A Nearby Journey, One Country Road

Road horses

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”   Marcel Proust

Every  weekday morning before I retired, I drove to school down the same country road. You won’t find my route in any guidebooks. It is just an ordinary rural asphalt passage through Northern New York State. But to me, it is very special.  It is the beginning of all my journeys.  It is the path that always welcomes me home.

Road red sunset

Over the years, I have come to appreciate the things I see on this road as much as I have been thrilled by the sights I have witnessed in Paris or The Rocky Mountains or any place I have traveled.

Road my tree
Road shad
Road Barn
Road winter

I have learned to observe and appreciate.  This practice has brought me great joy.

Road rock
Road Dew

These pictures  were all taken four miles from my home during various times of year. I invite all my readers to look and really see the interesting things just down the road. Take time to stop. You may discovery some pretty extraordinary things.

How to Be an Explorer of the World

“It worries me greatly that today’s children can recognize 100 corporate logos and fewer than ten plants.” -Robin Wall Kimmerer

I found this great book in a thrift shop. I loved the title and was intrigued by its unconventional format. The author, Keri Smith, calls herself a “guerilla” author, priding herself on creative ways to present books and deliver her message.

Someone on Amazon wrote a review saying they hated this book, declaring that it looked like a five year old wrote it. However, most reviewers loved it and so did I . With no rules or expectations she invites readers to go out and experience the raw world, reality without a screen or someone else’s interpretation.

I’m a retired teacher and a grandmother. It was very natural for me to bring this book when I visited my class of three grandchildren. We went through some of it but it was not the book’s purpose to be merely looked at. It was a springboard for action.

The second day of my visit was coincidently a day for my grandson, a five year old , and I to spend some time alone together. With a plastic bag, a camera and no expectations we set out for a walk in the neighborhood around Syracuse University to see what we could see.

Street Artifacts

The book encouraged us to look for faces. We found one.

We stopped to see the progress on the house we liked that had a part of its wall made of glass bricks. The people who lived there were always making improvements and we enjoyed noting the changes.

I did a little teaching, pointing out the ionic style columns on this house

We found a lot of great art.

And some interesting things that could inspire art.

Connor found a simile. “The white garbage bags look like little snowmen.”

We solved a mystery as we tried to guess what we were seeing across the street (first picture) and discovered what it was with a closer look (second picture).

We saw a lot of examples of people trying to communicate with printed words.

A construction crew caught our attention.

We found a prompt for a story. What happened here?

At the beginning of our walk, I told Connor about my goal to someday make it up these steps without stopping.

On the way back to Connor’s house, I said I would try doing thirty steps. Five year old Connor bounded up this hill encouraging me to keep going. I made it to the top, stopping three times for about 30 seconds to catch my breath but I made it. Connor inspired this teacher grandmother to achieve something she didn’t think she could do. For me, it was the greatest lesson I had learned in a long time.

I encourage my teacher, parent, and grandparent friends to look into other books by Keri Smith, The Imaginary World of (your name here), This is Not a Book, F nish Th s B k, Pocket Scavenger, Wreck This Journal, The Line, and Guerilla Art Kit.

I soon learned that what Connor and I did during our day together was just not kids’ stuff. Wandering around (exploring?) in a bookstore recently I found an article in the August 16-23 2019 issue of “Newsweek” called “The Pathway to Innovation”. In the article, Rob Walker states “noticing things that everyone takes for granted-and that could be improved, amplified, repurposed or replaced-is often the first step to innovation.” He uses the example of the creation of Velcro that came about when the inventor was on a walk and found the hooks of burdocks attaching to the loops in the fabric of his socks. Mr. Walker has written a book for adults, The Art of Noticing. Like Ms. Smith’s book it suggests many activities that will get adults away from the screen and out into the real world.

Copyright 2019 @The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.

My Imaginary (and Real) Friends

Because of family dynamics and the fact that I was very shy, I spent a lot of time alone when I was growing up. But life is about adaptability and I came to enjoy my own company. I always found things to do, to see , to ponder. When my life became too overwhelming I would ride my bike through my neighbor’s orchard, across a wide field and visit an old friend, a tall maple tree that for some reason was left standing in the acres that had been cleared so long ago for crops. Like me the the tree was alone but it was so much more, beautiful and majestic in its solitude, happy to just be. It became known as my “thinking tree” where I sat under its sturdiness and tried to find peace and some of my own strength.

There was also a woods near my home. My parents used fear to keep us safe and told us that terrible things would happen to us if we wondered there. I remember that when I was about six or seven I wished that I could own a gun, a very strange thing for a little girl to want in the 1950’s. I wanted to know the trees that lived in the cool darkness. I’m proud to say with determination and no gun, I eventually came to know them and added them to my group of acquaintances.

I am no longer shy and I have evolved into quite a people person but I still enjoy my own company and the company of trees. Last week, I returned from a camping trip near Lake Placid in my beloved Adirondack Mountains. I spent six days tenting. A friend who loves creature comforts wanted to know what I could possibly do for six days without a hotel bed and with only a gas camp stove to cook on. Here is my answer.

I set up a well organized, cozy campsite. It takes awhile but I made myself a very comfortable home on my site at the KOA in Lake Placid. I always have flowers on the tablecloth that covers the picnic table provided.

I caught up on my reading. In 2020, I’m taking an 80 day solo road trip through the southern states, going as far as New Orleans, and writing about it on my blog. Every morning at the campsite, I made coffee, build a fire and delved into two American history books, These Truths by Jill Lepore and The Half has Never Been Told by Edward Baptist. I was brought to tears as I read about the horrors of slavery in our country.

I visited the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehab Center in Wilmington. One of my sorority sister’s who lives in the area told me about this place which was not far from my campgrounds. I was thrilled to see so many animals that I had come to know and love, especially a red tailed hawk which I have chosen as my totem.

I listened to the whisper of the pines. They make their own mysterious sound and seemed to inspire me. As I looked up into their lacey beauty, the clutter of my thoughts and feelings seemed to sort themselves out into words and ideas that I might be able to write about in my blog.

I figured out a way to go for ice cream even though it was the day of the Iron Man races and all south bound lanes were closed near my campgrounds. Because of a good sense of direction and a little luck, I got my treat and was able to get back to my site by taking back roads.

I had the same bird visit me each day. I soon learned that it didn’t like bits of hot dog rolls but loved whole wheat crackers.

I thought of my dad and how he had instilled in me the love of trees and nature. He took my family to Canada to show us where he liked to fish and he bought us to Wilmington Notch Campground long ago when the white birches there were still alive.When we moved to a new house, one of the first things he did was plant trees all over our property.

Decades later, I realized that, through his example, he also taught me to take an interest in people and seek out their stories. He had a great sense of humor and loved “shooting the breeze” with anyone who wished to converse.

I drove to Keene Valley I remembered when I had passed through this valley on the Saturday after the Twin Towers had collapsed after the attack on September 11. I wondered then how something so beautiful and peaceful could exist when the rest of our world was falling apart

I stopped at Noon Mark Diner named after Noonmark Mountain. An elderly lady was looking for a table as she proclaimed to some people that her usual lunch spot wasn’t serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that day. Like my dad would have done, I started a conversation with her by commenting on her “Adirondack Women, Forever Wild”. I had a t-shirt that said the same thing. I asked her if she wanted to join me for lunch since the waitress hadn’t come yet and I thought that maybe two of us would be easier for her to notice.

We compared our Adirondack experiences. I had climbed eight of the High Peaks and she had climbed twenty-seven of them. Her name was Elizabeth Clark Eldridge, “Betty” for short, and her family had founded The North Country School, a prestigious progressive private boarding school attended by kids from all over world. In fact, she had become friends with one of its famous alumni, Peter Wilcox, the Greenpeace captain and environmental activist. She sailed with him on several excursions and was the ship’s cook. She was proud to say that Peter always corrected her by calling her “The Greenpeace Chef”. Betty was joyous, kind, and a very interesting person.. We are going to be pen pals and it all started with a passing word about her T-shirt.

I went swimming in The Ausable River! In Jay, by the old covered bridge, are lovely grey rocks that allow the Ausable River to jump and laugh and dance. I went there, hair tied back wearing my ugly black cover up and swam in my bathing suit in a quiet pool, unashamed of what I looked like as the younger swimmers dove and slid with daredevil enthusiasm. I’m sure I got as much joy out of the experience as them, maybe even more.

I finally visited the John Brown historic site. In my fireside readings about slavery, of course, this famous abolitionist was mentioned. Like a lot of Americans who are inadequately taught history, I had not paid attention to this man’s homestead and eventual resting place in Lake Placid. He was an quite a person, a man who wouldn’t support the injustices of his time and tried to do something about it.

I was carrying my copy of The Half has Never Been Told, the book about American slavery as I walked around the grounds. A woman stopped to talk to me. I think she heard me tell the site ranger that I would be touring The South and writing about it on my blog. Her name was Marsha Southgate and I later found out she was a published author. But what was important to her was that I knew about her mom who in 2002 walked through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Canada to retrace the steps of history. I have since ordered the book her mom wrote, In Their Path: A Grandmother’s 519-Mile Underground Railroad Walk. Mrs. Joan Southgate also helped establish Restore Cleveland Hope, an education center dedicated to the anti-slavery and Underground Railroad history of the area. What a wonderful coincidence to become connected to these two women.

I stopped at the iron bridge to remember Sharon. Sharon taught Bonnie and I how to fly fish on the Ausable River. The two of us came to the iron bridge after Sharon died to recognize her spirit, to thank her for all she had taught us, and to say “goodbye”.

I observed the first goldenrod of the summer. For my children and I, these yellow flowers always seemed to announce that school would be starting soon and summer was almost done. I’m retired from teaching now and my kids are grown. The message of the goldenrod is now different but in many ways more intense. These flowers seemed to be telling me to live these days of sunshine and warmth to the fullest, warning me not take them for granted.

So that’s some of what I did for six days without a hotel bed and only a camp stove to cook on. I connected with my friends the trees and the rest of nature. How could I be alone when I am a part of them and they are a part of me? They have taught me to look around and see the significance of even the smallest parts of our existence. They have opened my heart and mind to other human beings showing me that I’m connected to them, too. Thank you, trees. Thanks, Dad.

Copyright 2019@ theautonomoustraveler.com All right reserved.

A Baby Boomer Crossing Over into A Millennial, iGen World and Loving It


I’m a  Baby Boomer (a person born between 1946-1964). I’m also a grandmother and after I visited my grandkids, I went shopping because that is what Boomers do. I live in a rural area so I decided to immerse myself in the big city life of Syracuse, NY.  I went to Barnes and Noble (my generation still loves to hold books in our hands), Trader Joe’s, Marshalls, and The Carousel Mall. Since I was 80 miles from home and it was  getting late, I decided to stay overnight in a motel.  I was headed to a  Best Western or Hampton Inn but I came upon something new.  It was sleek, modern and it was something called a Tru Hilton.  Probably too expensive, I thought, but  I decided to go in and find out.


I was greeted by colorful outdoor furniture and positive sayings on the entrance door.

I soon found out that the average price for rooms at the Tru was in the $90 to $100 range.  I was sold plus this place was interesting. The lobby was one big room with the reservation desk and “market”, as they called it, in the center. The market was open 24 hours a day and served snacks, soda and single serve beer and wine. A sign in the elevator invited guests to come down to the lobby at any time for “work, eats, or laughs.” There was free high speed internet throughout the hotel and free coffee and tea  24/7. Near the elevator  was an interactive dry erase board where guests and staff could list  local tourist attractions, music venues, restaurants, and places to shop.  Guests were invited pick up a marker and comment about their favorites.

Someone in the Hilton organization had put a lot of thought into the design and feel of this hotel. I looked up Tru Hilton online and found that their focus was “Millennials, those in their twenties and early thirties who tend to like modern design, public spaces where they can work and socialize, and advanced technology such as mobile check-in”.

With the individualist spirit of this younger generation in mind, the furniture offered all sorts of seating styles; swinging basket chairs, places to accommodate groups, and individual secluded nooks with computer tables. A trendy bright mural on one of the walls paid tribute to the Syracuse area.

I entered my room and was surprised to see it wasn’t carpeted. There were no pictures on the wall and instead of drapes the window was cover with rolling blinds.   A space  with hangers, everything needed to iron, and a raised platform  for a suitcase offered an efficient substitute for a closet. Pegs on an opposite wall  provided an additional  place to hang things. To me, the sparseness of this room was not unpleasant. With all the stories in the news about bed bugs, germs, and longer flu seasons,  I found this new style of lodging comforting. This was a room that could be easily and thoroughly cleaned by the housekeeping staff.


The bathroom had plenty of shelf space and a walk in shower.  Shampoo, lotion, body wash, and condition were in ample supply in squeeze bottles attached to the wall.

The next morning I went down to the lobby for coffee and breakfast and checked out


Because I’m a Baby Boomer, I needed to go to one more store, Pier I.  And since I love sociology, am a bit of a geek, and always have to know why things are the way they are, I drove to another Barnes and Noble a few miles down the road.  I was curious. The Hilton corporation had created a new hotel line to reach a younger generation. This made sense because Millennials are a very large demographic and”demographics are destiny”.  I wanted to know more.

I went over to the sociology section, took three books off the shelf, got yet another cup a coffee, found a comfy chair, and dug in.  I opened  iGen by Jean M. Twenge and  immediately learned that iGen (born between 1995-2012) were the generation after The Millennials  (1980-1994).

These two groups of young Americans were similar but  iGens  are more practical, career focused, and cautious. Bogged down by student loans, the ever changing job market, the threat of automation, and income insecurity, they are more logical than emotional about their choices.  They are nonconformist, less impressed by celebrities and fame, and would rather have experiences than things. Their money goes money for housing, food, education, and medical expenses.  If they do have extra money they spend it on travel, being with friends or a good meal in a nice restaurant.  Quality of life is more important to them than stuff.

The longer I live the more I see the consistency of charge. Younger people are and will change the trends and the world we live in.  But this Baby Boomer kind of likes some of the changes.  I crossed into a Millennium, iGen world at Tru Hilton, learned a lot, and left feeling good.  I’ll be going back.


Forest Bathing-Inexpensive/Free Travel Experience

Forest bathing fallsStudies show that most people spend 93% of their time indoors or in cars, averaging 12 hours a weeks outside. The Japanese have come up with a program called “Forest Bathing” in which individuals immerse themselves in natural environments. Sound, smells, the air and temperatures, colors and textures are observed and appreciated. The idea is to be totally in the present moment and hopefully at peace.

No goals are set and there is to be no digital distractions. Wandering and childlike discovery are encouraged.

A recent CBS report said that Forest Bathing increases cardiovascular healing, cognitive function, creativity, and concentration while reducing inflammation, depression, and anger. If done in solitude and silence, studies showed that the positive effects can last for up to a week.

If you are not fortunate enough to live in or near a forest just leave your cell phone behind and find a quiet place in the desert or a park or anyplace you can get away from the noise of the world and find those things in nature that are real. We all need more peace.

Forest bathing mushroom

Copyright 2018 @The Autonomous Traveler