Myanmar Lessons of Simplicity and Beauty

So many lives are spent on this lake and they never see the outside world!
So many lives are spent on this lake and they never see the outside world!

I’m going to take you back to December 2004 to one of the most amazing trips.  We traveled to Myanmar with my first child who was just 4 months old.  From Yangon to Inle Lake, we got to experience traveling with a child for the first time.  Amazed to see the hearts of the Burmese open to us instantly at the sight of our little, white skinned, blonde boy, caught me by surprise.  You may wonder why it took me 12 years to finally write about it and share these photos with you and I will get to that in a minute. First Myanmar: a step back to simplicity, rich culture, pain and suffering, yet pressing to a new future.  A land of wonder and beauty but what captivated me were the people.  We got to hear the struggles of minority groups feeling pressed to fit into a foreign world as they had to conform to the dominant race of their country  The fear of standing up for their people, beliefs, and land.  But, on the outside smiles and little distance between us as a child often brings to the traveling relationships.

Readily welcomed into homes, this is me realizing how wonderful these people are!
In the market buying hats, socks, and scarfs. The lake is much colder then Yangon.
In the market buying hats, socks, and scarfs. The lake is much colder then Yangon.

This memory is so distant for me because it was followed by what I can only describe as a whirlwind of years to come marked by a race of endurance, joy, and great hardship.  Within the next several years, we birthed 3 more kids, began a thriving NGO, and lost our partner and best friend to a massive heart attack at a young age.  I look back with awe that this great work with 65 nationals still stands today and recognize it as a God sized task. We’ve been called entrepreneurs for this work but feel unworthy of such a title because we remember that establishing a work that helps thousands of lives each year came from suffering of many and even death.  The death of our partner took years to grieve because of the great need to lead others at that time, there was little time for our bodies to go through the natural grieving process.  But, as you may know, grieving will and must happen.  I think it was the sense of responsibility to the lives who depended on us that paused many delightful things in our life.  Grieving can do that sometimes.  Though the pain of death may leave us, it still changes our lives and perspectives and often it takes awhile and even years to celebrate the good times.

Life On Inle Lake
Life On Inle Lake

With that said, lets get back to those forgotten years.  Its only Myanmar that I get to see my husband wearing a skirt! Its only Myanmar where I get to walk the paths and learn about their traditional medicine to treat most all of their sicknesses.  Its only Myanmar where one can spend their whole life on a lake with all needs met by the rich water below teeming with fish and nutrients for the vegetables.  And, its only Myanmar where my son gets painted each day with Thanaka powder by beautiful Burmese ladies.

bathing-in-spring
Bathing in the spring. This is the only option as homes around the lake do not have running water. This spring was freezing!!

I think of all this and want to encourage you today to accept each day as it is.  Enjoy the morning breeze, take in the sunrise, hold your kids tight, walk hand in hand with your love, and take in all that today has for you!  Don’t let the sense of responsibility or pain hide the joy and gifts that are there for you today!

marc-in-a-skirt
Marc posing in his longyi (man skirt) and Breckinridge shirt!

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Family Vacationing Well: Teaching Kids To Persevere

Before you say that we are the worst parents ever! Please know that my son Eli watched this video and gave us permission to use it.  Why? Because he knows what we know.  We’ve all had that kind of a day and often they happen on a vacation! You know how it goes, we decide to try something new or think that we are in good enough shape and end up either hurting ourselves or just completed exhausted and grumpy.  On this day, Marc thought it would be a good idea to teach Eli mountain biking.  The problem is that this trail had no map or markers.  They got lost, missed out on lunch, and it kinda went downhill from there!

But, as we look back and laugh now, it caused us to reflect on the purpose behind traveling as a family.  When you think about taking a trip, what is the goal?  When kids only know the easy days of lying on a beach, does that help them develop character?  Does that help us develop character? Of course not!  We all want kids who grow up with a strong work ethic, who can persevere, who are resilient, right? But, too often we want to delegate those lessons to others.  Maybe the soccer coach can teach them those lessons.  I do think there is great value in that.  My track coach taught me a lot.  But parents, we are not off the hook.  When I look back to the greatest impact on my character, it has a lot to do with those who raised me.

When I look back to the greatest impact on my character, it has a lot to do with those who raised me.

That being said, plan challenging activities together as a family. Learn these lessons together.  Prayerfully, keep your cool and be prepared to handle frustrations or your child’s frustrations well, with patience and kindness (I don’t recommend taking pictures of them like I did!).

Before I end this post, I don’t want to let my traveling readers down.  As always, I’ve got to take you to an exotic location and this one seems to fit.

On the edge of Cambodia bordering Thailand is the town Koh Kong.  A beautiful location with many activities to challenge a family like waterfalls, trekking, Safari World, and beaches where dolphins feed.  On this day, we explored the Peam Krasaop Mongrove Forests by canoe.

Riding out to the Mangroves watching a beautiful sunset.
Riding out to the Mangroves watching a beautiful sunset.

This trip allowed challenges but the kids handled these challenges better than the mountain biking trip!

Eli climbed through the forest to look for monkeys.
Eli climbed through the forest to look for monkeys.

Often the case is that the oldest siblings end up being the best teacher for the young ones on how to take on a challenge!

She doesn't let a skirt slow her down!
She doesn’t let a skirt slow her down!

What challenging trips have you taken your kids on?  Where could you go to help them face challenges and develop character along with enjoying nature?  Do you fear losing your temper or not being patient enough? I know we do!  Please comment here and also sign up to receive all new blogs. Keep trekking and take the little ones with ya!

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How To Make Your Next Trip The Best Ever!

Do you have a trip on the books?  Whether you have one scheduled or are thinking about one in the future, you need to read this now! Vacations cost money and time.  Way too often, we see money spent and wasted.  Sure, you may see some amazing things and even experience something no else you know has experienced before, but the truth is if the trip didn’t change your life, then you didn’t get your moneys worth.  So, how can you guarantee a life changing trip?  Learn from a couple who has wasted their time and money and now vacation differently!

Go deep with people!

Prepare to ask locals questions about their life, what they eat, kids education, work. Make it a goal to learn something new each day.

This man inherited the elephant tusk earrings from his great grandfather. They are hundreds of years old!
This man inherited the elephant tusk earrings from his great grandfather. They are hundreds of years old!

Read inspirational books, quotes, and listen to uplifting music to guide your mood!

Next time you head for the Rockies, read this book to learn more about the great grizzly!

 

Remain flexible even when plans change, its all part of the experience.

You never know what kind of transportation you might need to take!
You never know what kind of transportation you might need to take!

Value their culture and make it a goal to learn something new from them daily. Leave ethnocentrism home!

It always helps to smile when you work!
It always helps to smile when you work!

Experience each day with all of your senses and make a note of each.

Get dirty!
Get dirty!

Get off the trail!

Pick a day to spend off the normal tourist path and learn more about their daily life.

Taking the subway in Thailand to where the locals shop!
Taking the subway in Thailand to where the locals shop!

Give back. Read about volunteer projects you could help with!

One of my kids favorite memories was feeding baby monkeys whose mother had been killed.
One of my kids favorite memories was feeding orphan monkeys.

Take all your family, even if you fight, you will grow closer together.

National Parks with my family! Great memories.
National Parks with my family! Great memories.

One more note, pack minimally but smart! I have a never leave home without it for you women and for both men and women:

Must shoes for the tropics! Chacos! Longest lasting shoe.  They even replace them if they break!


And all you women must get this to prevent the “tired, puffy, wrinkly, didn’t sleep on my own bed last night” eye look: Reborneye – Rejuvenating and Repairing Eye Cream – Advanced Anti-Aging Formula – Fill In Wrinkles & Crow’s Feet – Deflates Eye Bags – Reduces Dark Circles – Diminish Puffiness

Now, book your tickets. But before you do, comment here and tell me where do you plan on going? and what will you do differently after reading this?

How I Defeated My Worst Critic on an Island Far Away

Who would think that a bustling city such as Hong Kong could provide solitude, motivation for life, and a pirates cave to explore?

When thinking of Hong Kong, you might picture tall buildings and LOTS of people.  You are right, but there is another side of this big city that you may not know!

Traveling again with our good friends and their 4 kids!!
Traveling again with our good friends and their 4 kids!!

Hong Kong is made of many beautiful islands and some of these islands have been preserved and nearly unchanged for centuries.  We stayed at Cheung Chau island in a quant guesthouse.  Cheung Chau is full of riches from idyllic nature to a bustling village with beautiful beaches, quiet walking trails around the entire island, and tasty fresh seafood.

Delicious dim sum!
Delicious dim sum!

We spent a few days here and explored the trails. Even walking to the favourite hideout of the pirate Cheung Po Tsai, who once commanded a private army of 4000 men. He surrendered to the Qing government in 1810, but his treasure is said to remain hidden in this cave! Well, no treasure here but that didn’t stop the kids from looking!

Trail to the pirate's cave.
Trail to the pirate’s cave.

It was in this quiet place following New Year’s Day, that I reflected on the year before.  I felt so tired as if a week of sleep wouldn’t take the weariness away.  I was in awe of the beauty but couldn’t find refreshment. “Why?!” I kept asking myself.  The answer came.  It was my worst critic who was giving me trouble.

Who is my worst critic? My worst critic is me!  It’s the voice we all listen to the most.  When things were going well, my self talk was positive but as circumstances changed my self talk became negative, and then more negative, and then. . . well you get the picture. Its a slippery path that can snowball quick.  A path that must change in order to accomplish our goals in life.  A path that can and will change if one is willing. That is what I decided on this New Years trip.  Here is what I learned and I hope that it helps you too!

I admitted that I have negative self talk.

I began to listen to what I was saying such as “I shouldn’t begin, I won’t be able to finish” or “what would that person think if I post this or say that.” This self talk was defeating and it drained my energy.  I came to hear what I was saying and how I felt when I said it.

I said out loud and even wrote down the negative phrases that I was thinking.

I began to takes notes.  When these thoughts came, I said it out loud and that was enough for me! I realized it wasn’t positive and it wasn’t even true.  Speaking of truth, this became the next step for me:

I compared the phrase to truth.

If you don’t know if the phrase is truth or not, ask a reliable loving friend to help you. Sometimes, I would actually say what I was thinking and my spouse helped me realize my negative self talk and combated it with truth!

Ok, so if you are thinking “thats me!” What do you do about it?! Now that you are aware, recognizing this allows you the opportunity to bring truth and well, go on! I found the following Youtube video to be very helpful in doing this myself: http://tinyurl.com/dxfp7ml. This video is posted by Joe Oliver and is based on ACT Acceptance & Commitment Therapy which has been helpful in overcoming anxiety and stress in our lives.

“The best way out is always through” ~Robert Frost

On this quiet island of Hong Kong, I had to ask myself, “Do I continue to live the life of risk or turn back?” I was not feeling confident in my abilities any more.  My faith in God was strong but not in myself.  I still had that inner voice trying to discourage me but I decided I would go on to make a difference in this world.  To help the poor even when it hurts.  Best decision ever!!

reflective-mom-with-malachi-on-hk

I know that you can too! If you are still reading, it means that you are willing to try (or your my mom:).  I know that you were created for incredible things and I don’t want your own critic to hold you back!  Email, comment, or chat with me.  I can help you prayerfully overcome yourself! If your waiting for a nonjudgemental response or a little encouragement, it is here.

Leave a comment, telling me where you are struggling or leave a response to help other readers who are struggling today!

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