Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

August and Everything After

The west, so far, has been very good to me.

I’m slowly piecing myself back together, feeling my heart begin to heal and I finally feel alive again. The haze has lifted and the sun in beginning to shine brightly.

I’ve found a job at a great bar filled with the most amazing people who have embraced me as part of their big, crazy family. They really, REALLY care about each other and after such a short time here, I am secure in knowing there are good people who have my back. I’m spending my time with people who make me feel things again, who make me laugh, who are helping patch up my bangs and bruises, defrost my heart, challenging me and supporting me as I begin to define life under my own terms. I’m settling into a new apartment and making it into my own little home. Every single day I’m mountain climbing, running, biking and camping and letting the mountains work their magic to soothe my soul.

There are moments when I miss my old life like crazy. Moments when I cry thinking about my pups and how desperately I wish I could cuddle with them, have them underfoot, have to sweep 10X each day. There are moments when my family is all together, and my nieces and nephews are giggling, that I would give anything to be with them all. Moments when I miss the familiarity of “my people” and Paisley. But this fresh start and new scenery are what I needed and this trip that has turned into a move (Temporary? Permanent? I’m still operating with no plan…) is proving to have been the best thing I could have done. I’m slowly beginning to figure myself out and enjoying getting lost in exploration along the way.

Nihahi Ridge

Stampede Night Out

 

The Girls

View from the Summit of Temple Mountain

 

Temple Mountain Summit (exhausted, cold, exhilirated and proud!)

Kananaskis Lake

Fernie, BC

 

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Arrived (for now)

Well, I’ve arrived, for now. Saturday night I pulled into Calgary after driving 3600 km in 4 days.

At the last minute (literally only a few hours before I left), a friend decided to come along for the drive. Having the company of such a great person made the trip west an adventure and altered it, in a positive way, considerably. My friend flew home bright and early Sunday morning and left me to continue this journey I am embarking on.

The trip was long but incredible. I saw some very cool things along the way, laughed a ton and felt the choking grip on my heart and soul loosen with the passing of every kilometer. Those 3600 km did a lot to put me into a position where I am ready to start healing and moving and growing. They were so freeing. I feel more alive than I have in a long time. I am excited at this new adventure that I have only just begun!

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Heading West

Trip is AMAZING so far! As soon as I get back into Canada I will post stories and photos.

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Beginning of Chapter Three

On Wednesday I will be hitting the road, solo, to drive 3500 kms west to the mountains. I’ve got my mountain bike, camping gear and a backpack full of clothes packed away into my little car. I’m heading out in that direction with no clear direction or plan and have no idea where I will land, what I will do or for how long. What I am hoping is that with each passing kilometre I will be able to breathe deeper, think more clearly, and slowly begin to put the pieces of my heart back together again. Some say I’m running away. I say I’m running forward; towards healing, growth and peace.

Wish me luck as I embark on this new adventure!

My Old Stomping Grounds

This past weekend I made the long drive east to Ottawa. A trip that should have taken me 7-8 hours ended up taking two full days after the CRAZIEST white-out snowstorm I have EVER driven in (and that’s saying a lot coming from a girl who lives in Bruce County…) left me storm-stayed in Belleville for a night. While I was disappointed to have to miss dinner plans with my friends Nicole, Rob and their son Max, I decided to make the best of it and  think of it as yet another travel adventure and story. Turns out every hotel in town was sold out of rooms and full of stranded travelers! Some beers and stories in the hotel lobby with fellow strandees and I could do nothing but laugh at being stuck somewhere en route to a destination AGAIN!

Over night the snow stopped and the highways were cleared and I headed back out on the road in sparkling sunshine to finish the last stretch of the drive. As soon as I hit Hwy 417, a huge smile spread across my face; I absolutely LOVE Ottawa and have the best memories of my time living there. It is a place of firsts for me; my first time living on my own and by my own rules, my first apartment, my first roommates, my first serious relationship, my first grown-up job, my first deep hurt…It is also where I lived the glorious life of a student, spent far too much time (and money) partying and had some of the most hilarious and story-worthy encounters and adventures. Ottawa is a beautiful city and will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Capitol also happens to be where some of my favourite people reside but because it’s so far away, I don’t make it back nearly often enough. Needless to say, I had a full schedule to see everyone I wanted to see while there but managed some great time with all my important Ottawa people. Noah (my NZ travel buddy) recently moved back so I used his apartment as my home-base. Friday at noon I met a work colleague (fabulous lady who knows just the right things to say to get me motivated!) at Heart and Crown for lunch and followed lunch up with wandering around the market reminiscing! Friday night we went to an old church in the Byward Market that is no longer an active place of worship and has been converted into an event space (although converted might be the wrong word…it really hasn’t been changed in anyway and the pews and everything are still set up) for a dance party.

For possibly the first time in my life, I felt old. There is a good chance I was about a decade older than a lot of the people there. Regardless, it was kind of hilarious and we had a pretty good time dancing and ended the night at Shawarma King, which is never a bad thing. When I lived in Ottawa, I assumed shawarma was standard fare in all major cities but O-town is truly the only place I have been where you can find it on almost every corner.

Saturday morning was breakfast with Nicole and Rob (delicious eggs benedict on home-made english muffins!) and cuddles with their adorable son Max. It was so great catching up with Nicole! She and I spent years traveling all over the country together competing in biathlon and I am so happy we have remained such good friends throughout the years. She is also one of the most interesting people I have ever met – the girl has traveled all over the world on her own and has some pretty remarkable stories (you should read her blog to get a glimpse of some of the remarkable adventures she has been on – www.mommaandmax.com).

Drinks Saturday night at The Lieutenant’s Pump followed by a trip to Elgin Street Diner, an Ottawa late-night institution where the line-up and wait is well worth it to grab one of their multiple flavoured, cheese-curd filled, gravy-drenched poutines. I wondered if the four-cheese variety was as good as I remembered it from my university days and it was although I wasn’t able to shovel back a full order on my own the way I used to be able to! (You’re almost guaranteed to run into someone you know at ESD and this trip proved that theory true once again as I ran into a friend from highschool that I used to work beachstaff with).

Sunday brought a morning coffee date with Tasha at Bridgehead (BEST coffee in Ottawa and it’s all fair-trade, organic and shade-grown from small growers) where I got to hear all about the plans for her upcoming nuptials! An afternoon coffee date with a long-time family friend (who incidentally I used to babysit and who’s recent engagement announcement, that she told me about when I ran into her Friday night, contributed to making me feel so old…) at Sun Cafe (a cute place that combines coffee shop and flower shop) and my caffeine levels were perfect for the day. Dinner and laughs with Norah, one of my best friends from highschool, at Clocktower Brew Pub (they brew their own beer – Wishart’s Bitter is my favourite) brought a perfect close to my weekend.

Monday I hit the road heading back west and broke the trip up perfectly with an over-night stop in Kinsale to visit my sister and brother-in-law and get some always needed snuggles in with my gorgeous niece Paige. Tuesday was a stop in Grand Valley to visit my sister-in-law (the sister-in-law who was my university roommate in Ottawa so it completed the circle perfectly!) and grab some snuggles with my handsome nephew, Callum before I finally arrived back home!

It was a perfect long weekend full of people I love and I cannot wait to plan my next foray back to Ottawa sometime very soon!

Embrace the Fear

One month ago yesterday, I grew wings. On the courage of those wings, I jumped out of a plane from 15,000 feet and I flew. I felt absolute exhiliration, freedom and joy. And when I landed…the adrenaline!! Can’t even describe it but it lasted for hours and hours and even just thinking about the jump brings a bit of it back. What a rush! It was the most amazing feeling and I loved every single second of it! Since that jump, I have been dreaming of my next one…

During the 1 minute (10,000 foot) free fall, the wind is roaring past your ears and it is very loud. The second the parachute is pulled, you are surrounded by the most profound silence. Complete peace and quiet. It was actually a very serene experience (I know, you can’t fathom how jumping out of a plane could POSSIBLY be even remotely serene…but it was!).

Check out the views…honestly, absolutely breathtaking!

WOW!!!

Flying! Well, technically falling...but I felt like I was flying!

Coming in for a landing...

Maybe this will be the next thing to try?!?!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWfph3iNC-k

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

White sand beaches, turquoise lagoons, phenomenal snorkeling, friendly people, laid back atmosphere, not completely over-run by tourists and resorts (the resorts are all very small ones), good food, fresh fruit….

Paradise!

Rarotonga

The whole island is only 32 km around so it makes seeing it all very easy. Scooters and motor bikes are the standard method of transportation and can be rented for as little as $14/day (depending on how many days you rent it for). You must obtain a Cook Islands drivers license in order to drive there. You can either do that at the police station or at some of the rental shops where they give you a temporary license that must be upgraded to a permanent one at the police station within 24 hours. To be granted your license, you have to drive a road test and pay $25. Well worth it! If you don’t rent a scooter or bike, there is a bus that goes around the island both clock-wise and counter-clockwise and leaves Avarua (the main town) every hour and makes the loop.

Driving test beside the police station in Avarua

I stayed at a backpackers (Varas Beach House in Muri Beach http://www.varas.co.ck) and for $25/night got this amazing view the second I stepped out of my bedroom.

View from Varas Beach House

Muri Beach is the one spot on Rarotonga that has little islets that you can basically walk right out to. The water is very shallow and you can head over to one of these and spend the day with a beach entirely to yourself. There’s a lot of water-activities along Muri Beach including stand-up paddleboarding, kite-surfing, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, lagoon cruises, snorkeling, etc.

Muri Beach

Muri Beach

The best spot on the island for snorkeling is over at Fruits of Rarotonga on the south end of the island…giant coral reef and an amazing array of tropical fish! The entire island is surrounded by a reef which makes it very protected and prevents large waves from crashing into the shore. The result is generally calm waters that are perfect for watersports and swimming. The most delicious smoothies are sold directly across the street from here. They are a bit pricey at almost NZ $5 but worth every penny!

Fruits of Rarotonga

Fruits of Rarotonga

Fruits of Rarotonga

Do I have to leave?

Go to the Cook Islands. And go before it becomes commercialized. It is an absolute paradise and tourism there will grow as more people discover it. Get there while it still holds the amazing charm that it currently does.
If you have a chance, go over to Aitutaki, another one of the islands in the group known as the Cooks. I didn’t have a chance to go since I was at the end of my trip and on a serious budget but it is apparently even more beautiful than Rarotonga. Flights are a bit pricey to get there but apparently it is an ideal honeymoon/romantic holiday location. The water there is even more clear and the snorkeling even more magnificent.

Must visits:

Trader Jacks –> for the open air bar, great live music, friendly bar staff, fantastic pizza and because I promised Jack I’d send loads of Canadians over to drink at his bar! If you ever do go and are lucky enough to meet the legend known as Jack, tell him I sent you!

Fruits of Rarotonga –> go snorkeling and then enjoy a smoothie as you sit in paradise!

Flame Tree –> really good restaurant in Muri beach. Had a fantastic meal of Ika Mata  (fresh line caught raw yellowfin tuna, lime juice, coconut cream, onion, coriander, red chili) and fresh line caught mahi mahi.

Whatever! Bar –> open air bar that turns into a busy dance spot on Friday nights. It’s busy most nights but bars in Rarotonga close at the stroke of midnight on Saturday night since it is a very Christian community) so don’t expect Saturday to be a wild night out.