Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone

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When I began my blogging journey in 2014, my free WordPress site carried the name “Going Beyond”.  A few years later, as I began monetizing my blog and social media sites, the name changed to “Cindy Goes Beyond”. The idea of going beyond remained important to me, so much so that I added the tag line “Living life beyond the edges”. In my writing, I often include the longer version of that statement that reads “Living life beyond the edges of fear, comfort zones and limiting beliefs.”

My whole life journey is encapsulated in that statement. It’s in continually going beyond the edges that I learn, grow and experience the most freedom in a life that I love living. What does it mean to live that way? And why does it matter?

I decided to write a series of posts on ways to step over the edges and into a more expansive life. This is the first…five ways to go beyond your comfort zone.

Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone title meme

What is a Comfort Zone?

What is this comfort zone, that we want to go beyond?

By definition, a comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel familiar. In that state, we feel at ease, with low levels of anxiety and stress, and we come to believe that we have some control over our environment.

Using that definition, a comfort zone doesn’t seem like a bad place to be. However, when we choose to stay in that space, we don’t grow. Our learning centers shut down.  We get into routines that become ruts. And instead of overcoming challenges by facing them and dealing with them, we find it easier to shrink back into our comfort zones, where it feels safe and predictable.

Eventually, that comfort zone becomes a cage. It constrains our growth and also our creativity, our dreams and our purpose in life. Often fears and comfort zones are connected. The longer we try to control life and keep it safe, the more fearful we become about trying new experiences and about what others think about us.

Although occasionally we take a huge leap beyond the edge, the best way to go beyond is one step at a time. This gradual way of expanding the zone helps to keep anxiety and stress at a manageable level. Every time we bump up against the edge of the comfort zone, we take a step beyond it rather than step back into comfort. How do you know when you are at the edge? You feel the discomfort that going farther brings.

Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone life begins
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Ready to live a more expansive life? Excited to discover more about who you are and what you can accomplish?

Try these five ways to go beyond your comfort zone.

Change Up Routines

There’s nothing wrong with creating routines. I have night time and morning skin care routines that I adhere to.

However, with routine comes a tendency to operate on auto pilot. We don’t have to think about what we are doing. The brain and the body get lazy. We’re not learning anything different or challenging ourselves.

Have you ever driven to a destination the same way so many times that you realize you’ve arrived and you don’t really remember anything about the journey? We can begin to travel through life the same way. Dullness and boredom set in.

Shake up your routines. Drive to the park a new way. Or better yet, get there a different way…walk, ride a bike, skateboard or jog. When you notice mindless activities, it’s time to break a routine. Doing so allows you to see things differently, learn something new or discover something fresh about yourself.

Real life example: When I started my blog I quickly settled into a routine of writing approximately 500 words and adding a photo or two. I had a formula that allowed me to write quickly and post. A mentor at the time gently encouraged me to add photos of myself. None of my early blog posts contained photos of me. The reason? I hated having my photo taken.

I learned to move beyond that feeling of discomfort by taking lots of selfies. It’s not such a painful process now. To keep growing in this area, I’m working on creating more Instagram Reels with me in them.


Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone selfie
Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone – shake up routines. A recent selfie.

Shift One Situation that Bothers You

I know. It’s easier to complain about situations than to do anything about them. When I find myself bothered about something repetitively, that’s my signal to take action.

What bothers you? And…and what bothers you but makes you uncomfortable to take action concerning it? That’s the situation to shift. Find a way to do something positive and productive rather than complain from the safety of your comfort zone.

Do you dislike injustice? Weep over children in the foster care system? Hate that your local dog shelter is overcrowded? Feel protective of the elderly? Let that indignant energy fuel your actions and propel you out of your comfort zone and into action. And of course, you aren’t limited to shifting one situation. However, start with one and then shift another…and another.

Real life example: I’m very ecologically minded. And yet for many years I only worried about the earth’s resources and how badly we treat our planet while doing nothing. One of my first actions that moved me beyond was limiting the use of plastics. I started with swapping out plastic water bottles for a reusable metal container and eliminating the use of plastic straws at restaurants. I refuse them and simply sip water straight from the glass.

Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone plastics
Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone – shift one thing that bothers you

Do Something that Scares You

You don’t have to dive with great white sharks or bungee jump to go beyond your comfort zone, although go for it if these activities both scare you and excite you.

Many common experiences scare people. Speaking in public, singing in front of others, solo travel, going to a movie or a restaurant alone or sharing a poem you wrote all qualify…if doing any of these things makes you break out in a cold sweat.

Overwhelming, debilitating fear we will deal with in another post. For going beyond your comfort zone, make a list of things that you’d like to do or want to try…but they scare you a little. When we step over the edge of comfort the first thing we often encounter is fear. That’s normal. Keep going. Don’t let fear push you back into that small cage. I promise you, fear will step aside when you face it, acknowledge it and move beyond anyway.

You learn so much about yourself when you do something that scares you. Courage is born. And it becomes easier to go beyond the next time.

Real life example: I love to travel, however I only last year experienced solo travel in a bigger city that I’d never visited before. Yes, the night before my flight, I felt fear. A lot of “what ifs” crowded into my brain. I’m so grateful I did it in spite of the trepidations. I learned so much about my capabilities.

Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone solo
Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone – do something that scares you

Break Down a Big Goal into Small Steps

Tony Robbins says, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” It’s also an important step for going beyond your comfort zone.

I admit it. I’m a dreamer. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, if ideas only stay in the dream state, nothing manifests into reality. Make a big goal. Think really big. It’s perfect if it scares you a little bit.

Now break down that goal into small steps. Work your way back to Step One. And then do it. Go beyond your comfort zone and take action. Want to visit Spain? Write down all the steps needed to reach that goal. Make a vision board. Research the costs. Study maps. Learn Spanish. Perhaps your first step becomes: Save $25 a week for Spain trip. Then take that step.

Real life example: Three years ago, I got serious about building my Instagram account. At that time I had 1,200 followers and didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. I created a goal of reaching 10,000 followers AND of learning to use that platform as a way of earning income.  I found others to learn from. And I created action steps. Today I have 10,329 followers, an engaged audience and Instagram is the primary way that the brands that I work with find me. Bonus: there’s always something new to learn with IG.

Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone brands
Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone – break down a big goal into small steps

Do Something New

This is hands down my favorite way of continually going beyond my comfort zone. There are so many benefits from learning new skills and trying new experiences. It keeps the brain alert and active. We learn and grow and adapt and gain confidence. And, in my opinion, it’s a fun way to journey through life.

Doing something new every day in 2014 is what launched my blog. New experiences continue to bring me incredible joy.

What do you want to try but fear or discomfort holds you back? Do that. Don’t worry about perfection or what others think or how you will look doing the thing. Just go for it. Take a class. Create. Step up. Speak out. Ask yourself…”How will I feel if I don’t do this?” If regret comes from passing on this experience, then do it. It’s that important. As you try new things, opportunities come for doing more experiences. It’s just the way life works.

Real life example: This is the way I live my life, embracing new experiences. At this stage in going beyond, I often think about something new I’d like to do and the opportunity magically shows up. Most recently, I expressed the desire to experience the Charleston Tea Gardens after I missed seeing them on my last visit due to not having a car. Next month I’m back in the Charleston area and what is located a few miles from my hosted accommodations? The Charleston Tea Gardens. And, I’ll have a rental car this time.

Are You Ready to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone?

Living life beyond the edges is so much more than a tag line for me. It’s my purpose in life, helping others go beyond even as I continue to do so myself.

I hope these suggestions for going beyond prove helpful for you, if you are ready to leave your comfort zone behind and experience a more expansive life.

Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone podcast
Five Ways to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone – do something new. First podcast.


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CSI Crime Scene Detective Joplin MO

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I’ve experienced a couple of different escape rooms, where you must find clues and solve puzzles in a set amount of time to unlock the door. However, this weekend I participated in my first CluedUpp Games Event, a fun outdoor immersive adventure that took place in my city’s beautiful downtown area.

Read on to learn more about CluedUpp and my team’s experiences in the CSI Crime Scene Detective game in Joplin, MO.

CSI Crime Scene Detective Joplin MO title meme

CluedUpp Games

Before I share the adventure, here’s a little bit about CluedUpp Games.

CluedUpp Games began in 2016, with a desire to move beyond traditional board games to interactive outdoor experiences. They started with downloadable paper-packs for towns across the UK. The next year they expanded into the mobile realm, creating virtual reality gaming events. They launched their game app in January of 2017, hosting 30 teams at the first event.

In 2018 CluedUpp went global with events in the US and Canada. And the following year the company included Europe, Asia and the Middle East in the fun. CluedUpp is now the world’s biggest geogaming company, hosting immersive events around the globe. They continue working tirelessly to bring players brand new mysteries and incredible outdoor experiences.

The company’s mission is bringing family members and friends together to enjoy the outdoors in shared adventures.

CluedUpp offers fun events in more than 1,200 locations in 55 countries worldwide. To date, over a million players have taken on the challenge and immersed themselves in a multi-award-winning CluedUpp event.

CSI Crime Scene Detective Joplin MO app
CSI Crime Scene Detective App

How it Works

On the day of the event, which typically runs from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm, teams compete to solve a mystery or crime. Using the app on a SmartPhone, teams explore their city’s streets looking for virtual clues, interviewing witnesses and solving challenges. All of these are done via the phone app, using the GPS system and an online map for guidance.

Piecing together the information and gathering important evidence, teams try to solve the mystery, with prizes awarded to the fastest team.

If you start the game early enough in the day, you can pause at any time, stop for lunch, grab a drink, or just take a break and then unpause the game to continue playing. Stay mindful however that the game ends at 5:00 pm whether you complete by then or not.

Up to six people, age 16 and up, can play together on a team. If you have more than six people simply create a second team and you can still work together. CluedUpp allows children to accompany adults, for free, and the family dog is even allowed to tag along.

The game typically takes 2 – 3 hours to complete. And on average players walk 2 – 4 miles while solving the mystery. You don’t need to reserve a start time. Just show up at the starting point. as stated in the welcome email, and start the app.

CSI Crime Scene Detective Joplin MO group
Our CSI Crime Scene Detective team – Pinkerton Detective Agency. Finley was not into sitting still! Greg took the photo.

Pinkerton Detective Agency

My daughter Elissa purchased the tickets for this event and invited the rest of us to join her. Our team, the Pinkerton Detective Agency, included Elissa, grandson Dayan, daughter Adriel, her husband Nate, Greg and me. Finley was our littlest detective and she did wonderfully well during this experience.

Due to work, Elissa turned the leadership of the group over to me. Together we came up with a name…a nod to the famous Scottish detective agency…and set up a time for all of us to meet in downtown Joplin on Saturday. Spiva Park was designated as the starting point to begin the game.

Finley participated in her first Easter Egg Hunt Saturday morning and Elissa had a 1:00 pm appointment. So we chose 2:00 pm to begin, the latest possible starting time. We were all a bit nervous, being new to the event and knowing we only had three hours to solve the crime.

And a crime it was! Our mission: discover the mastermind behind a string a murders plus uncover the motive. Each of us downloaded the app the day before the event and listened to the briefing to get an overview of the case. Gathering in the park at 1:45, we started the apps on our phones and began.

CSI Crime Scene Detective Joplin MO downtown
It was a gorgeous spring day in downtown Joplin for the CSI Crime Scene Detective virtual game.

Tips for Playing the Game

We had such a fun afternoon together, playing this immersive, interactive game. The weather was absolutely perfect…not too hot, not too cold, plenty of sunshine and a cooling breeze. Finley rode in her stroller part of the time and walked with us the rest. And walk we did, all over a six block long by four block wide area. I logged 3.5 miles on my phone’s health app. We all wore comfortable clothes and shoes, smoothed on sunscreen, and brought caps or sunglasses to protect against glare and sunburn.

Here are some other things we learned, during our first time playing.

Helpful Tips

  • carry water and snacks and remember that you can pause the game, if desired, to take a break. Because we started the game so late, we did not take a break however we did carry water and enjoy healthy snacks as we walked.
  • make sure phones are fully charged. Mine was at 100% when we started but by the end, my phone dropped to 10%. Fortunately, you can allow another team member to assume leadership. That’s important because only the team leader inputs answers to riddles and puzzles although all team members contribute, read the interviews and investigation reports and vote on suspects, whether they are guilty or innocent.
  • the game is reading intensive. Assign someone to read all the info and someone else to take good notes. Daughter Adriel thought to bring a notebook and pen and served as our recorder.
  • allow everyone in the group to have input and toss around ideas. The more discussion the better!
  • stay mindful of other teams playing at the same time and in the same area. Speak quietly in your group so as not to give away information to others working on their own solutions.
  • in the case, there were three different crime scenes. We decided, after the fact, that visiting those places first cuts down on the amount of walking.
  • have fun. It’s a timed event. You can subtract time from your score by walking through specific locations and add time to your score as a penalty by asking for hints or incorrectly answering a riddle. However, enjoy the experience. We weren’t going for fastest team. We wanted to solve the crime.
  • take photos and submit them on the CluedUpp Facebook page assigned to your city. The game awards prizes for best costumes, if you want to dress up, best team name, best group photo, best little detective and best dog detective.
CSI Crime Scene Detective Joplin MO church
CSI Crime Scene Detective Joplin MO – we appreciated beautiful buildings in the downtown area

And the Result…

Keeping an eye on the time and knowing we needed to submit a guilty suspect and a motive for the crime by 5:00, we moved steadily through all the points of interest marked on the map, gathering info.

We found a shady place to sit, 2.5 hours after beginning play, to discuss our findings. After we all agreed on a suspect…the mastermind behind the murders…and the motivation for the crime, Elissa submitted our answers.

Our answers were correct! We solved the crime with half an hour to spare. Out of 72 groups playing in Joplin, our team came in 29th, based on correct answers and amount of time taken to solve the crime. We are happy with that.

And our Finley won best little detective for Joplin!

We all enjoyed playing this game. So much so, in fact, that we are looking at playing again this fall, in Springdale, Arkansas. A new Alice in Wonderland themed adventure awaits.

Have you heard of CluedUpp or played this outdoor adventure game? You can find a location hosting the event near you by clicking this LINK. If you enjoy solving mysteries, playing outdoors and working as a team, you’ll love this adventure!

CSI Crime Scene Detective Joplin MO finley
Best Little Detective


Dress the Part



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Funny Travel Stories

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Anyone who travels has them…funny stories of things that went a bit sideways or askew while on  a trip. While often these experiences are not especially funny while living them, later they make humorous tales to share over a meal with friends.

I hope this collection of funny travel stories, collected over a span of years, brings a chuckle, a smile or at the least, a recollection of a funny experience of your own.

Funny Travel Stories title meme

Little Sister Scores Some Tickets

When the kids were ages 10, 14 and 15 years old, they accompanied Greg and me on a business/vacation trip to LA. With a week to spend in sunny California, we carefully planned what sights to see, what parks to experience and how to best budget our time and resources.

Because the kids had been to Disney World in Florida a few years before, we opted out of Disney Land and chose instead to visit other attractions such as Universal Studios. The choice stung a bit though, as our hotel was RIGHT next door to Disney Land.

Every night, my youngest child, Adriel, wanted to soak in the hot tub. Whether it was the novelty of it or she genuinely appreciated that hot water, the practice became a nightly ritual. Her older brother and sister teased her for grabbing her towel and flip flops every night and joining a decidedly older crowd in the hot tub. I of course went with her.

Toward the end of the week, as Adriel and I settled into the hot tub, an older woman joined us. After chitchatting for a few minutes, she suddenly asked Ariel if she enjoyed Disney Land. Adriel explained we chose other parks instead. Turns out, the woman had tickets to the theme park that she did not use with her grandkids. She kindly offered them to us. We followed the woman to her room and gratefully accepted the tickets. Adriel took great delight in flip-flopping her way back to our room, and waving those tickets in her siblings’ faces.

We spent an entire day at Disney Land, one of the most fun experiences we had while in LA, thanks to Adriel!

A Kiss for Luciano

On my last night in Italy, our Globus Tour group prepared for a final meal together in Rome. I arrived downstairs to the lobby early, ahead of most of the group including my daughter and grandson. Fabiola, our lively, wonderful tour guide, directed my attention outside, to the big tour bus at the curb.

“Luciano is there. Why don’t you be first to go tell him goodbye,” Fabi suggested.

Ah, Luciano, our handsome, charming, very Italian bus driver, who spoke limited English but conveyed volumes with his smile and dark brown eyes.

I happily carried out a “thank you” card for him. He listened to me expressing gratitude for his skills as a bus driver, then smiled and nodded. Lightly touching one cheek, he said a single word in English. “Kiss?”

I know I blushed as I planted kisses on each of his cheeks and received his kisses in return. By this time, the rest of the group had arrived in the hotel lobby. In moments a long line formed, of ladies eager to give Luciano kisses!

Funny Travel Stories kiss
Funny Travel Stories – a kiss for Luciano

Scottish Pole Dancer

During the girls’ trip to the UK, in 2017, my mom, sisters, niece and I spent a long day exploring Edinburgh. We made excellent use of the hop on/hop off buses to get around the city.

As the day ended, we felt ready for a quick dinner, hot showers and a long night’s rest after a busy day. Except…we missed our hop off spot. The bus parked for the night, we us still on it. What to do?

We walked to where a group of guides stood, on Waverly Bridge. One of them, a cheerful looking older man named George, approached us to see if we needed help. After explaining our situation, he asked where our accommodations were in Edinburgh. His reaction surprised us. He laughed and motioned the other guides over. Hearing our predicament, they laughed too when George mentions where we are staying.

We don’t understand the laughter, however, the guide helps us by placing us on an empty bus and asking the driver to take us to our apartment. When the driver heard the address, he glances at us in amusement. Finally I ask what’s so funny.

In lieu of an answer, George grins and hops into the bus. Grabbing a pole nearby, typically used to steady standing riders, George hums a tune and spins gracefully around the pole, looking at us expectantly as he twirls. The other guides hoot and clap…and realization dawns. He’s pole dancing.

“Are we staying in Edinburgh’s red light district?” I ask. Yes, yes we are. George hops off the bus and twirls again for our amusement, then bows as the bus pulls away. Walking up to our apartment later, we take a good look at our surroundings, for the first time really. Our apartment is in the middle of strip clubs, lap dance parlors and adult shows. No wonder the guides laughed. We are amused too. (Read a longer version of this story HERE.)

My next trip to Edinburgh, I chose to stay in a different part of town!

Positivity Overload

After a wonderful 12 days spent in Italy, my daughter Elissa, grandson Dayan and I settled into our airline seats, exhausted and ready to return home. Five hours later, we still remained in those seats, on the tarmac at the Rome airport.

While Elissa’s seat was in a different section of the plane, Dayan and I sat side by side toward the back. Watching restless people and shortened tempers, I encouraged Dayan that all was well, we’d leave when we were supposed to and that if we didn’t fly out, it was because we weren’t meant to, even if we didn’t know why.

Elissa fell asleep and woke up, expecting to be in the air and well on our way. Dayan grew weary of sitting on a stuffy plane, listening to people complain. At last, after more than five hours, the pilot announced our flight canceled. We all exited the plane, the airline company giving everyone overnight accommodations at a nearby hotel.

As we walked to the hotel, Dayan darted ahead to walk with his mom, while I leisurely strolled along at my own pace. And no, we did not enjoy another night in Italy so much as we crashed in our hotel room, asleep before the sun went down.

We successfully flew out the next day. It was only after we were in the air that Dayan turned to me, a bit contritely, and shared that he left me to walk by myself because he simply could not handle any more of my positivity! I laughed and assured him it was okay. What followed was a wonderful conversation about having a positive life outlook, something Dayan took to heart. He is a go-with-the-flow traveler now, who has learned at age 22 to roll with what life brings, knowing there’s always a reason for everything that happens.

Funny Travel Stories positivity
Funny Travel Stories – positivity overload. This photo was taken at about hour two of a five+ hour hold on the tarmac before our flight canceled.

Boldly Going…Where No One Should Go

During a week long visit to the state of Kentucky, our family of five enjoyed several equine related events due to older daughter Elissa’s love of horses. She showed Arabians and Saddlebreds in horse shows all over the Midwest, including the large American Royal National Championship Horse show in Kansas City. During that prestigious show, we always enjoyed watching her…and actor William Shatner, best known perhaps for his role as Captain Kirk on Star Trek, showing his beautiful Saddlebreds.

We discovered, somehow, that Shatner owned a horse farm in Kentucky. So…we decided to visit it while in the state. I cringe now that we drove right up to the training barns on his property, totally uninvited. And I sincerely doubt that could happen now. However, we walked inside and found his trainer working with the horses. Rather than calling security…if there was such…or demanding that we leave, Donna Moore visited with us and allowed us to watch as she put one of the Shatner horses through his moves.

While a fun experience, I’m appalled today that we so boldly went where no one should go…without an invitation! (Forgive me, Captain Kirk!)

Wrong Way, Sister

My sister Debbie accompanied me on a 2019 trip to Scotland. Although we attended five days of Clan Maitland activities, we also built in five additional days of exploring Edinburgh on our own.

That’s when I discovered that my sister has NO sense of direction. Perhaps because of my many years as a realtor, I’ve learned to navigate by directions and instinct rather than landmarks or using “right” or “left”. I could mentally call up Edinburgh’s grid of streets in my head as we explored. Debbie, on the other hand, invariably headed out confidently…in the wrong direction…on our many explorations. It became a running joke during our stay in Edinburgh. Debbie striding out with purpose…in the exact opposite direction from our destination. Me waiting until she figured it out and turned to call back for directions.

Back in the US, after ten glorious days in Scotland, I watched as my sister walked to the ladies restroom in the New York airport. I was watching still as she exited the restroom, hesitated and then turned left and strode away from me down the wide hall. One more wrong way for Debbie…before we arrived home! (Read the longer version of this story HERE.)

Mom Doesn’t Have a Clue

On that girls’ UK trip, our group of five finished up in London, England. One attraction we all chose was The London Dungeon.

While this high quality experience, a cross between a walking tour and an amusement park ride, offers performers in period costumes portraying characters from London’s murky past, the highlight of the tour was my mom.

At the time of this trip, she was 77 years young. In spite of breaking a knee a few months before the trip, she kept up with all of us. Walking through the London Dungeon experience, we had enjoyed two photo opportunities.

In the first, the photographer put three of us in stocks, handed Mom and my niece axes and told us to play along. Mom didn’t catch exactly what he said, and the photo shows. While the rest of us are looking at the camera, Mom is gazing off to the side, axe in hand, totally lost.

In the second photo, with a green screen portraying the London fire behind us, four of us look horrified…or amused…while poor Mom is again staring off in another direction, trying to “find” the fire.

We didn’t realize how hysterically funny it all was, until we saw the photos at the end of the tour. We still laugh every time we see the photos or tell the story. Mom remains a good sport about it!

Funny Travel Stories dungeon
Funny Travel Stories – Mom doesn’t have a clue what’s happening!

Your Funny Travel Stories

I hope these humorous tales brought a smile to your face! At another time, I’ll share Funny Travel Stories Part 2, because I have more tales to tell.

What about you?

Do you have funny stories from your travels that you and your family still giggle over? I’d love to read them. Share one in the comments below.

Funny Travel Stories fire
Mom: “Where’s the fire??” I’m laughing right now…..


Fun Travel Items from Amazon:



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Pancakes and Pillowforts

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It’s time for another adventure, thanks to The Adventure Challenge Solo Edition book. I look forward to these fun adventures. Since I don’t know what the activity is, until I scratch it off in the book, there’s always a thrill of excitement along with a sense of entering the unknown.

This month’s adventure perfectly suited the day and my mood.

I randomly selected Adventure #2, Pancakes and Pillowforts.

Pancakes and Pillowforts title meme

The Adventure Challenge Solo Edition

The Adventure Challenge books contain scratch off adventures, suitable for adults, families and individuals. Each hardbound book contain 50 fun and unique challenges to experience with a partner, spouse, friends, family members or on your own.

The challenges encourage you to get off your phone and electrical devices and connect with each other…or more deeply with yourself. The challenges are the perfect way to explore your city or the great outdoors, try something new, reconnect with your inner child or make new friends.

The keepsake book makes it easy to document the memories, with snapshots and a few words about the experience.

There’s a catch though. The challenges are hidden. You don’t know what the challenge is, until you scratch it off. If you’ve followed me for very long, you KNOW I love playing games built around randomness. The Adventure Challenge books are like the games I play, where I draw random slips of paper out of a jar, and do the activity I select. There are no “do overs”, in those fun games I make up or in The Adventure Challenge.

Pancakes and Pillowforts

My instructions for this activity:

“Make yourself your favorite breakfast items, grab all the pillows and blankets in your house (yes, all of them) and look up some old school radio online, preferably 60s and 70s.

Feast on your breakfast in bed, surrounded by all your blankets and pillows. When the food is gone, dim the lights, close your eyes and immerse yourself in a world where TV and phones don’t exist.”

I smiled big time over this activity. As a child, I loved making pillowforts. And as an adult, I love piling pillows and extra blankets on my bed.

For my meal, with my taste buds already primed for Spanish Rice with black beans, THAT became my breakfast. Because sure, I could definitely enjoy this dish for breakfast! And I didn’t need to purchase anything since my pantry contained all the ingredients for the meal.

Pancakes and Pillowforts
Pancakes and Pillowforts – Adventure #2 in the Solo Edition

Setting the Stage

While the Spanish Rice simmered on the stove, I prepped for my evening adventure.

Two soft, cozy blankets joined nine pillows on my bed.

I lit a dozen candles scattered around my room.

Gathering some dried herbs, including lavender from Scotland, I lit a small charcoal briquette placed in my ceramic burner and let it get ashy.

A woven wooden tray provided a surface for my bowl of Spanish Rice and black beans and a cup of hot peppermint tea, steeping in the kitchen.

And finally, I selected a 70s station on Amazon Music, for easy listening after my meal. (Get Amazon Music for 30 days free HERE. Play it through the Echo Dot or an app on your phone.)

Pancakes and Pillowforts candlelight
Pancakes and Pillowforts – candlelight

Enjoying the Adventure

I carried my meal into my room and after snapping a few photos with my iPhone and the Instax camera, the adventure began.

Dried sage, lavender, cedar and sweet grass burned on the charcoal briquette, releasing their sweet, cleansing scents into the air. I dimmed the lights, enjoying the flickering candles around the room as I dined and sipped my hot tea.

Snuggled into the pile of pillows and soft blankets, I remembered building pillowforts with my sisters and later with my children and grandchildren. This experience felt perfect.

After the meal, I started the playlist called Rediscover the 70s. For the next hour, I closed my eyes, relaxed into the coziness surrounding me and listened. Queen, Fleetwood Mac, John Lennon, AC/DC, The Bee Gees, Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye and Bruce Springsteen charmed me with their songs.

I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and a relaxing hour listening to music from my teens.

Pancakes and Pillowforts playlist
Pancakes and Pillowforts – 70s playlist

Pursue Your Own Adventures

Do these adventures sound fun to you?

Challenge books are available in solo, family and couples editions. Each book contains 50 scratch off challenges. Check out the various books and the camera/book kits HERE. Use my code GOINGBEYOND to save 10% off of your order.

You can also purchase the camera HERE, from Amazon. The instamatic photos add to the fun, plus there’s a spot to add them in the book as you document the challenges.

I’m enjoying the book full of challenges. Although I originally thought I’d do one a week, it’s more naturally worked into one a month. And that’s fine with me. I’m looking forward to another adventure next month and to experiencing an adventure while on my trip in May.

If you purchase a book, let me know which adventure you do first!

Pancakes and Pillowforts solo adventure


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10 Fun Facts About Vatican City

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On the first day of our 12 days spent exploring Italy with Globus Tours, we started at Vatican City. To be honest, I knew very little about the Vatican, other than it housed the Sistine Chapel with its famous Michelangelo painted ceiling and the Pope. Other than looking forward to seeing that magnificent chapel, I had little interest in touring the rest of the Vatican.

Silly me. That was my ignorance talking.

I had no real idea what lay behind the those tall Vatican walls. A delightful surprise awaited me.

Check out these 10 fun facts about Vatican City, so that you know more than I did on your visit.

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10 Fun Facts About Vatican City

Visit Rome, Italy and you’ll likely see the walled Vatican City, completely surrounded by Roman neighborhoods. Home to the Pope, the Sistine Chapel and incredibly beautiful architecture, this is not a sight to miss while exploring.

There’s so much more to the Vatican than the Pope’s home though. How many of these fun facts do you know?

Smallest Country in the World

Vatican City covers 121 acres, making it 1/8 the size of New York’s Central Park, and it is entirely surrounded by the city of Rome. It’s an independent city state, making it the smallest country in the world.

Vatican City is governed as an absolute monarchy, with the Pope as the head. The Vatican mints its own euros, prints its own postal stamps, issues passports and license plates, has its own flag, anthem, newspaper and radio station and operates media platforms.

The population of Vatican City numbers about 800. To gain citizenship you must work there as an employee. Lose the job, lose citizenship. There isn’t an official language.

Vatican City is the only entire country to receive the UNESCO World Heritage Site classification.

St. Peter’s Basilica Sits on a City of the Dead

During Pagan times a Roman necropolis…city of the dead…existed on Vatican Hill. When the great fire leveled Rome in AD 64, Emperor Nero accused Christians of starting the fire. He executed them at the base of the hill, in horrible ways, including Peter the apostle of Jesus. Peter was buried, supposedly, on Vatican Hill.

By the 4th century, Emperor Constantine began building the original basilica on top of the old burial grounds, with the tomb of Peter at the center. The present basilica, constructed in the 1500s, sits over a maze of catacombs.

More than 100 tombs exist inside St. Peter’s Basilica. Ninety one of these hold past Popes. However Queen Christina of Sweden rests here along with James Stuart, the pretender to the British crown.

10 Fun Facts About Vatican City st peters basilica
10 Fun Facts About Vatican City – St Peter’s sits on a city of the dead

The Obelisk that Stands in St. Peter’s Square Came from Egypt

Emperor Caligula of Rome built a small amphitheater at the base of Vatican Hill, where charioteers trained and Nero martyred the Christians. He transported an obelisk from Egypt, that once stood in Heliopolis, to the center of the amphitheater.

The obelisk, made of red granite, was built to honor an Egyptian pharaoh more than 3,000 years ago.  It moved to St. Peter’s Square in 1586.

The Swiss Guard Protects the Pope

The Swiss Guard, dressed in colorful Renaissance style uniforms, serves as bodyguards to the Pope. Founded in 1506, they are the world’s smallest standing army, with 135 members currently. Although also ceremonial, the soldiers are highly trained marksmen. Members of the guard must be Swiss, Catholic and undertake basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces.

10 Fun Facts About Vatican City swiss guard
10 Fun Facts About Vatican City – Swiss Guards

The Pope Owns a Telescope in Arizona

The Vatican owns one of the oldest astronomical research institutes in the world, the Vatican Observatory. However, because of light pollution in Rome, the Observatory purchased a top of the line telescope and installed it on a hilltop in Tucson, Arizona, in the US. It’s called the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, with a primary use of conducting astronomical research.

There’s a Secret Passageway

A half mile long elevated covered passageway, constructed in 1277, connects the Vatican with the fortified Castel Sant’Angelo on the banks of the Tiber River. It served as an escape route for the Pope.

In 1527, Pope Clement VII used the passageway to safely evade the forces of Emperor Charles V as they murdered priests and nuns throughout the city. The Swiss Guard held back the throngs long enough for Pope Clement to escape to Castel Sant’Angelo although 147 of the guards perished.

10 Fun Facts About Vatican City secret passageway
10 Fun Facts About Vatican City – there’s a secret passageway…but this isn’t it!

Vatican City Has Its Own Soccer Team

Vatican City has a soccer team, called the FC Guardia. All of the players are Swiss Guards. In 1972 the city founded the Vatican City Championship. Eight teams, comprised of workers from the City’s various state departments, compete.

Vatican City Has the Highest Wine Consumption in the World

Because of its small population, the country earns the title of highest wine consumption in the world. Most of the residents of Vatican City drink wine…averaging 54 liters each per year…plus it is used in religious ceremonies.

10 Fun Facts About Vatican City wine consumption
10 Fun Facts About Vatican City – highest wine consumption

World’s Shortest Railway

Vatican City opened a railway in 1934. At just 300 meters long, with one station, it’s the world’s shortest national railway. The train is used primarily to transport freight and occasionally for ceremonial purposes.

The Vatican Palaces are Enormous

Although it’s a small country, the Vatican palaces are huge. The palaces consist of connected buildings with more than 1,000 rooms. Inside is the Pope’s residence, plus museums, meeting rooms, chapels…including the Sistine Chapel…residential apartments and offices. Additionally, you’ll find nine miles of gorgeous artwork on display.

10 Fun Facts About Vatican City palace
10 Fun Facts About Vatican City – nine miles of artwork to view

Have You Visited Vatican City?

I’m grateful that our tour of Italy began at Vatican City. Had I made my own travel decisions, I know I would have skipped the Vatican. And what a shame if I had. We spent all morning there. I felt amazement over the rooms and rooms of art. St. Peter’s Basilica is truly beautiful and mysterious. And the Sistine Chapel did not disappoint.

My advice: don’t skip seeing Vatican City. It’s worth spending half a day or more exploring all that this interesting place has to offer.

Have you visited Vatican City? And did you learn any new facts about it in this post?

10 Fun Facts About Vatican City first look
First look at Vatican City, from our hotel room window.



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2022 Best Picture Nominated Films

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The Academy Awards air this month, on Sunday, March 27. As is my custom, I enjoy watching as many of the nominated movies as possible, plus the short films. Pre COVID, more opportunities existed to watch the films. My local theater brought in all of them for special viewings during Oscar Week.

However, for the second year in a row, that didn’t happen. Instead, for the first time ever, I caught all ten of the 2022 Best Picture Nominated films at home, on various streaming services.

It’s not necessary to see all of the films before Oscar night. But in my experience, it gives extra meaning to the award show plus I end up watching movies I wouldn’t otherwise.

Check out my brief, spoiler free summaries of each film and my prediction at the end of the post.

2022 Best Picture Nominated Films title meme

Ten Movies Nominated for Best Picture

It’s a large group of films this year and they are extremely diverse, ranging from sci-fi to biographical to satire to off beat. I’m listing them in the order I watched them.


Rated PG-13  Run time: 2 hours 35 minutes

Screenplay written by Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth, based on the novel by Frank Herbert. Directed by Denis Velleneuve. Nominated for 10 Oscars,

Stars Timothee Chalomet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa and Stellan Skarsgard.

Promoted as part one in a two part series, Dune tells a hero’s  journey story about a gifted young man born into a destiny beyond his imagination and understanding. He must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to guarantee the future of his people. The hostile desert planet contains an exclusive supply of a rare resource that has the ability to propel humanity to its greatest potential…if it is in the right hands.

Fun fact: Director Denis Villeneuve read the Dune novel at age 12 and saw the first adaptation in 1984. His lifelong dream to do a new adaptation came true after he did two other science fiction films, so he possessed sufficient experience for the project.

Dune is available to watch on HBOMax.

Don’t Look Up

Rated R  Run time: 2 hours 18 minutes

Screenplay written by Adam McKay and David Sirota. Nominated for 4 Oscars.

Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry and Timothee Chalamet.

This comedic drama…with sci-fi overtones…has been called satire at its best. Two unknown astronomers discover that an approaching comet is on a collision course with Earth. However, no one…from those in highest government positions to religious leaders to scientists…seems to care. The pair embark on a whirlwind media tour, trying to convince those with the power to make changes to do something before it’s too late. What does it take, to get people to look up?

Fun fact: Jennifer Lawrence filmed most of her scenes with a broken tooth. Due to COVID restrictions, she couldn’t get it fixed. In post production, the missing tooth was added in.

Don’t Look Up is available on Netflix.

2022 Best Picture Nominated Films don't look up
2022 Best Picture Nominated Films – Don’t Look Up

The Power of the Dog

Rated R  Run time: 2 hours 6 minutes

Screenplay by Jane Campion, based on the novel by Thomas Savage. Directed by Jane Campion. Nominated for 12 Oscars.

Stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Durnst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

In 1925 Montana, the Burbank brothers carry on the ranching legacy handed down to them by their parents. Phil is charismatic, cruel and manipulative while George does damage control in the wake of Phil’s brutality.  When George marries and brings a new wife and her teenage son to the ranch, Phil takes great pleasure in bullying both. However, when the abuse abruptly shifts to befriending the boy and teaching him about ranching, concerns grow even more. (Read a more in depth review HERE.)

Fun fact: To get into the character of Phil and stay there, Benedict Cumberbatch did not bathe for two weeks and adopted chain smoking. He did not speak to co-star Kirsten Dunst outside of filming.

The Power of the Dog is available on Netflix.

Nightmare Alley

Rated R  Run time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Screenplay by Guillermo del Torro and Kim Morgan, based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham. Directed by Guillermo del Torro. Nominated for 4 Oscars.

Stars Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman and Mary Steenburgen.

An ambitious carnival worker with the ability to easily manipulate people, learns to perform as a mentalist. He hooks up with another performer named Molly, to develop their own two person act. They experience success on the road, until greed drives him to con a dangerous tycoon, with the help of a mysterious female psychiatrist.

Fun fact: COVID suspended production of the film after some of the scenes were shot. Bradley Cooper used that time to lose 15 pounds so as to appear younger for scenes at the beginning of the film.

Watch Nightmare Alley on Hulu and HBOMax.

2022 Best Picture Nominated Films power of the dog
2022 Best Picture Nominated Films – The Power of the Dog

West Side Story

Rated PG-13  Run time: 2 hours 36 minutes

Screenplay written by Tony Kushner, based on the stage play and book by Arthur Laurents. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Nominated for 7 Oscars.

This adaptation of the 1957 musical stars Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose and Rita Moreno.

West Side Story explores the threats of two warring gangs and the city’s wrecking ball in a decaying neighborhood in Manhattan. While the two gangs fight for supremacy, an unexpected and forbidden love develops between one of the gang members…and the sister of the leader of the other gang.

Fun fact: In spite of the 60 year gap between adaptations, three actors who appeared in the original musical play different roles in this new film: Rita Moreno, Harvey Evans and David Bean. Sadly, David passed away two weeks after this film’s release.

Watch West Side Story on HBOMax.

Drive My Car

Unrated  Run time: 2 hours 59 minutes

Screenplay written by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe, based on the short story by Haruki Murakami. Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi. Nominated for 4 Oscars.

This Japanese film stars Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura and Reika Kirishima.

Two years after his wife’s unexpected death, a well known stage actor and director agrees to direct a production of Uncle Vanya at a theater festival in Hiroshima. The young woman assigned as his chauffeur helps him face his grief and confront painful truths from his past.

Fun fact: This film is also nominated for Best International Feature Film, at the Academy Awards.

Watch Drive My Car on HBOMax.

2022 Best Picture Nominated Films drive my car
2022 Best Picture Nominated Films – Drive My Car


Rated PG-13  Run time: 1 hour 38 minutes

Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh. Nominated for 7 Oscars.

Stars Jude Hill, Lewis McAskie, Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds.

Set in the 1960s, this historical drama tells the story of Buddy and his family as their working class neighborhood experiences increasing turbulence and violence. Nine year old Buddy does his best to understand “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland as friends and neighbors flee Belfast and his own family faces life altering decisions.

Fun fact: This film is based on the true events from Kenneth Branagh’s childhood.

Rent Belfast on Prime Video HERE. Start your FREE Amazon Prime trial.

King Richard

Rated PG-13  Run time: 2 hours 24 minutes

Written by Zach Baylin. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. Nominated for 6 Oscars.

Stars Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton.

This biographical drama follows Richard Williams, father and tennis coach of Venus and Serena. Armed with a clear vision and a bold 78 page written plan, Richard is determined to write his daughters into history. His commitment, balanced by his wife’s grounded perspectives, defies the odds against his daughters as they pursue their dreams of being the best female tennis players in the world.

Fun fact: Saniyya, who portrays Venus, is left handed and had never played tennis before. She trained five days a week, followed a strict diet and exercise plan, and watched hours of Venus, who is right handed, playing in major tennis tournaments.

Rent King Richard on Amazon Prime HERE.

2022 Best Picture Nominated Films king richard
2022 Best Picture Nominated Films – King Richard

Licorice Pizza

Rated R  Run time: 2 hours 13 minutes

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Nominated for 3 Oscars.

This romantic comedy stars Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman and Sean Penn.

In 1973 San Fernando Valley, 15 year old Gary meets Alana when she arrives to take photos at the high school. With a wide age gap between them, Gary and Alana form a friendship that takes them through various start up businesses and brief romantic relationships with others. However, is there more than friendship developing between them?

Fun fact: Alana Haim’s on screen family members are all played by her actual family members. The Haim sisters have a Grammy nominated rock band. Paul Thomas Anderson met the Haims when he was a young boy. This film is inspired by the crush he had on Donna Haim, the mother of the girls.

Purchase Licorice Pizza on Amazon Prime HERE.


Rated PG-13  Run time: 1 hour 51 minutes

Screenplay written by Sian Heder, based on the previous motion picture “La Famille Belier”, written by Victoria Bedos, Stanislas Carre de Malberg, Eric Lartigau and Thomas Bidegain. Directed by Sian Heder. Nominated for 3 Oscars.

Stars Emilia Jones, Marlee Martin, Troy Kotsur, Eugenio Derbez and Daniel Durant.

Ruby is a CODA…Child of Deaf Adults. She is the only hearing person in her family of four. From early childhood, Ruby interprets for her parents in the hearing world while helping her dad in his business and helping her mother and brother communicate with the community. Ruby’s passion is music and singing. When she joins the high school choir, her teacher encourages her to apply for college, on a musical scholarship. How can Ruby share her love of singing with her family, when they have no place for music in their world? And how can she leave them and go away to college?

Fun fact: Ruby’s deaf father, mother and older brother are all played by deaf actors. Emilia, who played Ruby, spent nine months learning American sign language, taking singing lessons and learning how to operate a fishing trawler.

Watch CODA on Apple TV+

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2022 Best Picture Nominated Films – CODA

My Prediction

I think this was the most interesting group of best pictured nominated films ever. Often, in past years, I like one or two of the films and can barely watch others in the group, usually due to extreme violence. You perhaps noticed that many of this year’s films are rated PG-13. The captivation lies not in the shock value of these films but in powerful stories, clever satires and real life inspired tales.

I enjoyed all ten of these movies. Don’t Look Up made me laugh the most.  Drive My Car, at almost three hours long, appealed to me more and more as the story unfolded. And ironically, my favorites were the last three I watched. King Richard is inspiring. Licorice Pizza is so quirky. And CODA is an incredible film…funny, insightful and heart touching. It’s the movie I loved the most.

However, I’m selecting The Power of the Dog for the win on Oscar Night. It is such a layered, complex film with a gripping storyline that stays with the viewer for a while. The Academy loves such weighty films.

How many of the 2022 Best Picture nominated films have you seen? Do you have one you are cheering for on Oscar Night?



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Benefits of Brain Dumping

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Have you ever had these things happen?

You wake up ready to tackle your “to do” list however your attention flips from idea to reminder to replaying yesterday’s less than stellar day. Nothing on the list gets checked off.

You feel paralyzed by worry about some as yet unrealized situation.

Or you go through your nighttime routine, flip off the light and crawl into bed at a decent hour. Immediately your brain goes into overdrive, flooding your awareness with brilliant ideas, stubborn fears or regrets you can’t do anything about. Hours later you still haven’t slept.

Our brains continually receive and process information. It does an amazing job of sorting through all those bits and pieces of information and bringing into our awareness what is most important. However, like a room full of too much stuff, the brain can become cluttered with too many thoughts, ideas, fears, anxieties, regrets, dreams and tasks. That clutter of thoughts creates overwhelm, making it difficult to focus and prioritize tasks.

The benefits of brain dumping are many and yet it is so simple to do.

Benefits of Brain Dumping title meme

What is Brain Dumping?

A brain dump is a transfer of thoughts to a journal, digital notes app, notebook, white board or piece of paper. It’s a way of capturing all those ideas, worries, questions, or sparks of creativity that are swirling in the mind in one place.

I think of it as a movement of energy from my brain, down my arm and out through my hand, onto paper. If I don’t move that energy it continues to circle in my mind, distracting me or keeping me awake. Brain dumping serves as a reset button.

Benefits of Brain Dumping beliefs
Benefits of Brain Dumping – examining beliefs

Benefits of Brain Dumping

The benefits of this exercise are many. They include:

  • clears the mind of clutter
  • stops worry about unimportant things
  • breaks the loop of replaying an incident over and over
  • brings clarity to dreams and visions
  • uncovers deeper truths
  • clarifies beliefs
  • helps you let go of regrets
  • organizes tasks so you can see what is most urgent
  • helps you decide what is most important to you
  • moves energy so that it is not continually circling in the mind
  • provides “ahas” and insights
  • shifts negativity
  • highlights gratitudes
  • creates a safe place to write out feelings and process them
  • encourages creativity and problem solving
  • keeps track of things you don’t want to forget
  • improves memory and recall
  • makes it more likely for follow through and taking action on goals
  • strengthens focus and productivity levels
  • reduces stress, anxiety and depression
  • expands perspective and “big picture” thinking
Benefits of Brain Dumping fears
Benefits of Brain Dumping – declutters the mind

When to Do a Brain Dump

To receive the most benefits from brain dumping, practice it every day…or at least once a week. You can start the day with a brain dump, to help organize a “to do” list, capture creative ideas or tackle a problem that needs solving.

Or, end the day with a brain dump to make it easier to fall asleep without all those thoughts, ideas and nagging worries tumbling about. I’ve turned on the light after getting into bed to do a brain dump. Otherwise, I can kiss that good night’s sleep goodbye.

Any time of day is appropriate for a brain dump. If your mind feels cluttered with thoughts or repetitive loops or anxieties, pause to get them out of your head.

Benefits of Brain Dumping to do
Benefits of Brain Dumping – create a better to do list

How to Brain Dump

Grab a pen and a notebook, open your phone’s notes app or create a document on your computer and find a quiet place to be alone for a few minutes.

Free write all the things distracting you:

  • troubling thoughts
  • creative ideas
  • to do lists
  • important and not so important tasks
  • items to purchase
  • big dreams and goals
  • irritations
  • travel list of what to pack
  • negative thoughts about yourself or anyone else
  • fears
  • anxieties
  • that bad dream from last night
  • what makes your heart come alive
  • what makes your heart sad
  • celebrations to plan
  • past regrets
  • anything you don’t want to forget

Truly, the things you can write about are endless. The key is to allow whatever is cluttering your brain to appear on paper. If it’s bothering you, write it down. When a thought keeps circling back around, jot it on the paper.

Write until it feels like you’ve captured what’s disturbing your peace, making you anxious, filling you with ideas or keeping you from focusing. You can do more brain dumps as necessary.

Benefits of Brain Dumping anxieties
Benefits of Brain Dumping – calming anxieties

What’s Next?

When you finish, look over what you wrote.

Organize tasks into lists and make action plans…for now or later. You can always return to a written out brain dump.

Put stars next to big ideas you want to develop.

Go for a walk and leave your thoughts behind on the paper. Enjoy breathing fresh air and relaxing the mind. Or enjoy a long soak in the tub or go to sleep. Return to the brain dump if you want…or never look at it again.

If something you wrote down warrants further thought, write it at the top of a blank page for future consideration. This is where insights can appear, as you dig a little deeper.

As you organize your brain dump, check off items or scratch through them.

It’s okay if the same things keep showing up in brain dumps. That just means there’s deeper work to do. Watch for patterns. Is there someone to forgive? An unpleasant task you need to conquer and move on from? Something you need to release? A daily planner, meal planner or calendar to purchase? Eventually your brain will let go of these reoccurring thoughts as you deal with them.

How I Use Brain Dumping

I have a collection of notebooks that I use for everything from blog and social media post ideas to travel destinations to big dreams and goals. I also capture fears, worries and regrets on those notebook pages and then let them go. In fact, I often burn those pages as a symbolic way of releasing everything written on the paper. I joke that I carry my brain around in notebooks and that’s no lie!

When driving I dictate ideas and thoughts into my iPhone notes app. Or I’ll verbally make lists or capture thoughts I don’t want to forget.

I’ve used sticky notes and a large white board to capture ideas for projects or brainstorm ideas.

And I frequently do a quick brain dump if thoughts, plans or creative ideas are keeping me awake. It’s a wonderful way to calm my mind. Plus I know I have my notes for the next morning, when I wake up. I don’t have to keep thinking about them.

Brain dumping is very helpful for me.

Have you tried brain dumping? Tell me about your techniques!

Benefits of Brain Dumping notebook


Brain Dumping Helps from Amazon:



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Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes

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Travel anywhere in Scotland and you are sure to hear the country’s signature sound…the wail of bagpipes. Pipers stand on street corners, playing for tourists. In Edinburgh, a piper always strategically occupies the corner near Princes Street Gardens and the train station.

On the Royal Mile in Old Town, pipers perform every few blocks. And if you visit gorgeous Glen Coe, in the Highlands, there’s usually a lone piper playing.

Military tattoos, weddings, funerals, celebrations and parties all feature the magical sound of bagpipes. Whether you love the sound or not, bagpipes and Scotland go together.

Check out these fun facts about Scottish bagpipes and learn something new about them.

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes title meme

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes

The bagpipe looks simple, in design, and yet what a complex instrument to play. And its rich history goes back centuries. Check out these fun facts.

Original Bagpipes Made of Skin

Early bagpipes were literally made from skin bags. Crafters cleaned small animal carcasses…such as goats or sheep…and turned them inside out. Pipes made from bamboo or hollow stalks were sewn into the places where the neck and limbs once existed.

Today bagpipes are fashioned from synthetic leather, plastics and metals.

March to War

The practice of piping during war began in the 1746 Battle of Culloden in Scotland, during the Jacobite uprising. Thereafter, every battle included a line of pipers that led soldiers into the fray.

During the first and second world wars, Scottish soldiers marched to the sound of bagpipes. The practice was suspended after 3000 pipers fell by German machinegun fire.

The Sound that Carries

There’s no volume control when piping. Because of that, the music from bagpipes carries for approximately ten miles. The Scots hoped to instill fear in their enemies, by playing the bagpipes.

It’s a extraordinary and moving experience to hear the lone piper playing in Glen Coe, in the Highlands. The music echoes down the long rugged valley, sending shivers down the spine. My eyes filled with tears.

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes lone piper
Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes – lone piper in Glen Coe, in the Highlands

Scotland the Brave

The most popular bagpipe song in Scotland is “Scotland the Brave”, the unofficial Scottish anthem. Listen for the song at military celebrations, graduation parties and special events.

Other Countries Have Bagpipes Too

Scotland isn’t the only country that enjoys bagpipe music. You can find pipers in England, Ireland, Northwestern Spain, Bulgaria, the US, Canada, France, Australia and New Zealand.

The bagpipes are commonly used in police ceremonies and funerals with Amazing Grace most often played.

Queen Elizabeth Loves the Bagpipe

The Queen supposedly loves the sound of bagpipes. She prefers to wake up every morning at 9:30 to the sound of bagpipes, rather than a traditional alarm clock. A piper plays beneath her bedroom window, for about 15 minutes. Her husband, Prince Philip, didn’t appreciate the bagpipes as much.

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes london piper
Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes – piper in London, England

Bagpipes Outlawed Twice

The British government banned piping and wearing a kilt after the 1560 Reformation in Scotland.

And after the Jacobite Uprising, bagpipes were considered war instruments. Pipers ran the risk of hanging for owning or playing bagpipes.

Bagpipes are Aerophones

Each bagpipe possesses at least one drone pipe. Once playing starts, air flows constantly through the drones, resulting in continuous notes. There are no breaks between notes. The notes between songs are called grace notes.

The piper keeps the bag full of air by blowing into with a tube or pumping it with bellows. To create music, he or she presses the bag so that the air flows through the chanter. Each drone pipe plays a different note.

Bagpipes Have a Melody Pipe

The melody pipe on a bagpipe is called the chanter. It only produces nine notes, from G to A, with no sharps or flats.

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes drone and chanter pipes
Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes – drone and chanter pipes

National Bagpipe Day is March 10

March 10 is International Bagpipe Day and it’s the perfect time to celebrate this amazing instrument. Pipers gather around the world to play in concerts, perform in schools and entertain on street corners.

Nero Piped

A skilled piper, the tyrant Nero played often. And since fiddles didn’t exist yet when Rome burned, perhaps Nero piped instead.

Romans possibly introduced bagpipes into Scotland.

There Are 130 Kinds of Bagpipes

Around the world, 130 varieties of bagpipes exist. The Great Highland Bagpipe of Scotland sounds distinctly different from the Irish Uillean Pipe.

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes - blond piper
Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes – piper on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Yea or Nay for Bagpipes?

Personally, I love the sound of bagpipes. The haunting music calls to something deep in my soul. My heart beats faster when I hear bagpipes and I feel a strong connection to that noble country. I own many CDs of bagpipe music, including several by the popular band, Red Hot Chili Pipers.

What about you? Do you enjoy bagpipe music? What’s your favorite song?

Fun Facts About Scottish Bagpipes group photo


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Non Touristy Things to Do in London

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I love the exciting energy in London, England. It’s a beautiful and fascinating city to explore whether you are visiting for the first time…or tenth. For all the fun places to visit on a first visit, check out this POST.

If you are looking for things more off the beaten path, these non touristy things to do in London are perfect. Enjoy adding one of these places…or all of them…to your next London itinerary.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London tutle meme

Non Touristy Things to Do in London

London is a sprawling city containing 32 boroughs and home to more than 9 million people. There is always something going on in the city. When you want to get away from the crowds for a time, these places offer a peek into other beautiful or unique parts of London.

Explore Brick Lane

Brick Lane, in the borough of Tower Hamlets East London, was formerly known as Whitechapel Lane. Its current name comes from the brick and tile manufacturing that began there in the 15th century. The area drew immigrants from various countries over the centuries. Today it is the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi community in addition to offering vibrant street art, galleries, fashion and night clubs.

Enjoy the art, music, trendy shops and social life on Brick Lane. And check out the Backyard Market there. Open only on Saturdays, the market is a bustling place filled with various stalls offering vintage clothing, handmade jewelry, street food and more.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Brick Lane
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Brick Lane *photo by Robert Bye, Unsplash

View London from One New Change Rooftop

Want to appreciate gorgeous views of London, without paying a hefty fee to do so? Check out One New Change, a dining and shopping spot with a free rooftop deck.

Take the elevator to the top to enjoy those amazing views and the London skyline while capturing unforgettable photos.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London One New Change
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – One New Change *photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo, Unsplash

Walk Along Regent’s Canal

Regent’s Canal stretches from one end of London to the other. Walk along this beautiful hidden gem to escape the busyness of the city. Slip away from the noise. Stroll past fun locations such as Little Venice and Camden Market. Sit and people watch as joggers and walkers go by. Or enjoy a boat ride.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Regents Canal
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – walk along Regent’s Canal *photo by Daniil Korbut, Unsplash

Dine at Leadenhall Market

This covered market on Gracechurch Street dates back to the 14th century. Leadenhall sells fresh foods, flowers and many other wares.

A variety of shops occupy the impressive structure. Find a treasure or eat lunch here, where filming took place for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Due to its cobblestone floors and gorgeous, ornate ceilings, Leadenhall Market provided the backdrop for scenes near The Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley in the film.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Leadenhall Market
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Leadenhall Market *photo by Kayla Koss, Unsplash

Explore The Hill Garden and Pergola

This is a fairytale place, built in the early 1900s, with views over nearby Hampstead Heath. Wander along the gorgeous terrace and enjoy the old Georgian arbor. There’s a faded beauty to this hidden treasure, with its overgrown plants and exotic flowers. Some even find Hill Garden and Pergola mysterious and a bit eerie, with its grandeur from the past. See how the energy there feels to you!

Non Touristy Things to Do in London The Hill Garden
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – The Garden Hill and Pergola *photo by Evgeny Klimenchenko, Unslash

Take a Dip at Hampstead Heath Park and Ponds

After The Hill Garden and Pergola, stop by Hampstead Health, with its park and bathing ponds. High up on a sandy ridge, the park provides a magical place to picnic while enjoying stunning views of London. Walk through the surrounding natural wonderland.

And if you feel like a dip, indulge in one of three ponds. There are three murky ponds to choose from: one for women, one for men and one for both. The park and ponds are favorites of local Londoners. Join them for a unique, authentic experience.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Hampstead Heath
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Hampstead Heath *photo by Amadeusz Misiak, Unsplash

Paddleboat at Battersea Park

Located in the borough of Wandsworth, 200 acre Battersea Park sits on the south side of the Thames River. This 150 year old park contains hidden gems such as a temple, an art gallery, a circular road perfect for walking or biking, a pagoda, fountains, beautiful trees and a picturesque lake. It’s the perfect place to unwind for a few hours. You can even ride on a swan paddleboat in the lake.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Battersea Park
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Battersea Park *photo by Ziqian Chai, Unsplash

Wander Through the Sherlock Holmes Museum

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, visit this museum. The fictitious sleuth is so connected to London that the city made the address 221B  Baker Street real. The building there duplicates Sherlock’s home with small artifact filled rooms and a narrow set of stairs.

The ground floor contains a lobby and gift shop. On the second floor is the room where Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes spent many hours together, solving crimes. And on the top floor are rooms that display crime scenes.

Check out the museum’s website for more info.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Sherlock Holmes Museum
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Sherlock Holmes Museum

Watch the Deer at Richmond Park

Richmond Park is a Royal Park and home to protected deer. There are acres of park to wander in, through grasslands and gardens and near waterways. Bring a picnic lunch or simply relax in nature. And while there, note the view of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. That unobstructed view is protected by law!

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Richmond Park
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Richmond Park *photo by Edson Rosas, Unsplash

Creep Along in Highgate Cemetery

While cemeteries may not be a typical place to visit, many contain fascinating architecture and nature paths to explore.

Highgate Cemetery in North London originally opened in 1839. The city needed more space to bury its dead. Due to its Victorian gothic architecture and elevated position overlooking the city, the cemetery became a desirable resting place for the wealthy upper class. After WWI, the cemetery fell into disrepair. The area became known for ghost stories and mysteries.

Today a group of charities oversee the upkeep of Highgate. It’s still atmospheric, if somewhat less creepy. Author Douglas Adams is buried here, along with Karl Marx. It’s a wonderful place to explore architectural features and narrow, overgrown paths through graves.

Non Touristy Things to Do in London Highgate Cemetery
Non Touristy Things to Do in London – Highgate Cemetery

Favorite Non Touristy Spot in London

Did you find a new place to explore in London? Which place would you visit first?

I look forward to another trip to London. I’ve seen many of the major tourist attractions. I look forward to getting to know the city at a deeper level by exploring more of her hidden treasures.

Click on the photo below to order a map of London’s streets and boroughs.


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Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy

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Venice, the City of Canals and the capital of Italy’s Veneto region, covers more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriactic Sea. With its Grand Canal lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces and hidden piazzas, Venice is the most magical city that I’ve yet explored.

Looking to make the most of a visit to this beautiful place? Check out these fun experiences in Venice, Italy.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy title meme

A Bit About Venice

This historically significant city is perhaps the most unique in the world. The 117 islands connect by way of 400 bridges built over 150 canals. During the Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance powerful Venice served as a military and financial center. Its art made it a cultural center as well.

Today this floating city is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. Currently, Italy is open to travelers who provide proof of COVID vaccinations or a recent negative test result. Check out the latest updates on travel to Venice HERE.

Venice does not have roads, relying instead on water transportation. It’s a very walkable city with water taxis and vaporettes (water buses) available for travel between islands and to and from the mainland.

During your visit, try a couple or all of these fun experiences in Venice, Italy.

Explore St Mark’s Square

Also called Piazza San Marco, this huge public square is the heart of Venice. It’s named for the city’s patron saint, Saint Mark the Evangelist, and it’s the perfect starting point for exploring Venice.

Many famous landmarks are found in the square including Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Basilica, the Clock Tower, the Campanile and the Winged Lion high on its tall granite column.

Ornate buildings surround the square, with cafés on the north end offering the perfect spot to sip a drink and people watch. In the evenings the square is full of people enjoying live music and dancing.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy st marks square
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – St Mark’s Square

Tour the Doge’s Palace and Bridge of Sighs

The Republic of Venice existed from the 8th century until the late 18th century. During that time The Doge, a magistrate elected for life, ruled over the republic. The magnificent Doge Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, housed The Doge.

Today the white stone palace is a popular museum and landmark. Tours lead visitors through ornately decorated rooms full of gorgeous furniture and artwork.

While touring the palace, take a moment to pass over the Bridge of Sighs. It’s the only way to walk through the bridge. Otherwise, view the exterior of the famous structure from one of the nearby bridges over the canal.

The Bridge of Sighs connects the inquisitors’ offices in the palace to the prison. The name arose because prisoners stopped on the bridge and sighed at their last glimpse of beautiful Venice before entering confinement. The damp, cold, challenging conditions of the small cells often resulted in the deaths of the prisoners.

Peering out through the stone lattice windows, those escaping sighs surely carried regret, fear and grief.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy doges palace
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – Doges Palace
Fun Experiences in Venice Italy sighs
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – Bridge of Sighs

Visit St Mark’s Basilica

Also located in the square, St Mark’s Basilica is an impressive structure built in 1092 and embellished over the centuries. The gorgeous building features sculptures and artwork on the front facade and beautiful painted frescoes and Byzantine art on the inside of the domed ceiling.

Visit the small museum inside along with the outdoor terrace with views of the square below.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy st marks basilica
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – St Mark’s Basilica

Ride in a Gondola

Gondolas are iconic symbols of Venice and her canals. Imagine gliding through the canals of the city, propelled by a gondolier who may or may not sing to you. It’s a charming way to appreciate Venice’s amazing architecture, from the water. And some gondolas even float beneath the spectacular Bridge of Sighs.

Think a gondola ride is only for romantic couples? It doesn’t have to be. If romance isn’t what you seek, consider a gondola a tour through the city.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy gondola
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – gondola ride

Look for Venetian Lions

According to early traditions, each of the evangelists who authored a gospel in the Bible is represented by a winged creature. The winged lion represents Mark. Many of the Venetian lions scattered throughout the city, therefore, display wings and hold an open book beneath a paw. Sometimes the head is wreathed in a halo.

The winged lion that presides over the square and the city is a symbol of strength. The flag of Venice carries the image and a golden lion is given as the prize at the yearly Venice International Film Festival.

Lions adorn buildings, arches and towers all over Venice. The more you look for them, the more you find. Make it a game, to see how many lions of Venice you can find. Read Lions of Venice, for additional clues about locations.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy lions
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – find lions

Go On a Ghost Tour

One of my favorite ways to learn more about a city is through ghost tours and spooky stories. Typically, a great deal of history accompanies those macabre tales. Wander through darkened alleyways and past centuries old buildings, learning about bizarre and tragic ends to Venetian citizens and local hauntings.

Check out tours HERE and read my Ghost Stories from Venice, for an introduction to Venice’s dark side.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy ghost tour
Fun Experience in Venice, Italy – ghost tour

Watch a Glass Making Demo

One of Venice’s oldest specialties is glassware. Most of the city’s glasshouses moved across the lagoon to the island of Murano in 1291, where they remain. Take a water taxi or vaporetta to that island to watch a glass making demonstration or there are still studios in Venice where you can watch a master craftsman at work.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy glass
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – glass making demo

Take a Day Trip to Burano

Burano is an island in the Venice Lagoon, about 45 minutes away by boat. Often called one of the most colorful towns in the world, Burano is well worth exploring as a day trip…or even half a day…from Venice.

The island is known for its charming canals lined with colorful houses and shops. Legend says that the houses were originally painted in bright colors so that fishermen could find their way home on foggy nights. The fishermen could also easily tell which house was theirs, as each house features a different color.

Plus, Burano is famous for lace making. From lace tablecloths to collars to umbrellas to shawls and scarves, there is a vast variety of Burano lace available for purchase. Visit any of the shops in the square or along the narrow streets to find a lace souvenir to take home or to watch a traditional lace making demonstration.

Check out more things to do in Burano HERE.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy burano
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – day trip to Burano

Take a Selfie Over the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal runs in a reversed S shape through the city. Remarkable buildings and palaces line the canal and boats of all kinds continually move up and down the wide waterway.

Four large bridges span the Grand Canal, including the famous Ponte de Rialto Bridge. What began as a pontoon bridge in the 12th century underwent multiple transformations to become the beautiful structure it is today.

Take a selfie while standing on the Rialto or any of the other three bridges spanning the Grand Canal. Even better, catch a sunset from there as well.

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy selfie
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – take a selfie over the Grand Canal

Get a Little Lost Wandering in Venice

My favorite activity in any city that I visit is to get a little lost as I wander and explore. This is especially easy to do in Venice!

The city contains six historic districts. There are many narrow alleys, hidden piazzas and bridges over canals to explore. Pick a direction and start walking. Don’t worry. With its winding passageways, canals and bridges, you will get lost. However, it’s a small city…built on islands. You can’t get too lost.

Take time to pop into the tiny shops lining the streets. Snap photos of the small squares you happen upon, with their central basilicas. Sit at a table in an outdoor café and enjoy a drink or meal. Savor a cold and creamy gelato. Cross over any bridge you discover.

My daughter, grandson and I crossed over the Grand Canal and wandered for quite some time in the neighborhoods on the other side. We occasionally walked back to the canal to get our bearings. At last, we used our phones to guide us back to our accommodations near St Mark’s Square. It was a delightful time of getting acquainted with Venice.

Have you visited this marvelous city? What is your favorite fun experience to enjoy in Venice?

Fun Experiences in Venice Italy canal
Fun Experiences in Venice, Italy – get a little lost


Map of Venice Italy
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Venice Italy t shirt
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