Dear Dawn · Travel

‘Fraidy-cat’

Dear Dawn, My family thinks I’m a ‘fraidy cat,’ because I really am anxious about traveling. There is so much in the news!  Were you ever afraid when you traveled?  Any close calls?

Dear ‘Fraidy,’

When I was a child I don’t remember anyone calling me a ‘fraidy cat’; but I used it on others.   Constantly!   Pride goeth before the fall!

Am I proud of traveling over thirty-five countries a la carte?  You know it!  I rarely remember being afraid.  Maybe it was my youth,  maybe my naivety,  but it worked. Groomed in the deep south, I was used to doors being opened for me,  and “Yes-sir” and “Yes-maam” were part of my Southern Belle vernacular.

The  Hirn men all wanted to go to India to see the Taj Mahal.  Me too, but I had read just enough news clippings and seen videos of graphic gang rapes of women in the streets of India to make me nervous.    In America, we call rape and attacks ‘crimes’; the Indian Government at that time, didn’t.

It was my turn to be called ‘fraidy cat.’   But I went anyway.TajHow did I conquer my fear?  Who said I conquered it? I insisted one of the boys hold my hand the entire time, giving me the feeling of a unified front.  I put on my “Dawn-the-disintegrater-face” — you know, ‘if looks could kill,’ and headed into the subway with my family.  That worked well until the day I stopped for a quick photo of the last subway car marked “Women Only.”  When I turned around the doors of the subway closed with my family inside the train, and me alone on the platform.

There will come a time in each woman’s life when she needs to use the  “don’t-touch-me-I’m-a-bitch-who-will-claw-your-eyes-out”-look.  I used mine.

Poster school hallways

The Indian women appear so demure and kind. They tuck that look safely away.

The situation in India is improving, thanks to those who have raised world-wide attention by standing strong against violence, in their speech and their writing: “To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” ― Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living

Ron and I have tried to lead our sons by example and pray they will continue to respect all their brothers and sisters in the world.colt hug Dawn

 

 

Adventure with Engagement AWE · Travel

The Book of Magic

We are still steeped in patriotism with the recent memories of our July 4th celebration on Lake Martin.  These memories are fresh for us – reminders that we are part of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.  And we can carry that identity with us in the way of a passport nearly anywhere in the world.

I remember another time shortly after Ron and I were married.  We had begun saving our money almost immediately to travel through Europe.  We set out in a camper we bought in Germany and headed where the wind blew.  Borders back then were tightly monitored.  But we had nothing to fear.  We were young and in love and, if push came to shove, we could charm people into submission with our quick wit and smiles.  (Did I mention we were deluded into thinking love conquers all?)

Dawn Ron early yearsDR campsiteSetting up housekeeping in our used VW Camper.Mom in law visit“Hey “Ron, my mom’s coming for a visit!”

Life for us was smooth until we arrived at the border crossing of Bulgaria.   We thought we had properly followed the traffic directions following the circle-around thing.  But we ended up entering the wrong way and cutting in line.  This ticked off the Bulgarian Border Patrol, and one guard in particular, was suspicious of our German tag.  He approached the car ready for war.  Always playing ‘Miss Congeniality,’ I rolled down my window to give him my best smile and sweetest voice.   This has worked for me before in America.

In Bulgaria, not so much.

This guy went ballistic, and began screaming at me: “Turks!  Turks!”  And with one fell swoop, he reached through the window and knocked the sweet smile right off my face, breaking my glasses and bloodying my temple.

Dawn gloves showing determ

Most women would shed a tear at this point.  But never having been one to back off, I got angry, grabbed his tie and jerked it off him. Ron, unaware of all of this, drove around to the proper position. Within moments, the guards were running to us in our camper, demanding passports and a tie. The moment the passports were produced, the climate changed dramatically.

Attila the Bulgarian Hun was joined by the rest of the guard dripping apologies all over Ron and I. We’d never seen anything like it. “Americans, Americans,” they exclaimed. In no time, we were escorted to ‘the head of the line,’ offered more apologies, muttering that they thought we were Turks, and gently provided us with a bloodless escort across the border.

I’m an American!

I’ve really done nothing to deserve this privilege of carrying the book of magic — the American Passport.  And in addition, I am allowed to vote, own land,  travel freely and say what I think.   Punching isn’t included in my ‘inalienable rights.’

When you travel, you might want to reconsider getting into any fights with border guards.  They don’t like it much when you rip their clothes off.

But if you insist, flash them your Book of Magic first!

Dawn

PS – I apologized and returned Attila’s tie!

Adventure with Engagement AWE · Encouragement · Travel

What’s your color scheme?

Benjamin Moore (not a founding father) started up his paint company in 1883, dedicated to the production of excellence in paints and glazes.  Today, three of his colors still stand out: “Old Glory Red”, “Old Glory Blue” and White.  (Ok, so he wasn’t the most original dude on the block, but he was allegiant to his country!)  These colors hold significance to every American today. It’s our 241st Birthday, which makes us young by comparison to most other countries.  Red, white and blue is the color of our door marked freedom.  And, thanks to the freedom of speech,  we rejoice or complain our way through the door that allows us to choose the way we worship, and helps us along our educational path. Americans are used to working hard so we can own homes and land.   And we can choose to live safely within our own paint choices, or or we can travel, opening up every color imaginable on earth.

mosaic pigs Britainfrom blue mosaic pigs in Britain. . . .

We Hirns love America and take great pride in our Red, White and Blue.  But we have jumped and will continue to jump at the opportunity to uncover other color schemes.

Passenger trainto passenger trains in SE Asia. . . .

and beyond!

Today we celebrate July 4th with hot dogs,  S’Mores, apple pie, campfires, parades, ballgames and fireworks.    We are so  thankful to America for opening her doors allowing us to see so many colors beyond our own color schemes  . . . .  .                 from Lake Martin into the wild blue yonder!

IMG_0803Have and happy, colorful and safe Independence Day!

Dawn

Adventure with Engagement AWE · Travel

Ping is not a game.

We have choices:  stay home or travel.  We chose travel.   We had choices:  mix with the people, or go five-star guaranteeing a sizable financial commitment for comfort and isolation.  We chose to mix.

Paris is a forty-five minute train ride to the Village of Versailles campground we chose as home base.  Typical campground:  Inexpensive individual campsites, community gathering spots bathrooms/showers, little store . . . . nothing special.  Except for the people.  Families who stayed here represented more than six countries.  Adults couldn’t gather around the old wood stove chewing the fat with others unless they understood the languages.  The Hirn-Fam was limited to English and Spanish.

Kids don’t need language to communicate. Who needs words when you’ve got a ball?  Who needs an invitation when you’ve got a Ping Pong table?  My kids joined right into the international competition.  No translation is needed when you lob the ball over the net into enemy territory and it misses their paddle.  You know!  They know!

Colton and Trenton both wanted to give it their best for America!

 Our kids taught us more on this trip than we ever taught them, because we lived each day from their perspective. Fear wasn’t a factor.

Colton ping 2Even if you don’t get it at first, keep the conversation open!

And always join in for a moment of comic relief!

 You have a choice:  you can stay home or travel.  But remember, unless you mingle with the masses, you are just playing a game of Ping.  And Ping is not a game! 

Step outside your comfort zone into adventure by choosing to interact with those who aren’t from your neck of the woods. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in the world of 600-thread count sheets and down comforters, in a very lonely game of Ping.

And Ping is not a game.

Dawn

Encouragement · Travel

Go Dog. Go!

Go dog, go

P.D. Eastman wrote this book more than fifty years ago, using only 75 different words, as an inspiration to young readers. Funny. He liked the word “Go” so much he used it twice in the title. “Go.”  An action word, radiates a sense of ‘hurry up!’

“Go” is one of the Hirn Family favorite words too.  It’s an essential word, actually. There are places we have been that will never be the same again when we return because time eventually does that to a place.

love lock brWhen we visited the Love Locks Bridge in Paris (Pont des Arts), we were amazed by the number of locks attached to the bridge, placed there by visitors who vowed their everlasting love. “Engrave the lock, attach it to the bridge and throw the key in the Seine below.”  Before we left Paris, we affixed our own Hirn lock dedicated to our son and brother, Ryan, and inscribed with all of our names and the date.  Problem is, 45 tons of “love” all at once can and did cause a bridge a stability problem, and just a few years after we left, Paris decided to tear out the locks.  Safety and aesthetics, they said.

Lock on Paris's Pont des Artsbest boys lockSo . . . if you are thinking about taking a trip to one of those places on your bucket list, Go dog, go!  Now, before it’s too late.   Be the ones who share your stories and photos of places you were able to see up close and personal, not the ones who look back in regret at their ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’s.’

The words of the great writers of children’s books, still carry their messages to those of us who have grown up.  (Sort of).  And I leave you with the words of Dr. Seuss:

You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!  

Go dog.  Go!

Dawn

Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family · Travel

Face your fears! You first.

Acrophobia” is not what I have.  “Acrophobia” is the irrational fear of heights.  Mine is rational.  (My diagnosis).

As a family, we always set goals, have contests, challenges and payoffs.  The ‘payoff’ part of this is usually holding the right to flaunt each accomplishment in the other’s face.  But regardless, it’s stimulus to achievement.

My family is aware of my fear of heights.  At the beginning of our trip while we were still in our planning phase, we all agreed to face our fears.  It was apparent by this time, Colton and I shared our fear of height.  And we were going to delay facing up to our shortcomings (so to speak) as long as possible.

Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest free-standing building in the world at 2716 feet, was a no-brainer for Trenton, Tyler and Ron.  We (and by we I mean they) had already made it up to the top of  Kuala Lumpur’s 1483 ft. Petronas Twin towers. (This of course, allowed me to stand on the ground and photograph!)

piece of cake

By the time we hit Paris, I knew my turn to face my fear was coming.  The Eiffel Tower,  a mere 984 ft. off the ground,  seemed safer in the abstract.  Then,  I stood beneath it.  Colton braved up and said he would do it if I would, pointing out that in Lego building terms, the model is a mere 3428 Leggo blocks.  How scary can it be?

eiffle family

 

 

 

Colton fully conquered his fear of heights, once he got to the ground.  “Piece of cake!”

fam on eiffle

 

 

Mom is not there yet, but at least I don’t have to endure anymore chicken jokes.

Dawn

Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family · Travel

Are you kidding?

“When I grow up I am going to be a model in Europe,” is something I never said.  EVER!

But life has a funny way of playing tricks on you.  This is especially true when you do the “As long as I live I will never”-thing.   But when I *Moved My Cheese to Europe, I needed to find work quickly.  I was traveling alone with no back-up plan, and needed to survive.  And thanks to my height and constitution, neither of which were a credit to me, I found work modeling-runway and print.

Now if you’re thinking ‘big bucks’ you are way off.  The tax base for expats working in Europe is 55%, leaving you little room to splurge.  Fashion models hit Japan for the ‘big bucks,’ while models come to Europe for ‘tear sheets’ for their portfolio to catapult their careers,  which was never my intention. I came here to travel, to explore, to meet new people and affording the adventure was an essential part of the journey.  The freelance nature of modeling gave me the time I needed to hit the road to new places again.

Living in Paris, like living in any large city, offers  you a large variety of delicacies most of which I could not afford. Once and awhile when someone paid for my meal, my tastebuds were cheering, because, yes, French food is as good as they say.  But the majority of the time, with my salary grade, I ate canned tuna and baguettes. Over and over again.

When we came back to France as a family, I was faced with options I could finally afford.  Croissants, baked perfections, escargot, Brie! And bi-jingo, I was going to share the experience with my family.   You could usually track the Hirn Fam somewhere along the Champs de Elysee by their audio track at the table: “Mmmmmmm,”  “Woah!”  “Yum.”

colt croissant

Did I treasure my memories of being a single female on her own in Paris all those months?  Of course.  But would I trade it all for no family, no money and 7 cans of canned tuna fish?  ARE YOU KIDDING?

colt yum

Have a great weekend!

Dawn

*Who Moved My Cheese, Spencer Johnson