Zigs and Zags: The Best and Worst of October

liechtenstein

Several years ago I ran into this quote:

Autumn reminds us how beautiful it can be to let things go.

This year, just like a couple years ago, it touched me on an impressively deep level.

October was a month spent oscillating between the new and the old.

I hesitantly let go of professional duties and work while welcoming in a fresh focus.

I struggled with the fact that I have few footsteps to follow … but that also opens the door for me to create my own.

And, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to let go of the way I have been doing things as I prepare to make plans for 2020. (Oh yes, I’m already thinking about next year.)

October was a tough month for a lot of people I know, myself included. I’m not sure what was in the water or how the stars were aligned, but several times over the past 31 days, I revisited this quote. It’s a good reminder all year long, but it’s felt particularly fitting leading up to November.

RootedZigs

Rooted is live!

Within 30 days of hiring my inspiring business coach, I launched Rooted, a new business platform!

For far too long, my professional work has felt scattered and unfocused. I dislike that I’ve given so much of my voice, words, and talent away without reserving much of it for myself. Sure, I’ve brought in a fair share of our family’s income, but I didn’t get much satisfaction or professional gain from doing so.

I’m a person who feels like I always have more to give, and I’ll probably always be restless and want to do more. But, after years of frustration and stagnation, this is a major step for me.

Launching Rooted has done a few things for me:

First, I’ve clearly defined my professional focus. I still have a couple clients that don’t quite fit within this niche (because they’re solid, long-standing clients), but I very solidly know what I’m looking for moving forward. As I write article pitches, develop speaking proposals, and foster professional relationships, I know why. I told my coach the other day that I’m still throwing spaghetti at the wall to figure out what’s going to stick and work with Rooted, but at least it’s only spaghetti. I used to metaphorically throw penne and rigatoni and spaghetti — anything at all in no organized fashion.

Second, I’ve planted a flag. I have the elevator pitch I’ve struggled with for so long. I know what I do, and I can say it with authority. Surely I’ll still feel like I’m faking it until I make it at times, but this bolsters my self-confidence in what I believe in and the work I do.

Finally, I’m excited to work. Every winter I develop a business plan for the next year. Generally, within weeks into the new year, I’ve thrown it aside because I have no big picture purpose and nothing that really fires me up. This last year in particular has been difficult for me professionally. I’ve been frustrated by my client work and found myself falling into the traps of the Corporate America mindset. That’s not why I went into business for myself.

Rooted reminds me of the power, autonomy, and freedom of self-employment. I’m remembering now what I can do when I firmly put myself back in the driver’s seat.

(Shameless self-promotion. If you haven’t signed up for the biweekly newsletter, subscribe here!)

Liechtenstein trail

liechtensteinA hike across Liechtenstein.

Last year, I found out about a new trail traversing Liechtenstein to celebrate the country’s 300th anniversary. I immediately started hatching a plan to trek it — and this month we did exactly that.

My parents just happened to have plans to be in Europe the week after our planned hike anyway, so we met them in Vaduz. Cory, my dad, and I made the 75-kilometer trek up and down mountains, across farmland and wetlands and villages, and through all of Liechtenstein’s 11 municipalities. We stayed in an Airbnb in Vaduz and used the country’s robust bus system to piece our five-day hike together.

Wedged between Switzerland and Austria, few people visit Liechtenstein just because it’s hard to reach. And, if they do come, it’s often just for a day trip from Munich or Zurich.

This trail really opened my eyes to what this often-overlooked country has to offer. Liechtenstein’s tourism board has done a spectacular job of making the trail relevant and interesting. There are 147 stops to “unlock” on a special app along the way with cultural and historical information. Using borrowed cell space, we had a few tech glitches. Overall, though, we were able to appreciate the whole experience.

The trail is well-marked with only a few “sporty” stretches, according to my dad. We had one particularly long day of hiking, which was rough because it was also the only day with overcast weather. But, overall, we enjoyed sunny skies, beautiful fall colors, and a deeper, slower way of exploring a country few people ever visit.

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in longer-distance hikes.

The Uncornered Market duo visits Kyiv!

Even though Kaleidoscopic Wandering has taken a sharp turn away from being a travel blog, that’s where she got her humble beginnings.

Ten years ago, I started building this site as a place to write about the places I’d been and the things I learned along the way. It turns out, I wasn’t the only one. Today, the influx of influencers has changed the face of blogging (along with several other factors). But, a decade ago, we were a relatively small group.

Among that group were Dan and Audrey of Uncornered Market. I met the two of them at the only travel blogging conference in existence at the time. We’ve followed each other’s writing and work through social media in the years since.

While a few of the folks from way back in the day continue blogging, most others’ careers have diverged from their original paths. Dan and Audrey are now consultants and speakers in the sustainable tourism space, and I greatly admire my work. So I was thrilled to hear they were making their way from Berlin to Kyiv by train. (Yes, you read that right!)

They got a head start with a couple days of exploring. We met up with them on their last full day in the city. We had brunch, then introduced them to other parts of Kyiv — including the glass-bottom viewing platform, which we hadn’t visited yet.

It wasn’t a sunny day, but it was an absolutely lovely day full of good food, fun exploration, and great conversation.

kyiv ukraine fall

Zags

Brutal air pollution.

In general, we’ve had a beautiful fall in Kyiv. A couple weeks ago, though, we woke up to a city filled with what we thought was fog.

Last winter we had nearly a month of deep, oppressive fog. With shortened winter days, it was tough, but it was manageable. What surprised me most about the fog was that it arrived so early.

And then I found out it wasn’t fog at all but a stagnant cloud of air pollution hanging over Kyiv.

Apparently some combination of the weather pattern without any wind combined with traffic exhaust resulted in this thick and practically palpable dirty cloud sitting on everything. For a couple days, Kyiv’s air pollution was even worse than Beijing’s! Disgusting.

The kids at Cory’s school stayed in for recess. We kept our apartment windows closed even though Rudy desperately wanted them open. I definitely didn’t go running.

I picture the last days of this world sitting in an ugly air pollution cloud like this one, and it’s not a pleasant picture.

Life without a mentor.

As an entrepreneur, one of the things I struggle with most is not having a mentor. Over the years, I’ve desperately wanted to have someone in my life who can answer questions, support my professional growth and development, introduce me to people I should know, and help me chart the way forward.

I am so appreciative of my business coach. And there are people I look up to who are working in similar circles as me. But without a place of employment or people invested in or involved with my work, I feel very alone.

Freelance writers turn their noses up at the phrase “pick your brain.” It’s often a request from someone young and inexperienced who wants to learn how to chart the way forward in this complex world. The community’s general feeling about this is that it’s okay to quote your hourly rate and whichever newbie had the gall to ask for insight will run away, tail between their legs.

Honestly, it’s no wonder I’m so nervous about asking even those people I consider to be friends or colleagues for advice. Doing so makes me that schmuck who asked for mentorship versus the one who has better things to do with their time.

What I’ve learned over the years is that I don’t have all the answers. Heck, I barely have any of them. And as I’ve been working on creating Rooted, it’s become crystal clear that I don’t know what I don’t know.

I don’t know what conferences I should be attending and for which I should be submitting speaker proposals. I don’t know who in the travel and tourism industry I should meet — and how to get those introductions — if there is no one to make an introduction. There isn’t a company standing behind me, interested in supporting my professional development by paying conference fees.

It is, quite simply, an emotional and financial investment to be self-employed.

I’m afraid I’ll be called to the mat for not having anyone to stand up for my expertise. The community I consider myself a part of could easily call me a freeloader for information. It’s so hard, but I’m working on being more vulnerable and asking for guidance.

Again, that fall-flavored mantra comes into play: Autumn reminds us how beautiful it can be to let things go.

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