Friday, March 31, 2017

Currently: March

Currently living/working in: They’re back … Our quiet winter retreat at Fenton Ranch has been interrupted by high-decibel shouting, courtesy of 20 kids a day! The truth is, we don’t mind, in fact, we absolutely love it!!!  We are happy to add a dose of environmental education in today’s nature-deficient children, no matter how deafening and tiring it may be!
A nice aerial view of where we live and Fenton Ranch. 
We are so lucky to live in this beautiful area!

Current mood: Some days my head is spinning, other days I feel organized and on top of it all.   

Currently excited about: Our epic summer!!! I am just so stoked to hit the road for our Te Araroa speaking tour and live out of a van! 

Currently not excited about: Kid germs. Our last 2 seasons working as environmental educators, I’ve gotten terrible colds and earaches. I am arming myself with some Lysol and Emergen-C in hopes that I don’t go 3 for 3. 

Currently proud of: Making changes to Justin’s diet. The poor guy has the digestive abilities of a coffee stirring straw. Since surgery, he’s had to make some major sacrifices of his favorite foods (strawberries! donuts! gummies!). This guy has major willpower. We’ve spent some time this winter trying to experiment with different non-inflammatory foods with the help of supplemental vitamins, a nutritionist’s knowledge and a fantastic Danielle Walker cookbook we borrowed from a friend. We are making progress, we think. But someone recently reminded me that the best changes happen over time, so patience, more willpower and confidence in our choices is key here. 

Currently worried about: Managing J’s diet while on the road. We’ve noticed that traveling and eating out do not go hand in hand for people with dietary restrictions. Funny how you take things for granted until it becomes your own issue. 

Currently thankful for: A really awesome and compassionate medical team of doctors and nurses that flow with our non-traditional life. 

Currently regretting: Not being able to write off more for our 2016 taxes. Just the way the cookie crumbles!

Currently amazed by: In a matter of 7 days, we sold the Wanderer and bought a 2016 Chevy Trax! It was nearly unintentional … we thought, let’s list our camper van for sale, knowing we didn’t need it this summer thanks to our Superfeet Sprinter van and it would sit again next winter. Our very first caller asked a bunch of questions, put down a deposit and high-tailed it from California to pick it up. We were a bit sad to say bye to our first camper van, but it certainly won’t be our last! As for the Trax, we just thought we’d go down to Albuquerque to look around at cars. Found a good deal and a vehicle that fits our lifestyle! 
Goodbye Wanderer ... you may have only been in our life for less than a year, but we enjoyed 10,000 miles together! Hopefully the new owners enjoy it just as much. 
Current confession:  Spring and winter dance together in the New Mexico mountains, so while we have some really warm days, we still have those occasional snowstorms! Overall, though, we have little need for our wood stove these days and it makes me both sad and happy. I miss the coziness of our fires, but it's a chance to air out all our clothing and gear from wood smoke! 

Current guilty pleasure: Expensive food purchases and supplemental vitamins for J. In my mind, it is all worth it if it helps keeps him healthy. In his mind, a dose of From Good Homes live in concert is the best medicine.
Only J could conveniently schedule doctor appts in Denver the same weekend FGH is playing! 

Currently reading: Our recent Florida trip was all about visiting and reading. 
I picked up “The Magnolia Story” by Chip & Joanna Gaines and Mark Dagostino from my in-laws’ shelf. I never even heard of this couple’s TV show “Fixer Upper,” but their story of working together seemlessly intrigued me. I blew through it in 3 days. 

Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire” by Nicholas Howe - I am moving slowly through this one. It is very interesting because the book mixes the history of the Whites with tragedy, but I don’t love the writing. 

J is reading "The Ship and the Storm" by Jim Carrier. He feels very devastated by the story about the loss of Windjammer Cruise Lines' biggest sailing ship as it tried to avoid Hurricane Mitch in 1998. He just keeps looking up from his book and saying, "it's so tragic!"

Currently watching on Netflix: Onto Season 2 of “The Wire” TV series via Netflix DVD. Our mail service up here resumes April 1, which means we will receive our DVDs quicker! 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Florida: The Sunshine State

Justin & I both read 1.5 books this past weekend.
It was the kind of relaxation we really needed.
Life has been moving at 90mph lately, and with some minor stress mixed in, it feels like we are doing all we can to stay afloat. Yes, I know I've neglected this blog, but I am hoping a post mostly full of pictures will hold you over. My motivation for writing is zilch, yet I have 4.5 writing deadlines looming over my head. It'll come back, just give me a moment.

We took a six-day trip to visit Justin's dad and stepmom in Florida, part of the time with J's siblings. When we visit my family in NJ/CT and Justin's family in Denver, we intentionally have a trillion things on our agenda. Denver is "our primary residence," so it feels like our trips to Denver are a serious dose of reality and adulting. I now associate Denver with anxiety—self-induced—but present nonetheless. As for NJ, we just always have a million friends and family to cram in and see. Never enough time.

Our Florida trip was the complete opposite. We visited and relaxed. Novel concept.

Ah relaxing ... we all should do that more often, eh?
Indeed, we did convince our brother-in-law to rub J's feet!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Te Araroa Book Progress Volume 5: The Waiting

We all know the feeling. You apply for a job you think is so perfect and are at the mercy of constantly checking an empty inbox.
No one wants to see a picture of me staring at my inbox. So I give you Mrs. Gibbles/Gibs/Gibby.

I feel like I've applied for 25 perfect jobs and with only 4 rejections to show, I wonder, did I send everything into outer space?

Before I submitted my book to potential publishers, I read about the dreadful waiting period and I thought, "eh, I'll be totally cool about it. I'm busy enough that I'm not going to obsessively check my inbox."


I was a little off the mark on that one. Wait, who am I kidding? I couldn't even see the mark!

It's been 3 months since I clicked send for my first query to a publisher—followed by another 24 submissions—and there is not a thing I can do about it. For those who don't know, most publishers suggest NOT following up. The squeaky wheel does not get oiled; it gets thrown away. You should hear back from most, eventually, but in the meantime, you are at their mercy. I keep going back to this idea: the writing process was entirely enjoyable for me. But more importantly, it was within my control.

According to my mom, the Obamas, the Trumps, the Clintons and Alec Baldwin have all published books recently. Why is it so easy for them? Rhetorical question.

I am fully aware that checking my e-mail forty billion times a day is only wearing me down more, but I can't seem to stop. It's like a baker not baking bread.

Of course my writer friends remind me that three months of waiting is NOTHING. Time is a stagnant river in the publishing world. And the fact that I've only received 4 rejections out of 25 is GOOD NEWS.

But I am seriously lacking motivation to send out more queries or doing any new writing. I mean, I am they type of person that squeezes every last drop out of my toothpaste tube, so throwing in the towel after 25 submissions seems out of character.

The thing is, I have scoured Writer's Market 2017 and every book on my shelf for publishers within my niche of travel memoir nonfiction that allow me—as an unagented writer—to query them directly. My initial list had about 60 potential publishers. After more research, my list dwindled to 25 that accept electronic submissions. There are 6 others I could query via snail mail, but I just feel like that may be more hassle than it's worth in my case (with the closest post office being 45 miles away with limited hours!). I am at the end of the list, or at least the end of my rope.

I do wonder if I should switch my approach. There hasn't been any constructive feedback from the 4 rejections I've received, so I hesitate to make any big query, proposal or manuscript changes. I could start querying agents. Agents can query bigger publishing houses (like Penguin Random House) and take a cut of your sales in the long run. You impress the agent, the agent impresses the publisher. But it would require massive research to come up with a list of agents in my niche and a little revamping on my proposal. Plus, I am told there is more waiting to hear from the agent, who is waiting to hear from the publisher. Plus, plus, my book subject is so specific, would Random House and bigger publishers really be interested in it? Is the middle man really worth it for me?

I could also self publish. I can upload my book to Amazon and have it on sale as an ebook in minutes. I know this is an option. It would obviously accomplish my dream of having my book published. The barrier for me is that there is no hand-holding through the process. Publishing through a publisher requires you to do a lot of marketing on your own, but self publishing requires 10x more. Plus (this may be the fourth time I've used "plus" in this post, don't judge), there's the whole production and business side of things. I've learned so much through this publishing attempt that my brain is full; I'm not sure I have the gumption to clog it more. The ego part of self publishing—for me—is that I am old school. Being published in the traditional sense is a goal I cannot let go of ... yet. Call it stubborn.

So I continue to wait and spring ahead!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Summer Speaking Tour 2017!!!!

Well folks, this shouldn't come as a surprise, but we have a summer of adventure ahead of us.  

We are going to once again drink in the inspiration of the road and get the country under our fingertips ... 

We are going on yet another speaking tour about Te Araroa around the United States from May 1-July 24!
2015 Tour - PC: Kristin McLane

Before I get into the schedule, allow me to give a little background info (I wouldn't be myself if I didn't preface everything).

Who and What and Why?
J & I have really gotten into this whole public speaking thing. It started as a handful of Appalachian Trail presentations subsequent to our 2011 thru hike. In the summer of 2013, we were chosen by Backpacker Magazine to be the Gear and Go Tour Ambassadors, giving 26 presentations in 6 months across 17 states (total road trip mileage: 25,000 miles!).

After our Te Araroa thru hike in 2014-15, we realized New Zealand's long-distance trail was gaining notoriety, but without comprehensive info circulating, especially stateside. We took it upon ourselves to work with our gear partners to test the presentation waters spotlighting this topic. It would not only allow us to share helpful tips and the differences between Te Araroa and other US trails, but remind users of Leave No Trace ethics and promote responsible tourism. Our 8-stop nationwide tour in December 2015 and January 2016 was a HIT.

Justin's wheels never stop turning and one day, he pitched the idea to me of a bigger speaking tour. My initial response: NO. Too much work, how would we sustain a longer tour, yadda yadda yadda. My husband is truly a valedictorian of dreaming. Admittedly, I squash most of them and counter with reality. However, he refined his pitch to me and had me sold. By partnering on a higher level with gear companies, we could make this work. It is with justifiable pride that I say he has done much of the legwork to get a second tour off the ground and running.

And then there's the other part of it. Hopefully we can also use this tour to promote my book. Still waiting ...

Where and When? 
31 events in 17 states, covering about 10,000 miles over the course of 85 days. This includes 27 REIs, 1 mom-and-pop store, a climbing gym, 1 brewery and 1 town library. See schedule below!
We start in New Mexico and Arizona with 6 stops, but then we fly up to Washington to continue the tour south ... read further to find out why we are disrupting the driving route and flying to Washington ...

Tour Sponsors
We've worked with various gear companies over the years on all different levels and we couldn't give enough praise for these partnerships. We are happy to say many of these outfits will be joining this tour as sponsors!

Home Is Where You Park It
You might remember we purchased a 1995 Chevy G30 Roadtrek Popular 210 Camper Van in the summer of 2016 and affectionately named him "The Wanderer." The purchase had our future speaking tour in mind, although we took it for a spin around 18 states, adding about 10,000 miles to its odometer.

"The Wanderer" would have wandered to plenty of other states, but one of our gear partners, Superfeet, had a better option for us to use this summer. A 2016 Converted Sprinter Van!!!! This is what we will be picking up in Washington. It is currently being converted, so I don't have much info on amenities. They asked what we might want, so we put in our request for must haves, such as a bed and kitchen unit (fridge, sink, propane stove) and dream items, such as bluetooth stereo system with outside speakers. We shall see what we end up with!
PC: Superfeet
Weekend Warriors
My non-Type-A husband meticulously planned out our route so that we typically have short drives between stops presenting Monday through Thursday. He also left our weekends for outdoor adventures, a friend's wedding, general visiting and a few concerts (of course)! What's the fun in traversing the country if you can't enjoy all it has to offer?!

We hope to hit 5-6 more National Parks, adding to the 37/59 we've already visited. These include: Saguaro, Redwood, Lassen and the Channel Islands.

We also hope to climb a few more state high points, adding to the 40 we've already hit. These include: Oregon's Mt. Hood, Minnesota's Eagle Mountain, Michigan's Mt. Arvon and Wisconsin's Timms Hill.

Mark Your Calendar
We have friends spread like butter across the map of the US, and while we aren't going to see everyone (sorry South and Southeast), we are going to see TONS of you. If you haven't heard from me already, you will soon. Of course we want to give you a hug, but we may also want to bum a shower, Internet and maybe even a bed off of you??? Fair warning. Check below to see if we are coming your way. And BE SURE TO REGISTER for the events if you plan to come. They fill up fast (we're pretty cool. JK. New Zealand is a popular topic).

Monday, May 1 - 6pm
Santa Fe REI - 500 Market St., Santa Fe, NM
Register here!

Tuesday, May 2 - 6pm
Albuquerque REI - 1550 Mercantile Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM
Register here!

Wednesday, May 3 - 6pm
Flagstaff REI - 323 South Windsor Lane, Flagstaff, AZ
Register here!

Thursday, May 4 - 6:30pm
Chandler REI - Chandler Pavillion Shopping Center - 870 North 54th St, Chandler, AZ
Register here!

Monday, May 8 - 6:30pm
Paradise Valley REI - 12634 N. Paradise Village Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ
Register here!

Tuesday, May 9 - 6:30pm
Tucson REI - 160 W. Wetmore Rd., Tucson, AZ
Register here!

Monday, May 15 - 6pm
Bellingham REI - 400 36th St., Bellingham, WA
Register here!

Tuesday, May 16 - 6:30pm
Seattle REI - 222 Yale Ave. N, Seattle, WA
Register here!

Wednesday, May 17 - 6:30pm
Olympia REI - 625 Black Lake Blvd SW, Suite 410, Olympia, WA
Register here!

Wednesday, May 24 - 7pm
Beergarden (brewery partnering with Eugene REI)
777 West 6th Ave., Eugene, Oregon
Register here!

Thursday, May 25 - 6:30pm
Medford REI - 85 Rossanley Dr., Medford, OR
Register here!

Tuesday, May 30 - 6:30pm
Hermit's Hut Base Camp - 3184 Bechelli Lane, Redding, CA
Shasta Rock Club - 2523 Athens Ave, Redding, CA
One of these 2 locations TBD. No registration needed.

Wednesday, May 31 - 7pm
Sacramento REI - 1790 Expo Pkwy, Sacramento, CA
Register here!

Thursday, June 1 - 7pm
Santa Rosa REI - 2715 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, CA
Register here!

Monday, June 5 - 7pm
San Francisco REI - 840 Brannan St., San Francisco, CA
Register here!

Tuesday, June 6 - 7pm
Saratoga REI - 400 El Paseo de Saratoga, San Jose, CA
Register here!

Wednesday, June 7 - 6:30pm
Fresno REI - 7810 N. Blackstone Ave., Fresno, CA
Register here!

Thursday, June 8 - 6:30pm
Oxnard REI - 2700 Seaglass Way, Oxnard, CA
Register here!

Monday, June 12 - 7pm
Henderson REI - 2220 Village Walk Dr., Suite 150, Henderson, NV
Register here!

Tuesday, June 13 - 7pm
Boca Park REI - 710 S. Rampart Blvd., Las Vegas, NV
Register here!

Thursday, June 15 - 6:30pm
Salt Lake City REI - 3285 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City, UT
Register here!

Friday, June 16 - 7pm
Idaho Mountain Trading - 474 Shoup Ave, Idaho Falls, ID
Registration not needed.

Monday, June 19 - 6:30pm
Minneapolis REI - 750 W. American Blvd., Bloomington, MN
Register here!

Tuesday, June 20 - 6:30pm
Madison REI - 7483 W. Towne Way, Madison, WI
Register here!

Wednesday, June 21 - 6:30pm
Ann Arbor REI - 970 W. Eisenhower Pkwy, Ann Arbor, MI
Register here!

Tuesday, June 27 - 6:30pm
Hopkinton Public Library - 61 Houston Dr., Contoocook, NH
Registration not needed.

Wednesday, June 28 - 6:30pm
Reading REI - 279 Salem St., Reading, MA
Register here!

Thursday, June 29 - 7pm
Milford REI - 1587 Boston Post Rd., Milford, CT
Register here!

Thursday, July 6 - 6:30pm
King of Prussia REI - 161 Town Square Place, King of Prussia, PA
Register here!

Monday, July 10 - 6:30pm
Virginia Beach REI - 350 Independence Blvd., Virginia Beach, VA
Register here!

Monday, July 24 - 6:30pm
Denver REI - 1416 Platte St., Denver, CO
Register here!

Hope to see some of you out at the events!!!