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10 Photos from My Bucket List

Okay, so I haven’t officially posted my bucket list yet, like I have wanted to.  It is coming, trust me. But here are some photographs that attempt to paint the picture of why these places are on my bucket list.

Alaska & Northern Lights
Great Wall of China
Great Barrier Reef
Machu Picchu
Maldives
Nurburgring
Great Pyramids
Serengeti
Scotland
Vatican City

So, what places are ‘must-see’ on your bucket list?  Let me know in the comments below!

Madlives Photo Credit / Nurburgring Photo Credit / Alaska Photo Credit / Scotland Photo Credit / China Photo Credit / Machu Picchu Photo Credit / Great Barrier Reef Photo Credit / Serengeti Photo Credit / Vatican City Photo Credit / Egypt Photo Credit

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Foto Friday – May 27, 2011

When Mike and I embarked on our 2nd Epic Road Trip back in 2007, we had a much more lenient time frame than the previous year, and we also were not pulling a trailer either.  We chose to take a longer route and visit friends, family and other attractions along the way.

The only event that was pre-planned was a tour of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  The Brickyard. Tickets were purchased a few weeks in advance and did not disappoint. After taking 3/4 of a lap around the banked turns and backstretch of the track, the shuttle stopped just shy of the pagoda and let us out to take pictures and tell stories about the origins of the track, the bricks, the history.  This is one of many shots that were taken from the track, all of them worthy of being posted here (and might possibly be in future posts) but this one was chosen for the detail of the grooves in the track, with the tower at the end and the grandstands flanking the track on both sides, I thought it was compositionally one of the best.

Oh, and this week is the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Read more here.

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-17mm | Exposure –  1/400 – F/16

Any other motorsports fans out there?  Would love to see your pictures from the races!

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How I Earned 200k Miles Without Getting on a Plane

You read that right. In less than 4 months my wife and I have earned over 200,000 frequent flyer miles without ever stepping on an airplane. All 100% legal, all 100% legit.

I started out in the travel hacking game very slowly and with much trepidation, as I did not want to start sinking a lot of money or time into learning this whole new world of free travel. I had done some traveling, so I had a decent handle on which airlines flew where, which ones were part of which alliances, and so on.  So I started reading all I could read on the topic.  The Frugal Travel Guy‘s blog was the first resource that I really used to get up to speed on the topic, as jumping into the FlyerTalk forums was just too daunting of an endeavor.  It is information overload for the novice travel hacker.

The Ruse

Rick’s blog talks about the big wins of large credit card bonuses for signing up and spending a little bit of money on the card.  As an example (I am making this up), Chase Bank will offer you 50,000 United Airlines miles if you apply for, are approved for their credit card and spend $1,500 in the first 3 months. 50k miles on united is the equivalent to 2 domestic round trip fares.

First things first, here is why Chase Bank does this.  They WANT people to have their credit card with it’s 15-20% interest rate.  They WANT people to spend money on that card because most American’s will end up carrying a balance, which in turn they pay interest on to Chase.

Sounds like a good deal for Chase, if you ask me.  Dangle that carrot of 50k miles but end up with card holders that continue to carry balances and earn them interest.  But there is a way to rack up those miles without going into financial debt.

Beating the System

Ask any financial analyst or really, any financially responsible person, if you cannot maintain a budget, credit cards will be the death of you.  In today’s economy, your credit score is everything, and racking up credit card bills is NOT the way to improve that score.  With a bad credit score, you will have a hard time buying a car, renting an apartment, hell, even getting a cell phone. Unfortunately, your credit score has become the single most important factor in your financial stability and freedom here in the U.S.

So, why would I say all that, but still be professing the benefits of using the dangling carrot of rewards points in exchange for the risk of credit cards?  Because if you are financially responsible, with a good to great credit score, you can easily turn these credit card rewards into tons of free travel all while actually INCREASING your credit score.

Some credit cards offer the free miles rewards after activating and using the card just one time.  Others (most others) require what is known as a ‘minimum spend’ where they will give you the rewards points, but only once you have spent a certain amount of money on the card, in a certain period of time.  Some cards the minimum spend requirement is $1,500 in 3 months, some it is $5,000 in 6 months, still others, are higher than that.

To use their system to accrue your rewards miles, it is as easy as adjusting your budget for a month or two.  Instead of paying some bills out of your checking account, pay them with the credit card.  Once you do that, you take the same money from your checking account, put it in savings, and when the credit card bill comes due, you pay it off in full, carrying no balance, therefore, no finance charges.

If you can adjust your budget (and stick to your budget) accordingly, you can easily beat the system and rack up the miles.

How I Did It

Here is first hand proof that this can be done, and done easily.

To dip my preverbal toe in the travel hacking waters, I signed up for a Continental Airlines branded Chase rewards card which offered 50,000 Continental miles for using the card one time.  I read all the terms and conditions and even when I called to activate the card, I verified that I would be awarded the points after my first statement that showed (at minimum) one usage.  With everything all set, the card activated, I set out to Target to buy a few last minute items for the Epic Road Trip 2011.  Grand total, under $35.

Around the same time, Juliet and I decided to each sign up for an American Airlines branded Citibank card offering 75,000 miles for a $1,500 minimum spend in 6 months.  Juliet started using her AA card for groceries, gas and other items within our budget.  I used mine as my primary card on the Epic Road Trip.  Within 2 months we had each spent over the minimum of $1,500 on our respective cards with nothing more than items we would have paid for our of pocket. Items from our budget.

Another perk with the rewards cards is that in addition to the sign up bonus, they typically will offer (at minimum) 1 miles per dollar spent, so on a $1,000 charge, you also receive 1,000 frequent flyer miles. Read those details when you sign up, some offer higher rewards (such as 6 miles per $1 spent) on certain items like gas or groceries.

Logging into my Award Wallet account showed that after 1 month, my Continental Miles hit and after 2 months, both of our American Airlines points hit.  3 months, nothing out of pocket besides what was in our budget and we accrued over 200,000 miles.

Plan B

Everyone needs a plan B.  What if credit card bonuses are not for you.  Does that mean you are out of luck? NOT AT ALL.  There are tons of frequent flyer miles earning opportunities out there, and the Travel Hacking Cartel is one of the best resources to find those.  Options that range from online shopping to web-based surveys and even good, old-fashioned sweepstakes/giveaways.  Here are just a few examples:

For more options, I really cannot recommend the Travel Hacking Cartel enough. Give it a shot for $1 for 14 days.

Advice

Am I telling you to run out right now and sign up for every credit card with free miles offer? NO.

What I am telling you is that the credit card rewards game is VERY lucrative.  You can earn big rewards, very quickly, with nothing out of pocket. But with that being said, here is advice I give to anyone who wants to get started earning miles this way:

  • Know your credit score, it is the most important asset you have.
  • Understand how credit card applications and inquiries affect your credit score.  This is a big one as too many inquiries in a short period of time can affect your score.  Also, credit card inquiries fall off after a certain period of time, it is important to understand that too.
  • Do your research. Understand the credit card offer BEFORE you sign up for it.  Read the forums, read the blogs. Make 110% sure this deal is for you.
  • Know the rules.  Most times, if you own a small/personal business with a Tax ID, you can sign up for a business card as well as a personal card, essentially doubling your miles.
  • Shop around.  Just because you see an offer for 25,000 points to sign up for a card, doesn’t mean there isn’t a better one out there.  Even some “expired” offers can still be found with a little research.
  • Know your financial situation. If you are currently working on the minimum spend for 2 other credit cards, signing up for a 3rd one probably isn’t a safe bet.  Also understand that if the minimum spend for a card is outside of your budget ($25,000 in 12 months) or something you are not comfortable with, don’t do it.
  • Another deal will come along. In the past 5-6 months, we have seen a bunch of offers ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 points.  Airlines want you to fly, credit card companies want you to spend money.  The deals will come, just be patient.
  • Understand the alliances, as I pointed out a few days ago. If you can rack up miles on multiple carriers that are part of the same alliance, you are typically in better shape.

Further Reading

I cannot stress this enough.  Do your research.  Read the blogs. Learn about credit card churning, credit inquiries and things of the sort.  I am just getting into this whole world and wanted to make sure that I spread the love with some of my friends/family that read my site.

Here are a few good blog posts that should get you started:

I am by no means an expert in this game, but I am just figuring my way around.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask, I will do what I can to help or guide you.  The last thing I want to see is anyone ruining their credit over something silly like accruing miles.

If you are a fellow travel hacker, I would love to hear any tips, tricks, advice, stories, etc in the comments below. Otherwise, see you all on the beach!


Header Photo Credit / Photo 1 Credit

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Foto Friday – May 20, 2011

Foto Friday is a feature on Get Busy Livin’ and will run regularly, you guessed it,  every Friday.  This will be my opportunity to display some of my photography, as well as a short story to go with the photograph.

Today’s photo comes from one of my journeys back to central Minnesota and my grandparents house.  Situated on 38 acres of land, it is the ultimate in peace and solitude.  At any given time during the spring or fall, you can see deer out on the tree line.  Birds happily come and eat off of one of their many bird feeders positioned right out front of their kitchen window.  You truly feel one with nature, even on those mornings you wake up to a frost covered meadow, complete with a bent over bird feeder that a bear got ahold of last night.

Juliet and I ventured back for her first trip to Minnesota in September, 2008.  At the time, her first prolonged stay in the “cold”, when during the early morning it was a crisp 35 degrees outside.

Minnesota is a gorgeous place during the fall, when all of the trees are preparing for winter, a handful of trees changing colors and dropping their leaves, and weather that is cool during the day and a little bite in the air at night.  This photo is one of my grandma’s old wagon wheels that she has used throughout the years in her previous homes as decoration in her yard and garden.  Today it stands as the marker for the garage and driveway during the winter, but provides some great contrast in colors with the surrounding foliage during the fall.

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-17mm | Exposure –  1/200 – F/10

Does anyone have any special photos or stories from their grandparents?  Would love to hear them in the comments below!

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6 Tools to Travel the World for Free

The vast expanse and unbridled beauty of the Alaskan wilderness is a destination that calls to thousands of travelers every year.  Not you, you say?  Ok, let’s try a few more reminders of why we are doing this:

Ahh yes, glad we are all on the same page now.

So now that you have done your research and are completely up to speed with the basics of airline routing, central hubs, rewards programs and your credit worthiness, now we will get into the top tools that I use to manage and participate in the travel hacking world.

Evernote: I use Evernote for almost everything, but in this case, I keep a dedicated notebook for traveling and travel hacking.  This notebook contains notes for upcoming vacations I want to keep an eye on, any research on travel that I am working on.  The main usage when it comes to travel hacking is a dedicated note that documents all of mine and my wife’s frequent flyer numbers and rewards numbers with their associated logins for quick and easy access when signing up for promotions or entering in contests to win miles/points.

 

LastPass: I use LastPass on my desktop and laptop so that no matter which computer I am on, my usernames and passwords are all available to be auto-filled and saved securely.  I also use LastPass’ feature to auto-fill forms.  This makes it easy when entering contests, applying for credit cards or filling out basic information.  Also if I am ever not on one of my computers, I have access to my vault online at http://www.lastpass.com, just like with Evernote.

 

GMail: GMail is my primary email client.  It syncs with my Android phone, my Mac OSX mail client and so much more.  It also allows me to use labels and filters to specifically filter out all of the emails I receive from the various rewards programs into a specific label/folder.  This comes in very handy as I can dedicate time to sift through the emails from the rewards programs at my leisure, not having every email hit my inbox.  This is also good practice with other services in which you get a lot of email from but is not 100% pertinent to your everyday productivity.

 

Award Wallet: After being turned onto Award Wallet back in January 2011, this site has been invaluable for tracking rewards programs points.  The website offers the ability to also track rewards information for more than one person too, so I can track all the rewards programs in my name, as well as those in my wife’s name, all from the same interface.  Currently, the site is web-based only, however, Android and iPhone applications are currently being developed as Award Wallet continues to grow and gain more ground as it garners more attention from the media and users.

 

Google Reader: Like Evernote above, I use Google Reader for a lot of things, but in relation to travel hacking, it is my insight into getting updates and blog posts surrounding the topic in and easy to read manner.  Google Reader makes it easy, I don’t have to remember to go visit 3-4 websites and read up on the daily updates, these updates are delivered to one central place and I on;y have to open 1 application or 1 website.   Here is a third party guide to getting started with Google Reader for Beginners.

Recommended Google Reader Reading

  • RSS Feed 1 Frugal Travel Guy - Rick is one of the forefront experts in the Travel Hacking/Frugal Travel industry.  In his blog, he details his exploits and adventures in travelling frugally either through heavily discounted travel or free, rewards-based travel. He also makes it a point to explain things to “rookie travelers” and those just getting started in the game.  He talks about credit worthiness and how to effectively get the most points, almost always drawing on his own experiences to show the success stories.
  • RSS Feed 2 – The Points Guy -Brian is another expert in the field.  While him and Rick typically offer some of the same offers and promotions that are out there, Brian’s website is straight and to the point.  Just the deals and information you need, nothing more, and that is why I consistently read his blog, and why you should too.
  • RSS Feed 3 – View from the Wing – Gary is another go-to guy in this field.  Recently leaving the ranks of FlyerTalk to start up MilePoint (community based online forums).  His blog offers up various rewards that come across his desk, as well as reviews of hotels and flights he is on.  The site is more all inclusive reviews and rewards for the traveler, which also makes it a must visit on my travel hacking blog list.

 

Travel Hacking Cartel: The only tool or tip for travel hacking that I actually pay for. Founded by Chris Guillebeau, a renowned master in this realm, the THC offers 3 levels of membership. I am currently on the Economy plan, $15/mo for email updates the instant that new deals are released. I will spend $180 this year on THC, which is the cost of an off season, round trip, domestic airline ticket. In 4 months with THC, I have already racked up over 200,000 miles. That is the equivalent to 8 round trip domestic airline tickets.  Yeah, you get your money’s worth.

 

With all of these tools in your arsenal, you should be completely up to speed with all of your rewards programs, with easy access to all of them, as well as a straight forward method to track and maintain all the award points you are getting ready to rack up.

The real take away from all of these tools is Award Wallet and the Travel Hacking Cartel.  Award Wallet is an absolutely stellar product that centralizes almost everything and honestly I could not live without.  The Travel Hacking Cartel is what makes miles/points earning so easy and really helped initialize me into this travel hacking world by providing a constant stream of miles/points earning offers.  I cannot recommend their service enough.

Stay tuned for the next installment where I will detail how I have earned over 200,000 miles without ever leaving the comforts of my house and how you can earn EVEN MORE, as the points game is heating up with many new partners offering huge bonuses.

And just for grins, one more reminder.  You can go here for FREE:

I hope you are as excited about this as I am, because just talking about this makes me hungry for more miles and more travel opportunities!

Questions about these tools, how they are used or any related questions, please feel free to contact me and I would be more than happy to help you get started.



Header Photo Credit / Photo 1 Credit / Photo 2 Credit / Photo 3 Credit / Photo 4 Credit

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5 Simple Tips to Travel the World for Free

White sandy beaches, exotic locales, remote islands, foreign culture.  Just a few of the many reasons that people love to travel.  They want to experience things they see in photos like this:

The common complaint is the cost to visit these places, so many people put these trips off until retirement.  Then you end up like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List, rushing to do these things before you die.

Sound familiar? Then this is for you:

You CAN go to these places for CHEAP or FREE.

Yup, you heard me.

CHEAP or FREE

Airlines and hotels have been giving away Frequent Flyer miles and Hotel Rewards points for quite some time now, but what most people do not realize (and I really didn’t until recently) is that you do not need to actually be on an airplane or in a hotel to earn miles/points.

I had heard about the concept of Travel Hacking over the years, but really got involved in it this past winter.  Sure, my wife and I had always stayed at Marriott properties and had racked up some points there, but when I started my foray into this, we only had about 50,000-60,000 hotel points/airline miles combined.

4 months later, we have over 475,000 miles/points. More on that later.

Quite impressive, right?  Not really.  I am still an amateur in this game.  Others have been in this game for much longer and have easily racked up over 5 million points/miles, with VERY LITTLE out of pocket expenses.

In a series of upcoming posts, I will detail all of the tools I use to consistently earn miles from the comfort of my own home, as well as some recommendations for surviving in the travel hacking game.   To start off, here are my 5 simple tips for the newcomers to get started.

5 Simple Tips

Sign up for all the Frequent Flyer and Hotel points programs

All of the rewards programs are free, for every hotel, every airline.  The quick sign up form typically involves a name, email address and mailing address.  Yes, they want to send you marketing email and junk mail, but that is not completely a bad thing. Sure, there will be some SPAM, but there also is the opportunity to get last minute airfare deals that are only sent to hotel/airline rewards members, or emails that offer exclusive discounts for rewards members too.  Not bad when planning a last minute trip or searching for great deals, but the ultimate goal here is to have rewards numbers for all the programs so that you can quickly and easily partake in any promotions or giveaways.

Research which airlines fly out of your local airport(s)

It is important to know which airlines are based out of your local airport, as you have a greater likelihood of getting inexpensive airfare or rewards flights when dealing with an airline’s central hub, rather than with an airline that only has a few daily flights in and out of your local airport. AirlineRouteMaps.com is a good place to start.  If you are not located near a central hub, then it is equally as important to know who flies in and out of your airport.  This will make planning rewards trips easier.

Research which airlines fly into your destination locale(s)

If you are planning on earning some miles for a particular destination, it is also important to match up what airlines fly out of your local airport with ones that fly into the destination you are wanting to go to.  Non-stop travel is (at least for me) ideal, as much as I love flying, my goal is to get to my destination, not to spend hours in an airport.  Keep reading up on AirlineRouteMaps.com for a good primer.

Understand which airlines are part of which alliance

There are 3 major airline alliances in the world today, Star Alliance, SkyTeam and OneWorld, all with various U.S. Based and international airlines.  It is important to know which airlines are part of which alliance as it can increase your overall ability to earn miles towards a goal. For example, if you have the ability to earn miles on both American Airlines and British Airways, you can combine the two when traveling as they are both members of OneWorld. More details can be found on the Airline Alliance page of Wikipedia.

Check your credit scores

I know what you are thinking, but yes, credit scores can actually help you earn more miles, and faster, aside from being just good general financial knowledge for you to have. There are 3 credit bureaus that all retain scores on your credit worthiness, and all 3 combine to make up your credit score. There are a resources out there to check your credit scores with 1 of the 3 bureaus for free, every 6 months, or there is the only U.S. Government authorized credit score site, AnnualCreditReport.com.

Those are the 5 basics that really helped me get started in the travel hacking game.  Not only will this knowledge help you in identifying what your ultimate goal is, it will also help you focus your efforts on those that are important to you, ensuring that you will be successful in your goal.

Let’s face the facts here, if this concept of travel hacking was easy, everyone would be doing it and we would be putting the airlines out of business.  The truth is, it is very easy to go astray in this game.  Most people I know do not have lofty goals of travelling the world, they would just like the ability to not be completely in financial debt by taking their family of 4 on a week long vacation, and those are the people that I want to help.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series that will detail the tools I use to earn miles from the comfort of my home (or, hotel room).



Featured Photo Credit / Photo 1 Credit / Photo 2 Credit / Photo 3 Credit

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Foto Friday – May 13, 2011

Foto Friday is a feature on Get Busy Livin’ and will run regularly, you guessed it,  every Friday.  This will be my opportunity to display some of my photography, as well as a short story to go with the photograph.

Today’s photo came from a recent business trip to the Washington D.C. area.  My client flew me in the day before, so I made my way from the airport down to the national mall to catch the last weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival.  I had been to D.C. a few times prior, but always missed the cherry blossoms, so I definitely wanted to take advantage of this trip.

I parked over by the western side of the Smithsonian buildings and walked for the next 4-5 hours to photograph the cherry blossoms and all of the national monuments.  I got some great photos of the Franklin memorial framed by cherry blossom trees, however, this one is one of my favorites from the trip. The tree line I am standing under frame out the Washington Monument very nicely, and the sky even cooperated too.

Washington D.C. is truly one of the most magnificent areas of this country, with all of the history, architecture and stories to tell, I have spent a few days here, but definitely could spend a few weeks and not see all of it!

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-17mm | Exposure –  1/200 – F/11

Any D.C stories or photos to share?  Share them below in the comments!

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A Smack in the Face Reminder

When I posted up my first blog as the re-launch of this site, I stressed how this site would be an online home for sharing stories about living life to its fullest, seeing the world and generally making the most out of life.  I have plans for future posts, from concepts such as travel hacking to guest posts by other writers, telling their stories of their travels.  My hope for the site really is to show the various ways that you can take your life and make the most of it, from the independent location worker, to the world backpacker, to the cubicle dweller, the stay at home mom and everyone in between.

One thing I have learned in my life is that, sometimes, you need to make a decision for yourself, you need to choose to change your life, change your direction, change yourself.  You need to take make the decision to take your own life in your hands and make the most of it. For better or worse.  The only person you have to hold accountable for your happiness and your life is yourself.

To transition this blog to the main point that I want to convey here, in the past, I have chosen to live my life the way I wanted to.  I was never forced into making a decision.  I never had any life altering events force my hand one way or another.  To the same point, I never lost anyone close to me as I was growing up.  I had not lost any aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents or anyone else close to me.  Sure, great aunts, great uncles, my great grandma, my grandparents on my dad’s side, have passed away, but I was never close enough with any of them for it to really affect me.

That all changed on Monday, May 8th.

Cancer is a Heartless Bitch

Many years ago, when I was in my teens, my grandpa was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer.  I remember seeing how much it scared and affected my family, but I think that the time, being as young as I was, I did not understand the gravity of the situation.  With all of our prayers and God willing, my grandpa made it through and is still cancer free to this day.  I didn’t realize until much later in life that we almost lost him that year.

In the past 5 years, 2 of my colleagues/friends have been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Robert and John were both healthy, hard-working, family guys when they were diagnosed with NHL.  I am very happy to say that have both beaten it, however, John still continues his recovery today.

As the years go by, as the awareness of cancer grows, both personally and in the media, it is hitting closer and closer to home for me.

Live Strong

I now wear this daily.  At first it was to support John and his battle with cancer and its various ailments over the past 2 years.  Then just last November, 2010, my family suffered a crushing blow, and I started wearing it to support 2 people.

My uncle had been diagnosed with Cancer throughout his body.

A seemingly healthy, active man in his late 50’s.  He had yearly check-ups and aside from the stress of a job that he loved, he was healthy.  Then one day in November, he had a pain in his side that lasted a little longer than it should have.  A few doctors and tests later, my aunt received the news that her husband had cancer. Throughout his body.  From his tailbone to his brain.

It enveloped him, but it never defined him. Even after every single doctor’s visit came with worse and worse news, he always had a smile on his face, a joke to tell, a hug to give.  He always told everyone not to worry.  He bore that burden.  He was the provider, he was the worrier.  In that respect, he reminds me very much of my grandpa.

He was a huge sports fan, a huge Yankees fan.  The featured image at the top is in honor of his team. He was a father, an uncle, a husband and a son.  He was one of the most giving and caring men I have ever met in my life, and it was a privilege and an honor to know him.

 

Alan Zwickler lost his battle with Cancer on May 8th, 2011.

 

Hitting Home

This was the closest death I have ever experienced.  I grew up very close to my cousins, my aunt and my uncle.  We played basketball on easter and thanksgiving at their house.  We played stickball in the street, volleyball and basketball in the pool and football wherever we could.  We watched every major sporting event as a family.  I will always remember the March madness parties, the NBA finals, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the World Cup.  Until I was 16 or 17, we spent every one of these as a family and those will always be my fondest memories of him.

He was initially diagnosed 6 months ago and went downhill fast.  I was there with him the weekend that he found out and I am still in shock to this day.  I don’t even think his death has really registered in my brain just yet.

I know I can learn something from the type of person he was, but I also believe that this hits even closer to home with my belief in living in the now and making the most out of every day.

Your days are numbered, the problem is, you don’t know what that number is.

Is is 18,250? 7300? 1825? 365? 30? 7? 1?

I have read stories about how medical scares really force people to re-evaluate their lives, make drastic changes, live life to the fullest.  I could give you hundreds of examples right here if I wanted, but to me this is more important to learn and acknowledge how precious life is and how short it can be.

Are you saving money for retirement?  What is your plan if you don’t make it that far?

Do you have a 5 year plan? What about a 5 day plan?

Are you living a memorable life, or are you just getting by?

Are you making a difference in someone else’s life?

 

-

Have you ever lost someone close to you?  How has it affected your life, your plans for life and your goals in life?  Let me know in the comments below.

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Foto Friday

Foto Friday is a feature on Get Busy Livin’ and will run regularly, you guessed it,  every Friday.  This will be my opportunity to display some of my photography, as well as a short story to go with the photograph.

Usually in this space I like to share a story behind the photo, the trip I was on, the composition of the shot or something to make the photo relatable.  This update will be a little different in light of the recent events of the past week.

Today’s photo comes from New York’s Grand Central Terminal from a trip I took a few years back.

The events of this past Sunday, the location and killing of Osama Bin Laden, have had a profound effect on this country, and even more so on this state.  New York has been in the spotlight again, 10 years after the attacks on 9/11/01 and the World Trade Centers.  President Obama was at Ground Zero yesterday for a ceremony and chatting with local firefighters and policemen, thanking them for their service and dedication.

For today’s photo, I wanted to post one of the ones I had taken at Ground Zero, however none were to my standards to publish, so my focus then changed to something uniquely New York.  I had a few great photos of the Statue of Liberty, the fire station at Ground Zero, Times Square, but this photo spoke to me with the American flag hanging high overhead, our symbol of freedom.

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-17mm | Exposure –  1/50 – F/4.5

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Project 333: Lessons from an Experiment

Remembering the Beginning

Where it started

About 4 months ago I posted a blog about my participation in a personal experiment known as Project 333.  I asked my readers, and myself, could you live for 3 months with only 33 articles of clothing?

I was all for it. I had quit my corporate job in July and put away all of my slacks, suits and dress shirts in favor of shorts, jeans and t-shirts for my new job.  I had been in that new job for 4 months when I made the decision to pack away the majority of my clothes and settle on just 33 items.

“That’s EASY” you might say, especially considering I could pretty much wear to work what I would wear on the weekends, so not much variety or creativity was really necessary when it came to picking out 33 items, or so it would seem.

December 31st, New Years Eve is when I sat down, went through all of my clothes and filled up around 8 large storage boxes full of clothes, shoes, jackets, hats, etc.  It was liberating, but at the same time a little scary.  Not only was I planning out the clothes I would wear for the next 3 months, I was also planning out the clothes I would wear in California for work, where at the worst it was 50* and raining.  I also had to plan for a trip to upstate New York, as Juliet and I were leaving on January 4th for Rochester and 20* (and below) and snowing.

All in all, the decisions were not hard, but I wanted to be dedicated to this and prove to myself that I could do it.  Little did I know how my life would change and how much this would help me through it.

Changes in Latitudes

We're not in California anymore, Toto

Not 7 days after packing up all of my excess clothes, Juliet accepted a job that would move us back to upstate New York, a little faster than we anticipated.  When she accepted the job, we were thinking March 1st or even March 15th.  Perfect, 2 more months in Southern California, 2 more months of shorts, t-shirts and sandals.

Then the news came.  Juliet starts her new job February 7th, which means we are on a one way plane to New York on February 3rd.

So I quit my job and started realizing that I wouldn’t really miss it.

When it came to moving, we were moving into temporary housing, so we didn’t have to move everything, just our essentials to live in a hotel for 4-6 months.  The last few weeks leading up to moving were quite stressful, packing, planning, booking airfare, renting cars, figuring out just what in the world I was going to do.

“But what does this have to do with Project 333??”

Thanks to Project 333, while my wife packed all of her clothes for work, casual, gym, etc, and filled 5-6 boxes, my clothes fit in 1. This was somewhat due to the fact that Juliet was packing for work, casual and everything else, where I did not have to pack for work, however, the only thing I altered in my Project 333 clothing list when we moved was the addition of 2 pairs of shoes and a few sweatshirts.

Lessons Learned

After reading more from Courtney Carver of Be More With Less, the originator of this challenge, as well as reading more from others who were participating, this “challenge” is not so much of a challenge to force yourself into “living like a poor person” as some people like to put it, rather, it is a challenge to the mindset of what is really needed in life.

The major takeaway I have from this is a shift in the mindset of choosing clothes on a daily basis.  I cannot honestly recall one time, from January until now, where I have uttered the words “I don’t know what I want to wear today?”  I can pick out matching clothes with absolutely no effort, whether that is going out for the night, running errands or hanging out with friends.  I can worry about getting busy living my life and not worry about what clothes I am going to wear.

Current Numbers

Jumping into the 2nd round of Project 333, we are encouraged to update our wardrobe and switch out any items we want for the next 3 months and put away others we wont need.  While I applaud those who do it, I have taken more of a permanent approach to the lifestyle.  While I might not live with 33 items, I keep the number low and have limited my spending on new clothes.

Here is my current tally of all the clothing items I have with me in NY:

  • 38 T-Shirts (16 I consider “outer-wear”, 7 undershirts, 15 shirts for around the house)
  • 5 Collared Shirts
  • 8 Sweatshirts/Jackets
  • 14 Workout shirts
  • 2 Workout shorts
  • 4 Jeans
  • 3 Shorts (1 I consider “outer-wear”)
  • 1 Sweats (loungewear)
  • 2 Slacks
  • 4 Collared Work Shirts (will only wear to work)
  • 6 Baseball Hats
  • 3 Beanies (loungewear)
  • 4 belts
  • 7 Pairs of shoes (1 pair snow boots, 2 pairs running shoes, 4 pairs causal shoes)

Quite the far cry from 33 items, isn’t it?  By my count, for Project 333 numbers, I am at 45 items, as although I have “work clothes” I have not had the need to wear them, nor do I see the need in the foreseeable future.

I have gotten more comfortable wearing my workout shirts instead of t-shirts when heading out, as they handle the dry and wet a little better.  Out of the 14 I have, there are 6 that I will wear out.  I could (and probably will) put about 20-25 items into a storage box, as I am not wearing them, so don’t really need them right now.

Conclusion

The more options you have in your life, the more opportunity you have to be indecisive and waste your time hemming and hawing over the correct decision. I have chosen the path of reducing my wardrobe to quality, versatile pieces that take away the “what do I want to wear today” question out of the mix.  I can now worry about more important things, such as where I am going, who am I spending time with and how I am going to make the most out of my life. I can concentrate on living my life and spend less time worrying about things completely within my control.

 

Have you ever done anything like this? Consolidated all of your clothes into a backpack to see the world? Just downsized to simplify your life?  I would love to hear your insights on what paring down your wardrobe taught you about yourself. Let me know in the comments below!

 

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