Category Archives: Outdoors

From Explorer to Settler

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InspirNational readers: We all love to explore and travel, but how do we decide where to settle? Thank you to Hunter Reams for writing this guest post with some great insights about choosing where to settle.


There are countless blogs and advice columns on traveling and exploring the world. While we all love being an explorer, at the end of the day, or at the end of a great vacation, we need a place to call home. Deciding where you want to settle down can be one of the most difficult decisions. From affordability to an awesome job market, many variables impact your decision on that place that you can call home. I have narrowed down my top criteria in making the all-important decision of where to plant your roots.

Job Opportunities
Job opportunities vary from state to state and region to region, and this is a very important variable as it is the foundation upon which you will prosper. I believe that the best place to start your “quest to settle” is to analyze the job market. If you work in investment banking, New York City will be much more likely to have opportunities than Gary, Indiana. Or if you are interested in supply chain management for oil, Texas and North Dakota may have the best opportunities. Network with friends, network online, network some more, and search for the employment opportunities that will make you happy. Once you have located either specific jobs or areas that have a demand for your expertise, narrow your search area to those places. This way, you will be much more likely to be financially stable, and derive the most enjoyment out of your new location!

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Family and Friends
If family and friends play a major role in your life, you may not want to locate far away from them. While social media and communications technology have made it much easier to stay connected over long distances, it is nonetheless very difficult to live far from your closest circle. Personally, this is a particularly difficult criterion as my parents relocated to a remote Appalachian city, while my friends and extended family are in Michigan/Ohio…When analyzing this variable; keep in mind the age/health of your family and friends, as well as the possibilities of them relocating. If you are looking to settle away from friends and family, consider living in areas that are near airports or other forms of public transportation to help you stay connected.

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Climate and Geography
If you love the beach, should you focus on living beachside? If you want to ski every day, should you narrow your search to mountainous regions? Do you want to live right by the Detroit Tigers’ stadium so you can get season tickets to the games? Both the climate and geographic region play a huge role in determining your hobbies, behaviors, and activities. A good way to analyze this variable is to write down all of the hobbies and activities that make you happy, and determine if each geographic location can cater to them. If you absolutely cannot go a week without playing golf, then living in Maine would not be a great idea. If you love the snow and four seasons, then maybe Florida is not the right place for you. This variable should not be overlooked because you can find employment, affordable housing, good education systems, and culture all throughout the country. But certain geographic locations have characteristics that others do not possess. (i.e oceans, warm weather, sports teams). Choose wisely when determining what geographic locations can best satisfy your needs.

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Population and Culture
I grouped population and culture together because I have traveled to many large American cities and have yet to find one that does not offer plenty of culture. On the other hand, the majority of small cities do not possess as many offerings of cultural stimulation. If you crave the variety of cultural foods, music, atmosphere, ambience, etc. then living in cities like New York, Los Angeles or Miami would be a great fit. Those cities are full of vibrant offerings that will keep any cultural sommelier happy. If cultural diversity is not as important to you, then a small town or suburb will likely be a good match.

Population is also an important factor because life in a small town is much different than living in a suburb, which is much different than living in a large city. Having lived in all three, I will share my opinions per population size:

If you enjoy seeing neighbors at the local grocery store and enjoy being a bigger fish in a small pond, then the small town life may be for you. Living in a small town provides a sense of community – you feel like you truly are part of the town. There are also fewer worries about crime, traffic, other annoyances, and the ability to frequently see friends and family at the local restaurants, churches, and stores. Additionally, it is typically much more affordable and land is abundant. The biggest disadvantages to small town life are the lack of amenities, culture, and job opportunities. In the town I lived in for 6 months, there was very little to do, not much shopping/entertainment, and lack of cultural exposure among many of the people. The town did not have any major corporation and held very few job opportunities for a young college graduate. I believe that living in a small town is best suited for those that want a slower pace of life, close-knit community, and more privacy. Families, retirees, and those who love the outdoors are best suited for the small town.

Growing up in a suburb provided a great mix of the small town and bigger city. While I could travel into Detroit for sports games and concerts, I also could retreat back to the safety and privacy that the suburb provided. There were great job opportunities in the suburb itself and in the surrounding cities. I feel that the biggest disadvantage to suburban life is that there is not the abundance of culture/entertainment that one finds in a big city, and it also lacks the land and community involvement compared to a small town. Some may find that suburbs are unsatisfyingly mediocre. I believe that suburbs are the most ideal location for families and those that want a comfortable lifestyle.

Life in the big city has the advantages of all the amenities you can ask for; lots of entertainment and culture, and tons of employment opportunities. Cities often have public transits systems that eliminate the need for a car and a short bike ride or walk can get you to where you need to be. I feel that the biggest drawbacks to living in a larger city are the lack of nature, expenses, small fish in a big pond, crime, and annoyances such as traffic and higher taxes. I believe that the big city is best suited for young professionals and those that want to experience a fast paced lifestyle with tons of culture and diversity.

Overall, small towns, suburbs, and larger cities all have pros and cons. It is important to discover what makes you happy, and find a place that works for you!

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Longevity
My final variable in making the decision to settle down is longevity. It is important to grasp an understanding on long-term variables that will be important to you. Education systems, healthcare, governmental benefits and taxes, real estate markets – these things are easy to overlook when you are 25 and excited to start your career in a new place. But in a few short years when all of your friends and colleagues are starting families, these variables can become extremely important, if not determinative. So when making your decision on where to settle down, keep in mind that your priorities will likely change. To help analyze this factor, reaching out to family members or friends who are at a later stage in life may be of help. Ask them what they look for when relocating, and the best ways of ascertaining that information. This way, you are not only preparing for the present, but also for the future.

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Final Word
Overall, there is no right decision and that is a beautiful thing! You cannot make a wrong choice, only choose a different path. Do your diligences, discover what makes you happy, and then go for it!

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Favorite Ways to Spend Fall in Cleveland

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Fall is one of the best ways to experience any Midwestern United States city, especially Cleveland. Leaves are changing colors. Moderate temperatures mean you can spend time outside with a cool breeze and a light jacket. Three exciting sports seasons overlap: the end of baseball season, the heart of football season, and the beginning of basketball season. Cider and donuts are available at apple orchards, grocery stores, and cider mills (which I have quickly learned is a “Michigan thing.”) Pumpkin and apple flavors cover our plates. And some may say, the highlights are celebrating  Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Edgewater Park View of Downtown Cleveland

Edgewater Park View of Downtown Cleveland

Now that I have spent two falls in Cleveland, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite activities to do in and around Cleveland in the fall:

  • Go on a Segway Tour of Downtown Cleveland. This is a fun way to learn about Cleveland’s architecture and history while riding a segway.
  • Tailgate a Browns game. The Muni Lot has some of the craziest tailgates I have ever seen, with kegs and grills coming out of pick-up trucks and dance parties in school buses. Cleveland sports fans are some of the most spirited fans- and the spirit is contagious! Don’t tell my Detroit roots that I am slowly cheering for Cleveland now that I live downtown and am surrounded by all the major sports stadiums!
Browns Season Opener Tailgate

Browns Season Opener Tailgate

  • Shop for fall produce at West Side Market. The late harvest lends some of the best local produce of the year. The market makes it fun for you to find the ingredients for your favorite fall recipes and you can buy decorative gourds or pumpkins for carving festivities!
  • Go hiking through the Cleveland Metroparks or parks in the suburbs. I love to jog through Edgewater Park and have enjoyed hiking through Liberty Park near Aurora, Ohio.
Hiking through Liberty Park

Hiking through Liberty Park

  • Need more than hiking? Another great way to be in nature during the fall is to volunteer at local parks. During my company’s fall retreat, we spent an afternoon volunteering at a park clean-up with the Western Reserve  Historical Society and Thriving Communities Institute in the Buckeye Neighborhood.
  • Dress up in a Halloween costume and go dancing in the Warehouse District. Each year the best venues vary, but the regular favorites tend to be Velvet Dog, Barley House, and Dive Bar. Dancing is always fun, but there’s nothing better than being silly while in disguise and watching others do the same.
  • Go on a brewery tour at Great Lakes Brewery. I have toured the brewery with family and friends four times throughout the year, and I have decided that fall is my favorite time, particularly when the brewery is making Christmas Ale. The aura of cinnamon spice is delicious and makes the brewery experience come to life.
  • On the topic of beer, try pumpkin ales at the breweries on West 25th in Ohio City, especially during Cleveland Beer Week in October. I was not a beer fan until I moved to Cleveland, but the pumpkin ales at Nano Brew, Town Hall, Market Garden, and Bier Market quickly made that change.
  • Pick apples at Eddy’s Fruit Farm and explore the grounds of Patterson Fruit Farm. For the city dwellers, this is a great escape from the busy city life and helps you appreciate the scenery in Ohio’s countryside.
  • Tour Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, which was the home of F.A. Sieberling, who created The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 1898. The home was built between 1912-1915 and was one of the finest examples of the American Country Estate Movement. It includes five historic buildings and eight historic gardens on 70 acres. Learn more about the history of the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens here.
Touring the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens

Touring the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens

  • Go wine tasting at the vineyards of Geneva on the Lake. It is an hour outside of Downtown Cleveland, but totally worth the drive. Each winery has its own unique personality and the hosts will teach you about wine production and what types of wine will be best for your palate.
Geneva on the Lake

Geneva on the Lake

  • Take your bike to Peninsula, Ohio to ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train out to your distance of choice and bike back on the towpath past Szlay’s farm shop for hot butter-dipped corn. You could also run through the Maize Maze and wrap up the trip with a Winking Lizard beer when you get back to Peninsula! [Thank you to one of my favorite Clevelanders, Victoria Lowery, for the idea!]

Every weekend I learn about new exciting events and opportunities in and around Cleveland. Clevelanders, please comment with any of your favorite events that I should add to the list. Everyone, let me know if you would ever like to visit Cleveland. I would be happy to give you a tour.

Hopefully I have captured something interesting for everyone in Cleveland, whether you’re an adventurer, a sports enthusiast, a beer fan, a nature lover, a dancer, or a historian. Making the most of any of these experiences relates to the inspirNational mindset, which I aspire to have and encourage others (no matter where you live or travel!) to have every day. Learn more about the inspirNational mindset in my post, How to Live Like a Traveler Every Day.

Tree Wisdom

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As falls begins and the leaves change color, I can’t help but notice how beautiful trees are what benefits they provide us throughout the world.

Melrose Apple Tree at Eddy's Fruit Farm in Cleveland, Ohio

Melrose Apple Tree at Eddy’s Fruit Farm in Cleveland, Ohio

Over the weekend, I thought more about this while visiting my nieces and reading them two children’s book classics, The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, and The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. I gave my nieces these books because they are two of my favorites and they represent the importance of sustainability (leave it to their sustainability consultant aunt to do this :)).

What can we learn from trees?

The Lorax reminds us to appreciate the beauty of the world around us, especially trees and nature in general. It also teaches that we are responsible to take care of the environment to protect it for future generations.

The Giving Tree teaches us the importance of giving and appreciating gifts from others. The story demonstrates the endless gifts that trees provide: fruit to eat, branches to swing, shade to relax, wood to build furniture, and more. They ask for nothing in return, so it is importance for us to respect them.

I also came across the picture below from one of my high school classmates, which gives great advice from a tree.

  • Stand tall & proud: Be proud of who you are!
  • Go out on a limb: Take risks.
  • Remember your roots: Don’t forget your heritage; stay in touch with your family and friends who helped make you who you are today.
  • Drink plenty of water: Take care of yourself.
  • Enjoy the view: Appreciate your surroundings.
Photo Credit: Drew Edwards (my high school classmate, who is the Cofounder of Pangea Educational Development and currently lives in Uganda) and his friend Katie Ott

Photo Credit: Katie Ott and Drew Edwards (my high school classmate, who is the Cofounder of Pangea Educational Development and currently lives in Uganda)

As we go through life and travel the world, trees help us keep perspective and live with an inspirNational mindset. What wisdom have you learned from trees?

Why Everyone Should Go Camping

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Last weekend I went camping at the Kanawha State Forest in Charleston, West Virginia. At first thought it may seem crazy to leave modern conveniences and sleep outside in the wilderness for a weekend, but my trip reminded me why camping is one of the best travel experiences.

Kanawha State Forest

Kanawha State Forest

Camping reminds us to:

  • Live in the moment. Without technology, we are able to avoid distractions and notice our surroundings with all of our senses: the color of every tree leaf, the smell of crisp air, the taste of warm s’mores from the bonfire, the sound of crickets and squirrels, and the feeling of a cool breeze.
  • Appreciate the small things. Without modern conveniences such as running water or television, we begin to appreciate the things that we do have. We can be entertained by playing Frisbee or talking with our loved ones instead of having to watch television.
  • Play like a kid again. While camping, it is perfectly acceptable (even for adults!) to run around the woods, play on swing sets, skip rocks, jump in puddles, and get muddy. We become nostalgic of our childhood and are reminded that we are always kids at heart and can still have fun and play.
  • Recharge. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of daily life. We may forget to go outside as often as we should or we may not get enough sleep. Camping helps us get more fresh air and have a natural sleep cycle; we may actually want to go to bed when the sun sets and wake up when the sun rises!
  • Be humble. As we walk and sleep amongst giant trees, bugs, and wildlife, we are reminded that there is more to the world than us.  The world does not center around us as people, we are just one small part of the circle of life.
  • Care about the planet. When we actually have to live in nature, we begin to understand why it is important to take care of the environment. We need clean air, clean water, and healthy landscapes in order to survive and thrive.

My camping trip could not have come at a better time, as this week marks the United Nations Climate Summit, which unites leaders from UN Member States and local leaders from the public and private sectors. The summit promotes  “action and solutions that are focused on accelerating progress in areas that can significantly contribute to reducing emissions and strengthening resilience – such as agriculture, cities, energy, financing, forests, pollutants, resilience and transportation.” Politics aside, the summit inspires us to think about how we are impacting the planet and what we can do to reduce our impact. Morgan Freeman narrated a powerful video to open the summit: What’s Possible: UN Climate Summit Opening Film. Camping brings these thoughts and discussions to life. I am inspired to think of how I can live sustainably and remember to be grateful for the nature that surrounds me.

Why do you like to go camping and how does it help you have an inspirNational mindset?