2009

behind the scenes

Hello, dear reader. I hope 2009 has been good to you.

It has been good to me. Maybe the best year so far. A year ago Raptitude did not exist in any form. It hadn’t even occurred to me to start a blog. That happened in January. And now I’ve got this promising little baby, though I’m not always the best parent.

As a reader, normally you see only the finished product, but today I’ll give you an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how these things are made.

Most Raptitude posts are 1500-2000 words, and take about five or six hours start to finish. That includes outlining, writing, editing, proofreading, finding images and publishing. So two articles a week takes about twelve hours on top of my regular day-to-day obligations.

I’ve never been much ahead of the game; I don’t keep articles in reserve, and I often finish them within half an hour of my self-imposed deadlines of midnight Sunday and midnight Wednesday. In other words I’ve never left myself much of a cushion for unforeseen crises or delays, yet I’ve pulled it off for the most part.

Until I left on my trip, I was extremely lucky, and was almost always able to slip articles in there before the deadline. Sometimes I’d have to stay up late, sometimes I’d toss an article at the last minute and start again, sometimes I’d publish something that I have misgivings about. Such is the downside of the Just-in-Time philosophy of blogging. Read More



I set out two days before Christmas

To beach-walk the holidays through,

Bunking with twenty-three strangers

Who relished to be alone too.

 

Happy with nature’s fine company,

No need for the trappings of home,

We twenty-four souls would be grateful –

Together by being on our own.

 

Well, nothing is quite as expected:

Twenty-three souls having fun

Belonged each to couples and families;

I, the sole party of one.

 

I left on the day before Christmas

Not onward, but back to the start

To friends, Swiss and English and German

Prior with whom I did part.

 

A Christmas Day dinner of pasta

Instead of dried fruit on its own,

And a table of young solo travelers

Who thought they’d spend Christmas alone.

***

Merry Christmas, wherever you are, whoever you’re with.  — D.



chopping

When the mind is not crowded
By imaginary things,
It is the best season of your life.

-Kabir

I just chopped twelve hundred needless words from this article, which is fitting, because the point of all that blathering was to warn against getting lost in abstractions.

I think too much. Virtually all of us do, it’s no secret. Anyone who even once experiments with meditation discovers in seconds how difficult it is just to sit and experience the physical only. We don’t think our thoughts so much as they outright assault us, so it’s no wonder we have a tendency to fall into resonance with our thoughts and lose sight of our physical experience.

You can take a ten-minute walk to the grocery store, and spend the whole walk with your attention completely hijacked by a line of thought that has nothing do to with walking or groceries. A foreign war, a past relationship, or an internal dialogue about fuel prices easily becomes more demanding of your attention than the boulevards, birdsongs and urban infrastructure that actually comprise the experience of a ten-minute walk. Read More



A cross to bear

Though the hysteria surrounding the H1N1 flu has left the entirety of the news-watching world with the encouraging habit of frequent handwashing, it is hard to call it anything but an overreaction.

Not to dismiss the crushing impact of even one person’s death to their loved ones, but when we venture into the realm of cold numbers, H1N1 just doesn’t warrant this level of acute, global paranoia. Thus far, the worldwide toll is just short of eleven thousand. That’s equivalent to about a summer’s worth of highway deaths in the US alone, or about 18 hours’ worth of tobacco-related deaths. But that’s not news.

I won’t delve into the media’s reprehensible M.O. of manufacturing widespread panic in this article, though. The point I want to make has more to do with our place in the world. From our presumed throne at the top of the food chain, we often take it somewhat for granted that we’re a more advanced creature than any other, certainly better than anything with no brain and no face. Read More



studio

There is an interesting discussion brewing in the blogosphere at the moment. My friend and fellow blogger Lisis Blackston of Quest for Balance wrote a controversial article last week about the feasibility of dropping your day job to pursue your passion.

We’ve all witnessed a growing culture of people who are quitting their lukewarm office careers to do what they’ve always wanted to do. There are countless success stories floating about (particularly in the online world) and it almost seems like following your passion — given an unwavering will — all but guarantees financial success. Lisis challenges this notion in her post.

Her article is here, and it is absolutely worth a read.

Several bloggers have responded with their take (a full list is at the end of Lisis’ article) and the topic is dear to me, so I’ll weigh in too.

It does seem passion generates income for some, but not for others. Therefore, ditching a steady job — under the assumption that your passion cannot fail you in the income department — is not exactly a bulletproof idea. But how do you know if your passion is the kind that would make you rich if you ran with it? Read More



alone in a crowd

I’ve received a fair bit of email asking me to write about how to be more comfortable in your own skin, particularly in unfamiliar places. Many report some level of anxiety at the thought of venturing into crowded venues, exploring new neighborhoods, or traveling alone.

I won’t pretend I’ve conquered self-consciousness in all its forms, but I can see my preparedness for dealing with the unfamiliar is miles from where it once was.

As a benchmark of how far I’ve come, I often reminisce with some embarrassment how my heart used to beat a little faster even at the thought of ordering pizza over the phone. It’s difficult to comprehend now what exactly I found intimidating about it, but I know that that was reality for me at one point.

Not long ago (maybe two years) I was not in a state of mind where I would be willing to confront the intrinsic uncertainties and risks of shipping myself off to another country. I’ve been on the road for seven weeks in unfamiliar parts of three countries and I’ve run into surprisingly few situations where I could not relax into whatever new scene I’ve found myself in.

I’ve learned a few tricks that really help create ease in situations where you don’t exactly feel like a fish in water. I’ll share two simple ones that you may want to try if you’re feeling a bit out of your element somewhere. Read More



Post image for Things We Said Today

There was a moment last week when I found myself standing on a beach I never could have imagined. Bookended by two cliffs was a great, smooth expanse of the most otherworldly sand. It was like a Neapolitan ice cream of fine golden sand, exotic black obsidian grains, and clear, saltlike crystals.

In the distance, perhaps a hundred metres away, a ferocious surf pounded, sending the occasional sheet of water sliding halfway up the beach and back into the sea, leaving different artwork in the sand each time.  Read More



Early morning in Hua Hin

Well, my four weeks in Thailand is up, and I’m sad to leave. I arrived in New Zealand yesterday so my spirits are high but I do wish I had more time for pad thai, beaches, Singha beer, banana pancakes and night markets. It seems hard to believe now, but I actually thought I might not like Thailand. Now I am determined to go back one day.

Ah well.

My blogging mismanagement continues, and there will be no article today. Hopefully Monday’s was sufficiently long-winded to keep you busy. More stories and updates are coming to David Goes Kiwi as well over the next few days.

I have a bit of a backlog of emails too, sorry for the slow turnaround. Each will be answered soon, thank you as always for writing me.



blame

“I hate the person who invented Mondays.”

I saw that phrase on someone’s Facebook status a week or two ago, and it made me smile. It’s definitely an understandable sentiment. I remember miserable grade-school mornings, being dragged out of bed by my mom. All I could do was grumble bitterly, “I hate the person who invented school!”

And I really did. I could almost picture this person: a crusty, stern Englishman with thick glasses and a white mustache, rapping a stick on the chalkboard. What a nasty thing to do to me, to invent school. I hated him.

At least, I hated him during those moments when I was being dragged out of bed and shuffled off to school. In fact, I’m sure there were times when I realized that there probably wasn’t one person out there in history who was solely responsible for inventing school and spoiling my mornings. But at that moment at 7:30am when I was yanked out of my pleasant dreams, he was ruining my life. Read More



chopsticks

There is a saying in Thailand that you may have seen on a T-shirt: “Same same but different.” When you ask a local how Ko Samui compares to Ko Lanta, he might scratch his chin for a moment, then shrug and say “Same same, but different.”

Back in May I wrote about Bowerbirds, a species of bird that attracts its mate by creating works of art. Their almost human-like values of beauty remind us that the superficial quality of form is the only thing that makes us different from other life. The function is pretty much the same, only the methods and styles differ. Within the narrower spectrum of different human populations, we’re even more alike.

Thailand has become a rather heavily touristed country, and I suppose that has taken the edge off the culture shock a westerner might feel stepping out of an airport taxi into the streets of Bangkok. For me it was a little bit of an adjustment, but I have to say I was surprised at how similar this side of the planet is to the side I’m used to. Read More




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