What is, a “Traveling Man?”

“One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more.”

Thomas Jefferson

I, like most people, enjoy traveling. Since my days in the military, I haven’t traveled to a foreign country; but I enjoy traveling within the United States, and even here at home within New York State. I enjoy traveling with my family, but there’s something about traveling alone that really clears the mind and refreshes the soul.

Most of the local traveling I do is during the months when snow and ice isn’t slowing me down and limiting me to distance. I enjoy driving up into the Adirondack Mountains, taking a scenic drive along Lake Champlain into Ticonderoga, along the back roads of Saratoga and Washington Counties, and occasionally crossing the border into neighboring Vermont. If it’s a nice cool day, I enjoy the windows down and breathing in the country air.

Many probably come to this site because they’re looking for travel photos and a blog about traveling to different destinations. Oh, but a man or woman can be a traveler, even if they never board a plane. You can be quite the extensive traveler and never leave your own home. Destinations don’t always have to be places that flash across a screen in an airport, or cities and towns printed on a sign on the side of a highway. They don’t have to be white, sandy beaches or snowcapped mountains.

I travel on a weekly basis and seldom leave my local area. Sometimes the most worthwhile trips are the ones where I’m alone. Many of my greatest trips where I discover the most, are done without leaving my house.

Like Thomas Jefferson stated, one who journey’s alone spends more time reflecting. I spend a lot of time in thought; thinking about the present and also the things to come. While I believe I have no control over tomorrow, I am convinced there are things I can do to help shape it. I can do my best this very moment to live a decent life, to love those around me, to be kind to both stranger and friend, show compassion, be humble, and more.

What is, a “traveling man?” In my case, it’s a person who is always exploring; not just the world around them, but also within themselves. It’s a person who is always moving forward, never desiring to go backwards and having to retrace their steps. It’s a person who is on a constant journey to be better tomorrow than they are today.

Travel wisely my friends.

The Traveler

I’m a traveling man.

I’m reminded this Christmas as I, like millions around the world who will spend time with loved ones over many days, that this life here on earth is but a vapor. It’s short.

I’ve known so many over the past twelve months who were here a year ago, but today are no longer with us here on this earth. They’ve passed on. They’ve finished their race; some unfortunately had a shorter race than others. I miss them and the joy they brought not only to myself, but to so many who had the pleasure of their company. Amazing men and women of fine character, who left a legacy for many to follow.

We can’t take things for granted. Small opportunities to leave a legacy are like commas in life’s book. They’re like rest stops along a highway. There’s so many and they’re passing us moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, and year by year. There will come a point, and please hear me, that the clock will stop ticking. Whether you’re ready or not, you will find yourself turning the page, only to find it’s the last page. Every race has a finish line. Every journey has a destination. Please make the best of it.

We are all travelers but not all of us enjoy the trip. Not everyone stops along the way to take in the sites. Some of us are hurrying but before we know it, we will be pumping the breaks, looking for a rest stop, and trying to make it last longer.

Enjoy the journey. Travel lightly.

What is Your Life’s Motto?

I have been thinking about this recently and asking myself this exact same question. Truthfully, everything I have written about up to this point, is straight from me and my thoughts. Continuing on with that trend, I must say that I spend a significant amount of time reflecting on life and the people in my life. How can I be a better husband, a better father, a son who makes his parents proud, a better friend, a better photographer, and an all around better person? These are all things I brainstorm quite often!

What is my life’s motto? What will be written, visibly or invisibly, on my tombstone? When I was in the military, we were always told to leave our current duty station “better than we found it.” It always sounded so cliche when I heard it, but it really has taken on a lot more meaning to me personally; more than it did the dozens of times I heard it in the past.

My goal in life is simple. Leave this earth better than I found it. Leave my small community better than I found it. Leave my friends and family better. Every single day, strive to end the day better than I started it. Is it that simple?

I stumble a lot. It happens. I mess up, fall into a ravine of self pity, and eventually climb and pull myself out. Of course it isn’t simple, but it’s not unattainable. I pick small things, like writing a blog or making a podcast, that somehow might impact someone else. I give a photo away that means a lot to me but more to others. I send a message to someone that might feel abandoned. We have all been there. I choose to respond with kindness to those who may not deserve it in that moment. We have all been there as well.

Bottom line, I make a conscious decision daily, despite my own shortcomings and failures, to make today better than yesterday. To be a better version of me than I was yesterday. To make those moments of reflection moments I can smile about and not moments I’m ashamed and afraid to confront.

I just try and be better and hold myself accountable to that.

America, Social Media, and Me – Part 3

A lot of times I begin writing and have a plan how something is supposed to go, but then part of the way through, decide to shift course and take it somewhere else. Therefore, what you’re reading 99% of the time is directly from the heart and not always something planned out. What was originally supposed to be a five-part series, I am going to conclude it today in the third segment.

In the second part of this series, I threw some statistics at you, both here in the United States and also internationally. Statistics regarding social media, numbers of users, active users, and time spent on social media. I concluded the segment by saying I would be the last person to tell you to spend less time on social media, although according to Apple, my screen time was down 23% this past week compared to the previous week. Not sure how that happened, but I am now under five hours a day staring at my screen. The majority of my time spent on my phone, computer, or iPad, is spent on social media. Facebook is my number one go to for social media, followed by Instagram, and then various other platforms I’m a member of. One of the main reasons for this is because my passion for photography. I spend the majority of my time, not necessarily scrolling through my newsfeed and seeing what everyone else is up to, but posting photos, looking at different analytics, and posting what I hope to be something encouraging for others to see. Which leads me to my next point and the point of this entire series.

Out of all the time we spend on social media, staring at a screen, scrolling, clicking the “like” button, or shaking our heads at some of the ridiculousness that is placed before our eyes, how much is spent with the intent of lifting others up? I am sure my newsfeed is no different than anyone else’s, not only here in America but around the world. We all have those acquaintances who feel it is their duty to mankind to voice their opinions. We all have those who, by the looks of it, are never wrong and make it a point to comment and contradict whatever it is they see. Maybe you fall into one of those categories. I know at one point in my life, I spent a lot of time on social media, airing my opinions and how I felt about different things going on here in America. It’s easy to do! It’s so incredibly easy to get on your phone at any given point throughout the day, and vent about what is frustrating you in that moment. Seriously, it takes little to no effort. I did it daily! After a couple years of doing that, I noticed a couple of things. You may have too if you fit into the above category. Your friends begin to dwindle. No, I am not talking about those who think exactly like you do. Rather, people as a whole. Furthermore, nobody really cares what my opinion is. I’m not an expert when it comes to religion, politics, finances, social skills, etc. Whenever you post on social media, regardless of who you are and how many friends or followers you have, there will always be someone who sees your post and can disagree or argue with you. Most find it almost impossible to keep scrolling without doing just that, and letting you know you’re wrong according to them.

Social media, while creating some avenues for us to be more social and intertwined than ever before, has really allowed us to be more narrow-minded, closed off, and more isolated than ever before. Think about it. Don’t like the way someone responds to your post? Delete their comment and block them. Want to find a group that caters to your way of thinking and your mindset? You can find hundreds of thousands of like-minded individuals to applaud everything you utter out of your mouth! Social media, while it gives us the ability to interact with people throughout the world, has limited and deteriorated our interpersonal skills along with the ability to communicate and compromise with people who don’t think, believe, and see things the same way we do. Social media has contributed to destroying our social skills. And we allow it to happen multiple times throughout the day. Every. Single. Day.

I decided to change my approach to social media. I actually had to retrain my social media habits and it took over two years, and I still have the occasional urge to fall back into some old negative behaviors. I decided I wanted/want my social media experience to be different. Instead of contributing to the arguments, looking for the next post to contradict, and isolating myself or others, I decided to make social media my platform to lift others up, to improve not only my life, but also the lives of others. I wanted my social media to be less about me and more about others. Rather than giving viewers something to argue about, to shake their head and scroll past, I wanted my social media platforms to be an avenue to reach people. I wanted people to see my post and it give them something to think about that day. Rather than incite fear and anger, I want to inspire hope and impact. Each time we open up our social media, whether we are scrolling through or posting something, we have that ability. We can go either direction and it’s an amazing thing to realize and take advantage of in a positive way.

I end this series today with a challenge. You have some on your social media platforms that view things differently than you. If you live in America, you know that our current political climate is a cause for extreme division; not only on social media, but within families and circles of friends. There are things that divide us. But thankfully, there are more things that unite us as people. My challenge to whoever reads this, is take a moment today on social media to build someone up other than yourself. Take a moment to set aside how knowledgeable you are, what degrees you have, or what you may think you’re an expert on, and just be a person who has the passion to see someone else be better. Make today about someone else besides yourself.

Alone at the Finish Line

It may be true that he travels farthest who travels alone, but the goal thus reached is not worth reaching.

President Theodore Roosevelt

I planned on writing the third segment in the series, America, Social Media, and Me, but I saw this quote yesterday and it really got me thinking about a lot of things. I haven’t done any research on the quote, I’m not sure if this blog post will even interpret correctly what Roosevelt meant when he said it, but it spoke to me in my own way. I have titled this post accordingly.

Imagine you woke up this morning, for those who play, and found out you won the jackpot in a lottery. Millions of dollars are coming your way! Like most of us would do, you begin planning on how to spend that money. Your dreams can now come true and finances is no object. There’s zero limitations! That car you’ve always wanted? DONE! For me it would probably be a full line of cameras and lenses.

Fast forward to a year after you first saw that large deposit into your bank account. The fancy sports car or SUV you bought now has 10,000 miles, all your friends have seen it and you were the envy of your social circle, and you’ve already begun looking around for your next one. You probably even picked up friends and family members you never knew existed! You built this magnificent monster of a home, equipped with all the state of the art electronics you can control right from your smartphone, an olympic sized swimming pool in the backyard, and enough bedrooms fully furnished for a large family reunion. It’s full of artwork and decor; so much that visitors leave salivating and praising you on your interior design. You’ve put so much time and money into your castle that there’s nothing more money could buy that would make it any better than what it is right now.

You laid down last night, exhausted after hosting a large gathering, and realized one thing that left you troubled. You tossed and turned, trying to shake this haunting feeling. For the past year you’ve had so many people come into your home. You’ve catered, cooked, and hosted some of the best social gatherings within a hundred mile radius. You’ve been praised and applauded for your donations to the local school and charities. You’re the reason the varsity football team is running onto the field in new uniforms. It’s because of you that a family who was facing financial troubles and needing a new car, can now make it to their doctor appointments. Their daughter may not have survived without your generosity and thoughtful giving!

Imagine again if you will. You are running a marathon tomorrow. Months and months of training, miles upon miles, blister after blister, will all come to a head tomorrow morning. From the moment you watched your first marathon, this has been something you’ve wanted to accomplish. You began training a year ago, you ran the soles out on a few pairs of running shoes, and here you are on the eve of one of the greatest accomplishments in your life.

The next day comes, the pop of the pistol goes off, and your feet begin to move. Here you go! After a long and painful twenty-six miles, you finally see the finish line. It’s one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen. Within the next few moments, your feet will cross that line, and through tears you’ll be able to say you conquered what only a few percentage of people on earth can say they have done. You have fought through the agony of muscle aches, shin splints, physical exhaustion, mental and emotional fatigue, and now here you are. Well done!

Your feet cross the line and you’re immediately filled with this intense rush of excitement. You run a little further and lean forward, your hands resting on your knees as you begin to weep. You’re weeping not because your body is screaming in exhaustion. No, you’ve trained for this! The tears, mixing with sweat and streaming down the side of your face, are because you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.

As you begin to regain your composure and your heart rate returns to normal, you’re filled with a different emotion. You look around, other racers are coming in, and you’re struck with a panic. You begin to sweat again, your heart begins to race, and your breathing becomes short and rapid. What is happening? You’re thinking to yourself, “Oh God, please don’t let this be a heart attack! Not now! Please God!”

You’ve spent your entire life working for this company. Years of college, working long hours, taking work home, working weekends, and exhaustion have finally paid off. You strived to get to this point. You pushed yourself more than you ever thought you would or even possibly could, and now here you are. You seized every opportunity for promotion and were rewarded almost every single time. Even in those few rare instances when you were passed up, you didn’t allow it deter you. It motivated you to strive harder. No matter the cost.

You walked into work this morning, past the hustle and bustle of a Monday morning at the office, and past the desk you sat at just a few days ago. It was already occupied by someone else; a young man in his mid-twenties, shuffling through papers with a panicked look on his face. You remember those days. Not today however and definitely not tomorrow. A new day has dawned and you push open the door to your new home! There’s even a shiny nameplate on the outside. You sit down at your desk, the air in the cushion of your plush leather chair escaping as you let out a sigh of relief. You sit there, elbows on your desk, fingers interlaced, and chin resting on your hands as you take a moment to absorb it all. You breathe in and can smell the fresh shampoo in the carpet and smell of Simple Green. The janitorial staff did a great job getting everything ready for you. A couple of chairs face you. You chuckle at the irony of it all. A couple decades ago you sat in that same spot facing where you are now. The chairs are different but the spot is the same. You left that spot on numerous occasions thinking your time here was up. How many evenings did you go home and update your resume?

Your eyes move past the chairs to the leather couch along the wall. A small table sits in front with various magazines you helped publish over the years. They’re fanned out neatly for whoever it is that has the privilege to sit there. You lean back, glancing out the windows for the first time, and smile. You’ve made it to the top my friend. Congrats!

You spend the day glancing between your computer screen, tapping on the keyboard and hitting backspace to erase the garble you just typed, and looking out the partial glass wall. The minions are hard at work out there. You sat there for over twenty years. You see the young man you saw earlier, rearranging items on his desk, and making it his own. If he makes it that long, he will spend most of his adult life at that desk.

The day is ending. Another day in the office. As you turn off your computer and get up from the high-back, black leather chair, you realize you’re the only one still at work. You don’t recall anyone coming in and asking if you needed anything. You don’t recall the faces of those you’ve known for years, poking their heads in, and saying goodbye. As a matter of fact, besides yourself this morning, nobody has opened that beautiful glass door.

So what? A millionaire, an athlete, and an executive, with different stories and completely separate lives, have each finished their day the same. Throughout the years, especially during my time in the military, I hiked a lot of mountains. I’ve always enjoyed reaching the top and taking in the spectacular views. But I never hiked alone. Sure, Roosevelt’s quote is 100% accurate; you will get further if you go at it alone. You’ll probably even make it faster. But the destination leaves a lot to be desired. Hiking up a mountain is an amazing experience. You reach the end and have a sense of accomplishment. You persevered and conquered. But how great is the journey if you’re left at the finish line alone?

You can spend millions of dollars building the house of your dreams, but what if it is never quite a home? Sure, you’re busy planning the next social event for everyone to enjoy, but you know the desolate feeling you’ll be left with when the last person leaves and you close the door. You’re praised by many but inside these walls it’s quiet.

You can spend hours training for a marathon. You can train for months building yourself up for it. You can show up the morning of the race, lace up your shoes, and you can even finish with the fastest time. But what if you get to the finish line, surrounded by spectators and athletes, and realize you’re alone?

You can spend a lifetime working for a company, dedicate your heart and soul, and shed blood, sweat, and tears to make it successful. You can spend years shuffling paperwork, getting promoted, and finally make it to the top of the corporate ladder. Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s lonely at the top?” What if you make it and, which is often the case, you find that you’re the only one there? What if you forgot everyone that propelled you to success? Where is everyone that’s supposed to be patting you on the back and saying, “WELL DONE BOSS!” They held the ladder the entire time you climbed, watching as you disappeared into clouds of success, only to be forgotten when you pulled yourself over the last rung. You did beyond well but you’re now alone at the top. No fanfare, no party, and no parade. Just a lonely space.

Yes, we can often get to the top or go the distance if we are alone. It’s easy to do things alone a lot of times, isn’t it? Nobody to account to, nobody to have to wait for, and nobody to have to share the glory with. But how many people have you ever heard say, “When I die, I hope nobody comes to my funeral!” Or how about, “He/she had a beautiful funeral. There wasn’t anyone there!”

Don’t forget where you came from. Don’t forget the people who make your house, regardless of how big or small it is, a home. Don’t forget the voices and the people who motivate you to reach your goal. Dream big and allow others to help you along the way soar to new heights. Climb that ladder, reach for the stars, prosper, and reach the pinnacle of your definition of successful. BUT…don’t forget those who held the ladder, who lifted you to the next rung, and who pulled out of the moments of despair.

Don’t be left alone at the finish line.