Surprising discoveries in ordinary places

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

I love wandering into quiet, quirky places to check in with myself.

That’s the heart of this publication — stories about hiking into places that teach us stuff. Sometimes we seek them out. Sometimes they yank us in. Humble hikes help us see our lives in fun, fresh ways. Or they slap us upside the head about something we’re not getting. The more unexpected the hike, the more powerful the learning. It’s always been that way for me. Especially when I felt like a total outcast.

To me, humble hikes aren’t the ones through pristine forests, grand canyons, or faraway, exotic retreats — all of which are definitely awesome. But simple, accessible…

I’m in a murderous mood: slaughter the old me to reveal the real one.

My Grade 13 English teacher, Mr. Hillen, was the first one to call me a writer to my face. I brushed him off. Then I spent the next 30 years of my life doing stuff I’m not sure I should’ve been doing. Every chance he gets, a friend needles me about that: “It’s amazing how good we can become doing things we don’t like doing.”

I’m on a humble hike to hack the last 30 years of life.

Hey, no complaints. Born in Montreal, grew up in Toronto, now living in St. Paul, MN. I’ve made a living as a writer, a marketing copywriter, that is. I’ve written for other companies, people, places…

My off-the-cuff, top 5 favorite stories: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; 101 Dalmatians; Peaky Blinders; Old Man and The Sea; Stand By Me. OK, so I love gritty underdogs who make good ;-) Fun exercise... thanks for sharing it and the other cool ideas to help get us out of our own way.

A shoulder to lean on as the world flew by at 90 MPH

Photo by Ruiyang Zhang from Pexels

Now who’s on my ass? Someone else riding my bumper on the morning freeway. They just keep coming. I’m over the speed limit. Am I in the right lane, wrong lane, right road? OK, I’ll speed up. Too fast. I’m freaking out. And I was already frazzled by the batshit crazy day I know is ahead of me. Damn. Doing over 90. Stop. Yes, just stop. Not here. Not right now. Yes, pulling over… to the right, all clear, to the right again, all clear, slow down. On the shoulder now. Yes. That’s what I need. A shoulder to lean…

Sure it stunk, but no place taught me more about myself

Illustration by Michael Mullowney

Sometimes you end up in your go-to place when you want to hide from the world. Sometimes a place violently rips you from your sleepy weekday routine and vaults you into an alternate universe, so strange, so frightening, so inspiring it makes you near piss your pants with joy. This is a story about a story of one of those places.

Snap on your nose plugs: the hydrogen-powered toenail ship leaves in five!

We’re headed to an in-between place. Definitely not on this planet. A gazillion light-years from the Formal Fairy Kingdom. Maybe you’ve seen it? Look up into a clear, northern, night-time sky and you might be able to. It’s a…

The day I learned a new pair of VISE-GRIPs may not fix my failing relationship

Image by author

Just the smell of a hardware store makes a guy feel better.

It means real work is getting done.

And goddamn it, this can be fixed, too.

Generations of guys have repaired things

With a killer DIY attitude and pro power tools to get ‘er done.

I yank up my pants, breathe in promising sawdust air

And start marching up and down aisles getting the gadgets

That will help me reconstruct my failing marriage.

First I need to know what I’m dealing with.

A new self-leveler and manual plumb rotational laser kit

Will measure up the problem perfectly.

Cases of…

It’s my favorite mid-week, Happy Hour

There’s a smallish lake — about 235 acres with 3 miles of total shoreline— just a few minutes north of my house, in Little Canada, Minnesota. Having moved to the neighborhood from Toronto, Ontario, 30 years ago, the lake has always been my home away from home. The locals call it Lake “Jarvis.” To me, it will always be Lake “Gervais” — pronounced, jer-vay — because it was named after Benjamin Gervais, the first French Canadian to claim land in the area in 1844. See what I mean? True Canadian touchstone.

Gervais and I are tight.

I’ve casted my problems off the lake’s public fishing…

Submission Guidelines

Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava from Pexels.

Hey. Paying attention?

To how you feel right now? Where you might go to feel better? Maybe write about that place? Share why it’s special to you? Awesome first steps!

Humble Hikes is a community of people strengthening our sense of belonging by sharing quirky life experiences and what we’ve learned from them — through humble, honest, hilarious stories. The more unexpected the hike, the more powerful the learning.

True. A humble hike could be a dark walk to the bathroom at 3 am when you remember rent is due the next day. It could be a massive, life-changing, lightning-bolt of-an-insight you receive…

"Use index pages from the Sears catalog." Imagine a top govt. official telling us to do that a few months ago? ;-) Great perspectives, thank you! Still right on a year in. Funny, I always saw TP hoarding as another example of how we go to any lengths to reactively rein in, wall off and live in a smug complacency believing we have it all under control. Admitting we're at the mercy of a new threat, being honest about our real weaknesses, thinking of others, checking our true motivations and actions? Well, apparently that's harder than a quick trip to a big box to stand in line for hours to purchase a grocery-cart full of TP. Thanks again Elaine! Sears' catalogue index pages is my new reminder I have other options ;-)

How I’d use sports tech to sweeten the sounds & voices in my head

Photo by Shutterstock and John Nielson

“He shoots! He scores!” Goal-horn blasts. The crowd goes wild. The horn blares. Arena rocks. Stoked players on the ice hug, hop, holler, and spit at each other, celebrating the goal, “Fuck ya!”

Hockey’s back. The NHL is into regular-season play with no fans in the stands, of course. But I’ve been impressed: the boys in the production truck are doing an awesome job piping in synthetic audio — a suite of crowd noises and sound effects (SFX) — masterfully mixed to give viewers the sense of a pro hockey rink packed to the gills with 20,000 rabid fans.

Time to fill the empty seats in my mind.


John Nielson

BUBIA! BUBIA! Be Unreasonable. Be In Action. Live, laugh, share it all with humility & hilarity. Join me at

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