World Trip 2015

Our Last Day

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Arc de Triumph in Paris
Arc de Triumph in Paris

Let me start by saying thank you to everyone for your support and love on this trip. We have received so many kind words and support from friends, relatives and some people that we’ve never even met before. The most important part of this trip is that we all left the US healthy and we all return healthy. No broken body parts, no real bad illnesses, although Drew and Ilise were sick for a few weeks around our time in Turkey and Italy. We left family and friends behind for almost 6 months including our time in Israel, and no one back at home got sick or had anything challenging happen to them. We had discuss what would we do if we were half way around the world and something happened back at home? I’m so glad that we didn’t have to deal with any of those unwanted surprises.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

We return to the US tomorrow after our last day in Paris visiting the Arc de Triumph and Monmartre. Drew was able to finish her 3rd section of 5 of her second semester in Geometry. She should be able to handle the rest of her studies after camp in the Catskills and back in San Diego. She has become a much better student on this trip, learning how to eliminate distraction and just get her work done. That should help her when she returns to school in September. Both Ilise and I have had opportunities to spend lots of time with our teenage kids that most parents just don’t. At this age most of our kids friends are spending so much time with each other that they don’t spend much time together as a family.

The kids and me at the Arc de Triumph
The kids and me at the Arc de Triumph

We left the US with the outline to a book called The Connected Family; A Guide to a Semester Abroad. Now, I don’t believe for a minute that we would win any awards for how connected we are, we do have two teenage children of different sexes going through puberty! But, we are so much more connected than when we left home and much more connected than we would have been if we didn’t go on this journey. We have had time with each of our children individually and together. We have switched around sleeping arrangements so we can listen to our children’s deepest thoughts and concerns about life and their future. I believe that both of our children have learned a ton about themselves, Drew wanting to travel the globe as she gets older and Noah never wanting to leave San Diego ever again.

Panoramic of Paris from Sacre-Coure
Panoramic of Paris from in front of the Sacre-Coeur

Our day in Paris today was so fitting as our last day. We took the Metro to the Champs Elysees and spent some time at the Arc de Triumph. The ceremony for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was taking place right as we arrived and we got to see the marching band block traffic for a few minutes as they entered and crossed the busiest traffic circle in Paris. From there we walked down the Champs Elysees and then took the Metro to Monmartre to see the Sacré-Cœur and get a view of the city. We stopped at an Italian restaurant at the bottom of the hill and ordered some nice take-out so we could make a picnic on the hill. We had brought a bottle of wine with us so we asked the restaurant for plastic silverware and some cups. They did not have any disposable utensils but they did provide us with forks and a knife, along with two wine glasses as long as we promised to bring them back. I told the waiter that we would be on a plane tomorrow and didn’t need any extra silverware to bring with us.

The Eiffel Tower made of chocolate at a local chocolate shop. Yum!
The Eiffel Tower made of chocolate at a local chocolate shop. Yum!

We took the food up to the hill in front of the cathedral and enjoyed a really nice meal. We drank our wine, well half the bottle, and then stopped to take some pictures. The views of Paris were just awesome and we soaked it all in. There was a man with an electric guitar and microphone set up on the steps, kind of like karaoke, who was letting people come down and sing with him. The crowd was really enjoying themselves even though the quality of the singing wasn’t very good. We took a bunch of pictures, went back down the hill, returned the utensils and glasses to the restaurant and boarded a Metro back to our apartment for the last time. It was a very nice way to end our travels.

 

Drew in front of Sacre-Couer
Drew in front of Sacre-Couer

We have stayed in 26 different AirBnB apartments on this trip, visiting 12 different countries. We passed through hundreds and hundreds of small towns on our flights, drives and train rides through Australia, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. We met so many wonderful people and will carry all of these memories with us for the rest of our life. I believe our kids lives have been changed forever as well. It hasn’t always been easy with them, but it has been rewarding. We were told before we left that a trip like this will provide you with the best of times and the worst of times. Not sure we got the worst of times, but there were some really bumpy moments.

Open mic at Sacre-Couer, very enjoyable
Open mic at Sacre-Couer, very enjoyable

I look forward to continuing to blog every day when I return home, but the posts will not be filled with as many facts and experiences, I hope that they will be more thought provoking and help people see the world a bit differently than they do today. I believe the pictures of our travels will be replaced by sunset pictures from our new home. I can’t wait to spend some time just sitting on the new deck watching the sun go down. When we return it’s time for me to live my purpose, to live my life in harmony with my core values and have my work align with that. I have focused my life on doing what I was trained to do in order to make money for far too long, even though the work I did helped a lot of people, it wasn’t in alignment with my core being. It is time to change that and create a life for myself and the family  that is in total alignment. We have so many wonderful people around us in San Diego and I look forward to seeing them all soon.

To a life well lived!

146 Down, One to Go

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The Mona Lisa at the Louvre
The Mona Lisa at the Louvre

We have been traveling for 146 days now and we are in Paris for our final full day. Our flight is tomorrow at 9:45 am, so a 7 am taxi will take us to the airport and we arrive in Newark around noon if all goes as planned. For our second to last day in Paris we spent about 3 plus hours walking around the Louvre. That place is HUGE! OMG, I can’t believe all the artwork, statues, estate rooms and so much more. The place was once a palace, I can’t imagine living there and trying to keep the whole place running. I can imagine what a great place to play hide and seek though. You could hide for years and no one would fine you.

Ilise with some Da Vinci statues
Ilise with some Michelangelo statues

At the Louvre we saw as many of the Must See exhibits as we could, including the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, the estate rooms of Napoleon, sculptures by Michelangelo and so much more. I know that Drew and Noah enjoyed every moment of it, NOT, but they were well behaved and stayed with us through a lot of walking. We went from one end of the building to the other and back. Did I say it was a big place? After we exited the museum we walked to the Metro to find our way to the Eiffel Tower. We were hoping for another sunset like the night before and stayed around the tower for about 2 hours, but there were no clouds in the sky so we didn’t get any special colors, just a simple sunset. Maybe someday Drew will come back and get a picture of the tower during a beautiful sunset, but it didn’t happen this time.

Ilise and kids in front of the Louvre
Ilise and kids in front of the Louvre

After hanging around the Eiffel Tower we decided to head back to the apartment to get some dinner. On the way to the Metro we spotted a make your own yogurt shop and thought, perfect, a replacement for dinner. Well, we all chose our flavors and toppings and weighed our cups. I didn’t really look at the prices, thinking they would be in line with what we pay in the states, or maybe a bit more, but the bill came to over $40. Ouch! We’ve had meals in Prague, Budapest, Greece and Istanbul for far less than four servings of yogurt in Paris. I couldn’t believe it, but paid the bill and headed to the train to go home. We got home around 11 pm and it was time to call it a night.

Magnificent Eiffel Tower from below
Magnificent Eiffel Tower from below

Today is our last full day in Paris and we plan to go see the Arc d’ Triumph and Monmartre and then try to get to bed at a reasonable time so we can get up early tomorrow for our ride to the airport. Paris is an amazing city and we have enjoyed ourselves, but as I’ve said numerous times in the past week or so, we are all ready to be home. Ilise has said many times “I can’t imagine if we had actually done this for a full year.” The original plan was a full year for this trip with time in Asia and Latin America, but we cut it to 6 months instead. That was a wise decision.

Sunset at the Eiffel Tower
Sunset at the Eiffel Tower

In the end this trip has provided everything that I had hoped for. It provided some time for us to get more connected as a family, to spend more time with our teenage children in a period of their life when we normally wouldn’t. It gave our kids a perspective of the world most don’t get at their age, and it provided them an opportunity to get to know themselves better. It gave me time to separate from my business completely and the time to process what was and what will be. It provided Ilise and I an opportunity to travel to some places that we had always dreamed of and to see some of the best the world has to offer. I look back over the past 6 months with amazing gratitude and appreciation for what we have experienced. I also look forward to the next journey back in San Diego building a new life together in a new house with a new business and solidifying the friendships we already have and building new ones. Life is a blessing and I am excited to be coming home. To a life well lived!

Past Two Days in Paris

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Eiffel Tower from Tuileries Gardens
Eiffel Tower from Tuileries Gardens

The past couple of days in Paris have been pretty busy and filled with people and places. This city is as big as just about any city we have visited, other than probably Istanbul. The amount of sites that there are to see, from the Louvre to the Musee D’Orsay to The Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame to the Arc de Triumphe and so many different neighborhoods. On Wednesday we spent much of the morning and early afternoon in the apartment getting schoolwork done and I walked to a ticket office to get our Louvre tickets that we purchased in-line. Once we finally got out of the apartment we had a 3 pm walking tour of Paris scheduled which started at the Opera House. Our tour guide was a native Parisian and he took us around for a bit over 2 hours.

Kids and me across the river from Musee D'Orsay
Kids and me across the river from Musee D’Orsay

We spent a good 30 minutes around the Opera House, talking about how it was built and why. We heard about the architect, Haussemann, who restructured the city a few hundred years ago. He tore down 25% of Paris and opened up wide streets and built hundreds of buildings that still stand today. After that we headed toward the high rent shopping district and then ended our tour in Tuilerie Gardens, one of the largest parks in all of Paris. On one end of the park is the Louvre and across the river from the park is the Musee D’Orsay. Straight down the Champs Elysee is the Arc de Triumph and a great view of the Eiffel Tower. We got to see many of the historic sights from a distance and then headed back towards our neighborhood via subway to get some dinner. We found a little Asian restaurant and everyone was happy to head back and call it a day.

Locks of love on a bridge in Paris
Locks of love on a bridge in Paris

On Thursday I had scheduled a meeting with a blind golfer, Jeremy Poincenot, from San Diego who I recently met virtually. He was introduced to me by a good friend when I told them we were looking to assemble a group of Millenials that want to become public speakers. Jeremy is already a speaker but at the beginning of his career. He was planning to come through Paris the same time we were and we scheduled lunch in District 6. We will meet again in San Diego in July when we are both back in town. In addition, I ended up also meeting my old family friend, Jeremy Schuster, for breakfast as well. So, it was a day filled with Jeremys.

Family in front of Notre Dame
Family in front of Notre Dame
Street performer spinning fire in front of Notre Dame
Street performer spinning fire in front of Notre Dame

I returned to the apartment to complete a coaching call and then we headed to the D’Orsay for our first museum in Paris. We arrived around 6:30 pm as the museum stays open until 9:30 on Thursdays. We headed straight for the top floor of the museum as we were told that’s where all the good stuff, the Impressionists, paintings are. We spent a couple of hours touring the museum and then decided to walk to the Jewish section for some felafel for dinner. Jeremy Schuster had pointed out the best felafel restaurant in all of Paris earlier in the day and we decided to give it a try. We are glad we did. The only problem is that Noah doesn’t eat felafel, so we headed off to find him dinner and decided that ice cream would be a good substitute. We found the top rated ice cream in the city, called Bethillon, behind Notre Dame. Ilise and Noah’s feet were really hurting them from all our walking so they rented a couple of bicycles from the city bike system and road them while Drew and I walked. After the ice cream we headed over to check out Notre Dame.

Paris at night
Paris at night

After the obligatory pictures Ilise and Noah went back to the apartment with the bikes while Drew and I stayed to watch some street performers. One of the performers was warming up by rolling an acrylic ball up and down his arms, almost like he was one with the glass orb. It was truly magical and Drew was just mesmerized. They started their show with some loud music and the other performer twirling a large baton that was on fire on both ends. For the next 15 minutes we were entertained by these two street artists and saw an amazing show. Drew got some awesome pictures of the fire and we really enjoyed ourselves. We returned to the apartment exhausted and I went straight to bed. It has been a long few days with lots of walking and things to see. We have two more days of Paris and then our flight on Sunday morning. All in all, I can’t imagine a better ending to this journey.

To a life well lived!

Anne Frank House & A New Friend

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit for a few hours with a young, aspiring social entrepreneur and business coach in Amsterdam. We connected through LinkedIn and decided to meet. Sharita had amazing presence and a deep understanding of humanity that was a pleasure to see. She was born to be a coach and has amazing insights and clarity about why we are here. We talked for hours about her proposed target market, which was early stage social entrepreneurs, and how I believe that market is one of the hardest markets to make a living from. Over the past 20 plus years I have seen more organizations try to make money from the start-up market and flail for a long time. Very few have succeeded and I’m convinced that picking which early stage organizations and leaders will succeed is close to impossible.

For the past decade I’ve realized that helping successful people be more successful is so much easier and more impactful than helping unsuccessful people be successful. So, Sharita has the ability to coach just about anyone with her presence and her gifts, so why not focus on helping successful people rather than unsuccessful people? I believe that I actually saw a light bulb go off, and it was so fun to see. I also found Sharita challenging me in my assumptions in ways that not many people can. It was a lot of fun getting to know her and sharing some time together. After leaving Sharita I met Ilise and the kids at the Anne Frank House, the largest tourist attraction in Amsterdam.

We had purchased tickets to the museum online so we didn’t need to stand on the 90 minute line. When we entered the building we were directed to the next room to start the self guided walking tour. The experience was powerful in so many ways. First of all, whoever created the museum did an amazing job in telling the story from so many different perspectives. The movies they created were very moving and the written quotes and messages on the wall gave you a real sense of what life was like in that small house. Each of us could not comprehend what it must have been like for Anne and her family, along with 4 others, to hide out in that small space for 2 years without ever coming outside.

Ilise and Noah have been reading Anne Frank’s Diary for the past few days so Noah was much more engaged at this museum than just about any of the others we have visited. For much of the past 2 months we have traveled through the sections of Europe that were at one time Nazi Germany. We have tried to have conversations with people that lived here and those who have relatives that were alive in that time about what it was like. I can’t imagine the inhumanity that took place. The ability for people to just watch their friends be taken away just because of their religion.

I know that Ilise has really struggled with this issue for much of the trip. In addition, it seems like antisemitism and hatred are on the rise again in this part of the world. How can people be so hateful towards another human being that they don’t even know? How does racism and hatred happen, where does it come from and why are people so angry? We all breath the same air, we all pump blood, we all digest food; we are all human. How and why do people teach their children to hate others just because of their religion or the color of their skin? It still makes no sense, and that is part of the story behind the Anne Frank House. How and why this happened in the first place is insane, but the fact that they lived in hiding for so long is beyond my comprehension.

Another book that Ilise and Noah read together, that Drew and I also read, is Wonder. It’s a book about a young boy who is born horribly disfigured and the book talks about his integration into a middle school. The book carries a powerful message for young people about judgement and blind hatred. I hope that the next generation and generations to follow can find a way to stop passing on this hatred. That one day we can find a way to just appreciate all human beings for who they are, for the gifts that they bring to this planet and not for how they look, their beliefs or anything else that is part of our outside being. We are all human and should be treated with kindness and respect. Needless to say, yesterday was a moving day for all of us.

To a life well lived!

Tired, Very, Very Tired

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We left Berlin yesterday morning and drove 7 hours to Amsterdam. My week in Berlin was rather busy and I had a number of pretty intense, but really enjoyable meetings. After waking up early on Saturday we headed toward Amsterdam for the next week. We arrived around 4:30 pm on Saturday, went to the grocery to get our stay started and then we made a quick dinner for everyone. By 9:00 I headed into the bedroom to take a nap and slept for the next 2 hours. I woke up around 11 and decided to just call it a night. I woke up again around 8 am but didn’t get out of bed until after 9:00. For me, sleeping for 12 hours at one stretch is not very common, so my body is telling me that I’m tired, very tired.

We are two weeks from our flight back to NYC and I’m ready to be home, back in a routine and ready to live in our new home and start a new business. My 52nd birthday is in September and the past 6 months have been my mid-life break. We started with celebrating Noah’s Bar Mitzvah in Israel and will end in Paris in two weeks. I believe that this trip has changed me, it has allowed me to find pieces of me I didn’t know existed and has clarified some very important lessons that have been right in front of me for a long time. I spoke with a good friend a few weeks ago and he said that I have to come up with the top things I have learned from this journey, I’m sure that list will come but this is not the time to do that.

Today was a day to rest, to recharge my battery and to get ready to enjoy the next 5 days in Amsterdam. We have a walking tour tomorrow and dinner with a couple we met in Australia, Tuesday is a visit to the Anne Frank Museum, Wednesday we will rent bikes and enjoy a dinner cruise through the canals, Thursday we head to The Hague for dinner and Friday I speak at a Rotary meeting. So, the week has plenty in store for us. We head to Bruges next Saturday for 3 nights before our last 5 nights in Paris. One last stretch of the journey to go and the rest of our lives to live. I’m looking forward to the next two weeks and the adventure in front of us, but I’m tired and looking forward to our travels home.

To a life well lived!

People, Connecting with People

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I have not blogged about our travels around Berlin much as I’m starting to wain on documenting each moment of our trip. We have seen so much and I’ve enjoyed seeing everything and getting it down in my blog, but I’m starting to be more interested in how I’m feeling at this point of our travels, what I have learned from this extended time away from our home and how I’m interacting with people. I started this journey with the idea that I have spent the first 51 years of my life introducing people to my brain, my intellect, trying to show them how smart I am. A good friend, named Miguel, told me before I left that when he first met me he was introduced to my brain and he didn’t really start to like me until he met my heart, which wasn’t that far behind, but it wasn’t what I led with.

Today, I had my first opportunity to lead with my heart in an extremely meaningful way. I had a meeting with someone that I met through Rotary. This was the person that I emailed about attending their club meeting on Friday. He received my email and took some time to do some digging. He found my blog and was intrigued by what I was writing about and told me that we needed to meet. He is a very successful entrepreneur running a technology shop. The company has about 100 employees and he is your true, die hard entrepreneur who has a heart of gold. He loves his company and his people, but he is torn. He is someone that I have met hundreds of times before, but he is different, he is self aware and he is what I’ve been looking for this whole trip. He is the example of the person that I most want to support on their journey. Someone who has been successful based on our common definition of the word success, but knows that it is not his life’s work, it’s just how he has learned to make money. The issue now is how to not kill the cash machine and be able to pursue his life’s work. The most interesting part for me is his awareness and his desire to find out why he still feels empty with all he has accomplished.

To know that someone like this exists in Berlin further confirms my drive and determination for my return to San Diego in the next few weeks. I was able to truly be present in this meeting for the majority of the time. My new friend was also very present and when my brain started to show up he told me so. It was an amazing opportunity for me to dial into how I was showing up for someone else. I can really help this person with the challenges he is facing, but he can also help me with some of my blind spots. In the end it is all about connecting deeply with people, being there for them without attachment to the outcome, without attachment to what’s in it for me. This is something that has been programmed into our brains since we are so small that needs to shift. WIIFM? We need to let that story go ……

I am starting to understand what it means to lead with my heart, to introduce people to the whole me and not just my brain. I am a work in progress and will continue to learn every day about this significant distinction in my life. I need to be a complete person not just a walking head. It is this transformation that the past 5 months, without the distractions of day to day life, that has helped me see more clearly. It is this evolution that will not only allow me to be the person that I was meant to be, but the person that I need to be in order to have the impact I want to have on the world. It is time to leave my brain in my head and introduce the world to my heart. In the end our deepest connections come when we connect with other people’s hearts, not their heads.

To a life well lived!

Those Moments

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You take an extended trip like the one we are on and you wait for those moments as a parent. Those moments where life happens and you get to help your child understand how to handle themselves in a way that supports their growth as a person. Those moments when they ask you a hard question and you don’t have any distractions so you can address them head on. Those moments when they are struggling with how they are perceived by the world (even though it doesn’t matter) and their emotions are tied to how others see them. Those moments when you catch them doing something amazing or watching them grow up right in front of your eyes.

When you are in the day to day flow of life where you are working, your kids are in school and everything is just busy, those moments just pass by without much of an opportunity to make them lasting memories. Sometimes you have a good answer and sometimes you help them on their journey, but for many of us it is not our #1 focus. On this trip we have had lots of these moments, times when either Drew or Noah have had a challenge or asked a difficult question or had challenges with each other. There have also been moments when you just say, WOW! This part of our trip has been amazing. I believe Noah came into this trip believing that “siblings fight” and I hope we go home with a different story in his head.

As we approach re-entry to our world in San Diego I must remind myself to take advantage of those opportunities even when we are in the flow. Even when life is busy, even when there are so many distractions and I know that being present as a parent and as a person is critical for so many reasons. I know it’s the same in my business life. The more present I can be, the more engaged I can be, the more deeply connected I will become with people. And from this trip I am learning and reinforcing one of the most important lessons of my life; in the end, deep human connection is all that matters. To add to that paradigm, the more deeply we can connect with ourselves the more deeply we can connect with others.

So, as we approach the last few weeks of our journey I begin to think about how I want to live my life differently upon our return. How can I be more present, how can I be more available to everyone around me, especially those that I consider part of my tribe. This lesson of connectedness is directly tied to developing my tribe. Being present is easier when you are being present for those you feel are deserving of your full attention. Not that everyone does not deserve your full attention, but there is something about spending time with others that are of like-mind and like-heart. I look forward to the next part of our journey and seeing what evolves.

To a life well lived!

More Time in Budapest

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Thursday turned out to be a quiet day for us as Noah went to school with the son of our new friends and Drew stayed home to study her geometry. I headed out in the morning to get a haircut, yes, it has been more than 2 months since getting a haircut and my hair was getting a bit out of control. Finding a place to get it cut was interesting in itself, but the real interesting part was telling the barber that I usually have them use a trimmer with a Number 2 trimmer. He starts trimming away with the electric razor and gets it to the length I’m used to and then he puts on a smaller adapter and starts trimming some more. I stop him and say why is it so short? It turns out that a Number 2 in the US is in inches and the Number 2 in Europe is in mm. So, my hair looks a bit more military than usual, but this cut should last me until I get home.

The Doheny Synagogue in Budapest
The Dohany Synagogue in Budapest

The rest of the day was spent picking up Noah from school, getting food for everyone and getting some rest. Today we let everyone sleep in and headed out of the apartment a bit after noon to go over to the big Dohany Synagogue just a couple of blocks from where we are staying. This Synagogue is the largest in Europe and the 2nd largest in the world. We bought tickets and started with the tour in the museum, which was very nice. There were four sections of the small museum, one dedicated to the Jewish holidays, one dedicated to the Torah, one dedicated to normal life in Budapest and the last section was dedicated to the Holocaust. On this portion of the tour we met a couple who currently live in Amsterdam but are from Denver. Deborah and Chris will also be traveling to Berlin the same dates that we will and we will try to connect while we are there and probably when we are in Amsterdam the following week.

Ilise and I inside the Synagogue
Ilise and I inside the Synagogue

After spending time in the museum we went into the synagogue to hear from another tour guide about the building itself.  We heard about the synagogue being designed more like a cathedral than a synagogue, and that was evident in so many ways. The building was beautiful, not as beautiful as the synagogue in Florence, but extremely special. There was a huge pipe organ in the building as well as many other non-typical items for a synagogue. We were also walked around the property and shown some of the sculptures and monuments build for those who died during the Nazi regime. There is one more monument that we will visit tomorrow, which is the shoe exhibit on the Danube in front of the Parliament building.

The Weeping Willow sculpture in the garden of the synagogue
The Weeping Willow sculpture in the garden of the synagogue

After the museum visit it was time to find more food. It is crazy when you have two hungry teenagers with you all the time. Noah seems to be hungry all the time, except when he wakes up. I don’t get it, but there are a lot of things I don’t get these days! We tried to find one of the Jewish restaurants, but since it was 4 pm on Friday afternoon they were all closed for the Sabbath. We found a small place near our apartment that had fried cheese, something we had our first day here that Drew has been craving. We shared a few plates of fried cheese and the kids then wanted some soup from the Ramen Noodle shop right beneath our apartment building. Now, we have ordered soup from this one shop 4 different times in 5 days. Noah is addicted to the soup so we keep getting an order just about every day. Ilise and I like variety in our eating experiences, but the kids are pretty set on finding one place and eating there over and over again. How boring!

The leaves of the Weeping Willow have names inscribed on them for those who lost their lives during the Holocaust
The leaves of the Weeping Willow have names inscribed on them for those who lost their lives during the Holocaust

After eating we headed back to the apartment because we had scheduled a massage for both Ilise and I at the apartment. Our new friend Andrea had a referral to someone who does home visits. We welcomed another Andrea into the apartment and both Ilise and I enjoyed some relaxing time. This Andrea was a young and very eloquent professional. She is a college graduate that came to Budapest from the rural area of Hungary. She just got a job with Nestle full time and does massage in the evenings and on weekends. She was a full time masseuses at one of the local baths when she first moved here, but they work 12 hour days 6 days a week. Delivering massages like that must be exhausting. All in all, it was a really nice day. We did get some rain today, but hopefully tomorrow will be much more sunshine so we can see the last few tourist attractions before we head to Prague on Sunday.

To a life well lived!

The Generosity of Man (or Woman)

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Parliament building in Budapest
Parliament building in Budapest

A little over a month ago we visited Pompeii when we were staying in Naples. We arrived in Pompeii and joined a walking tour that we had booked. We walked around the ruins and enjoyed the amazement that was before us. On the tour there were close to 50 people in our group. I had noticed most of the faces but only spoke to a few while we were walking. On our travels back to Naples we were waiting on the train platform and  I noticed a couple that was also on the tour. As you know what I would typically do, I started a conversation.

Buda Castel in Budapest
Buda Castel in Budapest

I came to learn that Akos and his wife were originally from Budapest, but now live in Brussels. We started talking about our travels and that we would be in Budapest in about a month and that the best part of our trip has been engaging the kids with other kids their age. We did that in Greece and Turkey and it would be great to find a few kids their age in Budapest. Akos said that he had a good friend with kids the same ages as ours so I handed him my card and he promised to reach out. We have had similar conversations on this journey, some have lead to amazing experiences and others have not. Some people have followed up on their promises and other have not. This time Akos did follow up and introduced us to Andrea and her family in Budapest.

Weeks before we arrived in Budapest, Andrea was emailing us and asking what our kids liked and didn’t like, what we wanted to see and how we wanted our experience to turn out. When we finally arrived on Sunday Andrea was supportive in every way. We had some mishaps with our apartment and Andrea was there to provide suggestions. Remember, this is someone we have never met that was introduced to us by someone who we met for a mere 20 minutes. The world is an amazingly connected place and situations like this just make it clearer and clearer to me that we are all connected in so many ways.

St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest
St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest

Last night we had dinner with Andrea, her husband Tamas and their two children, 15 year old Kitte and 12 year old Balazs. I don’t believe Balazs understood much of the conversation, but Kitte and her parents understood everything and it was like sitting with a family in San Diego and having a wonderful evening, yet we are in Budapest, Hungary. Andrea made an amazing dinner and we even took some home made strudel, which was delicious, back to our AirBnB apartment!

In the end, it is situations like this that continue to prove to me that it is the human connections with the right people that make all the difference. As humans I believe that we default to finding the situations that don’t work and complain about them rather than focusing our energy on those magical moments when the stars align and the world becomes small. It is these small things in life that bring joy and a deep connection with those around us. It is the gratitude that we show for these small moments that makes life amazing in every way. I want to thank Akos and Andrea for their kindness and generosity. It is people like you who make this whole experience that much more grand!

To a life well lived……

A Solemn Day

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Entrance sign to Dachau Museum
Entrance sign to Dachau Museum

Yesterday we let the kids sleep for a while before having breakfast and preparing for a day at Dachau. Dachau is home to one of the concentration camps, actually the first concentration camp, from Nazi time period. The facility is HUGE and we only were able to see the area that was inhabited by the prisoners. The barracks for the SS and others was much larger that what we saw, and we walked for a while. The entire property is in excess of 500 acres. It was not only large, it was rather haunting in so many ways. We were allowed to walk through all of the main buildings of the site, including a barrack for the detained prisoners.

Barbed wire fence at Dachau to deter prisoners from excaping
Barbed wire fence at Dachau to deter prisoners from excaping

Dachau was originally set up for anyone who opposed Hitler and his actions. The camp was portrayed as a retraining center, trying to get people to see it the way Hitler did. The majority of the first wave of prisoners were not Jewish, but all different religions. What they had in common was their outspoken dislike for what the Nazi’s stood for. I can’t imagine this happening today with all of the news stations and all, but in the 1930’s there was nothing to show the world what was really happening. On the grounds of Dachau there is also a crematorium and a gas chamber. The entire facility felt so wrong, just impossible to comprehend that people thought that it was OK to do something like this to other human beings.

Badge system for prisoners at the concentration camps.
Badge system for prisoners at the concentration camps.

I know that much of our trip has been very enjoyable and educational around the history of the different civilizations, but yesterday’s experience was the most powerful we have had to date. We took the tour of the camp with a guide who spoke English, but before the tour was over there was a movie that was showing for the last time of the day that we wanted to see. The movie was extremely powerful for Drew and Noah, giving them a sense of what really happened here 80 years ago. This year the camp will celebrate 70 years since the liberation, which is coming up in the next week. We left the camp site a bit overwhelmed by what we had seen and decided to head for an early dinner and the kids and Ilise decided to call it a night.

The sheer size of the place was insane.
The sheer size of the place was insane.

I was planning to attend a Rotary meeting in Munich at 8 pm and was able to shower, get ready, take a few calls and head to the Hilton in Munich for my meeting. I randomly picked a club that was meeting on Monday evening as that was the only free night I had in Munich. When I arrived the club president greeted me in English and I was surprised, everyone was speaking English. I asked him if the whole meeting was in English and he said yes. I expected to sit through a meeting that I didn’t understand, but it turns out that I picked the only meeting in Germany that is done in English. This was the Munich-International meeting and it attracts people from all over the world. I enjoyed the experience very much and look forward to finding other clubs to visit as we travel through Europe.

A furnace in the crematorium at Dachau. Pretty sickening to say the least.
A furnace in the crematorium at Dachau. Pretty sickening to say the least.
Memorial to all the Jews that died at Dachau.
Memorial to all the Jews that died at Dachau.

Overall, it was an extremely powerful day. Seeing the history of Dachau and feeling the pain and suffering that went on was just overpowering. I will not soon forget our time yesterday and remember to hold that feeling with me as I see the world around me unfold. It just makes me cherish the freedom and opportunities that we have every day. The fact that so many people have so much and still can’t enjoy it pains me. It is incomprehensible to see what happened here just 70 years ago and not get frustrated when someone vehemently complains at a restaurant that their food is not exactly the way they expected it, or any other small thing that doesn’t go their way. I can’t imagine how that person would have been treated in a concentration camp against their will.

To a life well lived!