My four-year-old grandson Noah was visiting the other day when I happened to mention something about New York. “Oh,” he exclaimed, “that’s where Lady Liberty is.” I nodded in agreement and was reminded once again about the impact of travel.

Noah was a mere two years old when his family made a trip to New York. He still talks about it. And he still calls it Yew Nork.

Years ago, I became a fan of Helene Hanff after reading her most popular book, 84, Charing Cross. I identified with this frustrated Anglophile who eventually found herself making multiple visits to London.

In a later book, Apple of My Eye, she wrote about her adopted hometown, New York, and confessed she’d never visited the Statue of Liberty or several other famous landmarks.

That’s not unusual, of course. I have London friends who have never toured the Tower of London, nor explored the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s easy to overlook treasures in our own backyards when we are neighbors.

What a shame.

Even if you don’t live in a spot that draws visitors from far and near, exploring your own part of the world can be a fascinating undertaking. At the very least, you’ll be able to entertain your family at the dinner table with tales of your local adventures.

At the very most, you’ll be giving your curiosity a wake-up call.

Spend a couple of hours now and then getting lost on purpose. Visit a new local business. Stroll through the grounds at your community college. Do a photo essay of your area. Or go looking for a community problem that you can help solve. Get connected while seeing familiar places with fresh eyes.

You may, of course, wish to travel beyond your backyard, but you can keep your travel bug well fed without a passport.

There are some hidden benefits in changing your scenery. This piece from Lifehack illustrates that beautifully:

15 Reasons Why Frequent Travelers Are More Likely To Be Successful 

At the end of last week I made a whirlwind trip to Denver. It’s a trip I’ve made dozens of times so I was nicely relaxed and looking forward to seeing some old friends. I was also teaching three seminars at Colorado Free University, a marvelous adult ed program that I’ve had the pleasure of working with for a long time.

What I didn’t anticipate is how this familiar trip was going to be a festival of friendliness. When my Aunt Marge was alive and I’d go to visit her, she always encouraged me to tell her about my travels. “You meet the most interesting people,” she’d declare.

She was absolutely correct and this trip was full of interesting folk from beginning to end.

Because of my respiratory problems, I’ve learned to order a wheelchair at the Mile High City airport. My pusher was a young man who told me he’d arrived in Denver 10 months earlier from Sudan speaking no English. I was surprised by that revelation since we carried on a conversation during the entire ride. His resourcefulness was inspiring.

When I checked in at the Doubletree, my hotel of choice, I noticed a sign on the counter saying something like “Let us know. We’ll make it right.” I knew they meant it since I’d had a problem on a previous visit, sent an email to the manager as I was leaving the hotel, and had an email from him and a call from his staff apologizing (and canceling my bill) when I got home.

That unusually attentive response earned them a customer for life.

Then there was a three hour dinner with my longtime buddy Karyn Ruth White. As usual, it was three hours of hysteria. What else could I expect from a former stand-up comedian whose current mission is to teach other to manage stress with laughter?

The next day I had two seminars that included all sorts of interesting people. Was surprised to see Scott Poindexter in my I Hate Marketing class and excited to hear about his new online business to share his passion for environmentalism.

That evening one of the students in my Establish Yourself as an Expert class was CFU instructor Vikki Walton who entertained us with her adventures in Backyard Farming, a new passion that she now teaches to others.

When Dorinda Mangan, my volunteer chauffeur drove me back to the airport, I started telling her about my classes. “You meet the most interesting people,” she said, echoing my Aunt Marge.

My second airport wheelchair pusher was also a delight. Just 18-years-old, she to me that she’s currently in college, plans to become a pediatrician, has a burning desire to travel and said she’d discovered how simply smiling and greeting travelers as she whizzes through the airport seems to brighten their day.

I wanted to adopt her.

Then I boarded my flight where I was greeted by Steve, one of the most entertaining flight attendants ever. As I came on I commented that it smelled like they were baking cinnamon rolls. “It’s my new cologne,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

After he had all of us laughing during the normally boring requisite announcements, he continued spreading good cheer during his trips down the aisle. When I complained that I wished they’d still serve cookies instead of just pretzels and peanuts, he explained I need to take a longer flight since those are reserved for cross country passengers.

A few minutes later, he handed me a bag of contraband cookies.

I’m not usually sorry to land, but we were having such fun, I hated for the flight to be over.

It was a long day, with Making a Living Without a Job in the morning, two flights (Burbank via Las Vegas) and a drive home.

Back in Valencia, I made a quick stop at the post office and was wondering what in the world I was going to feed myself since I hadn’t had time to eat much all day. Imagine my delight when I got to my doorstep and discovered that my daughter Jennie had left a lovely home cooked dinner for me.

As I unlocked my front door, I realized I was energized, not exhausted, from my whirlwind trip. “Oh, I love my business,” I announced to my empty living room.

Love, laughter and learning. Think I’ve discovered the secret of a perfect trip.

Business names, like book titles, matter a great deal. I confess that I’m often intrigued and horrified by the names people give their enterprises.

Do we really need another beauty salon named A Cut Above?

Nevertheless, I realize that finding the perfect name can be a challenge and sometimes we are so eager to get going that we opt for an okay moniker knowing we can always change it if a more inspired choice comes along.

You might adopt my hobby and start paying closer attention to business names that you find attention-getting—and those that repel.

When I picked up the crossword puzzle in last Sunday’s LA Times, I was amused to see that the theme of the puzzle was Funny Business. The puzzle’s creator explained that all the names used had been found via an Internet search.

Most of them are puns and some of them are especially clever. Here are the clues followed by the answers (all of which I managed to figure out).

Fromage shop’s name? C’est Cheese

Antique store’s name? Junk and Disorderly

Coffee shop’s name? Brewed Awakening

Ambulatory equipment store’s name? Cane and Able

Bouquet shop’s name? Florist Gump

Swimwear shop’s name? Beach Yourself Up

Vintage record store’s name? Vinyl Resting Place (a personal favorite of mine)

Tailor shop’s name? Sew It Seams

Maternity shop’s name? Womb to Grow

Okay. It’s your turn. What clever, funny, weird business names have you come across?

In the early days of launching my business, I never turned down a speaking invitation or media interview. That led to all sorts of surprises.

On a warm Saturday evening one September, I got a call from my travel agent. “You’re on television,” she announced. The cable program produced by our library system was rerunning an interview I had done months earlier.

Soon after it was first broadcast, I called to make an appointment with my dentist. As soon as the receptionist found out who she was talking to, she said, “Dr. Klein just saw you on television.”

A couple of months later, I went in for my annual physical. When my doctor came in, she didn’t greet me with her usual, “How are you, Barbara?” Instead, she burst into the room exclaiming, “I heard you on public radio!”

Shortly after that, I was in my hometown for an uncle’s funeral. I dashed into the church bathroom before the service and was cornered by a woman I barely remembered who demanded to know if I had been on television. I assured her that I had, although she wasn’t certain about where or when she’d seen me. “I thought that was you,” she said smugly.

After all this time, I suppose I should be getting blase about this sort of recognition, but I’m not.

Which brings me to the point of this. While any savvy entrepreneur welcomes free publicity for their business, shyness or inexperience in dealing with the media keeps too many great stories from being told.

But putting yourself in the spotlight can have an impact far greater than you can ever imagine.

The more venues you can find, the more diverse your promotion efforts, the more familiarity you create. This all adds to your credibility and, ultimately, profitability.

It just makes sense to set aside time regularly to generate publicity.

Write a tip sheet and turn it into a news release.

Contact the producer of a local talk show.

Call up your neighborhood newspaper and pitch a story idea to a reporter whose work you have liked.

Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine.

Don’t be shy about blowing your own horn. You never know who will say, “Hey, I saw you on television!”

The first goal I ever set for myself was to never have two years that were exactly the same. I had found it frighteningly boring to spend my time going to jobs in the same place at the same time with the same people.

I wanted to welcome surprises and unexpected delights. Self-employment has made that possible in ways I never dreamed it could at the beginning of this journey.

Although much of my work is done at home, I’m always working on new projects and have found all sorts of ways to mix things up. Even so, the past week managed to surpass some of the others in terms of variety and pure enjoyment.

It began on November 14 when I joined my sisters Nancy and Becky in Santa Barbara for a splendid evening listening to author Alexander McCall Smith.  Not only was he the first speaker I’ve heard talk while wearing a kilt, his extraordinary storytelling skills kept us laughing for ninety minutes.

This was even more special since I’ve spent the past several months reading his 44 Scotland Street series. Obviously, I’m not alone in loving McCall Smith who is stunningly prolific. He also has something like 25,000,000 copies of his books in print.

The next day, my friend Judy Miranda fetched me and we headed to Phoenix for the second Fund Your Life Overseas Conference. Judy has an import business called Global Hand Artisans and is devoted to selling handmade goods she uncovers in places such as Guatemala.

Despite the long drive, it was great fun to catch up with her since we hadn’t seen each other for sometime. In the interim, we had both added some new stamps to our passports so we had many travel tales to share.

On Sunday, the 16th, the conference began and it was 2 1/2 days of non-stop talking and learning. I met old friends and made new ones. I talked to attendees from all over the country.

Equally fun was seeing speakers, some of them already expats, who shared great how-to information on creating portable businesses. I did three talks aimed at helping participants build their entrepreneurial mindset—something that’s as useful as a passport if you want to see the world and get paid at the same time.

We headed back to California on Wednesday morning after stopping for breakfast at the home of Judy’s friends. Judy had lived in Phoenix for many years and loves reconnecting.

As we were sitting at the kitchen table with Sarah and Larry Soller, I was surprised to discover that Larry was also an ex-Minnesotan. Even more intriguing to me was finding out that we were English majors at the same college at the same time.

Larry also was active in theater and spent many years as a college theater professor himself. Although he no longer teaches on a regular basis, Larry is active doing voiceover work and is an enthusiastic volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

The entire week was a glorious reminder that the world is full of people who can enrich our lives—if we take time to find them and pay attention. Or as Caroline Myss reminds us, “We evolve at the rate of the tribe we’re plugged into.”

I was startled when the Starbucks barista handed me my coffee and said it had been paid for. “Who is my benefactor?” I asked. She pointed to a young woman with a slightly Goth appearance who had been ahead of me in line.

Although she and I hadn’t spoken, I suspected she’d been eavesdropping on my conversation with the fellow who was part of a group headed to a church camp, as was she.

I went over to thank her and discovered that random acts of kindness seemed to be her specialty. She modestly accepted my thanks and said she was always on the lookout for ways to share with strangers.

Years before the term random acts of kindness was coined, David Dunn wrote a wonderful book called Try Giving Yourself Away. Dunn first came upon his hobby when he gave away an advertising idea to a railroad. Later he found enormous pleasure in seeing his idea used in ads at railway stations and hotel lobbies.

He writes, “It was thus I made the important discovery that anything which makes one glow with pleasure is beyond money calculation, in this world where there is altogether too much grubbing and too little glowing.

“I began to experiment with giving-away and discovered it to be great fun. I discovered, too, that successful giving-away has to be cultivated. There is a knack to it, just as there is to successful getting.

“Opportunities for reaping dividends of happiness are fleeting. You have to act quickly or they elude you. But that only adds zest to the exercise.”

If you’re in the market for a new hobby, consider the examples of my young benefactor and David Dunn. I have a hunch that the people we see going about their daily business with a smile on their face have already discovered the joy of anonymously making life a little bit better for people who will never repay them—or even know their names.

An old adage says, “Tell me who your heroes are and I’ll tell you who you are.”  We all need living models of success—even if we have to look long and hard before we find those people who inspire us to do more and be more.

When we don’t  actively look for people who inspire us, we lose the capacity for genuine appreciation. That spills over into under appreciating our own gifts and achievements.

Whether you’ve got such a list of people or it’s time to start one, here’s a little exercise to help you pay closer attention.

For years I’ve been saying that my fantasy trip would be a very long train ride—perhaps across Canada—with a stack of books I’d been meaning to read. I decided to take that vision a bit farther and plan a dream trip aboard the Orient Express.

After a visit to their website, I chose the Venice—Prague—Paris route. Now I just had to fill up the train.

Who would I love to have with me? Why did I pick the ones I did? Take a look.

° My family—because we’ve already learned how to travel together peacefully.

° Anne Lamott—because she’s a rare combination of wise and funny.

° Bill Bryson—because he’s a brilliant storyteller who makes me laugh out loud.

° Richard Branson—because anyone whose motto is “Fun is Fundamental” belongs on this trip.

° Whoever writes the copy for Innocent Drinks because they’re wacky.

° Elizabeth Gilbert—because she might be ready for another trip and she speaks Italian.

° Billy Collins—because he turns stories into poems that I love.

° Paul McCartney—so I could gaze at him adoringly and he might give us a few tunes.

° Rick Steves—because he could fill us in on what we’re seeing.

° Alexander McCall Smith—because he’s one of the best storytellers writing today.

I realized as I was making out my list of fellow passengers that every one of them was selected because I wanted to hear their stories. I’d also love to eavesdrop on conversations between them.

You’ll also notice that there are no politicians or overexposed celebrities on the list. In fact, even though many of the passengers are quite well known (and McCartney more than well known), they each have a bit of mystique about them.

Imagine what five days on board with this group could be like.

If you were filling up a train or a yacht or a retreat center, who would you most want to have along?

Make out your list and then don’t be surprised if you find yourself in their presence. It might not be on the Orient Express, nor all of them at once, of course.

As it happens,  I’ve spent time with all but three of the people on my list—and I expect the others will show up in due time.

I headed into my birthday week thinking it was time for a fresh inventory. As I was pondering this little project, I realized (once again) what a surprising life I’ve had. It certainly has exceeded my early expectations.

I played around with that a bit and began to wonder what my expectations had been fifty years ago. (No one is more startled than I am that I was an adult fifty years ago!)

Back in 1964, I was 22, newly married and in my second year of teaching high school English and speech. I was still living in the small town in southern Minnesota where I grew up, although my parents and siblings had moved to Santa Barbara three years earlier.

I was already beginning to suspect that I was short changing myself, but my crystal ball was fuzzy.

It would be half a dozen years before I began finding the tools and inspiration that would begin moving me in a happier direction.

Thinking back to the person I was in 1964, I realized that there were several things I feared were beyond my reach, even though I secretly longed for them.

So besides the Internet, which was far beyond my imagination at that time, what else has surprised me? What did I not know fifty years ago?

Here are the biggest surprises:

° That I would find work that I loved so much I’d never want to stop doing it.

° Learning is a lifetime adventure.

° That self-employment is the best personal growth project ever invented.

° That inspiration is neither rare nor noisy.

° That my life would be filled with people who had dreams and determination.

° When I know What I want, I can always figure out How to make it happen.

° That I’d fill up several passports and fly more than a million miles.

° That I’d love spending time with my smart siblings.

° That I’d choose to live in Las Vegas.

° That genuine security is nothing like the things I had been told constituted security.

° That Sedona, Venice and grandparenting were even better than I’d anticipated.

If you are a reader of Joyfully Jobless News, this may be familiar.  When I came across it again the other day, I decided it was worth a second visit. This simple idea has added enormously to my productivity and fun.


The sky was overcast and the wind was frigid, but there we stood huddled together with hundreds of others for three shivering hours. It was our second day in Amsterdam and we were in line to see what we had come for—the Van Gogh Museum.

My siblings and I had been planning this trip for months. Hundreds of emails hammered out the details. Eventually, a theme emerged.

What began as a trip to Provence evolved into what I named Stalking Van Gogh. As it turned out, we not only stalked, we shivered.

My brother Jim is the painter in our family and had been an admirer for years. I had rather recently discovered my passion for Van Gogh’s work and wanted to see as many paintings as I could with my own two eyes.

I decided the time had come to finally read Irving Stone’s Lust for Life, a fictional account of the artist’s life. Of course, it added to my enthusiasm for the upcoming voyage.

After Amsterdam, we traveled by train (my favorite way to go) to Provence where we spent a week in St. Remy which is also the location of the asylum where Van Gogh did some of his most prolific work. We visited Arles, dined at the Yellow Cafe featured in one of his well-known paintings, saw other places he’d painted there.

We ended our stay with four days in Paris. Unbeknownst to us, a glorious surprise was waiting for us there.

On our first day, a Sunday, we headed to Musee d’Orsay, oblivious to the fact that an enormous exhibit was running with Van Gogh’s work gathered from around the world. Paintings from museums and private collections adorned several rooms in the museum.

It was hard to leave all that magnificence, but having spent all that time with Van Gogh as a focus, made the trip extraordinary. It was not the first time, however, that I’d taken a trip with a special focus as my guide.

When I first began traveling to London, I decided that instead of just going there, each trip would have a theme. One time I explored gardens. Another time it was architecture. Then there was one of my favorite visits when I scouted booklover’s London.

I started assigning themes to other projects and discovered that getting things done  got easier. You’ve probably used this yourself, perhaps when you decided to throw a party and then got the idea to give it a theme. Suddenly, ideas and resources became visible.

You may even discover that necessary, but boring, projects become less unpleasant once you give them a title. For example, I decided to begin a daily uncluttering project and although I knew it was a good idea, I wasn’t feeling a lot of enthusiasm about it until I named it Lighten Up.

A well-chosen theme reminds us of our ultimate goal. It gives us the big picture.

Whether you are starting a new exercise program or creating another profit center or building your speaking skills, start by naming the theme. Decision-making becomes easier. You’ll waste less time doing things that don’t fit. Focus comes naturally.

Best of all, a theme unlocks your imagination.

The message I got about work when I was growing up pointed out that there was good work and bad work. Good work meant you didn’t have to sweat.

Nobody mentioned that sweat-free work probably would involve sitting at a desk all day doing repetitive chores.

It wasn’t until I became obsessed with the role of work in our lives that I began to challenge such limiting notions. Eventually, I came to think that the best work called us to use our minds, bodies and spirits.

That, of course, is also why the concept of having multiple profit centers appeals to so many people who always felt crippled by the Single Lifetime Occupation notion. It’s always fascinating to see how people who have thrown off that SLO idea put things together for themselves.

One of those people is Jason Mraz who keeps building more and more fans for his music. He also is enthusiastic about his other role as an avocado farmer.  

It comes as no surprise that he offers some strong advice to others. Here’s what he has to say about creating a rich, full life:

Go be that staving artist you’re afraid to be. Open up that journal and get poetic finally.

Volunteer. Suck it up and travel.

You were not born here to work and pay taxes. You were put here to be part of a vast organism to explore and create.

Stop putting it off. The world has much more to offer than what’s on fifteen televisions at TGIFriday’s.

Take pictures. Scare people. Shake up the scene.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

You’ll thank yourself for it. 

I dare you.