Drive Around Aimlessly & Explore

Road through a covered bridge.

Do a little aimless driving this week. Maybe a little each day, or maybe one adventure, one day for a few hours. Drive around with no particular destination in mind.

Doing this helps you to see different things and clear your mind.

Go wherever you think looks interesting. Even if it is a street that you have been on before, you may see something you never have because you’re normally hurrying to your next destination. You may find a better, quicker route between places that you go every day.

My husband and I do this a lot, especially when we’re on vacation. We start driving down a road and then one of us will say, “That looks interesting, let’s go that way,” and we do. Doing this we have found all kinds of things that we otherwise never would have seen. We found a light house that we didn’t know was there in Cape Cod. We found a beach in California that had some interesting cairns. We found a train museum in PA. (Unfortunately it was closed, but we still got to take pictures of the outside.) Even here at home we sometimes do it. We may go on roads that we have been on before, but we always see something new.  

The other night we were driving home from dinner and got stopped by a train. I’m the only person I know that gets excited about being stopped by a train. I enjoy the time just to sit and take a “forced” break in the day. (Also, I love trains and the graffiti that ends up on them.) As we sat there, several other people came and parked behind us. They were taking photos over at the train station. When the train stopped, they realized it was the perfect opportunity to get an even better angle for their pictures. They could stand in the middle of the road and not have to worry about traffic. We all talked and took pictures. It was an impromptu little party. None of this would have ever happened if we hadn’t taken the time to drive around, stop for the train, and take in the scenery that we generally just pass by.

Train sitting in front of a building.

Ever since I got my driver’s license, getting in my car and driving around randomly has been the best way for me to clear my mind and process things. If I don’t have a lot of extra money for gas, or time to go far, I drive to a nearby park or parking lot and just sit (without the radio on and without playing with my phone). I’ll go the long way home just to go through a nearby park area. It always gives me time to relax and enjoy the views, instead of being stressed out by traffic all the way home.

Trees in front of a river with a bridge across it.

If you live in the city and don’t really have a good place to drive around, or don’t even have a car to drive, trade driving for walking. Walk around aimlessly, with no real destination in mind. Just let you mind wander and see where your feet take you. It’s the same concept.

If you need a little more direction and a little less random, try flipping a coin:

Pick a starting point, the end of your street, the restaurant parking lot, or where ever you happen to be. Flip a coin. Heads you go left, tails you go right. Let this be your guide and see where it takes you. If you end up at a dead end or going in circles, pick another starting point and flip the coin again. This is good for exploring somewhere that you have been before. It will help mix things up and allow you to free your mind of the decisions about where to turn or go, so that you can see more of the world around you.

Doing this is also like a mini vacation for your brain. When you free your mind from having to make so many decisions about where to go, where to turn, what to do next, it frees up space for creative solutions, problem solving, and finding things that you really enjoy doing.  

If you take the road less traveled you never know what you will find, who you might meet, or what you might discover about yourself.

You may find a cemetery in the middle of the road. You may see geese walking on water. (They were really walking on ice. =)) Or you may find the end of a road you didn’t even know you were on. Haha!

So tell us, do you ever drive around aimlessly? Or take different roads just because they look interesting? What other things do you do to clear your mind?

Move Along

Find a way to add movement to your life this week. Our bodies were designed to move. It doesn’t always feel that way after we’ve done a work out and our muscles are screaming at us. More importantly than just adding movement this week, I want you to add movements that you enjoy doing. If you don’t enjoy doing it, you’re either not going to keep doing it long term, thus losing the benefit, or you’re going to force yourself to do it, thus taking all of the fun out of it and staying at odds with yourself and your body. It benefits us in so many ways to learn to listen to what our bodies are telling us. If you spend the entire time you’re running thinking “I hate this, I hate this, I hate this” that is going to create a blockage in your body. You will be more tense while you’re running, risking injury and more muscle pain in general after your workout. You’ll be more likely to find excuses not to go for a run because deep down you really don’t want to anyway. This could apply to anything; running, weight lifting, yoga, kayaking, anything.

For several years I tried to do yoga. I searched for a good teacher that taught actual beginner classes. A lot of people say beginner, but they go straight from step one to step five with no stops in between. I finally found Yoga With Adriene and I loved her videos. I really got to where I enjoyed doing yoga and I did it as often as I could. Recently though, I’m just not feeling it. Nothing against yoga as a practice. I still think it is a great form of meditation, exercise, and all of the other benefits that go along with it. I still highly recommend it for those who are drawn to it. But for some reason my body no longer enjoys doing yoga. It’s not just the exercise it’s the movements. In the process of all of this I hurt my elbow and couldn’t do any of the poses that involved putting pressure on my arms (which is most of them). I’ve been doing TaiChi and Qigong more and more over the last couple of years and really enjoyed it. As I explored what was going on within my body, I started to realize that Yoga just isn’t for me anymore. That’s not to say that I will never do it again, or that I think it’s bad for you. Right now, my body just doesn’t enjoy that type of movement. So, I’m making every effort to respect what my body tells me and to move in ways that I actually enjoy.  

This may not look fun to some, but he loves it.

Sometimes the key thing that we miss is doing the movements that we love. Doing the movements that make our bodies feel good and not strained. All too often we think of movement as something we have to do to punish ourselves for eating poorly. Or we’ve been told by our doctor that we have to exercise and lose weight. Maybe our intentions started out as good ones, to get in better shape and to live a healthier lifestyle, but somewhere along the way we started beating ourselves up for not following a stringent diet or for not doing the amount of exercise that we feel is appropriate. We see what others are doing and we do that, even though we secretly hate every minute of it.

Everyone is different. We all enjoy different things. I’m asking you to search yourself this week and find those movements that your body actually enjoys doing. Find those movements and do them.

Try doing some form of movement for at least 5-10 minutes a day. Once you find what you enjoy you can add more time to that and get the recommended daily value of exercise. You can try something different every day, or, if you already know what you love, make time to do it.  

Find a taichi or qigong class, a dance class, pilates, yoga, or whatever is interesting to you. If you’re not into group classes try finding a video on YouTube. Go for a jog or a run. Take your kayak or stand up paddle board (or rent one) and paddle around the water for a little while. Go swimming. Find a playground and play like you used to when you were a kid.

If you live near a light house, go climb the stairs and see the beautiful views. Anything that gets you up and moving.

All of these things will not only benefit you physically, they will also benefit you mentally. Exercise is a proven stress reliever. Stepping away from the grind of the day and spending some time doing what you enjoy will serve to give your thinking mind a break. When you’re moving your body, you can focus on what you’re doing and take your mind on what needs to be done or what has been done. You live in the present moment or you fall over (in yoga), fall in (kayaking or on a SUP), or completely lose your place (in Taichi or dancing). In finding what you love to do, what feels good to you and your body, you will open up those creative channels.  

Some of my favorites:

Yoga with Adriene, she has videos from beginner to advanced. Her motto? Find What Feels Good =)  

Click here to see her videos.

For Qigong, try Chris Shelton with Shelton Qigong. Again, he explains things in a way that anyone can understand. You don’t have to have some advanced knowledge to do the practices. The movements are easy enough for anyone to do and incredibly beneficial and relaxing. To see all of the Shelton Qigong videos click here.

However you choose to do it, find movement. Even if it’s just dancing around your kitchen for 5 minutes while your dinner cooks in the microwave.

Tell us how you choose to move this week. Let us know if you tried new things or if you already know what you love and you were able to make time to do it.

The Novel Turtle Presents: Q&A with Haley Hensley

This is Haley and her sweet Great Dane, Emme.

Welcome to our Q&A session! This week our guest is Haley Hensley. Haley is a photographer, animal lover, and all around fun person. Her website is www.haleyhensley.photo.

Q: What made you want to start taking photographs?

I am a shy person, even more so when I was younger. I didn’t really have a place to fit in at school. I didn’t play sports or an instrument. When I heard about yearbook staff in middle school though it really sparked an interest in me. When I was old enough to join yearbook staff, I did. I loved taking photos of the different activities going on at school. In a way, I was fitting in by hiding behind a camera. 

Q: At what age did you do this?

At age 9, my father bought me my first camera. He bid on a box full of items at an auction. A 35mm Minolta XG 1 film camera was in the box. I was fascinated by it. We took it to Ritz Camera to be looked over and repaired. I remember standing outside of the store, pointing the camera at something. A gentleman walked past and asked if I was a photographer. From that moment, I may not have been a photographer but I knew that I wanted to be one in the future. So, I started photographing everything: family, pets, nature. 

Q: What are some of your favorite things to photograph?

I’ve always loved photographing nature, from mountains to beaches. I love capturing the beautiful areas that surround me. I also love photographing dogs. Dogs are one of my biggest passions, along with photography. So being able to connect with them through my camera is one of the most rewarding experiences. I am currently trying to learn more about photographing couples and newborns!

Q: Where is the craziest place you’ve ever stood to take a photo?

This one is easy for me. Although I will do just about anything to capture a shot that I have a vision for, this one experience always comes to mind. It was November on the Nolichucky River. The Noli is already extremely cold, but in November it is REALLY cold. I had a 4×5 film project I was working on for school, and I saw the perfect shot about knee high out a little ways in the river. I was thinking, “I have on rain boots, I’ll be fine!” The rain boots didn’t help, I was not fine, and it was COLD. I remember my legs going numb in a matter of seconds! I got the shot, found my way out and called it a day! 

Q: Do you have a favorite photo, or collection of photos?

A project that was one of the most challenging and most rewarding is my Virginia Intermont College series. I photographed my school several times, between a few weeks up to a year after its closing. Those are some of my favorite images and always will be because of the personal connection I have with them, and the challenge it posed for me as a person and photographer. 

Q: You have a book about Virginia Intermont, tell us about that. What gave you the idea to do it? How did you choose the areas that you photographed? 

We were told 2 weeks before school ended for summer break that we would not be able to come back. We had already registered for classes and had out next year planned out. In a matter of seconds that was taken away. I was desperate to hang on to anything I could from Virginia Intermont. I knew that I would never see it again. So, I told myself, I have to photograph everything. I walked in every room of every building. Even places that had been closed off to students previously, areas I didn’t even know existed. I photographed places that I connected with or felt emotional about. 

Q: What did you learn in school that you were surprised to learn about photography?

That even though you have a beautiful, creative idea it needs to be technically correct to actually be a good photograph. I had been photographing for years! When I started college I was amazed by just how much I didn’t know technically. Learning how to shoot a camera in manual so that you can control every aspect to achieve your vision is one of the most important things. If your photograph is overexposed then it’s ruined! You can edit a digital image and correct any mistakes but printing a film negative is a bit more challenging if it is not technically correct. 

Q: What are a few tips, that you could give those of us who are amateurs that love to take photos, to help us?

Learn. Learn. And keep learning. In today’s world with YouTube, Facebook Groups and other endless internet resources it provides a whole learning field for anything and everything. Learn about your camera, composition and ways to manipulate your image and be creative. Watch videos, ask other photographers. You can always study others’ work, but always give credit and be respectful! 

Q: Are there other types of creative projects that you do?

I have to be creative! If I am not creative, I am not happy! Outside of photography, I am also a woodworker. I work for a small business (extremely successful, but family owned) that builds furniture! I also love to make greeting cards. I have been making cards since I was a little girl. I love the personal touch it adds. 

Q: Because this website is all about expanding our ideas of what creativity is, I’m always interested to ask this question: How do you define creativity?

Expressing the ideas that are in your mind, or how you’re feeling, through activities that you love to do and that make you happy. 


Haley, thanks so much for joining us this week!!! It has been a lot of fun getting to know more about you and your business.

If you would like to see more of Haley’s work, purchase her book with the Virginia Intermont collection, or get in touch with her:

Website: www.haleyhensley.photo

Email: info@haleyhensley.photo

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/haleyhensleyphotography/

Instagram: www.instagram.com/haleyhensleyphotography

Writing for Fun

Graffiti on a train.

Try writing, in one form or another, every day this week. Even if it’s just for five or ten minutes at a time. I’m not talking about sitting down and writing a novel. Although, if that’s something you want to do, then absolutely make time to do that.

While you’re at a restaurant, waiting on your food, write a little story about something you see around you. Make up a story about a person or group that is sitting near you. Where are they from? Why are they there? Are they undercover spies who are trying to blend in? Did one of them just get a new job or a promotion and they are there celebrating? Let your imagination take over.

If you take the subway or a bus home, use that time to write about your day. That way when you get home you can leave your day behind you, relax, and enjoy your evening. If you do this daily you will start to see a big difference in your stress levels. You’ll also see a big difference in how your relationship is with the people you live with. If you constantly bring your work day home with you, you also bring that stress home with you. Leaving it at work, or getting it out on the way home, you allow your evening to be filled with things that you would like to be doing, rather than being filled with re-hashing the day.

Can’t think of anything to write? Is your mind running in circles? Are you trying to gain clarity on something?

TRY THIS: Sit down and write every thing that comes to your mind for at least 5 minutes. Or more. This allows your brain to basically disconnect. This is also a great form of meditation.

(Check this post out for more ideas on meditation.)

Even if the words you write are: Moving over the small ball wall tall mall all saw a bug in the light of life, etc, etc, Keep writing for at least 5 minutes. It may not make any sense at all, but somewhere in there will be a seed of an idea, or at the very least you’ve cleared that out and made room for a solution to shine through.

I often do this and end up writing several pages worth of stuff.

Everyone has a story to tell. If you think you don’t, just start writing. Start with “Once Upon a Time” or begin writing little random facts about yourself. Pretty soon a story line will start to emerge and you’ll see your story develop.

This doesn’t even have to be something that you show to other people. It could be something you write and then throw away. Or something you write and keep in a notebook.

Journal with chocolate chip cookie pen.

My chocolate chip cookie actually smells like chocolate chip cookies. Yum!!

Keep a notebook, a journal, or a pad of paper with you this week and write out little inspirations. You could even put your ideas into a memo in your phone and then transfer them over to a journal when you get home. This is what I do. Sometimes you have to be creative about how to hold your phone up while your writing. Haha!

Hand on a laptop with a phone sitting in yarn next to it.

I have found that if I try to remember these inspirations, if I try to keep them in my head, they tend to disappear. If I write them down as they come, they just keep coming.

The more you open yourself up to creative inspiration, the more it reveals itself to you.

What will you write this week?

This is one of the more interesting journals I’ve had, and one of my favorites as far as creativity goes. It’s made out of elephant poop. Yep, you read that right, elephant poop. Mr. Ellie Pooh’s Handmade Recycled Paper-Elephant Conservation through Innovation. www.mrelliepooh.com if you’re interested.

Comment below and tell us how your week of writing went. Did you discover a new talent that you didn’t know you had? Were you able to solve a problem that you couldn’t before? Did you come up with a funny story?

The Local Tourist

Brick building with tree.

Pretend that you are a tourist in your own city.

What would you do? Where would you eat? Where would you go?

Act like you have never been to your city before. Google your city name and see what pops up to do. Go onto Pinterest and search for your city. Make an entire board full of things that you can do in your area.

When my husband and I go to a new city we Google the area. We look for things to do and read restaurant reviews. We always try to eat somewhere local.

Do the same thing in your own city. Go to your local airport or welcome center and browse through the brochures there. Look for things that you have never done, but are interested in trying. It can be anything from finding the local parks and hiking spots, to taking a hot air balloon ride over the city. You can search for free things to do or budget a little and spend. Just as you would if you were traveling.

Buildings and a yard with flowers.

Walk around the city as if you’ve never been there before. Look at the displays in shop windows. Go into stores that you’ve never been in before. Take pictures of things that a tourist would. Admire the architecture. Anything that you would do on vacation in a new city, do in your own city.

Look on RoadsideAmerica.com and see if there are any oddities in your area that you could take pictures of.

Oscar Mayer Weinermobile and a spaceship.

A house near us has a spaceship in their front yard. It has been around for over 20 years now. One day we caught an icon, the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, taking a picture of a local icon.

Take it one step further and treat your home as if it were a hotel, or an Air BNB, for a night or two. I know, you’re the one who will have to clean everything up in the end, but for at least one night, suspend that reality and just enjoy yourself. Don’t do anything that you have to do. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do if you weren’t on vacation and staying in someone else’s house.

Doing all of this opens you up to new experiences. You begin to see the things and people around you in a new light. Places that you may have gone many times over can become new again if you see them as a new visitor to your city would. New experiences add to your ability to be more creative.

Once you do go back to reality, your experience of “traveling” in your own city will stick with you. Use this experience and remember to take a step back when dealing with your day to day life. If you view your life, your problems, from an outsider’s perspective you can get a clearer picture about what is going on. If you allow yourself to step out of the situation and become a silent observer, you can more easily see the bigger picture. This can help you find a solution that you may have missed because you were too close to the issue. You give yourself the chance to be more creative about problem solving, or about life in general, when you aren’t going through life on auto-pilot.

Tell us below if you found anything new and interesting in your city. Or if you went to all the same places and viewed them as a tourist would, with fresh eyes.

These are pictures from our tour around our city.

Pal’s is a local chain in our area. They have the BEST sweet tea (a Southern staple). I also love that they have a different fun saying on their sign everyday.