Taiwan, Asia’s best kept secret

13 Dec

I think Taiwan should be on your bucket list and here’s why:

Hualien Coast

Is that not enough reason to go? I mean, seriously, is this Taiwan’s best kept secret? I had no idea it looked like this. No one ever told me. It’s not one of those popular destinations that people talk about having fantastic turquoise water. Anyone I’ve shown the picture to hasn’t responded like they knew that it existed in Taiwan either. Crazy! I spent a week in Taiwan and all of it was fantastic, not just this one view.

We spent a few days in Tainan City at an apartment. We wandered the streets, ate some delicious food and drank a lot of bubble tea. We tried to find the night markets and were successful on one attempt. There were tons of temples to see and check out. I discovered an amazing coffee shop to work at, Donutes, just up the street from where we were staying. It’s open 24 hours, they have great coffee, amazing cakes and good wifi. What a treat!

After a few days in Tainan City we decided we wanted to explore more of the island and get back to some nature. Once I found some information on the Taroko Gorge I was intent on checking out the east side. I love nature, hiking and visiting waterfalls. We booked a train to Hualien.

Once we were in Hualien we rented a scooter and high tailed it to the gorge. We spent a few hours driving up to the top and checking out all the viewpoints. We hiked a bit and took a ton of photos. The clouds were amazing as they wrapped around the mountains. Like Oregon, we also found a ton of waterfalls coming down the mountains. The clouds were getting lower and darker and it looked like we could get some rain. We started on our way back home. We didn’t make it very far before the downpour started. We were drenched and we had miles to go. It finally let up and we started drying out. However that didn’t last long before another downpour started that was worse than the first. I now understand why it’s so green on that side of the island.

We stayed the night at this amazing hostel. One of the nicest I have ever stayed in. I’d highly recommend Wow Hostel. They aren’t just in Hualien either.

Wow Hostel

Before we headed out of the area we drove the scooter up the coast and that is when we saw the cliffs with the amazing blue water. It was a wonderful drive and there was only sunshine on our backs.

From Hualien we rode the train up to Taipei and stayed one night in the amazing Éclat Hotel (pictured below, center). We were right on the train and bus lines but we were close enough to walk to the night market, Taipei 101 Tower and Elephant park. We stumbled on a photography course in the exact location that we wanted to take photos. It was a our lucky night to learn some new tips and tricks for night photography! We also found an awesome speakeasy tucked behind a wall in a coffee shop. The manager was even from Portland, OR. Talk about a taste of home with those amazing cocktails.

We really enjoyed our time in Taipei. We also enjoyed taking the high speed rail back to Kaohsiung City. I wish we had high speed rail in the U.S..

If I had more time in the Taipei area I would have loved to get to the Yangmingshan National Park. I would have also loved to travel East and see the sunrise on the coast near the Gold Museum. There’s also some more waterfalls to explore.

TaipeiTowerPanoSM

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Bush to Beach Australia

29 Nov

I’ve been a bit silent on this blog lately. I’ve been traveling a lot this fall but now it’s time to get back to writing.

Here’s from my most recent adventures…From Portland to Melbourne

Beach to Bush…

I had prepared myself for the long flight to Australia by going to South Africa earlier in the year. Nothing can be longer than that 19 hour flight I took from Johannesburg to DC.

Australia has been on my list of places to go for awhile but even more so in the last few years since I’ve had two close friends that have been living there. We have been in a mastermind group for close to three years talking almost weekly the entire time. It’s been fabulous. They came to visit me, it was my turn to repay the visit and check out their neck of the woods. Plus, I had some new friends to visit as well!

Melbourne is a city that is a lot like Portland. It has a big food and arts scene. It has a lot of funky shops, cafe’s and bars. The weather is totally unpredictable especially in the spring and fall. You never know what it’s going to be like day to day much less hour by hour. We really enjoyed our time in the city wandering the alleys and visiting our friends but it was also nice to get out and see some nature while we were there.

12 apostles

We spent one day driving out to the coast and taking some fun photos along the way. We also took a long loop drive out on the Great Ocean Road and into the Grampians. I grew up on the water so this was definitely my cup of tea. I love getting out into nature and exploring the beauty that this world has to offer.

Grampians View

We saw a few koalas along the way hanging in the trees. We even saw some that were awake and moving around a bit. We saw a few echidna’s, an emu and a lot of different kinds of birds. We saw a ton of wallabies and kangaroos hopping along in the more wooded areas. We even camped in a field where they would come to graze, box and play. It was so amazing to watch these creatures move about. To Australian’s it’s like see deer in the states. They are commonplace in the wild and kind of a nuisance on the roads. Like deer, they are known to leap out in front of traffic. Lucky for me I didn’t encounter any poisonous snakes or spiders. I heard this is the other problem in Australia, too many things that can kill you.

Kangaroos at Play

It was hard to leave the field of Kangaroos and emu’s but all good things must come to an end. We had a train to catch to Sydney. But first to see our awesome friends again. Old and new friends came together in a great farewell dinner. What a nice send off we had at the train station. It was sad that we only saw them for a brief time but it was good to see them at all.

In Sydney we enjoyed wandering through all the parks and gardens. We wandered the waterfront and the free art museums. We also enjoyed a ride on one of the ferry’s to Manly. I have a ton of pictures from the opera house. I sure love architecture, especially when it’s also a work of art.

If you go to Australia I’d recommend you:

  • See the bush
  • Visit one or several beaches
  • Eat a lot of fish and chips
  • Try the parma and the meat pies
  • Enjoy the free museums

I wish I could have seen more things in Australia but someday we may make it back. I know New Zealand is high on my list so maybe another stop or three in Australia will be on the list as well. Who know’s what’s next?!

But first…let’s talk about our other stops on this month long adventure. Next up: Taiwan, then Japan.

Opera House Reflections

Opera House reflections on the Grand Hyatt where we stayed with points. Two free nights because of travel hacking!

Psst…if you like my photography, I have a shop at www.rouxroamer.com where I sell framed photos, prints and much more!

Roaming the wild west

27 Oct

I was able to spend a week mostly disconnected from my computer seeing some of the natural beauty that this great country has to offer. I often forget how much is naturally occurring in the world, especially in the United States. It’s no wonder that people want to visit.

My husband and I went to Yellowstone for the very first time. We saw waterfalls and wildlife. We walked and drive around to many of the awesome sights. There are a few that we missed so it’s a good thing that we bought the year pass so we can go back and also to get to more National Parks.

Bison

We also visited the Grand Tetons and drove through all of Wyoming. We didn’t see a moose but we did see a grizzly bear. That was incredibly cool, yet scary. We were within the “not safe” range, yet we still weren’t really close enough to get a good photo. BUT we did live to tell about seeing a grizzly bear. I consider that a big win for our wild west adventure.

It was also my first time in South Dakota, seeing Badlands, the first National Monument Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore, of course! We briefly drove into North Dakota on our way into Montana. It was a real western adventure. I felt like I was on an American safari. The real wild west with bison, bears, longhorn sheep, coyotes and wolves. Natural beauty like this is so refreshing for the mind, body and spirit.

In Montana we stayed at this AMAZING place, The Resort at Paws Up. There was 37,000 acres of land to roam. If that’s not your scene, maybe you like sitting by the campfire making s’mores or having dinner made to order right in from of you by a wonderful chef. Then there’s the butler on stand by for anything you may need or want. You stay in a luxury tent that has all the amenities of a 5-star hotel but you walk out your door to breathtaking nature…what’s not to love!

Paws Up Riverview

East Coast Adventures

24 Oct

East Coast Road Trip

I had the chance to go to a few new fun cities on the East Coast this summer. I visited New York outside the hustle and bustle of the city. The country out there is quite beautiful. There are so many trees. And then there was the fun part.

I visited Asheville, North Carolina which is a lot like Portland, Oregon. It has a really big food scene and a lot of entrepreneurial spirit. They like to do things a little bit different like this shipping container restaurant (pictured below). I love the emphasis on being unique and trying new things. It’s the difference that helps you stand out from the crowd and attract your audience.

Smoky Park in Asheville

I also went to Charlottesville, Virginia. That is such a cool old town. I loved seeing all the old architecture and learning the history. It was also fun to go to the houses of the past presidents in the surrounding area. It’s like walking back in time to another era that I have only read about in books. I can’t believe I’ve never been here but then again it’s a big world out there. So much to see and do!

Charlottesville

Get out there and get inspired.

More blog fun at RouxRoamer.com and @rouxroamer on social media. Cheers!

Summer Camp and Living a good life

27 Sep

I went to summer camp as a child. We didn’t go too far from home but we were without our parents. It was a good exercise in learning how to reach out to strangers for help. We also were continuing to learn how to connect well with others (something I relearned as an adult from Scott Dinsmore’s Connect with Anyone course at WDS).

Summer camp as an adult is much the same to me. Yes, I did say summer camp for adults. You haven’t heard of such a thing. If it wasn’t Camp GLP, I’m sure there are others.

I usually pick and go to events for a sense of connection. I seek to be around other people that are doing amazing things. I want to connect with others I can learn from and grow with. I also seek those with similar values and beliefs. The older we get the clearer these get (in theory and hopefully in practice). That’s not to say our values and beliefs don’t change but they do hold more importance than when I was 10. I have less tolerance to be around people I don’t believe in or that don’t believe in me.

I went to Camp GLP this summer and it was fantastic. I met so many awesome people and there were so many more that I’m sure were just as awesome that I didn’t get to connect with. I laughed a lot. I cried multiple times. I co-created art. I listened. I sang. I talked till I was hoarse. I exercised. I broke down some of my walls and barriers. It was a very vulnerable and raw experience and I loved every minute of it. The one thing I didn’t get was a lot of was sleep.

Why did I choose to go to camp as an adult?

Some very good friends of mind encouraged me to go. They told me that for them it had been life changing. I have similar values and interests to them. The price seemed like a good investment so I signed up. Then slowly I met more and more people online and in person that would be there. It just kept getting better and better. Although, I still felt a bit like I was coming to the party a little late since this was year two. But the more people I met the more I knew I belonged.

We were going all day long, from six in the morning till after midnight each day. We had speakers, workshops, group exercise, meditation, meals and a whole lot of other activities to occupy our mind, body and spirit. It was a different kind of “conference”. It wasn’t just about the speakers or the content, in fact that was my least memorable part, it was about living a good life in mind, body and spirit. We learned new exercises, meditation practices, how to be more vulnerable, new ways to connect with people and show up. We learned how to be more grateful to ourselves and connect with others on a much deeper level than you do outside of camp. It’s like you are in a bubble of love and you never want to leave.

If you are the 5 people that you most surround yourself with, you must pick wisely.

What did I learn for business at camp? 

The most practicable, actionable, content came from Derek Halpern on how to launch a video course. Will I be launching one? I’ve seriously considered it even before camp so that may be happening. When? I’m not sure since I just launched my new website (most blogs posted there now) and my first ebook. I have so much I want to do! So much I want to give to the world.

At camp, I also learned how to have more confidence, how to have better relationships, how to get in my writing groove and so much more. But mostly what stuck was how to show up with my authentic self and really, deeply, truly connect with other people. Something that is so important to me. It’s a big value. Just like vitality. To live life now, because tomorrow may never come.

What do you want to be remembered for?

P.S. I wrote this post before I learned of Scott’s passing. I can’t believe the impact he had on me and so many others. He is all over this post and I didn’t even realize how much until I re-read it to post after his passing. I am in shock learning of his death.Without Scott I would have not some of my best friends that I have been in a mastermind group with ever since we started his passion course over two years ago. Thank you Scott!

I hope you all know how precious life is. Do something that matters…and remember to look up.

10 tips for better photos

1 Sep

Here are my top 10 tips to help you take better photos

1. Avoid distracting elements such as too much light / dark, light / dark elements. Try to set either a light or dark tone for your overall image.

2. Eliminate distracting elements that draw your eye in a bad way. Examples: If things are too close to the edge they will create unwanted tension because your eye wants to close the small gap. If there’s red in a picture it usually is the brightest element and can draw your eye even if it’s not what you wanted the viewer to focus on.

3. Don’t center things, it creates more interest when things are off center. Asymmetry moves your eye around the image more than if things are exactly centered. When things are centered rather than in thirds, your eye just looks and rests only in the center.

4. If you want to really impact people with your work. Think of how to photograph the subject from a different view (physically or emotionally).

5. Depth of field matters. You want to illicit emotion and movement of the eye. You want to focus on one subject and let the rest fall away / become the background. Your other option is to have everything tack sharp (everything all in focus). For sure, one thing in your picture has to be tack (meaning REALLY) sharp in the photo. Pick your focus: all in focus or only one element that’s focused really well, that will create your one emotion.

6. The fewer the elements, the stronger the composition. As you don’t need too many words in a sentence, you don’t need too many elements in a photo. It gets distracting. Have a resting place like the sky or the ground. Plus, if you have that space you can create images like this for your brand:

Light Our Own Way

7. Give scale by not all things being the same size. If everything was the same size in the photo it wouldn’t be as dynamic. Same goes for a headline in an ad. If it was the same size it wouldn’t draw you into the article.

8. When taking pictures of people, make sure that they don’t have a tree coming out of their heads.

9. If the photo is a close up picture of a person, make sure their eyes are in focus. That is the most important thing on the face to focus on. It will draw you into the portrait.

10. Remember that posture also matters a lot when taking pictures of people. You want them to shine in your photo, not look like Oscar the slouch that has no figure.

 

If you are trying to figure out what to do for your own head shot session, check out this blog post for tips.

If you like this post I’m coming out with an ebook very soon. It has expanded tips as well as example photos. Leave a comment if you want to know when the book is available.

The world doesn’t have enough I love you’s

25 Aug

Have you ever wondered what fills you up? Lights you up? What replenishes your cup? Well, I was challenged by Jonathan Fields of the Good Life Project to do just that and I thought I’d share some of it with you in case it helps.

The challenge is to fill each of these buckets: community, vitality and contribution. They just so happen to be three of my core values. Community and vitality are also two of my core desired feelings (from the Desire Map). How do I feel these feelings or do things that fill up these buckets? I wrote a list. If I am ever at a loss I can do something small on this list or something a bit bigger.

  1. Write a list of your closest friends, near and far. When you feel sad or lonely, write to one of them. Pick out a piece of paper or card and write something nice. Then pop it in the mail with a good old fashioned stamp. You’ll feel good and they’ll feel better having received it.
  2. Pick up the phone and call a friend. So often we think we should text, email or instant message them. This isn’t connection. It’s a farce. Social media can fool you about what’s going on in a person’s life because it’s filtered through them and through the channel itself (ever heard of Facebook algorithms…don’t get me started). By picking up the phone you can hear the tone in their voice. You can ask questions and you can listen to the answers. You can laugh or cry together. You can’t do that online. It’s not the same.
  3. Hug someone. They say that hugging someone for 20 seconds is really good for you emotionally and physically. Don’t believe me, here’s some proof.
  4. Tell someone you love them. Bonus points if you can also tell them one reason why you love them. Extra bonus if it’s in person.
  5. Write love notes to yourself or positive affirmations and stick it somewhere that you’ll see it on a daily basis. If you don’t like writing it yourself they sell cards or calendars that you can flip though or look at when you need to feel more awesome. Here’s one I like: The Present Moment: 365 Daily Affirmations
  6. Do something with a friend. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something with someone. You’ll feel better if you listen to them, hug them or even tell them you love them while you are hanging out. There shouldn’t be any more of this stingy “I love you” business. If you love having someone in your life tell them you love them (in the platonic, I’m already married but you are an awesome friend sort of way).
  7. Get out of your head. Meditate and/or listen to some emotional balancing systems. It totally helps to clear out the clutter and try to have some quiet for a few moments every day. I know I feel like a better person when I do this.
  8. Do morning pages. If you have never heard of this check out The Artist’s Way. It teaches you about morning pages. They are pretty much a brain dump that you do every morning. It does help to make you more creative. So can reading The War of Art. Fight the resistance! Create more! Or as another friend of mine says: Make. Make. Make.
  9. Exercise. So often when I’m busy this is the first item that gets cut but it’s so beneficial for my mind and body. To me running is a form of meditation. When I don’t get my exercise in I can be more crabby. I don’t have all those happy brain chemicals that I need.
  10. Get out into nature. Nature helps you feel more grounded. I know that when I’m cranky, if I just go on a hike or go to a park I feel better. I feel more at one with the world. It’s not all woo-woo and it’s different than running though the city as I often do. Being in nature just works. I’m sure there’s a study on it too! I just didn’t look because I know it works for me. Try it.
  11. Treat yourself as a friend. This is a big struggle for me. I give the best advice to friends but am so hard on myself. Gosh darn it, I should be my own best friend. I should be treated that way. So instead of being hard on yourself, ask what you would tell a friend.
  12. Ask yourself what do you need in this very moment. Listen to the response. Your heart should help you answer. There’s some techniques to help you with this if it’s hard for you to hear the answers.
  13. Keep it simple. Sometimes all you have to do is do something simple for someone like pick up something they dropped, hold the door, tell someone thank you, smile, look someone in the eye when they are talking to you, listen when someone talks to you.
  14. Go on a date with yourself. What do you like to do? Go by yourself and enjoy the time alone.
  15. Join a community if you haven’t found one already. I’m a part of the WDS group and they are always ones to fill my bucket.
  16. Play. What is something that you enjoy that you don’t do enough? Or perhaps you can think of those things you used to do as a kid that lit you up. Chances are you’ll probably still enjoy those things today.
  17. Ask someone how you can help them. Just offer, even if they say no, they’ll appreciate it.
  18. Give a compliment. It doesn’t matter who you give it to, a perfect stranger or a friend. Giving compliments can change someone’s outlook on life. Believe me. I wrote blog post on it.
  19. Do something you’ve never done before. Be a kid again. I know I said this already, but it needs repeating (maybe just for me, but maybe for you too).
  20. Travel. Whenever I travel that fills my bucket for a long time. I’m over flowing. I do so many of the above things when I travel, especially when I head out of the country.

 

I think my favorite item on the list (besides travel of course!) is to write a hand written letter to someone that means something to me and tell them something nice. I’m working on doing that at least 20 times before Camp GLP. But first I endeavored to make the cards. I wanted to be more personal. I think this might be a bit of procrastination. But I know it means something when you give something of yourself. Giving your gifts to the world is the best thing you can do. Just remember that you don’t have to be perfect with your gifts. It’s your imperfections that make you, you.

You are not alone, we are all in this together.

YouAreNotAlone-01

I sell prints if you want one. I can change the colors too!

P.S. You’re wonderful. Thanks for reading. You’d be wonderful even if you didn’t read this but you’re here so I thought I’d tell you how much I appreciate you.