August, 2010 Archive

Going Local on the World Wide Web

August 28th, 2010 by Ric in Financial Freedom, Sharing Success

Source: GettyImages.com

There was a time when advertising or marketing meant putting up a sign on your front window, giving out fliers to people on the street, or placing posters on bulletin boards around town.  If you were lucky and had cash to spare, it meant buying some space in the local paper, or some air time on the local radio and TV stations.

And then came the Internet.

Now, your website, not your front window, is probably the first thing people see.  Fliers that used to be handed out to people on the street can now be emailed to people all over the world.  And when people talk about you and your products, it isn’t just happening in the salon, in the lockers, or by the water cooler – it’s now happening on blogs, forums, and social-media sites.  Almost everything that used to be limited to your locale can now happen anywhere in the world.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you forget your local customers.  Yes, the Internet helps you reach out other markets, but it is also a great way to establish your presence in the local marketplace.  Dorothy Dutch has an article up on our Small Business CEO Magazine called Local Internet Marketing and Advertising for Small to Mid-Size Businesses – 10 Tricks of the Trade explaining how.

She gave 10 tips, but I’ve grouped them together into a few, more general tips:

Get your site seen

Your website is your storefront, sales brochure, and virtual receptionist rolled into one.  The people who visit your website can learn about your business and your products, the causes you support, and many other things.

Of course, your site is no good if nobody knows about it.  Make sure your business cards, signs, stationery, and other materials have your website address printed on them.   You should also put your website in your email signature, and if possible, on your signatures for blog comments, forum posts, and other online interactions.

Dorothy also stresses having a smart website, which in her words is “one that uses SEO techniques to tell the search engines like Google what your site / business is about so that when potential customers search online for a business like yours… your business comes up first.”

Basically, a smart website is one that can talk to computers and other websites just as well as it talks with your customers.  This, along with the right keywords, allows your site to climb up Google and other search engine results.

Reach out to your market

Dorothy suggests using Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites to your advantage.  She also suggests utilizing blogs, and forums.  These sites are like the online equivalents of coffee shops, salons, and other places where people can talk to you and about you.  There are always several discussions going on, and getting on these sites lets you join these discussions.

By joining these communities, or even by building a community around your business, you can learn about what people like (or don’t like) about your business and your products, and even learn what they want that you can offer.  More importantly, interacting with your market  helps you build relationships with them – and makes it more likely they will become loyal customers.

Of course, social sites, blogs, and forums aren’t the only ways to build relationships with your market.  You can reach out to them through e-mail – but you need to know their addresses first.  Dorothy suggests:

Have a place on your web site that encourages customers to provide you with their e-mail addresses. Keep your lists up to date and even begin to categorize the lists for your records. Start a newsletter to send to your e-mail list to keep them coming.

E-mail campaigning over the internet to let local folks know who you are and what you are offering is one of the key ways to implement a successful local marketing campaign. Ask for new customer e-mail addresses at every opportunity. Have a place on your web site that encourages customers to provide you with their e-mail addresses. Keep your lists up to date and even begin to categorize the lists for your records. Start a newsletter to send to your e-mail list to keep them coming.

Mix old school techniques with new technology

Coupons, sales, and special offers are meant to pique interest.  A tempting enough offer will get customers to walk in, call in, or order online.  They can also get prospective customers to think about future sales and offers, and get them to keep coming back.

Another traditional sales technique is the referral.  It not only helps you get new customers, which is always good, but it also strengthens ties with your current customers.  By offering your best customers incentives for recruiting new customers, you get to do two things: you show them how much you value them and the business they bring in, and get them to work for you and advertise for you.

Now you may be wondering, where does the new technology come in?  For one thing, you can inform people about these offers online through e-mail, social media, or other channels.  Doing so lets you use tracking codes and other techniques that will also allow you to track these offers and see how well they work.

Get others to work for you

A referral program like Dorothy mentioned gets your customers actively advertising and supporting your business.  Getting involved in social media, forums, and other online discussions also gets people working for you by talking about you.  These, however, are not your only options to getting others working for your business.

Dorothy suggests article marketing, which entails writing (or finding somebody else to write) articles featuring your products or your services and submitting them to article-sharing sites.  These sites can spread your articles to several online publications, and consequently, get your products featured on several sites.

Of course, another way to get others to work for you is by hiring them.  There are companies that can help you with Internet marketing and incorporating the techniques that Dorothy mentions.  These companies can help you make full use of the Internet for your marketing efforts.

With all the advantages that Internet marketing offers over more traditional marketing techniques, it would be foolish not to learn how to use it.  Yes, the Internet allows you to market globally, but it also allows you to strengthen your presence in your local market.  The fact is that the Internet gives you another way to connect with your customers – and the best part is that you can connect with them even when they’re nowhere near your store.

Until next time,

Ric



Conquer Your Fear

August 24th, 2010 by Adaire in Lifestyle

“There was never any fear for me, no fear of failure. If I miss a shot, so what?” ~ Michael Jordan   

We all know who “His Airness”, Michael Jordan is. :)   His contemporaries, mostly basketball legends themselves, defer to him as the “greatest basketball player of all time.”  His stats are stellar, his scores off the roof, his name is in the Hall of Fame.  As I gleaned from his words above, Jordan rose to the top because he played with NO FEAR.  He played to hone his skills, played to master his craft, played to enjoy the game. :) With his refusal to let fear breed in his heart and mind, he played to become the best. 

I’m not simply talking about basketball. :) I’m talking about the fear that we carry in our hearts and in our heads, the fear that stops us from being happy, or talented, or gorgeous, or successful. Fear is a debilitating emotion, it can be paralyzing.  For some of us, this is the barrier that hold us back from becoming successful, from realizing potentials of great heights – what we can do and where we can go.  :)  

Helene Rothschild, intuitive counselor, speaker and author, challenges us to overcome our fears in Dare To Reach Your Goals: 7 Major Keys to Success in Small Business CEO Magazine

The article was an enlightening read for me. :) It gave me new perceptions about fear. 

Fear of failure, or fear of success?  

Apparently, it is not so much the fear of failure that blocks us, but surprisingly, the fear to succeed. This is a pretty new concept to me; I never thought people could fear the positive. Rothschild talks about the 7 fears of success and how we should cut those ropes to overcome them. 

We fear success because we fear the unknown, not knowing what to do once we’re in new ground.  We fear success because we think we are not deserving of its rewards, and fear the consequences that come with it.  We fear success because we think it does not fit our self-image, or people will no longer like us once we’re there.  We fear success because our parents may not accept that we can surpass what they have accomplished.  We fear success because we think we are doing it for other people, not for ourselves. 

We fear success.  We hinder it ourselves.  We create the bars and roadblocks.  We limit ourselves.  We refuse to succeed. 

F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real 

“Empty fears we all have, most worryings are needless, but still we fail to understand and go on fretting heedless.” ~John McLeod, from On Crossing Non-Existent Bridges 

Another article that turned my perception of fear around is what Lynn Pierce, the Success Architect and founder of the annual Empowered Women’s Business Summit, wrote in her article Banish Fear in Your Life .  It made me think, and eventually agree:  “95% of our fears are never realized.”   Our fears are mostly based on unfounded worries; we turn something illogical into an over-analyzed basis of anxiety. 

False Evidence Appearing Real.  And yet, we allow it to grip us, to stop us from moving towards the direction of where we really want to go. 

I liked Pierce’s suggestion of declaring that YOU and what you want to accomplish is bigger than your fear.  I did the personal growth exercise that she suggested and realized that I indeed have a lot of anxieties and apprehensions that most likely will never happen.  :)  

“Whatever you fear most has no power…it is your fear that has the power”. ~Oprah Winfrey 

Fear is powerful in the sense that it is paralyzing.  It binds us and pins us down from doing what we should, or what is right.  The challenge to us is how to harness this power, and turn it around to become a positive emotion, a call to action. :)

Source: GettyImages.com

After reading the articles, it dawned on me, now, it’s all a matter of decision on my part:  “Will I allow my fears to lord over me?  Do I let it conquer me?  Or the other way around?” 

Burn your fear list 

Pierce, in her article, suggests this personal growth exercise: make three columns on a piece of paper.  On the first column, list your fears, on the second, write down the worst possible thing that can happen if your fear comes true, and on the third, write down a solution to the problem. 

I found this exercise liberating.  It simplified so many things for me, and helped me tackle each fear in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner.  I felt so much better after – silly, in fact, realizing that most anxieties I had were baseless, unfounded, and not even likely to happen.  :)   And should they do arise, I now know what to do.  :)  

To complete my liberation from fear, I read my list once again, took careful note of my solutions column, and burned my list.  Watching that piece of paper go up in smoke was symbolic to my letting go.  It’s like shouting to the world:  “Fear, I’m burning you down.  I’m much bigger than you are.”  :)  

Source: GettyImages.com

 Cut the ropes 

“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, coverage, and confidence in the doing.” 

Now that you have I looked fear in the eye and decided to stand firm against it, I can now empower myself to do greater things, reach greater heights.  :) I think Rothschild said it best in her article… 

Imagine that you are in a beautiful air balloon ready to take off, to have what you want in your life. Now look towards the ground and notice if there are any ropes holding you down, stopping you from being free to fly. 

  

Source: GettyImages.com

“In order to reach your goals in your life, it is necessary to cut those ropes-to overcome not your fears of failure but your fears of success. You may be as surprised as I was when I first discovered the fear of success. It seems illogical to push away the very things we desire”. 

I have now decided to break away from the ties that bind and weigh me down.  I look forward to flying high and flying free, and breathing the wonderful air from above.  :)  

Command & conquer 

What is it exactly that you fear?  Is it failure, or success?  What will it take to conquer it?  Look fear in the face and banish it.  Command yourself to conquer an imaginary foe that has long been pulling you down. 

I leave you now with another point to ponder on.  I found this excerpt from a book written by Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love – Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles: 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”
 

Conquer your fears!
Adaire :)  



The Art of Keeping your Focus

August 14th, 2010 by Adaire in Lifestyle

Sometimes, I wish I could go back to the pre-internet age. The world without emails, IMs, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc…There were fewer distractions to contend with. But it sure was a burden not having to shop at just a click of a button :)

I remember back then, when the internet was new, if you wanted to shop at Amazon, you would go through their “online catalog” write down all of the item numbers for what you wanted and pick up the phone and CALL their order number – or if you were really brave – you’d email your order and credit card info :) .  On eBay – if you bought something at auction and won – you would send a physical check to the seller who would cash it and then send your order to you.

Most websites were education sites or basically business cards online. Full scale online adoption didn’t happen until ten years ago.  And boy did we all truly adopt – fast! :)

I have to admit that living in the World Wide Web has made it difficult for me to keep my focus. The internet has enough content to consume my mind.  And even with all this surplus of cultural technologies that evolve faster than you can type, we still thirst for more ways to fill our attention. I mean, do you even have to wonder why they had to create multiple tabs in the internet browser? :)

Source: GettyImages.com

Indeed, with all these information bombarding us from so many sources, keeping our minds focused almost seems impossible. I bet while you are reading this, you are chatting with online friends, downloading a funny cat video, listening to the radio, and watching TV. :)

Greg Reid, author of the book, “Millionaire Mentor” cites a more vivid example showing the importance of focus in one’s success in his article on Healthy Wealthy n Wise entitled Catch the Ball.

He compares a golden opportunity to a game of basketball where you are poised to make the winning shot.  Being aware that the success of the game relies on you adds pressure that could make you lose focus.  Your mind may wander too far ahead into imagining triumph and accolades. As your attention drifts, you end up failing to catch the ball.

While focus is mostly required of athletes in a high-pressure competition, the concept also presents itself to various situations. Take a stage actor for example.  He could hit the high notes, memorize his lines, keep in character during his rehearsals, but once he loses his focus onstage when the blinding lights and public eyes are upon him, then all is for naught.

Riding two horses:

“If you can’t ride two horses at the same time you shouldn’t be in the circus.”- Unknown source

Riding two horses altogether may seem like a highly-prized ability, IF you want your life to be a circus. :)

So before you pat your back for your ability to multi-task, think again. Reid couldn’t have said it better himself, “We can do things faster and better, if we focus on only one thing at a time.”

So how do you maintain your focus amidst this crippling attitude of doing everything at once?

I’ve outlined here a few basic tips which I based on Reid’s article:

Unplug:

Recently, I caught a story on TV where a family with teenage kids was dared to live for a week without TV, internet, mobile phone, radio, and music players. To entertain themselves, they played board games; talked, painted, read books.  I wasn’t sure if the family made it through the week, but it did make me think how families have changed so much because of this technological age. Kids are busy text messaging their friends instead of talking to their parents over dinner. Dads are spending more time in front of the computer monitor instead of their real live kids. Families have lost their focus on the most important aspect of their lives – their loved ones. Without your family, with whom will you share your success?

If you think unplugging yourself completely is too harsh, then start with unplugging yourself some of the time. For example, turn off the TV and ban all mobile phones during meals so you could enjoy a conversation. Or plan a no-connectivity weekend in a beach or at home. You might be surprised at how going back to basics could lead you to a grander vision in life. :)

Prepare:

In his article, Reid emphasizes the need for preparation. In a high-pressure situation such as a big business presentation, you are given only one chance. Leave no room for surprises. Carefully study all aspects of a task or project before you aim for the big shot.  Being prepared mentally also boosts your confidence. Simon Cowell couldn’t have said it best, “There is no need to be nervous if you know you’re good.” :)

If you‘ve covered all possibilities, ran through your presentation, perfected your pitch, then you are in total control of the situation. This kind of assurance leaves you now with only one task in mind: focus to win.

Choose One:

Pick one and stick with it.  Whether it’s a career path, a task, a business, a strategy, a goal, and yes even a life partner :) You have to choose only one for you to succeed at it.  If you want proof then try it tomorrow. Make a list of your day’s tasks and do them all at once.  I bet you would succeed only at squandering your time.  If you think all your tasks are necessary, then prioritize and allot a scheduled time for each.  Imagine focusing all your thought, energy, resources on that one task. You would not only finish, but also finish with a flourish.

Glancing at these simple tips, you might think that they are far too methodical.  You might ask, what about creativity? The need to live in the moment, allowing the natural flow of imagination?

Have you heard the esoteric order of art?  Yes, even in the most abstract Picasso, there is logic and order. Underneath all those crazy, non-linear strokes is a unifying theme that makes it a work of art. :) Why do you think you could recognize a Picasso if you see one?

So ask yourself this question, are you ready to create a masterpiece of success?  Then get focused!

Let me know how you plant to start your magnum opus with your comments below.

Adaire



Mind Your Skills

August 10th, 2010 by Ric in Lifestyle

Source: GettyImages.com

Despite how some people make it look, networking isn’t easy.  Trust me on this, I know.  Networking takes time, hard work, and a lot of patience – and I’ve put in my fair share of that. Of course, to be at successful at networking, like in most other things, you need a couple of things: the right skillsets, and the right mindsets.  

Some of you may be wondering what the difference is between the two.  Let me break it down for you by putting you in the shoes of a carpenter or handyman.  

Think of your skillset as the tools you have on your belt, and of course, the know-how and experience to use these tools. These things not only make your job easier, but are vital for your job.  

In networking your tools or your skills involve effectively communicating your ideas to others, being able to focus on specific tasks, and knowing how to bond with potential business partners, just to name a few.  

Having the right skillset, however, is only part of the formula.  You may know how to nail, screw, and glue pieces of wood together, but if you don’t know what you’re building or what steps you have to take, all you’ll end up with is a pile of wood.  This is where the mindset comes in.  

Ivan Misner says it best in his article in one of our online magazines, Healthy Wealthy n Wise, entitled Networking is Both a Mindset and a Skillset. He explains that  too many business and life coaching professionals, focus too much on the skillset, and neglect a way of thinking that you need for successful and dynamic networking, or what he calls the mindset.  Of course, he also gave us specific examples to help us better determine what our own skillsets and mindsets are.

Focus your mind

I’m a firm believer in the power of the mind. If you can dream it, you can achieve it. Whatever you believe in and envision, you can become. These are some of the values I try to instill in my sons Chandler and Stefan. I want them to grow up knowing that they can take control of their own lives, and it starts with their minds.

Here are the three mindsets that Ivan Misner shared in his article: 

The Law of Reciprocity or Givers Gain Approach

The Golden Rule; “you reap what you sow;” “what goes around comes around;” “you only get what you give;” “give and you shall receive” – the idea has been stated many times over in countless ways, and for good reason.  No matter which form, language, or combination of words it takes, the Law of Reciprocity is a universal law. 

This is a great to law to apply to networking – if you treat your network well, they will likely treat you well too.  However, Ivan stresses that this law is not transactional.  Statements like “you scratch my back, I scratch yours;” and “tit for tat” are not what the Law of Reciprocity is about.  Sure, a quid pro quo approach can bring some success, but nothing like what the power of reciprocity can yield.  

You shouldn’t just do business with those who you think would give you the most profit or the best benefits.  Instead, you should focus on your ability to work with and help others – somehow the universe will make it worth your while.  Trust me, if your heart is in the right place, fate will pay you back tenfold.  It’s a cliché, I know, but no good deed goes unpunished indeed.

Diversity in networking

Diversity allows you to explore other worlds other than your own. It lets you get out of your own head and pick other people’s brains for a change. Not only will you increase your knowledge and broaden your perspective, you will also widen your network.

If you’ve been around the business long enough like Liz and I have, then you’ll know that diversity isn’t just good for networking and business, it’s also prime ground for personal growth. 

Farming Mentality

Among the many things farmers are known for and are good at are patience and cultivation. They till the soil before planting seeds, nurture and protect their crops, and gather the harvest only when the time is right.  They don’t expect to reap the benefits of their hard work overnight. 

Success in networking is similar – you don’t go in for the kill in the first meeting.  You prepare the soil first by bonding with potential clients, referrers, and partners.  Only after this do you plant the first seeds and discuss referrals and networking opportunities.  Also like a farmer tending to his seeds, you need to make sure that you strengthen your relationships with those you want in your network.  

Do this, and you’ll eventually reap the benefits.  Like farming, networking success  doesn’t happen overnight.  You don’t get rich by being impatient and riding get-rich-quick schemes. Remember, there’s no money-back guarantee in those fly-by-night businesses. 

Enhance your skills

Your mindset complements your skillset.  Your mindset gives you a plan or a networking stragety, but your skillset gives you the tools to execute that plan.  These three skillsets Ivan  mentions in his article can really help you start up and build a strong networking business.   

The VCP Process(TM)

Ivan Misner coined this skillset which stands for visibility, credibility and profitability.  Visibility breeds credibility and credibility, more often than not, leads to profitability.  You have to start with making yourself more visible to the business community you belong to.  This could come in many forms, including attending mixers, writing for the newspaper, supporting neighborhood sports, and holding fundraisers, among other things. 

As people see how stable and dependable you are, you gain credibility in their eyes.  This credibility leads to referrals, stronger relationships, and eventually, more profit.  Don’t be afraid to try something new, and be creative in getting yourself and your business out there.

Sharpshoot, Don’t Shotgun

Information overload can hurt your business really bad.  When you introduce yourself and your business, don’t try to cram everything into a 30-second, 3,000 word-per-minute spiel.  Instead, focus on the key aspects of your business – the more details, support materials, and stories you can build around each aspect, the more others will learn and remember.  My wife Liz often complains about retention, but in this case, retention is a very good thing.  When people remember and trust you, they will come back to you repeatedly.

Hold One-on-Ones

How did you meet your spouse, partner, or significant other?  Chances are, you met in a party, mixer, or some other group setting.  

How did you get to know each other?  I bet you spent quite a bit of time with each other, away from others in your social circles.  

The fact is that you can learn things about other people in one-on-one interactions that you’re unlikely to discover in a group setting.  This applies not only to personal relationships, but networking and business as well.  

One-on-one interactions give you a deeper knowledge and understanding of each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities.  They also help you  establish closer and stronger bonds with your partners, which usually translate to an increase in referrals too. 

There are many ways to start and build a networking business. Whatever skills you have can always be enhanced by your mindset and vice versa.  What mindsets and skillsets have you used in your business?  Do you know of others that you’d like to share with us?  Let us know through the comments section below.

Happy networking!
Ric



WoW Philippines!

August 7th, 2010 by Liz in Uncategorized

 

Our House by the Bay

As you all well know, Ric and I love to travel.  We’ve been around; seen some really great sights, tasted amazing cuisines, and met interesting people.  Well today I want to share some of that with you…

I am writing this from the balcony of our lovely seaside villa in the Philippines, in full view of one of the most beautiful bays in the world that breathes the fresh ocean mist on my face mixed with the intoxicating sweet scent of tropical flowers <g>.

Yes folks, I’m in the unspoiled paradise called the Philippines- that tiny speck of a country in Southeast Asia.  Truth to tell, I can’t believe I’m here right now.  People have warned me not to go, with talks of terrorists, kidnappers and whatnot.  But I have to say, the Philippines is an amazing country.  I can’t even begin to tell you why.  And it’s so surprising that this piece of heaven gets very little promotion despite its incredible tourism potential.

First thing we see in the morning.

For starters, it has more than 7,000 islands.  I’ve just been to 5 cities on 2 of the islands and already I’m awestruck.  Ric and I love the exotic food.  The kids can’t stop raving about the water sports – from diving off of waterfalls in the crystal clear mountain rivers of the interior to snorkeling in the pristine beaches and bays, or kayaking out to the floating slide that is moored in the bay right off of our front dock – its been love at first sight, and second, and third…  But what strikes me most are the people who are just so lovely and friendly.

I can go on and on.  But I should reserve my Philippine travel blog to another time.  

Enjoying all these, the culture, food, sights, Ric and I are once again reminded of how blessed we are to be able to explore nature’s magnificence.

The world is a book

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Decades ago, this quote would’ve sounded really “insensitive” because only a few could afford to travel back then. Traveling was considered a luxury.  

Things have changed so much. Now, we have budget airlines, packaged holidays, and backpackers’ hotels, which have made traveling within everyman’s means.  Even teenagers can afford long-haul travel.  

Chandler at the Beach

While I believe it’s still true that it is best to explore the world when you are young (and when you’re middle aged, and when you’re old, and do we ever have to stop….?), it’s even more true that one of the secrets of staying young is to travel.  Being a stranger in a strange land, you are bound to experience everything for the first time.  First time to ride a water buffalo (Stefan, our 5-year-old, had an AMAZING time driving his first water-buffalo-powered ox cart. He really sat next to the driver and helped hold the reins – but HE thought he was driving).  First time to taste duck embryo or balut (OK I confess – this is one “delicacy” I’ve decided to pass on, but who knows- YOU might like it <g>).  First time to speak a new language.  

Think of that moment when you did something for the first time.  Quite exhilarating isn’t it?

Next chapter, Europe

Our time here in the Philippines has truly been amazing – and I’m sure I’ll have a few more things to report before we leave in early October.  But all of these things wouldn’t have been possible if not for our very helpful Filipino friends who facilitated our extensive travel planning.

Lunch

If there’s one thing Ric and I have learned in planning a meaningful trip, it is to always “ask the locals”.  After all, a “meaningful” trip means learning about the country’s people and culture – not just doing a 26-countries-and-215-monuments-in-36-hours sort of experience. So we make an extra effort to avoid five star hotels (with the exception of the occasional weekend getaway), crowded sites, and other touristy places.  We always remind ourselves that we are travelers, not tourists.

After the tropics, we are headed home to Virginia for a few months then off to the snowy slopes of Europe <g>.  

And before heading to Europe next February, we would like to ask our friends from there to help us plan our trip.   We would love to do all the “snow and winter stuff” with the boys that first month, then spend the next few months enjoying Spring in the warmer areas of the Continent.

We know we’ve got a lot of choices in front of us so we’re asking for our help…

As a guideline, we are not fans of packaged tours, which means we don’t stay in hotels and resorts.  If you could suggest a charming cottage or inn in a town, that would be great.  We want to spend time with the locals to experience their culture, customs and of course their food.

I’m also looking at brushing up on my French, both the language and the cuisine.  I’m embarrassed to admit my high school and college French is getting a little rusty and my French cuisine could use a little “refining” <g>.  You may also throw in suggestions on where I could expand my Italian repertoire.

Aside from these, we would love to discover Europe’s best kept secrets which we won’t find in a packaged tour.  What are your hometown’s tucked away places?  Any side trips we should consider?  How about your most sacred sites or revered places?

Of course we are also looking forward to that European winter holiday. But we don’t have a clear idea yet what an ideal European winter vacation would be like.  I would love to hear what you have to say. The boys are raring to ski the slopes. What is the best place where we can pick up skiing lessons?

I would definitely appreciate your suggestions and advice.  Let me know by sharing your ideas here.

In the meantime, the South China Sea beckons.  May you all have the best of life’s journey. <g>

Liz