Creating a Vibrant Life by Inventing Projects

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The crazy Magic Gardens

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the need for Pat and me to think that we are not on vacation. That guidance is important as it relates to health and finances. We can’t spend years throwing caution to the wind the way we might on a two-week vacation.

Yet, I realize this advice is faulty as it relates to our everyday life.

Each time we move, I seek out projects–clusters of places to explore around some topic. Most often these are mundane, off-the-beaten path pursuits. Generally, they aren’t planned.

The last three weeks in Philadelphia, I made up a few projects.

My first was to find five small museums—lesser known places–of interest. Some of these had extremely limited hours, so I laid out the visits to ensure I made it to all of them. Then, I noted the schedule on my calendar—a habit steeped in years of corporate life. One which has served me well. I do what’s on my calendar—tired, hungry, hot–it doesn’t matter.

Three of the museums were two miles from where we are staying, and hence took a good bit of walking. This was a bonus (especially given how fantastic the food is in Philly). One sign of a good project is that it requires at least five miles of walking.

These museums were great projects.

I walked to the last museum yesterday, The Mummer Museum, while Pat and Ryan headed to a Springsteen concert. On the way, I decided to fit in The Magic Garden on South Street (if this is considered a museum, it was my 7th). On the way back, I stopped for an early dinner at a Vietnamese neighborhood on Washington Avenue. I wanted to try the pho in this part of town which contains little more than a handful of Asian-inspired strip malls.

Last week, coming home from an evening walk, I stumbled upon a beautiful mural dedicated to the Philadelphia Phillies and decided to create a second project on murals. Fatefully, when I returned home and googled the Philadelphia mural scene, I found a mural walk the next day and signed on.

The walk started two miles from my home. YES!


One of the many Spring Garden murals

The guide mentioned that more murals could be found on Spring Garden between 4th and Broad streets. The Edgar Allan Poe House (one of the five small museums) was on this stretch of Spring Garden. Philly’s Chinatown sat between my apartment and The Poe House. Conflating these things, I crafted a morning of murals and Poe that ended in Chinatown for lunch.

My last project was to get rid of books I had read. To this end, I spent the month investigating local coffee shops in order to match the clientele of the shop with the readership of the book. I drank a coffee and left a book, never repeating locations, which worked well as I love coffee shops–and had ten books which needed a new home.

Tomorrow, we leave for Berlin where new projects, no doubt, await.

Life is a series of large and small projects—a volunteer position, raising a family, a career, a day at the park. What you glean from each project defines what you get out of life. Being a full time traveler keeps this at the top of my mind. My projects involve place and culture and food–three topics which I find fascinating.

I haven’t done any research on Berlin. Once I get there, I’m confident I’ll stumble upon something. On the plane, I’ll come up with a few ideas, but serendipity, after all, is part of the fun.


In the event you have never seen a mummer!






Categories: How To

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2 replies

  1. Love to read about your projects, a nice way for discovering new, interesting places.

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