Category Archives: RPassions

Serendipitous Finds


I love the serendipitous moments when you come in contact with an object(s) that’s meant to be yours!

While on vacation I stumbled across some beloved finds. The most notable were two books, one old and one new.

The first, was an early edition Niles’ Elementary Geography Book which includes a section on the history of and resources in the State of Minnesota (my home state). Admittedly, it has been well used and is in need of some expert care but it spoke to the traveler in me:-)

Here is what I found about my vintage collectible. According to the Esther Jerabek, her research on early geography textbooks, Some Sources for Northwest History;

1885 geography texts had become sufficiently specialized to include large sections devoted to the state in which they were to be used. Sanford Niles’ Elementary Geography is an early example of such a text. It contains eighty-eight pages about the world, including all of the United States outside Minnesota with an additional forty-six pages covering the state in considerable detail including many illustrations (retrieved online from The Minnesota Historical Society, 7/6/13).

Image by RCompass All Rights Reserved

RRose and Sue Whitney. Image by RCompass 

The second was a newer book titled, Junk Beautiful: Outdoor Edition my son suggested in an impromptu stop at a beautiful store called Get Fresh Vintage, Junkmarket’s Little Sister in Lanesboro, MN.  The store owner, Sue Whitney, was warm and welcoming. She offered advice on searching out and rescuing discarded items, “Find things you love and get creative! “And, to my unexpected surprise, she was also the author of the book I purchased plus two others titled, Decorating Junkmarket Style and Junk Beautiful: Room by Room Makeovers with Junkmarket Style.

It was only after our trip, I discovered that Sue had a remarkable career; a former columnist for Country Magazine, a nationally recognized speaker including appearances on The Today Show, editor, blogger, etc.  However, on this particular Sunday, she was a passionate, small town shop owner. Her displays were artfully arranged so much so, I would never think to call the items they held “junk.” It reminded me that a large part of our travel experiences are the people and the connections we make along the way. Thank you Sue for making our trip even more memorable! To learn more about Sue go to her website-Junkmarket Style.

Image by RCompass All Rights Reserved.

RRose inside Get Fresh Store. Image by RCompass.

Image by RCompass All Rights Reserved.

Side alley at Get Fresh Store. Image by RCompass 

Vintage Vs. Antique Collectibles

Image by RCompass

Image by RCompass All Rights Reserved.

While on vacation sometimes we search out rescued, recycled and/or reused pieces to add to our collections.  Do you know the difference between a vintage item and an antique? According to Mike Wolffe, American Pickers (2013) , a “vintage” item is approximately 20 years old while “antique” refers to something greater than 100 years old.

Travel Planning With/For Pint Sized Adventurers


Here is a list of things to consider when planning your first or next family trip. Although I was thinking about this from the perspective of young children, many of the ideas are applicable to travelling with teens as well. Just be sure you know your participants!

  • Don’t Overshoot: Keep in mind that if you are intending to take an annual trip-it might be hard to keep the enthusiasm going each year. Other factors such as time and money may also play a role in future.
  • Keep It Simple: Don’t be afraid to plan for down-time during your trip. This will help you and your kids absorb the experience. And, hopefully when you return you won’t be as exhausted, especially if you have to return to work the next day.
  • Stay Relevant: Recognize that as  children grow, so can the type and length of experiences you want them to have.
  • Be Appropriate: The trip should reflect his/her interests and age level. Including a tour of the local winery (although compelling) would be best on a weekend outing with my friends.
  • Going the Distance: Consider regional or state travel sites to test the waters as you discover what kind of travelers he/she is-understanding that this can change over time.
  • Alternative Transportation: Think about incorporating a variety of modes of travel to and from the destination as part of the experience-bus, train, automobile or airplane. Don’t forget other types when you have arrived at your destination which can be an attraction/experience unto themselves such as boats, trolley, horse, bicycle, balloon, walking, helicopter, etc. (former transportation planner in me peeking out 😉
  • Task Master v. Adventurer: Consider what type of trip you want. Do you want the trip to be scheduled down to the minute/hour (Task Master)? Would you prefer to have no plans-throw a map in the car, close your eyes-pick a location and move (Adventurer)?  Or, something in between-plan where you would like to end up, identify some interesting spots to check out and decide the rest as it comes? Remember since this isn’t a solo trip, you might want to figure out what your co-pilot(s) might like!
  • Engage: Involve your kids in the planning process: Identify (2-3) things you would like to do and let them pick. This will help them take ownership in the trip.
  • Surprises: Keep one or two sites, you hope they will like, a surprise to sprinkle a little something unexpected in the mix of activities.
  • Electronic Divide:  Technology can be a great tool to help distract your children and pass the time. But set some guidelines for use and limit their time. Also, remember that setting rules doesn’t have to be a battle-but it can be a competition! Use the iPad to find fun facts the quickest fact checker gets to select the restaurant or the first/next attraction? See who can wait the longest to respond to a phone text-looser buys travel snacks, etc.
  • Get Creative: If you are a working parent(s) this trip might be the most time you have spent with your child in one sitting for a while. Think of ways to interact with your child and get creative.
  • Connect:  Take time to ask (appropriate) questions, guide and most importantly listen. This can be a litmus test to how your child is really doing-with friends, in school, personally, etc.
  • Teachable Moments:  Covert or overt educational opportunities are everywhere-guides, museums, park programs, etc. Also, don’t forget how much knowledge you have to share as well.
  • Art of Imperfection: It’s the unexpected moments that can be the most memorable (all-be-it not always in the moment). It’s okay if the dinosaur exhibit was lame, the winding river was more like a creek, or the trip was way-laid by a flat tire inconveniently sandwich between two small towns. Your best travel accessory is hands-down a sense of humor.  Talk about an amazingly powerful teachable moment!

Hidden Treasures


It is rare to find an item that is capable of bridging several concepts to create a strata of meaning. I stumbled across something of great significance (even if only to me) and would like to share it here at RCompass.  I should preface this post by noting that I struggled with writing it. I found it difficult to properly convey the depth of meaning from the collision of concepts that occurred. So if you will bear with me- here is my account of how one small purchase made a lasting impact in my life!

My Purchase

Over the last few years, I toyed with the idea of purchasing a ring for myself. I knew I wanted something of value that resembled me-reflecting my life at least in some small way.  About 3 months ago, I stumbled upon a vintage ring online and then again, about a month later. Although I didn’t find the overall style striking, the compass setting definitely caught my eye.  However, it was ultimately the allure of the story, connected to this piece, that I found compelling. The seller, InVogue Jewelry, placed a small footnote at the bottom of the picture indicating that she inherited a collection of jewelry from her aunt who was an avid journal-er that spent a significant portion of her life traveling around the world. She would store her found treasures with a description/message about each piece.  This particular ring was in a little box with a note that said, “France, Museum Reprod., Real”.  

Ellen’s Story

After buying the ring, I contacted the seller and told her a little about my passion for travel and asked if she would be able share any additional information about my purchase.  It turns out that Ellen had a remarkable life that spanned ninety years. It was marked by an abrupt separation from biological family and later the loss of her only son; enhanced by a deep love she shared with her husband; steadied with perseverance to move beyond the circumstances unfolding in her life; and enriched through travel.  After returning home from a trip to Africa, at the age of 90, she passed quietly in her sleep.

By Design

The ring is an early Renaissance inspired, museum replica. It is set in a compass design with four, bezel set, garnet stones and four cultured pearls. At the center, is a small, square cut lapis stone. I associate this ring to paintings created in this time period which were often infused with hidden stories, captured subtly in the design. I can’t help but think of how much thought may have gone into the design of this piece? I can only speculate why Ellen may have been drawn to this particular ring. But, if I take aspects of Ellen’s story-it made me wonder if she also connected to (or believed in) the meaning and properties of the stones used?

  • Garnet signifies discovery and protection
  • Pearls represent transformation and innocence
  • Lapis is said to promote clarity and truth

A special note: In her home, Ellen installed a compass, thoughtfully in-laid in the tile of her foyer visible as she passed through the front door, returning “home” from her travels.

Our Connections

When I began developing this blog, I wrote the content for the page titled, RStory stating that,

“This blog is a nod to the compass (or rose compass) in its truest and simplest form.  Steeped in tradition, it is a tool that has been in existence for centuries, an aid, to find position and direction. This can be seen both in the physical world, and for me, a compass also is a symbol, an essence of how people may look for direction and purpose in life.

I have come to recognize that sometimes it takes time to uncover a serendipitous meaning and to see beyond the obvious facade. To my surprise, I had come to realize that the stones also had significance to me. After experiencing a series of life altering events, I began my Master’s in Tourism and Geography which I attribute to a major shift in my life’s direction (school colors red garnet).  My driving force is my family-specifically my son (his birthstone is the pearl). The lapis is linked to my zodiac sign (Sagittarius) which reaffirms the core (center) of my identity and, of course the compass which I refer to as my personal amulet and/or talisman.  I also studied French for several years. And have a deep seeded interest in museums exhibiting historical art.

Yes, it is enough to just admire something “pretty” and want to possess or own it. And, yet if we can derive something more, I believe those are the treasures ultimately worth collecting. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  This story reminds me that even inanimate objects can have a life all their own that resides in the experiences of the people who collect and display them. Perhaps this story was relevant only when filtered through my eyes and personal journey? I keep a copy of Ellen’s story with the ring. And I will proudly wear it for many years. When the time comes, I know that it will find another world traveler to keep it safe….and  it’s story will continue.

I would like to thank Dawn, InVogue Jewelry, for sharing Ellen’s incredible story which allowed me the unique opportunity to connect at a deeper, more meaningful level.  Here is a link if you would like to visit her shop on Etsy.

RingAncient Egyptian, Greek and Roman eras note the use of garnets in the jewelry. It was said that courageous discoverers and travelers wore Garnets for protection, as they were considered popular talismans and protective stones. It was believed in those days that Garnets illuminate the night and kept the wearer safe (

Lapis Lazuli is a powerful stone for those who seek spiritual development. It brings mental clarity & emotional healing, and enhances judgment and wisdom. This stone is also considered strengthening to mind and body. Lapis lazuli allows us to tap our own inner power while purifying the soul and the thoughts. Helps us contact our spirit guardians. Augments strength, vitality, virility, mental clarity, illumination. Enhances psychic abilities and communication with higher self and spirit guide (

Pearls symbolize Purity, Spiritual Transformation, Charity, Honesty, Wisdom and Integrity, all the best within us.  Pearls provide a clear vehicle for the advancing states of wisdom, as well as a clean channel for receipt of spiritual guidance. Pearls can stimulate femininity and help with self-acceptance. They remind us to walk with dignity, providing a mirror in which to see ourselves and give us insight into how we appear to others. The ragged, rough grain of sand, transformed over time slowly growing into an object of great value and beauty. With it’s humble beginnings, Pearls symbolize innocence and a pure heart, and help us get in touch with the simple honest things of life (

Travel Gift Idea?

Image by Urban Outfitters

Image by Urban Outfitters

Outside of  travel books, I generally don’t support any one particular company or their associated products in my blog posts. However, with summer at our doorstep and the peek travel season commencing; I thought this would be appropriate to share with my readers.

I ran across an inspiring gift idea-ideal for any world traveler!

It is not uncommon for people to journal or mark routes and specific locations on a map. However, Urban Outfitters has a slightly different take on this old idea. Instead of adding notes to a map, they sell a product that allows a traveler to take it off .  It is a 32″W by 23″ H world map coated with a scratch-able material. This allows the owner to expose the places he/she has traveled to. Click here for a link to their travel gift idea page.

Tip: At a price point just under $40, this could make an excellent gift for a recent college or high school grad beginning their journey.

Check back for additional posts about documenting our travels.

Alternative Collectibles: Found & Made


Sometimes the hunt for unique found items is an important part of the experience. So, while on your next trip consider these alternative items/collections!

Natural found items could include:

  • Rocks or shells found on walks.
  • Sand to be saved in small containers from each beach around the state, country or world.
  • Driftwood for a mantel display.
  • Leaves for each annual fall trip-pressed and assembled in an album.

Made items assembled with a common theme could include:

  • A photograph using the same location: city limit signs, franchise, pose, etc.
  • A journal or doodle pad with drawings, quotes from people met along the way or funny stories of mishaps.
  • Travel boxes, scrapbook, photo album, etc.
  • Homemade passport (made before or after a trip). Have business owners, clerks or tour guides to sign off inside.
  • Insert HERE any unique or creative way to display, reuse or re-purpose something found along the way;)

Tip: Think of connecting these collectibles to your bucket list, i.e. travel to the top 10 surfing beaches in the world and bring home sand from the beach. Or collect leaves during a fall foliage tour in New England. Hike/rock climb in national parks across the country or in your home state-search for unique rocks that signify to geomorphology of the area.

Gifted Travel Treasures: A Parisian Painting

Image by DarkRose42 some rights reserved

Image by DarkRose42 some rights reserved

As a sophomore in college; I wanted to study abroad in Toulouse which is located in southern France.  I had a passion for the french culture and language after studying five years both in high school and post secondary. For many reasons, some outside of my control, I never studied abroad. And as a result, I stopped my studies and refocused on a very different career path.

Years later I took a trip to Paris in July. Alongside the Sacre Coeur, I wandered through what I refer to as an artist’s quarter. It was a street exhibit area filled with stands brimming with art. I searched for an original drawing or painting to commemorate finally arriving in France. But, the time passed too quickly and I was late returning to the tour group. I never found my treasure that day.

The following Christmas my brother and his wife came to visit for the holidays. They handed me a small rolled canvas brought back from their recent trip to France and the same artist’s quarter. To my surprise, it was a one of a kind, impressionist style painting. The image was of couples around the early 1900’s (based on attire) walking along a lamp lit street. The Eiffel Tower was projected in the background-washed in a warm sunset.

Whether you are an avid or a novice traveler there is something enduring about acquiring tangible items to reflect our intangible experiences. RTreasures can be bought by and for ourselves. Or for others with the intent as simple as a thinking of you gift or something with extreme intrinsic value. Today, this small Parisian painting is still one of my most prized possessions! And it reminds me of my trip, that one choice can change the future, and how blessed I am to have family.

I invite you to share your stories in the comment section.

Participating in NAI


NAIAl Leftridge, Ph.D,  is hosting an interpretive writing workshop in Minnesota this weekend. In the tourism field the word “interpretation” goes beyond conventional languages. It is the concept of conveying something to an audience through words, sounds, images, etc.  Mr. Leftridge and myself are members of the National Association for Interpretation (NAI). This organization is the offspring of the Association of Interpretive Naturalists (founded in 1954) and the Western Interpreters Association (founded in 1965).  NAI views interpretation as a mission-based communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the audience and the meanings inherent in the resource.  Individual members (5,00o+) include those who work at parks, museums, nature centers, zoos, botanical gardens, aquariums, historical and cultural sites, commercial tour companies, and theme parks. Commercial and institutional members include those who provide services to the heritage interpretation industry. Additional information about  NAI can be found on their website. I encourage you to think about the  role it plays in the tourism industry and ways it might connect to your travels.