20 Questions to Ask Yourself

20 questionsBy JP Chartier

Sarasosa99@hotmail.com

How well do you know yourself? It’s surprising to find that very few people really know themselves. Socrates stated the importance of doing so more than 2,000 years ago when he famously said, “Know thyself.” You don’t get to know ‘thyself’ simply by growing up and growing old though, it takes a conscious effort – you do it with intention and purpose. I believe that getting to know yourself is one of the most important things you can do to improve the quality of your life.

How you choose to answer the following questions can influence and direct the path of your life. Your answers will show you specific areas in your life that need special attention. By placing attention on these specific areas you will understand what it means to be fully aligned and true to yourself. Understanding your answers will allow you to give the best to yourself, to others and to the things you find most important in life.

It has been said that your Inner Wisdom whispers while your Inner Critic yells, so it’s vital that you find a quiet place where you can ponder your answers.

Answering these 20 questions will help you to build a strong foundation on which you can build a happier, more fulfilling and satisfying life. So what are you waiting for?

  1. What is your purpose in life?
  2. What would it take for you to be perfectly happy?
  3. What values give life meaning? Then list them in order of importance.
  4. When you look over your life, where and when have you been the happiest? Where were you, with whom were you with and what were you doing?
  5. What things (or pastimes, people, occupations) would you be better off letting go of?
  6. What would you like to be focusing your energy on if you had any choices available to you?
  7. How would you like each day to unfold?
  8. What do you want your story to be after you die?
  9. What makes you experience joy?
  10. What energizes you?
  11. What makes you feel balance?
  12. What issues do you feel strongly about?
  13. What character traits do you need to develop?
  14. What skills do you want to master?
  15. What characteristics keep you from success?
  16. In what situations in your life, and with whom are you not perfectly happy? Think about your whole day from morning to night.
  17. Do you enter into a situation expecting a negative outcome?
  18. Is your life “on hold” for any reason? If so why?
  19. If you were to rate yourself as a life manager, how would you rate?
  20. Admit to yourself what needs to be changed in your life, are you bitter? Lazy? Angry?

To help you to get to know yourself better, here is a pretty cool personality test you can take in less than 15 minutes. http://www.personalitylab.org/tests/ccq_self.htm

Feel free to share in the comments below some things you feel can help someone on the path to self discovery.

ExploratoriaBlog Is No Longer!

Hello friends – This is my last post on this website “ExploratoriaBlog,” I am shutting it down. I’ve had a great time writing for this blog the past 9 months but it’s time to move on to bigger and better things, and I would like you to come along with me, so please join me at my new home: http://www.GutterPupAdventures.com

If you were subsribed to this blog I thank you from the bottom of my heart! I would love for you to sign up at GutterPupAdventures and join in on the fun over there! I’ve narrowed down what I write about now to that of travel and travel related stuff.

I really hope to see you!

Signing off for the last time,

JP Chartier

Bitten & Bloodied at Sunken Gardens

By JP Chartier

I slap them hard! Once… Twice… Three times! The slapping continues until I spill blood – my blood, and their blood. I never wanted it this way, I can assure you of that. And to think this all could have been so easily avoided…

More on this later.

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My day begins innocently enough – I awake early, grab a bite to eat, hop on my bike and aim it south along 4th Street. I maneuver the roadways of St. Petersburg, Florida for the next eight miles until I arrive in front of a large, old fashioned-looking sign that reads “Beautiful Sunken Gardens.” Sunken Gardens Sign If it wasn’t for this sign, I would have never known that the place was even here. It’s amazing that four-acres of lush vegetation, containing five-hundred different varieties of over fifty-thousand tropical plants, trees and shrubs can be hidden so inconspicuously on the side of a very popular roadway in the heart of a bustling city.

But it is!

“That’ll be eight dollars sir,” says the young lady behind the ticket counter to me.

“Ah, yes, g-good morning,” I stutter as I straighten my back and suck in my gut. “I’m writing an article about the f-fine establishment you have here for a b-blog that reaches an audience of… (should I do it? should I lie?) …ah (why the hell not, it’s only a little white lie anyway) …ahh, that reaches an audience of thousands and thousands of potential visitors, and I was wondering if you had a special rate for folks such as myself?”

What?!? Did I really just say “…for folks such as myself??” What does that even really mean?

Looking and feeling like a dumbass, the woman’s face says it all – it says, not only will I not succeed in obtaining a free ticket today, I won’t even be receiving a discounted ticket today thank you very much!

So needless to say, I stand there saddened and dejected, shoulders sloped, head slightly down, and I hear the words that I expected to hear cut through me like a knife!

“No sir we don’t give free or discounted tickets to bloggers, that’ll be eight dollars please.. Sir.”

<< So I ask you, my readers, what did I do wrong here? Can anyone help me out with how to go about this correctly? Have any of you ever successfully obtained a free or discounted ticket at a place you were going to write about?>> 

I begin digging sheepishly through my backpack for some cash when I notice that a fairly long line of older folks has sprung up all of a sudden behind me, and it appears that a few of these folks are a bit disgruntled.

And that’s when I overhear a loud whisper rise up from the geriatric group say something to the effect of, “You’d think he’d already have his cash out before getting in line, this is ridiculous.” And another loud whisper answers with, “He’s trying to get a free ticket and the lady said no, but he keeps trying, give it up already!”

Thankfully, before things got out of hand and I got my ass whipped by a stretchy-waist, polyester pants wearing grandma, I hear the following beautiful words from the other employee behind the counter echo out in slow motion, as if sent from the heavens above:

“Go ahead and give him the AAA discount.”

What’s that? What did I just hear? A discount? “Oh thank you Lord! Thank you so much!” I think to myself.  At least I’ve saved my ego from total annihilation on this day. So with another thank you, I accept my ten percent discount (baby-steps okay) with a victorious smile, and I stroll through to the entrance of the gardens to begin my journey. 20140508_104352 The smell of fifty-thousand plants and trees hit me like a gigantic fragrant tsunami as I enter the gardens, and I feel the tightness in my chest and shoulders disappear. A turn of the first corner and I feel as if I’ve been transported back to a time when only vegetation ruled the earth. 20140508_104327 The land that contains Sunken Gardens today, believe it or not, was originally a shallow lake that sat ten feet below sea level back in 1935. Then a plumber and avid gardener by the name George Turner Sr purchased the land containing the lake and promptly drained it. And over the next twenty years, Turner consistently planted papayas, citrus fruits, palm trees and other exotic plants to expand his beloved “Sunken Gardens.”

In 1998 Sunken Gardens was designated a local historical landmark, and the following year, the City of St. Petersburg purchased it. After years of restoration, visitors can once again enjoy the beauty that George Turner Sr started here one hundred years earlier. Today the gardens is operated mostly by volunteers.

I’m immediately greeted by the relaxing sounds of trickling water from this small, quaint waterfall. 20140508_103958 My senses feast on the botanical and biological wonderland before me! I feel as if I’m lost in Jurassic Park for a moment. 20140508_105835 The late morning light spills through the canopy above populating the path before me with freckles of sunshine.

Smack!

I pass a cactus garden on the left, then up a little ways on the right, I notice the “Japanese Garden,” which looks in need of a little TLC to be honest. I have to say, the vegetation throughout the park is well cared for and nicely trimmed, however there are a few eyesores – like a partially falling down wall that looks to be rotting, a couple worn-out looking benches, and an amphitheater in dire need of a coat of paint.

Smack! Smack!

“Look mom,” says a little boy pointing at me up ahead, “that guy is all bloody.”

I look in horror at what this kid was pointing at, and that’s when I notice several disgusting ‘splats’ of blood on my legs! The mosquito’s here are ravaging me! I’m being eaten alive!

I know, I know, I should have protected myself with some sort of bug repellent before entering the gardens, I wasn’t thinking. So here’s a huge tip if you plan on visiting Sunken Gardens in the future:

BRING MOSQUITO REPELLENT!

20140508_110546 Besides the lush vegetation, I would have to say the “Koi Fish Pond” was probably my favorite area of the park. The picture below doesn’t begin to show you just how large these guys were, they were huge! 20140508_111203 There are a few small ‘attractions’ inside the park to check out, including: “The Growing Stone,” which is a fossilized limestone rock shaped somewhat like a bench that legend says will grant ‘he who sits upon the ancient stone tranquility, inner harmony and the talent to make things grow.’ There’s also a “Wishing Well,” a “Photo Ring,” a “Wedding Lawn” for weddings, a “Amphitheater” and a “Meditation Patio.”

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Apart from the mosquitoes and a few minor maintenance issues, Sunken Gardens is an affordable and enjoyable place to go relax and read a book, or take a yoga class, or to just soak in all the wonderful plants and trees. So if you’re in the St. Pete area and want to forget the rush of the ‘real-world’ for an hour or two, visit the Sunken Gardens – St. Pete’s version of the Garden of Eden.

Share below any botanical gardens that you have visited during your travels.

Scenery Along the St. Petersburg, Florida Shoreline on the “North Bay Trail”

By JP Chartier

Nothing like an early morning, springtime bike ride along the Tampa Bay shoreline in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA to get your day started right. I got to tell ya, the beauty and the serenity of the area is mesmerizing, especially in the early morning hours before the rush of the crowds drown it out. Opulent solitude surged joyously in me, as I took in the early morning smells of the sea.

With the temperature hovering around in the low 70’s, and humidity a non-issue, my bike ride along the scenic shoreline of the Tampa Bay has become a type of “mobile meditation” for me. With each thrust of the pedals, my bike moves at a leisurely pace into the warm Florida sunshine, I feel the sea breeze at my back, washing over me, soothing my mind and soul, all the while carrying away my burdens.

City Trails St. Pete

Today’s ride on the North Bay Trail starts at the sun-kissed marina of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, where sailboats, yachts and catamarans bob rhythmically with trance-like perfection.

Above, the cries of seagulls blend harmoniously with the wind rushing through the palm trees, I feel my pulse quicken from the excitement, causing me to think to myself, “It sure is good to be alive!”

Marina, St. Pete

A short distance from the marina I’m greeted by two behemoth trees, looking magnificent with their stoic demeanor and muscularity! This is a favorite gathering spot for locals and visitors alike, and is the perfect place to catch some shade, to use as a meeting place, or to contemplate life.

Trees at St. Pete near shoreline

Up close tree in St. Pete

Across the street from the trees are several shops and restaurants with outside seating, so one can soak up the sunshine and take in the tropical beauty of the surrounding area.

A view of downtown St. Pete

The trail continues past a few parks, including the Vinoy Park, which is a popular spot for large outside concerts and shows.

A bit further down the trail is the Vista Point Park which contains a very interesting human sundial. It’s easy to miss, I’ve missed it on several earlier rides.

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“The Centennial Sundial at Vista Point” is an interactive granite sundial which stands near the original sundial built back in the 1930’s.

Sun Dial at St. Pete

A semi-circle of markers denotes each hour, when a person stands in front of the half-circle facing north, a shadow is cast upon the correct hour marker, showing you the time. Pretty cool!

St. Pete Pier

The views are stunning throughout the entire trail, including this one of the St. Petersburg Pier in the not too far off distance.

“The Pier,” as it’s known here, is shaped like an inverted pyramid, and served as a focal point for tourism for years, but closed in June 2013 due to structural deterioration. In 2013 the mayor, Rick Kriseman, had the fences removed from around the building. Now the Pier approach and Pier head are open to the public for pedestrian access, fishing and other related activities.

I continue onward with my bike journey, and the trail leads me to a renown St. Petersburg landmark, “The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club.”

The AAA Four-Diamond pink hotel stands triumphant and stoic-like, encircled by palm trees standing at the ready, with a wonderful view of the nearby shoreline of the Tampa Bay.

The historic hotel has been offering comfort and elegance to its patrons since 1925, and can be found on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Vinoy Hotel St. Pete

Over the years, there have been reports of supernatural activity at the hotel. Interestingly enough, many of the reports come from the visiting professional baseball teams, who are in town to play the Tampa Bay Rays.

The trail hugs the shoreline around to a bridge, which leads to the very wealthy neighborhood of Snell Isle, and the conclusion of today’s bike ride.

Snell Isle St. Pete

Where are some of your favorite bike trails located?

 

 

 

 

 

A Visit to “The Dali Museum” in St. Petersburg, Florida

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By JP Chartier

A visit to “The Dali Museum” in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA is your chance at a glimpse into the strange and mysterious world that is Salvador Dali. The late, great Spanish surrealist lived an enigmatic lifestyle which he cryptically conveyed in his creations – 2,100 of which are housed here.

The Dali Museum has its roots firmly set in the family collection of Reynolds & Elenore Morse. The couple began collecting Dali paintings shortly after they were married back in 1943, and continued collecting Dali’s art for the next four decades, which ultimately culminated in the creation of this museum.

Located at 1 Dali Blvd in the perpetually sunny St. Petersburg, Florida – the Dali Museum finds itself nestled snuggly alongside the beautiful and picturesque shoreline of the Tampa Bay looking like a building in the midst of an intense acid trip! The contrast provided by the surrounding beauty of the shoreline and the surrealist flavor of the building comes across as almost comical at first, but entertaining none the less, and very Dali-like. I just wish they’d paint the damn thing!

The odd-looking building isn’t hard to spot, architect Yann Weymouth made sure of that by designing the building with 18-inch thick hurricane-proof walls out of which explodes a large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the “enigma” – which seems to be devouring the building. The “enigma,” is made up of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass, and at its highest point stands a towering 75 feet, and serves as homage to the dome that adorns Dali’s original museum in Spain.

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Dali Museum, St.Pete, Fl

On the third floor, the Dali houses over 2,100 works, which include 96 oil paintings, spanning the entirety of his career (1904-1989). It is the second largest collection of Dali’s work in the world, only behind that of the “Dali Theatre & Museum” located in his hometown of  Figueras, GIRONA, Spain, which he helped construct. He lived in the museum for the last few years of his life, and is even buried there!

You’ll need to set aside about 3 hours in order to see everything that’s inside and outside of the museum. However, true Dali enthusiasts will want to put aside some extra time so they can really absorb the experience and examine the paintings up close and personal.

You see, a Dali painting isn’t just a painting mind you, if you really look you’ll find brilliantly hidden pictures inside of the picture, and all of his works have meanings attached to them too. So do yourself a favor and take a tour with one of the knowledgeable tour guides, or use a headset, both of which are free, to help guide you with your journey through the museum.

Link to the paintings that are part of the permanent collection  http://thedali.org/exhibits/permanent-collection/

Once inside the gallery, I stare in joyous confusion, albeit with the utmost reverence, at the famous images before me. I imagine the maestro himself sitting restlessly in his favorite chair in front of this very painting, meticulously arranging the paint into the scenes now before my eyes. What an experience it must have been to have witnessed the creation of such art.

Link to a fantastic video about the life of Dali called ” The Life and Art of Salvador Dali – http://youtu.be/GONauCKYj0s

It’s one thing to see a painting in a book, and yet quite another to see it in person. For me, the experience was almost religious in nature. The paintings that I have admired for all these years from afar in various magazines and books were now hanging right before me, only an arm’s length away! To say that I felt lucky was an understatement.

Also inside you’ll find a small cafe named after Dali’s wife, Gala where you can enjoy some light Spanish fare and down a couple of brews to help get you in the mood!

Outside @ the Dali Museum

Dolphin outside Dali Museum

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Wish Tree @ Dali Museum

Before you leave be sure to write a wish on the back of your wristband and tie it to a branch of “The Dali Wish Tree” (pictured above)

 

Ticket prices are $21 USD Adult, Seniors $19, Teens $17, Children $7, Parking $5

So the next time you visit Florida, be sure to include a trip to The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, and get your “freak” on! You’ll be glad you did.

If you have visited the Dali Theatre & Museum in Spain I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

What’s your favorite Dali painting? Mine is the “Geopoliticus Child Watching The Birth Of The New Man” which resides at this museum.

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“I don’t do drugs, I am drugs!”  -Salvador Dali

All pictures taken by JP Chartier except the last two.

 

 

Jack Kerouac Was Here

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By JP Chartier

Recognized as a pioneer of the “Beat Generation” and for his spontaneous prose, Jack Kerouac paved the way for the hippie movement in the 60’s by challenging the widely held beliefs of the time. He is the author of several famous books, the most famous of which are “On the Road” and “Dharma Bums.”

By the time Kerouac moved to St. Petersburg, Florida in 1968, he was a notorious drunk and only a shell of his former self. All the years of hard living and even harder drinking had taken a toll on him, causing him to remark once that “St. Petersburg is a good place to come die.”‘

And that’s exactly what he did.

While living here in St. Petersburg, Kerouac did a lot of his drinking at a dive bar called “The Flamingo.” It’s the place that Kerouac is said to have had his final drink before being rushed to the hospital the next day Oct. 20, 1969 for internal bleeding.

Two weeks prior, Kerouac had taken a horrible beating in a bar brawl at another St. Petersburg bar, long ago torn down, called the “Cactus Bar.” The fight, along with a terribly damaged liver, were just too much for the 47-year-old iconoclast, he died the next day Oct. 21, 1969 at the hospital.

Finding myself in St. Petersburg riding my bicycle, I decided I would seek out Jack Kerouac’s famous watering hole “The Flamingo,” and go in and have a drink to Ole Jack’s memory.

The bar is a small unassuming place just outside downtown St. Pete on 9th Street. There are a few plastic tables and chairs out front and a large picture of Kerouac in one of the windows.

So I chained my bicycle to a pole outside and went in. Upon entering the front door, I noticed a wall covered with Kerouac newspaper clippings and pictures. After reading a few, I continued onward to the “U-shaped bar and grabbed a corner bar stool. There were a handful of locals intently watching a program on the blaring tv over the bar.

I ordered the “Jack Kerouac Special,” which is a shot of whiskey chased with a wash of beer (Jack’s usual) and settled in for a warm conversation with the bartender about the man I so admire. I asked her where Jack would sit when he came here, and she told me – “Believe it or not, he used to sit right in that very stool you’re sitting in now.”

Looking like a wide-eyed, star-struck teenage girl I’m sure, I replied, “No shit? Really?”

“Yeah, no shit” she answered. “Those are still the original bar stools, the owner never replaced them.”

How cool is that? I was sitting in the very stool that Kerouac used to sit in and get plastered. So it only seemed logical that I do what Jack would have done and ordered another “Jack Kerouac Special.” …And then another.

I must admit, this little place sure has character! I got a warm, nostalgic feeling while sitting amongst the nicotine stained wood and sun bleached newspaper clippings. If only these walls could talk I thought to myself…

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A few miles from “The Flamingo” is Kerouac’s last home. He spent the last 11 months of his life here with his sick mother and his wife. It is said that the wooden desk he wrote all his books at still resides inside.

Jack Kerouac's second St. Pete home

I will leave you on this fine day with the words of Jack Kerouac himself, “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain!”

Please share any Jack Kerouac thoughts or memories you have in the comments section below…

“Less” Is the New “More”

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By JP Chartier

Voluntary Simplification is a growing trend populated by those who have said ENOUGH! Enough of the debt, enough of the accumulation of uneeded stuff, enough of the insanity of it all. They want an escape from the excesses that the modern world so readily provides. They have had enough of the clutter, enough of the debt, enough of all the distractions and the stress that come from the accumulation of so much unecessary stuff.

These “enlightened” folks have realized a very important truth – more shit doesn’t equal more happiness. In fact, they have found quite the opposite is true –  less things in their life to worry about means more time to spend on what’s really important.

This growing trend isn’t necessarily born out of poverty, it comes from the understanding that more and more “stuff” will not put a smile on your face like the feeling of freedom you get by getting rid of it.

Something interesting has happened to me over the years, I have found that my desire to own less has become more valuable than actually owning less. In a society that promotes consumerism every chance it gets, the real battle for me was to remove myself from the incessant desire for more.

One of the wonderful side-effects of minimalism that I’ve noticed is APPRECIATION. My appreciation level for everything has increased exponentially. I have found that when I do eat an extravegant meal or go somewhere fancy, my appreciation level is much higher than it previously was.

Here are a few areas of your life that can be minimalized:

  1. Possessions
  2. Time commitments
  3. Debt
  4. Artificial ingredients/Processed foods
  5. Screen time
  6. Multitasking

I look at minimalism less about what I remove and more about what I add, like contentment and peace of mind. I came to the realization that my life is far too valuable to waste chasing possessions and I hope yours is too!

Have you reached your tipping point yet? Are you finding it hard to breathe from the weight of all your possessions?

If you answered yes, then come on over to the other side, the “Less Is The New More” side, and start enjoying what’s really important in your life.