Author: Justin Hamlin

Life

June 26: Selflessness and You

Recently I wrote an article on being charitable with your feet that brought up a number of good points that segue right into this blog that I have been wanting to write.

Charity sees the need, not the cause. – German proverb

So often there is a misconception that in order to help charities you must donate money.  You see it all over the place.  Donate money to help the children read, donate money to help build homes for the poor, donate money to save the rainforest, donate money to a scam that we just made up to get your money but we really are calling it a charity.

Fact of the matter is, there are plenty of organizations that need your time, not your money.  Actually, most every single non-profit organization (NPO) thrives on the time and dedication of its volunteers.  Whether you can donate 4 days or 4 hours, most any NPO can find a need, from helping build houses, to helping sort groceries, to stapling marketing materials.  There are plenty of jobs, some that will use your talents, others that will just use your time.

What is the use of living if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? – Winston Churchill

Here is just a quick list of places and ways that you can donate your time without a penny out of your pocket:

  • Build a house with Habitat for Humanity
  • Assist with pet care and events for the SPCA
  • Staff an event for a charitable organization
  • Volunteer with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to help cure breast cancer
  • ???

One of the best places, besides the internet, to find organizations in need of volunteers is your corporate HR department.  Most times, larger companies are involved in community driven charities and often use company driven recruitment to assist these organizations with their events.

Is money what all of these non-profit organizations need to function? YES.  But the money doesn’t just come in by the truckload, these companies need to operate like a normal, profit-based business and use their events to aid in the fundraising.  These companies need selfless volunteers to donate their time and expertise to run a business whose sole goal is to give back to their communities and their causes.

Day 26. Way 26. Selflessness and You.  You don’t need to spend money to affect change on a large scale.

I left the list above with some question marks at the end.  This is where you come in.  Can you help me finish off that list with a recommendation for groups or charities that need volunteer assistance?

Share your recommendations and stories of selflessness below.

 

toys photo credit / dog photo credit

Life

June 25: Map Your Escape Route

Throughout this month of directives on how to get busy living your life, I have focused on a lot of spontaneous travel related items, such as playing a few travel games, to getting lost.

Today, I will take a look at the safer side of travel, and how you can use that to help get the blood pumping, the excitement level up and motivated to make things happen.

Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now – Alan Lakein

Maybe you are the type of person that does not embrace spontaneity. Maybe you don’t have deep pockets (I know I don’t) but still love to travel.  If travel hacking isn’t your thing and you just want to book a trip the old fashioned way, then here are a few tips for you to help make the planning phase a little easier, and a little more exciting:

Choosing a Destination

When choosing a destination for a large trip, a lot of factors come into the equation, such as time of year, season, length of time for vacation as well as money.  While I am a believer that all travel can be had inexpensively, I wouldn’t try and plan a beachfront villa in Bora Bora when you only have a 4 day vacation and $2,000.  Moral of the story, be realistic here.

Sites like Wanderfly are a godsend when it comes to the indecisive.  It is an intuitive web portal that will search for destinations based on time of year, theme, length of time and budget.  While I haven’t actually used their site to actually plan a vacation, I do use their site for idea generation.  Just one quick search will give you TONS of ideas on where to go, where to stay, things to do and so much more.

I could seriously sit here and do searches all day long.

Finding Airfare

So you have used Wanderfly to dream up some amazing destinations and have a general idea on what to expect for the price.  While Wanderfly uses Orbitz for their searches, I prefer to use Kayak and Bing Travel for my searches for 2 different reasons.

Kayak is a descendent of the old SideStep, one of the first companies to really develop a flight search aggregator.  Kayak searches all of the major airlines websites, as well as popular travel agencies such as Orbitz, Expedia and Priceline.  With tools to help you search all local airports, flexible days with a comparison matrix, Kayak is 2nd to none in the flight search business.

Bing Travel is the result of an online travel search company that Microsoft bought and integrated into their Bing search engine.  The reason I really love this site is that if you are traveling a common route (we will use LAX to JFK for example) with multiple flights per day, Bing Travel will look at the trending analysis of the flight costs, compare them against recent travel trends, previous year’s pricing and return a recommendation on wether you should purchase the tickets now because prices are set to raise, or if you should hold off, as ticket prices are set to drop.  This really is a handy tool when looking at flight costs over 3-4 months in advance.

Finding Hotels

Now you know where you are going and how you are getting there, let’s take a look at where to stay.  The real question here is if you are looking for a hotel room, or an all inclusive resort.  Kayak is my old fail safe when it comes to hotel searches, as their hotel search engine is just as powerful as their airfare search engine.  Kayak also has a section for deals and vacation packages that will help you look into package bundles and other deals that have amazing savings.

My other default is the Marriott website, as Juliet and I have been huge fans of their customer service and standards for many years now, they are our hotel membership of choice.  More times than not, while sites like Kayak are great, nothing quite beats searching right on the hotel website of your favorite brand.

For us, we can deal with a long flight, maybe a delay or two, but we will not scrimp on a bad night’s sleep or a dirty room.  Hotels are our number 1 priority when travelling, and it helps us wake up in a good mood, ready to attack the day.

Finding Adventure

Ahh, the most important part of your trip.  So you have picked your destination, your travel there and your hotel.  Great. Now let’s plan the fun stuff.  Let’s scope out where we are going to eat, where we are going to drink and where we are going to go have some amazing experiences.

TripAdvisor is a great place to start.  With recommendations based on city and location, Trip Advisor for me has constantly turned up great recommendations for sights to see, places to eat and more.

Twitter is another great tool for researching destinations, as there is always people willing to help give advice and recommendations on things to do, places to see, food to eat, drinks to… well, drink.  Recently, Juliet and I booked a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a much-needed vacation.  With a few quick searches and with the help of some Twitter friends, I got some great recommendations for smaller islands to visit, great drinks to try and restaurants to visit.  Cannot beat first hand recommendations.

The last recommendation for finding adventure at your destination is an old-fashioned Google Search.  There are blogs and websites dedicated to adventure travelers, from personal blogs to corporate guide companies and everything in between.  Chances are with a quick search you will come across a number of blogs from people who have vacationed at the same places you are headed.  Look at it this way, the most website traffic that hits my website from Google comes from people searching about road trips.  Yes, there are plenty more like me out there.

These are just a few of the tips and tricks to help make planning a vacation a little easier and a little more fun.  I spent regular amounts of time on these websites just dreaming about the vacations I would love to take, but I also visit these sites when I am ready to book my travel as well too.  Dreaming can be fun, just make sure to have a plan to turn that dream into a reality, then go ahead and plan your escape from the real world.

Day 25. Way 25. Plan a vacation. Map your escape route from reality.

What are your favorite ways to research and plan for trips? Share your stories, tips and tricks in the comments below!

Hotel Photo Credit / Beach Photo Credit / Zip Line Photo / Lego Photo Credit

Life

June 24: Take a Flying Leap

The purpose of my blog has been to show my readers that it is quite simple to take positive actions every day towards leading a life worth living, a life out of the ordinary and a life that you can be proud of.  Things like changing your attitude, trying new things, getting lost, even relaxing.

But every now and then you need to do something that scares the shit out of you.

Get the adrenaline going, the blood pumping, the heart racing.  As Lachlan says, you need to smash your fears.

“Sometimes, it’s the things that scare you most that are most worthwhile.”

Think about that quote and my post about making excuses.  We make excuses out of fear.  We shy away from things that we are afraid of, but really, why are we afraid of these things? Are we afraid of failure? Rejection? Consequences? Death?

Thanks to my good buddy Joel Runyon for the inspiration for this post, as he recently organized a group of 40+ people to jump out of a perfectly good airplane at a recent summit in Portland, Oregon.

I can guarantee you that a good number of those 40+ people were scared to go skydiving, but they threw caution to the wind, faced their fears and took a flying leap.  If 40+ people can do it, why can’t you?

I have never been someone with a lot of fears, in the respect that I typically will throw myself headfirst into things like rock climbing, whitewater rafting and yes, even skydiving.

(unfortunately, I cannot find any of the photos from my skydiving experience, so these will have to do)

I was able to go skydiving a number of years ago for my birthday and let me say this, I would do it again in a heartbeat. After signing all of the disclaimers, waivers, insurance forms, etc, I got to meet with my tandem jumper, also known as the dude who will be strapped to my back for the jump.  Typically, when they pair up a jumper with a pro, they try to pick a pro that is the same size or bigger than the jumper, as it allows the pro to be able to control the jump a little better.

For reference sake, I am 6’2″, at the time, around 160lbs. Needless to say, I was a little surprised when I met my pro, Michele.  Not a female Michele, rather, a little frenchman, Michele. All 5’8″ and 140lbs soaking wet of him.

I wondered about this a little as we went over the basic instructions of how to do a tandem jump, as Michele explained to me how to hold my hands, arms, legs, etc.  He addressed the fact of how much bigger I was and that I would need to listen to him.

Shortly thereafter, a group of 8-10 of us were airborne in a rickety little plan with no seats, just 2 benches.  I already had Michele strapped to my back.  We made it to our jump altitude and a little lump appeared in my throat.

“Holy Shit, I am really going to hurl myself out of this airplane”

Before I knew it, Michele and I approached the door and with a little tap on my shoulder, I jumped.  It was fantastic to be looking down at the California landscape from a height I had only seen as an airline passenger through a protective glass window and pressurized cabin.  Now I was hurling through the air at 60-80mph.  It was then I realized why Michele was telling me I had to listen to him.  Throughout our fall he had to keep kicking my knees and pulling my arms in, as I had a good 8-12″ wingspan on him, so with my arms and legs outstretched.

When we finally came to an unspoken agreement (and he could control our direction, airflow, speed) we fell for what seemed like an eternity. Seeing the Pacific Coast, Mexico, the California desert.  It was phenomenal. Michele pulled our chute and we cruised around for a few more minutes, the ground closing in.

After landing safely and seeing the photos of a dot in the sky (read: me) as I descended, it hit me. I just threw myself out of a perfectly good airplane!!  And I survived!

Day 24. Way 24. Take a flying leap and do something that scares the shit out of you.

Anyone else ever skydived before?

If not, is it on your bucket list?

Share your stories/photos with us below in the comments!

Sign Photo Credit / Jump photo credit / Header Photo Credit

Life

Foto Friday – June 24, 2011

Around the time that I started my weekly Foto Friday postings, I came across a Twitter hashtag of #FriFotos, a hashtag used by twitter users the world over to share their photos on a certain theme.  These themes are typically announced mid-week by the #FriFotos host and garner a good following all day Friday.  I have chosen in the past not to align my Foto Friday post with the same theme as these posts were more for the sharing of the photos of my choice, rather than limiting myself to photos than to fit in with the theme.

This week I have chosen to follow in the lines of the theme, with the theme being “Blue.”

Today’s photo comes from my 2009 New England Road Trip and the Connecticut coast, a mere few hours from where I currently live less than 2 years later.  As Mike, Bryan and I left our hotel in Bridgeport, Connecticut that morning, we took our time and enjoyed the Connecticut coast on the Long Island Sound.

This photo really grabbed me as a very true depiction of the stereotypical New England coastline, with the grasses and coastal rocks in the foreground, the jetty and colonial house in the background.  These views are common up and down the entire New England coast, from Connecticut to Rhode Island, Massachusetts to Maine and they never fail to disappoint.

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-18mm | Exposure –  F11 – 1/200

Would love your feedback on the photo and please feel free to share any other New England coast photos you might have, here in the comments!

Life

June 23: Disconnect Yourself

In such a digital world, it is easy (and typical) for us to get caught up in the new gadgets, the new toys.  They are marketed as “conveniences” to us, devices that make our lives better, easier.  Now, we have a computer in our hand to tell us when we get an email, when someone takes a picture of us, how far it is to the grocery store, everything.

We have become reliant on technology

We text, we email, we tweet, we post status updates, we tag pictures, we post blog updates, we instant message, we send photos, we take videos of our cats.  We have phones, tablets, GPS units, heck, they even have internet connected watches now.  Seriously, how connected do we need to be?

I know I am guilty of it.  Here is just a picture of how my evening shaped up tonight:

  • Juliet got home from work right after a Tweet Up (#TNI) was finishing up
  • We head out to the bar for dinner/drinks
  • After were there, Juliet answers texts from her coworkers
  • We compare pictures from friends on Facebook/Twitter
  • I text one of our friends to see how they’re doing
  • Juliet calls her mom on the phone
  • I took a picture of our dog and sent it to a friend
  • Now I am writing a blog before bed

Seriously, can we not just disconnect for a day?  I know I am not alone in this.

So here is my challenge to you.  Take a day. 24 hours.  Turn off.  No computer, no phone, no internet, no twitter, no Facebook.  Sure, carry your phone just in the case of an emergency, but turn off all your data services. Do not tempt yourself.

So, before you say it, I will.

I will put my money where my mouth is.

This weekend is June 25th-26th and I will go 48 hours without being connected to the internet or on a computer.

With a dedication to a blog post per day for the month of June, that means I need to get Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s blog posts done tomorrow, as well as my Foto Friday post.  Looks like I have my work cut out for me.

But I will take my own challenge.  I am going to spend my time with Juliet, with the dogs, being a family, without external influences, without external connectivity.

I will follow up this blog on Monday/Tuesday with photos and a write-up of my digital sabbatical.  A weekend of freedom.  48 hours untethered.

Day 23. Way 23. Disconnect from your digital addiction. Enjoy the freedom of old times. Get back to basics. A smile, a handshake. No internet.

Can you go without the internet?

Can you forego a few tweets?

Join me in a digital sabbatical this weekend, June 25-26.  Share your commitment below!

Life

June 22: Be Charitable with your Feet

I must admit, this is probably the oddest headline I have written, but let me explain, as this is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.

With so many charitable organizations to donate your time to and numerous volunteer organizations that need your support, you seriously cannot go wrong by choosing a cause to get involved with.  While out in California, one that Juliet and I seriously got involved with was the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).

Without a big, long, drawn out explanation, CHOC is very near and dear to our hearts after being instrumental in helping ensure the health of many people very close to us.  Children saved from cancer. Babies diagnosed and treated for rare sicknesses.  CHOC is just an outstanding organization.

Charity sees the need, not the cause.  ~German Proverb

The basis for this blog is one of the many fundraisers that CHOC has each year, but by a sheer numbers standpoint, it is also one of the most successful.  The best part, it involves physical activity and over 14,000 of your best friends.

The CHOC Walk was started over 20 years ago, has grown to over 14,000 participants that take over the Disneyland Resort to walk 5 kilometers to help raise over $1.5 million to help CHOC and the children they save.  On top of participating in a 5k, the overall event takes 2-3 hours and is an absolutely heartbreaking and uplifting event that leaves you with a sense of accomplishment that you are donating your time (and a few dollars) to a very worthy cause.

The day starts as any 5k does, with walker registration and the congregation of all participants at the end of Main Street U.S.A. within Disneyland.  There is a general sense of camaraderie and a buzz from the crowd.  Instead of thousands of runners warming up, you have thousands of people that have donated their time to walk for charity to support their child, or their brother, or cousin, or friend’s son, or any of the millions of families that are affected by CHOC.

Posters are held. Matching t-shirts have been made for the team. Babies in strollers. Survivors.

Everyone is there because they have personally been affected by such a wonderful organization as CHOC who dedicates their mission to helping children.

The walk officially starts and a Master of Ceremonies can be heard over the loudspeakers, welcoming each team, each group, each poster, anyone who walks by and waves.  Music fills the air.  The vibe and buzz never stop.  The walk routes throughout Disneyland Park, Disney’s California Adventure Park and finally culminating in Downtown Disney.

Along the way are all the Disney characters, cheering the walkers along, high-fiving all of the walkers, stopping for photo opportunities and generally giving the whole walk a Disney atmosphere.

While the whole event takes over 60 minutes to walk 3.2 miles due to the sheer amount of people, nobody is here to set a record time, or even power walk, for that matter.  Everyone is there to share their story, hug and engage others.  This walk is for the kids and all the lives they have touched.

So hunt down a charity walk or run, and get involved.  Get your exercise. Donate a little money. Give a little time. Be Charitable, with your feet.

Day 22. Way 22. Be Charitable. With your feet.

Have you participated in any charity walks?

If so, which ones?

What other ways would you recommend to be charitable with your feet?

Life

June 21: Dedicate Yourself to Yourself

Over the past 21 days we have covered a lot of topics surrounding personal motivation and growth.  We have discussed being outgoing, taking risks and even taking time for yourself.  While all of these actions seem enviable, most people will read my blog and start making excuses on why they support what I am writing, however, cannot pursue these actions themselves.

What happens a lot is that we lack dedication.  It happens to all of us, including me.

“Obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe dedicated.” – Unknown

After I relaunched this blog, I told myself I was going to write a blog twice per week.  Then I embarked on my Epic Road Trip and did not post a blog for over 2 weeks.  When I returned, I wanted to dedicate my first few blogs to the Epic Road Trip recap.  Then life happened.  Work came up, home life took precedence, and my blog schedule slipped more.  It took me 2 months to get all of my blog posts surrounding my road trip online.

I disappointed myself.

If I wanted to make this blog a reality, at least in my eyes, why couldn’t I even get a few blog posts out on time?  I began to realize that while the blog fell down the priority list to me, I lacked dedication to making it a priority, even if it was a priority 3 or 4 on my list.

Back in March, in the midst of my procrastination with my Road Trip updates, I started a series of posts that would teach me to start small with dedication.  I started a Foto Friday post where I would post a photo from my personal gallery along with a short story depicting the background of the photo.  It was quick, it was easy, and it was only once per week.  No Epic Recap with an epic (and unrealistic) deadline, even if it was self-imposed.

Since March 18th, I have posted 13 updates, one per Friday.

The Foto Friday series has taught me that I have the ability to dedicate myself to a project, dedicate myself to myself.

With that in mind, June 1 came around, with my 31st birthday looming on the horizon a few days away.  I was really wanting to do something big for my birthday.  Something that I would be proud of.  Something that would help me set a tone for my blog, more so than I had in the previous few months with my blog.

That is when the 31 days and 31 ways to get busy livin’ your life was born.  For my 31st birthday, I would post 31 blogs meant to inspire my readers (both of you!!) to break out of your routine and start living your life to the fullest.  That would take me from June 1st through July 1st and would require 1 post per day.

I dedicated myself to uphold that goal.

21 days in, I have been 100% successful.  I have not missed 1 day, not 1 post.  I have had to work this around a few small weekend vacations, while keeping up my Foto Friday posts and I am proud to say I have not missed a single one.

Take something small to dedicate yourself to.  Dedicated time to your kids. Dedicate to leaving work on time. Dedicate to calling a loved one each day.  Dedicate yourself to something you know you have been slacking on.  Start small, build confidence, and teach yourself that it is okay to dedicate yourself to yourself and your own success.

Day 21. Way 21. Start small, build confidence, and teach yourself that it is okay to dedicate yourself to yourself and your own success.

Are you invested in your own success?

Have you dedicated yourself to yourself?

Share your success stories in the comments below!

Life

June 20: Get Lost (Again)

Back on June 6 I talked about turning off your GPS, putting away the map and taking a road less traveled.  Getting lost in your local area to find the parts of your town/city/county/state that you have never explored before.  Today, we explore a different type of getting lost.

This type of lost is more time consuming, yet easier on the wallet and requires no use of GPS or a map.

Take a step away from work, away from the house, away from whatever your normal, daily life entails, and lose yourself in a story that transports you miles/years/worlds away from here.

Relax a little. Read a little.

No work manuals, no tech journals, no textbooks, no white papers, no cook books. Good old fashioned stories.  Stories that engross you.  Stories that envelop you.  Stories that engross you to the point that before you know it you have spent the past 4 hours reading, completely lost in the story, without even realizing it.

“Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else.” – Mark Twain

Ever since the advent of the e-Reader, I have fallen in love with reading again.  I used to buy paperback books that looked interesting from the book store, but whenever I couldn’t find the time to make it down there, or Target did not have anything too interesting on their shelves, it seems that my recreational reading fell to only when I traveled, as I would but the books from the store in the airport terminal to read on the plane flight ahead of me.


Now, there is Amazon.

I have found my love of reading again. From fiction to documentaries, novels to short stories, the virtual book stores that can be found online, complete with recommendation engines, ratings, feedback, finding books has never been easier.

It has never been easier to find a story to get engrossed in, a story to lose yourself in.

A story to find yourself in.

Day 20. Way 20. Get lost, again, this time, in a book.  Lose yourself, find yourself and be transported while doing so.

What books have you read lately?

What books would you recommend to others?

Share your favorites, stories and recommendations in the comments below.

Life

June 19: Throw Caution to the Wind

Every once in a while, you need to stop playing it safe, stop making excuses and throw caution to the wind.  Take a chance on someone.  Take a chance on yourself.

Today, instead of giving made up examples and speaking to direct reasons to take my advice, I am going to share a story and throw caution to the wind in hopes that my readers can glean my message from my story.

Just 1 year ago, my (then) fiance and I had just returned from our trip up to Sonoma and Napa, CA where I proposed (and she said YES) to our routine daily jobs and our stable, safe life.

In that past year, we have been a little busy:

Needless to say, we have thrown caution to the wind a few times.  But nothing like this weekend.

This weekend’s excursion was decided upon less than a week ago and turned out to be such a great experience, a testament to my optimism and belief in the generosity of others and how paying it forward really works.

It was around 4 weeks ago that I first came across Team Cocktail on Twitter through a Thursday tweet up that happens ever y week.  We had exchanged tweets, I had checked out their website and loved some of their gear.  I had even tried out a few of their cocktails that were posted on their blog.  I was a fan. I even bought a shirt.

After multiple more interactions, all on Twitter, Juliet and I took a big leap of faith and threw caution to the wind.  Team Cocktail was announcing their plans for their 2012 cruise, a group discount brought the prices down to a reasonable level, so Juliet and I jumped on it. We put down our deposit and are booked for the Team Cocktail Cruise in January 2012, our first cruise, headed towards the South Caribbean and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You heard me correctly, we booked our first ever cruise with a group of people we have never even met in real life.

Shortly thereafter, I did a blog writeup for Team Cocktail about one their amazing pineapple mojito.  Great advertising for my blog and their site, it was a win-win situation and helped out Team Cocktail as they prepared for their trip from Kansas to Washington D.C. for  the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Fest.

A few more emails were exchanged and on about a week’s notice, Juliet and I made the 310 mile trek down from NY to DC to help out Team Cocktail with being exhibitors hawking Team Cocktail swag to all of the party-goers in Washington DC!

We drank, ate, partied, sold, bartered and had an absolutely great time with Trey and Lyndsey from Team Cocktail and are looking forward to the January cruise even more so now that we have met Trey and Lyndsey in person.  Great fun, great people and the start of a great friendship.

None of this would have been possible if we didn’t take a chance, threw caution to the wind and made a 310 mile drive to meet some people from Twitter.

Day 19. Way 19. Throw caution to the wind. Take a chance. You might be surprised with the outcome.

Share a story about when you threw caution to the wind and any success stories to go along with it in the comments below!

Life

Foto Friday – June 17, 2011

As the Stanley Cup playoffs come to an end with the Boston Bruins taking home Lord Stanley’s hallowed chalice, I felt it appropriate to honor the hockey players and fans as we all look forward to the 16 weeks until the start of the 2011-2012 season.

This photo is pretty much straight off the camera and that is what is special to me about this photo.  The color filled arena, with the orange glow against red chairs, the color just leaps off the photo, immersing and engaging the viewer.

Now that I am back in New York, I am also looking forward to a more hockey centric region and possible games at new arenas for me, out here on the east coast.

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-18mm | Exposure –  F4.5 – 1/5

Any hockey fans in here?

Post some of your favorite photos from hockey games or share your hockey stories in the comments below!