Remembering Sandy

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IMG_0619“Crash, crack, smash!” – Two years ago, Hurricane Sandy slammed our shores. In a few short hours, the ocean met the bay and Long Beach was under water without electric or clean water and ‘shelter’ took on a brand new meaning. One night’s damage would take years from which to recover. For weeks and months on end help came from everywhere and in all forms. The kindness of strangers never ceased to amaze me.

IMG_0833There was the school bus driver from Connecticut who filled his truck with gas, water, blankets and food because he thought it was the right thing to do. There was the woman from California who organized seven trucks from Ohio to support a community she knew needed it. There were the everyday heroes who despite a gas shortage drove for miles to come and stock shelves, hand out food or comfort others because they knew it was necessary.

IMG_0841And even those who would go home to a cold, dark house spent hours helping others get back on their feet first. Truck after truck, car after car, loads were donated to the Long Beach Ice Arena acting as the main donation and distribution center for the entire barrier island. People wanted to help. Providing for animals, infants, volunteers and an entire community – people gave of themselves in every way imaginable. Thank you can never be enough.IMG_0822

Week after week at the Long Beach Ice Arena I met some of the most amazing people. Character mattered. First names only were shown by a slapped on piece of duct tape and written with large black sharpie marker. No one knew what you did for a living, where you came from, how much was in your bank account or for which candidate you vote. There were things to be done and people did them.There was Blair from the shoe section, Keasia in diapers, Arin in toiletries and the group of friends who schlepped from the city and organized every can of beans and baby food in the joint. Former students of mine answered my calls and gave any time they could. A woman named Tracey drove from Texas to lend a hand and slept in a trailer in the parking lot to be there at the start of every day. Caroline drove from the West End each day to pick up supplies for those whose cars had been washed away. Ray unloaded boxes and Wayne swept every inch of the oval shaped floor. Mary, Brittany and Katie signed in every volunteer. Patti greeted every guest and made sure they got what they needed. John comforted community members, Matt liaised with the city and countless other superstars stood dressed in layers on the cold concrete floor each day lifting, sorting and doing.

IMG_0823There were the burly men and women dressed in yellow from the Forest Service Wildland Fire Fighters who weren’t afraid of anything. They made daisy chains and hefted hundreds of donated filled clothing bags off of the cold cement ice rink floor. With their FEMA briefing every morning they followed directions from Incident Commanders and got the job done-any job with which they were tasked and many with which they weren’t. National organizations and religious groups of adults and children came to support in more ways than one. Sending food for volunteers, cleaning up the neighborhood or sorting through donations to organize and distribute-they worked from their hearts.IMG_0543

A carpenter drove all night from western Pennsylvania and built us six shelving units and ramps in a few hours before turning back around for the long drive home. Mike, a manager of a Panera Bread delivered food for volunteers whenever we needed. Local and long distance restaurant owners showed up with whatever they could carry to feed volunteers and those in need. Marathoners came by bus to canvass the neighborhood to help those still stuck in their homes. Homeland Security arrived with a mobile command center embracing the city as if it were theirs. Firefighters from all over took extra shifts so the city could remain safe and their brethren who needed to could work on their homes or get some much needed rest. We were protected by heaps of police officers. District attorney folks, the guys in purple ties, members of the military, local Long Beach officers, the canine crew and even DEA and US Marshals who kept watch over the DMAT hospital unit that took care of the sick and dispensed necessary medication. Amidst roadblocks, difficult conditions and curfews, the volunteers kept coming to Long Beach and their compassion never waned.

IMG_0865Mat and I can honestly say that we met more people in those few weeks of volunteering than we have in all the years we’ve lived in Long Beach. We now have Homeland Security friends we treasure who hail from the Midwest and if possible, an even greater respect for the Forest Service and hot shot crews who jumped in with both feet and changed our lives for the better. We are founding members and volunteers with incredible organizations that work to better the lives of those afflicted by disasters. We opened and closed the arena on a daily basis. This beachside community came together as one. There were city workers and staff members, council members and officials, lifeguards and residents who kept coming to help, donate, clean, volunteer, serve, deliver, feed and exist together through this difficult time.

Neighbors looked out for neighbors – but this time, those neighbors didn’t only live next door. They came from other towns, other counties, other states and even other countries to give. Hundreds came together (many giving up time with their own families) on a most special day to feed over 1500 guests for a Thanksgiving dinner long remembered. The feeling of community was felt far from our shores.IMG_0874

Today you hear of survival stories, stories of courage and bravery and those of people still struggling and waiting to come home. Organizations that sprung into action in the days after the disaster haven’t stopped working. Volunteers come in droves on build days around the country and charities haven’t forgotten. No one would dream of wishing this on anyone. Homes were decimated. Our hospital closed. Our boardwalk was destroyed and the thriving Long Beach community was ‘bruised, not broken’.

IMG_1149Lives were changed in an instant. Although personally, our building was untouched by water damage, our lives changed, too.  The hurricane was a turning point for so many, including myself. Today, my outlook, priorities and even career are different. Sandy changed so much for so many. Time and again we are reminded of the kindness of strangers each day then and since. A lot of good came out of that disaster. Community action, mindfulness, kindness, and compassion only scratch the surface. If we could do it again, we’d all want to erase that day and turn back the clocks to our pre-hurricane city. But, if it had to happen, I count myself lucky in more ways than one. Aside from the tangibles of new friends, a brand new boardwalk and ongoing dune project, this post hurricane city and everyone in it is without question, stronger than the storm.

 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all who came and helped in their own way.

You made a difference that won’t soon be forgotten!

The endless possibilities of maps

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The endless possibilities of maps

Maps are journeys and dreams all rolled into one. When the Muppets traveled by map in their first movie in years my mouth dropped open, I was in complete awe! Seriously, I thought the Harry Potter floo powder and apparating was amazing, but this one blew me away! Could you imagine? Where could we go if we could travel by map? The possibilities are endless and prices minimal. Regularly I find myself travel dreaming and most of the time it starts out with a glimpse at a map. Read the rest of this entry

Interview: Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

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I met Barbara online. When I emailed her an interview request, I knew I had found a kindred spirit. She wrote, “Perpetual or even long-term travel changes us irrevocably and many of us cannot return to [the same] lives…after our experiences around the world.” A match! Trying to connect the world through the stories she can share, Barbara left the rat race of the corporate world and threw caution straight into the wind. After jobs that paid the bills for a comfortable existence left her unfulfilled and an illness left her on the sidelines of life for a few years, she had had enough. No more listening to other people’s opinions and no more wasted time. At the age of 62, she has been filling her soul by traveling the world for more than eight years and has no plans to settle down. Here she shares her passion for traveling and what she believes are the gifts of travel.

In the Galapagos (Ecuador) with giant tortoises

In the Galapagos (Ecuador) with giant tortoises

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Diregarding ‘The Mustn’ts’

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Diregarding ‘The Mustn’ts’

“Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child, listen to the DON’TS

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS, the IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS

Listen to the NEVER HAVES, then listen close to me-

Anything can happen, child, ANYTHING can be.”

–Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

Start most Shel Silverstein poems and somehow I can finish them. It’s strange, I agree, but for some reason, those poems have stuck with me for over thirty years. I remember listening as my parents read them and then getting to read them to my siblings when I got a bit older. Today, I buy them as brand new baby gifts to start libraries for a new generation. So many of the words are ingrained in my subconscious, but I don’t think I realized how tangible they were to adult life until, well, until I was in adult life! The Giving Tree is still one of my all time favourite books and I would say that my childhood can be summed up amidst Shel Silverstein and Doctor Seuss with a sprinkling of Judy Blume in those most difficult ‘tween’ years. But for some this weekend, today, ‘The Mustn’ts’ popped into my head. Read the rest of this entry

Interview: Travel with Kevin and Ruth

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Travel has no boundaries. Whether you are single, married, young or old-travel welcomes you. You can choose your own style and your own journey-but in the end the answer is the same-Just Go!  What we love about travel is meeting so very many people who push the envelope, defy the stereotypes and do what they feel is right. In the end, the answer has always been the same whether in travel or in life-if you want it badly enough, you’ll do whatever you can to make it happen. We’ve learned, through our travels that although it may take an unconventional approach or buck the norm, if you want to see the world there’s a way to do it that works for you. Here, one husband and wife share their story of how travel works for them!

Kevin and Ruth are a traveling couple based in Canada. Married for thirty years, these adventurers spend all the time they can exploring this great big world. Having been a part of the blogging world for seven years, many follow their travels as they take on the world. Whether in a motor home throughout North America or hiking southern Africa-they can be found smiling and exploring the world-together. Read the rest of this entry

It’s October!

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It’s October!

October is here and I find myself already yearning for summer’s sunshine and adventures far beyond my post code. The temperature is dropping a bit and mornings are cooler than middays. Leaves are turning from their summer green to autumn reds and oranges and the pumpkin explosion assaults every sense whether walking through a festival or supermarket. Parks seem filled with apple ciders, pumpkin carving demos and if it’s not Halloween displays in stores they’re already getting set for the December holidays-seriously? Where did summer go?

I’m a flip flop fan who thrives on sunshine and sea breezes and gains strength with every passing wave. Seagulls seemed to have made a permanent home outside my building on the beach just waiting for the few beach-goers to bring them something yummy to eat. Surfers still hit the waves in search of that sweet spot while autumn sunsets continue to astound with their colourful designs. Yet, I still am ready for adventure. My mom always told me that I often thought the ‘grass was always greener’ somewhere else. When I was younger, I definitely thought she was correct and often wanted to fly the coop to see life’s happenings in other places. Today, though, I am more than happy and contented with life on the ocean and feel blessed and regularly lucky to have the opportunities, friends and adventures that I’ve had. Days are filled with smiles (mostly) and nights are spent feeling lucky, enjoying life and of course, plotting the next adventure! Read the rest of this entry

National Geographic Travel Honours Travelers of the Year 2014

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National Geographic Travel Honours Travelers of the Year 2014

‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’- Marc Anthony

For years we’ve all heard this comment but for me, it was floated again when I resigned from teaching to follow a different path and carve out a new journey. I love to travel. I’ve loved it for years and there’s a freedom while traveling that I’ve yet to find elsewhere. That feeling of lightness, curiosity and that anything is possible is palpable and tangible whenever there’s an adventure. In between those travels (when there’s a bit of time to recoup financially), I find myself searching for those feelings at home. I’ve found many who know exactly what I mean and feel the same way. They may describe it as bliss, a tranquility or even the feeling of knowing you’re a small part of a bigger world-but there’s a kinship, and travelers understand. Read the rest of this entry

‘The Best Job in the World’ – An Interview with Greg Snell

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Awhile ago, Australia launched a fabulous tourism campaign asking travelers and adventures to apply for The Best Job in the World! Not only did many people apply for the job, but millions around the world kept up with the campaign and many of us saw plugs on social media to vote for someone’s friend who was sending in his/her video for the post.Their pitch: “Ever dreamt of waking up on an island, surrounded by pristine beaches and an abundance of wildlife? Or spending your days swimming with dolphins and sea lions? If this sounds like your ideal role, then we want to hear from you!” The winner of South Australia’s Best Job in the World competition for the title of Wildlife Caretaker went to Greg Snell. As his time as Wildlife Caretaker comes to an end, Greg shares his story and the imagination and education he believes travel provides.

Wildlife Caretaker-South Australia

Winner of ‘The Best Job in the World’ Competition: Wildlife Caretaker-South Australia

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15 things on the mind of a girl who loves to travel

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Over water bungalows - Moorea, French Polynesia

Over water bungalows – Moorea, French Polynesia

If you met me in my youth, you would have said there’s a girl who loves the beach, her friends, chocolate, summer camp and is looking towards a university adventure. If you met me any time after university you’d say there’s a girl who loves the beach, her friends, summer camp, chocolate and especially world travel. Loving the accents of my Camp America counselors in my youth and then bitten by the bug in my early twenties, I’ve never since been the same. Luckily, with the issues of survival (food, water, shelter and let’s add health to that) thankfully and most appreciatively met at this time, there are often other things on my mind and travel is ALWAYS at the forefront. My friends constantly remind me that I’m lucky that my husband has that same adventure spirit or they’re sure he’d go insane. Read the rest of this entry

Interview: Shane Dallas: The Travel Camel

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The Travel Camel in front of Mt Baba Tangi in Afghanistan.

The Travel Camel in front of Mt Baba Tangi in Afghanistan.

Shane Dallas is a world traveler and public speaker. You can hear his voice on The Travel Show on the radio in Dubai or catch one of his many presentations somewhere on land or at sea. Spending much of his time between the Middle East, Asia and Africa, Shane has captivated audiences around the world with his vast knowledge of travel. Connecting over social media has given us a chance to chat about travel, living that unconventional lifestyle and finding happiness on the road. He told me that ‘uncertainty is liberating’ and it is obvious that he has found joy in his choices and his travels. Here he shares some of his wisdom from the road. Read the rest of this entry