I am writing to you on this rainy Sunday because a day like today calls me to my typewriter. In today’s post, we will be visiting the ghosts of the present, past, and future. With the holiday season well on its way, there could be no better time to borrow a thing or two from the tall tale of “A Christmas Carol”. First, let us take a walk down memory lane with the candle-like creation of Christmas Past…or rather 2020 Past. The month is March and our main character has just returned from her travels to the Dominican Republic and South Carolina. This is also the time when self-isolation first came to be, as COVID-19 was finally making its mark on a global level. The lead of our story, let’s call her Al, has just made her way out of the Toronto Airport security to find an email from her work. The email clearly stated she was now required to stay prisoner to her house for two weeks, prior to re-entering society. During this period, Al spent her days fixing up any and every single thing she could: cleaning up the leaves in the yard, sorting through old storage boxes, organizing the kitchen cupboards, cleaning out the closet, and so on. But, no matter the task at hand, nothing seemed to keep her busy enough…that is until she decided to write. And did she ever write. The Ghost of Christmas Past clearly marked this particular piece, reminding Al to hold it dear to her heart in times of joy and despair. Next, the jolly giant of Christmas Present came knocking on Al’s door with a lesson in hand. During their time together, she was reminded of the hallmarks of 2020 that led her to where she is today. Ironically, Al, along with the rest of the world, finds herself in a state of constant fear for the cases of coronavirus yet to come. The weather reporters are calling for a stormy winter, so you had better bundle up. But, as well all know, this year will have its way with us, despite our ability to prepare for the future. Thus, leading us to our final visitor, Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. But, (yet again) as we know all too well, there is no telling what the future will bring…we can only live each day with the hope for a better tomorrow.
Although writing is my primary form of therapy, therapy comes in many forms, including animals. I have been lucky enough to know these little guys for as long as I can remember. My family friends outside of town have given a home to Carley & Star (the miniatures above), two large horses, dogs, and cats. Whenever our friends go on vacation, I am called up as their trusty babysitter to care for their many animals. The countryside view and quiet atmosphere is a perfect place for me to unwind and simply be. Although these furry friends can’t talk, they speak to the heart and soul of all of their visitors. Whenever I notice a friend is stressed out and overwhelmed, I take them for a drive to the mini-farm. After a six-day stretch of working night shifts this week, I could not have been more excited to hear Carley and Star’s parents were in need of a sitter. With a second book well on its way, I cannot wait to spend my days off bringing it back to the basics and tapping into my writer’s side. And, if I get a writer’s block while I’m out there, I can always take a walk outdoors to visit with these cuties. Today, I ask you to check-in and reflect on the outlets you have in place in your life. I ask you to give yourself permission to indulge in a little you time, no matter what that may look like.
Today, I am traveling back in time to visit a dear friend of mine. Growing up as kids, we lived down the street from each other. Now, we live provinces apart. But, no matter the distance, I always know I have a friend in Becky. This is why I couldn’t resist paying a visit to her last summer on the way home from my European adventure. After touching down in the Toronto Airport from Iceland, instead of heading home, I flew out to Nova Scotia for one final week of vacation. During my stay, Becky, Brandon (her super fun boyfriend), and I spent our time exploring their surroundings. Becky had just started school and Brandon works as a contractor with his dad, so during the day, I would spend my time writing in the countryside, running, and exploring Truro when I got a drive into town with Becky. When my hosts got home, I would often have dinner ready to thank them for their hospitality. On Saturday night, we went to the school pub for their themed night, which happened to be “sparkle and shine” when I was there. I thought my hometown was hick, but after that night, I can say I have never experienced the world of country quite like that. Considering Becky used to be completely against country, seeing her line dance proved that anyone can be converted after a day or two in Truro. On my second last day, Becky’s school got canceled due to Hurricane Dorain, so we decided to drive down to Halifax. Her friend Raeleigh came along for the ride, making it a full-on girl’s day. The polaroid picture above was taken at one of the many shops we stopped at along our walk through the streets of Halifax. It was the perfect end to a great trip! Miss you Becky!
As many of you know, over the past five days I have been running from Ayr to Port Dover to support and raise money for The Terry Fox Foundation. Over the course of my journey, I have had the pleasure of meeting so many generous and strong Canadians. I can only begin to imagine what this must have felt like for Terry Fox forty years ago! His strength and determination to keep moving forward, in the name of cancer research, will forever amaze me. As a young healthy person running half marathons every day, I am beyond words over the thought that he ran full marathons a day on one leg. He is an inspiration to us all! His inspiring ways led me from Ayr to Paris to Brantford to Scotland to Waterford, and lastly, to Port Dover. With my mom for company, in our decorated bright red jeep truck, we hit the open road. While I went on foot, she drove behind me blaring the horn and waving to those that passed. Everyone looked at the sign on the side of our truck with curiosity and quickly realized we were raising money. This realization was often followed by cheers and words of encouragement, which I will forever cherish. And, although each moment of this trip will have a special place in my heart, the highlight of this adventure has to be my day spent in Brantford. Today’s theme was dedicated to health care heroes and frontline workers, so I wore my scrubs. The day started off with an 8.5km run from Paris to our meeting spot with our police and firefighter escort to the Brantford Hospital. During our 2.5km stretch to the hospital, I felt like I was in a movie. The police car led me, while my family rode together behind me in our vehicle. Lastly, they were then followed by the fire truck. The sirens and lights were going nonstop, as we made our way through the streets. Passing by students cheering on their lunch break, honking cars that parked to watch, waves from garbage men as they passed, and so many more! When we made it to the hospital, we were welcomed by the CEO, staff and patients. After the CEO introduced me, I said a few words before leading a moment of silence followed by the singing of our national anthem. As I ran along the corner of the hospital to complete the last 4km of my run for the day, I felt so empowered by the people around me. You are all heroes in my eyes!
During my European adventure last summer, I was given the opportunity to stay with a lovely family in the cottage country of Auchtermuchty. As you may recall, I spent the first portion of my three-month trip working in Ireland at an animal sanctuary with an organization called Workaway. At each place you decided to stay, you got free food and housing in exchange for work. Once I completed my stay with my furry friends, I was off to Scotland to work for a couple in need of some assistance babysitting their grandchildren. Imy and Arty came for the first week of my visit to stay with their grandparents, while their mom and dad got away for a romantic vacation. Since Rupert (their grandfather) worked throughout the week, grandma Charlotte was grateful for the extra hand. Our mornings were spent exploring local hot spots, including a number of beaches and the St.Andrews aquarium. Our afternoons were spent watching “Peter The Rabbit” with Imy, while Arty went down for his nap. Once he was awake, it was out to the garden to pick berries and veggies. Then, the children hit the toy room and introduced me to their imaginary worlds. Once dinner was over, storytime commenced with the reappearance of our bunny friend Peter, but this time in the form of a book. By the time seven o’clock came around, Charlotte and I were never so happy for the kiddies to go to bed. After our seven days together, I had to peel Imy off me during our last hug and waved to her from the cottage as she drove off with tears in her eyes. Although I loved those kids to bits, I was definitely looking forward to a week in Auchtermutchy to simply enjoy my surroundings. Over the past week and a half, work has been non-stop. And, although I love my job, I am so excited to have five days off with my mom to enjoy the little things in life. Aside from running almost a half marathon every day to raise money for The Terry Fox Foundation, our travels from Ayr to Port Dover will be filled with relaxation. Stay tuned for next week’s travel blog post to hear the details of our adventure. Also, be sure to check out my events page for further information regarding my “2020 Vision” running event.
My dad and I both work rotating shifts and found ourselves with the same two days off last week. A little father daughter time was much needed, as my dad has been stuck working on renovations all summer for my parent’s new house. In the past, we would always travel up north to camp, but this time we kept our drive short and sweet. I picked my dad up after a morning of renovations and drove five minutes down the road to our riverside campsite. We pulled up to the site and landed our butts on our zero gravity chairs for a much needed nap, as I had just finished working five night shifts in a row. Then, we woke up for a countryside run to wake us up, before jumping into the Grand River. After, we started the fire for our classic wiener and chili campfire dinner with a side of corn on the cob. If you have not tried this, I HIGHLY recommend…this is some of my all time favorite comfort food. And of course we had to top it off with marshmallows!! Once our fire started to die down, we made our way into our rooftop tent, which my dad just bought for his jeep truck, to watch “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”. You can tell we are getting old because we only made it thirty minutes into the movie before falling asleep. We woke up in the morning to the sound of rain hitting the roof of the tent, which sounded lovely, until I realized we’d be taking the tent down while it poured. Although our visit to the great outdoors was short and simplistic, it was the perfect way to end off summer.
During one of my many trips to the Dominican Republic, I never imagined I would have found myself in the mountainside country on the back of a motorcycle. This past March, right before COVID-19 took its toll on the world and travel, my family, aunt & uncle, sister’s boyfriend, and my ex spent a week in the beautiful Cabarete. Although most of our vacation was spent in this vibrant town, today’s story highlights its neighboring mountain region. My ex is known for his bike collection, so of course, we had to rent a bike while on vacation. On this particular day, I hopped on the back of the motorcycle in the morning ready to see where the open road would take us. At first, we drove along the paved road and passed by a few small towns before hitting the hills. Then, we saw a side dirt road and decided to take it. It led us down a steep slope which eventually took us to a rocky path heading towards farm country. The dirt road took us to beautiful views and spun us all over the vast mountainside for two hours before we decided we needed to find a sense of direction. We ran into a small village with some huts and a few people, so we asked how we could reach the main highway. Since we didn’t speak any Spanish, the conversation was minimal, but we got the point of a finger to turn left. At this point, I was uncertain when or how we would make it back, especially as we made our way down yet another steep rocky hill. When we reached the bottom, we hit a river called Arroyo Grande and found ourselves at a dead end. As we looked back up the way we came down, we realized there was no way we were getting back up. A few gentlemen were sitting along the riverside with there bikes as well and used hand gestures to explain that the water had risen unexpectedly. Half an hour later, with worry in my eyes, I was beyond excited to see two donkeys arrived, which the men had intended to carry their bikes across the water…but with one attempt they realized that was out of the question. As you can see from the picture, the locals brainstormed and decided to use thick sticks between the bike wheels to carry them across. We were never so grateful for their generousity and willingness to help us on our way. Two hours later, after more rocky side roads, we reached the main highway and were finally homebound.
A few weeks ago, my mother received an email from Travelzoo regarding a deal to a retreat tucked away in the hills of Cobourg. The following day, we were booked in for a two-night stay at the Northumberland Heights Wellness Retreat and Spa. After a busy start to August, I was more than ready to pack my bags and get out of dodge. Two hours later, through the relentless traffic of Toronto, we found ourselves driving along the backcountry of Cobourg towards our little piece of heaven. Before entering the grounds, we decided in order to fully embrace the experience and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of life, we were going to leave our phones in the car. In our daily routine, we struggled to find time for ourselves with the constant need to check our email and/or text messages. We decided in order to charge ourselves up, we had to charge our phones down. This instantly set ourselves free from the obligations we felt to respond to the outside world, allowing us to simply be in the moment. And that is exactly what we did! When the sun rose, we woke up to a fresh homemade breakfast followed by a guided yoga practice. Our afternoon was spent taking pictures, reading, drinking tea, soaking up the sunshine, and indulging in the many sweets available to us. For dinner, mom treated herself to butter chicken, while I sided with the seared duck drizzled with a blackberry reduction. When the moon came out, we nestled in for some movies before going outside to say our good night to the stars along with the chirping crickets. No matter the time of day or night, we finally felt we had given ourselves permission to relax and reset. When we left for checkout, we slowly dragged our feet to the car, knowing our phones awaited us. And, although we turned them back on, we promised ourselves moving forward we would practice daily disconnect. Take time to live in the moment, rather than living your time away behind a screen. There is so much world to be seen, so go out and see it!
These past few weeks have been go, go, go. I find that every August leaves us wondering what is to come next. As September creeps around the corner, we feel an obligation to fall back into a routine. Although the weather is bound to change, our sunny attitude does not have to follow suit. Life should not be defined by the hustle and bustle or our need to work the week away. As COVID-19 lingers on, the world continues to teach us the importance of simply being. Being present for yourself and the environment around you. Yet, as places start to open up, people head back to work, and children back to school, we feel the need to fall back into old habits. I am guilty as charged…as the saying goes, “old habits die hard”. But, today, and in the days that are still to come, I have decided to live in spite of the routine based lifestyle. I have decided to live for each moment. In saying so, I now take you to my destination for the week. Like my state of mind, this location represents the simplicity of things. A little cottage tucked away along the outskirts of New Dundee. My mother and father have found this Airbnb to call home for the next two months, while their future house is being renovated. In the weeks to come, I hear the rumble of my stomach calling me to feed it with more waterside picnics. I hear the late-night crickets calling my name. I hear the universe urging me to simply be.
In the spirit of my mother’s birthday, I decided to write a travel blog post on one of our many adventures. My mom, aunt, uncle, and I spent two nights nestled in the cottage country of beautiful British Columbia. Here, we spent our time exploring the various trails and waterfront views of the Nahatlatch River. Our mornings were spent walking my relative’s dog through the quiet back roads of the forest country, which was miles and miles away from any form of civilization. Our days were spent driving out in search of many views, such as this one. Our nights were spent playing cards and going outside to stare up at the stars. No matter the time of day or the places we choose to travel, my mother and I always find a means to embrace the best of every moment. Recently, we have found inspiration in the day to day journeys of life. In our eyes, every day should feel like a holiday because all time is precious. Life is short and you’ll regret the things you did not make time for. As I like to say “Take time to find extraordinary in the ordinary”. I have my mother to thank for this mindset…she continues to inspire me every single day. Happy Birthday, Zoie!
Today, I travel to not only a place but a state of mind. As we enter August, a month of new possibilities presents itself. We have made it past the halfway mark of 2020, as June and July now stand behind us. It has been quite the year thus far! But, as I like to remind myself, without the lows there would be no highs. This metaphor brought me to my travels along the East Coast two summers ago. After a long day of driving through New Brunswick, my mother and I found a place to call home for two nights. Through miles of forest country and back roads, we eventually found ourselves in the land of Mount Carleton Provincial Park. After a night of camping, sleeping in the back of my car, we woke up to an early start. Mount Carleton was calling to us to hike it, so we decided to take the 5-hour trek to its peak. Although the terrain was rocky and steep, the climb was worth the final view. I have never seen so many trees in my life! I am almost positive that was the freshest breath of air I have ever taken. As is the clarity I have been given as a result of the first half of this mountain of a year. I hope as we all transition through August, we can turn a new leaf and have a fresh start.
As promised, this week, I will be sharing the remainder of my sister’s road trip. Day one, we drove west and we found ourselves in Goderich. After a picnic lunch by the unbelievably blue Lake Huron, we headed north. Following along the highways parallel to the water, we passed through the beachside towns of Kincardine and Sauble. When our day of cute shops and tan lines came to an end, we found ourselves in the Walmart parking lot of Owen Sound. This would be our temporary home for two nights, along with the few RVs that decided to join us. Unlike them, our bed was made to fit in the space that was once occupied by the back seats of my Toyota Rav4. As you know, our next day was spent navigating our way through the Bruce Peninsula (see my previous post if you have no idea what I’m talking about). The following day, Hayley and I made our way to the country of Muskoka Lakes to sleep in the driveway of my friend’s cottage. Our time there was spent relaxing on the dock, engaging in an all you can eat fry feast, and playing cards. Day three was spent driving to our grandparent’s house in Buckhorn. We arrived at noon and parkedthe car out by the riverside, where we would find ourselves sleeping that night. The picture posted highlights one of the many activities grandma had planned for us that day. She had the fantastic idea of painting and cutting out homemade bookmarks, which I would then sign and hand out to my readers. After a run around their block and dip in the river, we enjoyed an outdoor dinner with beef patties and fresh vegetables from their garden. To top it off, we had grandma’s homemade strawberry rhubarb pudding with chocolate ice cream. You can never go wrong with a meal at grandma’s place! Then, grandpa invited us out to see his latest project, which was a handcrafted canoe bookshelf. All in all, it was a great stay. On our final day, we spent the day cranking tunes as we drove home in tornado warning weather. The voices of the many country singers brought us home safe and sound.
“Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong,
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads.”
Although the coronavirus has limited our traveling capabilities this year, I was determined to find some form of adventure this summer. Since my sister and I rarely see each other due to our varying schedules, despite the fact that we share an apartment together, I decided we were in need of a sister road trip. We each took five days off and hit the open road. On the morning of our second day, we woke up to a rather cloudy day. Despite the rainy overcast, we were determined to make it to Tobermory for our hike to the Grotto. The parking lot to this scenic landscape of the Canadian Shield and various caves was fully booked, but that wasn’t stopping Hayley and I. I did some digging on Google search and found a 13-kilometer hike from a spot called Little Cove Beach. But this was not your average hike…this was a hike through the Bruce Peninsula. Words of wisdom for future hikers of this trail, keep your eyes on the ground in front of you or you will find your rear end in the dirt. Also, we don’t recommend hiking mid-July on a rainy day. The mosquitoes and deer flies will suck the life out of you; both your blood and sense of sanity. After three hours of hilly terrain, bug bites up to our ears, and soggy running shoes, we reached our final destination. At this point, it was 16:00 and we were in desperate need of a break. While admiring the view we worked so hard to reach, we contemplated our next move. With a three-hour hike back, with a current time of 17:00, we wouldn’t make it back to our car until eight o’clock. Our only snack was long gone and our water was minimal. Aside from our lack of supplies, our legs were incapable of outrunning any bear we might encounter on our hike back. I suggested we walk the 5-kilometer to the nearest campground to ask the front desk about our options. On went our masks and into the help center we went. After a conversation with the camping staff, we quickly realized our options were very limited. We either hike back the way we came, a total of 18km/3.5hrs, or call a taxi all the way from Wiarton. Considering we wouldn’t make it back to my car until dark, or potentially ever if the Bruce had its way with us haha, the $80 taxi it was. I was never so happy to see my car, as was my sister.
Whether it’s driving the coast of Canada or riding a train along the ocean side of Ireland, I always find myself exploring the east coast. Exactly one year ago today, I was following in the footsteps of this very theme. With an all-day train pass in hand, I made my way across Eastern Ireland. On one of my days off from my Workaway at the animal sanctuary (see page two of my blog if you have no idea what I’m talking about), my host David dropped me off outside Dublin. I spent the remainder of the day flying solo, as I made my way from one town to the next. First, I stopped in the quaint town of Bray. Here, I spent my morning climbing Bray Head. This small mountain revealed a seaside view, unlike anything I have ever seen. As the great Hannah Montana once said, “Life’s a climb, but the views great”. After the hiking adventure, I slowly made my way across the remainder of the coastline. Hours later, I finally arrived in the fishing town of Howth. As I sat dockside and enjoyed a once in a lifetime octopus meal, I reflected on the day. I cannot tell you what those thoughts entailed, but as I look back now and reflect, I find peace in my train ride of a life. We all buy a ticket and set out on a journey. Although we intended to reach a specific destination, life finds a way to alter our path. Despite our ability to board and exit the train at any given time, what lies beyond those sliding doors are not for us to control. Yet, as I sit here and contemplate my travels, I find ease in the thought that there will always be a train to board.
During high school, (on separate occasions) my sister and I took a trip with our classmates to the Dominican Republic. Although many would associate this destination with a vacation, this trip was far from it. We spent our time living with local families, touring the village, visiting with children & seniors, and learning about their faith. Years later, my sister and I decided to share this experience with our mother. Staying with the same family, we spent our days embracing Dominican culture and nights dining & dancing with our hosts. With every visit I take to Consuelo, I redefine my understanding of the world around me. Learning to appreciate the little things in life…whether that is a meal with your loved ones or a day of hard honest work. In a time such as COVID-19, we as a people find it difficult to be grateful for the life we have been given. Although we do so with good reason, it is important to remember the things we still have. Whenever you feel yourself at a crossroads or without hope, reflect on what you still have to be thankful for. Hold on to the moments that make life worth living. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Can you believe July is around the corner? With only a few days left in June, I am in disbelief that we are already halfway through 2020. This year has been filled with obstacles, as well as the opportunity to learn and grow. At this turning point in this rollercoaster of a year, I sit with my thoughts in a place of contentment. Although I typically don’t participate in New Year’s resolutions, I find myself reflecting on the person I was and want to become. In the past, I would take moments like these to analyze every step of my existence. Never allowing the journey to take me where I needed to go. But, as I write this entry, I smile for what time is still to be had. In honor of my reflective state of mind, I have decided to take you to Big Bald Lake. Here, I have spent many summers boating with my grandparents and cottaging with my cousins. During this particular morning, my mother and I were determined to watch the sunrise. While the remainder of my father’s side of the family lay sleeping under their flannel covers, mom and I paddle a canoe out to this tiny island on the lake. As we sat and watched the sky come to life with color, we inhaled the morning air and enjoyed each other’s company in silence. In more recent endeavors, my mother and I have reflected on our latest adventures together and our newfound ability to embrace our spontaneous side. In doing so, we have given ourselves permission to prioritize our own happiness. Moving forward, with six months of twenty-twenty still to be had, I have decided to continue this mentality. Surround yourself with the things that make you happy.
Despite it being Father’s Day, my mother and I are spending our weekend in Niagara On The Lake. My dad refused to celebrate his day of appreciation on Sunday, as he is currently working twelve-hour night shifts and would hardly be awake, so this Tuesday will be my family’s newfound holiday. Now that we have clarified my mom and I are not monsters, let’s get back to this week’s travel blog post. We hit the road Saturday afternoon, arriving at our Airbnb (called “The Tea Cozy”) for around 3 o’clock. After a post driving nap, we made our way into town for dinner. Thai food was the supper of choice, featuring two spicy basil noodle bowls. Then, we walked to the water’s edge to watch the first sunset of summer. The following morning, I was up at my usual time for 6 am and decided to get in a country run before breakfast. Shoutout to whoever’s lawn sprinklers were on…it was much needed midway through my twenty-degree weather jog. When I returned, my mother was awake and the smells from the kitchen were calling us to the dining area. Kads and Pran, our hosts, included a homemade breakfast with their stay, which is absolutely to die for. Fresh muffins, skillet style eggs, warm tomato basil salad with mushrooms, bacon, toast & 8 different kinds of jam. They simply insisted we try all eight jams, so guess who’s toast got split into eight tiny pieces? After our meal made with love, we took the bikes and made our way along the riverside trail. On our way back through town, we stopped for ice cream and took a peek at the many stores filled with knickknacks. Tonight, I am making sushi for dinner, before we make our way to the water for a dip in the lake. After that, who knows where the night will take us. All I know is, no matter the circumstances, we all need time set aside for ourselves. Whether that is a weekend away or half an hour every day before bed, we all deserve a moment dedicated to the one person that matters most; you. In order to be there for others, we must first be there for ourselves. So next time you feel you need a break from the world, remember: you are not selfish, you are simply human. Take the time needed to love yourself. You deserve it!
Over the past several days, I have been reflecting on past versions of myself. In doing so, I now have a deeper appreciation for the person I am today. Not to say I was not already proud of my present self, but rather I was unable to praise the growth that has taken place. This picture dates back to the spring of 2017, aka my final year of high school. Teenage Alex may have been smiling in this picture, but we all know smiles hold secrets. Thankfully, the previous winter, I was able to find an outlet in writing to get me through the troubling times of grade twelve. Although not every day was full of genuine happiness, I can vouch for the smile in this picture. During my last semester, my amazing gym teacher (and role model) gave us the opportunity to participate in a backpacking trip through the Bruce Peninsula Trail. Along the way, we formed bonds with our classmates, explored the Grotto’s limestone caves, cooked over propane stoves, and learned the importance of our relationship with nature. When this picture was taken, a friend and I were attempting to fill our pot with lake water so that we could boil it to wash our dishes. We decided it would be a good idea to use a stick in order to avoid getting soaked by the incoming waves. The only problem was my trusty stick was not as trusty as I had hoped, as it quickly snapped in half after submerging the pot underwater. As it started to float away in the lake, I committed to a rescue mission and sacrificed my only running shoes to save our limited source of cooking supplies. Moral of the story, I still got soaked despite my attempts to prevent it. Although things did not work out as planned, I was still laughing when all was said and done. As I read through this blog entry, I reflect on so many things in my life that went wrong. But, as I continue to transition through the stages of life, I have come to realize things have to go wrong before they can go right.
As I reflect on the past week, I cannot find a destination that speaks to how I feel. This is why I have decided to travel nowhere at all. In previous weeks, I have made simple journeys to and from work, within myself, and to local hot spots. However, as I sit field-side and watch the sunset, although I am somewhere, I feel a disconnect from the coordinates I have reached. Not in a heavy-hearted way, but rather in a state of contentment. Throughout the past several months, I have struggled to find a sense of normalcy and routine. I have come to realize this is not due to the shift in people and places around me, but rather as a result of my inability to let go of my controlling tendencies. Although I am still not without said characteristic, I feel myself working towards a better version of myself. A person that embraces the unknown and truly believes in all that is to come, whether that is good or bad. As many wise beings before us have shared, believing is not always seeing. And that, my friends, is why I find myself nowhere choosing to embrace the unknowns to come.
In a world of unknowns, I feel grounded in the people and places I choose to call home. Whether that entails a moment in time, words of wisdom from a loved one, the feeling you get in a person’s presence, or the sudden change in the energy around you, home is what you make of it. My first truly spontaneous adventure brought me to one of the many places I now call home. The Ochre House of Newfoundland. This United Church, originally built in 1938, was redesigned by its owner into a sacred place of self-reflection and enlightenment. Although these words are automatically associated with religion, I am referring to a more spiritual and soulful experience. After my first year of nursing school, I slowly felt my writing dreams slipping away from me. Thus, my inspiration to apply for an exclusive writing retreat called “Writing with Care”. Once I heard back that I had been accepted, I told my mother a road trip was in order. My Rav4, mom, and I spent 2 weeks driving out to the coast! A trip of a lifetime I will never forget, but that is not the story I wish to share today. After dropping her at the airport to fly home, I made my way to the retreat. During my stay, with some of the most influential women I have ever met, the activities were endless. Mornings were spent in silence, that was until everyone had eaten their breakfast. Before a homemade lunch, we would explore our creative minds in unique ways…my favourite being our assignment to cut up a piece of work and rearrange the words in a new way. Afternoons were spent together and apart walking along the beach collecting rocks and thoughts with each step. And nights spent reflecting on the inspirations and challenges of the day. This was the first time in my entire life I felt safe and willing enough to connect with a room of complete strangers. The universe spoke to me that week in ways I will forever be grateful for. Moments like this make me hopeful for what is still to come. They fill your cup when the world has allowed you to run dry. They make you realize the person you were meant to become. They remind you to live every second to the fullest, no matter how long or short the time may pass.
Today I do not feel the need nor the obligation to travel anywhere. Over the past several months, the world has left us wondering when this suffering will come to an end. Between COVID-19 and everything else life has thrown our way, I say it is time we catch a break. As a result, I feel the best place for me to be right now is home. Although this term has redefined itself throughout the course of this year for me, I am finally able to call a place home. My preconceived understandings of a home left me to believe it came from the people you decide to share it with. Although this is still a valid statement, I have found a deeper meaning yet again to this already complex word. Now, I have come to the conclusion that a house cannot come from external factors…it comes from within. This can only be achieved when you feel content, furthermore proud, of the person you are. Whether that means accepting your flaws or nurturing a piece of you that no one person (except yourself) could care to, I can promise you that you will get there. Just like any journey, the best moments come when you least expect them. As I sat on the floor of my apartment for the first time early last week, I came to this very conclusion. After weeks of moving and laughing and crying and thinking, I finally allowed myself to be present. Present for myself. For the first time in a long time, I traveled within myself as a means to heal. While I used to do so with the intent to inflict self-doubt, I now do so to practice self-love. I am a firm believer in the fact that the most difficult journeys lead you to the most rewarding destinations.
During my final year of high school, I was given the opportunity to travel to Europe’s finest countries with my fellow classmates. Among our four destinations was the iconic Paris, France. Although this bustling city was not accustomed to my country roots, I will never forget my time spent here. Here’s to our bus trip to the Arc de Triumph, afternoon wines & dines and German beers (shhh don’t tell my teacher), boat side views of the Eiffel Tower, and the sweet scent of perfume. Well, not so sweet in my case. My nose has always been sensitive to unnatural aromas, which did not pan out well for me stuck on an overcrowded public transit during rush hour traffic. My friend turned to me and could not believe the shade of green I was turning. One minute longer on that train and its aisle would have been filled with the contents of my stomach. Thankfully, that was not the case, but I still paid the price later that night. Let’s just say I opted out of the perfume tour the following day. In a year of restrictions on large groups and tours, I encourage you to seek out new forms of adventure. This long weekend, parks have re-opened across Ontario. With the nice weather finally setting in, no thanks to our snow last week (LOL), it is time to enjoy the fresh air once again. While we have the right to soak up some sunshine, please remember to do so with immediate family only. As a working nurse, it is my duty to advocate for those that cannot protect themselves from the coronavirus, like my elderly patients. Do your part and practice social distancing as a means to preserve the life of your loved ones.
Not all journeys were meant to be easy. In the world’s current pandemic state, traveling has been redefined. Although you most likely set out to read my blog in search of hope, I can guarantee this post will not be what you expected. Today, my adventure involves the trek to and from work. A valued lifestyle few too many have the ability to choose. A means to feel a sense of purpose in a purposeless world. A necessity to support what remains of society. For some, this trip entails a night shift caring for seniors as a nurse or an early morning rolling shade as a farmer. For others, this journey is limited to the four walls of their home. No matter the path, humanity has been forced to re-adjust our sense of normalcy. The road ahead is long and unknown, but there is a destination. It may not be in sight just yet, but I believe (correction, I know) we were meant to be here. Although I would love to write further on this post, I am about to work my last twelve-hour night shift in a row and am in desperate need of sleep. Unfortunately, that is the reality of 2020. We have to make sacrifices. We have to let things go in the hopes that they return to us when the timing is right. We will get through this.
Small towns and big hearts. I needed that this weekend. I think the whole world needs it. After a rather overwhelming week, my rock (aka my mom) decided it was time for us to hit the open road. Our Saturday travels landed us in the humble town of Bayfield, Ontario. Although traveling far is currently out of the question, there is always time for adventure. As a Canadian, I am grateful to live in such a vast beautiful country. As a resident of Ontario, the journeys are endless. Whether that is to the Northern cottage country or Eastbound cities or Southern flatlands or West front beaches, there are always new places to discover. During our visit to Bayfield, we stopped for a take out lunch at a local seafood restaurant filled with love and fish & chips. How could you go wrong? That was a rhetorical question because you simply can’t. “Out of the Blue” had great food and even better staff. The lovely ladies that served us thanked us profusely for our hard work as essential services. The girls continued to share that they made a free delivery to a local construction crew yesterday, which continued to reaffirm my immediate connection with them. Having a mother employed under Canada Post and myself as a nurse, we are both blessed to have jobs. Although we are dealing with an at-risk population, we feel the real battle is faced by those isolated to their homes. No matter the state of your situation, we need to be there for each other. In saying so, I ask you to send a text, write an email, pick up your phone, start a face chat, reach out to a loved one in need. Together we are strong. Also, on a side note, while eating our once in a lifetime seafood meal, this little ladybug decided to join us. Ladybugs symbolize good fortune…I am going to take that as a positive sign for the months to come.
During my once in a lifetime trip last summer, I was beyond grateful to have been given the opportunity to drive around Iceland with my boyfriend (aka Will). After a memorable road trip with my Dad in Scotland, Will and I came from opposite directions to meet each other in Keflavik. Now that you have the general back story on Iceland let’s skip ahead to our night spent camping outside of Olafsfjordur. Unlike Canada, camping has a very different definition in Iceland. First thing you need to know, it is VERY cold there, especially considering we were there in late August. If you decide to rough it while you are traveling here, I suggest buying a wool blanket from one of their few gas stations. Second, you can basically pitch a tent just about anywhere, as long as it is off the main highway. Third, there is no third; I just wanted to reiterate my first tip! After one chilly night under the stars and little sleep on my part, we learned two things. Park your vehicle in a sheltered area and get inside before the sunsets. Thankfully our rental car had a pop-up tent, as you can see in our picture, which included a thick plastic roof for extra protection. This location was by far our favorite campsite…or should I say abandoned construction site. Although I would love to give away its exact location, some things are best kept a secret. Keeping in mind my crucial blanket recommendation, I have a piece of advice that is of even greater value. When in Iceland, if given the opportunity to take the road less traveled, do it. Don’t be a tourist. Be an explorer.
During my trip of a lifetime last summer, I was given the opportunity to stay with Helen & David at their home and animal sanctuary. Through a program called Workaway, I spent three weeks working alongside this couple, while exploring the County of Kildare and its surrounding areas. During my time at Faradawn, I participated in a wide variety of tasks, ranging from gardening to cooking to feeding. And did they ever have mouths to feed…dogs, cats, goats, chickens, donkeys, horses (big and small) and a tortoise. These animals came to them from all stretches of life, whether they were abused or abandoned, they have finally found a place to call home. Oshio and Nobby are the gentle loving donkeys with me in the picture above. Brushing out their hair on a regular basis was considered one of my “tasks”, but I would not call it work in the slightest. Aside from the many creatures they cared for, my hosts own a full sized garden filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. David was also creating an eco-cabin in the back yard with a grass roof and handmade outhouse. Their passion and love for Mother Earth will forever inspire me. I will never forget the experiences, people and furry friends I encountered during my stay at this small safe haven in Ireland. On my final night stay, I wrote the piece below to commemorate my time spent in this oasis. If you ever find yourself in Dublin, take the hour drive out to visit these impeccable souls.
“Faradawn. A place for fairy folk and curious creatures alike. A place where love and respect come to unite. A place of rhubarb wines from their very own vines. A place bountiful in fruits and vegetables grown for all to dine. A place that welcomes all with arms open far and wide. A place made from childhood books and harshness left aside. A place to call home for travelers that come their way. A place I hope you come to stay.”
My writing has developed as a result of many experiences throughout my life. Although I owe a lot of this book’s content to the relationships and challenges I have faced, my travels have had a major role in “So This is Life…”. The ability to embrace a new culture opens an avenue of creativity unlike any other. Adventure allows us to find a new sense of self-identity and perspective of the world around us. Whether that entails a hike at your local trail or a ticket across the ocean, all journeys have significance. No matter the lengths one must take to reach their destination, we learn from our time spent on uncommon ground. The lessons I have taken away from my endeavors around the world are priceless. Throughout my posts, I will be sharing an entry on one of the many places I hold dear to my heart. Please feel free to comment below and share your stories! Stay tuned for my first blog post on the Faradawn Animal Sanctuary.