Travel Inspiration For The Weekend

journey

He who is outside his door has the hardest part of his journey behind him. -Dutch proverb

I’ve been reading this book on armchair travel inspiration and even though I love the idea of being transported to different places without leaving my house, there’s something about taking that first step outside your door. That act alone can be life-changing. I really believe that some of the hardest parts to travel is finding the inspiration and courage to just take that first step. I’m always dreaming up new places to go and things to see but without an initiating action, nothing happens.

Sometimes all we need to do is take that first step. Just step outside your own door. You never know what you might see by just getting out of your own comfort zone and exploring your city and the world. Take a photo. Write a poem. Share your experience with the world. Just take that first step outside of your door. It really is the hardest part.

Use Music To Unlock Your Creativity

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People talk a lot about the benefits of travel on creativity but what happens when you need a creative jolt and can’t leave your own city? Of course there’s always movies, travel documentaries (bienvenue, Rick Steves), exploring the history of your own city or even just perusing a bookstore. Me, I like to see live music. Bands spend most of their career traveling, experiencing different cultures in mini ways every night. It’s a hazard of the job. Touring makes money and connects to fans so the more places you go, the better chance you have of recouping costs. Musicians are a bit utilitarian like that, with just enough excess built-in for fun.

 

Eve 6 and Freshman Year

Eve6AlbumA few years back I wrote about the first real modern rock band that I listened to. I was a pretty sheltered kid growing up. I hadn’t branched out into any new music beyond the Christian music that was allowed in the house and Jim Croce. One day in high school my friend Blake popped in an album that opened my eyes. Eve 6‘s self titled album was unlike anything I had ever heard. I borrowed the album, burned it onto a MiniDisc (that was an actual thing) and listened to it day and night.

The thing I appreciate about Eve 6 is the literalness of their lyrics. No pretension, no allegory. If Max Collins sings that a girl is “doing body shots off Italian guys in Mexico,” that’s exactly what he means. Its like country music but with louder guitars and more midwestern fraternity brothers. I tend to get really philosophical with my music these days so when I need to relax and enjoy music, I reach for something like Eve 6. It’s simple, catchy and even somewhat dance-y. That’s basically the definition of a pop song, right?

 

Cultivating Experiences

All the rage these days in minimalism circles is the thought of spending money on experiences, not things. I believe live music fits into that category perfectly. I once saw Bob Dylan in a little venue in Springfield, Missouri and I honestly will never forget that experience. It was surreal, a little hot inside and I couldn’t barely understand a word that he said but it’s seared into my memory. As Dylan broke into “Lay Lady, Lay” the crowd paused and let the moment roll over them. In that instance, the world was right. Like travel, we were transported to a different place.

For a long time I shunned going to concerts because on some level it made me jealous. I’m a musician that consciously decided to not be a professional on any level. I played on the side and for fun but never wanted to tour or record. part of me thought it was because I didn’t have the chops but in reality it was more of a decision of lifestyle than anything. I know lots of touring musicians and they all describe it as a hard life. Like any creative endeavor, if your heart isn’t in it, don’t do it.

Lately I’ve been doing all I can to see the bands that I love. My wife and I are now planning travel around concerts, using a certain band as a jumping off point to a new city. It’s a way of mixing two things we both love. My trip to Amsterdam this summer even included a visit to the Melkweg to see The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

So next time you’re feeling drained creatively, try seeing a local band or whoever is touring near you at the time. Try seeing a new type of musical act that you wouldn’t normally see. It just might be the jolt you need to see things differently.

 

*The image above is my good friend Matt Hammon, my greatest musical influence and best friend. Playing music with him is one of the great joys of my life. Rock on, man. 

 

 

 

Terror and Resilience in London

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Me in London, June 2007

Me in London, June 2007

It was June 29, 2007 and I was right in the middle of a one-month vacation in London. This was my first time in the United Kingdom and after 4 weeks in Birmingham I was ready to get out and experience all that the capital had to offer. I spent the evening listening to punk bands at a club called Barfly, then decided to walk back towards Trafalgar Square to catch a night bus out to Bethnal Green to my hostel. My path led me right into the Haymarket District where I had eaten a very gourmet version of Fish & Chips earlier in the evening. After a long bus ride I was finally sitting in my tiny room when I decided to check some e-mails.

That’s when everything changed.

 

The Night Is Dark And Full of Terror

The newshound in me went straight to CNN where the top headline read “Bomb Found in London”. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Just 15 minutes after I walked through the Haymarket District a car bomb was found and defused outside of the Tiger Tiger nightclub. A Google map search showed that I had walked right past where the car full of petrol and nails was found. The alley where it was parked was still fresh in my mind.

My body went numb. I read reports of how many people would have died if it had detonated. I was in one of the worlds largest cities, by myself and scared.

My hostel was in Hackney, East London. I watched TV for a while before I decided it was time to venture back out into the city. I hopped the tube and within minutes emerged at Oxford Circus. A typical London fog had taken over the day with a steady mist of rain falling. It was Pride weekend in London and there were lots of people dressed brightly, slowly filling the streets. I had never seen the city so quiet, especially right before a big parade day.

 

A City Asleep

People just shuffled along with shocked looks on their faces, staying close to friends and huddled under umbrellas. A haze of sadness and sorrow hung in the air. No bomb had gone off. No lives were lost during the incident, but it seemed the people of London had once again lost their innocence. Anguish was painted on their faces as clear as the rainbow flags on every street corner.

After a couple of hours of walking I finally pieced together the courage to head back towards Haymarket to see if I could find where the car was. Sure enough, I had walked directly past it. I can’t really explain the feeling that came over me when I realized that if something had actually happened the night before, I very much could have been right in the midst of it. Mortality is not something I think about much, but that day it was the only thing in my head. I wanted to call my parents and tell them I loved them. Suddenly my choices over the past year felt stupid and trivial.

The rest of the day was pretty surreal and sedate. I shopped a little bit and then headed back and watched Big Brother with some of the other students at the hostel. Still, I couldn’t shake this feeling that the city had changed somehow, suddenly and overnight.

Then the morning came.

 

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Pride Changes Everything

The next morning I made my way up by the Houses of Parliament. Large crowds had formed for the Pride London parade. Just as suddenly as the city had slipped into its gloom, it shed it’s coat for a sunny summer day of optimism and hope. There was no trace of the sorrow and angst from the day before. It’s as if London was saying “You can’t hurt me, you can’t bring me down.”

I left some of my innocence in Haymarket that day, but found hope amid a group of smiling revelers in the streets on a beautiful day after. London moves on.

Revisiting Ladonia, Land of Creativity

 

ladoniaIn 2014 I wrote about a place called Ladonia, a micronation of claimed land in southern Sweden. In those two short years the amount of “citizens” of Ladonia has jumped to over 17,700 and on their website, future plans promise expansion, which I’m sure Sweden will have something to say about. Regardless of your thoughts on micronations, Ladonia is teeming with creative inspiration. From its haphazard and otherworldly looking structures to the beautiful, serene nature preserve that encompasses it, Ladonia is strikingly creative. Also, it’s only around $30 USD for an application for a title of nobility. Seems like a nice Christmas present to me.

 

Ladonia, February, 2014

As a child, my brother and I built some pretty impressive forts using reclaimed plywood, old blankets, the base of a pecan tree and the shade of a banana tree. We had one fort that could hold up to 6 people and even had an observation deck and safety bunker, just in case any neighboring forts were to attack. So I was definitely excited when I ran across this article on Atlas Obscura about Lars Vilks and his micronation of Ladonia. According to the website, Vilks founded the micronation on June 2, 1996 after using 1 square kilometer in southern Sweden for art installations composed of wood and concrete for years. Vilks simply declared the tiny tract of land in the Kullaberg Nature Reserve an independent nation. As of 2011, Ladonia had over 16,000 registered citizens, although none can live in the tiny country.  In Ladonia all taxes are paid in creativity, even though they have their own currency, the Örtug.

The Ladonian language consists of two words: “waaaall” and “ÿp”.

Most of Ladonia is based around Nimis, which Atlas Obscura describes as a “maze-like wooden artwork made of 70 tons of driftwood and nails and culminating in a teetering, nine-story wooden tower.” So maybe it’s a bit taller than what I built as a kid, but then again, they have their own Republican Monarchy and national anthem. Oh yeah, one of the two national anthems of Ladonia is the sound of throwing a stone into water and was composed by Greve Jan Lothe von Eriksen.

Head over to Atlas Obscura or Ladonia’s website to learn more about this curious little country.

Why Not #DoSomethingForNothing Today

#dosomethingfornothing

Today’s post comes from my wonderful wife Kim Thompson, who always has an eye for seeing the good in the world. 

 

There is so much negativity in the world today. So much hurt and anger. So much hate. But that just means there’s even more room for positivity, healing, joy and redemption. We just have to be a little creative to let it out.

 

Enter Josh Coombes. In 2015, this seasoned hairdresser, decided to share his craft with the homeless residents of London, by offering them a haircut, free of charge. He keeps all of his styling gear in his backpack so he is always ready. For Coombes, it’s about “connecting… on a human level,” not just making someone look polished and cleaned up.

 

On April 13, over 700 people met to target 10 different areas in London to share love and kindness. This two-minute film shows just a small bit of the joy and compassion shared by all involved.

 

 

How will you #DoSomethingForNothing. You can follow along on Instagram to see the change that can come from seemingly small gifts of creativity. You can read more about Coombes in this article from Mashable.

 

There is so much negativity in the world today. But we can change that, one small gesture of kindness at a time.

 

 

Steve Buscemi, White Linen and Coffee at the Movies

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Happy Monday!! Well maybe that shouldn’t have two exclamation points, especially if you live in New Jersey and like drinking coffee in your car. Here’s a few things to start off your week.

 

What I’m Reading

Everyone’s had that boring summer where you don’t quite know what to do but it’s probably too hot to just hang out outside. Well, this guy decided to mess with his mother and replace family photos with everyone’s favorite actor (?) Steve Buscemi. I don’t know whether to thank him or ask him if he actually liked Mr. Deeds.

There’s nothing like having creative friends who do brilliant work and one of those people for me is Brandi from Mucho Mucho Bueno Bueno. Check out her post on how she got ready for White Linen Night in the Heights this past weekend and get inspired. Seriously, you’re going to love her style.

Sprudge’s Coffee At The Movies is one of the most random pop culture series anywhere but it combines two of my loves and I can’t get enough of it. Join Eric J. Grimm as he sneaks a cup of coffee into a showing of Suicide Squad.

 

What I’m Watching

larsThis look at adventure photographer Lars Schneider really piqued my creativity. I love how he just goes out and waits for the right shot, no matter the weather conditions. Also, I think The Faroe Islands may have just made it onto my bucket list.

I love movie trailers and this one from Christopher Nolan is a great example of how to tease a film, even when it’s based on historic events. Now to figure out what to watch for another year until Dunkirk comes out.

 

 What I’m Looking At

This Field Notes cover looks awesome and is a great alternative to many of the higher priced leather ones out there. Also, who doesn’t love a good vintage looking map of Paris on their wall. I recently got a Good Vibes shirt from Wellen and this throw pillow is sort of its plush twin. We’re now in single digit days until the start of the new Premiere League season, so the new home kit from Chelsea is a bit of a given for me, even if it’s not their best design.

Alright, lets all tackle Monday together and remember, don’t forget the coffee.

What’s In Your Travel Bag?

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I recently got back from a trip to Paris and Amsterdam with my parents and beautiful wife (pictured above.) My packing technique was a bit different than normal because the place we stayed at had a washing machine (thanks AirBnB!) The trip lasted 10 days and was in the middle of summer so no bulky jackets or winter apparel. My preferred bag right now for carry-on travel is the Osprey Porter 46, mainly because it’s not top load like most travel backpacks.

We did a lot of walking but this wasn’t a typical backpack style trip so my apparel was pretty consistent with my normal life. When traveling, I like to feel like myself, it helps me connect with my destination better. No athletic shorts, tennis shoes or normal travel garb for me. I like to feel invisible walking the streets, like I truly belong there.

Here’s a quick look at some of what I had in my bag in Amsterdam and Paris.

 

In My Travel Bag – Amsterdam & Paris

What’s currently in your travel bag? Post your favorite travel bag or accessory in the comment section below and please share on social media to help continue the conversation.

Lars Schneider on Photography, Adventure and Travel

 

lars schneiderIt’s hard to think about adventure photography without running into the brilliant mind of German photographer Lars Schneider. His landscape photography is absolutely breathtaking and this short film from Peter Bender really digs into what inspires Schneider and how he works.  Set amidst the backdrop of the Faroe Islands, bender follows Schneider into rain, snow and fog as he waits to capture what he deems interesting.

Most of my personal photography has centered around cities and urban landscapes because that’s pretty much all that I know. Watching Schneider trek into wild territory to catch a waterfall flowing up makes me want to book a backpacking trip in the Pacific Northwest. There’s something about getting out of your natural habitat. It’s a kickstart for your senses. We all need that. How else are we supposed to find our own backwards waterfall.

 

More on Lars Schneider

Life In Focus: Lars Schneider on Adventure Photography in Germany

Lars Schneider Landscapes

An Adventure with Lars Schneider

 

How Not To Sleep On An Airplane And Discover The Czech Republic

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It was the second time that I was venturing to the United Kingdom so I decided to take a different route than normal. The plan was simple. Meet up with my group in Birmingham, spend a month there and then go solo to London. I booked a cheap flight on Air Canada from Houston to Heathrow through Toronto, in hopes of watching the USA take on England at Wembley, which didn’t happen. Instead, I took a quick coach ride up to Brum.

I’d never flown Air Canada before so I didn’t really have any expectations. As long as I could take my pills and fall asleep fast, everything was gonna be alright. That was not the case.

 

The Beginning

IMG_3417When I boarded I made my way to what was the very last seat in the back of the airplane, you know, the one where you can sit and chat with the stewards and stewardess’ the whole flight. I would say I wasn’t thrilled but for the price that I got the ticket I should have expected something like this. Determined to make the best, I quickly introduced myself to Paul the Steward and asked if I could have an early bag of peanuts before the plane took off.

As I was munching on my five unsalted peanuts a young girl came and sat down in the window seat next to me. She was about 5′ 9″ and had gorgeous blond hair down the back of her neck. Suddenly the trip began to look more bearable. She introduced herself as Ivana, a twenty-something that had been studying in Toronto and was on her way back to her native Czech Republic. Her English was a bit hard to understand, but at least she was pleasant.

As we took off I slid my headphones over my ears and waited for my Dramamine to kick in. After a short time of sleeping I felt a gentle touch on my arm and awoke to find Ivana staring at me. She had pulled a book out of her bag and was eager to show me some different pictures and facts about the Czech Republic.

 

The Middle (Where I’m Usually Asleep)

I feel I should tell you my routine before long flights. Basically, I deprive myself of sleep for at least 24-30 hours, sit down in my assigned seat and crash into slumber until I arrive. Theoretically, this approach should work perfectly but has only been executed to perfection once. So when I step onto an airplane I’m usually completely exhausted and excited.

So as Ivana opened her book and began to show me some of the beautiful sights from Prague and the surrounding countryside, I was less than amused. I could barely understand what she was saying to begin with. Even though the pictures were intriguing, I just wasn’t in the mood for story time.  After paying attention for way too long, our food came and was a welcome distraction. The next couple hours passed smoothly with little interruption but just as I began to doze off again I could hear Ivana’s voice calling my name. I tried desperately to ignore it but I’m just not that rude of a person. As I looked over toward her I could tell she was staring intently out the little window. I leaned over to see just what she was so interested in.

Glaciers. Ice. Frozen Beauty.

I had always flown the southerly route from Newark to the UK and had never seen the vast expanse of ice and glaciers in the Northern Atlantic. I imagine what I was looking at was part of the edge of Greenland and, eventually, the area around Iceland. It was truly astounding and I couldn’t stop looking out the little piece of glass that we were stuck behind.

 

The End

The rest of the trip went rather quickly with just a handful of words spoken between Ivana and I but I can’t help but think of what I would have missed if I would have kept pretending to sleep.

Once we got to Heathrow, I walked with Ivana into the main terminal where we talked for a little bit until she had to catch her connecting flight. We shared a quick hug and I wished her good luck and safety as she flew on. She smiled and strolled off quickly with her little picture book in hand.

I wish I had that kind of enthusiasm for where I’m from. She was so proud of the Czech Republic that she kept a piece of it with her in her carry-on, a little reminder of who she was.

I hope she remembers sitting next to some punk American kid and staring out a little window at ice as much as I remember her telling me stories about her homeland. Turns out that Ivana means “God is gracious” and that’s exactly what I remember when I think about flying from Toronto to London.

5 Books That Will Spark Your Creativity

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We’ve all been there. Work is crazy. Home life seems to never slow down. Your creativity somehow gets lost in the mundane details of life. Cultivating creative thinking is a lifestyle that takes practice and nothing helps more than a good book. Here are my five favorite creative thinking books to help jumpstart your creativity.

 

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

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No other book in the last five years has sparked my creative thinking more than Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. Funny, insightful and practical, Gilbert helps focus your innate creative spirit. Full of stories of personal creative struggle, it’s hard not to find yourself somewhere in this book. A must read for anyone wanting to cultivate a creative life.

 

12 Rules of Creativity by Michael Atavar

michael atavar

Think of Michael Atavar’s 12 Rules of Creativity as a 12 step process to harness your creative thinking and mold it into something that can be used in any facet of life. Whether you’re an artist or a lawyer, this book will help you introduce creativity into all aspects of your life.

 

But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman

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The cover of Chuck Klosterman’s latest is purposefully upside down. It’s not a trick, but a bearer of what’s to come. Klosterman ponders the future, past, present and even a few alternate universes as he challenges ideas that we take for granted. Written in short, digestible bits, But What If We’re Wrong? will shake up your creative thinking and challenge you to look at the world differently.

 

Act Accordingly by Colin Wright

act accordingly

Less a book about creativity and more of a manifesto, Act Accordingly will challenge you to live to your full potential. Colin Wright, who I happened to attend university with, talks about his uncommon life and adventures living out of a suitcase and pursuing his dream of freedom. A challenge to be the best you, which is one of the best ways to cultivate creativity.

 

Wired To Create by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire

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I’m not much for books on science but Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire’s Wired To Create is just too insightful to ignore. Packed full of new research on neuroscience and psychology, you’ll find yourself realizing that your creativity isn’t just a part of you, it is you. This book is freeing, beautiful and a must read for all those looking for insight into why they are creative.