Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sustainable Camping

 As an occupant of this beautiful Earth, I have become more conscience of the mark I make when traveling. This is important when it comes to preserving our forests, rivers and streams for the next generation.

At one time in my life, I worked for the U.S. Forestry Service. I was lucky enough to be accepted into a program called, ‘Young Adult Conservation Corp.’ or YACC. The qualifications required were, you must have graduated from high school and be between the ages of 18 and 23 years of age. You were accepted into the program for 1 year of service and we paid minimum wage for your service. In exchange you gained valuable experience and had a history of working for the federal government. I can’t begin to tell you how valuable that time was in my life. The hardest part was working in the cold when it was -20 degrees in a Michigan winter. It was so hard to get out of that nice warm van and go to work. I do however have some of my best memories of that time.

One of the very shameful things I saw on a regular basis was dumping by people in the forests. We cleaned up garbage, trash, shingles, tires, building materials and tons of cigarette butts. I also had the experience of cleaning up camping sites in the state and federal campgrounds. For the most part people that camped left the sites fairly well but the microtrash was always over the top. Things like pieces of tin foil, cigarette butts, small pieces of plastic, cans and bottles in the firepit. Things like that don’t just go away after the camper leaves, somebody has to go in and pickup after people to maintain a nice park.

When I camp, I first inspect the site for any microtrash or outright garbage and clean it up. Get the trash out and make a nice site to enjoy and when I leave I do the same thing. Before leaving I inspect the site and remove all microtrash.

The experiences I had in YACC and experiences in my adult life, I think I have developed a few habits that I think are good. I am sharing them in hopes that maybe the word will spread and we can start overcoming the trash that blocks and wrecks the beautiful views our earth has to offer.

Lately I have been making a habit of tying a knot in plastic bags, right in the middle. In fact I usually tie several knots making the bag not flyable. I personally like the convenience of plastic grocery bags. They are convenient, waterproof and mostly strong. I hate grocery bags stuck in trees, clogging ditches and rolling across a field. All it takes it a few knots to stop the bag from being able to take flight.

I also do not like seeing broken glass because of bottles.  In fact I don’t like seeing bottles glass or plastic on the side of the road.

As you have probably guessed I am from Michigan and if you have ever been to Michigan you know that there is a 10 cent deposit on all bottles and cans. I lived in Michigan when they first began the deposit law and at first it was a logistical nightmare. Michigan stayed with it and what happened was all the bottle and cans disappeared from the roads and the stores figured out how to manage the deposits and storage of the bottles and cans because they also got a deposit back from the vendor. Today, you drive through Michigan and I challenge you to even find 10 bottles or cans on the side of the roads. If you do I’ll give you a dollar! It was one of the smartest things they did.

If we're not careful, we can cause a lot of environmental damage through traveling. But if we just take a little time to minimize our presence we will continue to have one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

5 Ways To Stay Fit, Have Fun, And Embrace The Cold Weather

Snowbirds are probably one of the most fit conscious people in society. They have learned to move and have fun moving. Here are some ideas for staying fit even when the weather is -20 degrees.

Would you like to have fun staying fit and make it a game? You cannot change the weather, so instead of resisting, use the cold weather to your advantage to get exercise, to burn calories and to improve your fitness. While your at it you will probably meet a few new friends and build existing relationships.

Here are five fun and social ways to exercise in the cold.

==> #1: Have a snowman building challenge Bundle yourselves up and go for it. The work of rolling the snow, lifting the giant showballs and the constant up, down, and all around is a great workout. Create some challenges by having a contest for the biggest, most detailed, snow woman, or just make a whole crowd of snowmen. Plunge in take on the snow, you will get your walkway cleared, get exercise, and have a good time doing it. Be careful to not over do it. This is suppose to be fun.

==> #2: Host a Wii party When it's snowing, freezing or foggy outside, bring the party home. Instead of working out in the cold, why not get your heart racing indoors with a Wii party instead? You can do it just once, or make it a regular thing. Combine the Wii party with other physical activities to make it a workout for the whole group.

==> #3: Do the 100 Push-Up Challenge There's something about the number one hundred that's inherently appealing - especially when doing a challenge. That's one of the reasons why the 100 push-up challenge was created and one of the reasons so many people took it on. The 100 push-up challenge is a free online challenge you can take on. They provide a six-week training program designed to take you from where you are now to doing 100 push-ups. This challenge will help build your shoulder muscles, your biceps, your triceps, your chest muscles and even your back and buttock muscles. It's also quite an aerobic exercise and will give your cardiovascular system a good workout as well.

 ==> #4: The Speed House Cleaning Party Have a garage that hasn't been cleaned out in a couple years? Or an attic that needs rearranging? Or maybe you've been meaning to redecorate an area of the house for some time? Since you're going to be stuck in the house anyway, why not make a party out of it? Invite a bunch of your friends, bring some food, put on some music and have a house cleaning party. If it's a small area, you could do it with just the family.

 ==> #5: Play the game Twister.  Twister is a fantastic social and physical game that really shines in winter. Invite a few of your friends over, put on some music, lay out the Twister map and let the games begin. Again, you can combine this Twister party with some of the other activities described here.

These are some of the many ways you can use winter time to your advantage. Instead of exercising alone, use winter as an opportunity to get together with friends and work out together.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Living the Snowbird Lifestyle

I remember about 30 years ago seeing my Grandparents living the snowbird
lifestyle. Their commute was between Michigan from June through late August and then to Florida the rest of the year. They had achieved this lifestyle through living a life of hard work and my Grandfathers pension that he earned while working for National Gypsum.

The days of pensions are pretty much gone for the majority of us. But just to set the record straight, my Grandparents would not have been able to live that lifestyle just on my Grandfathers pension. It also require the significant savings and investments that they had accrued through the years.

The reality of today is that people do not have the resources to afford the snowbird lifestyle. What is a person to do?

Another ugly truth, is that many people never retire. We all know the 401k we were all 'sold', that was ‘supposed’ to be our ‘retirement’, is nothing more than a pipe dream.

In my case, I know that beginning at the turn of the century my 401k had become a 201k and then when 9-11 happened and the twin tower collapse my 201k was turned into a 101k which is nothing more than a small contribution to Wall Street.

Let’s face it, very few of us have an ongoing income that can provide for living expenses and orovide a decent lifestyle. Many of the babyboomers have resigned themselves to working some kind of job for the rest of their lives. 

If living the snowbird lifestyle is something that you want to pursue then the first place to start, is figuring how you can manage your living expenses on less and find a means of building additional income through other means.

The snowbird lifestyle can be fairly cheap but if you decide you want to belong to exclusive clubs, your expenses can skyrocket. No matter how you slice or dice it, snowbird living is pretty hard to do on the cheap.

Your expenses may include a second home (or rental); travel insurance. taxes and other legal issues, and daily living necessities. Add to that any entertainment that you might want to partake at your summer location and expenses are just nothing but one big problem when it comes to living like a snowbird.

The ugly truth is, you may not be able to achieve this kind of living with your current circumstances. However, in the age of the internet you may be able to supplement your income through online earnings. My favorite site to learning about ways to make money online is the website, "Real Ways To Earn Money Online".

Some snowbirds live their winters in Florida and summers in Canada. If you decide that you would like an international lifestyle then you will need to keep in mind the currency value change and the tax forms which can be a headache. Even if you stay within the United States, if you decide to own property, there can still be property tax discrepancies between states.
If you have a home in each location, then you have to be willing to leaving your dwelling unattended for months. In this day and age deserted homes can be an invitation to squatters, burglars and thieves. As a homeowner, you need to find someone that you can trust to keep an eye on things while you are away. They need to especially pay attention to burst pipes, roof leaking or basement flooding along with keeping the property groomed and safe.
Another consideration is if you have an illness that requires regular medical attention, you can run into issues with insurance across state lines and finding regular medical care can prove to be difficult.

These are the bad but some of the bad can be overcome by living out of a RV during the summer months. Which can be pretty nice since every year you can choose a different location to live or travel around for the entire summer. When summer is over just take your summer home to your winter home and put it away. I know, easier said than done, right?

Another solution to this would be live in an area that is designed around summer living. I know where I grew up in Michigan there were resorts that were only open in the summer months. You rented the little resort cabin for the summer months and then returned for the winter. In some places you can become a regular guest and reserve the same place from year to year.

My sister has a summer trailer that is about 2 hours north from where they live. During the summer they go there every weekend but when winter comes they shut everything down and don’t return until summer starts again. There are people in this same park that live there all summer long and when winter comes they go back south to Texas, Florida, Arizona or where ever they spend the winter. The homes are modular and there is a year around attendant that keeps and eye on everything.

Finally, the good to snowbird living.

Snowbird living means you spend the winter in the warm, southerly climates and move back to your "regular home" or at least another home during the spring and summer.

Snowbirds stay active and the stimulating lifestyle is conducive to having a healthy mind and body. There is always an opportunity to see new thing and meet new people, keeping snowbirds engaged in life and learning.

If you are a social person, being a snowbird usually means visiting with others. Some snowbirds overwinter with relatives or friends building memories that will last a lifetime. Others stay in an area where they will meet new people. However you do it, being a snowbird can help keep you healthy socially.

I am originally from Michigan and I remember shoveling snow from the driveway just in time for the snowplow to come by. The driveway that took me 30 minutes to shovel was blocked in 2 seconds by a oncoming plow. I can also remember looking outside, knowing I have to go to the store and I could not see my car under the drifts of snow. A fifteen minute trip to the store took an hour because 15 to 20 minutes was devoted to clearing off the car and that doesn't include shoveling out the tires if they were snowed in. Obviously, it was not like that every day but I bet it was about every two weeks we would get another snow coming through that required physical removal.

As a snowbird you can put away the shovel. Snow removal is no longer a chore that a snowbird has to deal with.

That is the good the bad and the ugly of snowbird living. If you still want this lifestyle, then comeback to this blog where I will share more with you about overcoming the ugly so you just have to deal with the good and the bad.