of the car windows and began to appreciate everything around me. Leaves starting to change color and tranquil valleys that many people dream of seeing are commonplace. I had taken all of this for granted for most of my life, but at that moment I was determined to right that wrong.

The soul and personality of the people

My partner is a northerner and as such he doesn’t really “get” the people of Virginia, much less those who call the Southwestern part of the state home. He’s had plenty of practice going to undergrad and law school both in Virginia, but from my own observations he never allowed himself to fully click with the great people who call the state home. A lot of that is based on stereotypes, a topic I devoted an entire post to since it annoys me so very much. But some people just don’t understand the South; they’re not comfortable there. For me it’s the opposite; for me everything seems so much easier whenever I’m back in the Blue Ridge. Instead of harried conversations and endless traffic, I’m met with kind-hearted people who thank me for opening doors and always tell me to have a nice day. It’s a personality quirk you’ll find everywhere, from gas stations to shops in downtown Roanoke and for me it’s a comforting part of the soul of Southwestern Virginia.

Places are not defined by their landmarks or their natural beauty, at least not entirely. No, they are defined by the people who live there. It is the people that give places their heart and soul and make them a nice place (or not) to live and even visit. I’ve spent years disparaging Southwestern Virginia, but that wasn’t fair. I put it down in the past because of purely personal emotional reasons and it was only age and distance that made me rethink my opinions of the region. For a long time I didn’t understand why people liked it so much, why they moved there or went visited on vacations. But in the last year I’ve been back twice now – that’s more than in the previous 5 years combined – and I’ve experienced the same version of Southwestern Virginia that they see. I looked past family squabbles and instead reflected on what my time in Roanoke and Salem meant to me, how that time changed my life and a certain level of gratitude started to creep up. It’s not often that I’m accused of being mature, but in this situation I think I am. I think I’ve found that yes, you can go home again if you really want to. You can recapture those elements of your hometown that are most important to you and even over a brief weekend you can once again experience what it means to be loved by an entire region and to love that region back. I have Southwestern Virginia to thank for many things in my life, but for that important life lesson I am perhaps most grateful.

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Kensington Palace On A Sunny London Afternoon Sun, 04 Oct 2015 15:50:56 +0000 The post Kensington Palace On A Sunny London Afternoon appeared first on LandLopers.

Kensington Palace London England UK

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Finding A Few Good Things Around The World: Photo Series Fri, 02 Oct 2015 04:55:30 +0000 A few days ago the organizers of the weekly photo sharing event #FriFotos announced that they were discontinuing this Twitter tradition of five-years. Almost every week for those five years … Read More

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A few days ago the organizers of the weekly photo sharing event #FriFotos announced that they were discontinuing this Twitter tradition of five-years. Almost every week for those five years I have participated, using the new weekly themes as a creative motivator to create new and (I hope) interesting photo series. I probably will continue doing a weekly photo series, finding inspiration somewhere else, but in the mean time I want to join everyone else in thanking the organizers for five amazing years. The last three weekly themes have been announced, each with a nod towards the end of this popular event. This week it’s GOOD THINGS, as in all good things must come to an end. Rather than take a melancholy approach though, I want to share some special moments around the world, instances where I found my own ‘good things’ whether it was an amazing meal or a wonderful natural sight, these all mean a lot to me and show how it’s really the small things that make the most to us when we travel.

Pastries Germany German

German pastries are always a Good Thing


InterContinental Hong Kong

The Presidential Suite at the InterContinental Hong Kong is a very Good Thing


Table Mountain

Being in Cape Town is another Good Thing


Machu PIcchu Peru

Unexpected moments can many time be a Good Thing


Taiwan street food

Good Things can be simple, like this street food lunch in Taiwan


Whitsundays - Queensland, Australia

Helicopter flights rank high on my Good Thing list



Exploring the far reaches of our planet is a Good Thing I can’t get enough of


Dubrovnik, Croatia

Golden hour in Dubrovnik is a Good Thing that everyone loves


elephant water

Getting close with beautiful wildlife in Africa is a bucket list Good Thing



Spending time with your significant other can be a Good Thing


Tropical North Queensland Australia

Tropical beaches are a Good Thing for many of us

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Follow Me As I Discover the Great British Spirit Fri, 02 Oct 2015 04:50:54 +0000 No, I’m not about to embark on a haunted tour of the UK; although that would be interesting. Instead I’m involved in what I believe to be a unique partnership … Read More

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Lake District, England

No, I’m not about to embark on a haunted tour of the UK; although that would be interesting. Instead I’m involved in what I believe to be a unique partnership with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to investigate and share the heritage of British gin, how it’s consumed, food and drinks associated with it and what there is to see and do in the British countryside beyond the distilleries.

As a keen Anglophile, I’m excited not just to be back in the UK, but to revisit places in Scotland where I haven’t been in nearly 20 years. The summer after I graduated from college, I spent some time backpacking around England and Scotland and it was the Scottish highlands in particular that meant the most to me. I did a lot of soul searching over those days of solo-travel and came to many decisions about my life that still influence me today. So it’s an important part of the world to me on a very personal level, and I can’t wait to get to know it all over again.

Over the course of a week I, along with two other bloggers – Kate from Adventurous Kate and Rachelle from The Travel Bite – will be exploring different regions of the UK, from Northern Ireland to London and everything in between to learn more about gin not just as a drink, but as an important part of British culture.

I’m not exactly sure what to expect, whether it’s moments of channeling my inner James Bond or traipsing through the always beautiful British countryside, but I do know it’ll be a fun experience. As usual, I’ll be sharing my experiences not just in blog posts here on the site, but during the trip as well via all of my social media platforms. Be sure to follow the hashtag on all social media though to see what all of us are doing – #GREATBritishSpirit.

We’re kicking off the week of gin-exploration (or ginploration) with a special Twitter chat Monday October 5th at 3pm Eastern. The hashtag is the same – #GREATBritishSpirit – and be sure to join in not just to learn more about British gin, but to learn more about traveling around the UK from our favorite sites and attractions to what to eat. Plus, there may be a special prize or two to give away, so don’t miss this special Twitter event.

If you have any recommendations or questions you want me to answer as I’m exploring England and Scotland, please let me know!


This campaign was created and sponsored by UK Trade & Investment in partnership with iambassador. LandLopers retains all editorial control of what is published and as you know, I never shy away from honest commentary.

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My Perfect Day in Lyon, France: A Few Reasons To Love the City Thu, 01 Oct 2015 04:55:29 +0000 It’s hard not to be happy in France, at least it’s hard for me not to me happy in France. One of my first travel loves, it’s a country I … Read More

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Lyon France

It’s hard not to be happy in France, at least it’s hard for me not to me happy in France. One of my first travel loves, it’s a country I always enjoy returning to and that’s especially true when I get to explore towns and cities completely new to me. That was the theme of my river cruise earlier this year through parts of Provence and Burgundy I hadn’t seen before, but one in particular surprised me for all the right reasons. The last port of call on my Uniworld luxury river cruise, Lyon quickly became one of the stars on what was truly a star-studded trip through France.

I’ve written a full review of my experience with Uniworld, but what I enjoyed perhaps most was not only the freedom we had at every stop to do whatever we wanted, but also the active options made available to us. In Lyon there were a couple of different active options including a bike tour through the city and a long walking tour, taking in various sights of the city over the course of 2-3 hours. Since it was my first visit I went with the walking tour and soon discovered a city that doesn’t get nearly enough attention as it should.

France’s third-largest city, it is usually called a Little Paris, much to the chagrin of locals I’m sure. But it’s a feeling I understood as I walked along the banks of the river and admired the perfectly symmetrical houses lining the promenade. The city’s architectural beauty reminded me of Paris and is a far cry from the chaos of Marseilles, a city I disliked almost instantly. After the walking tour offered by Uniworld, I spent the rest of my day just wandering around, sightseeing, people watching and of course eating and by the end, it was the best day of my cruise through France. I hadn’t expected that. I had expected another Marseilles, but Lyon was different. Lyon has a style and soul not unlike Paris, a sense of self that I discovered through a few key moments.

The food

Lyon has come to represent the spiritual heart and soul of French cuisine, which is saying a lot in a country obsessed with food and drink. Not only has Lyon led the modern culinary movement through the likes of acclaimed chef Paul Bocuse, but they have a rich tradition of classic foods that are simultaneously unique but also decidedly French. At the end of my walking tour I took the guide aside for a moment and asked her what she thought some of the most classic Lyonnaise dishes were. She didn’t hesitate and rattled off a whole host of foods, giving me more than enough information to create my own perfect lunch experience in Lyon. Finding a good café in Lyon isn’t exactly a challenge; they’re everywhere. Be sure though to avoid those lining the central tourist areas and instead veer off the path and look for smaller cafes with only a limited number of tables and an even more limited menu. No restaurant can do it all and if they say they can, they’re lying and are just there for the tourist trade. In Lyon these small, traditional restaurants are called a bouchon, and they’re even marked on their windows as belonging to this traditional collection of eateries. Wandering through the foothills of the Croix-Rousse hill, I found several streets littered with bouchons including the small one that I decided was perfect for my Lyonnais food experience. Feeling confident after a week in France, I resurrected my French skills and ordered what I thought to be a classic meal in Lyon: a salade lyonnaise followed by a massive saucisson chaud served with potatoes. Not only was this a good lunch, it was my favorite meal of the entire trip; but what is it exactly?

A traditional salad in Lyon is a beautiful creation and is made using a mixed green salad served with croutons, lardons (bacon strips) and a perfectly poached egg on top. When sliced, the egg oozes over the salad creating a rich but delicious dressing. Salads in Europe are usually an afterthought, but this was something different. This was heaven on a plate; I mean how can you go wrong with bacon and egg in a salad? Saucisson just means sausage, but a great dry French sausage is unlike anything else I’ve ever had anywhere else in the world. In fact, it’s long been one of my favorite meals and since I was 17, enjoying a picnic lunch of saucisson sec on a buttered baguette has been a tradition for me whenever I’m in France. But a warm version served with a red wine sauce and a side of potatoes was a variation I’d never enjoyed before, and sitting outside in the warm summer sun, people watching as I ate a rich but delicious meal was pure heaven. There’s not much that I enjoy more than a leisurely lunch at a sidewalk cafe and was a major reason why my time in Lyon was so special.

I purposefully skipped dessert at the bouchon, and not just because I was too full to move – which I was. No, I had seen a number of bakeries as I toured the city earlier in the day and having a fierce love of sweet pastries, there was one thing I wanted to try. Around Europe, almost every region has a special pastry that it all theirs; a variation on something else or a tasty bite that’s totally unique. Pralines, made from almonds enrobed in cooked sugar and pink food coloring, are a specialty of Lyon and you can find them everywhere and in nearly every form imaginable. One that caught my eye in particular was a praline brioche, which is simply a delicious brioche covered with pralines. Sticky and sweet, it was the perfect guilty treat to finish out my traditional Lyonnaise food experience.

Architecture, traboules and the views

It may sound simplistic, but Lyon is just a really lovely city and sometimes that’s enough. At first led by a tour guide and then on my own, I was surprised at the delicate architecture I found on almost every street. It reminded me of the architecture of Haussmann’s Paris with wide avenues, parks and squares. 19th century mansions line both the Rhône & Saône Rivers and deeper in the heart of the city, delicate homes and business from a variety of centuries coexist peacefully. I could have spent days just walking around and looking up, admiring the design and style that the city exudes at every step. There’s of course more to the city than pretty buildings, and one little quirk of history that I found most fascinating were the traboules.

Simply put, traboules are passageways that connect buildings to each other, urban shortcuts of a sort. They’ve been around forever and originally were an easy way for the silk manufacturers and other merchants to transport their wares down to the river quickly and without ever having to go outside. They’re secret passageways that create a hidden labyrinth to the city, really known only to locals. During World War II they were essential to the Resistance Movement and are credited with preventing the Germans from taking total control of key parts of the city. Though many are today closed off, a number are still open and available to the public to see and wander through. A good guide is necessary to find them, since they mostly wander through and under apartment buildings.

A certain je ne sais quoi

This sounds like a travel blogger cop out, but it’s true when I say that Lyon possesses a certain intangible quality, a soul that makes it special. At least that was my experience as I spent every second of my time in this large city out and about, exploring and learning as much about it as possible. From the hidden traboules to the Basilica of Notre-Dame overlooking the entire city from the top of Fourvière hill, I saw as much of the city as any person could reasonably do in one day and loved everything that I saw. Aside from the city’s beauty though, it has a certain confidence that is nice to experience. It’s almost always been a prosperous city, although the meaning of that has changed over time. But in general, the people of Lyon are happy, healthy, educated, well employed and enjoy a high quality of life. That in turn has created a city that enjoys all of those attributes and more. Any city, no matter where in the world it is, is a direct reflection of its people. The citizens create their home in their own image, and in Lyon that means a city that isn’t just driven to succeed, but which also understands the importance of enjoying life. And it’s the latter that I partook in that wonderfully sunny day; enjoying life in what surely must be one of the France’s most underrated cities.

Have you been to Lyon? What did you think?

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Inca Fortress of Puka Pukara in Peru Thu, 01 Oct 2015 04:50:31 +0000 The post Inca Fortress of Puka Pukara in Peru appeared first on LandLopers.

Puka Pukara peru

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Driving The Impossibly Beautiful Icefields Parkway in Alberta Wed, 30 Sep 2015 04:55:19 +0000 When I first heard about the Icefields Parkway images from the TV show Ice Road Truckers immediately came to mind. Even though it was the tail end of summer, I … Read More

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Icefields Parkway Alberta Canada

When I first heard about the Icefields Parkway images from the TV show Ice Road Truckers immediately came to mind. Even though it was the tail end of summer, I imagined ice-covered roads trundling through the mountains of Alberta. I was wrong, but not too far off as it turns out. No, instead of ice-covered roads I discovered not only one of my favorite drives in the world, but a stretch of road so scenic that it should rank amongst the most beautiful anywhere in the world.

The entire Icefields Parkway is long, stretching from Lake Louise to Jasper it’s a 140 mile stretch of road that was completed 75 years ago this year. My time exploring Jasper National Park was short, too short really, and while I didn’t have the time to drive the entire length of the Parkway, I was able to discover a huge swathe of it as I drove out to the Columbia Icefield for a fun and active glacier experience. I knew how special the drive would be though, and planned on fully exploring it on the way back to Jasper, as smart a decision as I’ve made in a long time.

The drive

I had already braced myself for an improbably scenic drive; the day before driving into the National Park was stunning and I could only imagine what delving further into the Rocky Mountains would be like. But nothing at all prepared me for the scale of the beauty. From strangely-blue glacier fed lakes and streams to massive mountains capped by snow in the distance, every fiber of my being wanted to stop every couple of minutes to take photos and soak in the beauty surrounding me on all sides. The only other time I’ve experienced something like that was in New Zealand, driving from Greymouth to Franz Josef on the South Island. It was the same sensation of natural perfection that is all consuming, and not just a random occurrence. Every inch of those 140 miles are gorgeous, stunning and whatever other adjective you’d like to use. And just like in New Zealand, I had to make the conscious decision to start ignoring the beauty, at least for a little while. There’s no other choice really, it would take days to drive the Parkway otherwise, not to mention the complete lack of attention I was paying to the road.

I was also on a schedule and needed to arrive in time for my glacier tour of the Athabasca Glacier, one of the highlights for any visitor to the Parkway. I got there as soon as the facility opened that day, but already it was packed with people. So when you do visit, make sure you give yourself more than enough time not just to explore the glacier, but then to fully explore and appreciate the beauty of the Icefields Parkway itself.

A few key stops

Stocked up on snacks and a steaming hot cup of coffee, I left the too-cold-for-September Columbia Icefield and set out to explore all of those stops along the Icefields Parkway that I had skipped on the drive down. And there are a lot; too many really to reasonably do in a single day. If I were to well and truly experience all that the Parkway has to offer, I’d make sure to return several times over the course of many days, but since I didn’t have that luxury I did the next best thing and picked a few of the highlights to more intimately explore.

Sunwapta Falls

Given the geography and geology of the Canadian Rockies, there are a lot of waterfalls in all shapes and sizes, but a few seem to be extra special and this is one of them. It was also insanely popular and not for the first time I struggled even to find a place to park so I could start exploring the falls. Like many of the stops, visitors can spend as little or as much time as they want; a collection of hiking trails around the falls provide different angles and views and not for the first time I realized how perfect the entire Parkway is for the day hiker. My tip is to walk across the footbridge at the falls for a better view, and to better see the tiny island of trees just before the falls.

Athabasca Falls

Not far from Sunwapta is another picturesque waterfall, Athabasca Falls. Known more for its force than height, the massive amount of water falling through the gorge is a great way to grasp the beauty and power of nature. It’s hard not to feel somewhat insignificant looking at the Athabasca, but in as good a way as possible.

Valley of the Five Lakes Alberta Canada

Valley of the Five Lakes

The real highlight of my day though was an expected one, and one I almost didn’t even do. As amazing as this hike along the Parkway is, there’s very little information either at the site itself or online describing it, which still baffles me. The signpost revealed little except to provide a map of the hiking trail and an estimation of how long it’d take to accomplish. Two to three hours is what the placard guessed for the hike, but that was time I didn’t have. I had a dinner reservation I couldn’t miss but I kept thinking about a picture a friend had sent me. It was a queerly colored green lake surrounded by mountains and trees in the distance. It was one of the five lakes and I knew I just had to see those emerald lakes for myself.

While I like being out in nature, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself outdoorsy and I’m definitely no hiker. I told myself I’d just hike out a little bit to see just how far the lakes were and then decide whether to go on or head back to my car. That sounded better in theory than in practice because 30 minutes into the hike I hadn’t seen a lake yet, but I felt as if I was close and so I decided to just go for it. When was I going to ever be there again? Maybe never, and I wanted to see those damn lakes. Within an hour of making that decision, I understood it to be the single smartest decision I made during my entire trip to Alberta.

There are indeed five lakes, each in varying shades of green and blue. The colors are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in nature and come from the glacial rock dust that colors all of the lakes and rivers in the area, along with special algae and other factors. The instant I saw my first lake a broad smile crept up and stayed there, permanently affixed for the remainder of the hike. It was stunning, unlike any other natural experience I’d enjoyed before and no words or turns of phrase will do them justice. These lakes should grace the cover of every travel magazine out there; they should be on every Must See list and should be just as famous as any other natural wonder in Canada. It’s safe to say that embarking on the hike was a good idea. I plan on devoting a full photo series to these beauties, but hopefully the photos here share just a little bit of the massive beauty contained within.

The entire experience

I was looking forward to exploring the Icefields Parkway and my expectations were honestly very high. Having been to Alberta before, I knew that the experience would be a breathtaking one but as I’ve written in this post, I wasn’t prepared for the scale or proportion of that beauty. Thank goodness there weren’t many cars on the road that day as I trekked from Jasper along the Parkway, because I would never have seen them. I was far too focused on the soaring mountains and scenic vistas that looked as if they were plucked from an LL. Bean ad. Nothing was amiss, everything was natural perfection at its finest and it’s for all of these reasons and more that I can say without hesitation that driving the Icefields Parkway wasn’t just one of my favorite drives anywhere around the world, it was also one of my favorite travel experiences. Jasper National Park is a very special place and this stretch of road that runs through it is surely one of the many highlights it enjoys.

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Walking Through Quirky Frogner Park in Oslo, Norway Wed, 30 Sep 2015 04:50:24 +0000 The post Walking Through Quirky Frogner Park in Oslo, Norway appeared first on LandLopers.

Frogner Park  Oslo Norway

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Fear, Passion and the Importance of Divine Dissatisfaction Tue, 29 Sep 2015 04:55:46 +0000 The other day a friend of 20 years announced that she was giving up a lucrative and stable career to move to Los Angeles to pursue what has always been … Read More

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Los Angeles, California

The other day a friend of 20 years announced that she was giving up a lucrative and stable career to move to Los Angeles to pursue what has always been a big part of her life and a clear passion, acting. She is nearly 40 years old, has limited contacts in the field and has never lived in LA. The odds seem to be against her, but she’s going for it anyway. That made me start thinking about my own life, the changes I’ve made which, upon reflection, really aren’t so different from hers. While a big move didn’t figure into the equation, my leap of faith was just as great and it also brought to mind a turn of phrase that for some reason has been popping up in my life lately: divine dissatisfaction.

What is divine dissatisfaction?

At first blush it seems incongruous, a strange commingling of words but the more digging one does, the more one realizes just how powerful the two words ‘divine dissatisfaction’ can be. The phrase has been used a number of times in our history: by Martin Luther King, Jr. to describe the inalienable right to find injustice in segregation and discrimination, by political commentators to describe the American electorate, but my favorite is from an unlikely source of inspiration, at least for me – the modern dance pioneer Martha Graham. She once wrote that:

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

I love that and wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment, and it was this quote that forced me to think about how we all have our own moments of divine dissatisfaction and how for many, these moments turn into something more powerful and transformative than they ever realized. Born in the 70s and raised in the 80s, I’m a true Gen-Xer and my parents equally well represented their own Baby Boomer generation. That meant that their values, values handed down to them by the Greatest Generation who suffered war and economic depression, were naturally transferred down the line to me. Such is case for a great many of us, and while I know they all meant well, not all of those values are applicable today and, in many instances, do us more harm than good.

The concept of divine dissatisfaction in one’s personal life would be a foreign abstraction to the Greatest Generation. Life was about stability, productivity and providing the best for one’s family. That’s it. A job was a job and enjoyment usually played little role in one’s occupation; getting a paycheck and enough to live on in retirement was all that mattered. And there’s of course a lot to be said for that, and many seek the same today, but what started in my generation, a certain feeling that there’s more to life, has taken up full root in the Millennial generation to the point where it’s almost a pleasurable epidemic. I like to think of it as an American way of seeing life, that anything is possible and none of us have to be content with our lot in life, unless we want to be. More than a century ago it was lauded in the works of Horatio Alger, who championed individuals who picked themselves up from nothing. For a while we seem to have forgotten the importance of being the outlier, of having a certain divine dissatisfaction with our own lives. I think we felt that it was too selfish to want to be happy; at least I did. The mantra that we should be happy with what we have and not complain was drilled into me from an early age. But sometimes in life just getting by isn’t enough, sometimes it’s important to embrace that divine dissatisfaction and BE selfish, do things that make you happy because the effect on loved ones and even the world may be incredible. Some of our greatest thinkers and innovators have all embraced this sense of divine dissatisfaction, to not be happy with the status quo and it’s time to make that feeling a more egalitarian one, a series of actions that any of us can take and not just the Steve Jobs or Bill Gates of the world. Fear of course is what holds many back but thankfully that’s changing. Many have realized that fear isn’t just annoying, it’s debilitating and that passion, true passion, should be the goal of anyone’s life.

British Columbia canada

The danger of fear

Fear is a complex thing to dissect, although I’ve tried in the past to analyze it and bring it out into the full light of day. I’ve often written about the somewhat campy, but excellent, movie “Defending Your Life,” in which characters in the afterlife have to answer for their fears and consider how this emotion shaped almost every action while they were living. Those with little fear “moved on” while those too fearful, too unwilling to take chances were “sent back.” It’s a light-hearted romantic comedy, but it’s a film that has resonated with me throughout my life and I think the lessons are important ones to take to heart.

Fear has become such an ingrained part of our daily lives that most of us don’t even think of it as fear anymore. Unwillingness to stand up for your convictions, to correct people when they’re wrong, to ask for that raise, to tell your spouse they’re wrong, to criticize someone on social media – these are all decisions we make based on fear. Fear of being wrong, fear of upsetting someone, fear of getting fired, fear, fear, fear. While some fear in life is good, not getting eaten by a bear has greatly improved the quality of my life, other types of fear are debilitating and downright lethal.

This is where divine dissatisfaction comes back into the show. More and more often I see people becoming frustrated with their own lives. Either they’re in a relationship they don’t like or a job they hate. And I also get emails from many of these people, asking how they can pursue their own dreams, their own goals, their own passions. The answer is usually a frustratingly simple one – just do it. Just take that leap of faith, do that one thing you want to do most, but most can’t. Most are too afraid of the repercussions, and do not allow themselves to fully buy into the power of divine dissatisfaction. That’s where passion enters the scene.


The importance of passion

Passion is everything, but it can also take any form. I define it as doing that which makes you most happy. For me, it’s all things travel related. Ever since I could hold a book I’ve been fascinated with anything foreign and built my life around experiencing as much of the world as I could. I took the ultimate leap three years ago when I left a stable, non-travel job to pursue travel blogging full time. That was my passion and it was crucial for my own physical and emotional well being that I defined it and then pursued it. But my passion is just that, my passion. For others it may be cooking, medicine or even being an accountant. It’s not for us to judge what makes others happy, merely to encourage them to seek it out and make it a big part of their lives. Passion also doesn’t have to be all consuming or destructive. Following your dreams and passions does not have to mean strapping on a backpack and leaving family and loved ones behind. Quite the contrary, I think that’s destructive for many people. Instead, the changes aren’t radical but they are deliberative. They can be simple actions, from a move to a new city or acknowledging that your current job isn’t stimulating enough. Whatever it is, it’s vital that people identify it, conquer the fear that comes with making changes and then implement those changes. They need to accept that it’s ok to be dissatisfied sometimes, that it can be a positive thing and is what will ultimately drive us to succeed in life, whether it’s on a personal or professional level.

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Embracing your own moments of divine dissatisfaction

Recent surveys show that up to three-quarters of American workers are not happy with their jobs. I hate that number, but I can also understand that number. I was there, I get it. I was in a profession I hated for 12 years and it finally took fate intervening before I realized how much I hated it. But I’m an extreme example; not everyone can leave a good paying job and take the risk of making little or no money for up to a year or longer. A better example is another friend of mine. He too found himself in a job that while he enjoyed it, the job was taking a tremendous physical and mental toll on him. It was just too much and he worried that his body couldn’t keep up with the constant demands. What he did was to find another job in the same profession, which he really enjoys, but one that has better and more manageable hours and expectations. He left a job that afforded ZERO work/life balance and replaced it with one that allows him time to relax and enjoy life. He sacrificed a little to do this, but it was an important change. He’s following his passions, but not losing sight of what’s really important in life. This perspective is key. You have to be able to look at yourself objectively and tweak your situation in ways that allows you to be happy, productive and passionate about life. It’s not easy, and not everyone will take the time to do it, but it’s vital if you want to lead a happier, healthier life.

The first step is to acknowledge the validity of being unhappy with an aspect of our lives. That divine dissatisfaction is divine because it gives us our edge and, if listened to, will propel us on to bigger and better things. But you have to listen to it. Finding and living your passion isn’t easy, but it’s also not the extreme leap many may think it is. It doesn’t mean you have to sell your house and travel the world. Living a happier life may mean slight changes in your current life that make you more content. Regardless of what needs to be done, it’s important to take that first step and make it a reality. Life is brutally short, a fact that has been demonstrated to me in hard lessons recently and I know how important it is not to squander our time on this planet. Be selfish, find a way to start living a purposeful life and in the process I bet you’ll also improve the lives of those nearest and dearest to you as well.

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Wadi Rum Jordan

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