We spend more time planning for things than actually doing them. Vacations . . . dinners . . . dates . . . weddings . . . kids . . . work . . . school . . . retirement . . . even our own funerals. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as the next when it comes to planning, but if I look back on my life, some of the best moments were those unplanned. Coming out of nowhere, they took a hold of me and wiped away any notion of time. They were exhilarating. Magical. Made me feel truly alive.

Like that night in Quebec City when I asked a stranger to listen to some jazz and that stranger ended up being one of those rare connections you stumble across. It wasn’t lasting or love, but it was a reminder that random encounters of finding true love do exist outside of the movies and that the only to get to them is to throw out any sense of plot and just get lost in the constant reel of movie screen playing before us. The one that prefers improvisation over sticking to the script.

It was Allen Saunders, not John Lennon, who famously said “life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” Life’s beauty is that in an instant anything can happen, anything can change. All our well-laid plans can disappear like a mouse into a hole in a wall. One second there, the next out of sight. Gone. It’s those messy parts, the ones that sweep us up and make us forget all about whatever future plans we may have made, that add much needed zing to this unwritten narrative that stretches ahead of us. What we often mistake for set in stone and given is in reality unwinding.

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Ottawa is the girl at the dance you don’t notice right away, but end up marrying. Unlike a large metropolitan area where a person can spend a lifetime and still not come close to seeing everything, it only takes a day to see all the sights. It’s simple, elegantly designed, and a place where you see yourself settling down, raising a family, or retiring.

Some cities are for the old. Others for the young. And then there’s the New York’s of the world, where age doesn’t matter. Ottawa’s a city for those who prefer the quiet comfort of the bleachers over the chaotic closeness of the stage; where the music is less loud and the pace less hectic, but lifts your soul just the same.

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My great grandfather, Russell C. Pryor, passed away. At the age of 98 (a month and a half shy of turning 99), he lived through events I only learned about in history; having been born during the First World War, growing up during the Great Depression, and fighting in World War II. In my youth and early twenties, we lost touch, but later in my life I was fortunate to live with him and despite the span of 63 years between us, he was one of the best roommates I’ve ever had. We golfed. Cruised around the lake on his pontoon boat. Had weekly pizza dinners from the corner store. Spent quiet evenings reading books and watching movies.

Through the years, I’ve tried to make the most of my 35 years on this Earth, but there is only thing that stands in my memory as the most extraordinary; my trip with grandpa, 93 at the time, to Europe. Our purpose for the adventure, to rendezvous with a cousin, who he had corresponded with through letters, but hadn’t seen since the war. On our ten-day visit, we saw the sights in London, ate pasties in Bath, posed for pictures at Stonehenge, drank Guinness in Dublin, and bought kilts in Scotland. But, by far, the highlight of the tour was the reunion, 67 years in the making. Out of all the things in my life, being a part of that moment is my proudest.

Death is never easy. It awakens in us a sense of true reality. Draws a line in the sand between what matters most and what doesn’t. Forces us to take pause from our busy lives and look around and reflect. I am not sad of my grandfather’s passing. I’m happy and proud that I got to know him and spend time with him. He had a long, fruitful life. His pages were full of words and stories, not blank spaces and those words and stories live on in me and my family, to be carried on and remembered.

All I can hope for is that whenever my time comes, it will come like his, with a life worth celebrating, not just mourning. Kipling, in his poem “If,” said it best: if you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run. Grandpa ran and never stopped running.

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As a wanderer by trade, I’m drawn to both natural and urban landscapes. Whenever I go someplace new I am overwhelmed by an urge to see everything. I can’t sit still. I can’t relax. I need to move. I need to explore. I need to let my senses roam free and take in all the intrinsic beauty lying in wait around every corner and vantage point.

Take, for example, Montreal. It’s one of those cities that gets everything right. More cosmopolitan than metropolitan, it has it. That feel. That certain something you don’t need eyes to see. The right mix of young and old; civility and chaos; antiquity and contemporary. It’s catchy. Breathtaking. Inspirational. It gets beneath your skin. Sears into your memory. Finds a home in your heart. It’s a song you hear for the first time and know right away you’re in love, that you’ll be singing and dancing to this tune for the rest of your life. That’s the magic of exploration, finding the beauty that’s right in front of you.

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A close friend knows what’s in your heart and sympathizes with what goes on in your head. Like you, they are passengers of the abyss. They don’t judge, worry, or criticize. They simply listen and say the four most important words a person can say. You are not alone.

We all suffer. We all have bad days. We all need someone to talk to about our deepest, darkest thoughts. One thing I’ve learned in this life is the importance of sharing, caring, and asking for help. Yet, at times I tend to keep my suffering inside, afraid to unburden my problems onto others. But what else are friends for? They are there for me just as I am there for them.

So, take a minute out of your busy day and think about your closest friends and what they mean to you and then take it a step further by reaching out to them and telling them exactly how you feel because, chances are, they’re thinking the same about you.

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Perception and how we view the world is everything. A roomful of strangers can be competition or they can be a community. An ex can be just an ex or a former friend. Our mistakes can be failures or lessons. A relationship can be serious or meaningful. Hours invested can be seen as work or growth. And loving something and not hating it aren’t quite the same.

A lot of times when I think back to my last relationship, I’m filled with sadness and pain for what was lost and could never be. Then the cup is empty. Other times, I look back to our first and last date, two times when we got everything right, where neither the past nor the future got in the way. We were completely present, surrendering to the beautiful moment and all its glorious magic. In that recollection, the cup is always full.

Again, I am reminded that perception is everything. A broken heart is something to fix, while an open heart is something to fill.

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In the spring of 2013, after embarking on numerous road trips and seeing most of the continental United States, I moved to the Mile-High City, living first in Parker with my cousin and her family while trying to find a teaching job before finding a spot of my own. Like Austin, it took a few months for the city to warm to me. Being jobless and in the suburbs didn’t help, but patience goes a long way. The universe likes to test you before offering a hand. Read More

I first moved to Austin shortly after graduating from college in 2008. It was my first big move. The first time packing up my all my belongings and driving across the country to live in a new state. Having never been to The Lone Star State, I knew very little about it besides Hollywood depictions and stereotypes. Cowboys. Country music. Steers and queers, that’s Texas, right? or at least according to Full Metal Jacket. For me, it was a place that had music. Austin City Limits was all I needed to know. That was my pull, my draw to the second largest state in the U.S., a place so big it claimed everything was bigger. Read More

There is no better place to be in the summertime than northern Michigan (not to be confused with Michigan’s rugged and secluded Upper Peninsula) and more specifically, Traverse City. Located on the western tip—the peninsula on a peninsula—of Michigan’s mitten, TC has all the essential ingredients for a summer getaway. Big-city restaurants and shopping mixed with small-town charm. Outdoor activities galore, including golf, boating, hiking, and biking. Festivals, wine tastings, live music, and a fun, active nightlife. Read More

The next morning, I was ready to leave the craziness of the city and find some paradise. In less than forty-eight hours I was back at the airport, taking a one-way flight to Phuket, the largest island in Thailand. With no set destination, my only goal to find a beach in the middle of nowhere. I settled on Kata, a secluded beach located in the southern part of the island. Read More