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.


Day 1,162 – Thankful for Reminding Myself to Relax

When we went to Hawaii with friends several years ago there was a moment that I’ll never forget. Everyone was basically just chilling on the porch. They were all in a state of perfect relaxation. I got scolded, albeit in a very nice way, by one of my friends. “Mike, quit pacing, you’re killing me!!! I can’t relax with you constantly moving.”

That, in a nutshell, is how my brain typically operates. If I’m not in a state of constant action please check my pulse and quickly determine if CPR is needed. I don’t know who or where it comes from (although I’d be pretty quick to point out my mom, my dad, a grandparent or two, and several others I’m genetically linked to!). This is just how my brain operates. I’m a person of action and movement. My idea of relaxing and chilling is usually doing something.

Case in point; this morning I had no reason to wake up at any specific time. I shot out of bed at 5:30am and was waking up the boys to see if they wanted to walk along the beach to see the sunrise with me. Off we went! That wasn’t quite enough so I headed out for a run on the beach afterwards. Need more evidence? A couple of nights ago I cleaned the vacuum cleaner of the AirBNB we stayed at to help me relax on our last night there. Yes, I know I have issues and for the most part I’m okay with them.

Today I’ve been working on remembering to actually take time to relax. Becky’s PhD is certainly the top reason for the trip, but relaxation and sight seeing with the boys are the second reasons. The graduation is still a ways away and we’ve spent a ton of time showing the boys around, but I haven’t spent very much time focusing on relaxing (see the two stories above).

With that in mind this morning when we went to the beach I had one goal in mind… Relax. To help me do that I left my phone on Sleep mode and in a closed bag and brought a book to read. While it wasn’t perfect, I did make some headway. A funny thing started too happen after a while… I started to relax. I didn’t feel the urge to go in too many directions at once. I took a deep breath and chilled and it was amazing!

Don’t worry, I’m not thinking this whole experience is going to totally change how I roll, but reminding myself to relax definitely feels pretty awesome! I am so thankful with how little stress I’ve felt all day and how I’ve been able to spend time in thought. This relaxing thing is pretty, well, relaxing! I kinda like it 😀


Day 1,161 – Thankful for Appreciating Growth Via Driving On the Wrong Side and Springsteen Lyrics

Today was the longest driving day of our trip. It was also the first time I took the wheel on this vacation. For those who don’t know, in Australia the driver’s side is the right side and you drive on the left. It is about as backwards as it gets for those of us who’ve grown up driving in the US. In both Uber rides I meant to sit shotgun but inadvertently almost got behind the wheel and left both drivers very confused.

The first time we came here I still remember writing my blog post about driving on the wrong side of the road. Over three and a half years later I still remember how sore my shoulders and neck were from the stress of driving in a hyper state of focus and fear.

This go round was significantly more pleasant. I’ve had the opportunity to drive on “the other side” of the road a few times and this time it was even easier to get back into the feel of it. Within a few minutes my stress level was down and I was able to enjoy a peaceful drive up north.

Sensing this difference was a very positive and uplifting experience as it helped me see how much I’ve grown in the past three plus years. Sure, it’s no major accomplishment, but I appreciated the sense of growth I felt.

During the drive Becky and I fired up some Bruce Springsteen to help set the true road trip feel of the day. One of the tunes caused me to pause and rewind to over a decade ago.

Way back I was in a pretty awful funk and needed to get out of it. Becky suggested taking a road trip up to the UP of Michigan by myself so I did. During that time alone with myself, my thoughts, and the beauty of Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula I came to grips with the fact that the gap between who I was and who I should be had grown wider than I’d ever dreamt. As I was struggling with resetting my brain during that time the song One Step Up popped into my mind and I got stuck on one specific line that hit too close to home:

When I look at myself I don’t see

The man I wanted to be

Somewhere along the line I slipped off track

Hearing those lyrics and singing them quietly to myself caused me to pause and dive deep for a moment. I was able to remember how lost I felt, how offtrack I seemed to be, and how I was drifting directionless. It was one of the low points in my life and I felt so depressed.

From that moment way back I made the decision to change my path. In that weekend I wrote out my first true dream list and a handful of small goals I had for myself. When I came back I made some tough decisions and started to get my act together. So many positive things have come from that proverbial “walk in the desert.”

After taking time today to think back to where I was I was so appreciative of the opportunity to quickly view how far I’ve come in that past decade and change. The gap to cross felt like miles, now it seems I’ve closed at least half of it. The toughest parts are sure to still be up ahead, but that’s okay and that’s not the focus today. Today I was able to pause and be thankful for the progress I’ve made and the growth I’ve had.

Two separate events, two wonderful ways to see growth firsthand. I am so thankful for those reminders of growth on my journey, they encourage me to to continue closing the gap.


Day 1,160 – Thankful for the Peace of Floating In the Ocean

I’m not really a believer of past lives and reincarnation, but if I did I can almost guarantee that those past lives would include living on the ocean (most likely in Polynesia) and a life lived in the mountains (Glacier NP area or Canadian Rockies?). Either of those two types of areas just feel like home.

Today I was blessed to be on the ocean. It was one of the first times when I wasn’t nervous about our boys and could take a deep breath and truly relax. Instead of reading or swimming I laid on my back, looked up at the clouds, and just listened to the beautifully rhythmic crashing of the surf.

After a while I went into the water. It took a little while to get used to the cold water, but once I did I again completely relaxed. As Dominic rode his boogie board I just floated in the ocean.

My gaze was fixed on the never ending horizon, my thoughts were only on the beauty of the crystal blue water, and I was as immersed in the present moment as I was in the ocean. As the waves came in I bobbed up with them. When the past wave was being drawn back into the sea I floated back with it. I was cradled by the cool water around me and moved by it. To be honest, I couldn’t even begin to guess how long I was floating there like that. My head, heart, and soul were totally at peace and full of joy as the sun warmed my face.

There’s such power within water – physically and spiritually. Today I am so grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by it and moved by it.


Day 1,159 – Thankful for Completing Dream #72, See a Live Playpus

Day 1,159 – Thankful for Completing Dream #72, See a Live Playpus

I really don’t know how or why, but the platypus has been one of my favorite animals for a very long time. A total enigma of an animal the platypus is beyond awesome on so many different levels. From being a mammal with a duckbill to laying eggs to being poisonous (only the males) it is about as crazy of a hodgepodge of an animal as you’ll ever find.

Seeing a live platypus is something I’ve wanted to see for a very long time. Videos are cool and all, but seeing one in person was something I’d added to my dream list several years ago. Up until a month or so ago there were only platypuses in Australian Zoos; San Diego got a pair less than a month ago.

Today we headed off to the Taronga Zoo in Sidney. As soon as we arrived we made a beeline for the Platypus House; yes, that is totally a thing! It was nerve wracking at first as we didn’t see anything in their area. After a handful of suspenseful moments the little guy finally appeared and was playfully spinning, diving, and swimming in his enclosure.

It was AWESOME!!! Talk about an experience that was even cooler than I’d imagined. I could’ve spent an entire day watching him zip around in his habitat. In many ways it didn’t even seem real. We may have gone back a couple of times throughout our visit to the zoo. 😉

Thanks again Becky for helping me knock another off the dream list!!!


Day 1,158 – Thankful for Long Distance Flights

Sometimes it’s easy to look past some simple yet crazily complex things that lead to great memories and experiences. One of those came in the form of our flight.

As I was in between cat naps I paused for a moment and considered just how ridiculous the whole thing was. Think about it…

A machine weighing 127 tons loads up with almost 300 people and then flies almost 9,000 miles (over a third of the way around the Earth) in about 17 hours. Oh yeah, we also travelled so far across the globe chasing the sun that from sunset to the sunrise we saw this morning was about 18+ hours and we never really experienced Black Friday.

How ridiculous is that??? When I stop and think about it my mind is blown. I’m so thankful for a long distance flights – had it not been for that modern miracle it would’ve been almost impossible to get this pic of Becky and the boys.


Day 1,157 – Thankful for Thanksgiving Dinner at Dumpling Den

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Nothing quite screams Thanksgiving dinner like a traditional meal of ramen, pot stickers, wontons, and egg rolls, right?

With dinner on the road today we opted for something a little out of the ordinary. As a kid I still remember pretzels at Epcot on Thanksgiving. When we were younger I remember watching fireworks in the horizon as we drove on the 4th of July. Last year we travelled on Christmas Day. There’ve been several vacations in that either started on or continued during a holiday.

I’m not committed to most standard traditions, things outside the norm usually end up being my favorite and sometimes become my own weird little tradition.

Just a hunch, but I’m thinking that the Thanksgiving dinner at Dumping Den is one we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.