Friday, December 27, 2019

Thoughts around the holidays

We're a few days shy of 2020 and I felt like blogging a bit on this slow Friday morning.

How's your holiday season been treating you? Hopefully it's been calm, cozy, and you've been able to be present with the people you love. I'm especially lucky to have some time off, as the automotive industry essentially shuts down from Christmas until the new year. The last post on my blog was sadly back in November, disappointing to me as I've been really wanting to carve out space for free, conscious writing. Rather than fall being (what I had hoped for) slow, it turned out to be a few months of flurried unexpected busyness.

For like two months I feel as if I've stored in my head packages of thoughts and things I've wanted to just sit and write about, but hadn't found the open moment to do so. This morning I'm wrapped up in a flannel blanket with a mug of piping hot coffee and soft jazz playing from my record player where a purple vinyl of John Coltrane's "Lush Life" spins. Now, I can happily write.

I didn't do any online shopping this year for a few reasons. I continue to adjust for and live a simple life. This season I took a new approach when it came to presents- straying away as much as I could from any material possessions, and toward giving the gifts of experience. Yeah, it's a bit cliche, but seriously though, we as individuals just have so much stuff. Instead of quickly filling a shopping cart online at Amazon.com, which by the way is a terrible thing to do and horrible company to support... I did all of my shopping locally, supporting the businesses and establishments near me. Expanding on the word "shopping," not all material possessions are bad. I was glad to buy a few books my younger brother could immerse himself in from the local bookstore, or a cast iron skillet from a kitchen supplies store five minutes from our apartment, for my girlfriend who loves to cook. But I also turned towards gifts that cantered in on creating memories. My 63-year-old mother received a voucher for five gentle yoga classes, my other younger brother got a gift card to use at a hip new indoor public market in Milwaukee's east side neighborhood, and I treated my parents to a future date night in the form of a certificate to use at one of their favorite restaurants. I am so very grateful for everything I found underneath that puffy Canaan Fir at my parents' house on 12/25, but being in close quarters with my family was all I needed.

You may have been able to tell that my blog is changing. Changing beyond new fonts and design. An issue I've been honestly struggling with as of late is trying to determine what the purpose of my blog is. Asking myself questions like "Why am I blogging?"..."What is the outcome of this post?"..."What direction do I want this blog to go?" I think there are two genres of travel blogs, one being the diary/travelogue type with personal stories backed by rich images, the other being consumer-oriented with advice. Since the start I've always considered my blog more of a travelogue, but I temporarily took a step away from that idea. I stated getting various outdoor products to review and writing how-to pieces. It was fun, I had sponsored content, and pageviews soared... but I felt as if it wasn't authentic and somewhat betraying. It hit one day that this wasn't me. The purpose of my blog is to share of my own adventures and inspire, not influence. I want my writing to be vulnerable, creative, personal, and unfiltered. Robby Around The World is a blog, not a website. I'm not ashamed for taking a detour, but what I love to do is tell stories, my stories. That's why I want you to be here and keep coming back. There are plenty of other excellent resources for those seeking information, rather than my own accounts of travels. I also decided to pause my project of writing a guidebook to all of the state parks in Wisconsin. I realized that in recent travels to these gorgeous public lands, I was focusing so unnecessarily much on what to write rather than enjoying the nature right in front of me. I was missing out. Not to mention the hundreds of pictures I would enjoy taking at each park couldn't possibly make their way into a printed book. I still have tons of pages of text written up with accompanying photos, but I may start migrating that here on to the blog at some point. I may also update and continue with a few occasional advice posts, like revamping the popular blog post about the best places in Milwaukee to hike, but that type of content won't be a top priority. I want to keep storytelling.

Real Christmas trees are actually the best. This year Brenna and I ditched the fake tree for a real, Canaan Fir that we adopted from a charming little place called Christmas on Indian Lore, about an hour northwest from Milwaukee. We bundled up and hiked out into the quiet woods at sunset with a handsaw in search of the perfect tree, warmed up with hot apple cider after, then strapped our new needled companion to the top of the my Saab station wagon, and brought it home. The journey of going and cutting down your own tree at a family-run farm is truly magical.

I really, really miss the snow. I cannot stress enough the importance of please making sure to check-in with the people you love right now. Seasonal depression is real and can have serious emotional consequences on a person during the winter months because our days are darker, colder, and shorter. I want to call attention to the fact that it was nearly 55 degrees on Christmas day. It should not be fifty-five in December, in Wisconsin. Honestly, I've occasionally been feeling pretty sad due to the lack of snow and unseasonably high temperatures. Falling snow makes me so happy, and many of my winter hobbies take place in the outdoors like skiing, snowshoeing, and winter backpacking. I can't do any of that when there isn't snow. I can't help but be worried, guilty, and concerned that our climate is changing and I don't exactly know what I can immediately do to stop it. I'm attempting to stay optimistic and cheerful, but it is hard.

There's more on the way from Nevada. I've finished one recap from this past fall's backpacking trip to desolate Great Basin National Park in Nevada, and am close to publishing my travelogue from day two, where we ascend from Baker Lake, bag Pyramid Peak, and spend the night at Johnson Lake. I'm aiming to have this post done within the next week or so, with the third installment following.

That's it for now.

Cheers and happy holidays,
Robby