Tag Archives: Hostelling International

It’s All Good

Spirits lifted.

I wish it weren’t so, but there are days that drift by when I don’t notice anything in particular that will fill my sails with wind. My Dad entered hospice care two weeks before school ended in May; it’s been a difficult summer for my family. This week I went back to in-service at my school and, truthfully, I was not emotionally ready to give up my summer, even though this summer has not been one of excitement or much happiness. Although it is great to see my colleagues, it’s been hard to get back in the swing of things. By the end of the week, however, I started noticing little things that caused my heart to skip and smile. It was a pleasant surprise to get four quiet shout-outs all within a few days of each other.

I try my best to daily practice these things: Always have integrity. Always work hard. Always be thankful. Always look for the silver lining. If I practice these things over and over, I’ve found that things usually work out.

Becoming a blogger has been a wonderful experience in many ways, but my favorite way is the online community that is forming around me. Blogging is making me more vocal. It is helping me to be brave. It is holding me accountable. The community of people who are willing to help each other and share encouraging words is the best part. It’s so easy to make someone feel good by simply “liking” their blog post. It’s affirming and encouraging and I love to receive those little nods of approval. WordPress sends me a notice every time someone “likes” or begins to “follow” my blog. Links to other’s blogs are included with these notifications and it is fun to check out who liked what I wrote. As of this writing, I have 75 followers and 24 Twitter followers; this equals 99! (Who will be number 100?) This is so encouraging to me! Thank you so much everyone. I feel connected to you.

Because of blogging, I want to share four little examples of how I was encouraged this week:

1

I received an email from the NAEA (National Art Educators Association) congratulating me that my proposal called Blogging in the Art Classroom, had been accepted for inclusion for the 2013 NAEA National Convention in Fort Worth, Texas! I was told that they received a record number of highly competitive presentation proposals this year and they accepted just over 1,000 of them! Without giving it all away, I will tell you that last spring I developed an art project for my high school students that required them to make a blog and keep it for fourteen days. It involved photography and poetry and was met by enthusiasm from both the students and my school. If you are a teacher planning on attending the Fort Worth NAEA convention, please sign up for my session!!!

2

When I went to the WDS 2012 conference in Portland this past June, one of my roomies at the Hostelling International Northwest Portland Hostel was a young woman, unbelievably who attended high school just across town from where I currently live in Dallas. She now lives in Germany, however. She’s involved in the arts, teaches yoga and is about to embark on a new adventure with her husband. We became quick friends and shared our blogs with one another. She read my post a few weeks ago about my Dad and felt my charcoal drawings would compliment an article she was writing for her blog. She asked my permission to use these drawings and I happily agreed. You can read her post called “On The Farm” here where her beautiful poetry and my drawings are featured.

3

Quillan and Angela found my blog article, En Plein Air in the Plain Air and marked the “like” symbol at the bottom of my post. When I was notified of their “like”, I went to their “pun intended” blog, Toemail and found their blog to be hilariously about toes. “. . . making the world a better place, one foot at a time” reads their tagline. This creative team accepts pictures of feet and toes to post on their site and there are many wonderful examples sent in from people all over the world. I decided to submit some photos of my own feet from several years ago after I underwent foot surgery. After they received my submissions, and with my permission, they chose to post my photos and a link to my blog on their blog! You must click on this link and look at these photos of my feet! They’re funny, if I do say so myself! Paying it forward is the name of the game in blogging and in doing so the world becomes a little bit smaller and community grows.

4

Last night, about 8 pm, I received a phone call from a new teacher friend in Taiwan! Originally she read my post about ISR (International Schools Review), found my email address on my blog and wrote me. Unbelievably, my new friend is from Texas (like me) but now teaches internationally and we’ve been emailing back and forth, sharing our life experiences and encouraging one another. I’m so happy that I wrote that blog post because by doing so I’ve made a new friend. We’re critiquing each other’s resumes as we head into the international hiring season this fall and we’re practicing talking on Skype. Although we met online, I can’t wait to meet her on land one of these days.

Have you ever thought about blogging? The way it was explained to me was that once you determine your unique interest and curiosity, the entire world is a captive audience. That’s big, my friend. By sharing yourself and your interests, you will benefit others simply by being YOU. You have so much value. What the world needs now is YOU. Consider it. I’m glad I did.

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I like a firm bed . . .

. . . but I prefer an inexpensive price tag more.

The way I see it, I’m hardly in my room at all. When I travel, my days are long and I’d rather spend the money on good walking shoes, French perfume, Turkish spices and treasures from English car boot sales. By the time I hit the sack, I’m exhausted from walking and exploring.

How funny (sad) it is that I never traveled for YEARS because I thought I couldn’t afford it. Poor me. How disillusioned I was. When I get back from a fabulous trip people often look at me and say, “Oh, I wish I could travel like that but I don’t have enough money…” Really? And they think I do? I stopped believing the myth of “someday” the day I decided to quit wasting time and simply travel – no matter what. There’s absolutely so much I’ve learned about how to be frugal and see the world, but in this post I want to share a few sources on accommodations.

For those of us who live within our means and place travel as a high priority, these accommodations may be familiar. When seeing the world outweighs working and consuming and saving enough money to stay in a 4 or 5-star hotel, you can be sure to find both quaint accommodations, and friends for a lifetime. In my experience, people I meet in my travels (or theirs) are kindred spirits. I now have many addresses of friends who live in countries all over the globe! If I’ve stayed in their home, I’m always quick to invite them to come and stay with me in mine, and several have! It’s fantastic to make new friends from cultures that are different from the one we know and it delights them just as much to come to Texas and stay with me as it was for me to stay with them! It’s a sharing experience; a win-win.

Two years ago I joined a local Hostelling International meetup group. I’d never considered staying in a hostel but I was interested in learning about them. I thought they were for “youths”, and I’m a far stretch from being that. What I discovered in these monthly meetups was the “brand” Hostelling International (HI) offers wonderful accommodations all around the world. Each month members would share PowerPoint presentations from inside (and outside) the HI hostels they’d stayed in while traveling. I saw photos of the reception areas, the kitchens, the bunk-bed dorm rooms, the common areas, the outdoor balconies and common porch areas and, surprisingly, it looked really inviting and beautiful. I also learned that in Europe, it is really common for families to travel like this and so I frequently saw photos with children. What I didn’t see was photos of wild and carefree 20-somethings in a drunken stupor. (This is how I imagined it would be). So I tried it last year in London, England and it was GREAT! In fact, I’m hosting the September 2012 HI-USAA North Texas meetup and this time I’ll be showing photos of my hostelling experience in London! I’m also looking forward to my HI hostel experience this July when I attend the World Domination Summit  in Portland, Oregon.

And who’s heard of CouchSurfing? Once I got serious about traveling on the cheap and adding like-minded travelers to my collection of friends, I had to get serious about couchsurfing. This form of accommodation brings you into the home of people who are willing to show you their city and make suggestions of what to see and do. The philosophy has less to do with the fact that the accommodation is free, but more to do with building relationships and learning about how others live. Everyone that participates in couchsurfing has a profile page and the site allows you to communicate with potential guests and ask as many questions as you want to feel comfortable with one another. I’ve welcomed travelers into my home, fed them, and included them in my social plans. I’ve also couchsurfed at others’ homes and I’ve been able to experience their city and way of life in a personal way. Although there is a $25 cost associated with “verifying” your address, one needs to be forthright and direct in questioning your guests about any concerns before they turn up on your doorstop.

Airbnb is a rapidly growing company that has a strong web presence. It is similar to couchsurfing but it is not free. In many cases, however, the nightly rate is much, much lower than a nightly hotel rate. Again, the philosophy is about forming relationships and learning about how other people live while you stay with them in their home. Hosts are most helpful in suggesting shopping and fun things to check out in their city. There is a comfort associated with Airbnb as they provide a $1,000,000 insurance policy on your property while you are hosting. The company also provides a professional photographer to photograph your home, showing potential renters how the property looks.  This past fall, my daughter and I stayed in Sonoma County, California, in a beautiful Airbnb home that was owned by an architect. Not only was her home absolutely gorgeous, she offered many suggestions to restaurants, outings, wine vineyard tastings and allowed us to share the use of her kitchen. Using both CouchSurfing and Airbnb, I have made life-long friends.

Being a teacher won’t make you rich, but there are plenty of fringe benefits. Here’s one: those who are associated with education or academics, and who will be traveling and staying in one place for at least a few days, weeks or months, might be interested in Sabbatical Homes. Although membership is free, contributions are accepted. The fee for posting a listing is $45 (educators) and $65 (others). Educators may post a home-wanted ad for free, while others pay $20 for this service. Listings are valid for 14 months and are renewable. Home rentals, exchanges and home sitting opportunities are available. I don’t have personal experience with this service because I’ve never stayed in one place too long! However, if I ever find a “favorite” place internationally and want to live there for a couple of weeks, I would definitely use this resource.

Another resource for educators is Educators Travel Network (ETN). This innovative membership-based travel network is for people who currently work in, or have retired from, the field of education. Membership fees are $36 per year and as a member, you have access to entire homes for $40-$50/night. There is also a reward program in place. You receive $10 in ETN Reward Dollars each night that you host. These Reward Dollars count toward billing from ETN, as well as annual membership renewals. Unfortunately I don’t have personal experience with this resource, but hope to try it out soon!

In closing, I want to encourage you to be brave and trust the world for a change. There are so many people that want you as their friend. The media wants us to believe that the world is a scary place, but I refuse to believe it. We’ve all got a lot to learn from one another. Sharing a home and a meal is a step toward world peace and understanding. Let me know if you have personal experience with any of these forms of accommodations. Be adventurous and try it this summer! Happy traveling!

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