You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. ~ Rabindranath Tagore
Hardly as exciting as a Zoo, and sans Matt Damon, but we did it. We bought an Inn. This morning, while we were scrubbing pots and pans in the kitchen a reflection unlike any other had washed over me. A quiet nod to our accomplishment. Until this moment I had not acknowledged our successes, strangely enough this is happening as I am covered in greasy water and bits of uneaten food.
A move to a small tourist town, was the last thing I thought my husband and I would do. Prince Edward County is only two and a half hours from Toronto (not the long flight Costa Rica would have been). But might as well be millions of miles away in pace. Businesses close at 6 and restaurant kitchens close at 9, people honk there car horns to say hello not to say get outta the way. And if you pass someone on the street, you look them in the eyes and share a greeting. It's an easy life in the country. Hardships do occur but it's is a way of life, having to replace your septic system incites less drama than when a "city" friend loses their phone. Running out of water is almost a sure possibility (which means not bathing twice a day). You waste less in the country.
Originally published October 16, 2014
"Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R Tolkien
With a different bed every night, two islands, two cities a ferry and a lot of mileage in our Audi A5 we discovered the diverse landscapes, people and culture of Scotland.
I had a few cringes and eyebrow raises when I told people that I would be traveling with my in-laws, especially on a journey that had us confined to a car for hours at a time. Seasoned travelers themselves, I was more interested in what they would offer and contribute to my experience (ha selfish me), than the possibility of a National Lampoon style vacation. I give them huge props for going in blindly and trusting me with the itinerary.
We arrived in Glasgow via Reykjavik, Iceland. If you have not had an opportunity to fly with Icelandair, next one you get, take it. I have flown with them a handful of times and they always manage to exceed my expectations. They are quirky and unpretentious, but offer genuine feel good service. Plus if you have an extra day or two, you are able to stop in Iceland, at no extra charge.
In Glasgow, we were privy to the hot political scene and the leftovers of the 2014 Commonwealth games. The city immediately gives off the aura of a being built around the working class, a charm and delight for anyone wanting to experience Scotland without the bells and whistles that adorn many tourist cities. My hiking boots had their inaugural trek up to the Glasgow Necropolis where I was treated to a view of the city and the cathedral. We walked side by side through the sea of passionate Glaswegians as they rallied for the upcoming referendum vote. And it was here that I was introduced to Marks and Spencer's Percy the Pig.
Heading north, we made a detour from my original itinerary to stop at Stirling Castle, which was highly recommended by the customs agent as something we couldn't miss. On reflection we could have bypassed it, my schedule already had us seeing half a dozen castles, and I personally felt that Stirling was a great example of gaudy over-priced tourism. If your starting point is Glasgow head to Edinburgh Castle instead (20 minutes extra to your drive) the prison alone will make up for what you think you will be missing at Stirling. Up for a drive? Surrounded by mountains and three converging lochs, Eileen Donan Castle, is Scotland's most photographed and for good reason. Even if you don't have time to visit inside, the spectacular vista will be sufficient. Duvegan castle on the Isle of Skye is currently still a residence and is fully furnished, a living museum and has been home to the Chief's of Macleod of the MacLeod clan for over 800 years.
Have I mentioned that we had really great weather yet? Uncharacteristically sunny and warm, which made for great outdoor excursions. The Nevis Glen gorge is conveniently situated only a short drive outside of Fort William. With Ben Nevis in the foreground we hiked our way along a steep, rocky trail towards Scotland's second highest waterfall, Steall Falls. A few days later on the Isle of Skye we embarked on a little known (not found in our travel guide books) but incredible trek where we were led past a succession of crystal clear pools and waterfalls, known as the Fairy Pools. I may have been dehydrated but the landscape felt enchanted and mystical.
Everything was running so smoothly. We were now in the middle of our trip and as we drove alongside Loch Ness I refrained from blinking, hoping to share a moment with the famous resident Nessie. She was asleep, but instead of a sighting we were offered a fairy tale sunset, everything was perfect. We entered Inverness with hopes of rest. Unfortunately everything was booked; hotels, motels, B&B's, for no apparent reason Inverness was full. As our hopes and patience were diminishing, we were rescued not only by a beautiful guest house outside of the city but also a handful of really nice locals (seriously, one actually led us to the location in there car).
Do you have a travel wish list? I have one, but it is extensive; to be able to visit all of the UNESCO world heritage sites. A visit to the Orkney's, (a cluster of islands just north of the mainland) allowed me to check off a few. Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness make for a mind blowing experience. Skara Brae (a neolithic village) is older than the Giza pyramids and the Great Wall of China, and was discovered by fluke quite recently. I was humbled by time. This was possibly my favourite part of our trip.
The conclusion of our trip found us in Leith, a suburb of Edinburgh along the waterfront, which was an ideal spot for us to plant ourselves. A quick bus ride to the Old City and a fantastic selection of restaurants nearby on a strip dubbed The Shore we were more than delighted to be a bit of distance away from the more touristy areas. A couple of my favourite meals on this trip were eaten in Edinburgh, a piping hot shepherd's pie at The Doric (with claims to being the oldest gastro pub in Edinburgh) and a hog roast roll with crispy crackling and apple sauce straight from the farm at Oink, a simple restaurant serving up a roast of pork, with different dressings. Visiting the Old City is easy, starting off early (avoid the lines) at Edinburgh castle and continue down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace. At dark we joined a haunted tour (City of the DeadTours, The Double Dead walking tour), that led into underground vaults where we were regaled with stories of ghosts and poltergeists. The tour concluded in the Covenanter's prison, a concentration camp of sorts with it's history of hauntings.
Oh my, I could keep going. With the small town hospitality of Fort William, Portree, and Kirkwall, to the landscapes, the food and the mythology, Scotland really has something for everyone. If you have any questions or would like more details, comment below. If you have been, what was your favourite part?
A huge, huge thank you to my in laws, you make wonderful travel companions. I will treasure this adventure for the rest of my life. And may you never have to drive 1000 plus miles on the left hand side again. Cheers to Scotland, you surprised me, you taught me and most importantly you welcomed me. I will visit again. Luv K8e
Originally published September 23 2014
You know what's fun? Sobbing on an airplane while watching a movie. Because of course you can't hear yourself, so amplify what you can hear by like a thousand and that is what all the other passengers just woke up to. The Fault in Our Stars killed me, I never read the book, and because of Shailene Woodley's misinformed statements regarding feminism, I was a little disenchanted with her, (as a lead character, come on girl don't you want to be paid as much as your male counter parts?), but it was the only option I hadn't seen yet. So as the tears ran down my face right from the onset of the movie, my thoughts also went into overdrive.
I had also just finished catching up on Alicia Keys new project the #Wearehere campaign, a fantastic effort to tackle many different social issues, and I was already a little sensitive to the injustices of the world. I love when celebrities lend their voices to causes that hopefully they believe in, it is something and it is important. But I truly respect and admire a celebrity that is fully invested of their own accord, because they believe in something so passionately. Alicia Keys, Bono, the different UN Goodwill ambassadors such as Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson, newly appointed Leonardo DiCaprio as the messenger for peace, bravo and thank you from my heart.
So together these two things created the perfect storm.
I wondered why we need triggers to remind us that we have one go at this thing called life. Why would you want to be remembered as a bully, a tyrant, or ignorant. What is the point of these ongoing wars? Of discrimination based on skin colour, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. How do we build a society based on compassion and love? I am sure like many of you, I want working solutions. I want to live in a world where we reach out to people with less hope, with less fortune, where everyone lives equally and without fear. I want to live in a world where this conversation is no longer happening. But until then...
You have a home base (it is not your physical home) it is right where you are standing now. Where the people that surround you are as important and as equal as yourself. Domino this effect into your family and friends, neighbours and strangers, and then the world community. We all have an opportunity to help shape the world that we desire. But as the old saying goes, you can't love anyone else until you love yourself. We must start with ourselves.
Home base (yourself, myself) - Taking care of oneself both physically and mentally. Just like a car we need proper fueling, oiling and maintenance. We need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. Have fun, and dream. Believe. When you truly love and appreciate your whole self you can move on.
Family & Friends - Be involved, forgive, assist and share. Recognize and appreciate uniqueness, be thoughtful and empathetic.
Neighbours- there is nothing that makes you feel more secure than living in a healthy community. Be present and active. My neighbours share garden vegetables, and lend out lawn mowers, they greet each other on the street, most of the time by name, and sometimes we even have BBQ's.
Strangers- You never know what is going on in someone's life. Respecting boundaries, but at the same time lending a hand, or an ear can sometimes make a wonderful difference in someone's day. Have you heard of paying it forward, this phenomenon actually works, so start a chain reaction today.
Humans of the world - What can one person do you ask? Ok sure the majority of us do not have the capabilities or resources to single handily stop a war, or feed a starving nation. But in a democracy your vote could help. Your activism can help. Your funds can help. There is always something you can do. It doesn't have to be big, it doesn't have to cost you a penny. It just has to come from somewhere good.
I like that I cry on airplanes, it makes me real. I like that I have an unwavering belief that one person can make a difference. That hope is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone and that compassion is essential. The only person you are truly accountable for is yourself, so you have no excuses. If you want to join me and start our own movement leave a comment and let's start brain storming, or if you have a cause you support leave a link. Luv K8e
Have you ever stared at the world map for so long all the countries start to blend and lose their borders? Have you imagined landing in the remotest desert, or floating down canopied rivers being supported by only an inner tube? What about packing a small bag, jumping in the car, no destination planned, just the thrill of the journey in your back pocket?
I am a traveler, I enjoy the journey as much as I enjoy the experience; being immersed in a land with new cultures and languages. City scapes and redwoods exhilarate me, I am drawn to the surf board and the reef. The smell of Pad Thai on the busy streets of Bangkok, the smooth texture of smoked swordfish in Cinque Terra, dining under the stars in the Outback. Iconic street signs and back alley graffiti ignite curiosity. Armories and castles are lessons in history.
This is your introduction to my obsession.
As a young adult the idea of regret was terrifying to me, the question "what if?" induced immediate nausea. One of the items on my wish list back then was to learn how to surf. Blue Crush had just opened in the theaters and I had rushed back to see it for a second time. The combination of the power of the waves, tranquility of the sea and effort of the body had me hooked. Being landlocked was proving to be my only obstacle. So I decided that if I was going to learn, I would learn with the best. To avoid bailing out and high costs I booked my flight a year in advance to the surfing capital of the universe, Australia.
I researched the east coast from Bondi Beach to Byron Bay, the alligator infested waters of Cairns and the diverse ecosystem of Fraser Island. I mapped out budget friendly hostels and transportation. A copy of Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country and new bathing suit in tow I was ready to become the surfer Kate Bosworth would be proud of.
My pilgrimage had come to an end, and after three flights and twenty two hours of being in the air I had arrived at my surfing headquarters. Throwing on my bathing suit I hurried down to the ocean in a Utopian high, making me oblivious to my surroundings, that is, until I was jolted back to reality when I confidently strutted into the water. The unthinkable had happened, I had not planned for this, it had not even crossed my mind for a moment. I was actually terrified of the water, ankle deep in sea foam I scouted the shark nets in the distance, the jelly fish stranded on the shore, and the large waves crashing down. Anxiety quickly set into grief as I realized in the land down under I would be learning how to not fear the ocean.
I did not surf. I went sea kayaking with turtles and dolphins on the East Australian Current, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, and white water rafted through an ancient rain forest on the Tully River. I ate kangaroo, held a Koala and avoided Huntsman spiders. I met up with one of my best friends and saw a movie in the night market in Brisbane, then ate Yum Cha in Chinatown. I walked the entire circumference of Uluru and listened to Bone Man under the night sky. I fell in love with Gloria Jean's and Lamingtons, and I still have not come across a meat pie quite like the one I had on the way to Caloundra.
I did not surf, on this journey, but I sure did discover a passion that only continues to intensify with time. I signed my sister and myself up for surf camp in Costa Rica a couple of years later and not only did I stand up on the board, I got to share that experience with my sister, at the time it was meant to happen.
2014 is just beginning and destinations are already lining up, stay tuned. Share with me your travel stories and where you want to go! Luv K8eG
Originally published January 21 2014
"Whatever it is you're scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever. " Neil Gaiman
Every year we all brace ourselves, engines revving, just waiting for the track marshal to drop the green flag. New Years Day. The day we promise we are not going to scoop out peanut butter by the spoon full, we are finally going to rejoin and successfully become part of that boxing gym, learn Spanish, and of course do something that terrifies us; forgive and forget, and last but not least be the happier version of ourselves, (since yesterday).
I try to make each year better than the last, and guess what? Just like the racetrack with obstacles and varying speeds, competition and self doubt, I always end up right where I want to be, awarding myself with a first place ribbon, because nobody else could have steered my life around the corners any better.
2015 was great, I got a new job, and met some incredible new people. Putting my priorities and values at the forefront was my greatest accomplishment. Plans change, I dealt with it. I am excited for 2016 I have some new creative ideas for the blog, which will start right away and hopefully I will create a larger community where discussions and involvement will start to take shape. All of my childhood friends will vouch that I am the Queen of Clubs. (If you must know, one was called The Dead Fingers Club, I have no idea how this name came about but our club house was painted in camouflage and a skull and cross bone was our emblem, dark days.) If anyone can send me pics of these young me attempts at clubdom that would be great.
Here are my TOP 7 things I would like to accomplish in 2016
1. Hola Amigo! This is the year I finally put this to rest, Spanish you will be my second language.
2. Learn how to play the Ukelele. Because it's just so darn cute. I can take it anywhere with me.
3. I am going to Skateboard! This has been on my to do list way to long and now I am so old I will probably break bones when I fall.
4. Rejoin that boxing gym, my gold Adidas gloves are so angry they are not being used.
5.Going to Havasupai in Arizona
6. Social life! I have neglected this very important part of my life for months now. Friends be prepared to spend more time with me.
7. Forgive, I have a feeling this is going to be the hardest of all.
So before I run out of gas, and you are all consumed with the fumes of my New Year sentiments I will depart. And I wish you and your's a very happy new year! Oh and with all this talk of cars and racing I might just have to add that to my list now. Here's to your adventures. Luv K8e
Originally published December 31, 2015
Let the beauty of what you love be what you do ~ Rumi
So nothing get's me more excited than change. It is always happening so I might as well embrace it. I haven't been so progressive in my thoughts when it has come to re evaluating my blog and it's functionality. I think it looks great, don't get me wrong but I want it to be able to do so much more, and the platform has run it's course. So I am graduating and moving on. I want to reach more people, host a community full of discussion and inspiration. I would love to hear feedback on what you loved about my old blog ( which I am still in the process of trying to move it over to my new platform but of course it is causing problems, hence why I am moving), what you want to see and anything else you want to share. I am pretty excited about this new endeavor and can't wait to share some great new features with you. Hope you stick a long for the ride. Luv K8e