Adventure with Engagement AWE · Travel


Colt Dawn walkingThe French call one who wanders from place to place with out any apparent home a vagabond.   I like the sound of that better than the English version:  hobo, dawdler, loiterer or bum.  Although we had closed up our home in Alabama, and put our jobs on hold for six months, I don’t believe we could call ourselves card-carrying Vagabonds.  Though we didn’t always know where we were going, we always knew where we would eventually end up.

best boys lock

If we have to be ‘labeled,’ I almost prefer ‘hobo’ over ‘tourist.’  It was never our intention to merely be sightseers.  We lollygagged ourselves into places the normal tourist probably wouldn’t have chosen, not necessarily just to see or photograph highlights, but to actually meet the people who carved out their homes in those communities and hear their stories.

Mighty Seinne

We talked to strangers – which is a lot easier to do when you carry your bag of funny kids who don’t mind chiming in.  The kindness of the Southeast Asian people had spoiled our family, but made us each more resilient to any curt Parisian responses. And it’s a great lesson to teach your kids that: everyday is not a great day to everyone.  Dr. Seuss said: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

And when we ran out of people to talk to, we could always rely on our ‘fellow moseyers,’ built-in buddies.



education · Encouragement · Parenting · Travel

To the teachers

Legs BP logoTeachers!  They are the ones that walk beside us, behind us, and in front of us leading the way, so that one day they will step into our shoes and be the teachers.

boys walking holoc.The boys seemed to sense the reverence of these war memorials in Poland and Germany, and were certainly affected deeply by the remnants of luggage, shoes and clothing left behind.  But I wonder if anything touched them as deeply as the talk their father gave them about the concentration camp introductions? (check out and our facebook today for the video)

When we were in Japan, we also were touched by the museums and affects of the bombing of Hiroshima.  But things become more personal when a name or photo was attached to the story.  Ron took the time to read to the boys as they bedded down on the floors of the hostel in Japan. He chose the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was just 2 when the atomic bomb dropped in her city.  At 12, she was diagnosed with leukemia from radiation — referred to in Japan as the ‘atom bomb disease.’  Sadako took on the task of folding 1000 paper cranes, according to the Japanese legend that 1000 paper cranes would allow a wish to be granted.  Her wish was to live. Although Sadako only folded 644 before she died, her life is a legacy and tribute thanks to her friends and family who exceeded her task, raising a statue in her honor, publishing a book of letters about those who died from result of the A-bomb and placing her paper cranes of hope at the NYC 9/11 Memorial, at Pear Harbor, the Museum of Tolerance, in other places of honor.

“At the foot of the statue (of Sadako) is a plaque that reads:  “This is our prayer.  This is our cry.  Peace on Earth.”

Sadako_and_the_thousand_paper_cranes_00Make history come alive for your child.  It takes time.  It takes creativity.  It takes knowledge.  It takes love.  Be a teacher.


Dear Dawn · Encouragement · Grief · Travel

The bright side

Dear Dawn,

 I applaud you for always looking on the bright side of life.  After what you have been through, I’m sure it might have been easier to let your grief rule the day.  But you and Ron chose to lead your other sons in joy.   Wondered how you handled the reminders of the Nazi horrors against the Jews in WWII.  Did you avoid the German Holocaust memorials and museums on your trip, or did you go through them?   Did your kids understand?  How did they handle it?

Dear Bright Side, Can you ever measure grief?  I always thought the word “Holocaust” meant mass extermination.  But the Greek Word holokaustos, actually means ‘burnt whole.” The knowledge that millions of lives were purposely ended is shattering.  Ron and I will never be able to run away from the visions of our own personal holocaust when fire took our seven-year old Ryan from us.

Auschwitz bunkers
Auschwitz bunkers

We cannot change the past anymore than Germany can change the horrors that happened in the streets and concentration camps throughout Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s.   But there are choices that have to be made:  When the past seems to hold a curse, look to the future. Ron and I intentionally chose to introduce our boys to the world and her history, not trying to water it down for our sons’ ears.   But we tried to look beyond the horrors in the remnants of Hiroshima Japan, Auschwitz Poland and other Nazi Concentration camps, and in huge numbers who were killed in the name of communism.

Auschwitz urinals

The truth lies in the overwhelming courage it took for the survivors to continue forward in life and beauty.

Auschwitz furnaces

We walked through the ghostly concentration camps and war memorials as a family – but each of us were silently processing our thoughts.  With the museums, after consulting with the guides, we chose to censure the most graphic museum images for our 8 and 10 year old by scanning ahead and steering them away from the more gruesome images. But we felt Tyler, at 14, was old enough to handle the complete truth and he viewed freely. Those who remain alive today to tell the story were children then! At the end of the day we were each left with the same theme: Hope and courage.



The Germans have found a way to honor those taken, and find beauty and resolve shining through future generations.    Ron and I share our enthusiasm for life with our boys while still honoring the short but vibrant life of our firstborn, Ryan.

Holo.shot BPOur cameraman takes a shot most memorable to our family at the ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’

I guess you never appreciate the light until you’ve seen how absolutely dark darkness can be.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Family · Travel


(Bet I don’t get many ‘shares’ on this one!) That’s the German word for demonstrating friendship – which we always thought was a Hirn ideal.

tyler friendLooking back over my photographs of Germany, I detected a pattern with my family: everyone seemed a bit more relaxed in the photos. Friendship flowed among them (more easily than Freundschaftsbezeugung flowed off my tongue!) My boys adapted beautifully to each new experience and country we visited; I’m just saying, the pace seemed more relaxed here.

Could it be a result of the work/life balance set for in Germany? Germans are hard working people, but they recognize the value of time off for family. Employees are given four to six-weeks paid annual holiday and are offered leave for training or further education. They have a ‘parental leave’ policy, which allows for moms or dads to take up to 14 months of parental leave without being penalized at work and entitled to up to two-thirds of their income while on leave. I find that amazing!  Perhaps that is why the Germans are such hard-working people and happy to boot.


The boys found new friends, shared good moods with each other marching off into the woods or figuring out how to ride the strange six-man bike. They seemed happier, healthier and more at home here than practically anyplace we had been.

6-man bikeCould it be because we loved the German people? We say “Ja” but with the German pronounciation “Yah”.

Could it be because we have German blood coursing through our veins? Again, “Yah”.

happy hirn-GERMSWe are the Happy Hirn-Germs!

You don’t have to master the pronunciation of the word: Freundschaftsbezeugung! Just do it!  Incidentally, why do you think the German’s have such long words? I believe it’s because they give their people so much free time to use them!


Encouragement · Grief · Travel

My other car . . .

Vietna overnight cruise“My other car is a  . .  cruise ship” the bumper sticker on the car in front of me read.  Remembering our last cruise made me laugh out loud:

cruise ship Vietnam

It’s not about the car for me.  Never has been.  I was always more interested in where I would end up than how I would look getting there.

My other car is NOT a Lamborghini.  (But I still get a charge standing in front of one!)

lambo Dubai DawnIn Dubai, this is the norm rather than the exception.  For me, it’s the opposite!

Doesn’t matter what type, model, color or age you have; unless you use it to head yourself in the right direction you may stay in the showroom for the rest of your life. The way I see it, you use the vehicle you’ve got to get you to the places you want to go.  Good shoes for me are more important than fancy wheels.

1992 Ron/Dawn bought, travel 25 countries, 10 mthsYears ago, Ron and I rented a Westfalia in Germany  (remember Shaggy and Scooby-Doo’s Scooby-mobile?  Add a pop-up top and you’ve got it.)     We weren’t concerned about luxury camping.  We had found camping across Europe to be one of the cheapest ways to go, a great way to meet people and easy to find a space for the night.  There are no Walmarts in Germany, but almost everyone holds the Walmart Policy:  “Park here for the night!”

 The memories of how we got there flood my mind and bring great smiles: From airplanes headed to Saudi Arabia, to bamboo rafts headed down the river.

And once we got there we always ended up using exactly what God had given us:  Our brains and our feet.  Remember what Dr. Seuss said:  “You’ve got brains in you head, and feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose. 


Great weekend!




Encouragement · Travel

Hole in the bucket!

Fear has never been a part of my life, until it cornered me in that burning car in 2001.  I lost my treasure that day.   Fear showed up as I took my plan of protection to new levels with my other three sons.  (I chose more politically correct words to describe fear, when I billed myself as a cautious, conscientious mother.) Bottom line was some of the courage I had found in my youth had been squashed.  And when that happens, it’s a fight to gain it back.

Before Ron, before kids, I was a world traveler.   I lived in all over Europe and got to know and love different countries and their people.  Ron and I traveled extensively when we were first married. So it was natural for us to want to take our kids back to the places we had seen so we could share the adventure  with them.  And more selfishly, we wanted to gain fresh kid-sized perspectives.   We took a mighty step out by taking this world trip with young sons,  and while we were cautious, we refused to let fear stand in our way.  God has given us (and you!) an incredible world filled with wonderful people, and He has seen fit to allow us to be born in a free country where we can travel abroad as we choose.

Camper we rented Germany
2014 25′ German Rental



In another bold move, we rented a camper in Germany, packed ourselves in and headed out!  Germany had found itself more than once checked off our Bucket List. But we will never let those checkmarks stop us from going back again and again.  Going back again – that’s what makes the country and the experience yours.   Fresh perspectives!


Thank God for gung-ho kids!

In the Hirn family, we encourage our boys to make sure their buckets have holes in them, so they can keep adding and adding.  Your bucket should never be full and neither should your list.

So if you have something on your bucket list, do it!  Go!  Then go back again.  And again.  Punch a hole in your bucket and keep adding!


Encouragement · Travel


Perception is:  “the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.”   Question is, can you trust your senses?  Never 100%!

Of course there is the obvious:  smell what appears to be garbage, and most likely there will be a reason for the odor.   Taste what appear to be off and it might be!  We’ve got a new heads up these days by food packaging  ‘sell-by dates’.

Years ago when I was an international model, (an exotic sounding vocation involving long trips, unsteady pay and daily starvation) I received an assignment requiring me to live in Germany.  And I was nervous at best and anxious at worst. My perception? Holocaust, hate, genocide, extermination . . . . and I was on my own!


Germany.  Land of the Nazi’s, who rounded up people based upon their heritage and faith, ran them through concentration camps, furnaces and physical and mental torture.  Eleven million people — wiped out.  What kind of monsters treat each other with such cruelty?  And I never came up with a reasonable answer.  Never will.

Determined to be courageous,  I marched into my next modeling assignment to face-off with these German devils.  But, as I met individuals, I found that these people who also had horrible recollections of Nazi abuse, were my new friends. They had been raised much like I, with strong house rules, secure in the fact that hard work pays off and laziness causes poverty.  I saw the hearts of these people one at a time – which is the best way to discover anyone’s true character.  And I met some of the most genuinely kind caring people in the world.

Years later when I took the ones I love most with me back to Germany,   I had drummed up enough enthusiasm to fill my family’s hearts with a great desire to see this country and meet more new friends. red and yellowRed and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Don’t ever let your perception block you from a visit to a country marked “Safe” by the US State Department.   And look at her people and her children,  one heart at a time.P1530279


PS – Please follow us on Facebook and my blog for more on Germany this month!


Bigger . . .

For 25 years we lived in Texas.  Our four boys were born there.  We spoke “Tex/Mex,” attended our share of Chili Cookoffs, and were well acquainted with the fact that “Everything is bigger in Texas!”   At least, that’s what they say.  And when it comes to boys, no matter what age, bigger is better.Colton Nutella True, the geographical size of Texas is massive.  You can check it out on, which allows you to place her borders over any other geographic location in the world.  But unless you get up close and personal and compare one thing with another, it is difficult to determine size.

When we traveled to South Africa, we put ourselves and our size of importance where we belonged on the food chain.  It’s called respect.  From that vantage, things look different. I’m not saying “I caught a fish THIS BIG!”   But I am saying you will never understand the full meaning of the word ‘mammoth’ or ‘massive,’ until you compare yourself up close to one of the giant grassland occupants.  And where size is not of value, strength, speed and quality canine teeth are!

We didn’t wander through the jungle or swing from vines.  Oh, I suppose we could have but then we’re back to the food chain thing.  But our fear factor wasn’t reduced because there was a thin car window between approaching wild elephants, rhinos, and water buffalo.  Our senses were stimulated by the reverberating stomps of their feet on the ground. The sounds of their voices, filled the air.  We felt the vibrations of their muscular power as they interacted with other animals.  And just a whiff was all we needed to understand, we were in the jungle!trunk BP 2

When you travel you experience more than a hi-def, two dimensional close up;  Being on a savanna gives you a new perspective on your size, strength and power.

Brings to mind those Bible verses in Psalm 8:4-6 “What is man that Thou art mindful of him? . . . . .for Thou has made him a little lower than the angels and has crowned him with glory and honor.”  

Says nothing about size, speed, strength or teeth.  For that you need to visit South Africa.  Add that trip to your bucket list!  And don’t wait too long!   Travel is a life-changer!


Family · Travel

They only come out at night . . . .

They only come out at night . . . .   Sounds like a series of movies, or a dark novel, or fodder for a children’s fairy tale, or an Edgar Winters Band Album.  Question is:  who are they and what do they do?

Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous.   Fear can flavor your decisions for the good and for the bad.  None of us should live in fear because we will miss some of the most spectacular adventures of all, but we should all have a healthy respect for certain situations.

When we visited South Africa, we knew it would be more dangerous than many other countries. Ron and I had remembered the apartheid stories of street violence and riots.  But that was twenty years ago.    Although in most places we were still in the minority, we weren’t unreasonably afraid.

We respected the country and took the necessary steps to be cautious, never wandering off too far, and never leaving our stuff sitting around. And we didn’t go out at night.  Because you know what they say:  They only come out at night!  We didn’t know what, but we weren’t taking any chances.  LOL

Truth is, few people wander out at night in South Africa, not merely because it is so wild or dangerous, but because streets and roadways are so poorly lit.  (We take streetlights for granted here in the USA).

Looking through our shots of South Africa by day, we found:

Whereas these are three of our favorite shots of South Africa by night:

blank photosNever let fear of the unknown stop you from going to one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Do your homework before you go.  And when it comes to South Africa, see it by day.  Make up your own scary stories at night!


Dear Dawn · Travel

Look ahead

Dear Dawn,  When it came time for Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving, what did you do to celebrate?

We ‘looked ahead!’   Easter would be in Montenegro. We shopped ahead in Germany and Austria, knowing it would be hard to find ingredients for baskets for the boys.  And we wanted to bring our traditions with us wherever we went.  At that point we had rented a camper, so we were able to hide our stash.

There are traditions we hold dear.  But we were also excited to learn how others around the world celebrated – so many on Easter Monday.

In Poland, the Easter Tradition is just as whacky as our Bunny-egg-thing: Easter Monday boys carry around buckets of water and squirt guns to soak each other in a tradition called Smingus-Dyngus that goes back to Polish Prince Miesko 966 AD. Had something to do with Baptism, so the prince is probably flipping in his grave!

Easter Monday, the town of Haux, France serves a giant omelet to the town’s people.  We’re talking 4500 eggs — giant!    They say Napoleon once visited the town, liked their omelet offering so much, he ordered up a giant omelet for his army.   How they cooked the thing is another question for Google.

In a beach-side park near the place we were camping in Montenegro, we hid eggs, and on Easter morning Ron gathered the family to once again tell the story of Easter, from Jesus’ last supper, to the trial, death and resurrection.  The true meaning of Easter for us  – from the cross to the grave to the resurrection.

It is always important to look ahead!

Ron look ahead

Happy Easter