2018 – My Best, Worst, and Other List

Favorite Books Read: Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller; My Southern Journey, Rick Bragg; Learning to Speak God from Scratch, Jonathan Merritt

Best Movies Seen: The Greatest Showman, Same Kind of Different as Me

Best Song: What Makes You Country, Luke Bryan;  Reckless Love, Cory Asbury

Great Professionals Lost: Aretha Franklin, Anthony Bourdain, sportscaster Keith Jackson

Worst Lie: Impossible to choose.

Best Thing That Was Old That is New Again: I’m bringing the fishing hobby back into my life. Bought a nice boat a few weeks ago.

Favorite New Dream: An around the world plane ticket, and apparently there’s a new 1,700-mile hiking trail in Chile that passes through dozens of national parks.

Most Surprising New Habit: Evaluating how every word written in every  social media post might actually make someone angry before the post gets made.

Most Surreal Moment I’d Always Thought About and Actually Did: Sitting at a bar sipping whiskey with locals in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Sounds crazy, but it was a real thrill.

Last Year’s Most Accurate Prediction About This Year: The danger of a national numbness.

Biggest Conversion: Yes, I will watch the occasional Hallmark movie now.

Favorite Personal Moment: Standing on the Cliffs of Moher, eyes closed, North Atlantic sea spray blowing against my face, breathing in the freshest air God ever created, and taking a mental picture of it all that I’ll carry with me always.

Best Sense of Personal Satisfaction: Not quitting after having three different book proposals rejected by some of the best agents in the country. We finally nailed one in November and I’m so fired up about it.

The Resulting Lesson from the Paragraph Above: Have a teachable spirit and never give up on a dream you know God puts in your heart.

Best Grassroots Experience: I got to travel all around the country speaking at REIs and signing books. But even better was the number of people who opened their homes and took me in as a guest. I’ll never forget spending time with such hospitable friends.

Most Disturbing Trends I See: “us vs. them” vocabulary; placing more value in symbols than the actual idea the symbols represent; an absence of shame.

Characterizing This Year in Two Words I’d Use: Sadly predictable.

Best Epiphany Experienced This Year:  Faith is not some notion that we come to as a matter of last resort. We don’t default to faith, but rather we come to it through an ongoing exercise of doubt and reason.  It’s all God’s design that faith is a reasoned trust. It’s His quest of choice for each of us. We come to faith just as we come to other conclusions in life.

Favorite New Gadget: A portable USB fan that travels with me everywhere.

Favorite New Obscure TV Series: Forever on Amazon.

Biggest Regret: Missing a trip to Morocco during a three-month stay in Spain.

Biggest Issue that I Was Once Set on and Now Taking Time to Carefully Reconsider: Is homosexuality consistent or inconsistent with biblical teaching, and what is the church’s role in all this?

Prediction for Next Year’s National Scene: It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but it’s going to get better.

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My Five Travel Necessities for 2018

 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

– Mark Twain

It’s been a year of considerable travel, maybe the most mobile year ever. Planes, trains, ferries, rental cars, busses, Airbnb, Uber, even something called Bla Bla Car. I’ve used it all getting from point A to point B. From Potomac, MD to San Francisco, a month in Ecuador, another in central Mexico, and three months in Spain, I’ll easily spend most of this year away from home base camp in Jonesboro, AR. Next year already appears a close second.

Packing light and having your necessities close at hand is a learned art. But when you’re away from home for extended times, it’s important having the small things that will at least make you feel at home.

These are five items that never get bumped from my personal travel list:

This RAVPOWER portable charger means no more searching for a charging station in airports, or anywhere for that matter. It stays in my briefcase even on day trips. With an overnight charge of about eight hours, this portable charger with dual stations will give nearly four full charges to a modern smart phone. It goes for about $25 on Amazon and comes in equally handy with this next item.

I’m a cold sleeper and need cold, moving air for a good night’s sleep. It’s been that way since I was a child. At home where night-time summer temps will frequently bottom out at a humid 82 degrees, we keep the AC set at 68. There’s also a ceiling fan above the bed, a high-powered table top fan at bedside, and a big cheap box fan from Wal-Mart about ten feet from the footboard. It’s like sleeping in an arctic category 1 hurricane and I love it.

Obviously not every overnight travel situation sets up this way.

The Efluky 4.5 inch mini USB rechargeable fan is a life saver.  With three speeds, it holds a charge that will last about two hours, or connect it to the RAVPOWER portable charger for about four hours use. Connect it to an iPhone cube plugged into a wall outlet and you have a surprisingly powerful fan that will go all night long. This little treasure pretty much saved my life one stifling night in Oakland, CA, and again one night here in Spain just a few weeks back.

It’s not beyond me to take the cheap route for lunch or supper, especially if I’m tired and just want to go home.  I’ve purchased more than one can of meatballs at local tiendas here in Spain for a keep-you-going snack. It’s nice during those times not to scrounge around for a plastic fork. This one comes from REI and goes for $2 and change. I’ve had it since my first pilgrimage on the Camino Frances. It satisfies me having my own fork!

The only way my Swiss Army Knife doesn’t make the trip is when the turnaround is quick enough that no bags need checking, otherwise it’s standard carry. Two blades, bottle opener, and cork screw I can’t imagine travel without it. Back on that first pilgrimage I checked my knife in a packing tube along with my trekking pole. This link has it about $50, but I got this one for less than $20 at a local Sports Academy.

My Buckshot 2.0 bluetooth speaker is for both work and pleasure. There’s a good bit of audio/visual packed into my on-the-road Pilgrim Strong presentations and volume from the computer or projector just doesn’t get it done. You’d be surprised how much volume this thing emits – plenty for a classroom holding forty to fifty people. I bought this at WalkAbout Outfitter in Richmond, VA but you can get it at Amazon for under $30.

What’s your absolute, deal-breaking travel necessity?

Wherever you are headed happy travels and buen viaje!

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Week 3: Day Trips to Muxia/Fisterra and A Coruña

I’ve always wanted to stand in this very location. If you’ve seen the movie, The Way, this is where Tom Avery spread his son’s ashes in  the final scene. There was a gypsy in Burgos who told Tom to go to a little seaside church in Muxia. “This has nothing to do with religion,” he said. “Nothing at all.”

A rental car is SO much faster than walking.

In week three we found ourselves with several consecutive days off work and we decided to rent a car for some travel to  one place I’d been previously, and two I’d never seen.

Observations about driving in Spain.

(1) Open roads are great and well maintained. They should be. We paid two 6.40€ tolls on a round trip less than 120 kilometers.

(2) Driving through any downtown (centro) means you’ll maneuver  lots of narrow, one-way streets. You’ll encounter roundabouts within roundabouts, and oftentimes there will be stop lights within the inner roundabout.

(3) You think gas is high in the US? 1.60€ per liter here and it takes about four liters to make a gallon.

There probably aren’t as many photos here as there should be after visiting three locations, but it’s really hot in Galicia now and the touristy part of me was a little impatient and edgy.

In A Coruña, the Tower of Hercules, the oldest working Roman light house in use today.

Walking up toward the Tower of Hercules

 

This is some sort of seaside compass pointing to all the regions in Galicia.

 

Standing on the Camino in Muxia.

A 360 view seaside at Muxia.

This small, but important church was destroyed by lightning a few years ago, but has been fully restored. It’s beautiful inside. Perhaps the westernmost church of the Old World.

Standard cold beer shot on a very hot day.

Someone trailing up the rear thought it would be funny taking this shot. NO, I was NOT going to Burger King. Three minutes IS pretty close though!