The New York Marathon – a runners perspective…

Hopefully I will be this cheerful at the finish...

Hopefully I will be this cheerful at the finish…

Many of my readers may not know, but I will be running in the New York City Marathon this coming November. I am raising $5,000 for Animals Asia and have called it the Moon Bear Marathon in honour of the moon bears I am helping to save from the horrific practice of bile farming in Asia.

Not being a marathon runner I am a little (a lot) nervous but having read this blog post from Pip Coates, an Australian journalist who blogs about running, I am feeling a wee bit better! See what you think:

If you’re contemplating a trip to New York, the best time to go is in early November and the best way to see the city is by taking a unique tour that covers all five boroughs- Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. The tour takes anywhere from three to five hours and all streets along the route are closed to traffic for your exclusive access; it’s the only New York tour to offer such a service.

Along the way you’ll be entertained by more than 130 live bands, each one a musical representation of the cultural diversity of the neighbourhoods you pass through. Food and drink is provided every kilometre. Numbers are limited to about 45,000 and entry costs from $327 but, despite this, every year it’s harder to score a ticket.

The tour is called the lNG New York Marathon and, yes, you have to run 42.2 kilometres- or 26 miles- non-stop, but that is actually what makes it fun. Especially as you’re doing it with runners from about 80 countries. This event is at once a race, an intense personal challenge, a cultural exchange, a sightseeing tour, a music festival and a giant carnival. If there’s only one marathon in you, this should be it because it’s the only marathon in the world with enough crowd power to help carry you over the line.

The race begins from Staten Island with a steady climb up and over the two kilometre-long Verrazano Narrows bridge that spans the Hudson River. Manhattan – your final destination –looks very far away. As the sun rises, 45,000 pairs of sneakers smack the bitumen. Some runners record the moment on their smartphones; others cheer. The adrenaline courses through your veins; the scene is so at odds with the hours of solitary training in pre-dawn winter darkness that you ‘ve endured to get here.

OMG!

OMG!

Once over the Narrows your marathon tour arrives in Brooklyn and a rapturous greeting from the first of some 2 million spectators who will be lining the course and waving signs saying “Black toenails are sexy” , “You’ve got stamina! Call me”, and “You are NOT nearly there”.

The sidewalk enthusiasm evaporates as you enter Brooklyn ‘s ultra-orthodox Jewish neighbourhood where the locals appear to consider you an invading alien force, which to some extent you are. But a few streets later you’re back in the madness passing a yarmulka-wearing rock band with a banner out front declaring: “Shalom to all kosher marathoners. ”

After Brooklyn and Queens, you traverse the long and steep Queensborough Bridge. New York is the hilliest of the five major marathons (Boston, London, Berlin and Chicago are the other four)and here, at about the 15-mile mark, you need to stay focused . You descend into the exit tunnel, take a 90-degree turn and emerge at the southernmost end of First Avenue, Manhattan.

You know you’ve arrived in Manhattan before you see it. The almost deafening roar of countless cheering spectators ricochets off the tunnel walls and when you emerge onto the avenue the scene is staggering: thousands upon thousands of runners and fans stretch straight ahead of you for almost 70 blocks: Those 70 blocks get pretty tedious, however, and despite some entertaining signage (“Run total stranger, run “), it’s almost a relief to cross another bridge into the Bronx. This is the 20-mile mark and things can get a bit hazy. You’re tired and a little voice is trying to fill your head with negative thoughts. Then someone goes and waves a banner saying “It’s OK to cry”. Just as you consider doing so, the live music intervenes. This time it’s Alicia Keys (sounds like her, looks like her) singing Empire State of Mind. You kick on.

Your tour arrives back on Manhattan at 138th Street. It’s time for the return push south along the island – 48 blocks of straight grind up Fifth Avenue. Fortunately the crazy supporters haven’t run out of puff and when at last you turn into Central Park at 90th street, it’s a blessed relief. Yes, you will hurt and there will be scenes of carnage among some of the other runners, but the magnificent, dazzling display of autumn colours throughout the park can still fill you with joy.

With about 2.2 miles to go it’s time to draw on all your reserves of mental strength and remind yourself how to run properly as your body is close to seizing up in protest. It’s time to think about why you signed up for this tour, how much it means to you, who you are doing it for.

A few more bends in the road, the faces flash by and then you hear the blissful sound of the race announcer counting down the final few hundred metres. It’s all you can focus on: the finish line, the blue timing mats, the crowds in the stands, the overhead electronic timing clocks.

You run so hard to the end- and then it’s over. You can stop, but you can hardly stand, the emotion is overwhelming. Someone wraps you in a heat sheet, someone else pins it together and then someone drapes a heavy medal around your neck and takes a photo. You’ve completed the world’s biggest marathon. And you’ve got a medal to prove it.

If you would like to help me achieve my $5,000 goal towards the rescue of  moon bears from bile farming feel free to donate here!

Read Pip’s blog here. 

How to travel on a whim

It's time to take off...

It’s time to take off…

I recently read an article written by Tresa Erikson in a magazine called Woman here in Central Pennsylvania and it really struck a cord with me. Hubby and I regularly hop on our motorbike and take off for the weekend (we don’t have kids) as the state is full of great winding roads through the countryside that end up in quaint little historic towns. Let me share:

When was the last time you jumped into the car and left town with no real sense of where you were headed? It wasn’t that long ago that anyone looking for an adventure would throw some clothes into a bag, toss the bag into the trunk and take off. Ahh, the freedom of the open road. You can have that feeling again. The trick is to do a lot less planning and have a lot more fun.

Jobs, appointments, family activities – the more responsibilities you have, the less likely you can just take off one day on a road trip. You will have to find a time when everyone can go and you will have to pack all the right stuff, but beyond that, what do you do?

You don’t hop online and map out the daily agenda, down to the finest detail. You select a general area to visit, make sure there are places to stay for the night and find a time when everyone can go. Then, you pack for the weather, gas up the car and head out with some cash or credit cards on hand. It’s that simple. You have a general sense of where you are headed, but you don’t exactly know what you are going to do until you get there. You just choose a road and cruise.

You don’t let your odometer or watch dictate your trip. You drive until you see something of interest and then you stop for a visit. It could be a small- town antique mall, an urban art museum or a zip line tour. It could be something you heard about, like a tasty restaurant, roadside attraction or national park. The key is to keep your eyes open and stop as the opportunity arises. Remember, you have no place you have to get to by a certain time, so you are free to enjoy the open road.

Read the entire article here.

Timeless Travel Uses for Ziploc Bags

IMG_1100zip-loc

A Ziploc for every occasion!

As a frequent traveller, I cannot go anywhere without my Ziploc bags. They are perfect for so many uses, they are waterproof, see-through and you can write on them. And they hardly cost a cent!

Travel Bloggers.ca wrote a great article  on them which will certainly give you a few ideas before you pack your bags:

  1. Underwear: It makes it a lot easier when if the customs people decide to open your suitcase and rummage through it – no tell-tale underwear dropping out for all to see! Also great for keeping socks together.
  2. When I’m on a trip I use one to hold all the travel-related ‘stuff’ I pick up like brochures from hotels and attractions.
  3. Souvenir Protector: Pack fragile souvenirs in your suitcase, surrounded by two or three Ziplocs filled with air – or you can use the ones with socks/underwear to help protect the souvenirs too.
  4. Waterproof Billfold: Keep your passport, money, and other precious documents dry by storing them neatly in a sandwich-sized Ziploc. Ever get stuck in a rainstorm with your passport in your pocket? This will keep everything nice and dry.
  5. Jewellery Keeper: Put earrings or other small items into a sandwich-sized Ziploc and slip it into your bathroom bag. It’ll save your more precious items from getting lost.
  6. Electronics: Store all of your electronics, wires, chargers, MP3 players, etc. in a large Ziploc. You can see what’s in it while it’s closed, and it’ll keep your things together in one place so they don’t get lost in the nooks and crannies of your suitcase/bag.
  7. Swimsuit Bag: Put wet swimsuits into a large Ziploc until you get home or back to the hotel – works great for other wet clothes too.
  8. Inspection Bag: We put all of our liquids for our carry-on into one for quick inspection at the airport counter.
  9. Make Up & Liquids: Double-bagging all makeup and liquids such as hair spray, shampoo and conditioner means if there’s ever an explosion or leak it won’t ruin clothes.
  10. Camera Bag: Store your camera in a Ziploc to keep it safe and dry – especially if you’re going to be anywhere near water such as kayaking, boating etc.  It’s easy to remove, take some pictures and return it to safety. If the kayak or boat tips, your camera will be fine if it ends up in the water.
  11. Ice Pack: We travel with a small collapsible cooler for storing bottled water on our trips and just fill a Ziploc with ice every day to keep our drinks cold.
  12. Foreign Currency: Use a Ziploc bag to hold your home currency while travelling, and for storing foreign currency at home between trips.
  13. Wet Wipes: Wet washcloths and add some soapy water to have your own wet wipes on the go. The bag holds the water effortlessly and you can be use the cloth to wipe sticky fingers and lips or clean up a spill.

Read the entire article from Travel Bloggers here.

Timely Travel Tips…

One small bag for man - one giant leap for avoiding airport crowds!

One small bag for man – one giant leap for avoiding airport crowds!

Since we are literally heading out the door to do a road trip for July 4th weekend, this post from Unclutterer.com was very timely! I love being able to take off at the drop of a hat and having your bags packed and ready to go is an essential step:

“I absolutely love getting away, be it a day trip or an overseas adventure. As an avid traveler, I’ve picked up a few tricks to eliminate the stress of getting out the door and onto the road in a timely manner. One of my favorites is to keep items in luggage that I never unpack. It’s always ready and saves me a lot of time. Plus, it keeps me from having to store my travel items in other locations when they’re not in use — the luggage is a great place to store my travel gear. The following are items I keep bagged, even when I’m at home.

I keep a travel toiletries bag packed and ready at all times (very important!)

A small bag for on the plane

If you’ll be flying or traveling by bus or train, it’s helpful to pre-pack a small bag of things you might want to keep under the seat in front of you. It might include extra chargers for your electronic devices (many bus and train seats have outlets), copies of prescriptions for active medicines, a little cash (you may want to buy on-board food), and your own empty water bottle.

I recommend buying an extra charger for your phone and keeping it stashed in this bag. Yes, it’s an additional cost but forgetting it at home or worse, at your destination, is a major hassle. Put it in your bag and forget about it.

Also consider bringing your own earphones if you want to watch TV without using airline freebies, a neck pillow and something light to throw over yourself in case it is chilly. Finally, don’t forget ear plugs, gum or an eye mask/sunglasses for sleeping. Again, these can be purchased and packed well ahead of time.

Read the entire article here.

9 Tips to Tackle Your Emails When Travelling

Why won't they stop???

This recent post from Unclutterer is so relevant for me at the moment and I am sure many of my readers will find it interesting too. Here are 9 tips that may help you to stay on top of the plethora of emails that don’t stop when you are travelling:

  1. Tie yourself to a smartphone. If you want to stay on top of email, you have to keep a smartphone on you. Keep the ringer off and the message alerts set to vibrate.
  2. Enable automatic sorting and color coding in your smartphone’s email program. Have a filter that automatically routes all messages out of your inbox and into separate folders where you are copied instead of listed as the main recipient, all newsletters or read-only emails you subscribe to, and all emails from sources you know are not going to be must-respond-now messages. Have your system color code messages from your boss and/or other very important folks so these messages will catch your attention when they come into your main inbox. (If you’re on a Windows-based phone, there are macros and add-ins for Outlook you can install. If you can legally route your work email through Gmail, you can also do this. I was unable to find an app for the iPhone that enables these features.)
  3. Check messages during lulls in your schedule. As you wait in the line at the airport, switch between sessions at a conference, or grab a snack, process your priority emails then.
  4. Only check work email. If someone needs to contact you about an important personal matter, he/she will text or call you. Check your personal email account on weekends or after you get home from traveling.
  5. Only respond to items that can be handled in less than one minute. Delegate as much as possible, delete or archive anything that doesn’t need a response, and only send short messages of less than a paragraph to the priority emails you respond to.
  6. Manage expectations. Have an automated out-of-office message enabled on your account that says you will have limited access to emails and no one should expect a response until you are back in the office (be sure to list that specific date). Provide detailed contact information for someone in the office who may be able to handle emergencies, and give that person in the office your cell number so he/she can call you if there is a major event. Also, let your office contact know when you expect to be on flights and/or completely out of connection.
  7. Manage more expectations. When you reply to someone from your smartphone, have a “Sent from mobile device, please excuse typos and brevity” signature on the bottom of every message. You might also want to consider posting your return date on your out-of-office message as the day after you return so you have a full day to gather your bearings once you’re back in the office. Under promise, over deliver.
  8. Have access to cloud file storage. Not all smartphones allow you to attach documents, so you’ll need to be able to send links to documents stored online with services like Dropbox. If your employer doesn’t allow file posting online and attaching documents to emails is essential to your job, you’ll want to get the smallest, lightest laptop you can because you’re going to have to carry it with you instead of a smartphone.
  9. Work on email every night when you get to your hotel room. It will add to your workday, but taking 30 minutes or an hour every night to process the entirety of all your email inboxes and folders will guarantee you don’t have an avalanche of messages when you get back to your office.

Read more here: http://unclutterer.com/2012/04/03/how-to-manage-email-when-traveling-for-work/

How to easily lift the energy of your home – and your life!

3 rings a day keeps the doctor away!

I have just recently returned from a fabulous couple of weeks in Phuket celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. While I was there I picked up a lovely bell from the Big Buddha statue to use to lift the energy of the homes of my Feng Shui clients. It sounds delightful.

But when I returned and had jetlag for the first day, I started ringing the bell and almost immediately my mood and feelings of lethargy lifted – it was amazing! The same happened effect happened to the energy of the house when I walked around ringing the bell – everything seems lighter and brighter (sounds bizarre I know!)

I then came across an article online that outlined this very effect:

Once stagnation sets in around your home, you may also experience a rise in aches and pains and you may feel less energetic, and maybe even depressed.

Low home vitality can express itself in your personal energy, creating fatigue and lethargy. Over time, it can make you vulnerable to other afflictions and problems that range from rashes, allergies, and infections.

If you find that your energy is low and little health complaints numerous, it might be a good idea to employ sound therapy in your home.

What is sound therapy?

A house that is still and quiet is the type of home that creates yin energy – and over time that kind of energy can depress the person with even the brightest and happiest outlook.

To lift the energy of your home, try incorporating the clear, pure sounds of a brass bell. The sound of a bell emits a tonal frequency that cuts through yin energy and dispels it from your home.

Begin by ringing a bell in the centre of the room or house and then move from the door in a clockwise fashion making sure to ring the bell in dark corners and stagnant areas. These areas collect yin energy and become a vacuum, drawing more yin energy to them.

When a bell is used, the sound penetrates through the yin energy and creates a clearing effect. Do this three times in each room to fully penetrate the area with cleansing sound chi.

If you want to permanently lift your energy and the energy around your home, be sure to use sound therapy daily. Install a water fountain, play music, or hang a windchime near a window to keep your home filled with active, natural sounds.

Even a radio or TV playing will keep a home energized with the sounds of life and activity – a key to keeping your home’s chi vibrant and the chi energized and refreshed.

Send Kerri to China (it’s for a good cause!)

I am the one on the left...

I am so excited – I am taking the trip of a lifetime to walk the Great Wall of China to help my beloved bears find freedom and a new home!

I’m raising much needed funds in the China Moon Bear Challenge for Animals Asia to assist them with the vital work they do in trying to make the horrible practice of bear farming a thing of the past!

 

The China Moon Bear Challenge aims to raise funds to continue the rescue and rehabilitation of Moon Bears from the extremely cruel practice of bear bile farming inChina, and bring them to the sanctuary inChengdu,Sichuan Province to live out their lives freely in a beautiful bamboo forest without pain or fear.

In the bile farms, the bears experience unimaginable horror by spending all day, every day, in tight, coffin-sized cages for as long as 25 years. They are milked daily (usually twice) for their bile in an excruciatingly painful process through crude (often filthy) implanted catheters and are sometimes  fitted with an iron corset to hold the catheters in place.

The bears moan and writhe in pain as the bile drains from their bodies. Sometimes the farmers mutilate the bears by breaking their teeth or pulling out their claws (sometimes removing entire digits) so that they can approach them without being injured.

Some cages have a collapsible top that can “crush” the bear and immobilise it better during the process. The bears are denied adequate water and food as this produces more bile.

The bile is used in traditional Chinese medicine, even though there are more than 50 cheap and effective herbal and synthetic alternatives readily available.

In 2000, after years of lobbying and negotiating, Animals Asia signed a landmark agreement with the Chinese authorities to rescue 500 Moon Bears and work towards ending the barbaric practice of bear bile farming.

Officially there are about 7000 bears  in bile farms in China, but Animals Asia fear there could be as many as 10,000.

As a participant of the Moon Bear Rescue Challenge for Animals Asia, I am raising vitally required funds used for the medical attention and rehousing of the rescued Moon Bears, and I will be visiting the Moon Bear sanctuary inChinain May 2012.

Please help me make a difference.

Click here to read more and make a donation (every little bit counts!)  https://www.gofundraise.com.au/page/KerriChinaMoonBearChallenge

The bears even have their own Facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/Help.Rescue.The.Bears

Purchase a copy of my eBook The Essential Guide to Declutter and Organise Your Home and 100% of all sales goes to the China Moon Bear Challenge! Buy your copy for only $5.95 here:  http://www.domesticdownsizing.com.au/products.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 tops tips for simple, stress free travel…

Hooray for iron free clothing!

The professional organisers association had our montly meeting this morning and we got onto the topic of travelling and packing tips. Then lo and beyond, here in my inbox is Zen Habits once again with the very same thing: we must certainly be on the same wavelength! I am heading off to Sydney tomorrow and Thailand in a couple of weeks so this blog post certainly appeals to me.

Here are 7 top tips for packing light and travelling easily:

Essential

  1. Pack little. Take a small backpack, and don’t pack it too heavy either: one pair of jeans, 2-3 T-shirts, 2-3 quick-dry underwear,  maybe a light sweater. Wash things in the shower if they get dirty and hang them to dry overnight. Minimal toiletries: deodorant, toothbrush, liquid soap, dental floss, basic makeup. There is no need to check your bag for flights and you can pack in 5 minutes.
  2. Have no agenda. I often ask for recommendations from locals, and get a list of incredible things. I’ll also put everything on a Google Map, so I can see where everything is. Then I toss all that out and let the day lead me where it will. Having no set agenda means you aren’t pressured to get anything done each day, which means you can enjoy yourself fully.
  3. Walk a lot. The best way to explore any place is to walk. Walk all over, with no set directions. Get lost.
  4. Eat lightly. Eat anything you want, but don’t eat a lot. I like to mix fruits and veggies in with the heavier stuff, so I don’t feel so heavy.
  5. Find space to relax. Most people try to do too much, and rush around all day. Stroll casually, find good coffee shops or tea shops to relax in, or a good sidewalk cafe with good wine. Find parks and enjoy them. If it rains, walk in the rain. Read a lot.
  6. Be present. Don’t be on your smartphone or laptop all the time. Don’t always think about what you’ll be doing later, or work stuff. Be fully present, and you’ll have a great time.
  7. Smile at people. Talk to the locals. Ask for recommendations. Find out about their lives.
Read the entire Zen Habits article here: http://zenhabits.net/travel/

The perfect solution for camping cookware!

Just like a set of babushka dolls!

Having just returned from an Easter camping trip (on a motor cycle!), I can truly appreciate this fantastic set of cooking pots that all fit inside each other for perfect storage.

My husband and I can only manage a small saucepan and a frying pan – hence our meals are usually boring pasta, rice or sausages! Think of the feasts we could make in these. Now all we need is someone to invent a 5 burner fold up stove!

Available from Amazon (a bargain with the Aussie dollar being so high) they can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/MSR-Flex-4-System-Cookset/dp/B001QWFAE2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=sporting-goods&qid=1303959077&sr=1-1

5 strategies for surviving the stresses of travel

Gorgeous countryside wherever you look in NZ...

Having just returned from 10 days in New Zealand, I am still on the “travel high” – the high you get when your body still hasn’t adjusted itself back to regular time, when your travel clothes still haven’t been washed and you are busily downloading photos from your camera.

Unfortunately not everyone has such a great time when they travel; there are just so many little things that can go wrong that often do – if you let them!

A recent post by Zen Habits gave me some good insights into how to “go with the flow” and bounce back from any setback that is thrown your way:

From departure lounges all over the world to nice hotels on every continent, I see the same thing no matter where I go: some people are having the time of their lives, and others, well, would rather be at home.

There are probably several reasons for this phenomenon of unhappy tourists, but one of them is that  travel can be overly stressful and unnecessarily complicated. If travel becomes too complicated, you can end up defeating yourself before any external pressures even arrive.

To counter the stress, here are 5 “big-picture” strategies and 8 specific, practical tips you can use to simplify your next big trip. Some of them will help you save time and money – both worthy goals – but all will help you cut out some of the stress.

5 Big-Picture Strategies

Create Your Own Travel Philosophy – Prioritize what’s important to you, and plan your trip according to that. A lot of people have expectations or ideas about travel that they have received from others. I think it’s better to decide for yourself what you value about travel as well as how you like to travel.

As for me, I like to do it all. I go between nice hotels like the one I’m at in Egypt and $10 hostels… or even sleeping on the floor of airports from Dallas to Singapore. Yes, I know it’s crazy, but that’s the point – I travel on my own terms. Why not discover what you enjoy and do that?

Become comfortable with some amounts of stress – I don’t think it’s possible to travel completely stress-free; I’m more interested in finding a low-stress solution. You might be able to avoid any stress at all by escaping reality on a deserted island, but that kind of trip is rarely gratifying in the end. Focus instead on reducing stress by making simple choices.

Goal-Setting and Vacations – It sounds strange to some, but I suspect manyZen Habits readers will “get it” – I recommend setting a few personal goals for every trip, even a vacation. My goals may be as simple as running a few miles every day or writing two pages in my journal every morning, or they may be more detailed like completing a writing project I’ve been working on. If you have daily habits of productivity and goal-setting, you don’t need to completely set them aside just because you’re away from home.

Forgive yourself for mistakes – I’ve been to 94 countries so far in my quest tovisit every country in the world, and I’ve probably made every mistake you can think of. A couple of months ago in between visits to Iraq and Eastern Europe, I even double-booked myself on two completely non-refundable flights home to Seattle. Yes, I assure you – if a travel mistake is possible, I have most likely made it. Along the way, I’ve learned that whenever I do something stupid, I have to let it go at some point.

Travel Zen – Even if you didn’t make the mistake, lots of disruptions and challenges can easily set you back while you’re in a distant land. Here’s where I invoke the Travel Zen mantra: “Life is an adventure.” If I wanted routine, I could have stayed home.

To read more go here: http://zenhabits.net/13-ways-to-simplify-international-travel/