Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Musing on 2013

The New Year brings fresh possibilities. Are you looking for some inspiration to map out 2013 and set your intentions? Then you should take a look at this very cool free offering from Susannah Conway.

Her "Unravelling the Year Ahead" workbook and calendar sheets are a great resource for figuring out what you want 2013 to be all about. She recommends you carve out an hour of your time with a favorite beverage and some good music and then dig in. I'll be working through this activity with either a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and some Bing Crosby Christmas music.

I have also printed out a workbook for Bob. We will be filling these out individually and then sharing our goals with each other. It will be fun to see  where our goals for 2013 overlap and differ.

There is something very powerful about writing things out. The format of the Unravelling the Year Ahead workbook is very approachable, plus there is plenty of blank space for doodling and making notes to yourself. 

I am excited to map out 2013 for both my professional and personal life. I know that once I write things down, I find they are more apt to happen. 

Ready to get started? Click here to download the workbook and calendar sheets.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Daily Practice

Do you have a daily practice? A ritual? Something that you do each day.

Something that I do each morning is make my coffee. Bob does not drink coffee, so I just make a cup for me. It's the same every morning, grinding the beans. boiling the water, letting it brew, pressing it out, and finally, drinking it.

I recently took an online course that emphasized photography as a tool for slowing down and being present. We were encouraged to do was to take a daily photo. To make it a practice. I chose to photograph some part of my daily coffee. All my images are captured with my iPhone and processed them through Instagram with the Early Bird filter for a consistent tone or modified with Snapseed.

I've been at it for a few months and have quite a collection going. I've included a tab on the right navigation bar if you want to see all the images to date.

So, why do something like this? Here are a few reasons:

Bringing New Awareness
One reason is that it makes you aware of something that you probably do by rote each day. By slowing down and really observing how I make my coffee, I can capture things like the steam from the press pot, the contrast of shiny beans before I grind them, or capture an image of my breakfast along with my cup. I find that this awareness then transfers over into other things that I do.

Creative Outlet
I am not one who naturally feels the need to create things, but when I do, I always have a sense of accomplishment. It's nice to be able to say "hey, I made that", or "look at this fun image I took." My daily coffee photos provide that little outlet for me. Even if you are super busy, this is something that you can do in just a few minutes each day.

"Less autopilot. Less loops. More life."
This quote is taken from a short essay over on Medium that was written by Dustin Senos. He takes a different walking route to work each day to captures photos along the way. He says " embarking on these journeys with the goal to capture photos forces me to be present. I can't let my mind wander or I will walk by a great opportunity." I encourage you to read his essay.

Do you have a daily photo practice? What images are you capturing?

If you want to keep up with my daily coffee photos, you can follow me on Instagram.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Interview with a Ghost Hunter - Part 2

This is the last bit of my interview with Joe Mahlstede is paranormal investigator with North Bay RIP. You can read the first part of the interview right here

Abandoned Mine in Bodie, California

How long had your team thought about doing this project before you all finally made the jump?

We actually never thought of doing the project at all.  We were approached by Gloria Young an investigator with over 20 years experience in the paranormal field.  She had made a few documentaries on Tombstone, Arizona, Preston Castle in Ione, and The Ghosts of Virginia City, Nevada.  She was interested in doing this project, had interviewed a few other groups, and ultimately chose us.

What was the final push that made your team decide to take the plunge and start your own web series?

Originally when Gloria approached us, it was because she had a potential deal with a major network for a series.  That deal didn't come to fruition and we refused to let the project die, hence the web series.

What has surprised you most about the experience?

I would have to say the amount of time and energy that goes in to the creation of a web series.  It's much more than the time already spent on just a normal investigation.  For instance, on our last location shoot we filmed for 22 hours straight!

Mackay Mansion in Virginia City

Has this project opened any unexpected doors for you? If so, tell me about it.

It has in the sense that I'm getting to travel a lot more, we've been given exclusive access in to some places that not just anybody can get into, and some very huge opportunities are on the horizon for us, I'm just not at liberty to say as of yet!

How does this project fit in with your “day job”.
It's been tough.  I actually have two jobs at the moment, one for Central Valley Builders Supply which is my Monday-Friday, and I also work part time for The Uptown Theater as a bartender/usher.  Our investigations are mostly scheduled on the weekend, since there are others in the group with 9 to 5 jobs, it also so that works out nicely.  As far as Uptown, our schedule is on a volunteer basis so I just let them know what shows I'm available to work.  I usually have enough advance notice for it not to be a problem other than missing out on making money!

If you would like to keep up to date on Joe’s paranormal investigations, you find him in the following places:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Interview with a Ghost Hunter - Part 1

Joe Mahlstede is paranormal investigator with North Bay RIP. His role with the team is as an investigator, still photographer, digital voice recorder and location scout. Joe and I went to high school together and got reconnected through Facebook. When I found out Joe was a ghost hunter I was immediately fascinated and wanted to learn more.

Joe agreed to an e-mail interview so I could learn more about his project and the experience of ghost hunting.  It seemed like this would be fun to share with others as well, so I am posting it to my blog.

This is a two-part interview. The first installment focuses on how Joe got interested in the topic and some of his personal experiences with ghost hunting. The second installment focuses on his related web series project, Amateur Ghost Hunters RIP.

Sophia: What got you interested in ghost hunting? From your Facebook bio, it says your interest started with the death of your father when you were quite young. What made that connection for you?

Joe: The experience of losing my father at the age of five was exactly what got me thinking about life after death.  I think being so young and naive and basically unprejudiced by the "adult" world around me, I just refused to believe that he was really gone.

What was your earliest experience of a ghost/spirit/energy?

My earliest experience was shortly after my father had passed.  I had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room and I remember getting up to walk down the hallway to my bedroom.  As I started down the hall, there was my father standing next to my bedroom door just as I had remembered him in life.  He looked very peaceful, as if nothing was wrong but he was just there to check on me.  I remember feeling very comforted.  And just as quickly as he appeared, he was gone.

Are ghosts everywhere and some people are just more in tune?

I fully believe we are surrounded by spirits at all times.  Spirits are made up of energy and we all know that energy never dies.  It has to remain somewhere.  Some people are definitely more in tune than others.  Unfortunately I am not one of those people.  Other than the experience of seeing my father after his passing, I have never "seen" anything like that again.  I think that is part of the reason why this field interests me so much.  It's to have that experience again and hopefully capture it somehow to validate what I feel like I've known all along, spirits do exist.

What do you think is the biggest misperception about ghost hunting?

The biggest misperception by far is the fact that it's scary.  Quite the contrary, it's actually quite boring!  An investigation consists of many, many hours of sitting in an abandoned building, 99% of the time without heat or electricity. Typically we have six to ten video cameras rolling as well as that many digital recorders.  Multiply all the hours spent in a location by the number of devices we have recording, and that's how many hours of evidence review we have after an investigation.  Often, any paranormal experiences we may have in a location are caught on our devices and not known to us until we start reviewing the recordings.

When people find out you have this side project about ghost hunting, what are some of the questions that you get?

The two biggest questions are "Is it scary?" and "Can I go with you?"  I think the most popular after that is "Have you ever seen a ghost?"

What do you say to the skeptics? I saw your quote in the Napa Valley Register about skepticism being healthy, anything else you would add?

I think skepticism is very healthy.  We had a member of our group that thought EVERYTHING was paranormal.  That person is no longer with us.  I think we have a responsibility to disprove any "evidence" that we get before we come out of the box screaming "GHOST!"  But most importantly, unless you've had a personal experience yourself I think it's easy for people to be skeptical, and rightly so.

What is your dream ghost hunting spot? If you could go anywhere in the world to ghost hunt, where would it be and why?

GREAT question!  And I'm not sure I even have an answer for that one.  So many places, so little time!  It would definitely have to be somewhere that nobody has previously investigated.  Some great places would be The Valley of the Kings in Egypt, Hearst Castle, The Tower of London and the Coliseum in Rome.


Thanks for checking out the first part of my interview with Joe Mahlstede.  Installment two of the interview will be posted later this week. If you would like to keep up to date on Joe’s paranormal investigations, you find him in the following places:

If you are in the Napa/Sonoma area, you can meet Joe and the Amateur Ghost Hunters team at Buena Vista’s Haunted Cellar Party on October 20, 2012. This event includes a tour of the winery’s renovated champagne cellar, DJ and dancing, plus food and drinks.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Visiting The Sea Ranch

If you found my site from my article on Worldette, welcome. If you are interested in learning more about The Sea Ranch or planning a visit, here are some resources.


The Sea Ranch - By Donlyn Lyndon and Jim Alinder
Features a lot of the architecturally-significant Sea Ranch homes from both the interior and exterior. Perfect if you love architecture, home design and creative interiors. 

This book reproduces sketches and journal entries from the landscape architect, Lawrence Halprin. This book provides a lovely reading of the landscape and it has a very personal feel. 


The Sea Ranch by Jon Yager Photography
Lovely video of photographs that capture the landscapes and little things that make The Sea Ranch so unique. 

Dreams of Sea Ranch by Zara Muren
This short video provides excerpts from a documentary. Has older video footage from the early years at The Sea Ranch.

Local Places to Eat
Some of our favorite places to eat in the area:

Good food, friendly services and free wi-fi. Breakfast and lunch served seven days a week with dinners on M, W and F. The dinner menu rotates based upon what seasonal fare is available. They typically post the dinner menu the day before on their webpage. The cafe is located in Gualala.

People line up in the morning to get one of their famous sticky buns and to get a morning coffee fix. The line is worth the wait. They are usually open Thursday through Sunday and recently started serving pizzas on Friday and Saturday night. Great crusts and creative toppings, several of which are vegetarian. They are located off of Annapolis Road in the Verdant View commercial center. Here is a video that gives a behind the scenes look at Two Fish. 

Located a few miles north of Gualala, St. Orres is in a beautiful wooden building. You can't miss the landmark dome. St. Orres offers on-site lodging and they have a great restaurant. They have a small plate menu as well as a fixed price dinner and full bar.

With a history dating back to 1868, the Stewart's Point Store reminds me of where Laura Ingalls Wilder would have purchased her provisions. The store is a few miles south of Sea Ranch. In the back is a yummy little deli and is the perfect spot to pick up everything you need for a picnic.

This restaurant is located in Point Arena, about 20 miles north of The Sea Ranch. The few times we ate here we really enjoyed it. They serve a rotating menu of creative dishes with several vegetarian options. Hours are variable, so be sure to call ahead if you are making the drive. You can dine in their restaurant or grab a drink over at 215 Main, the wine bar across the street and they will run your meal over for you.

Where to Stay

Lodging options within Sea Ranch are limited to the Sea Ranch Lodge or renting a private home. Home rentals are popular and the availability ranges from small cottages tucked in the woods perfect for a romantic getaway to  very large homes that are great for family reunions or a small retreat. There are several rental agencies. We have used Coasting Home and Sea Ranch Vacation Rentals and had a good experience. 

If you want to stay outside of The Sea Ranch, there are motel lodging options in Gualala and cottage rentals just north of Gualala. 

I hope these suggestions are helpful for you. The Sea Ranch is remote, about three hours north of San Francisco, but it is the perfect place to unwind, unplug and relax. Cell phone service is limited to AT+T and it is spotty at best.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Good Morning September

There is a noticeable chill in the air and my mind is already turning to fall. I want to smell things like cinnamon and pumpkin and pull the sweaters to the front of the closet. It’s the Mendocino County Fair and cooler temperatures inland. Some of the most beautiful days at The Sea Ranch are ahead. September and October are beautiful. Clear days, the wind seems to die down a bit and most of the vacationers have gone home. It goes from quiet to VERY quiet. If you want to visit us, just drop an email.

I enjoyed a few summer adventures, including a trip to Portland, a long weekend getaway to Tahoe, and house-sitting in Santa Barbara. Have you ever been to Tahoe in the summer? In my mind, it was a winter destination. Goodness, what a beautiful spot in the summer. We rented a cute and pet-friendly little studio and had a great time. Kayaking out of Sand Harbor was beautiful. 

August marked the one year anniversary of my company, Sophia Mitchell & Associates. Hard to believe it has already been a year. Getting the renewal for my business insurance was the first reminder (ca-ching). I guess it is a good sign that time rolled along. I kept busy with environmental review for a wireless tower network for a water district, ad-hoc writing support for another consultant and three projects with one of my favorite clients.

Of course, I always have my side projects too. I am helping my Rotarian buddy self publish his first novel, Dreams of Life. It’s essentially a project management task, and, boy, do I love those. It’s been fun to learn the ins-and-outs of CreateSpace, Kindle and social media marketing tactics for the book. However, what I am enjoying most about the project is helping someone get their creative work out there.

Looking ahead for the rest of the year, I plan to check a few things off the life list. Any input on which to do next? I am thinking learn to hula hoop would be a good start! Maybe Bob and I can sneak off for a quick trip back east to see the changing colors. I am always looking for ways to help other people check things off their lift list. What is on yours and how can I help you?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The $100 Investment

++ This post updated to add a link to the 13-minute video of the presentation I discuss below. Click here to view Chris Guillebeau's closing presentation.++

What would you do if someone gave you $100 and said they wanted to see how you could put the funds to good use? Perhaps start a project, surprise someone, or do something entirely different. I, along with about 1,000 other people received such a gift at the recent World Domination Summit

This was my second year attending and you can read my recaps from the 2011 events here and here. This year’s event was double the size and just as amazing. I’ll be doing a series of blog posts on the great speakers so I can share the nuggets of wisdom I took away, but I wanted to start with what was actually the end of the conference.

photo credit: Armosa Studio
In the final conference presentation, after two days of kick-ass inspiring speakers, event organizer Chris Guillebeau took the stage, and in his very humble manner recapped the day’s events.  He also noted that an anonymous donor gave a large chunk of money for the conference and that money, combined with profits from the 2012 conference, ended up being enough to give each attendee $100. That’s right, each person got $100, and the message to use it for good.

photo credit: Armosa Studio
On the way out the theater, each attendee was given a sealed envelope with a crisp $100 bill out of a little basket. Folks, that is $100,000 that left the theater to spark change. Money to start projects, support causes, help someone out … it’s pretty amazing when you think of it at that scale. Personally, I felt like I was being trusted to be an excellent steward of the $100.

What to do with the Money? I immediately knew I wanted to match the $100 with $100 of my own money, for a total of $200. I decided to support three people through Kiva and Kickstarter, and also make an investment in myself. Kiva is a microfinance site where you can lend small amounts of money to help individual or groups with their projects.  Kickstarter is a crowd-funding space where people get help to fund projects ranging from art and theater to food and clothing projects. 
Trinidad at her bakery (photo credit:

We are helping Trinidad with her bakery business through Kiva. Trinidad works making and selling a product that’s typical of the Mexican State of Veracruz known as “obleas” (a type of thin wafer). This business is her family’s source of income for her and her three children. Trinidad asked for the loan to buy raw materials and tools which are larger griddles and special pans to make the wafers.She wants to invest in the business because she’s being given the opportunity to sell her products to restaurants and for children’s parties and she’ll be able to provide jobs for other people this way. I put in $75 towards Trinidad's loan request.

Peruvian farmer, Seguno (photo credit:

We are helping Seguno with his farming business through Kiva. Seguno has been farming in Peru for over 30 years growing coffee and bananas. He also has a small grocery store. From this business he gets income to cover their basic necessities. He now hopes to expand his production by purchasing new coffee plants and fertilizer. He will use this loan to buy bags of organic fertilizer for his land and also to buy items for his small store. I put in $75 towards Seguno's loan request.

El Poblano Farm (photo from

We supported the El Poblano Farm project on Kickstarter. This project seeks to expand plantings and start a seed bank for the El Poblano Farm. The farm was established in 2010 by Gudelio Garcia and focuses on the cultivation of traditional Mexican herbs that have not typically been grown or marketed in the US. These are herbs like pipiche, papalo and epazote. In addition the farm produces arugula, baby squash, chard, beets and more. I put in $$30 towards El Poblano Farm's funding request.

Something for me. And finally, I bought something for myself. I bought a pedometer so I could track the number of steps I take a day and steadily increase it. I figure the healthier I am, the more good work I can do in the world. Up to this point, I have taken my health for granted. Now that I am 40, I don't think I can take it for granted any more. While the pedometer was the least expensive investment from a money perspective, I know it has the potential to have a profound personal impact, one step at a time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Oh May, Oh My

Where did the month of May go? We are keeping busy at the lovely Sea Ranch. Here are some of the highlights from the month.

Seals - We wrapped up our docent duty with the seals. We had three shifts this year and saw a seal birth on our first shift of the season. That makes two for two, as we saw a birth last year too! There are folks that have volunteer for over 10 years and have still not seen one, so we realize how lucky we are to see it twice.

Eclipse - Bob got crafty with an old box, foil and paper and made a box so we could safely view the eclipse. It worked!

Hikes - The past couple of Sunday morning we have made time to go outside for nature walks on new trails. Well, new for me, since Bob has walked just about every inch of trail up here. The Salal Trail is a great mix of riparian vegetation and a waterfall grotto that gives way to sweeping coastal views along the bluff trail. A big mix for just a two-mile trail. Click here to see a few photos of the Salal Trail from a local photographer.

We also walked the San Andrea Fault interpretive trail near the Sea Ranch Hot Spot. This is a well-done trail with an informational brochure and 21 stopping points that explain the various remnants on the landscape from geologic activity and the old logging days near the Gualala River.

Picnic - The annual fundraising picnic for the volunteer fire department was held over Memorial Day. Huge turn out and very well organized. Even Smokey Bear arrived to kick off the kids games, such as tug-o-war and sack race. We had our fill of veggie burger, beans, slaw, home made desserts and washed it down with some Lagunitas beer, who was kind enough to donate beer for the event. Small town living at its best.

On tap for June:

  • Hosting a long-distance cyclist
  • Emma visits
  • Trip to San Diego for work (Sophia)
  • Signing a new contract for a project (woo hoo)
  • Getting a new (to us) hybrid
  • Continuing to train for a 5K (Bob)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Shadow Cat

Happy May 1st everyone. I am current working on a little project I am calling Shadow Cat.

In the morning our cat likes to hang out in the large window above our bed. She gets some sun, bird watches and leaves little cat nose prints on the dewy window.  I've decided to capture her shadow each morning as a little project.

I like the idea of having a little artsy ritual each day. My goal is to collect at least 50 of these images. I am capturing these through Instagram and using the Earlybird filter. The collage above was done with the Diptic app. You can follow me on Instagram (sophiamitchell) if want to see the daily photos.

Thank you Catherine Just and Tammy Strobel for the inspiration.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

#55 - Attend a Sporting Event in Another Country

Here I am, pre-game, in my new FB Barcelona scarf at Camp Nou.
We are back from Spain. Two wonderful weeks exploring Madrid, Cordoba, Granada and Barcelona. I'll have more blog posts coming about our time there, but one of the things I am excited about is that I was able to check off another item from my life list; attend a sporting event in another country.

We figured out that FC Barcelona would be playing Valencia during our trip, so we scheduled our time in Barcelona to match the game day. We started looking for tickets before we left California, but would only find single seats, none next to each other. We left for Spain with the hope that more would be released while we were on our trip. If it happened we could pick up a pair of tickets seated next to each other, we would attend the game. If not, no big deal. We knew there would be plenty of other awesome things to see and do in Barcelona.

I am happy to report that a few days before the game we were finally able to get tickets. Hooray. We were sitting really high up above one of the goals in Camp Nou, which is the largest stadium in Europe. It seats nearly 100,000 people!
Inside Camp Nou. The Club's slogan is "more than a club."

Bob also got a scarf. Probably the only matching things we own.
The game was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed watching the players as much as the spectators. The game attendees took the play very seriously. I was amazed how quiet everyone was during the game play. I am used to baseball games where it seems the audience is more chatting with each other than watching the game. Any time there was a good play, the crowd would clap very politely. However, once there was a goal, the stadium went off! That happened quite a few times, as the final score was 5 to 1, with Barcelona winning.

Exuberant flag waving across the stadium.

Team group hug after a goal. Messi (#10) scored four of the five goals that night.

Final score, with Barcelona winning.
Overall, a fun evening and great way to get a taste of the local culture. I highly recommend checking out a sporting event when you travel. If you go to Camp Nou in the winter, be sure to dress warm and bring a little blanket. Sunflower seeds are the nibble snack of choice and can be bought from one of the many vendors on the walk to the stadium.  During the half time, everyone whips out their pre-made sandwiches and has an impromptu picnic. We grabbed a few potato sandwiches from a bar on the walk from the metro to the stadium and ate right along with everyone else at half time.

Finally, we listened to the team's fight song a few times on YouTube before we went so we could sing along. We only managed to get the "Barca, Barca, Baaaarrrrca" part down. Here is a little video clip from the stadium when the team came in. It gives a sense of the crowds and the enthusiasm ... and you can hear me chant "Barca" at the end.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

One Backpack + One Purse = Two Weeks in Spain

In my last post I mentioned how I enjoy the planning and packing part of travel, almost as much as the actual trip.  Working at Le Travel Store for a few years in grad school taught me the importance of good travel gear and also packing lightly. Here is what I am taking to Spain.

Aside from my wool pea coat and what I am wearing on the plane, everything I need for two weeks is in these bags. This set up is designed to be completely carry-on, so there is no worry about my bag getting lost, and no wait for luggage when I arrive. It also makes it easy to navigate public transit, stairs and more.

The backpack that I am using is an Eagle Creek Continental Journey. The current version looks to be the Rincon. The backpack straps can tuck away in a zipper compartment and it can be carried from a side handle, so it looks a little more polished than a typical hiking pack. I have had this bag for over 10 years. It has served me well and logged many miles. I use a system of packing cubes and a packing folder to keep things organized and compact inside the bag.

Some people find it hard to believe that we can travel with just a carry-on backpack and day bag each. We travel under the assumption that we will do a little laundry while we travel. Also, go for layering pieces and colors that will work together. When in doubt, leave it out.
On the plane I wear pants, tee, light knit cardigan, light jacket, casual scarf, walking shoes and an inexpensive watch. Here is everything else in the bags.

  • 2 pair pants (one nicer, one more casual)
  • 3 layering tank tops
  • 1 layering tee
  • 2 long sleeve tees
  • 1 button up shirt
  • wool blend sweater
  • 5 sets socks/underwear
  • Sleep pants/shirt
  • Warm scarf
  • Warm hat + gloves
  • Walking shoes
  • Packable slippers (great for plane/train and around the hotel room)
  • Wool pea coat (carried separate)
  • Toiletry kit (Bob and I share most things so he takes half of the stuff and take the other half. All liquids are three ounces or less so we can do carryon)
  • Vitamins and EmergenC packets
  • Sunscreen + sunglasses
  • First aid supplies in small ziplock (band aids, antiseptic wipe, hand sanitizer, Benadryl and pain reliever)
  • Noise canceling headphones
  • Inflatable neck pillow
  • Collapsible water bottle

Other Items
  • Journal + pen
  • TrekDek (which doubles as playing cards) and six dice
  • Bandana
  • Two packable nylon shopping bag
  • Petzel head lamp
  • Compact umbrella
  • Empty ziplock bags (2 small, 2 large)
  • iPad + charger + adapter plug
  • Camera + charger + extra memory stick
  • Guide book + map
  • Passport, credit cards, travel docs
  • Money belt


 If I was traveling in summer, I would :
  • Swap out the warm hat for sun hat
  • Take sandals instead of extra walking shoes
  • Add in swimsuit and sarong
 If it was spring or fall travel, I would add in a long black skirt as well.

So, that's everything. This combination has served me well traveling for one week or for two months. Let me know if you have any questions on my packing approach.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Travel Buzz

We leave in a few days for Spain. I have that excited feeling that can only be described as the travel buzz. I am ready for the excitement of airports, navigating public transit, exploring cities, trying new foods, spending time with Bob, meeting new people, enjoying different landscapes and visiting museums. 

Planning the trip is always part of the fun for me, and I like planning my gear and packing too. I know ... kind of strange. But, I like to get as much taken care of up front, so I can be ready for the unexpected opportunities once we land. I am packing light, just my Eagle Creek travel back pack and a small day bag. When in doubt, leave it out.

Our itinerary includes Madrid, Cordoba, Granada and Barcelona in 16 days. We probably could have added more, but we find we like to pick a spot and stay for at least three nights to get a better flavor of the place. We will have one overnight train ride too, from Granada to Barcelona, which I am excited about. We will have our own little sleeping cubby. The only other overnight train ride I took was in India... I am sure just about anything will be calmer than that experience.

We will be in Spain for Valentine's Day and also our 100-month anniversary. Oh, and this trip is also a lead up to my 40th birthday. So much to be thankful for and so excited to finally be traveling again. I'll have sangria and tapas for your all!

Photo Credit: Ludovico Cera

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Viajando ... and a Giveaway!

Updated to announce winners.
Congratulation Melissa, Cheryl and Nicole. Based upon the numbers selected by, you are the winners. I will be in touch for your mailing address. Also, thank you everyone who entered. I enjoyed reading your comments!

Next month we are heading to Spain ... and boy are we ready for a vacation. Bob has been working hard on a project and I have been focused on getting my business up and running. Honestly, it will be great to get away for a bit. It sounds strange to say that, since we live in one of the most peaceful places in California. I guess what I am really craving are exciting urban landscapes, lively Spanish culture, different food, and the intoxicating travel buzz that comes with exploring new places.

I've reserved our lodging for two cities through airbnb. Check out the cute studio apartments we are renting in Madrid and Barcelona, the two cities that will bookend our trip. The week in between these two cities is likely to be a mix of hostels, Couchsurfing, or last minute decisions, depending what town we are in. Since it is the off season, I am comfortable not having all my bookings pinned down.

Anyway, this is all a long introduction to tell you about a special deck of playing cards that I plan to take on our trip. TrekDek is set of cards with the theme "Live Well. Travel Well."  Each card includes a "challenge" of some sort, something to get you to try something new while you are on the road. Here are some of the "challenges" that I may give a whirl when we are in Spain:
  • Watch a movie at the local cinema.
  • Arrive somewhere without having booked a place to stay.
  • Buy some local music.
  • Attend a locally-advertised event.
  • Find a local bar and learn the national drinking game or song.

When I think of some of the more memorable travel experiences I've had, they are often the unplanned ones. Like seeing a string quartet in an old Venice church based upon a posted advertisement we saw, watching an over-the-top Bollywood movie in a cinema in Delhi, getting invited to a lamb roast in Chile from strangers we met on a boat, or watching a rugby in a packed bar in New Zealand. These cards are reminder to seek out the unexpected.

The best part about the TrekDek is that you can use them locally to inject a little adventure into your daily life ... and who can't use a little more adventure? 

If you would like enter for a chance to win a TrekDek, leave a comment below telling me about an unexpected joy you had on a trip. If you want to purchase your own set, you can head over to this web page.

One entry per person, and the contest closes 11:59 PM PST on January 8, 2012. I will use and select one winner on January 9, 2012. Be sure to check back to see if you are a winner. Contest is closed. Please see the top of the post for the winners.

Good luck to you and may 2012 be full of adventure.