Intentional Work in Music & Travel: Making the World a Better Place

You might say that I have entered the “gig economy” in my own way. I am a freelance voice teachersinger, and travel advisor. I love all of the things that I do, and that is important to me. Without the security of a full time job, a bit of stress can enter in, especially when things that I thought were going to happen don’t happen. It is easy to feel mistreated or misunderstood and to be motivated by stress, fear, or money.

I’m quite certain that those things are not going to lead to success, so I have to remind myself of what I realized at the end of July. As I was leaving a week of training for both singing and travel, I began to put some things together. I was wondering how the two careers I’ve taken on will work together, and it started to become clear as I made my way home.

As a singer I believe that I can make a difference in the world by affecting the audience members. They might not go solve climate change because of hearing me sing, but they might be kinder to the person who cuts them off in traffic on their way home. It’s a small change, but who knows, it might save a life!

My high school voice students sometimes say that they don’t want to major in music because they want to do something that makes a difference in the world. I understand that they mean, of course. They want to work biotech or in a non-profit and make a big, tangible difference. That is wonderful, and I respect that! If someone believes they can be happier and more fulfilled doing something other than music for a career, then they should do the other thing. 

I do hope (and believe) that my teaching makes a difference, though, even if it is not realized until years later. Maybe I make someone aware of a postural issue that could have developed into a bigger issue later in life. Maybe the tedious work of vocal technique makes a difference when a former student is a heart surgeon. Maybe the study of voice remains with the student who goes on to become a lawyer, and singing is the only thing that brings them joy.

In the travel business, it would be very easy to get caught up in trying to sell the most high-end, luxury  hotels, resorts, and cruises since more money is made from them. Honestly, I hope the find the clients who can afford those things, and I don’t see any harm there. However, I must come back to what inspires me about travel. Mark Twain’s quote sums it up best: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I’ve said it before, but each time I travel, I learn something else about the world and the people of the world, which makes me a better human. I want everyone to be able to travel, in whatever capacity is best for them, so that they will have similar experiences.

The other side of travel is seeing amazing (natural or manmade) sights of the world, and John O’Donohue’s words sum that up: “Beauty is that in the presence of which we feel more alive.” This quote is in my email signature, because it applies to singing and travel. First, I think our minds have to be set on seeing and recognizing beauty, then the beauty of music, or of people, places, things, and experiences, will make us feel more alive, thus making us better people and making the world a better place.

For the “cherry on top,” I must mention my other favorite quote, which really brings everything together. While it may sound religious in nature, I hope that even an atheist can see the value in the words of St. Irenaeus of Lyon: “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.” Music and travel ultimately make us more alive and more human, so this is the world-changing intention that I have for my work. I’m putting it writing and making it public to hold myself accountable to it!

For the beauty of the Earth



 We’re now in Gudvangen following an amazing 2 hour Fjord cruise. Once again, I awoke much earlier than I had hoped since the sun rose at 5 AM. I got coffee and juice from the hotel restaurant and waited for breakfast, which began at 7 AM. The television in my room only had a few channels, and all that was playing this morning was some low-budget German show.

Breakfast was quite a large assortment of food, including eggs, fruit, potatoes, fish, and breads. It was quite good, and I ate too much. Not sure of what the lunch situation would be today, I went ahead and filled up. As much as I try to be open to different cultures, certain groups of tourists who travel in herds have horrible (according to my standards) table manners. It takes a lot of concentration and happy thoughts not to glare at them. 


As I took one last stroll around Flåm, the water on (in?) the fjord was completely still, casting a reflection of the mountains and houses. A few people were gathered at the rear of the boat, “Fjord1,” and no one was really sure whether or not we were in the right place. A few minutes before 9:00, the gate was opened, and we were able to board. That same herd of tourists was also on my boat to Voss. They’re sort of loud and seem to take over the space, kind of like a group of Americans, but they’re not. The boat had a cafe with lots of seating by the windows, and there was an upper deck that was open, so that is where I decided to begin. Once we figured out which direction the boat was going to be traveling, several of us readjusted our positions so that we were facing forward.

The journey was about 2 hours and made sort of a horseshoe shape that traveled the distance of 2 fjords from Flåm to Gudvangen. The entire trip was jaw-droppingly beautiful. The first half was particularly spectacular, and a highlight for me was the town of Undredal, where the elusive goat cheese is made. At this point, pictures are much better than words.            


My deep thought for the day is that there is plenty of beauty in the world already. It is just our job to recognize it, realize it, and make others aware of it, whether that is through music, visual art, theatre. I’m sure even accountants can account beautifully!

Once we arrived in Undredal, we had about 45 minutes until the bus would take us to Voss. There was a gift shop there and a cafe. I got a yogurt to keep me happy until I could find better food. The bus ride was also beautiful. The ability to take a quick nap served me well here. I fell asleep at the very beginning of the ride and woke up for the best parts. After a while, we cane to a place where we were descending a mountain, and the road consisted of very sharp switchbacks at an 18 degree decline. The driver was very impressive. He even stopped for a minute at two different spots to allow us a minute to photograph a waterfall. There was also a fantastic view of the valley below. 

            This is a bus stop…  

Voss was a nice sized town. Since we had about 45 minutes to kill there before the train left for Bergen, I walked down the street in search of food. I made note of the Esso (Exxon) in case nothing else appealed to me. I passed a kebab shop that looked promising but walked down to get a better view of the church, where some people were dressed in traditional clothing. I don’t know if there was an occasion that called for that, but it is Sunday. I saw another real restaurant that would probably require too much time and money, so I went back to the kebab place, where I ordered chicken with salad and fries (my best option). I took it back to the station and ate all of the salad and only half of the chicken & fries. It was only 89 NOK, and I have enough left for dinner. I’ll just have to find a vegetable to go with it! It’s good to save a little money for once! 


I actually slept quite a bit on the train ride from Voss to Bergen. I guess I needed it. The things we were passing were wonderfully beautiful but didn’t compare to what we had seen before. Sleep was good. Arriving in Bergen, I could see that it was going to be a very hilly town. The train station has a nice sign welcoming us, and they had wifi so that I could get directions to Anne-Helene’s B&B. It was about a 1.5 Km walk straight through town. I immediately passed a beautiful park with a lake and fountain. People were definitely out enjoying a Sunday in Spring. This was not a very easy walk because of the cobblestone streets and the hills, but the beautiful day and scenery made it fine. As I got closer to Anne-Helene’s, I could see that houses were built on small, narrow, twisting cobblestone streets. It’s the epitome of charming. 


Anne-Helene saw me coming, so she met me at the door and introduced herself as “Anne.” She showed me around to my entrance at the back of the house. I suppose this is like a basement apartment. It’s perfect and so quirky, like her! I settled in, rested for a few minutes, and went out to explore Bergen. I knew that I wanted to see Bryggen, and row of old, historic buildings, so I went in that direction first. This is obviously a very busy port city. As I made my way around the peninsula over to the other one, I saw the fish market, which I remembered was one of the places I wanted to visit. 


I immediately walked over to a counter where I saw sushi and different cheeses. The person working there asked if she could help me, and I asked if the cheese was made in Undredal. She wasn’t sure, but she told me that one was from cow’s milk and the other was from goat’s milk. She had little cubes of everything ready for tasting, so I tasted both. The cheese is brown because it is somehow caramelized a bit. She said there’s some sugar in it. Anyway, it is delicious! The goat cheese just tastes a bit more like goat cheese, but they’re very similar. Unfortunately, they only had a large block of the goat cheese for purchase, so I didn’t buy any. However, they did have elk and reindeer salami, which I tasted. It tastes similar to any other salami. Since it doesn’t have to be refrigerated all the time, I bought some of the reindeer sausage to take home! I continued to talk to Olge (Olga?). She asked what I was going to do the rest of the day, where I had been, how long my trip is, etc. She was so kind and gave me recommendations of what to do and where to eat. The one thing she said I must do on a nice day is ride the funicular. I’m hesitant about incline railroads, but she was convincing.

After roaming around a bit, I found the entrance for the funicular. It said it leaves every 10 minutes, which was good since that meant I didn’t have to commit hours to this adventure. It came pretty soon after I bought my ticket. It moves pretty fast, and it appears to be something that is used as public transportation for the people who live on this mountain (Bergen has 7 mountains), because it makes stops along the way. We made it to the top. The ride was only very mildly horrifying. There is a restaurant and tacky gift shop at the top of the mountain, along with a nice area to stand or sit and observe the everything below. One of the railings was made of musical notes, which appeared to be a real song, but I don’t recognize the tune. Maybe it’s something by Grieg. It was really beautiful up there, but I didn’t spend too much time. Although the ride down was pretty fast, it really was not scary. 


After the funicular ride, I just walked around a bit more and headed back to Anne’s to get my lunch leftovers, which were in her refrigerator. She said that she would be leaving at around 7:00, so I didn’t want to miss her. I got my food and at it, along with some carrots and a plum that I bought at Bunnpris, a small grocery store in town (the same one that was by Ole’s house). That was a nice chance to regroup before going out one more time. I saw on the map that there was some sort of church near Anna’s place, so I decided I would walk there on the way to Bryggen. 


Fortunately, it was mostly downhill from Anne’s house. The church was very pretty but was not open to go inside & see. I made it to Bryggen, but nothing was open since it’s Sunday. That’s OK. I don’t think the things in the shops were anything I’d want to buy anyway. It gave me a chance to see a lot of the town, and along the way, I was checking out menus for a dessert to have later. The most promising thing I saw was a lemon sorbet with limoncello. I actually just wandered around for quite a while and saw many interesting restaurants and pubs. As far as dessert goes, I didn’t see anything more promising than the lemon sorbet, so I decided to save my money and go to 7-Eleven. 


I think Bergen has 10 7-Elevens within a few blocks! I was going to get soft serve ice cream from the 7-Eleven, but that wasn’t exactly successful. I got a cup and put a bit of pistachio and strawberry ice creams in it and tried to put some chocolate syrup on top, but the thing was completely empty. The only syrup they had was strawberry, so I just left the cup on the counter and left. When I cam upon another 7-Eleven, I tried again. They had a little bit of chocolate syrup left, so I got a bit of ice cream (they only had strawberry) and had to use a spoon to attempt to scoop out some of the syrup. It was messy and frustrating, so I just left this one on the counter as well. I gave it a taste jus to be sure of my decision, and the artificial strawberry would not have been worth it. It was another ice cream bar for dessert. Tonight it was salted caramel with a chocolate shell. Pretty good. 


On the way back to Anne-Helene’s, the sun had set mostly (a bit after 10:00), so it was nice to see and photograph Bergen lit for the night. When I arrived home, I checked out the television stations and found that much of what they have is American television, such as Discovery Channel, which was playing “Swamp People.” We are so well represented around the world! I was ready to go to sleep around 11:00 hoping that I could sleep pretty late (for me) since Anne didn’t want to serve breakfast until 8:00. And the evening and the morning were the 7th day.