The Manifestation of an Ovation

I’m going to tell you a story:

Last month my husband had band rehearsals in England and this time I got to go with him. I spent three lovely weeks eating local Turk-Itali-pub-Indi- food and visiting the villages and the friends who lived and worked there.

One of these friends was a famous guitar player, and we got to tour the lovely house he and his wife shared. Looking at his guitars and other beautifully organized instruments I saw an Ovation guitar sitting on a stand.

I thought to myself, ‘So, an Ovation is good enough to live in this gentleman’s home’. This got me thinking about my old pink Ovation guitar, lost to me for the last fifteen or so years.

His Ovation was black not pink, but it was the trigger.

When I lived in Austin (the city, instead of the outskirts like I do now) I had a little house smack in the middle of everything. It was nestled in in the secluded Travis Heights neighborhood, but it was only four blocks from my salon on busy South Congress Avenue.

Lots of musician friends popped in and out of that salon and lots of fun, spontaneous hangs happened there and at my Travis Heights home.

One of my friends was planning a quick trip to the big guitar convention at Palmer auditorium one weekend and he asked if I wanted to come along. Of course I did—I’d never been to a guitar convention.

As we strolled down the isles gawking at all the guitar designs and colors, my attention was caught by one guitar in particular. It was a pink-stained burl wood-faced Ovation Ultra acoustic guitar with pickups. Very unusual.

I kept thinking about it, isle after isle. Towards the end of our time at the show, I walked back to the stall where I saw the the pink guitar and it was still there, with it’s price tag of $300.

I asked the bored-looking guy standing next to it, “Would you be willing to come down on the price?” He thought about it for about five seconds, and then said “Sure. No one wants a pink Ovation”.

We settled on $225 cash.

I had to run to the cash machine and back but I paid the guy, and the guitar was mine. And I didn’t even play.

I took it home to my little house and sat it on a stand in my living room next to the couch. In the years I lived in that house, everyone and their brother picked at that guitar while they sat on my couch. They always said, “Sounds good for an Ovation”.

That guitar was borrowed for gigs, played with love late into the night by some great musicians, and used on records and I had a lot of memories attached to it.

Then I started dating my husband, and eventually we decided to try living together in his house in The Hill Country.

I turned my little Travis heights house into an Air BnB and left the guitar on its stand in the living room as part of the ambience. It looked interesting on the website and I thought it looked good there, next to the couch.

Then my little house was robbed. The thieves took all the electronics, and my pink guitar. I felt the loss of that guitar more strongly than the loss of a replaceable flat screen and I thought about it a lot after it was gone.

I bought another pretty guitar with birds on the front inlaid with mother of pearl, but it just wasn’t the same. It never lived in my little Travis heights house, it was never played by friends.

And it wasn’t a pink Ovation.

For two weeks after we visited our guitar friend in England that pink guitar kept coming up in my mind, and it became almost like a mental obsession. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

So, last Sunday I pulled out my cell phone and Googled ‘Guitar, Ovation, Pink’. And just like magic, a photo popped up on my cell phone. It looked exactly like my guitar, my pink-stained burl wood Ovation Ultra guitar.

I saved the page and kept searching, to see if that kind of guitar was common, or if there were more of them, but no. I couldn’t find another one. Apparently, the only guitar like my old guitar, for sale at that moment, lived in a music store in Aurora, Colorado.

Of course I contacted the store.

I told myself, “If the pegs are gold, I’ll know it’s mine’. Then, ‘I’m going to buy it. Even if it isn’t really my guitar, when I look at it I’ll smile’

I bought it immediately.

The price: $225.00.

In three days it arrived on my doorstep. I unpacked it and looked it over completely. Yep. Gold pegs. My guitar. It even had the chip in the finish at the back of it’s neck my friend made with his ring.

True Story.

That’s my definition of the word ‘pinkchronicity’—The happy accident that feels “meant-to-be”

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Free Your Hair and the Rest Will Follow

Everywhere we look, we see hair in every color of the rainbow. This feels new, but it’s not. We’ve been coloring our hair for centuries. We have historical records depicting romans sitting in the sun with hair soaked in a lime wash, baking and gossiping for hours while their hair turned orange. Anthropologist Harry Shapiro wrote: “So universal is this urge to improve on nature … that one is almost tempted to regard it as an instinct”.

Today, hair coloring is so popular, 75% of women color their hair, compared to 7% in 1950. In Nora Ephron’s 2006 book “I Feel Bad About My Neck”, she gives hair color total credit for turning back the clock on aging. She says hair color is “. . . the most powerful weapon older women have against youth culture.” No one wanted to be gray.

But attitudes toward gray are shifting, fast. Pinterest reported an 879% jump in the use of the search term “going gray” from 2017 to 2018. The last time gray hair was this hot was probably the 1700s, when Marie Antoinette types would dust wigs with white rice flour. So, why is ‘going gray’ on everyone’s minds? When you noticed your first gray hairs, you found you could cover them pretty easily. And infrequently.

But, gray hair is progressive–10%gray isn’t noticeable much as it grows out. But 10% becomes 20%, 20% becomes 30%, then 40% and twice a year root touch-ups become every six week visits. Once your hair hits 50% gray, your percentage of white/gray to natural hair moves pretty fast, and before you know it, you’re seeing your stylist every 3 weeks—you have now become a slave to your hair color.

White roots and shoe-polish-looking hair color is no longer stylish or young-looking. In fact, obviously dyed hair is now considered ‘aging’. It’s also time-consuming, expensive, and annoying. How did this panacea to aging become a monkey on our backs?

Maybe all the fake news and daily lies makes us determined to create more transparency in our lives (and our beauty routines). Maybe we crave ‘Real’, or the illusion of it, anyway. Maybe we’re just busy, and need less on our plates.

So, what to do? You can free yourself from hair color slavery. If your hair is tinted brown, the process of letting your gray grow out could demand a major salon commitment, involving multiple bleachings. One stylist in Phoenix says it takes 9 hours, and don’t even think of getting off cheaply. Even embracing your natural gray can entail a lot of salon time or torturous hard color lines, to grow out existing dye.

Or . . . you can subtly change the way you color your hair, blending rather than ‘covering’ your natural gray. Get back to your previous stress-free maintenance schedule—it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There are tricks. We like to call this clever process “Hair Color Renovation“.

Every head of hair patterns the gray in a different way and it’s different with each person. Hair color is sort of a science experiment and gray hair—fake or natural—must jive with your coloring to work. You have other options. It’s not always eliminating the salon color process itself that’s liberating, it’s the option to choose, to make the trip to your stylist be whatever and whenever you feel. It should be your choice. Free your hair.

Writing, like living, is re-writing

Twice a year I invite my sweet friend Pamela Des Barres to Dripping Springs to host a writing workshop at my house. I started this project while I had my big salon in Austin during a SXSW and I’ve been doing it ever since, for about fifteen years now. 
That year SXSW featured a “Groupie Panel” hosted by Miss Pamela Des Barres, the worlds most famous groupie in the early seventies, and Mr. Robert Plant. Pamela kept a diary, got married, had a child, then wrote the book “I’m With the Band”, which became a best seller and is still in print. She’s been teaching women’s writing workshops for years. 
How do they work? The process seems so simple: She quickly gives you a prompt like “Write about something that had unintended consequences” or “Write about something precious” and ready, set, write . . for twelve minutes, then stop. The only rules are, no qualifying, no thinking, no editing, no critiquing. Then each of the 13-15 Women in my living room read what they wrote, out loud, one by one. 
I never feel I do my best writing this way while I’m doing it, but Pamela always says “You can re-write it later.” And, she’s right. The idea is to get things down quickly so that the nagging self-editor in our own minds doesn’t have a chance to get a foothold in our writing. This technique gives our unconscious mind the freedom to explore, to mine personal experiences and wild imaginings without fear of critique. 
Hemingway famously wrote, “Write drunk, edit sober”. What he meant was, get your thoughts down freely, even recklessly first. Then take your time to re-write. You can be more scrupulous and exacting when you re-write. But don’t confuse this suggestion with editing, or qualifying or thinking or critiquing as you write. When you do that, you’re getting in your own way.
Writing, like living your life, requires freedom of mobility. Later you can, and will, re-write. You’ll toss out what isn’t working, consolidate, fine tune, prune and elaborate. If you edit too soon, you’ll never know what your writing (or your life) could have been.

The Life and Death and Life of the indie bookstore

Last week one of my favorite mystery writers made a few rare book signing appearances beginning in Phoenix, then on to Houston and other cities after that. I live in Austin and Mr Charles Finch wasn’t stopping in Austin, but his Houston signing was on a Monday and I love booksignings, so I decided to take a mini road trip. 
I coerced a book-loving friend to accompany my madness and off we drove down hwy 71 to hwy 10, speeding a little to get to the signing by 6:30. Charles Finch writes a great mystery series set in victorian London called “the Charles Lenox mysteries”, and has written 10 or 11 (or 12) books. He’s won awards and critical acclaim and can boast a large and significant fan base. You can even buy his books translated into German or Russian. 
So you might think his publishers would position his book signings in big book stores like Barnes and Noble in the River Oaks Shopping Center, but you would be wrong. To quote Mr. Finch, “I can’t imagine better starting spots than The Poisoned Pen Bookstore (in Phoenix) and Murder by the Book (in Houston) – two of the stores that every writer in the whisper network knows are truly special homes for readers and book lovers.” 
Charles Finch chose small, independent book stores for his book signings, and this can be seen as an important turning point for printed books. Not so long ago prophets were predicting the demise of the small, independent book store. 
First the big box stores opened with cheap books and coffee bars, then Amazon opened for business. The number of independent booksellers fell 40 percent in five years as people chose to shop online rather than visit a physical store. Then the Kindle arrived and many analysts were saying it was the end of the printed book. 

But something unexpected happened—from 2009 till today, we’ve  seen an almost 40 percent increase in small, independent book stores. The truth is, if you are a reader or a book lover, there is nothing more satisfying than wandering aimlessly through a cozy bookstore handling actual books, finding yourself drawn to a cover, or a first paragraph, or a fat leather arm chair in the corner of a shop, or standing in a the check out line talking about your newest find.
As Charles Finch reminds us, we readers are always on the look out for our special ‘homes‘, and there is nothing more gratifying than knowing the retail book industry is stronger than ever. 

Ambassador to the World

I was a precocious six year old. When my parents had a dinner party, they paraded me around, their eldest daughter, the daughter who could read at five and spell “Nebbucadnezzer” without a mistake while standing in front of you.

Like most parents, they loved to show me off. They would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would parrot back, “I’m an artist and I want to work in an embassy.Work in an embassy? I didn’t even know what that meant.

I knew what it meant to be an artist. I made a tiny sculpture of Rodins’ “The Thinker” out of plaster in my art class, and a painting of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” in tempera paint, so I knew I was well on my way to a career as a professional artist.

But I truly had no idea what it meant to work in an embassy. I love practicing my Spanish, so I thought, maybe, ambassadors learned different languages and traveled to foreign countries and made friends with everyone, but how would one go about getting a job like that?

As I grew up I never really thought of that ambassador dream. It faded from my memory as surely as the face of my fourth grade art teacher. An achievable goal? No, just the silly rambling thoughts of an idealistic child. It wasn’t until this year, traveling with my husband, that I re-remembered my ancient dream of becoming an ambassador.

When I look back on each year with my guy, I can remember planning for Portugal, Italy, Russia, Quebec, London, New York, studying each language and set of customs, and growing more and more excited thinking about the new people I’d meet.

My husband recently answered a question, “Where is your wife’s favorite place for a vacation?” and he said, “Any place she hasn’t been.”  He knows me so well.

Seriously, I’ll engage in conversation with anyone in any country. I’m an American. I represent. I take my jobseriously.

My husband’s good friend and genius bass player told me, in all seriousness, “Musicians are the true ambassadors of the world”, and I felt a stirring inside, and a deep, secret voice whispered “Me too.” I am now realizing my long-buried childhood dream, without even being aware of it.  

Ring in the New Year. . . With a book!

Happy New Year! Iceland boasts one of the coziest of New Years traditions—residents customarily gift a book and a box of chocolates, and everyone sits up all night reading into the new year.
I have my own New Years tradition, one I’ve somehow kept going for about 15 years. At the end of December I post a book recommendation I consider essential for each of the 12 astrological signs, to help you navigate the coming year. 
2018 was a year to test our strength of character, 2019 will encourage re-establishing a new, stable normal, emphasis on ‘new’. Areas of your life you thought were solid and reliable will change and you’ll see everything in a new light. 
If you don’t like change, this year may be a bit de-stabilizing, like trying to stand up in a canoe. Stay positive—the end of this cycle will result in a big reward.
This year’s a good time for clearing out anything old, anything that doesn’t serve your new life direction. Like renovating an old house without tearing the whole thing down, you can renovate your life. 
Invest in anything that’s durable, long-lasting, support industries like building and renovation, get interested in agriculture and growing things, especially traditionally used in healing. Trade with well-established businesses with clean, long range goals. 
Slow down, restructure and seriously assess the value of everything in your life. Pay attention to your health and your daily routine, change bad habits and replace them slowly and surely with a new regimen. 
But 2019 will also be fun. I’ve looked into the astrology for next year, and the critical factors necessary to increase your enjoyment. To make this year work more smoothly, look below to find my recommendation for your book. It’s not chocolate, but it may help sprinkle a bit of sparkly pink happiness on your year. 
CapricornThe world is currently inundated with Capricorn energy. Your life is important, your decisions are important, and your need for all this energy to have real meaning becomes crucial. That’s why the book “When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough: The Search for a Life That Matters” by Harold Kushner is also crucial reading.
Sagittarius2019 is your year to fly. It’s time for you to shine, earn, and be the best of your best. Learn the 12 principles for developing a culture of excellence so your success is a permenant thing by reading “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck. It’s the perfect book to jumpstart your new you.
Scorpioit’s THE year to re-define, re-configure, and re-brand what you do for money. Read Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers — and Seize Success” by Dr. Dawn Graham and you’ll see it’s not as scary as it may seem.
LibraYou’re now urged to discover new ways of comprehending and communicating. You may say the quest to find different, bigger, better ways of communicating is like learning a new skill. So here’s a quick textbook, even available in audiobook: “It’s the Way You Say It (Second Edition) Becoming Articulate, Well-Spoken, and Clear” by Carol A Fleming PhD. This is much like putting your mouth where your money is.
Virgo2019 will feel like a puppet master is pulling your strings and making you dance. Creativity, publicity and fun will test whether you can indeed have too much of a good thing. To balance the demands of that side of your life, ground yourself in house, home, and family. This year’s favorite? “Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave by Joanna Gaines”. Pay attention to your home this year and you won’t go wrong.
Leo: Yes, this is one of those years where you work. A lot. I’m not suggesting you slow down at all. I’m just saying you can find a way to enjoy yourself at work more. Read “Have More Fun: How to Be Remarkable, Stop Feeling Stuck, and Start Enjoying Life” by Mandy Arioto. Once you get started, it will become a life strategy for you.
CancerOrganizing the disparate elements of your life so that every day is a smoothly running machine may be a secret dream of yours but the process could make you stressed. “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World” by William H. McRaven. It the perfect antidote to ‘chore fatigue’.
Gemini2019 is all about the relationships you’ve built to this point in your personal timeline. The relationships you carry with you into next year just may be permenant. Study “Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts” by James O. Pawelski and Suzann Pileggi Pawelski. Or, a business partnership, or a band . . .
TaurusThe classic image of a big, comfy arm chair, slippers, a roaring fire in the fireplace and a good book could be describing your favorite evening, Taurus. Usually. But this year you travel all over the world, to places where you need your passport and maybe a little advice. So I suggest you read “Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018” to soak up the tips. The book is a year’s worth of travel inspiration to take you into some unforgettable life experiences. Get ready.
Ariesyou charge into 2019 like a race horse at the starting gate. You’ve never been in this position before, where you just need to decide on your next career move and good ju ju rushes to make it happen. Your eagerness to experience new things makes it possible for open doors to open enabling you to study, teach and travel. So don’t second guess it—Read “ The Career Manifesto: Discover Your Calling and Create an Extraordinary life by Mike Steib. You dream of a meaningful, rewarding career so read this book right now.
Pisces You’ve acquired some serious power and influence, and it’s the real thing. People look to you for leadership now, and your words carry a lot of weight. To help you navigate this intense and unusual time I’m recommending the book ”The Elements of Power: Lessons on Leadership and Influence” by Terry R. Bacon. Bask in this special time period and make the most out of it.
AquariusThis year is more of a private rather than a public time for you, and your work behind the scenes will pay off big later. When groups or clubs, (especially humanitarian groups) appeal to you to join, go for it—they’ll benefit you later. In the mean time, stay on course with the help of this little book “You Are a Badass Every Day: How to Keep Your Motivation Strong, Your Vibe High, and Your Quest for Transformation Unstoppable” by Jen Sincero. You can get a lot done this year.

The Assumption of Happiness

It’s the holidays, and airports and hotels everywhere are overrun with travelers and booked solid. I love hotels, let’s just get that out of the way. My husband and I stay in hotels all over the world, and I have a few opinions about what makes a great hotel. My husband on the other hand,,  because  hotels are a huge part of his working life, has a list of requirements.  
For instance, he doesn’t understand why more hotel rooms aren’t equipped with hooks. A hook by the door for your overcoat, hooks in the bathroom for your hanging toiletry bag, etc. To him, the lack of hotel room hooks is one of life’s great mysteries. 
He needs a quiet hotel room but in a busy section of town so he can walk out the hotel front door and easily find food. He likes conveniently situated wall plugs, a good bed and blackout curtains. I like all that stuff too but this year I discovered another necessary ingredient for a great hotel—happiness. 
We had the unexpected privilege of spending several nights in London in one of the worlds great hotels—The Langham. At the Langham everyone is happy to see you. If you ask for a croissant to take away from breakfast at one of their many restaurants they give you three, in the loveliest pink, origami purse-like box. They hand it to you with a big smile. You accept it like a gift and smile back. 
If you ask any one of the myriad of employees a question they immediately pause to listen to you as if standing there in the foyer of the hotel chatting with you for five minutes makes them happy. If you stop one of the housekeeping staff for a towel,  they smile and share antecdotes. The front desk managers always know your name. 
At breakfast one morning I said to my husband’s boss, “Everyone here is so happy!” He answered,  “Or, it’s the assumption of happiness, isn’t it?”  And just like that, it hit me: Thats the secret sauce in successful hotels, or business or life in general—The assumption of happiness. 
What if every person on your team operated under the assumption of happiness, and every interaction they have transfers that assumption? I assume every employee at The Langham Hotel is happy.  If I lived in that hotel forever. I’d soak up all that saturated happiness, then take it with me and pass it on in my next interactions.
And that’s the magic of assuming happiness, you ‘act as if’ and before you know it, it becomes your reality, everyone around you is happy. In fact, I’m going to operate under the assumption of happiness for the rest of this year. 2019 I’ll re-asses.

Sleeping in other people’s beds

My husband’s mother has been ensconced in an upscale ‘retirement community’ in California since her stroke on my watch seven years ago. We frequently spend weekends in Southern California visiting her there, but my husband stays in hotels for his work so we began looking for another option. Air B and B. Duh.

Our first Air B and B experience was a house in ‘The Valley’, in what appeared to be a couples spare room. The hosts really took their hosting seriously and we had a coffee maker in our room and everything.

We got a tour when we checked in, but I couldn’t help but notice the scale of the furniture. Even the art seemed too big, as if it once resided in much larger, grander circumstances than the little white track house in the Los Angeles valley.

Okay, that was our first novice experience. We kept trying. I really wanted to fine-tune my instincts and possibly find the perfect place, so I downloaded the app, signed in, and started scrolling. I found a lovely house in Woodland Hills for our last trip to see my mother-in-law. We were ushered into our new, temporary quarters by our host and apparently his daughter was away at college because we got her room.

Now that was an odd experience. I could see probably every book the girl ever read in her life from my side of her bed, because they were all still in her bookcases, lined up like little soldiers. They were organized in alphabetical order from kindergarten (the bottom shelf of the bookcase) to her high school years (the top shelf and on a shelf over the desk). As I read the titles on their spines I’ll admit I was tempted. I love young adult fiction.

This Air BNB thing is odd, if you really look at it. You’re traveling, you don’t want a hotel but you don’t have any friends you can stay with. You download an app on your phone or look up a website on your computer and presto. Like magic you have dozens of folk perfectly willing to step in and let you stay in their house—for a price.

It’s kind of an odd combination of gambling and nosey-parker-ing, because you never really know what you’re going to get (no matter what the posted photos look like) and you acquire a brief glimpse into other lives. For the most part you aren’t connected to these other lives in any way except they have a spare bed and you need a place to sleep.

It becomes a weird, voyeuristic experience, intimacy without actual intimacy, like staying with friends who aren’t you really friends.

Quite often the hosts encourage you to use their kitchen, their pool, their hot tubs. I’ve never felt comfortable rooting around in a strangers kitchen, and there’s hardly ever time to use the pool. If our particular room didn’t have a separate entrance we would need to walk in through your hosts front door, with their key.

That’s the odd thing, when you think about it. It used to be a standard parental warning, “don’t get into cars with strangers” but now with Uber and Lyft, we do it all the time. And, pay some stranger person to sleep in their bed without ever meeting them first? Yes, we do this–we do this willingly.

Losing your luggage (can be a good thing)

It was my husbands birthday on the tenth of September. Since he travels so much we always try to plan to be together for our birthdays, wherever he happens to be, and this year it was Bolivia.

I left for the airport on the 9th and took my shoulder bag, small carry-on and one medium sized checked bag. Most ladies I know would consider this ‘traveling light’.

That day it poured. Weather delayed my flight into Houston. And delayed. And delayed. I landed in Houston ten minutes after my connection to Peru took off, and there was no flight into Peru from Houston until the next day.i would have to spend the night in Houston or search for an alternative.

A very sweet and helpful agent rerouted me, so four planes (Austin to Houston Texas, Houston to Santiago Chile, Santiago to Lima Peru, Lima to La Paz Bolivia) and 36 hours later I’m finally in La Paz. Unfortunately my checked bag was not.

Of course my husband’s birthday gifts were in that bag and that was that. So, the jeans and boots I had on, one light shirt, one long turtleneck sweater and the little leather jacket I bought in Rome were all I had to wear. But I was in La Paz, an incredible city. The airport was built on top of a mountain at the highest peak so driving down the mountain zig-zagging through those narrow streets was the beginning of a true adventure.

Everywhere were faces resembling ancient Incan sculptures. La Paz is the highest administrative capital in the world and you felt it. The hotel provided bowls of coca leaves and hot water for tea, supposed to relieve the altitude issues.

We went sightseeing in their new air tram system to the top of the mountains, astounded by the views of terra cotta buildings climbing up every square foot of mountainside as far as the eye could see.

After his show, Pat signed autographs for a young musician who promptly burst into tears—that night was his birthday, and he’d been a Pat Mastelotto fan since he was nine. Meeting Pat was a dream for him.

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in the world, musical events aren’t cheap, even there, and I was reminded once again how often we make an impact on people’s lives without even knowing it—and put my lost bag into perspective.

On day four my bag magically arrived intact (minus a wheel). I opened it and stared at the contents in wonder. What made me think I needed all of that stuff?

I had an ‘a-ha’ moment of crystal clarity, comparing my first-world view of traveling with the truth: I had the clothes on my back and my husband. Everything else was just dust in the wind. Then I gave Pat his birthday presents.

🎶 “When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?” 🎶

From the moment our sleeper train pulled into the Vienna station, that old Billy Joel song began buzzing through my head and didn’t stop until our plane touched down 3 days later in Chicago. I found myself humming it through my tour of the magnificent Klimt paintings and statues of great men who died long before America was born.

I stood people watching by the staircase in The Belvedere Museum and had a moment of realization—I was probably surrounded by representatives of the whole world. All around me swarmed young families, little old ladies traveling together, groups of students, romantic couples, all chattering in languages I strained to identify. It would seem we had the same agenda that day: We would immerse ourselves in the power of art. And just by looking at us, you couldn’t separate us into countries or religious beliefs or political affiliation.

It was hot in Vienna, as hot as it was in Los Angeles, so it wasn’t only California burning up—Vienna was too.. And so was Sweden. Russian parents are worried about terrorism and a brutal government, just like us. Norway is so concerned about alcoholism they hit alcohols with a high tax. England fights pollution in London by attempting to limit the number of cars entering the city limits. If you buy a pack of cigarettes in Europe expect to see a giant black warning emblazoned on the front of each pack, bigger than the brand logo.

You’ve probably heard the statistic “Less than 10% of Americans own passports” so I googled it. While that may have been true in 1998, it’s not true today. Far from it—Americans are at 48% and rising. So, though over half our country still never leaves the comfort of their own borders, the rest of us travel like mad. And for those of us who travel, the world is a much smaller, friendlier place than some would have us believe.

It’s not “Us” versus “Them” anymore. We’re all one big, homogenized Earth family no matter how much that concept scares some people. Please don’t buy into the fear mongers who’s intent is to frighten us. Frightened anxious people are easier to control. The reality of our world is, we’re all in this together. If you need proof, just come to Vienna—it’s waiting for you.