Five Early Insights From Novice Vagabonders

No Stone Unturned

Roads and Revisions

IMG_6757.jpgIn addition to deeper reflections on lifestyle and place, the logistics of traveling–booking accommodations, arranging transport, navigating day-to-day errands–present opportunities to consider how you travel. This is subjective based on your goals, of course. We are certainly “green” travelers compared to other adventurous folks, but after about nine weeks on the road, we’ve got a few insights we’d like to share.

Pack less than you think you need. In late August, we created a staging area on a bed at my mom’s house in Concord, NH, laying out some mono toned quick dry clothing, multiple adapters and cell phones chargers, and everything else we thought we’d need for our journey. My romantic vision of carrying one small duffel bag around the globe soon seemed to vanish by the minute. Even though we seemed to have done alright packing, it could have been a little better.

Among several other items, my…

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On being OK with feeling OK.

No Stone Unturned

Proud of my wife Rebecca for writing such a thoughtful post about some challenges during our journey to start a family.

Roads and Revisions

With little fanfare, we suddenly found ourselves suspended in a murky underworld inhabited by the reproductively challenged. Looking for answers, I frantically thrust my arms out into the shadowy abyss and immediately did the one thing that rarely provides the reassurance that one is seeking and almost never quells any confusion – I started Googling. One of the first emotions that had overwhelmed me when we heard the news was not that I may never give birth to a mini-me, but rather anxiety over how my husband Paul was handling the revelation coupled with a fear of what this new reality would do to our relationship.

Infertility is one of those circumstances that can explode a marriage in one fell swoop or slowly erode away at it with insidious precision. Riddled with worry, I typed away at my computer, creating increasingly fatalistic phrases such as, “can’t have baby divorce” and…

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Snapshots From Georgia: A Glimpse Into Our Two Months

No Stone Unturned

Roads and Revisions

We’ve said to several of our family members and also our new Georgian acquaintances: We’ll have to be careful to not compare the next places we go to Georgia because it has been such a wonderful country to begin our travels in. Can anything top it?

Vacations and travel are never perfect of course. As travelers, Rebecca and I aren’t immune to the shitty and/or tedious things we all encounter in day-to-day living. We’ve already had plenty of afternoons lounging around with a little bit of cabin fever. We’ve dealt with colds. Taxi drivers occasionally try to rip us off. And so on. But there were so many positives during our time in this small country–we’ll let the image gallery do the talking. Here is a link to the above images plus about 70 more.

Please let us know if you have any questions about any of the images!

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Hello Carbs, Goodbye Control!

No Stone Unturned

Roads and Revisions

“A breakfast bowl with chia, organic pumpkin seeds, AND sheep’s milk delivered here in high-tech containers that enhance its nutrients ALL the way from New Zealand?! I’ll take that one!,” I exclaimed, wide-eyed and completely in awe of the menu choices spread before me. Paul and I were in a San Francisco cafe, enjoying one last visit with family before we hopped on a plane to Tbilisi, Georgia.

Ever since leaving Kentucky, we had been bouncing around for a few weeks visiting friends and family, making it difficult to maintain a consistent, healthy diet. I figured that this one breakfast bowl would surely make up for the late-night hamburger and chili cheese fries run I had made in my hometown of Portsmouth, NH, along with the uptick in alcohol consumption that accompanies reuniting with old friends. With every spoonful of the chilled, creamy concoction, I imagined the cells in my…

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What does it mean to truly know a place?

No Stone Unturned

Roads and Revisions

Source: https://www.accessgenealogy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Kentucky.jpg

When I was 17, I made my first trip to Kentucky as part of a church youth group service trip. We stayed in the Martin County seat of Inez. Towns named Lovely and Beauty are also in the county, which is in the heart of Appalachia across the Tug Fork River from West Virginia. I remember winding roads, hollers, and burning debris we removed from an old woman’s house that was accessed by a rickety foot bridge over a gurgling creek.

It didn’t take long for Martin County to make a strong impression on me. Holy shit, this is what poverty looks like, I remember thinking, passing dilapidated trailers and vacant store fronts in seemingly abandoned towns. My experience growing up in the prosperous state of New Hampshire with parents holding advanced degrees from Ivy League schools might as well have made me from another planet.

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I made sure it wasn’t loaded: Reflections on Gun Violence and Traveling Abroad

No Stone Unturned

Roads and Revisions

My friend Jeff and I sat on the thick green carpet in Tim’s bedroom, distractedly considering a baseball card trade. I was trying to stockpile the Oakland A’s base-stealer extraordinaire Rickey Henderson cards; Geoff favored Dwight Evans of the Red Sox.

Downstairs, several of our classmates smoked cigarettes while sitting on the floor of the screened-in porch–if nearby, neighbors might have noticed mysterious plumes of smoke rising above the half wall. Others commandeered shots of vodka from the liquor cabinet; moans emanated from the living room where others watched VHS porn. Things were happening quickly.

Suddenly Tim burst into the room, waving a revolver around and laughing maniacally–all the more terrifying due to his cracking, pubescent voice. He spun the chamber of the revolver, probably like he’d seen on TV. He pointed it at my head and pulled the trigger. Same thing with Jeff.  I was only kidding

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Squeaky Clean at the Sulfur Baths

No Stone Unturned

2nd Post from Roads and Revisions–I’ll be cross-posting most entries.

Roads and Revisions

Tbilisi, Georgia immediately seduced us with its sunny skies and warm weather when we arrived in mid-September. After a dizzying week or so of nonstop exploring the city by foot, meeting unbelievably hospitable people, and being invited to a Georgian wedding, Paul and I became entranced with the country and decided to book six more weeks in the capital city.

We had settled into a satisfying daily routine of working, exploring, eating, and drinking, when the early October rains descended. For three days we remained holed up in our (thankfully) cozy apartment as torrential downpours overtook the city. Needless to say, we had cabin fever. As I mulled the mysteries of life (translation – binge-watched RuPaul’s Drag Race) while Paul threw me irritated side-eyes as I incessantly hummed the show’s opening chorus, we both decided we needed to face the rain and reignite our city explorations.

Museums were out of…

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New Project: Roads and Revisions

No Stone Unturned

While new content on Mindful Stew is infrequent, this doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing! My latest project is titled Roads and Revisions, and it will include insights and adventures from global travel with my wife Rebecca. She’s a great writer and will contribute as well:).

Thanks for checking out the first post, titled The Grape Harvest and the Waterfall.

The Dual Power of No, Thanks.

No Stone Unturned

Within the multi-billion dollar self-help industry, there are countless books about mindset changes and single words. The Power of No. The Power of Now. Year of Yes. I’ve got nothing against this trend; in fact, I greatly appreciate reflection and taking a dive into how and why we (I) behave the way we (I) do and what changes might be worth considering.

As an educator, I’ve come to particularly appreciate No. Not blunt, straight-up rejections of professional opportunities or requests, but rather: I appreciate the offer. No thanks. If you’re comfortable with yourself and your personal and professional strengths, then why focus limited time and energy towards potential distractions? And taking on — or rejecting — extra duties is a real issue for many teacher leaders who are asked to carry much greater workloads than their colleagues.

But I’m not advocating being a rotten team player. Far from it. Because if you do turn down an extra school duty — whether it serving as a teacher’s union representative, SBDM council member, club sponsor or a department chair — then consider flipping your own No, thanks response into demonstrating that you would prefer to contribute in other ways.

And after delivering your own message of No, thanks, don’t be afraid to hear it in return when you are the one making an ask.

Rejection is one part of your professional journey, and it’ll be more prevalent if your brain simmers with ideas and ambition. I know from plenty of experience: I’ve been told No, thanks by publications, fellowship committees, employers, and others in my educator and writer life. This doesn’t discourage me; instead, it catalyzes me to devise new pathways.

Perhaps you’d rather design a new elective course than serve as a PLC leader. You may or may not get what you want, but you’re more passionate about innovative curriculum design that serving in a more traditional leadership role.

Eight years ago, I found myself in a similar situation as mentioned above. After proposing to create a class on digital literacy and storytelling, my superiors provided radio silence in return. The absence of reply felt even more harsh than a No, thanks. But I continued to pitch the idea to those willing to listen; it led to a new position in a new school and district, grant opportunities, and a revitalization of my education career.

Here’s another hypothetical scenario: Perhaps you’ve been asked to sponsor a school club. It happens to be the bowling team, and you can’t stand bowling. The stale bowling alley smell from decades of spilled drinks and clouds of Marlboro smoke seems to seep under your skin. But you do have a passion in service learning, so after saying no thanks to the bowling team, you present the idea to sponsor and create a new club. Even if your idea is initially rejected, believe that a building leader or other organization is out there who will embrace you and your interest.

Of course, there are times when saying No, thanks is simply a method for survival or a way of protecting well-being. Hypothetical case in point: Your graduate school studies are stretching you too thin, and you can’t currently serve on the school’s budget committee — doing so could add that extra bit of stress to spill over, leading to a knotted-up neck and tension headaches. Explain to your boss that once school is over, you’d be happy to get more involved. Teacher burnout is a real issue, and No, thanks can be literally be a career saver.

Just last month, I got hammered with probably the most painful No of my professional career. Throughout the fall, I spent hours upon hours applying for a Distinguished Award in Teaching Fulbright grant to research education in New Zealand. For six months!

I ended up receiving a flat out rejection email with no feedback. After building a unique and accomplished educator resume over 13 years, it stung. Big time. But my desire to travel and learn — leading to my application in the first place — will turn this heck, no into something better. My wife and I are already scheming for some global adventures and volunteering.

For someone who has come to embrace No, thanks as a pathway to professional satisfaction, I’ve also come to learn that meaningful, fresh professional experiences remain dormant when we’re afraid of hearing “no” in return.