Friday, July 3, 2015

Summer Update

If you follow this blog quite a bit, you may have noticed that, except for a few guest posts from other writers, I have not been posting much. I do, however, have very good reasons not to be posting. Another Day of Grace is still my main blog, is still in full operation and will, in the future, be turning out some new posts. In the meantime, I don't foresee much posting happening in the very near future and that is simply because I am too busy. Here's what I've been up to lately and what's in store for the future.

For starters, if you follow the news or weather for North America, you are probably aware of the horrendous winter we had here in Atlantic Canada. It started late but when it arrived, it didn't stop until late spring. With all the shovelling and trying to get the driveway cleared to get an oil truck up and the subsequent flooding that resulted when the snow finally started to melt, I wasn't left with much time to do anything else. I also secured a freelance position with a well-known travel company, Trivago, writing content for their website. Remember back in 2012, 2013 and 2014 when I got called back to my casual position with the federal government? As much as I stress myself out every spring wondering if I will get called back, I managed, once again, to get called back. So with all of this going on, I'm hoping my readers can appreciate that I have quite a bit on my plate.

The summer season is already off to a busy start. Besides work, I've been busy with other obligations. My sister recently returned home from out west so I've been spending some time with her and I already took a day off from working to spend a day touring the Cabot Trail and the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Other than that, after I get my work at home done and head out for 8 hours of work at the office, there isn't much time for anything else including updating my blog.
Despite being so busy, I did still manage to plan a few things for the summer. I wanted to do something different for my father for father's day this year so I booked tickets to see the play The Bells of Baddeck. My sister is leaving to go on a trip to Europe in the near future and another trip around the Cabot Trail is planned before she leaves. There are a few hiking trails I have yet to experience around the island and I have plans to knock a few of those off my list this summer and, of course, I have to get at least one camping trip to Broad Cove in. I heard some rumours that family from away may be coming home for a visit and that is always an exciting time and probably will mean another trip around The Trail. And I just booked a spot at a writer's workshop/hiking adventure that is taking place in September in Gabarus. October is much anticipated every year because that is when the Celtic Colours Festival takes place and I always take part in many of the activities that occur all over the island during that week. As you can see, while I work hard, I do play hard as well!



Unfortunately, Canada Day fell on a Wednesday this year so I was unable to embark on my annual Canada Day Weekend road trip. Newfoundland may have to wait too because I won't have enough time off from work until late fall - after the ferries stop running and the weather turns cold.
One thing I have been trying to spend a little time on lately is trip planning. I am planning a trip for the fall because I will have time off work. The only problem is I just can't decide where to go! So I am conducting a little poll of my readers to ask them where they think I should go based on the following criteria:
I am available to travel sometime between November 1st and mid-December, I am looking to go somewhere decently warm anywhere but the Caribbean as I have already been there many times. I want to go somewhere I have never been before that is safe for a female, solo traveler and is affordable. I've already been looking at some possible destinations including:
Hawaii
Greece
Spain
Portugal
Italy
New Zealand
Argentina
Uruguay

Which would you choose? Or do you have any other ideas of good vacation destinations that meet my criteria?
I'm looking forward to your suggestions as I am stumped! So many places in the world I want to see and I just can't decide on one. In the meantime, this will probably be my last post for a while but I hope you will continue to check back and continue reading my blog come this fall when I will have tons of posts to share about my summer adventures.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A family of foxes at Dominion Beach, Cape Breton

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Country or City? Either One Suits me Fine



I grew up in a small, rural village in eastern Nova Scotia on the small island of Cape Breton.  Lingan has all the makings of a country paradise complete with deep forest, sprawling coastline, large yards and a wharf with some fishing boats and colorful shacks overlooking a scenic bay.  With this picture in mind, you may be saying to yourself “now she must be a typical small-town country girl”.  And, in some ways, you are right.

I spent the first 19 years of my life in that picturesque little village.  I had the best childhood anyone could ask for.  My city friends would become jealous when they heard about my adventures in the country.  Summer days spent swimming at the beach or fishing off the wharfs.  Summer nights spent playing spotlight with endless possibilities for hiding places or roasting marshmallows over an open fire near the shore.  Winter was just as fun with days spent building snow forts in the woods, skating on the pond or sledding down the apple orchard.  Growing up in the country certainly had it’s advantages and I couldn’t imagine having any other kind of childhood. 

As I got older, the country life started to bore me and I longed for adventure in the big cities.  When I moved away from my childhood home at the age of 19, I didn’t feel sad.  I was excited.  I headed for a big city and a new, completely different life than the one I was used to.  Homesickness didn’t even set in until much later because I was too busy immersing myself in my new city life, meeting new people and doing new and exciting things.

I adjusted well to the big city and was having so much fun in my new surroundings that I hardly gave my old country life a second thought.  I immersed myself in the George St. bar scene, hung out in artsy coffee shops and learned the ropes of public transportation.  Having lived in the country all my life meant my family had a car to get around because there are no buses in the country!  In the city, many people don't own cars because it's more convenient and cheaper to take the bus and my first bus ride was quite embarrassing; I didn’t know how to make it stop at my stop so I just yelled to the bus driver to stop when he passed it!  It wasn’t until after I observed other commuters pulling the rope above the windows that I realized this was what made the bus stop on command!

Over the next ten years, I grew accustomed to city life and almost forgot what it was like to be a country girl.  When I returned home for a visit, my friends and family commented on how I changed.  They thought I dressed differently, talked differently and even developed a bit of an attitude!  My interests certainly changed.  My old friends who still lived in Cape Breton still spend weekends hanging out in the same places we hung around in high school.  I wanted more excitement and variety but they were content in just doing the same ol’ thing. 

During the last two years of my life in the city, things started to change. The party scene got old, the city streets were suddenly too loud, my neighbors were too close (literally – I lived in a townhouse that was a part of a long row of attached houses) and I started to long for my childhood home in the country.
In 2011, after being laid off from my job among other things, I decided a change of scenery might do me good.  I love St. John’s but, ultimately, I decided to head home for a while.  I was excited at the prospect of going home to spend time with my family while I figured out what the next big step in my life would be.  But, as the day of my departure loomed closer, I started to have second thoughts.  I was used to living in the city with everything at my fingertips.  It was familiar and it was the life I had become accustomed to.  I didn't think I would remember how to be a country girl.

In January of 2011, I boarded a bus to Port Aux Basques where I caught a ferry that was headed for Cape Breton and to the next chapter in my life.  Even though I grew up there, I knew it would be much, much different than I remembered it as a child.  I had been living as a city girl for my entire adult life up to that point and adjusting to living in a small village proved to be harder than I ever thought it would be.. 

The first couple of weeks were great.  I spent time with my family and got reacquainted with some of my childhood friends.  I went for long drives in the country and watched the sun set at the beach down the road.  I went on long walks in the woods behind my house and watched deer, fox and rabbits roaming about.  Those first just felt like a vacation.  But in reality, the shock of leaving St. John’s behind hadn’t sunk in yet…and when it did, it sunk in good and I became quite the sad wreck.  I missed my lovely downtown, top floor apartment that overlooked The Narrows.  I missed the sights and sounds of the bustling city and the never-ending excitement and endless things to do.  And most importantly, I missed my friends.  It took me a long time to readjust to life in the country.  The quietness, the loneliness, the lack of people, the lack of things to do… it was quite overwhelming!      

I’ve been back in Cape Breton four years now and, although it has been quite the adjustment, I must say, I am enjoying this peaceful, remote little piece of heaven on earth.  Do I miss the city life? Sure, from time to time.  But having lived both the rural and urban life, I can most definitely say that I would have no problem adjusting to either in the future.  Both come with their pros...and both come with some cons too.

Some of the pros to living in the city:

Everything is easily accessible.  I didn’t even need a car the entire time I lived in the city.  My work was right across the street, there were coffee shops and restaurants within walking distance, the grocery store was nearby and there were a number of parks right in my neighborhood. 

People are more open-minded.  You can be whoever you want, dress how you want, and believe in what you want without people judging you.  City dwellers are not as conservative in their beliefs and are more accepting of others who are different from them.

Cities don’t sleep.  Stores are open later and there is always something going on somewhere no matter what time of day it is.

Cities are more diverse.  Most cities have a large population of people who come from other areas of the region and even other countries.  Some come for work, others come to further their education and others simply come for a change of scenery.  Whatever the reason, this mixture of people from so many different places results in a very diverse environment of people from different backgrounds.

Everyone minds their own business.  Unlike in the country where everyone knows what you are doing at all times, in the city, no one cares. 

Some of the cons of living in a city

The lack of privacy.  Houses are located close together and there are always people everywhere you go…lots of people.  Even in parks, it's hard to find a quiet to relax.  There are always children, dogs or lonely/over-friendly people who invade your personal space.

The lack of space.  My yard in the city consisted of a concrete stoop in front of the sidewalk large enough for one person to sit on and my neighbors were, quite literally, on top of me.  Parking a car is a chore as everyone on the street fights for the few spots that are available because hardly anyone has driveways.

Sometimes it can feel lonely.  Although you are constantly surrounded by people in the city, it can, surprisingly feel lonely.  In the country, I sometimes find it annoying that everyone always knows where I am or what I'm doing.  I missed that in the city.  There were times I wanted someone to be looking out for me.

The good things are far away...like beaches and remote hiking trails and woodsy areas.  And for a person like me, who loves to escape the hustle and bustle from time to time, not being able to go to those places as often as I wanted to resulted in cabin fever.  Sometimes I felt a little confined by the crowds and busy streets.

Some pros of living in the country

There's lots of space. Large fields, deep forests, long and deserted beaches....the country is full of large, open spaces that provide freedom and privacy.

Beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Of course the sun rises and sets in the city but how can you see anything when you are surrounded by buildings.  And to actually enjoy the peacefulness that should come with watching a sunrise or sunset?  Forget about that in the city too because it's hard to find any peace and quiet with the constant sound of traffic!  In the country, sunrises are worth getting up for and sunsets are worth dropping everything for.

Peace and quiet.  Traffic is light, people are relaxed, houses are far apart, parks and beaches are almost vacant...need I say more?

Familiar faces. Everyone knows everyone in the country and someone always has your back.  In the city, I've literally gone days without seeing a familiar face.  In the country, everyone is a familiar face.

Driving is actually fun.  When I lived in the city, I dreaded commuting by car so much that I didn't even own one for almost ten years.  In the country, you pretty much need a car to get around but driving is enjoyable and even relaxing when you have the whole road to yourself! 

Some Cons of living in the Country

Lack of privacy.  In the country, everyone knows one another and that means that everyone knows everything about you and what you are doing at any given moment.  There is always someone trying to dish out information on you for their next gossip fest at the local Bingo hall.

Long commutes.  While traffic is light in the country, commutes to the grocery store, work or anywhere else can be quite long depending on how far away you live from the nearest town.

Lack of social activities.  Living in the country certainly allows one to spend some quality time alone but when loneliness sets in, it can be hard to meet to new people and social events are not as common as they are in the bigger centres.

I am still not really sure where I fit in most.  I do miss the city but I've gotten used to being in the middle of nowhere again and I really like it.  I think young people should spend some time in the city when they first start out but there is nothing wrong with going back to your roots.  Will I ever live in a city again?  It's hard to say.  I may have to for work purposes or I may just want a change of scenery in the future.  I feel I can adjust to any living arrangements at this point.  When I first switched from country to city and city back to country, it was hard to adjust but now I am an ol' pro.  I was born a country girl but spent most of my adult life in the city and now I am back in the country so I don't really know what you would call me!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Up-to-date Travel Deals for Spring

Well, now that the peak Spring Break season is behind us, it's time for those of us who couldn't get away (or couldn't afford the steeper Spring Break prices) to take advantage of the upcoming off-season for many places around the world and the lowest prices of the year! Sure, there is always a risk of a bit of rain but who cares if you are getting a good deal and getting away from home. I traveled to the Caribbean and to Central America 3 times during the rainy season and it was sunny 95% of the time on every trip! But dropping prices for beach destinations is not the only good thing about spring; places you would never think of traveling to in the winter are now gearing up for the start of their peak season!
This is what the weather looked like most of the time during my rainy-season trip to Mexico. This was taken at Playa Santa Fe in Tulum.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Long Walk, A Deep-Sea Swim and a Journey to one of the Most Remote Islands in the World - These are my Top 3 Bucket List Destinations

Almost everyone has a bucket list- a list of places they want to visit and things they want to experience. While some people only dream of making seeing their list realized, I have been slowly but surely making my way through mine...and it's lengthy. It was hard to narrow that list down to my top three destinations and experiences but I did it, I put it to paper, edited it and posted it for all of you to see. Now I just have to work on making them a reality!

The Camino de Santiago

I've recently taken an interest in the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Traditionally, it was a religious pilgrimage but it seems that, today, thousands of people each year are doing this long trek for various reasons both religious and non-religious. I personally would love to set out on this pilgrimage for a number of reasons.
1) Endurance and accomplishment. I must say, I would be quite proud of myself if I could complete a 791-kilometre trek through all kinds of weather and terrain. Throwing myself into an unfamiliar place and walking into the unknown would be the ultimate mental and physical test.
2) The experience. I'm imagining the interesting places where I would spend the night, the people from all over the world I would meet, the stories I would hear, the things I would see, the languages I would try to converse in, the things I would learn, the new foods I would eat...
3) The memories. Completing such a trek would be something I'd never forget as long as I live and it would provide me with endless things to write about and share with others.
4) The escape. What better way to escape the mundane. I'd be immersing myself into a new adventure that would provide me with a complete change of scenery for an extended period of time and allow me to see life from a new perspective.
5) A way to clear my head and start out fresh. Some people head to their local pub and slam back a few dozen beers, some people change careers and some people do a walkabout in the Australian Outback. One day, I will trek the Camino de Santiago. I've taken in a lot the last few years. I lost my mom, I lost a job I loved, I made a big move to another location away from a place I loved, I had to readjust to a lot of new things and frankly, at times, it was hard. I need to regroup, think long and hard about the next step, rediscover myself and set some new goals...a long walk should do the trick!

Swimming with Whale Sharks

I can't think of a better way to become one with the natural world than to share such a close encounter with one of the largest creatures on the planet. They look so peaceful and graceful despite their size and it would be an honor to share the same space with them for even a short time. I love to swim, I love the ocean, I love animals and I love a good one-of-a-kind adventure. Since whale sharks are not a threat to humans like some of their other more dangerous cousins, I think a trip to the Caribbean Coast of Mexico is in order for the near future!

Easter Island

I once thought this island was just a rock in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of ancient statues on it. It still intrigued me but once I learned more about it, I became more intrigued and now I want to go there more than anything! The remoteness of the island, the isolation of the people and their almost untouched culture and way of life, the history behind the Moai statues...all of it is so intriguing to me. I'm picturing myself venturing out to explore the island and its mysteries. I would hear stories passed down from generation to generation, I would sleep under the stars, I would visit remote and almost untouched beaches, I would sit in silence with my eyes closed in the fresh, clean air and try to picture what it was like hundreds of years ago. To me, traveling to Easter Island would be the trip to end all trips...well not really. I will never stop traveling but it would be hard to top off a trip to one of the world's most remote places and one that has so much culture and history despite the fact that only 5700 people live there.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Dreaming of the Warmer Days Ahead

Wishing I was here right now looking over that spectacular view of the Pacific!  No snow, no wind, no rain, no sub-zero temperatures...just me in this hammock I was relaxing in two years ago on this date just after my arrival at Anamaya Yoga Retreat in Montezuma, Costa Rica.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

So You want to be A Travel Writer? MatadorU Can Help get You Started!

Travel writing sounds like a dream job and in many ways, it is. To many people pursuing an interest or seeking a career in the field, it sounds like it could even be an easy career path to follow. After all, all you have to do is visit some cool places, compile some notes and photos, write some interesting stories and submit to travel publications, right? Wrong. While travel writing can be a fun and adventurous endeavor, it’s a job that require hard work, long hours and lots of dedication and patience and there is more to the business than just writing cool stories if you want to be successful at it at all!

When I first started writing about travel, I thought it would be easy. Reality hit hard and I discovered I didn’t have a clue how to be a real travel writer! I continued to write over the years but my writing was going nowhere. No one was taking an interest in it, no one was offering to publish any of my articles and hardly anyone was even reading, let alone following, this blog. As I was surfing the net one day looking for articles and tutorials on how to be a better travel writer, I came across some information about the. MatadorU Travel Media School

I was intrigued enough to learn more so I kept reading but, like most things I read about on the net that sound to good to be true, I passed it off as some sort of scam or money-grabbing gimmick. It wasn’t until months later when someone recommended the school to me that I started to look into it again but this time with a more open mind.

In the end, I threw caution to the wind, took my friend’s advice and signed up for the travel writing course. It wasn’t a lot of money anyway and what did I have to lose? I started the course immediately and finished it within a couple of months (I was working full-time at that time so it took a little longer than average for me to complete it) and I can 100% honestly say that it is the best thing I’ve done so far to enhance my travel writing.

When I first signed up, I thought the program materials would be riddled with things that I already knew. I was wrong. The course taught me things I had not even thought about. Things that cannot be found simply by doing searches in Google. And I think the reason the course is so effective and full of helpful material is because it is developed by other travel writers and professionals in the industry who have first-hand knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.


Since graduating from the course, I’ve had articles accepted for a number of publications, I improved my blog and gained a large following, I won several travel photography competitions, I’ve secured freelance work with several well-known travel companies and I won two travel blogging competitions…and my writing is much, much better!

So by now, you may be wondering what the course has to offer. Keep reading to learn more!

First of all, each course costs $475.00 (but there are promotions and deals available for students who sign up for more than one course at a time and sometimes there are other promotions throughout the year). With each course, you will receive one-on-one feedback on your work to help you discover what you could be doing better. You will also become part of a large community of other aspiring and professional travel writers, photographers, filmmakers and journalists and faculty consisting of award-winning professionals who have worked with well-known publications including National Geographic. You can complete courses at your own pace. Once you complete a course, you receive a certificate that you can print off along with code you can paste to your own website or blog to let everyone know you are a MatadorU Graduate. And my personal favorite – you will have access to a database filled with up-to-date jobs, contests and press trips that you can apply for. Most importantly, you have lifetime access to all course and website materials which means you can go back again and again.

Here are the courses that are available and a rundown of what they offer:

MatadorU Travel Photography Program

Course outline:
Advanced Travel Photography

Learning the different functions of your camera
Understanding exposure: Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO
Composition
How to optimize lighting for your photography
Editing
Building a portfolio and publishing it online

Advanced Travel Photography
Creating photo essays that tell a story
Preparing to work in the field
Advanced techniques in post-processing
Developing your brand and marketing it
Pitching to editors and getting published

MatadorU Travel Writing Program

Fundamentals of Travel Writing
Crafting a travel story
Learning different forms of travel writing such as social commentary, narrative and personal essay
Researching, interviewing, quoting and citing
Developing your personal brand and gaining a following
Pitching editors

Advanced Travel Writing
Tips on writing about controversial topics
Best practices while on assignment
Pacing, structure, and transitions feature stories

MatadorU Travel Filmmaking Program

Learning about the gear of a travel filmmaker - cameras, lenses, filters, gear, accessories, and software
Composition and getting good exposure
Capturing high-quality audio
Learning about the different styles of travel films
Post-processing procedures such as importing, organizing footage; trimming and cutting; editing sound/music; transitions, effects and titles
Conducting field work
Building your online brand and getting hired

Start your journey into the world of travel journalism here

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lucky Breaks: Win a trip for two to Florence worth $8,000


HERE'S WHAT YOU COULD WIN: A Trip for two to Florence - Includes roundtrip airfare, $3,000+ in shopping sprees, and more!
HERE'S HOW YOU GIVE BACK: For every 1,000 people that sign up within 24 hours, donations will be made to Good Shepard Women's Shelters*.
You and a lucky friend will get a three-night retreat at the gloriously historical Il Salviatino Hotel. Spectacular views of Florence surround the 15th-century restored villa, where you'll enjoy dinner for two alfresco and luxury spa treatments in the Tuscan gardens.
We're making this dream vacation extra memorable with:
  • $2,000 shopping spree at Luisa Via Roma. Based in Florence, the high-fashion haven offers collections from Kenzo, ChloĆ©, Givenchy and more.
  • $1,000 shopping spree at travel bag line Floto. The collection features leather duffels, messengers and wallets—all crafted by Italian artisans—that only get better with time.
  • An HP Stream 8 Tablet worth $179: Sleek and lightweight enough to take with you everywhere; just try to resist checking your e-mail every hour.
  • Round-trip airfare for two, courtesy of RetailMeNot.
No purchase necessary.
See the official rules and enter the contest at http://bit.ly/18MNHzr

*The Cause: Good Shepherd is a worldwide women's shelter that takes a holistic approach to ending violence against women. Good Shepherd is a 501c(3) operating across the US and abroad.
Their mission: Ending Violence - Reclaiming Lives.
Their Story: Good Shepherd is dedicated to offering the best approach to ENDING the GENERATIONAL cycle of violence. It is unique in that it is the only shelter with separate family apartment units, full schooling for the children, an Adult Learning Center, therapeutic services and legal advocacy— all on site.
The Give: The women at Good Shepherd need everything from legal counsel, to new clothes, to care for their children and so much more. Klickly will make a donation of $500 for every 1000 people that sign up within 24 hours!
See the official rules and enter the contest at http://bit.ly/18MNHzr


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Inspiring Graffiti

A couple of years ago while making my way around the Cabot Trail, I noticed that someone (or perhaps a number of people) penned the words "Happy Trails" in various places.  I spotted these same words on a hand dryer in a washroom at the Englishtown Ferry, on a picnic table on top of Cape Smokey Mountain and in this location on a handrail leading to the bottom of Maryanne Falls in Ingonish.  From that day onward, I always made a point to stop at these places to glance at those words.  The person who wrote them probably thought nothing of it but to me, this is probably some of the most inspiring graffiti I've ever come across :)  Who knows, maybe the person who wrote them will see this and the mystery will be solved once and for all!  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Long, Deserted Highway through the Mojave Desert

I spent three days driving aimlessly around parts of the Mojave Desert in Nevada and loved every second I spent on that lonely, open road! 

A Great Way to Advertise your Freelance work and Make some Extra Cash on the Side

Fiverr
I recently came across a great way to show off some of my writing skills and make some money at the same time. That website, Fiverr.com, has so far, generated almost $200.00 for me and I made some new contacts in the business, some who have become repeat customers.

The sign up process is quick and easy and the concept is simple; create a gig, advertise said gig and wait for customers to buy the gig. A gig is exactly what it sounds like. For example, if you are a photographer, you may create a gig that offers a service related to photography such as taking pictures of animals. You create this gig offering this service to others on the site who may be interested in buying this service. When a buyer is interested in your gig, he or she will send you a message asking for more details or they may buy the gig right away. You will have a certain amount of time (the time limit is set by you in your gig) to complete the gig and deliver it to the customer.

Visit Fiverr Home Page


Examples of gigs include:

Guest posting on blogs

Photo editing

Copywriting

Create video ads

Proofreading

....and pretty much anything under the sun!

I personally have a gig on Fiverr offering to post guest posts written by other writers on my blog. They get exposure, I get paid so everyone wins!

If you you would like to make a little bit of easy cash on the side of your other freelance ventures, I recommend you check out this site and see for yourself what it is all about and what it can do for you.
Visit Fiverr Home Page

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Travel a Waste of Time? Here are some of the Things Travel has done for me

When it comes to travel, there are two types of people: those who like to travel and those who don’t. I am a traveler. I love to travel. I believe that travel is something that everyone should indulge in at least every once and a while. I don’t understand people who have no desire to travel. I can understand people who can’t travel or, more accurately think they can’t travel. It is my belief that everyone can travel to some extent. If money is an issue, cut down on things that you don’t need. Start making coffee at home instead of buying it at a coffee shop everyday or cancel your cable services and enjoy an active life of travel rather than one spent lying on the couch watching other people doing interesting things or just simply stop buying useless material things.

Lack of time is another story. I know many people have family obligations or perhaps can’t get any time off work but that is still no excuse to get out and do some traveling on the weekends with the family. When I talk about traveling, I’m not just talking about going abroad or to another country. You can travel around your own province or state too! And traveling makes for great experiences for children. But there are many people out there who genuinely have no desire to do any traveling. They have the money, they have the time, they are able bodied and capable of traveling but chose not to. They have no interest in leaving the comforts of their living rooms or they simply think that travel is too dangerous. And I think that is kind of sad. I think if these people just gave travel a chance and experienced the many benefits that come with traveling, they would see just how life-enhancing it really is.

I developed a love of travel at a young age. Family vacations around The Maritime provinces of Canada and to the United States turned me into an adventurous kid who grew up to be an even more adventurous adult. Now my travels bring me to places outside of my country. Sometimes I wander into places I shouldn’t but my curiosity always gets the better of me and I always have to see what’s around the next turn or beyond the next hill and I can honestly say that travel has definitely made me a better person in so many ways and here are some of those ways:

Travel made me realize that the world is not as scary as CNN makes it out to be. Yes there are wars going on. Yes there is crime. Yes there are tourists being kidnapped. Yes, I realize that I may even be a victim of crime at some point while traveling. But, I also know there is more good going on in the world than bad. No one would watch the news if it covered all the good things happening. War and crime get ratings. I’ve traveled to many places as a female, solo traveler and have never come across anything remotely dangerous or life-threatening yet…unless you consider ziplining, surfing, jumping over waterfalls and trekking in the jungle dangerous. In other words, the only dangers I’ve faced were the ones that I willingly participated in.
All ready to try out ziplining for the first time in Costa Rica
Travel made me realize how vastly different people are from one culture to the next…and how strikingly similar we all are despite language and cultural differences. Before I started traveling, for some reason, I thought people in other countries and cultures were like another species of humans who were completely different from me. Sure, this is true in some ways. For example, in many of the countries I have traveled, people still mostly communicate in person instead of texting or emailing and family is number one priority. Many of the world’s cultures still remain very close to their traditional values and ways of life and their roots are still very much intact. But when it comes to human emotions, wants, needs and hopes for the future, we are all pretty much the same. Like the old saying goes “we all smile in the same language”.

Travel taught me how to be less materialistic. Seeing how little many people have and seeing how happy they are despite of this has made me realize that material items most definitely do not bring happiness. In fact, I’ve learned that having less equals happiness. After I did a major downsize of my belongings, I noticed some huge differences. I now spend less time sorting through and looking for things, I have less things to clean and less things to pack when moving and I have more room to move around. Discovering what I can live without turned to be a great lesson. I learned that before I downsized, I had way too many material items that were not serving much purpose in my life. I also learned to be less materialistic from living out of my suitcase. When I first started traveling, I was an over-packer – I mean everything but the kitchen sink was stuffed into several suitcases – but now, the most I travel with is a backpack and a small carry-on. I learned which items are necessary and which ones I can leave home and traveling is so much easier and enjoyable now that I don’t have to lug all that unnecessary stuff around and there’s less time spent unpacking, repacking and sorting through items at my destination and that means I have more time to enjoy myself.

Travel has made me smarter. While studying hard, doing well in school and acquiring a university degree are all things that can help make a person smarter, I am a firm believer that degrees and diplomas are nothing without life experience. Book smarts are great if you only want to be smart in your chosen field but “street” smarts are what make you smart in all aspects of life and travel is, in my opinion, the number one way to gain some of the best experiences of your life. The things I’ve learned from traveling cannot be taught. Every aspect of travel teaches something useful. Packing taught me about what is important in life and how to survive with very little and without the comforts of home. Air travel taught me patience. Navigating airport security taught me discipline (one has to comply with those many laws and regulations). Flying itself taught me to put my fears aside because who isn’t scared the first time they board a plane and realize that they will be suspended in mid-air, thousands of feet in the sky in a giant metal object going thousands of miles per hour with nothing holding it up? Travel taught me how to get out of my comfort zone because not all places have the luxuries I am used to at home. Travel taught me to be more social because, lets face it, my survival depends on the kindness of strangers at times while traveling and being able to approach new people is a skill I use in all aspects of my life. If you are shy before you start traveling, you won’t be for long! Travel taught me different ways of communicating. You will pick up on new languages and new ways of non-verbal communication in order to get your point across to someone who can’t speak the same language as you.

Travel has taught me how to be a better storyteller. New sites, new sounds, new smells, new people, new experiences = new stories. The littlest things have made for the most interesting and, often times, funny stories. Miscommunication between languages, missing important cultural cues, getting hopelessly lost, chance meetings, trying new and strange foods and realizing my I am just not meant to ingest certain things…these are just some of the things that have made for good stories. Some things were not so pleasant when they happened, but later, I was able to laugh at my misfortunes and other people did too and they were also inspired by my adventurous spirit and willingness to throw myself into these new situations in my quest to learn as much as I can about the world and its people.

Travel has made my life more interesting. I live in a modern society that says I have to work my butt off long hours every day in order to buy necessities like food and shelter while leaving me with virtually no time to enjoy life. A typical day involves waking up, eating, going to work, coming home, eating, tending to household chores, sleeping and repeating it all again the next day. Boring! I know I will only live once so why shouldn’t I reward myself with something I enjoy once and a while. Some people go to a movie on the weekends, others hang out in coffee shops, and others simply like to spend any free time they have watching television. Me? I work my butt off to save up to go on a trip at least once a year somewhere I’ve never been. This yearly pilgrimage provides me with something to look forward to, gets me away from the mundane and allows me to indulge in something I love doing. After a trip, I feel more productive and ready to get back to the daily grind and I don’t have to feel guilty for not living my life to the fullest!

Travel broadened my horizons and changed the way I think. I thought I knew a lot about the world and its various cultures. After I started traveling, I realized I didn’t know much at all. Watching documentaries and reading books about other countries and cultures certainly makes one more knowledgeable but nothing compares to the out-there-in-the-field education you get when you physically indulge yourself into another place. Many employers have spoken out about this type of “education” and research has stated over and over again that a large percentage of employers who see travel on a resume will take that into consideration when hiring an employee. Why? Because travel enables one to build on all of the main skills employers are looking for. Risk-taking, patience, willingness to learn new things, effectively dealing with stress, independence, problem-solving and working well with different types of people. I now longer worry about gaps in my employment history because I am confident that I can fill those gaps with meaningful things such as world travel. Most employers will see that travel experience as time well-spent.

Travel has made me a more curious person. Since I caught the travel bug, I have a constant longing to learn more about everywhere, everything and everyone! I always need to know what is around the next corner or over the next hill. I have a longing to learn about as many things as possible, to see as much as possible and to meet as many people as possible. A life spent on the couch watching television just doesn’t cut it for me…I have to be out there and I can never be missing anything!

Travel has taught me to be more adventurous with my food. Some people still consider me a picky eater. I am, after all, a vegetarian and have a strong dislike for anything that comes from the sea. That being said, since I’ve started traveling outside my home country, I’ve learned to be more adventurous and have tried many unique dishes and foods that I normally wouldn’t eat at home. I no longer turn my nose up something because I’ve never heard of it or it looks unappetizing; I just dive in and, more times than not, it turns out to be delicious!

Travel has opened my eyes to things I once thought impossible or beyond my abilities and reach. I was once afraid to travel alone. Now, I can hop on a plane and go anywhere by myself without any issues. During my travels I’ve experienced things I never thought I would get a chance to do. I’ve climbed mountains (relatively small ones but still mountains nonetheless!), I’ve traveled to the bottom of the sea in a submarine, I’ve ziplined through the jungle, I’ve learned to surf and overcome my fear of large waves and sharks, I’ve boarded some very small boats (some of which were not very seaworthy) and crossed rough bodies of water to reach almost deserted islands. Nowadays, there is virtually nothing I won’t try at least once. Travel has taught to overcome my fears and made me realize that once I get over that first hurdle, it’s easy to do it again and again and I learn that my fear was mostly unfounded!
I recommend that everyone try surfing at least once in their lifetime!
Travel has taught me that the world is much smaller than I once thought. One doesn’t really know how small the world is until they hop on a plane and reach a far flung destination within the same day, sometimes in only a matter of hours. Before I traveled, I thought of these far-flung places as other worlds far, far away and much different from my world. But once I started traveling to these far-flung places, I realized that they are quite of this same world I’ve always known. We all have families, homes and towns or villages to return to, families who love us, hobbies that engage us and dreams we want to see to reality.

Travel has taught me to appreciate the things I have at home….and long for some of the things I only have on the road. One thing that some people struggle with when traveling to other countries is the lack of familiar items they are used to having at home. You will miss toilet paper in Cuba (and lots of other little luxuries), you will miss your favorite coffee shop or hang-out place, you will miss your favorite fast food restaurants and comfort foods in many places in the world, you will miss your comfortable bed and cozy living room and you will miss being able to log onto the internet anywhere, at any time. You will pretty much miss anything that you are used to accessing easily on a daily basis but you get over it because those things are quickly replaced with new favorite foods, new experiences, new friends and new hang-outs that you will miss once you return home. For example, I miss the delicious food I ate for two weeks in Costa Rica, I miss the spectacular sunsets of the Caribbean, I miss the sound of people speaking Spanish (I think Spanish is a beautiful-sounding language), I miss walking down that wood road at dusk in the rainforest near my retreat in Montezuma and, most of all, I miss the freedom that comes with traveling.
The freedom of the open road...and not many roads are as liberating as this straight stretch through a section of the Mojave Desert in Nevada
And last but not least, travel has taught me that I cannot ever stop traveling. I caught the bug and it has a hold of me and I cannot imagine succumbing to a boring ol’ life in front of a television. The Canadian government recently decided to give Canadians a choice in how long they want their passport to be valid for. Before, passports expired automatically after five years, but now we have the option to have our passports valid for ten years (for a small extra fee, of course) so without a second thought, I ticked off the ten-year option. I plan to keep traveling and exploring this earth until I can no longer physically do so!

Ready to embark on your own adventure. Perhaps you are trying to decide where to go on your next yearly vacation or maybe you are thinking about embarking on your first adventure away from home. Whatever the case may be, you can find some ideas on destinations and some deals that can get you there cheaper here



Thursday, February 12, 2015

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