Ricketts Road Trip

This evening, I’m literally riding west into the sunset.

Well, I probably shouldn’t have said “riding” since it really is more like “driving.” I guess we’ve mostly left the world of horse transportation, huh?

Ricketts road trip route from Chicago to Seattle

I’m beginning the first leg of a 2,400-mile road trip across most of the country from Chicago to Seattle. My new life in the Pacific Northwest is due to a job at Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), one of my favorite companies. And I’m pumped.

For the first few days, I’ll be making the journey by myself. Even though I had the opportunity to fly instead, I decided that I need the catharsis of a six-day trip. I need the time to slowly close the book on my eight-year stay in southwest Michigan and my four-year stay in northern Indiana. I need to feel as if Seattle is far away—otherwise, a flight just feels like cheating, almost as if I suddenly appeared in my new life with no arduous journey.

After a few days by myself, I’ll be picking up my brother, Kyle, from the Minneapolis airport. From there, we’ll trek across South Dakota to the Badlands, then on to Wall Drug, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and the mountains of Montana.

You can follow along on our journey with the hashtag #RickettsRoadTrip on Twitter or Instagram. I’ll probably rock a few other social experiments along the way, too. (Periscope anyone?)

I’m looking for music ideas to play in each state. If you have any songs or artists that make sense for a portion of the journey, please hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

Ryan is Joining the REI Digital Retail Team

Ryan Ricketts in front of an REI store in Columbus, Ohio

After nearly eight years, this is my last week at Whirlpool Corporation in southwest Michigan.

It feels weird writing that out. When I joined the company after college in 2007, I didn’t imagine the sheer amount of opportunities ahead of me at Whirlpool. It’s filled with an ethical, smart, dedicated group of people who strive to build great products. And I’m really going to miss everyone.

My good friend, Randy, said to me that “change is hard even when you want it.” For me, leaving Whirlpool was a tough decision that was ultimately necessary in order for me to grow. It’s time for an adventure in a new area of the country and with new professional challenges. But it won’t make it any easier to leave.

I’ll miss campfires and beach Bible study in the summer, harvest festivals and corn mazes in the fall, snow cream and dune sledding in the winter, and hammock backpacking in the spring. I’ll miss Daniel Deitrich’s worship sessions at First Church of God. I’ll miss my many housemates and living situations over the years—in the house that got smashed by a tree with “Frodo” and Brian, in the wood-paneled cabin on the sand with Adam, in a dream house next to the beach with Tim and Geiger, in a haunted house with Caleb, in the country with Matt and a biker gang, and in the recovering neighborhoods of Benton Harbor with Chris and Amanda.

I’ll miss feeling adopted by the Deitrich family and accepted by my House family.

The smell of Silver Beach Pizza, the taste of Greenbush beer, and the Sriracha spiciness of Phoenix Rising’s breakfast BLT will all hold a special place in my heart. I’ll have to trade the drinks of Journeyman Distillery for an equally hipster location in Seattle, but I’ll still wear my same red buffalo flannel.

So what’s my next adventure?

Seattle skyline during sunset

In early April, I’ll be moving to Seattle, Washington, to join the Digital Retail Team at REI as a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Program Manager. The role rubs shoulders with a bright group of marketers, information architects, user experience designers, and programmers.

Someone asked me what I thought about the folks I’ve met so far at REI, and I said they seemed “intelligent, patient, and kind.” These are my favorite kind of people.

I have to admit that I’m a little scared. It’s hard not to be scared when you’re moving so far from home and starting fresh with a new group of friends. If you know anyone awesome in Seattle I would love to be introduced.

I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people for already helping me—namely, to Danny Dover, Jonathon Colman, Justin Schoen, Jennifer Sable Lopez, Andy Nelson, Randy Bennett, and others. I also received prayers and counsel from friends and family all over the country (thanks everyone!).

Look for many more Tweets, posts, and pictures as I prepare for a cross-country road trip with my brother and for my new life in Seattle.

Minimalist Life Hacks: Donation Sundays

Stacks of empty boxes

In my quest to own fewer things, I stole borrowed one of Danny Dover’s minimalist life hacks called “Donation Sundays.” (What can I say? It was a great idea.)

Since December 2013, I’ve reduced my possessions by five things every Sunday. Over the course of 55 weeks, this amounts to 275 things!

Donation Sundays Step-by-Step Guide

Here’s how you can try it for yourself:

  1. Set up a recurring to-do item in your task manager of choice to repeat every week. I use OmniFocus and love it. It should say something like “reduce possessions by five items.”
  2. Find a donation box that will temporarily hold your discarded stuff.
  3. Before you go to bed on Sunday night, find five things you no longer need and put them in the donation box.
  4. Rinse and repeat each week.
  5. Every couple of weeks, take your donation box (or boxes) to the Salvation Army or local Goodwill.

Donation Sundays Tips and Tricks

It has been pretty tough to keep it up for so long. Toward the latter half of the year, I started facing some difficult decisions—do I get rid of family heirlooms? My favorite books? Entire video game systems?

Through it all, I discovered some tricks to keep me motivated. If you’re thinking about paring down your belongings through Donation Sundays, then maybe these will help you, too.

  • Start with books, DVDs, and CDs. I found them easier to give away than most other things. They can be easily repurchased in digital formats if you truly want them, and it enabled me to get a head start and build some momentum at the beginning of the year.
  • Don’t worry if you get a week or two behind. That can easily happen if you go on a trip or get lazy. Just find ten things (instead of five) the following week to catch back up.
  • Don’t take conference swag. It’s relatively worthless and only serves to embed brand names in your brain and on your desk. (Although I have to admit that most MozCon swag is pretty great and tough to resist.)
  • At birthdays and holidays, ask for gifts of experiences, services, subscriptions, or time with friends or family. These will give you memories which are lightweight and easily transported. Need some ideas? Check out SoKind Registry’s gift ideas for meaningful alternatives to toys, clothing, and gadgets.
  • The bonus for donating your stuff in the United States (and probably elsewhere): itemizing charitable contributions can help get you an income tax deduction.
  • Periodically ask friends and family whether they want to rummage through your donation box. New parents especially love snagging toys, books, and board games.
  • When your possessions are reduced to the point of tough choices, ask yourself whether the thing will be useful, bring you joy, or have some sort of inordinate value? My general rule of thumb: if the thing hasn’t been used in over a year, it may not be all that useful to keep.
  • Tell someone what you’re doing. It’s way more difficult to quit if someone knows about your goal and occasionally asks about it. I decided to publicly blog about it—you might try that yourself.

I hope you find some ways to reduce your stuff. Life becomes lightweight when you get rid of things.

What do you think? Do you have any minimalist life hacks that work well for you? Let me know on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

How to Overcome Your Fear of Flying

Airplane wing and engine from Shanghai to Toronto flight

I get a little freaked out when I fly. According to some sources, it’s called aviophobia, but I’m not sure my fear is actually strong enough for an official label.

On a flight from Nashville last fall, during which we attempted to land in a derecho-like storm, I harkened back to my camp days and sang desperate renditions of “Over My Head,” “I Love You Lord,“ and “Sanctuary” under my breath. My brain gets carried away on calm flights, too, as I start to imagine the many scenarios in which the plane will nosedive or blow apart. I have even noticed an increase to my phobia over time as I experience more flights—you’d think it would get easier, but for some reason it has not.

Recently, airlines in the United States have begun allowing electronic devices during taxi, takeoff, and landing. It used to be a widely held belief that signals from electronic devices—even ones set to airplane mode—could interfere with a plane’s instruments. But with the new mandate it’s become a little obvious that they’re just fine.

Thankfully, I discovered a trick, a travel hack, that helps me overcome my fear of flying.

Rather accidentally during a bumpy flight takeoff, I set my iPhone to play Heather’s Song by Andy McKee, a terrific all-guitar instrumentalist. The song was a light, cheerful, playful mix of a August Rush-like childhood quality, and it had me bouncing in my seat, bobbing my head, and embracing the minor turbulence with the attitude of a kid again. It was fun!

The trick here is to find a song that channels feelings which counter your fear. Play the song on repeat with headphones, and embrace the turbulence as something enjoyable. Face your fear head-on and disarm it, rather than hide from it.

And if that doesn’t ultimately work like it has for me, then try reading this article on how to overcome your fear of flying. It’s more factual and less playful, but it might help nonetheless.

Please let me know if you have any tips or tricks on overcoming your fear of flying. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

Today I Turned 30 Years Old

Julie, Mark, and Ryan Ricketts with fresh caught fish at Frog Rapids Camp

Today I turned 30 years old.

That looks a little intimidating now that I’m typing it out. But over the past few years, I’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit thanks to a little prodding from my 30 Before 30 list—a bucket list with an end date of today, August 6, 2014.

Actually, I didn’t finish my list. And while that should probably make me sad, I’ve decided to take a glass-is-half-full approach and dwell on the great experiences I’ve had as a result of the list. After all, I only created the thing about a year and a half ago, and I checked off 22 of the 30 items on the list. I guess I didn’t give myself enough time!

I’ve decided to roll over the unfinished eight items from my 30 Before 30 list into my new 40 Before 40 list. They’re still important to me, and now I have ten more years to get them done.

One thing I’ve learned is that having a publicly-posted set of goals motivates me to get them done because other people read them. During meals or trips or online conversations, I’m constantly reminded by my friends and family of the things I want to accomplish. And really, honestly, it’s just a game—a truly fun one.

The first day of my thirties has been filled with blueberry pancakes, boating in the sunshine on the lakes of Sioux Lookout, Ontario, and spending time with my family. I also received a startling number of international mail from all of you! (Thank you so much, by the way; they were really fun to read.)

Being 30 really isn’t all that bad.

40 Before 40 Bucket List

World map with pins

Some people create a bucket list filled with items that must be completed before they “kick the bucket,” which to me sounds a little too far in the future and also a little macabre.

There are others such as my friend, Danny Dover, who set a specific deadline that is much sooner. Why wait until the end of our lives to create new memories?

Since I didn’t quite finish my 30 Before 30 bucket list—I only gave myself about two years to get it all done—I decided to roll over the few remaining eight items into my 40 Before 40 bucket list. And here it goes.

Since I have ten years until I turn 40, I have until August 6, 2024, to accomplish these. And I only have one rule: the list cannot be modified after my 31st birthday.

  1. ✓ Live in another state
  2. ✓ See the Badlands
  3. Go to a rodeo
  4. Go to an MMA fight
  5. Visit Yellowstone National Park
  6. Visit Glacier National Park
  7. Visit Zion National Park
  8. Visit Mammoth Cave National Park
  9. Eat at three Michelin three-star restaurants
  10. Build a six pack (the muscle kind)
  11. Buy a same-day plane ticket
  12. Visit all fifty states
  13. Become a published author
  14. Go fly fishing in a river
  15. Ride a jet ski
  16. Ride on an elephant
  17. Fly in a floatplane (“puddle jumper”)
  18. Walk on a glacier
  19. Take a yoga class
  20. Take a dance class
  21. ✓ Take a cooking class
  22. ✓ Drink wine in France
  23. Drink beer in Germany
  24. Eat gelato in Italy
  25. Eat sushi in Japan
  26. Sleep in a tree house
  27. ✓ Hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)
  28. Attend the Olympic Opening Ceremonies
  29. ✓ Attend a TED conference
  30. Participate in a flash mob
  31. Get a hot stone massage
  32. ✓ See an active volcano
  33. Go to an oxygen bar
  34. Attend an opera
  35. Go Zorbing
  36. Visit an island in the Caribbean
  37. Ride a sailboat
  38. Hike a portion of El Camino de Santiago
  39. Fish in a fjord
  40. Bathe in a geothermal hot spring

So there you have it: my 40 Before 40 bucket list. What do you think? Can any of you help me accomplish one of these?

Hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ and let me know.

Wardrobe Life Hack: To the Left, To the Left

closet full of clothing including shirts, pants, and coats

In my conquest to own less things, I’ve been developing some life hacks to whittle down my possessions or to not acquire new ones.

One of my favorite wardrobe life hacks has been smartly dubbed “To the Left, To the Left” by my good friend Mary Gwen, and it helps me decide which articles of clothing are worth keeping or if I’m able to give them away. It works like this:

  1. Hang all shirts, pants, coats, hoodies, and sweatshirts in a closet.
  2. Go about my normal life wearing clothing items from the closet.
  3. When finished with my day, I hang each used item on the far left-most hanger.
  4. Over the course of several months, my most used clothing gravitates to the left and my less important items filter toward the right.

With this hack, I can see at a glance which items are truly worth keeping and which are not. This has made my decisions on Donation Sundays much easier.

I hope this inspires you to try this wardrobe hack yourself. Do you have any hacks of your own? Hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ to share your own ideas or questions.

Michigan Brewery Tour

Michigan is known for good beer.

And there are new Michigan microbreweries and brewpubs popping up all the time. With the number of great breweries to check out, I figured it was time to create a travel list across the state.

On nights when the Michigan Brewery Tour is active, a number of my friends will carpool (with designated drivers, of course) to one of many breweries in southwest Michigan.

Here are a number of our potential destinations:

michigan brewery tour rating sheet card
I created Michigan Brewery Tour rating sheets.

For our first tour stop we’ll be checking out The Livery in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In true type A fashion, I created rating sheets for participants (although I mistakenly wrote “Michigan Beer Tour”). You can even hold a tour of your own. Just download and print copies of the Michigan Brewery Tour rating sheet, call some friends, and head out. Don’t forget to designate a driver before the drinking starts!

If you’re truly curious about the amount of good beer in Michigan, check out the newly-released Michigan Beer Film, featuring my hometown favorite, Greenbush! The same folks also made a custom Michigan bottle opener, too.

Let me know what you think via Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

The Minimalist Gift of New Memories

Last year I decided to take a break from organizing our summer camp’s annual work weekend. I’ve been dreaming of a way to show my parents how much I love them, and I finally had an idea that sounded really exciting. (But the idea conflicted with those dates.)

Wielding my personal flexibility and low cost of living as advantages, I strategized on how I could gift dedicated time with each parent. And thanks to my “game” of minimalism, I didn’t want to just give physical objects that would need to be stored, maintained, moved, and depreciated. They should be true minimalist gifts, lightweight, and not easily destroyed.

And then I realized what would mean the most to my parents: new memories.

It’s been over ten years since I lived at my parents’ home in Columbus, so some of my childhood memories are fading, and I knew it was time to create new ones. Great ones.

My mom and dad were each given five envelopes to be opened one at a time. A card within each envelope revealed a special destination around the world. After careful thought, my mom and dad could each select one of the five for a one-on-one vacation with me, flights covered.

And boy was I thinking big.

IMG_0357

Dad’s Five Destinations:

  • China
  • Germany
  • New Zealand
  • Scotland
  • South Africa

IMG_0356

Mom’s Five Destinations:

  • France
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Peru

Some of my friends have had tough experiences with their parents, and I understand that not everyone has had the greatest upbringings. I feel incredibly blessed to have two loving parents that are still highly mobile, joyful, and ready for adventure. And I don’t think a simple vacation is enough to repay them for how much lavish attention and support I’ve received over my lifetime.

Let me know what you think via Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

Learn How to Tie a Bow Tie

I didn’t go to the party specifically because of Nathan Ledesma, although I was pleasantly surprised to see him there. I could have been excited to see him for any number of reasons including his charismatic demeanor or fascinating career path, but I was especially excited because I knew Nathan was a sort of bow tie maverick.

Nathan Ledesma teaching Ryan Ricketts how to tie a bow tie.

It was New Year’s Eve, and my good friend Mary Gwen hosted her second annual Chicago-based party with a myriad of friends. Armed with a red and white striped bow tie from my uncle’s awesome Christmas gift—he wore it a couple times growing up—I asked Nathan to teach me how to tie it myself. Graciously, he obliged.

Every man should own a real bow tie.

group of friends at new year's eve party

If you didn’t know, this is number sixteen on my 30 Before 30 list. Special thanks to Mary Gwen, Nathan, and uncle Scott for helping me to accomplish this one! And if you’re interested in learning how to tie a bow tie yourself, check out this video.

Let me know what you think via Twitter or Facebook.