Rocking in Charlotte

Rocking in Charlotte

Relaxing in CLT

Sitting under a leafy tree enjoying the winter sunshine, I rocked slowly back and forth, feeling calm and disconnected from the folks who hurried by.  As I caught up on some reading, I realized how unusual the setting really was. Was I observing small town life from my grandmother’s porch swing?  No, I was enjoying a 3-hour layover in the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, along with a few dozen other travelers.

The Charlotte rockers started back in 1997 as a prop for a temporary photography exhibit called “Porchsitting, A Charlotte Regional Family Album.”  The chairs were placed in the tree-lined atrium of the main terminal with the intention to convey the relaxing comfort of the traditional southern porch. They quickly became more than idle accents.  Travelers enjoyed rocking and complained when the chairs were removed at the end of the exhibit.  In response, they were brought back and became a permanent fixture.

Airport rockers have now become a trend and are a hit in some of the nation’s busiest airports, including Dallas/Ft. Worth, San Diego and Seattle.  Handmade rockers were also recently introduced in four airports in Finland.  Named “Kennedy Rockers,” the chairs at CLT are handcrafted in North Carolina from aged oak logs and modeled after the type that John F. Kennedy used to alleviate back pain.

Rocking may also have therapeutic benefits, and studies conducted at the Medical College of Virginia have shown that kinetic therapy can dramatically accelerate healing in severely ill patients.  In fact, rocking can be beneficial for everything from nurturing premature babies, building mother-child attachment and soothing autistic children and adults to providing relief for arthritis patients.

I’m not claiming that the rocker is a miracle cure for every condition, but hey – it can’t hurt.  A willing “test subject,” I can confirm that rocking did indeed help with the back pain and stress that I experienced while lugging heavy bags around.  And it does seem to reduce the stress associated with air travel. So if you have a choice between passing through Charlotte Douglas International and another busy hub, trust me – rocking in Charlotte is the way to go.

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A Walk Down Sandy Lane

Oxfordshire Footpath

Oxfordshire Way Footpath

I recently stayed at a lovely conference center not too far from Oxford, and I’m told that it has a nice gym.  But who needs a treadmill with beautiful countryside just outside the door?  Each day I’d choose a destination and trek the nearby country lane to the bus stop about a mile away.  The sun was shining, the weather was fair, and during that walk I saw families of pheasants, old barns, ripe pumpkins, grazing sheep, bright red berries and boughs of ivy.

Take a walk with me in the English countryside on a beautiful autumn day.

The Path

Stairway

Granary

Wabisabi Gate

Shady Lane Farm

Parenting a Traveler

Another Departure

Another Departure

Today is my firstborn daughter’s 25th birthday, and my three kids are on three continents – and not for the first time. The eldest has lived in eight different countries for periods ranging from a few weeks to many years, and she has lived in five of those countries without us.

This is the third and last in a parenting series that included parenting designers and singers. Add a world traveler, and you have a road show!

Parenting a traveler can be both thrilling and uncomfortable. It will inspire you and force you to trust and let go. Do you suspect that you might be raising a traveler? Read on!

It started with books. The seeds of wanderlust may be sown long before your future traveler can strike out on her own. In our case, it started with stories. We read about all sorts of people (and creatures) in all kinds of places. That lit a spark.

Get out of the house. You don’t have to be international jet setters to expand your horizons. Sometimes you need to just get out of the house and explore in your own backyard. Try an ethnic restaurant or visit a cultural festival. If you feel like staying home, try some international recipes, watch movies or celebrate a holiday from another culture. The world is everything around you and travel can start close to home.

Move beyond your limits. As your young traveler grows, she will push limits and seek out opportunities. Guide and protect if appropriate, but don’t let your own fear limit your child’s exploration. When she calls you to tell you she just won an exchange trip to France – at age 14 – cheer! And when she goes to college more than 1000 miles away or studies abroad, smile, encourage – and get a Skype account. Resist the urge to resist, stand up to your fear and learn to let go. You may even grow in the process.

Invest in good luggage. When you see that there’s no holding your traveler back, show your support and invest in some decent bags. Test the zippers and handles, and look for spinners that can withstand cobblestones or gravel roads. You know this is no short-term phase and it’s more than a bag. It’s home.

Don’t know much about geography. Quick – do you know what U.A.E. stands for? Can you spot The Netherlands on a map? If you don’t want to feel completely ignorant and inadequate in comparison to your offspring, it’s time to brush up on your geography. If you don’t, you’ll often find yourself “educated.”  Maps make lovely décor, National Geographics go for a quarter at the library sale and travel websites abound. When your traveler is off to exotic places, you may find yourself paying more attention to current events. Learn, be aware – it’s never too late.

Keep calm and let it be. When kids venture out into the world, they will face challenges. Things will go wrong. Kids will make mistakes. Things won’t be like they are at home. That’s the point! Now is the time to develop your listening skills and be supportive. It may be tough when the political climate is unstable and she reassures you that she’s avoiding the protests and teargas. Raising a traveler can be exhilarating. I never said it would be easy.

Goethe said, “There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings.” When you are parenting a traveler, you’ll both be at your best when you trust the roots are strong and let them fly.

 

Travel by Design

The journey is about more than the trip

Experience Time Span (iversity.org)

I recently took an online class called “Design Thinking” through iversity.org, a platform for Massive Open Online Courses based in Germany.  One lecture sparked an interest in designing user experience and made me think about travel.

The simple visual above perfectly describes my travel experience.

Stage 1 is The Vision.  When I know that I will be taking a trip, I begin to imagine the experience as I plan activities.  Anticipating the journey, I am already experiencing it in my mind.  I can almost feel the cobblestones under my feet, smell the sea breeze or hear the animated chatter in the marketplace.

The next phase is The Experience.  While I’m traveling, I tune into the moment with intensity.  Unfamiliarity sharpens my senses, as I notice every detail around me.  Colors seem brighter, tastes more memorable and sounds that might go unnoticed at home form a cacophonous symphony.  I feel awake and alive.

The 3rd stage is Reflection.  When the journey is over, I return home and reflect.  Instead of being just a checklist of tourist attractions, each experience becomes embedded in my psyche and changes my perspective.

The final phase, which may last a lifetime, is The Story.  This is the memory that becomes a piece of well-worn quilt that I wrap around my shoulders.  Over time, the memories may lose intensity, but they are still colorful tiles in life’s mosaic.

Thinking about the entire process makes me realize how wonderful it is to incorporate design thinking into the trip.  When I become the creator, each journey is unique and the experience is entirely mine.  Instead of standing behind the crowd that glances at the Mona Lisa and heads to the next destination, I turn around and discover a joyful masterpiece on another wall.  Walking the streets of a German town, we happen upon a tiny printing museum and are treated to a leisurely private tour with a knowledgeable master.  On our way to the Alamo, we take a detour and find the peaceful garden at the Spanish Governor’s Palace.  Allowing time to get lost and time to explore, we discover forgotten paths and hidden treasures.

Experience design means paying attention to the details and thinking about the entire process – before, during and after.  When it comes to travel, it means creating a loose plan and allowing plenty of time and opportunity for exploration and serendipity.  Planning means that I know the address to plug into the GPS, the names of cities I’ll visit and the place I might sleep.  But the time in between unfolds as it unfolds.  I design the experience, do my research and plan the “ingredients,” but how it all comes together is something totally unexpected and memorable.

 

Signs of the Times (& VW Vans)

These landmarks, signs and vans caught my eye on a recent trip to Austin.  My husband says that if I had my way I’d live in a VW van.  He may be right.

Johnny's Bike Shop.  Classic.

Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop. Classic.

What's Your Favorite?

What’s your favorite?

Hut's Hamburgers

Totally Austin

Totally Austin

Lucy's Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant

Where retired surfers go to eat

No Reservations

Photograph by Felipe Ordonez – http://www.travel.nationalgeographic.com

Birdsong pierces the thin walls

of consciousness

as the sun warms the tent.

Last night I slept in an olive grove

on a hill above Florence,

today it’s on to Sarteano by way of Siena

and the fertile fields of Tuscany.

Willing slave to adventure,

I go where Mistress GPS commands.

I make a choice

random points on the map

…here

…there

but what awaits me in between?

That’s the delicious mystery.

I drink it all in and it becomes part of me.

Waves crashing in a hidden cove,

forum steps where people gather,

painted walls of sun-warmed stucco,

stone bodies frozen in ecstasy,

arches that draw the eye upward in wonder,

and ancient streets long covered in ash.

Fully awake,  joyfully alive

I celebrate the journey.

~Kim Montes

Around the World #1: Germany and Swabian Apple Bread Pudding

The journey begins where it ended this summer:  in the beautiful Black Forest and Swabian Jura of Southwestern Germany.

While in Stuttgart, we stayed at Campingplatz Cannstatter Wasen, a convenient site wedged between the Neckar river and a vast fairground to the east.  All was quiet when we visited in June, but now it’s festival time and in September and October the Cannstatter Volksfest is in full swing.  The event started in the 1800’s as a one-day harvest festival, but has evolved into a three-week celebration considered to be the second largest beer festival in the world after Munich’s Oktoberfest.

Cannstatter Volksfest near Stuttgart

Cannstatter Volksfest near Stuttgart

It was in Stuttgart that I met Silvi and family for the first time, and when we said goodbye she presented me with a small gift – a cookbook that featured traditional Swabian recipes so that I could remember our visit.  In honor of new family and fond memories, my first recipe is a perfect way to celebrate autumn’s apple crop.

Swabian Apple Bread Pudding (Ofenschlupfer)

4 apples

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon rum

1 teaspoon cinnamon

6 bread rolls or 4-5 slices white bread

1½ cups milk (approximately)

4 tablespoons butter

5 eggs, separated

3 tablespoons sugar

pinch of cinnamon

1/4 cup raisins (optional)

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

3-4 tablespoons ground almonds

butter to garnish, or 2 egg whites and 3 tablespoons of sugar

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 375°.

Peel, quarter and slice apples.  Mix with 3 T. sugar and rum and leave to allow flavors to blend.

Remove crusts from sliced bread or slice rolls into thin slices and moisten with milk.  Beat butter until fluffy and then blend in egg yolks, remaining sugar, cinnamon and ground almonds (I use a mini food processor).  Whisk egg whites separately until stiff.  Fold apple slices and raisins and egg white into the butter/egg yolk mixture.  Grease an 8″ square oven proof pan with butter or cooking spray and sprinkle with bread crumbs.  Layer the bread slices and apple mixture and dot with butter on the top.  Bake the apple pudding for 30-40 minutes at 375° until golden brown.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Apple Bread Pudding

 

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