When Suffering, Smile

So let’s get started with all the appropriate waivers: I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, seek professional medical or psychological help if you’re feeling an emergency situation, 9 out of 10 dentists probably do not recommend this, call your mother, and my dog ate my homework. That being said, the past several days have been rough. I haven’t felt exactly ill, but I certainly have not felt well. Pile on the work, add a dash of extra stuff to do around the house, and there we have it: a sour mental state.

My wife and better half has even lovingly told me over the past few days, “You’re very abrupt.” I think she used the term ‘mic drop’ in there somewhere, but she made the point. When we kicked off the day yesterday (Monday), I would say I had a full case of the blues. I was contemplating not going to work, which for me, is a serious matter. I actually sat down for a little while and did not move. I felt the pull of inertia rooting me to the spot. After several moments of staring at the fan which was blowing air into my face in front of me, a quote popped into my head, “When you’re really suffering, you have to smile.” “What a dumb thing to say,” I mentally responded to the quote.

After a moment’s mental searching, I realized where I had heard it. It was advice given during an interview with an ultrarunner – you know, these crazy people who run 50k, 100k, 100 miles, and even more. I don’t remember the exact ultrarunner, but honestly they all say about the same thing. Their point is that unless you’ve really done some serious injury to your body, you can overcome the general suffering (muscle aches, random internal pains, etc.) of hours and hours of continuous movement. Overcoming the suffering starts with the mind – sort of. There are some great books and studies on the market covering this in much greater detail, but in essence the science behind endurance says that action and thought are very much linked. So, smiling for instance, actually lifts our spirits and enables us to endure more. Score one for the long distance running crazies.

Yesterday morning, I smiled. I also dressed more professionally than usual. I didn’t have any important meetings on the day, but the professionalism of the clothes also helped propel me forward. Silly, I know. Here is the funny thing: I had an extremely productive day. I had a breakthrough on a topic that had been weighing me down. I had some new administrivia come up and instead of kicking the can down the road, I faced it head on and came to a nearly immediate solution. On the whole, I’d say that I won the day.

So here is to ‘smiling when suffering,’ ‘faking it until you make it,’ ‘a body in motion stays in motion,’ and all the other conventional wisdom for overcoming a bit of adversity. Wishing you a smile filled, roll-that-rock-up-the-hill kind of a sunshiny day.

The Curiosity of Premonitions

Have you ever had a premonition come true? Have you ever changed your mind on something because of a premonition? I’m generally not one for “woo woo” stuff, but lately I’ve come to trust premonitions more and more.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I left our house while feeling completely in disarray. I don’t mean our house was messy, I mean our internal compasses were swirling. We were headed to the airport for our trip to Portugal and something felt wrong about it to both of us. Neither of us knew what the problem was, but we felt like we were headed for trouble. Did we leave the stove on and the house would burn down while we were gone? Well it turned out we were in for some dissatisfying travel experiences and we’d get a chance to check on that stove.

We got to our local John Glenn International Gateway Airport in our beloved home city and things started quickly going awry. I had neglected to take my camping knife out of my backpack and had it discovered in security. Oops. After going through the explanations and machinations of mailing it back to myself, we moved on toward the gate. But first, a meal. 50 minutes later, we had completed our over-priced mediocre-at-best supper and were ready to make our way to the gate. But not so fast. The texts were coming in: “Your flight has been delayed.” It took about another 90 minutes and three more delays for our flight to go past the point of connection in Washington D.C. and so, just like that, we were cancelled and rebooked on the exact same flight the next day. We had just lost 24 hours in Lisbon.

We called the airline. On hold. We called the travel company. “Talk to the airline,” they said. After an hour of getting no love, we were sent back to baggage claim to wait for another hour to pick up our bags and then to make the drive back home. As I’ve written before, we Don’t Expect Benevolence When Traveling, but this was the pits. While waiting for the bags, I looked at Melanie and said, “Well this explains that bad feeling I had about leaving the house.” She smiled knowingly and simply said, “Me too.”

For the past several nights, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night to the disturbing thought of my dog getting hurt. Today I figured out why. Today he was scheduled to go to the groomers for a bit of a spa treatment. To say my dog is special kind of doesn’t do him justice. He is the most athletic, active, and intelligent (if not always for his own good) dog I’ve ever known. The last time he was at this place he climbed out of a 6 foot tall fence 3 times before they figured out how to contain him. He’s now 10 years old and hasn’t slowed down a bit. I had the sneaking suspicion that he was going to attempt that same climb and this time get really hurt. And at 10 years old, recovery is not an easy thing. So this time, I trusted my gut and I didn’t let him go. Who knows, maybe I’m going whacko in my middle age. But I just didn’t think it was worth the risk of not trusting my gut for some trimmed nails and a shampooing.

Do you get premonitions? Do you listen or ignore them?

My Mother is My Hero

My lovely Mom and me

My mother is the nicest person I know. She has kind words for everyone and she would give away her last loaf of bread. But she isn’t a pushover either. She’ll probably blush if she ever reads this, but one of my fondest memories of my Mom is this: After some completely unreasonable lady was yelling at her for something completely silly in the parking lot of our local soccer fields, my Mom flipped the lady the middle finger and spun out in the gravel parking lot. As a frame of reference, this had to be 1980 or so and my Mom would have been in her late 20’s. As we pulled away, she paused and said to me, “That wasn’t very nice. I shouldn’t have done that.” Oh, but the memory was sealed. She’s a sweetheart, but no pushover.

My mother is wise. She is discerning and knows when something isn’t right. But she chooses her words carefully to deliver the right message at the right time. There are so many examples to list, but I’ll pull from a more recent conversation. After the dust had settled from my Dad’s death and some of the hurt had started to subside, my Mom and I went out to dinner in a lovely little town of Delaware, Ohio. We met up and went to a local pizza shop for an absolutely fantastic dinner. This was an adult conversation about the past and the state of things today. When the conversation turned to Dad, Mom and I were both kind but realistic. Simply put, Dad didn’t have the tools to deal with his demons. We both articulated our understanding of this fact in our own way with all due respect. We both know that all of us have our burdens to bear. Neither of us blamed Dad for reacting in the way he did – even if we didn’t agree with it at the time. With complete and unconditional love, we celebrated my Dad that evening while looking out at life without him. I had always known that my Mom was wise, but that evening she showed me the depth of her human wisdom.

My mother is quietly confident in her faith. My mom was the backbone of our family’s adherence to Christian virtues. She took us to church when we needed it most. More importantly, she took herself to church when she needed it most. She became a Sunday school teacher, she stood up in front of a large congregation and sang her heart out, she taught my sister and me right from wrong; but treated us with kid gloves when we didn’t get it quite right.

My mother is able-bodied. Now a widower, Mom has bought her own condo, moved herself in and continues to chip away at the unpacking. She recognizes that she’s got a long life to live and a lot to contribute. Instead of throwing in the towel and pursuing her own interests, she serves her family, her community, and her church.

My mother just wants to help. If something needs done, Mom will be there. It doesn’t matter what she has going on or how she feels, service comes first. She gets value and purpose out of helping. Although I ask her not to, she still wants to give money to people on the street. She helps my sister with her school-aged children. She helps me with my not-so-school-aged children. She’s happiest when she’s helping, so give her something to do.

My mother gets buyer’s remorse before she buys something for herself – and then puts it back. My dad was the one who pointed this out. She will go shopping and buy for others happily. On occasion, she’ll find something she likes. It might go into the shopping cart. While she wheels around the store, her wheels are turning. Before she goes to the checkout, she puts it back. Its a sight to see. Dad used to – on occasion – go back and get the item and make the purchase himself. Now that I’m somewhere like her in my own ability to shop. I don’t think its actually buyer’s remorse. I think Mom is happy and she recognizes that stuff is just stuff. She recognizes that getting new stuff is a short run satisfaction at best and that in the long run, what really matters cannot be found on a shelf at a department store.

My mother is a saint. During my dad’s darkest times, he was tough to live with. In my own words, his behavior bordered on self-torture from the inside out. That came with health ramifications. Even when my dad wasn’t in and out of the hospital, there was a lot to clean up after. My mom handled it. I honestly don’t know how she did it. I went through a period of darkness in my first marriage and I wasn’t able to see it through. But Mom is tougher than me and that’s why she’s a saint.

My mother isn’t perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I know Mom isn’t perfect. She had and has her foibles just like all the rest of us. But if anything, that’s another reason to put her on the pedestal on this Mother’s Day. She accepts herself for who she is, she contributes with everything that she can, and for that and everything else that I’ve listed, my mother is my hero.

I love you Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

A New Beginning

I originally started Quixote Goes as a travel blog. It was going to be a space where I wrote about planning, experiencing, and reflecting on travel. But shortly after I started it, my Dad got sick and went into the hospital for intensive care. After a 5-week battle with illness, he passed away. It wasn’t a total shock. His health hadn’t been the greatest over the past years. However, losing your father will cause you to reevaluate what’s important. At that time, keeping up a travel blog wasn’t near the top of the list.
More than a year has passed and I’ve been getting the motivation to write again. However, I’ve decided to expand the focus of Quixote Goes beyond travel. Since my Dad’s passing, I’ve become a different person. I still love to travel, but there’s more. In 2017, I ran the marathon that I contemplated in 2016 and then some. I also switched to a whole foods, plant-based diet. In addition, I began actively pursuing a mindfulness practice. As a result of these endeavors, I’ll open the topic list of this blog accordingly.


Over the past several weeks, I reflected on the name Quixote Goes. Does it still fit with this expanded subject matter list? Does the subject matter list even go together? How many Ohio-based, 40-something, office-working, imperfectly vegan, marathon running, fledgling zen buddhists who like to travel are there in the world, anyway? In the end, I decided to simply go with it. And like my beloved character Don Quixote, I’ll just have to see where the adventure goes.

Selecting a Travel Destination


How did you decide to go there? When talking to friends and family about travel, I frequently get that question. On our recent trip to Europe, we did a stopover in Iceland and it brought more than a few inquiries. We’re now in the midst of deciding between going back to Iceland later in the year or heading to Montreal, Canada this summer. As we work our way through that process, I thought I would turn it into a blog post, which might help inspire readers to select a fun destination for summer. 

Make a list:

Melanie and I keep a running list of places we want to go and then use it in our annual planning process that includes budgeting for travel. Our typical sources for deciding on destinations are travel magazines, social media, friends and family, and occasssional work travel. I joined Instagram (username @troywgregory) a few years ago. Some of the users that I follow on Instagram were posting amazing photos from all over the world and that, along with my lovely, nomadic wife, lit a burning desire to go see some of these places first hand. As the travel bug took hold of us, we began to seek out travel magazine articles (Conde Nast Traveler is my current favorite). After subscribing, we discovered that we could get a lot of content by following the magazines on social media or by signing up for their free email lists. For instance, I now follow CN Traveler on Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat; all of which offers slightly different yet equally inspiring content. Finally, as the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together. We’ve come across quite a few people in our daily lives who also like to travel and they have great stories to tell about their destinations. 
We found ourselves jotting down notes and creating non-permanent lists in notebooks, but the travel destination ideas were coming in more quickly than we could keep organized, so we wanted a better solution. Obviously the list can take any format, but we use Wunderlist, a truly simple mobile and desktop app for making and sharing checklists. We maintain an in-app travel destination list that either of us can add to or check off as complete. I could go on and on about the criteria we use to add a destination to our list, but it simply revolves around our interests. For instance, we really like live sporting events. Well, I should say that I really like live sporting events and that my wife loves me, any dazzling spectacle, and to travel – in no certain order. So… we’ve been prioritizing travel to some of the bigger and more historic locations for live sporting events over the past few years. We’ve seen the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, a Red Sox game at baseball’s oldest and weirdest: Fenway Park, we’ve been to a Cleveland Cavs home game (no stretch for us as Ohio natives) and for me, the top of the bucket list check mark was seeing El Clasico: Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain. In all cases, we took the opportunity to go see the city (or more) that we were visiting and had some great experiences along the way. The tip here is to dream big. I’ve been an FC Barcelona fan since 1978, but I never thought that I’d actually make the trip. And yet I have, now twice! Put those big, audacious goals on the list and it might be surprising just how accessible they become.
We organize our destination list into long weekends or weeklong visits depending on what there is to do and the complexity of travel from our home. My wife and I call ourselves “tapas people” because we both like a small sampling of a lot of different things. Therefore, we find long weekends or a touring vacation with several destinations most appealing. Note: after talking with several non-Americans, we’ve decided that “tapas people” is a charming name for “American travelers,” because we Americans apparently have a reputation for hurry-up vacationing. Whether we’re “tapas travelers” or simply Americans, Melanie and I are just not the sort of people who can schedule a weeklong trip to the beach and unwind. After about 3 days, we’ll both be on the search for an Internet cafe so we can begin planning our next adventure. I would like to point out that this kind of self-knowledge is vitally important when selecting and planing a trip. Or better yet, having this kind of knowledge of everyone in the group you’re planning for is critical because it helps prioritize destinations, transportation methods, and itineraries. Our most recent trip abroad included our two young adult children as well as my son’s girlfriend and the itinerary took quite a while to develop in order to accommodate everyone’s interests and needs. 

Selecting the destination:

As I mentioned above, we have an annual planning process. Explaining our planning process could probably be a blog post by itself, but I’ll try to briefly describe it here. Several years ago when my wife and I were getting organized in our new relationship, we sat down and talked about our big directional goals. Near the end of every year, we have a formal discussion to reevaluate those goals and then set sub-goals for the coming year. In recent years, one top goal that has emerged has been to prioritize experiences over material things, which results in travel. Obviously, we take care of household necessities first, but we really do look at travel experience as a gift that’s much more rewarding than – for instance – having every possible cable channel that only seems to motivate us to stay home and huddle around the tube. We include the kids in our directional goals as well. We took our family of 6 (and added a cousin -why not?) to New York City a couple of years ago for the family Christmas instead of giving material gifts. The kids still talk about that trip and look forward to the next one. As we go through our planning process, we look at our available budget and then consult our list to pick what we would like to do.  
When making our destination selection, we factor in the timing of related events as well. For example, we knew that one of the best midfielders of all time for FC Barcelona (Xavi Hernandez) was leaving the club at the end of the 2014-15 season. So we prioritized our trip that included the big game at Camp Nou for my 40th Birthday celebration. On a more somber note, the other obvious “related events” that we also consider is security. The BBC offers current events news for most countries around the world and I usually begin immersing myself in my destination’s local events a couple of months ahead of time. While the US State Department website doesn’t offer a lot of specifics, it’s also a good idea to check their listing of travel advisories before making plans. When we have a couple of top ideas, we’ll run through some quick pricing on flights, hotels and other details to make sure we can meet the budget. Once confirmed, we usually have our direction for the year set and the trip planning process begins. We start up to 6 months beforehand for something like a a multi-week trip to Europe and as little as a week for a spur of the moment weekend trip. I’ll provide more details on trip planning in a future post. Occasionally, we’ll run across low cost opportunities and we may add a short trip to a destination from the list, but most of the time our trips result from a very purposeful planning and budgeting process. Hopefully, this post will inspire a few readers to start their own list and to perhaps go see something new.
Want more information about a topic mentioned or have your own story to share? Let’s connect! Send me your destination selection insights or any related travel story to troy.gregory@live.com.
#discover #travel #destinationselection #travellist #quixotegoes #iceland #spain #barcelona #sports #sportstravel #fcbarcelona #bostonredsox #bosox #neworleans #sugarbowl #cleveland #cavaliers #cavs #realmadrid #elclasico #newyorkcity #NYC #beginningtravel

Quixote Goes

An Introduction

Is that a 4 armed giant I see up ahead?!? I’ve finally bitten the bullet and started a blog. I think this makes me splash number 233,658,092 in the proverbial sea of bloggers. I won’t bother with how I intend to be unique or notably different – because let’s be honest – I probably won’t. Quixote Goes is going to be a travel-centric blog in which I cover not only my travels, but also hopefully helpful hints, tips, and allegations to help my dear readers in their endeavors.

A few tidbits about me: My name is Troy and I work to live (instead of living to work) at a major US financial institution, so my blog is in no way about my workplace or any of its affiliates. I pursue several passions outside of work: I’m first and foremost a family man and I’m blessed with a lovely wife, a blended family including 4 kids ranging from elementary school to college, 2 dogs, and a pet bunny. I love soccer and I am a die hard culé so Barcelona will get a lot of travel attention. I like to play soccer, run distances from 5k to hopefully completing my first full marathon this year, and I’m a leisurely bicyclist. I am based in the United States Midwest, which allows me an affordable lifestyle to pursue my passions. Obviously, I enjoy traveling and have been through much of the United States. I have also repeatedly traveled to Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, and Western Europe. Finally, I love to read, which brings me to the blog title: Quixote Goes.

As those familiar Cervantes’ works, Don Quixote was a gentlemen who had a decent, comfortable home, but was drawn to leave for periods of time in order to pursue adventures as a knight errant. With best intentions, Quixote was sometimes delusional in how he saw the world, which inadvertently produced his adventures. Like Quixote, I have felt the pangs of my own folly during my travels and I hope to share not only the humor in it but hopefully some lessons learned that will help others avoid my mistakes. But I’m not always errant. Sometimes I come across a really incredible place, travel technology, activity, or people and I’d like to share those experiences as well.

Coming soon

A significant portion of my family and I just got back from Europe and I wrote a travelogue during my trip. I’ll be posting some fun stories from that trip here. In addition, my wife and I have just decided on a Canadian road trip for later in July so I’ll be posting about the planning process as well as some fun pictures and posts from the trip. My wife and I also travel for some of our “races.” While we aren’t really competitive enough to say we’re racing, we still participate in the odd 5k, half-marathon, and as I hinted to above a full marathon in Chicago later this year.
I’m looking forward to this. Hopefully it produces more than the occasional rueful countenance.
– Troy