Day 1,169 – Thankful for a Pile of Things that Bring Me Great Joy; Walking, Listening to Rain, Interesting Signs, Narrowly Avoiding Hitting a Wallaby, Coconut Water, and Hanging Out with My Family

Sometimes it just feels right to be thankful for a ton of things, doesn’t it? Instead of trying to combine many gratitudes into a single theme I figured I’d just roll with it and lay out an extended list today. Just a heads up, there might be some additional ones that pop up after I’ve already written the title so hang on!

Walking: Today we spent many of our hours wandering somewhat aimlessly on trails, across campus, and through town. I did some quick math and realized that we’ve walked about 13 miles each day since we’ve been on vacation – no wonder I feel great! Getting a great walk is in magic for the soul. Whether alone or with others it feels good to move and to be able to experience so many interesting things as I ramble.

Listening to the Rain: As I type this I have the doors of our AirBNB wide open and am listening to the sounds of rain, wind, and the occasional thunder clap. It’s so soothing to hear those sounds in the background. The rhythm of nature is so serene.

Interesting Signs: There’s been no shortage of interesting signs since we’ve been here. The one that still makes me laugh is “Undercover Car Park” for a parking garage. Today’s winner was a sign warning to watch out for koalas.

The Circle Game: The boys and I have an ongoing battle of “the circle game.” The point is to make a circle with your thumb and forefinger below your waist and to get the other person to look at it. If successful you get to punch the person in the arm twice. Yes, it’s completely stupid and juvenile, but we have a blast playing it. Look closely at the picture of Dominic above… He got me well on that one!

Narrowly Avoiding Hitting a Wallaby: Yes, I almost added one to my overly extensive list of animals I’ve hit while driving a vehicle. Dominic and Gavin have been joking the whole trip about hitting a kangaroo. With between 3 and 6 feet to spare I narrowly avoided drilling a wallaby. Whew!!!

Coconut Water: I’m totally hooked on the stuff! Delicious and an incredibly source of hydration, I’ve been drinking it by the quart much of this trip. Love, love, love this stuff!

Hanging Out with My Family: Even though we definitely drive each other nuts after spending so much time together I can’t think of a group of people I’d rather spend this much time with. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to get so much time with them.

Whew! And the day’s not even over yet! So many things to be grateful for today.


Day 1,168 – Thankful for Learning More About Other Cultures and Sharing Those Experiences with the Boys

Tonight we did dinner with Diane and Martin and had a wonderful time talking about all types of things going on in life. One of the things I appreciate about spending time with them is their willingness to speak very openly about cultural differences between our countries. In those conversations there are many times when someone mentions “not that either way is good or bad, they’re just different.” Throughout the dialogue there is nothing but respect for each other and learning more about our cultures.

Throughout the past week we’ve had many great discussions with the boys about the differences between the US and Australia. These have included positive and negative on each side and we’ve answered all of their questions very honestly and openly. It’s been interesting hearing their thoughts and ideas. There’ve been some very interesting insights into their brain patterns.

As I think back through my first trip to Australia and this trip it’s also been interesting to see some differences between different regions. Throw in visits to several other countries and states and it’s been so interesting to see how each culture interacts slightly differently. Each has a handful of things unique to them while most have several underlying similarities so almost all others.

One of the things I enjoy the most of each vacation is a doing a duo of quick thought exercises. “Would I rather live here than where I live, why and why not?” Is the first question I ask myself. I push myself to answer both sides of the coin to fully think through what it is I appreciate and why. The second set of questions is, “What is one piece of the culture I’d like to take with me back home, why is that important, and how can I live it back home?” Sometimes the answers are quite eye opening to helping me learn more about myself.

Long story short, Belize reminded me of the importance of simplicity and not needing “stuff.” Australia has helped me find some ways to keep myself relaxed as opposed to being constantly stressed. Who knows, maybe there’s a future story / article / book to be written about each of those thought experiments 😉

What I’m also so grateful for is the opportunity to help the boys have many of these experiences at a relatively early age. They’re both at the ages where there finding their true north and I firmly believe they are fortunate to have a deep well of experience to go back to. In the case of other I could see them at least studying abroad for a while. These experiences will help mold them and help them create their thoughts and opinions of what they feel is right or best for them. The more experiences we can present them the more options they know are available. I’m so thankful we’ve elected to bring them along on so many of our adventures like this!

At the end of the day all cultures seem to have the same end goal – to live a joyful life. They all attempt to get there in different ways. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn from many of them to help me find my path.


Day 1,167 – Thankful for Safe, Healthy, and Uneventful Vacations

First off, my thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families impacted by the eruption at Whakaari (White Island) in New Zealand. I hope their faith is throng and able to help them through an unquestionably difficult time. Above and beyond anything else I write about today my heart breaks for them.

Earlier this evening we heard some terrible news. Whakaari (aka White Island) erupted very unexpectedly today. Unfortunately there was a least one tour group on the volcano when the eruption occurred. The details are still not clear, but the most recent news is that five are dead, several injured, and several unaccounted for.

A couple of years ago Becky, the boys, and I took an incredible tour out to that volcano that we’ll never forget. When we signed up for the tour there was the standard safety stuff as well as several other kind of crazy warnings about gas, eruptions, and so on. Of course we listened, but it was more of a formality. Nothing bad like that ever happens, right? Now as my brain goes back though what was discussed the hair on the back of neck stands up thinking that someone just lived that experience.

Throughout most of the day I was planning on blogging about relaxing, enjoying time with the family on vacation, or maybe body boarding. Something light and peaceful about great time with my family. After hearing the news of the eruption I’ve been so thankful for something so much more basic .

Tonight I’m more thankful than ever for safe, healthy, and relatively uneventful vacations. We’ve had many crazy experiences and any one of the them could have gone awry in horrible ways. The risk of something tragic is extremely low, but the risk is still there. Today’s eruption is a powerful reminder that tragedy can strike anytime, even on vacation. I’m thankful we’ve had great times and experiences as a family and have thus far seen them end without any tragedy or even serious issue. It’s something that is so easy to take for granted, but something I need to remember to pause and be grateful for more often.

Again, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by today’s eruption. I can’t (and don’t want to) imagine the pain they are in at this moment.


Day 1,166 – Thankful for the Ways Things Work Out Sometimes, Having Faith In the Long Term Plan

When the traffic jam backed us up a couple of days ago and we totally missed our kayak tour time I did my best to remind myself that everything works out the way it does for a reason. If a positive mindset is kept there is sure to be a silver lining at some point. Turns out that’s exactly what happened!

The original appointment we missed had exactly zero dolphins spotted. When we headed out today we were circled by a huge pod of dolphins a handful of times. They were so close it was crazy! There were even baby dolphins swimming with their moms. It was AMAZING!!!

And to think that had there not been a traffic jam and we had shown up on time the first time we wouldn’t have seen them. The Big Dude Upstairs always seems to have a plan up His sleeve. So often the tough times I face are followed by some magical moments I’ll never forget. The tough part is keeping it in mind when we’re on the downward slope, it’s so easy to connect the dots afterwards.

Connecting the dots forward is impossible. We can’t see the future and determine how it all fits together. Speculation and guessing are of no use as they don’t really do anything (quick aside, this is one of the biggest reasons I quit listening to ESPN Radio long ago – all they’re doing is guessing and conjecture get about something that is completely unpredictable). The only thing that guessing and forecasting would do is cause me to worry about potential bad outcomes or to be overly optimistic about potential good outcomes. At the end of the day the only control I have is in believing things will work out exactly as they should. I don’t know where its going or why, but at some point I’ll most likely be able to connect at least some of the dots to see how I go there.

While the example today has me seeing this point clearly it reminded me to pause and re-think how many other ways things have worked out differently than expected. Another example is how we ended up in Byron Bay instead of snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef.

When we started planning this trip we wanted to be sure to hit the Great Barrier Reef and enjoy its beauty while it is still here. Unfortunately, we found out that this is the WRONG time of the year to head up that way. The heat is ridiculous and the jellyfish are way too thick. There were a couple of other reasons as well that are escaping me.

A little frustrated and disappointed we instead took the advice of Diane, our resident Australia expert and tour guide extraordinaire. She pointed us in the direction of Byron Bay. Based on how well she knows us her thought was that it was exactly the type of place we were looking for. We trusted the tea leaves, booked it, and have been beyond impressed with what we’ve experienced here. To be honest, all the reasons I am so in love with Byron Bay are so numerous there’s probably a blog post about it in the future… One quick note, I was able to go shopping in the grocery store barefoot; yes!!!

In talking with one of our kayak guides today he shared how perfectly we timed our visit to this area. He said that between a week ago and up until Boxing Day it’s about as calm and perfect as this area gets. After December 26 he gets the heck out of Dodge for a couple of months as it is completely overrun with tourists. How cool that the timing worked out so perfectly?

Sometimes my blog posts are mental bread crumbs for my future self to follow. Today it sure to be one of those. My apologies in advance to anyone besides myself who may be reading this, but I’m going to talk to myself for a moment…

Future Mike dude, remember today. The simple story of wanting and planning to do one thing and facing disappointment. Stay upbeat and trust that everything will work out, it always does (well, until you’re dead I guess, but even then who knows?). The Universe nudged you in a different path and helped you see dolphins. Want to see more dolphins in life? Remember to stay upbeat when facing an unexpected obstacle. Don’t waste time or energy thinking ahead to the how or why. Trust you’ll get exactly where you need to go and focus on taking the right action. Don’t waste your life and precious time worrying about what could have been or what could happen. Go with it. You can connect the dots later if you’d like, but even then does it really matter? You’ll be exactly where you should be. Keep on smiling, stay positive, and live in the present. That’s where the magic truly happens.


Day 1,165 – Thankful for Sun and Surf

The power of sunshine is truly magical, isn’t it? I’m amazed at what a difference a healthy dose of rays can do for my mental well being. With the exception of only a few small gaps I was out in the sun the overwhelming majority of the day. Even as I type this I’m sitting outside listening to the sound of the waves crashing into shoe and getting some natural light.

As with many people this time of the year is when it’s most difficult for me to get enough sun. Most of the sunny hours are spent in an office and the time outside usually involves being covered head to toe to stay warm. The sunlight shrinks to such a minuscule level (though it could be worse, I can’t imagine those whose live in Alaska this time of year!).

Today I was up shortly after sunrise and will go to bed only an hour or so after it sets. Back home there was about 9 hours between sunrise and sunset, here it is currently about 14 hours. Those extra five hours each day are glorious and greatly appreciated!!!

I know, I’ll have to deal with it when I get home. No worries, I’ll be working my sunlamp overtime to get some artificial sunny goodness. In the meantime though I’ll soak up every ounce of sun I can while here.

Much of the day was spent at the ocean relaxing on the beach. You may not know this, but I have a lingering fear/nervousness of the water. This is something I continue to work on. As I watched Dominic and Gavin have tons of fun body boarding I realized I shouldn’t let my nervousness get in the way of having a great time. When Gavin came in I grabbed his board and headed out with Dominic.

It was so much fun! Yes, I totally got water in my nose, ears, and mouth, but it was completely worth it. Wave after wave would come and Dominic would help me choose which ones to hop on. After a while I was able to start catching them without his help. We had a blast watching each other hit the waves perfectly, miss others, and both decide that some were a bit too big (when it was nearly two feet over my head I squealed like a little kid and ran quickly towards shore).

The power of the surf was mind blowing to me. There would be some waves that would hit me as they broke and push me backwards several feet. The sheer power they pack is amazing, and to think it’s only water. I can’t even imagine how powerful the bigger waves the surfers are catching are.

All in all, it’s been an awesome day. I’m thankful for soaking up so much sun and for enjoying a day in the surf. This is about the most relaxed I’ve been in a very long time.


Day 1,164 – Thankful for the Chill Australian Attitude

So many Australians seem to have it figured out so well. Life is awesome as it is, chill and enjoy it. For clarity, I am not saying they are lazy or just want to kick back and relax all the time. What I’m thankful for today is that Aussie attitude of “no worries.”

We were scheduled to go on a kayak trip to see dolphins up close this morning. Last night when we checked the map we saw it was a short 15 minutes drive away. We decided to leave early to be safe so we were wheels up by 9:00 for our 9:30 meeting time. Turns out that between school traffic, work commute traffic, tourist traffic, and construction our previously mentioned 15 minute drive took over and hour and fifteen minutes!

As we were panicked and trying to drive but finding ourselves totally trapped in gridlock I noticed something crazy. Even though everyone was stuck in the same traffic jam people were still letting many cars in. I only heard a horn once and I’m pretty sure it was to make sure someone knew they were being let into the lane. It was wild! Even in a traffic jam like that everyone was totally chill and helpful.

By the time we got to the meeting place our group had long since left. We opted for a walk along the beach and up to the lighthouse to pass time until they came back and we could explain what had happened. As we walked we saw their kayaks out in the distance. It was frustrating, but we opted to take a deep breath, chill, and enjoy the beauty around us.

Once we got back to the meeting place there were about four of the employees there to help us out. We apologized profusely to them about missing and they apologized for us getting stuck in traffic. They would have been well within their rights to be frustrated with us; we pretty much stood them up and we’d already paid. Instead they seemed more apologetic than we were and immediately went to town trying to find a way to get us on a different date and time at no additional charge. At no point in talking with them did they show the least bit of frustration in the mistake we made. They were completely chill and went out of their way to make sure we also had some great brekkie recommendations for our new tour day.

That interaction seems to sum up so many of the random conversations and interactions we’ve had with people here. Everyone is so chill and relaxed. They don’t seem to have the same “go, go, go” mindset that I’ve lived in for most of my life. This experience has been a wonderful reminder for me to take a deep breath.

Case in point, the next time I’m tied up in traffic I’m going to take a deep breath, remember today, and let someone in… maybe a few someone’s in. The couple of times I had the opportunity to do that today it actually felt pretty excellent. Not only was I not as stressed about traffic but I also got a little case of the feel goods. No worries it is!

Today I’m grateful for all of the Australians I’ve interacted with who’ve reminded me to chill a bit and focus more on enjoying the moment.


Day 1,163 – Thankful for Waking Up Early to Appreciate the Beauty of a Sunrise and a Humbling Reminder of How Small I Am

Last night I set my alarm to wake up early to catch the sunrise over the ocean. Yes, I know, I should probably be sleeping in while on vacation but I just can’t bring myself to do it. There’s something magical about the hours when it’s still a little dark and the world is waking up. Being outside while the majority of the world sleeps is one of the most peaceful and serene experiences for me.

This morning Becky and I headed out to the beach while the boys slept and spent some time walking the beach as we waited for the sun to rise. While we waited for the sun to rise we soaked in the gorgeous view all around us.

As I watched the dark red orb slowly appear over the horizon I had a very interesting thought. How many times in my life have I watched the sunrise? Maybe a couple of hundred? Some may have been seen on purpose (sitting atop the Douglas Houghton Falls my freshman year at Michigan Tech and this morning) while others have been by chance (driving to work early in the morning). Regardless, I’ve spent many moments of my life watching these beautiful daily miracles. So many have been catalogued and saved in my brain. Often I think back to them when I see another similar sunrise or when I stumble across a picture of it. Each time I think of them I can almost here myself whistle at their beauty in my brain.

This morning was a little different as I thought in the context of how many sunrises I’ve seen. I felt pretty proud of myself and blessed to have seen so many. Then I thought of the ocean… How many times has it seen the sunrise?

Based on current science the Earth has experienced this beautiful phenomena approximately 1,658,000,000,000,000 times. I’ve witnessed about 0.000000000000001% of those. Of the approximately 73,000,000 sunrises which have been experienced by modern humans I’ve been able to enjoy 0.000003% of those.

Isn’t that staggering? My entire live and all that I’ve known has been but a blink of an eye in the scope of humanity and exponentially less than that in terms of the Earth. As I live out my years (hopefully many remaining) and strive to enjoy many more sunrises I’ll still only be but a flash in the pan.

The sunrise was a beauty and I am thankful I caught it today. I’m thankful for the humbling reminder of just how small I am in the bigger picture. This reminders helps me appreciate each of the individual sunrises I am able to enjoy and reminds me to be thankful for time I have. I’m also appreciative of the reminder of just how grand and enduring the Earth is. Thank you to The Big Dude Upstairs for creating such a beautiful place and for allowing me time to enjoy it.