A Florida Road Trip in 15 Days: Part One

The Sunshine State has been beckoning my presence for years now—especially since I got bit by that damn incurable travel bug. But with an aunt and uncle, two friends and now a CouchSurfing buddy calling Florida home—combined with the fact that I now live closer to the Florida state line than the New Jersey state line—I really couldn’t put it off any longer. And I’m glad I didn’t. Here’s my 15-day road trip itinerary through Florida. Read it and weep, peeps. (I don’t know why I said that, just really had the urge.)

First stop: Jacksonville; Friday-Monday

One of my dear friends from those crazy college days has lived in Jacksonville for the past few years, and it was the perfect first stop. If you’re in Jax on a Saturday morning or afternoon, you’ve got to hit the Riverside Arts Market (RAM). It runs on Saturdays from 10 am – 4 pm and is a ton of fun. There are cute local vendors with handmade crafts, soaps, art and other artisan items.

Go with an empty stomach, because there’s a whole ton of food (to taste and to purchase). Had to pick my jaw up off the floor when I heard the price for a chicken gyro (steer clear, friends), but then I found the calypso chicken bowl at some Caribbean sort of food stand. $5 for a generous serving of rice, beans, chicken and tropical salsa goodness. Boom.

My friend had a carrot dog. With ginger sauerkraut. I’m not sure how I feel about this. There are many things I’d like to say right now but really shouldn’t.

calypso chicken and carrot dog

calypso chicken and carrot dog

We also went to this awesome health food place where I got my kale/spinach/celery/apple juice, and then an antique store where I found a totally sweet vintage Beatles poster for 24 bones. The man behind us in line was fascinated with a Beanie Baby, and he made sure we knew it. It was a duck. I couldn’t find the fascination myself. Maybe I was missing something.

me and my vintage find

me and my vintage find

Because this was my birthday celebration road trip, we had to do something a little extra special. Thus, we threw a Birthday Beach Brunch at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park. We consumed a disgusting amount of goat cheese (which we had purchased at RAM—buy the garlic and basil and the fruit trio; you won’t regret it), bread, fruit, salad and mimosas and tried to find a hiking trail. Directionally challenged, and perhaps a bit tipsy, we headed to the car and passed the trailhead on the way out. I make these mistakes so you don’t have to.

fluffy caterpillar

fluffy caterpillar

Second stop: Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park; Monday

I stopped at Paynes Prairie Preserve for a quick hike per the recommendation of a coworker, and I’m so happy I took her advice. The natural landscape and plantlife in Florida is so much different than what I’m used to. Although I was freaking out about alligators chomping on my legs for lunch (I was alone), I was able to muster up the moxie to enjoy the scenery. Don’t be surprised if you encounter a surprisingly ungraceful buck deer in the middle of the trail, and some wild turkeys gobblin’ like nobody’s business. Thanksgiving was a little more than a week away. I was getting hungry. (Is that terrible?)

I love trees.

A good trail to check out is the Bolen Bluff Trail. At 2.6 miles roundtrip, you’ll encounter deer, wild horses and turkeys, and look out for tree frogs. The trail doesn’t take very long (I was on a time crunch), so if you’re looking for something to really get the blood pumping, check out Cone’s Dike or Gainesville-Hawthorne.

 

Spanish moss is neither Spanish nor moss.

Spanish moss is neither Spanish nor moss.

Third stop: Lakeridge Winery

The drive from Jax to the Keys was a hefty one, so after going out of my way to head to Paynes Prairie Preserve, I was kinda dreading the six-hour drive ahead of me. About halfway through, the universe answered my desperate optimism in the form of a green sign. It read: “Winery Ahead.” And then there was another sign. That one read: “Tasting Next Right.” Need I say what happens next? (I made a right.)

I bought two bottles of wine: Chablis and Blanc Du Bois. A strategic move would be to try them all. And maybe schmooze with the lovely lady (or sir) for some seconds.

The Most Delicious and Simple Fig Recipe You’ll Ever Need

I recently found these amazingly gorgeous figs at the night market. I hobbled through the rows of stalls with my boot strapped onto my right foot, glancing at local artisan crafts, baked goods and used books.

Then I found the two little farmer stands with the most gorgeous looking local produce I have seen in a while. Aside from the veggies at the Market Square Market in Knoxville (which, sadly, I have ONE picture from this day).

I scanned the green beans, apples, peppers and tomatoes. And then my eyes fell upon these figs. After a taste test, I filled up my reusable brown baggie with the juicy little gems and started racking my brain for ways to prepare them.

figs

Figs are a bold fruit. They match well with other bold flavors, like strong cheeses or wines. I was feeling ambitious, but I wanted to find a way to truly enjoy the essence of the fig. So I kept it simple. With just four ingredients, this is the most delicious and simple fig recipe you’ll ever need.

Ingredientsfigs

Figs
Cinnamon
Honey
Vanilla
Directions:
Cut the figs in half.

figs

Place on a baking sheet with the flesh side down.

figs

Pour a bit of honey in the middle.

Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Sprinkle with vanilla. (Tip: I used a spray bottle to give the figs a spritz of vanilla. It’s easy to dump too much vanilla at this step, and too much vanilla can really ruin the dish. With a spray bottle, you can control the amount of vanilla more easily and spread it out evenly across all of the figs.)

Broil in the oven for ten minutes.

Take out of the oven.

figs

Enjoy immediately. Thank me later.

3 Lessons Learned From My First Couchsurfing Event

I have a borderline obsession with Couchsurfing. I was first introduced to it when I was living in Auckland, and after surfing for the first time at a retired couple’s home alongside five other Couchsurfers, I was hooked.

Being a somewhat recent transplant to Greensboro, North Carolina (random but awesome!), I’ve been using all the resources I can think of to meet new and interesting people. This includes things like Meetup, Couchsurfing, sniffing strangers’ hair at the grocery store (yeah, that one doesn’t have a great success rate).

Much to my disappointment, I found out that the Greensboro Couchsurfing technically exists, but it’s been in hibernation. Usually when I post activities, I get a total of one or two attendees (including myself). So when I decided to actually host my first formal Couchsurfing event, I really didn’t expect much of a turnout. Hell, I couldn’t even get my actual FRIENDS to attend the dinner, let alone a bunch of strangers.

So the event began at 7:30. The first arrival knocked on my door at 7:45. I was mortified because this was a friend I had recently recruited to the CS community, and this was his first event.

Lo and behold, the night took a turn for the best, and there ended up being a grand total of 23 CSers crammed into my little apartment.

So what the fuck did I actually learn from this experience? Aside from the fact that people are truly amazing and unpredictable (and that I can throw a hell of a party), these are three lessons I learned that can actually help my frazzled self be a little bit less frazzle-y (yes, I made that word up).

1. Planning is important

I live in the moment, and planning is not my best friend. After my previous experiences with the Greensboro Couchsurfing community, I had pretty low expectations, but still held onto that shred of faith that it could work out.

Since many of my weekends fill up with fun and exciting plans (ego?), I committed myself to this date almost two months in advance. That way, I couldn’t keep putting it off.

One of the many CSers standing and eating in my living room (my apartment was not made for this) offered his rationale for the success of the event, noting that it may have been due to the advanced notice I gave everyone. I mean, I was all over that shit, blowing up the Facebook group and Couchsurfing place page letting people know about the dinner/begging people to come.

He reasoned that since the event was already in the back of people’s minds, it was easier for them to think ahead. Light bulb moment for me right there.

Going against the typical advice I offer friends, family and strangers (live in the moment! There is nothing in this life except right now!), planning is actually a sometimes necessary concept to practice in order to ensure future success.

I’ll start by planning out my outfit for tomorrow.

2. People are generous

I can’t even begin to tell you how much food was on my teeny stove and kitchen countertops. Instead, I’ll show you:

DSCN3487

And that’s only half of it.

When planning and thinking about the logistics of the event (at 6:45pm that night), I had worried about there not being enough food and drink. I compensated by having chicken, vegetables, rice, margaritas, chips and salsa, wine, beer and cupcakes. Now that I write it down like, I’m scratching my head wondering what the hell I was worried about.

Not only were people generous in the sense that they contributed some truly amazing dishes (ummm hello fried okra, mysterious spinach pie, chickpea stew, salad – is your mouth watering yet?), but they went above that.

The gratitude expressed was nearly overwhelming. I don’t think I have ever had that many people share such thankfulness with me ever before. And I’m not talking “thanks for having me!” I’m talking “I’ve been wanting to do this but have been too scared to host an event – maybe I will do one in the future,” and “you’re the Greensboro Couchsurfing hero!” (I did NOT make that last one up!)

Gratitude is powerful. Now how do I harness its power?

3. Love where you’re at

My thoughts like to venture astray, and they sometimes ask me, “Alex, what the hell are you doing in damn Greensboro, North Cackalacky?” I always have a good answer.

Now I have a better answer.

Instead of allowing yourself to question your current positioning in life, try to accept what it is. Then, take it an extra step and learn to love your current positioning. It’s really not that difficult. All you have to do is find the things that make you happy, and do more of those things. It’s so simple it’s stupid.

This event helped to reaffirm my rationale for being in this new location. It’s easy to feel alone in a new place. I’ve been to TONS of new places, so you can trust me on that. Couchsurfers and fellow crusty backpackers are my home away from home, and when I thought there were no such characters in Greensboro, I got lonely.

Warning: Crunchy Moment – By continuing to love where I’m at, I’ve been sending out those positive vibes into the universe. And those vibes have come full circle, and they convened in my apartment that night. I love where I’m at and wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

What are your thoughts on Couchsurfing? Would you do it? Have you done it?

How to Stay Productive and Sane When You’ve Got an Injury

I hurt my foot. And I’m effing pissed. I’ve got either a severely bruised and swollen foot or some sort of hairline fracture. Either way, according to the extensive research I’ve done, I’ve got to give it a rest for no less than three weeks, with most advice leaning closer to the six to eight week mark.

I’m not happy about this (to say the least).

I live an extremely active lifestyle. I just joined a competitive soccer league (I’ve only gotten the chance to play ONE game thus far), I play pick-up soccer two days a week, and for the rest of the week you’ll find me on my mountain bike, hiking, practicing yoga or trying a multitude of other physically-demanding activities. I even had a camping trip planned for this weekend, during which I was going to head up to the summit of Mt. Mitchell, the nation’s highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

soccer

Now, I have to say a temporary goodbye to all of that. When I first came to the realization of my predicament, I thought I’d probably go insane. Or turn into a couch potato. Both of which being absolutely dreadful options for someone like me.

Then I got to thinking. This injury doesn’t have to be a setback. It can actually be a good thing. But, I’ve got to make sure to remind myself of this. Here are some productive ways you (and I) can stay sane when you’ve got an injury.

Explore other activities

Granted, not every injury allows for the exploration of new sports and physical activities. But, it is definitely worth asking your doctor (and please, ask your doctor – I am in no way, shape or form qualified to offer medical advice) if there are other, low-impact things that you can do. For example, with my foot injury, I am able to take up swimming. This will help to keep you preoccupied and in shape so that you don’t go nuts as you create a permanent indent on your couch cushions.

Focus on your diet

Anyone who knows anything about weight loss and dieting knows that what you eat is the main contributing factor to weight. Exercise, while it is important, is not necessarily the key to weight loss. Even for those who aren’t looking to shed a few pounds (f*** you), diet is an essential part of any athlete’s training program. Take this time to analyze what you’re eating and really focus on how those foods are making you feel. Then, when you recover, you’ll be able to eat a diet that provides more energy to do the active things you love.

Study your sport

Sure, the best way to learn anything is through experiencing things firsthand. (Like the time I learned the lesson to never kick a bowling ball.) Even though I absolutely love soccer, you won’t find me studying foot skills at the library. However, I’m not ignorant to the fact that reading up a little bit on soccer would make me a better player. This rings true for any physical activity, whether it’s an organized team sport like basketball or something individual like running or kayaking. If you read up a little bit when condemned to the couch or bed, you’ll be armed with new knowledge to apply when you get back into the swing of things.

Exercise your mind

Exercising your mind also requires having an open mind, so go into this without any preconceived notions. Having all of this extra free time allows for more exploration within the self and the mind, so taking up meditation, or even meditative activities, is a great idea. Concentrate on your breathing, and this will actually help you with your breathing when you’re able to get back to training. For those who are a bit hesitant, I’m not talking weirdo music and incense and stones (although, yes, I love that weirdo crap). Even just a daily routine of spending 15 minutes or so just counting breaths will help.

I’m on the brink of insanity here, people (dramatic?). It’s been four days since I’ve been on bedrest, and the future was looking dismal until I took the time to write down these tips, and now I can feel my sanity gradually returning to me. What are some ways that you would stay sane and productive when you’ve got an injury?

Easy and Cheap Coconut, Rice and Almond Milk Recipes

Save some money with these homemade recipes!

When I tell people that I make my own non-dairy milk, I’m usually met with wide eyes, suppressed smiles and disbelief. People think I’m crazy. They claim it’s expensive. They claim it’s inconvenient. They claim it doesn’t taste as good. But they are wrong.

In fact, these three recipes are actually cheaper than the dairy and store-bought alternatives. A gallon of milk these days costs around $3 or $4 at my local grocery store. These DIY homemade versions don’t cost nearly as much. The other great thing? All you need is a blender and a combination of no more than four ingredients, many of which are probably in your pantry right now. So quit being lazy and let’s get to work. It’ll take no more than 10 minutes, less time than it takes to run out to the grocery store.

Coconut Milk

Coconut Milk

Ingredients:
1 cup shredded coconut
4 cups boiling water
¼ tsp salt
Directions: Toss all the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high for around 30 minutes (more or less depending on your taste). Strain. Refrigerate for up to 7 days.

Rice Milk

Ingredients:
1 cup cooked brown rice
4 cups water
¼ tsp salt
Oil (optional)
Directions: Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high for 1 or 2 minutes. Add oil if you want it creamier. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Almond Milk

Ingredients:
1 cup almonds
4 cups water
¼ tsp salt
Directions: Soak almonds in a bowl of water, making sure they are fully submerged. Let stand uncovered overnight or up to two days. Drain and rinse. Place in blender for about ten minutes. Strain. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Concerned that making your own milk will be too expensive? Here’s an easy pricing chart to help you see the potential savings. Almonds tend to be a bit pricy, so the savings aren’t great there. But at the end of the day, knowing exactly what is in your food is so worth it!

DIY milk

Rekindling a Romance with Google

I joined Sundar Pichai for a virtual breakfast today, along with tons and tons of others. I didn’t indulge in any bacon or OJ, but I was very excited about a few things. Particularly, Chromecast, Google’s latest product which streams from your smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer to your television.

What the heck is Chromecast?

Essentially, Chromecast looks similar to a USB jump drive. It’s two inches in length and plugs into your TV’s HDMI outlet, just as a USB would plug into your computer. As long as you’ve got Wi-Fi, you can send videos and other types of content up to the cloud to stream to your television. And you don’t even have to get off your lazy ass to turn the tube on. Chromecast will do it for you.

This sounds so simple that I’m almost inclined to not believe it, and thus, not buy it.

But then I’m reminded by the price tag, and I’m all, ‘oh hell yeah, time to brush the dust off the old television.’ (Because, yes, currently my TV is in a closet. I’ve never even turned it on.) The best part about this, I think, is that because everything streams through the cloud, you get high quality HD videos on your TV, as opposed to those pixelated enlarged versions of your phone’s display.

Chromecast is the death of cable television

Ok, so maybe Chromecast can’t be held singlehandedly responsible for the death of cable television. BUT, this new product that Google presented today (and goes on sale this evening!) is the answer to my non-existent prayers. I refuse to purchase cable service. I have the most basic of internet plans in my apartment, and it works fabulously. More and more, people are moving this way and abandoning our old pal cable television and befriending new internet services, like Netflix and Hulu.

Chromecast

Chromecast has arrived!

But when it comes to hooking up my phone to my TV, I’m still so intimidated by the concept. Wires, cables, connected devices, what the heck is that all about? Shouldn’t you just be able to send things to the TV without all this crap?

Well, apparently now you can.

And apparently now you can do this with your smartphone, tablet AND laptop or computer.

And apparently now you can do all this for just $35.

And apparently now you can also get 3 months of Netflix for free. (And this offer is even available for current Netflix subscribers!)

And, did I mention it’s only $35?

Suck it, Apple

The need for consistency of operating systems and platforms when it comes to Apple is frustrating. I’m sorry, but I’m just not shelling out the big bucks for a Macbook when my Asus laptop works perfectly fine and has saved me quite a chunk of change in comparison. And the cost of an iPad makes me laugh.

I love the idea of being able to sync across all types of platforms. So, sign me up Google. You’ve got me hooked.

Top Ten Digital Marketing and Tech Podcasts

I don’t own a television. Nor do I plan on purchasing one. I haven’t watched television in nearly five weeks (except for a one-day binge on Girl Code–don’t ask me why I did it). I don’t miss TV. I will find a day in the near future to catch up on  Game of Thrones, but I already know what happens. (Hint: people die).

When most people watch TV after work or before bed, I’m either reading a book, listening to music or feeding my latest addiction to podcasts.

That little red bubble on my podcast app icon on my iPhone (which I hate! I miss you Blackberry and Android) constantly reads 200+. Yeah.

top ten digital marketing and tech podcasts

This photograph is proof.

Admittedly, some of these podcasts have kind of been a waste of my time. Some of the sound quality is bad, or it’s not entertaining, it’s bland, not valuable, etc. It has taken me months to figure out which ones are most relevant to me, both for entertainment and for work. So below, I’ve listed a few of my favorite digital marketing and tech podcasts.

Social Media Marketing with Michael Stelzner

Michael Stelzner is one of my favorite social media experts. He always provides really valuable material on his blog, and somehow he doesn’t run out of unique material for podcast listeners. The depths he reaches on these topics with his guests are extremely valuable. For example, the most recent one I listened to was “Facebook Ads and Beyond: What Marketers Need to Know” with guest Jon Loomer. They went on for about 40 minutes about Facebook ads, the Power Editor, Edge Rank, how to run successful ad campaigns and more.

Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield

I love Amy Porterfield, and I often turn to her for all things Facebook. While Mark Zuckerberg’s brain child is her area of expertise, she also knows a ton about all aspects of digital marketing. The sound quality is great, and she is always really well-rehearsed. Check the show notes, because if you’re anything like me, you probably missed something, and the information in her podcasts is not something you want to miss.

High-Income Business Writing with Ed Gandia

Ed Gandia introduced me to the world of white papers. To be completely honest, prior to listening to this podcast, the term “white paper” reminded me of those high school essays with manipulated margins that would help you meet the teacher’s minimum page requirement. Ed Gandia showed me what white papers are all about. Even if white papers aren’t your thing, he provides some great information that is applicable to writers and freelancers alike.

Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn

The energy on Pat Flynn’s podcast is contagious. He is always super stoked, super conversational and super intriguing. I swear he would make golf interesting. Not only does he delve into the topic of setting up passive income streams, but he also discusses a ton of the practicalities of running your own online business. He’s also currently going through a process of building a niche site, and he shares all the ups and downs.

Think Entrepreneurship

Host Pete Sveen does a fabulous job of getting inspiring, powerful and knowledgeable guests on his podcast. It is geared towards entrepreneurs, but even people who aren’t entrepreneurs can certainly benefit from the content produced in this podcast. My personal favorite was guest Fran Tarkenton, former NFL start, current 70-something-year-old entrepreneur.

NPR Techology

I don’t think that any ‘top podcasts’ list would be complete without a mention of NPR. I like to stay up-to-date on all things tech (I guess it makes me feel tech-savvy when in reality I’m pretty dysfunctional on an Android), and this is where I find out much of my information. You’ll learn about the latest and greatest gadgets and gears and tech news with a really awesome crew.

The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes

I originally heard of Lewis Howes via a webinar. During that webinar, he amazed me with some easy action steps on how to get higher search rankings on LinkedIn. I was immediately hooked. After looking into it a bit more, I found out he is an ex-football player. So once again, he won some serious brownie points. He talks about more than just LinkedIn and football on his podcast, and frequently has guests on to help motivate his listeners with inspiring and actionable material on living a life of greatness.

The Suitcase Entrepreneur with Natalie Sisson

Having lived in New Zealand for almost a year, I have a serious soft spot for any Kiwi, and I’m in love with the idea of a ‘suitcase entrepreneur.’ It’s clear that Natalie Sisson is enjoying life and having fun, but when it’s time to get down to business, it’s worth listening up, as she shares her location-independent entrepreneurial tips and interviews.

Tech Stuff by HowStuffWorks.com

I’ve listened to a bunch of tech podcasts. After suffering through far too many dry, bland, personality-less podcasts with poor sound quality, I felt like a zombie (too dramatic?). But, then I came across Tech Stuff, and was INSTANTLY resurrected from my flesh-eating state. I love Tech Stuff because of the high-quality, up-to-date and energetic nature; they take complicated tech-heavy material and make it easy to digest. And that’s important for the technically challenged (like myself).

Entrepreneur on Fire

What I find so fascinating about this podcast is that it is every. Single. Day. Most podcasts are weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly. Not so with John Lee Dumas. He’s got a new guest on daily; I don’t think he sleeps. Or eats. And each of these guests have their own stories, their own failures, their own successes and their own little nuggets of golden information. And there are a lot of those nuggets!

Am I the only one who listens to podcasts so religiously? What podcasts do you listen to?

Twitter Hash Tag Chat Schedule

I LOVE Twitter hash tag chats. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, this obsession explains the random and sporadic influxes of tweets, usually starting with A1, A2, A3, and so on.

For me, nothing beats meeting new people with common interests, as well as connecting with experts on topics which I’d like to know more about. It’s a great way to get some free information, people!!

I’ve spent a lot of time creating and managing a Twitter hash tag chat schedule for myself with all of my favorite chats. When I started doing this, I never really thought about sharing it with the world, or that anyone would actually care. I mean seriously, who has the time for 254977340 chats per week? Besides me, of course. (I swear I have a life!)

My decision to share was sparked by a few inquiries from some of my favorite tweeps, @RTWKatieDays of aroundtheworldinktdays.com and @travelphotogiri of girishmenon.com. If it’s useful for them, I figure it’s got to be useful for some of you!

This list is by NO MEANS a complete list of all of the hash tag chats out there. But, these are my personal favorite chats in which I participate (or just creepily lurk invisibly on TweetChat). They are mostly travel and social media related, with a few outdoorsy and foodie chats thrown in the mix, along with some other randoms.

I’ll try and update this list monthly, adding new chats I’ve come across, and deleting ones which have disappeared into the Twitter-sphere. So if you have any additional insights, be sure to shoot me a note!

Also note that all times are in Eastern Standard Time. For an easy time conversion tool, refer here.

Sunday

12:00PM #SBTC
7:00PM #SundaySupper
8:00PM #RunChat, second and fourth Sunday
9:00PM #BlogChat
10:00PM #LikeableChat
10:00PM #RunChat, first and third Sunday

Monday

12:00PM #AfriChat
2:00PM #GirlsTravel
3:00PM #TravelPics
3:00PM #WIWChat
8:00PM #MMChat
8:00PM #MyBookClub
8:00PM #LeadershipChat
9:00PM #TTOM
9:00PM #InternPro
9:00PM #SocialChat
9:00PM #BlogTrends
10:00PM #SheNowChat

Tuesday

5:30AM #TTOT
12:00PM #InfluenceChat
1:00PM #CareerChat this one doesn’t happen every Tuesday, and I’m still trying to figure it out
2:00PM #CruiseChat
2:00PM #AskAngel
3:30PM #NUTS
6:00PM #GapYearChat
7:00PM #TTOT
8:00PM #FoodChat, every third Tuesday
8:00PM #SMBiz
8:00PM #LinkedInChat
9:00PM #ClimbChat
9:00PM #GetRealChat
9:00PM #BlogGab
9:00PM #FitBlog
10:00PM #DIYWriteChat, every first Tuesday
10:00PM #SMManners

Wednesday

11:00AM #WeGoSolo
11:00AM #BrandChat
12:00PM #RATW
1:00PM #TMUChat, every fourth Wednesday
1:00PM #SMChat
1:30PM #ExpediaChat
2:00PM #BootstrapChat, every first Wednesday
2:00PM #LikeableChat
2:00PM #CMgrChat
2:00PM #TLChat
3:00PM #TWChat
3:00PM #ItalyChat
3:30PM #RTWChat
5:00PM #ATQA
5:00PM #TL_Chat
5:00PM #WJChat
5:30PM #LuxChat, every third Wednesday
6:00PM #KloutChat
8:00PM #ProdChat
8:00PM #SmallBizChat
8:00PM #SonicRevolution
9:00PM #HealthChat
9:00PM #PinChat
9:00PM #WineChat
9:00PM #WSChat, every third Wednesday

Thursday

9:30AM #untravel
11:00AM #MyBlogGuest
12:00PM #NewNomads
12:00PM #InnoChat
12:00PM #SMMeasure
1:30PM #JSETT
3:00PM #TourismChat, every other Thursday
3:00PM #WBChat
3:30PM #TNI
9:00PM #YFEChat
10:00PM #MediaChat

Friday

12:00PM #HikerChat
4:00PM #MCChat

Saturday

1:00PM #BlogBrunch

Is there a different format you think I should use to present this schedule? Do you love hash tag chats as much as I do? Which ones are your favorites?

Getting Over Your Blogging Writer’s Block

My recent relocation has put me in a bit of slump. I’ve hit a huge wall of blogging writer’s block.

In the past year, I’ve gallivanted aimlessly across four continents, returned home to New Jersey, and moved down south to North Carolina. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind.

When I was traveling, inspiration smacked me in the face everywhere I went. I was living and loving life without having to worry about anything except for myself and my pack (and the occasional apache in Turkey).

Then, I returned home just days after the destruction of Hurricane Sandy. It was a jarring transition from the sunny beaches of Thailand to the desolate landscape on the freezing Jersey shore (not to mention we had no heat when a whopping 14 inches of snow was dumped on us just days later!)

With all the spare time on my hands when I returned home, I decided to give myself and my freelancing business an overhaul. I created a new website, broadened my scope, added new services, and raised my rates.

Although I was making some serious changes, I wasn’t finding any inspiration. And recently, with the stress of a big move and scrambling to find the perfect apartment (I can’t be a nomad forever), I’ve been at a loss for inspiration.

Instead of helping myself get out of this blogging writer’s block funk, I figured my blog would write itself and my clients would float to my email inbox and start paying me money for loafing around down south.

This doesn’t happen in real life.

Finally recognizing the need to IMMEDIATELY get back on my game, I turned to everyone’s trusty old pal, Google, and sought out some inspiration. I read several blogs written by inspiring individuals, but it just wasn’t doing it for me.

Some more digging around in Google, and I found my hidden gem, my diamond in the rough.

WhatToWrite.org is my new favorite inspirational blogging tool. It’s simple enough, and it takes just a few minutes to get going.

First, you must identify your audience and what it is that you aim to teach them.

Blogging Writer's Block

Screenshot: WhatToWrite.org

You are then taken through a series of questions about problems your audience faces, mistakes they make, areas of confusion, and resources that you’ve used. Each question is allotted a two minute time limit to type in as many answers as you can think of. At the end, you can enter your email to have the list sent to you, along with the option of subscribing to weekly writing prompts.

Blogging Writer's Block

Screenshot: WhatToWrite.org

I’ve only just used this service today and yesterday, and I already have a slew of ideas to work with. I’ve not yet received my writing prompt emails, but I’m excited to see how those turn out. I have a good feeling about it. Now it’s just finding the time to sit down and execute!

Do you ever get writer’s block? Where do you find ideas for blog posts? Are there any tools or resources that you use?