You are unique – don’t be afraid to be yourself

A year ago I visited New Orleans. I had not been there in over 20 years. It is a unique American city. It has fantastic food, warm weather, fascinating people, and can be a lot of fun. I saw some things that were disturbing – lots of drunks, too many homeless people, and a carefree lifestyle that creates destructive results. But, it is easy to see the bad things in a place like New Orleans and miss the good.

Jill and I hanging out in Jackson's Square in New Orleans historic French Quarter.
Jill and I hanging out in Jackson’s Square in New Orleans historic French Quarter.

New Orleans is a unique city

One thing I noticed in New Orleans is that people are relaxed and able to be themselves. They let who they are show. My sense is that too many people spend a lot of time and energy trying to please others and be someone different than who they really are. This constant concern about what others think about you creates unnecessary frustration and consternation. I am not saying to be weird or strange, just to draw attention to yourself. Rather I am saying that you are unique, so don’t be afraid to be yourself. For example, I like to smoke cigars. For years and years, I did not because I was worried about what others might say. Nowadays I enjoy a good cigar whenever I want to.

Enjoying a good cigar in New Orleans.
Enjoying a good cigar in New Orleans.

It’s just better to be yourself than to try to be some version of what you think the other person wants.
– Matt Damon

Why I enjoy New York City

I never visited New York City until the past few years. No particular reason, just never went there when I was young. More recently, I have visited New York several times. Each trip was different. My first time there, I went by myself and ran the NYC half-marathon. It was exciting to run through Central Park, around the wide city streets, and finish in downtown Manhattan. One time, Jill and I went there to see one of my favorite bands, U2, perform at Madison Square Garden. The last two times, Riley and I visited to see the sites and learn more about the city. After these trips, I have come to the conclusion that I really enjoy visiting NYC – one of America’s great cities.

Riley in New York City with the Flatiron Building in the background.
Riley in New York City with the Flatiron Building in the background.

I think one can go there, and not have a good time. NYC is loud (all the honking car horns), dirty (like all major cities), and can be dangerous if you are not careful. Riding in a NYC city taxi can be a religious experience, and the subway seems like a magnet for strange people. But, it is easy to see the dark side of NYC more than what it has to offer visitors. Three compelling reasons why I enjoy NYC:

The sites are great

Each time I am there I see something new. This past weekend, we had great weather, so we visited Central Park at sunset, went to the top of the Empire State building, and hung out in Washington Square near NYU. The views from One World observatory are incredible, the 9/11 memorials are very well done, and there are too many great museums to list here.

Riley and I in Central Park. We had great weather for the entire trip.
Riley and I in Central Park. We had great weather for the entire trip.

The food is excellent

I always eat well when visiting NYC. The city is full of choices. Just walk around and you can find a great place to eat without spending too much money. Many say that the pizza in NYC is the best anywhere – I think they are right. We went to Prince Street pizza and it was excellent. Tiny place with a line out the door for good reason.

We always stop by Prince Street Pizza for lunch. It is tiny, but awesome food.
We always stop by Prince Street Pizza for lunch. It is tiny, but awesome food.

It is a huge melting pot

You will hear many languages, experience different cultures, and see things in NYC that you will not see in other parts of the US. The pace of life there seems intense, and I am convinced that the city never really sleeps (similar to New Orleans). At times, it can be challenging, but I feel like it forces me to get out of my comfort zone and learn new things.

Riley and I visited the Met in NYC - one of the largest art museums in the world.
Riley and I visited the Met in NYC – one of the largest art museums in the world.

I plan to keep visiting NYC in the future to see more of it. It is worth the effort. I will take you boys with me whenever you want to go, and we can experience the big apple together.

These little town blues, are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it, in old New York
If I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York
– Frank Sinatra

Learn from other cultures

Two years ago we visited Germany. You were afforded the opportunity to experience a lot of different things from German culture. You saw new places, you ate new foods, you learned about German history, and you saw German culture first-hand. It is important to leave the US and see the world. Many Americans stay within our borders and do not even have a passport. Don’t make this mistake. Be a world traveler.

Gavin and Riley on the plane bound for Germany and Austria.
Gavin and Riley on the plane bound for Germany and Austria.

No other country is like America

Make the most of these trips. Learn from other cultures – both the good and the bad. The Germans do some things better than we do in America, and they also have their challenges. For example, Germans are much better at relaxing and enjoying their time off than we are. The American pace of life is intense and fast-paced. German people do not seem to be in such a rush (except when driving on the Autobahn). The video below includes the highlights of our trip.

We will take more trips

I am glad you were able to see a different part of the world. I hope to take you on more trips like this one in the future so that you can see, and more importantly, experience other cultures besides your own. It will give you new perspectives on life. This year I am planning some exciting trips for us. Gavin – we will see Belgium. Riley – we will visit a Caribbean island. We will also experience a different part of Europe this summer during our family vacation to France. I am looking forward to these trips. They are going to be awesome.

“Travel is rich with learning opportunities, and the ultimate souvenir is a broader perspective.” Rick Steves

Explore your surroundings – we live near Washington DC

Every time I go to Washington DC I have a good time and learn something new. It is important to experience your surroundings, which for us includes the nation’s capital since it is less than an hour from my house. This year I have already been to DC multiple times. I tried out several places to eat during restaurant week, watched a play at the Folger Shakespeare Theater, and walked around the US Capitol area. DC is not a big city, but it does have world-class sites and plenty of really good places to eat.

Jordan, Jill, Riley, Gavin and I during our White House tour.
Jordan, Jill, Riley, Gavin and I during our White House tour.

Get out there

When I lived in Europe I made it a point to get out and about as much as possible on a regular basis. I saw a lot, and have the pictures to prove it. It is too easy to get lazy and lull yourself into boredom these days. Between television and the Internet, we now have the ability to entertain ourselves at the touch a button, a few clicks of the mouse, or the flick of a switch. But, it is far more fulfilling to get out there and see the world, especially the one in your own backyard. We will start to get more proactive and hit the road for an adventure on a more regular basis to include trips into the city. Who knows what great adventures lie in wait for us this year.

Jordan, Gavin, and Riley in the State Dining Room of the White House.
Jordan, Gavin, and Riley in the State Dining Room of the White House.

“I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all who shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” John Adams quote in the White House State Dining Room.

Play the game hard, and have fun along the way

The past three posts focused on playing the game hard and making the most of every opportunity. I don’t want you to think that life should be all hard work, and no fun at all. Remember to have some fun along the way, especially after you finish a big project, or complete something that has taken a long time to achieve. I call this spiking the ball. You will notice in sports that athletes celebrate after they achieve victory. I am not saying that you need to make a big deal every time you achieve something. For example, it is silly to celebrate getting a first down in football if your team is losing. You still have work to do, so give the ref the ball and head back to the huddle.

It is okay to spike the ball after a big accomplishment - like scoring a touchdown.
It is okay to spike the ball after a big accomplishment – like scoring a touchdown.

Celebrate your victories

Appropriate situations where you see athletes celebrate is hitting a home run in baseball, scoring a touch down in football, winning a race, making the winning shot in basketball, and winning an important game. It is perfectly okay to celebrate these achievements. The bigger the win the bigger the celebration. High five your teammates, raise your arms and commemorate a hard-fought victory. Try to do the same in life when you get the chance. These moments help provide inspiration when life is difficult, and things do not go your way. There may come a day when the thought that keeps you going through a rough patch is the memory of a victory and how you felt in that moment.

I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can be heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day
– Heroes by David Bowie