Life is full of surprises and travel holds more than its fair share of them. I was reminded of this fact on a recent trip to Canada for a cruise on the St. Lawrence Seaway and through the Bay of Fundy around Nova Scotia from Montreal to Boston. It was supposed to be a fall foliage cruise, experiencing fall in the northern reaches ushering in the Fall all bundled up as we leisurely skimmed the seaway watching the pastoral sights of Canadian coast drift lazily by our suite.
My travel buddy, Barb and I met up in the Toronto airport and landed in Montreal during a heat wave of 95 degrees. We wandered the cobblestone streets of the old city glad we had packed hot weather gear, one of our first surprises. We were fortunate to have landed during their summer fest of cinema and short films shown upon city buildings, trees, streets, and alleyways. Between the quaint sidewalk cafés and being ensconced in art of every kind including one of the most spectacular Basilica’s I’ve ever seen.
When we checked into our hotel early, the nicest front desk associate I have encountered in a while asked us if we would mind having the largest suite in the hotel with a 60-foot balcony overlooking the old town and the river. Would be mind? We didn’t ask any questions and just said yes, please, that would be lovely. We had a hard time keeping our composure on that one and fell into giggles the moment we shut the door to our suite and sweet balcony. We also discovered that the oldest working pub in North America was attached to our hotel and we were pleasantly surprised to have a very nice chat with the bartender over happy hour concoctions that were her suggestion. Montreal was a nice surprise in more ways than one.
Next on the cruise we noticed the average age was decrepit and had never seen so many walkers, wheelchairs, and Rascals in one place in all our lives. Most of the cruises I take are active, adventure trips and this one was more for the relaxed scenery and to visit Quebec City in all its walled glory and for high tea at the Chateau Fontenac. I’m guessing the relaxed pace was just the right pace for those in their 80’s. I hope I’m still racing down the corridors on my Rascal or with my walker in my 90’s on an international trip. The Fall foliage was not as intense as we had expected, no bright red Maples due to the weird weather that summer. Instead we saw muted shades of olive, rust, and brown. Not spectacular, but pleasant nonetheless.
Our next unexpected experience was a surprise sea day compliments of Hurricane Maria. Who knew the rain bands and winds would kick up swells over six stories high so far north and inland? I was on the promenade deck ready to take a picture of the amazing sunset when a wall of water crashed over the side of the ship in the sixth deck. Those were some big swells, and so we couldn’t dock and kept on chugging eastward rocking and rolling with the waves churning around us. We felt we needed seatbelts in bed and everyone walked like a drunken sailor trying to keep upright. I felt for those people in walkers and wheelchairs, it would have been a difficult slog to the dining room. One thing about a surprise sea day….you can spend your time lamenting what you didn’t get to see or you can take full advantage of what you can do on board.
We immediately called the spa as soon as the captain finished his message and we booked the works. We also took advantage of port wine and chocolate tasting, high tea, the pool and hot tub. In times of surprises, do you fret over what could have happened, should have happened, or do you go with what actually happened and move on from there and enjoy what you do have and not what you don’t have. It was interesting to hear different view points on board from those who were flexible in their plans and thinking and those who were not. I dare say the flexible ones were in a much better mood than those who were not. We noticed a distinct difference between the crotchety types and the kind, friendly types and decided we needed to be mindful to be the friendly, kind type now and when we get to the decrepit stage of life. Looking for the positive in our situation, no matter what it may be.
All the Financial Planners tell you to have at least 6-12 months of liquid emergency money stashed aside to take care of life’s little moments that sneak up on you such as car repairs or the furnace giving up its last breath during a polar vortex. In addition to that advice; I’d like to offer up another form of stash called the Fun Fund to use any way you wish as long as it’s fun. In the Millionaire Mindset book and in his workshops; T. Harv Eker suggests 10% of your income should be stashed away to use any way you wish so you feel like you have control over your money and you’re using it to enjoy your life.
Enter the Fun Fund. After my BFF and I returned from one of the millionaire bootcamps over a decade ago; we took that advice and have been stashing away a percentage of earnings into our Fun Funds ever since so that we have a pot of money with no particular plan, but the plan is to use it when the mood or a great adventure strikes. With our financial foundation in check and our Fun Fund fully stocked; we are ready to pounce when something so juicy comes along that we just can’t resist.
I’ve learned from my guides and coaches throughout the years and from my personal experience that I need to fully trust my intuition and just flow with it. As a very old soul who has been around many lifetimes; I’m told that my intuition has a very clear path showing me my path; so I usually go with it when I feel the strong urge. My BFF is the same way and when both of us have the gut feeling; we are helpless to defend against it. We just have to go with it and that’s how our latest adventure came about one low-key, loungey kind of Saturday.
I was in the middle of trying out a new lunch recipe when I got the call with Barb on the other end saying “Now don’t say no right away, just hear me out. I have an idea for a cruise into Canada during peak leaf peeping season. I know you will have just returned from your trip to Cuba, but this is a great deal.” As she was explaining the trip complete with sailing on a vintage four-masted schooner and high tea at the Chateau Fontenac in Quebec City – one of my to-do lists for 20 years; I knew I was a gonner.
Two days later I get a text from Barb in the middle of doing a seminar which said we have to “Do the Dragon”. What the hell did that mean. She texted “google it”. I did and I’m in. So in a matter of a few days, we have a few vacations already planned, booked and paid for. Something I never imagined the week prior. It seems that the Dragon’s Tail is one of the most notorious roads in America with 318 curves in 11 miles of mountain road and there was going to be a car rally with all kinds of festivities focused on the “Doing the Dragon”. With my father being a former race car driver, he also raced boats and motorcycle side cars. It’s in my blood. I love cars, boats and planes. Once again I was sucked into the thrill of the adventure and the unknown. Toss in an amazing log cabin with phenomenal mountain views and I can’t say no.
When it comes to people waiving great travel deals and amazing adventures in front of my face, I’m very weak. I cannot say no to such temptation. Try as I might to be prudent and rational; I just lose my mind thinking that an opportunity of a lifetime may pass me by and I might miss out on some life-altering experience, discovery, and good times. I’m a sucker for a good adventure with good friends. I caved.
Luckily, we both plan for such spontaneous times by continually adding to our Fun Funds. By planning for something we don’t know about in our futures, we can take advantage of an opportunity when it does come our way and be ready to pounce. Of course, we also sock away and invest much more into our Retirement Fund than our Fun Fund; but having a fund for frivolity feels good and brings out the kid in us after our adult has already set aside something for our retirement, our emergencies, our heirs, and other adult stuff.
What can you set aside for yourself, just yourself to do whatever you want that is meaningful and memorable to you. Vacations don’t just last a week or two, or three or whatever. They last a lifetime in our memory and our beings. It fulfills us and refuels us to keep going at a higher vibrational level than before we left. How can you better plan for spontaneity so that you can strike when the opportunity presents itself? What can you stash away and invest each month or week? What can you cut out of your life in order to have something more meaningful? What are you frittering away on a daily or weekly basis that could go into your Fun Fund for something more fabulous? I’ll be sure to report on our fabulous Canadian adventure later this fall and how we fared on the Dragon later in the Spring upon our return from our adventures.
What lights you up? What really gets your heart pumping and enthused about your life? What fills you with a sense of awe and wonder and giddy excitement? My BFF and travel buddy, Barb and I both experienced amazing underwater surprises on separate diving and snorkeling excursions during our recent visit to the South Pacific. We had both wanted to see the Islands after watching the movie as children and it was finally our time to see that part of the world and what was underneath it.
I know when I am living Hartfully when I’m awe-struck by nature’s beauty and bounty, and in the midst of grandeur or maybe even danger. It’s a fine line. Much of our trip was spent underwater or at least on top of the water to view the incredible creatures. Why neither one of us thought to bring a Go Pro underwater sport video/camera, I’ll never know. We were the only ones on the dive boat to not have one and I’m sorry we could not capture those moments.
I’ve been SCUBA diving since the early 80’s and have seen my fair share of marine life, but what we experienced just outside our over-water bungalow and on deeper dives is nothing short of incredible. I’ve never been surrounded by so many sharks in any of my dives anywhere in the world. At one point I counted six black-tipped sharks and eight lemon sharks circling our group until the largest barracuda I’ve ever witnessed came swimming right towards me with something hanging out of its mouth. A half-eaten lunch, maybe? I stretched out the length of my 5’2” body and that barracuda was every bit the length of me. Where was that camera when you needed to document being one of the smallest things not at the top of the food chain at that very moment? Then we saw a herd, pod, gaggle, school, whatever, of eagle rays float effortlessly by on their way to someplace away from the sharks. I was in absolute heaven and I couldn’t wait to regale Barb with my story. Little did I know she would come back with a story of her own.
When we reconvened back on the ship after our separate underwater adventures. Barb’s story won, hands down. It seems that their snorkeling group landed amidst a school of lemon sharks who liked playing about the dive boat. So naturally what do divers do but jump in the water to get a closer look and better pictures. (If you’ve brought your Go Pro – note to self, go buy a Go Pro camera.) Just when Barb thought it was clear to jump in the water; off she goes and immediately after she is already committed, a 10-foot lemon shark swims from underneath the boat and SHE JUMPS ON THE BACK FIN OF THE SHARK! Yup, Fonzi famously jumped the shark in the TV sitcom Happy Days, and my friend jumps ON TOP OF A SHARK! Luckily he was only merely annoyed and swam away. Then a bit later the dive master, who weirdly stayed INSIDE the boat top side, announced to the snorkelers who are IN the water that “The sharks are getting agitated. Get in the boat NOW!” You can bet there was a bee-line for the ladder on that boat. Last one up the ladder is shark bait!
So, we learned a lesson that no matter how good you think your story is, there is bound to be somebody with a better story, and sometimes a good story is better than a good time. Although we did come back from that trip with a ton of stories and a heaping good time. Sometimes you luck out when you are in search of a Hartful life. Look for the good stuff, always seek good stories and ways to keep you lit up. What lights you up? What have you done lately to create a good story?
At the dentist recently, I discovered that my dental hygienist hasn’t taken a vacation in 30 years. I nearly fell out of the dentist chair on the spot when I heard the sad news. The first words out of my mouth were not diplomatic, “What the hell is that about?” I was so incredulous, I lost all sense of decorum and social graces in that moment of shock. I really count not relate on any level to that statement of not taking time for yourself in 30 years. I guess I’ve been very, very fortunate to not relate to something out of my realm of understanding. If you’re going to be a good role model for your kids or your work team, or a good leader of any type of group, you need to be inspired. What are you doing to invite awe and inspiration into your life to keep you going and keep you interested and keep you interesting?
I live for exploration, discovery, learning new things, seeing new sights and being awe-inspired every chance I get. I seek out beauty and inspiration, and surround myself with what I love as often as I can in daily life to keep the happy factor pumped up. Taking inspirational vacations is one of my favorite past times. These can be mini weekend get-aways, an overnight in a cool place, an afternoon at a local haunt, a multi-week extravaganza, or a multi-month sabbatical. I just don’t understand people who lose vacation days each year because they never took time off. This is your time, you’ve earned it. You deserve to refresh, recharge and get inspired by adding a little awe into your life.
I recently returned from a holiday Caribbean cruise and though I’ve done many, many cruises; this one held some awesome and inspirational experiences for me. Kayaking has been part of my life for a few decades and I wanted to try something I’d never done. We went kayaking at night in a bioluminescent bay that glows with movement from the organisms similar to fire flies. There are over a million organisms per gallon and they each glow only once per night when they sense motion. So off we paddled through the bay into a canopy of mangrove trees that was so narrow and so dark, you could only see the glow sticks on the kayak in front of you, the glow of the water off your paddle and from the bottom of the kayak and the glow of schools of fish you paddled through or if they jumped. It was a very eery feeling to paddle by feel instead of sight. A new and awe inspiring experience. Only when the guide turned on his head lamp could you see the tree roots hanging down from the branches, the iguanas hanging from the branches and the crabs scurrying across the roots. The tunnel of mangrove branches opened in to a lagoon a few hundred acres in size and we free paddled around and played in the water. It looked like glowing glitter as it slid down your arm. It was such a natural treat, nothing like it. We were giggly, gleeful, amazed, and agog with wonder of this ecological experience.
Coming back to the ship, I experienced a couple other types of awe and inspiration. One was the after-dinner entertainment, which is usually quite cheesy. These guys had won America’s Got Talent national talent show and now had an act in Las Vegas – Recycled Percussion. They gave everybody in the audience drum sticks and things to bang on and they put on such a highly –charged show, there wasn’t a face in the place that didn’t have a smile. They also gave out ear plugs for the faint of heart. By the end of the show everybody was boogying to the rock and roll they remembered. It was awesome. The inspiration continued as we danced our way to the after party show with the BB King Blues Club All-Star Band. The best band I had heard in countless years. They had the ship rockin’. We enjoyed them so much, it was a nightly pilgrimage to wherever they were playing and I carried home a CD so I can recapture the inspirational sounds of the classic, funky blues music.
So it turns out that experiencing awe and inspiration can come in many forms. I just Skyped with a friend in Germany who visited a surprise Monet exhibit never before shown to the world in a mansion outside of Paris. Hearing about it and experiencing it through her was vicariously inspiring. Make your list for the year – what do you want to do to invite awe and inspiration? Add these things to your Hot 100 List – you know the list I’ve been writing about for years. Your annual exercise to write down 100 things you want to have, do or be. Next on my list of awe and inspiration is experiencing the aurora borealis in Iceland and seeing Machu Picchu. What’s next for you?