Tuesday, July 22, 2014

GUEST POST - Paris France, The Perfect Destination for all Types of Travellers

Paris: The Perfect Destination for all Types of Travellers
When one first thinks of Paris they immediately think “city of Love”. The French capital is renowned around the world for its beauty and the romance that greets you around every corner. However this can often mean that Paris is overlooked by solo travelers or younger backpackers who may think they should skip the city and return years later, perhaps when they are partnered with someone romantically which would make for a better trip. This doesn’t have to be the case though; pardon the cliché but Paris has something for everyone, no matter who you are traveling with, how old you are or even how long you intend to stay for.
Like any European city, history and culture surround you as soon as you take your first step outside. Many travelers choose to take a few days throughout the week to explore the city but like many destinations, the longer you stay the more you are invited in to find out about the secrets that make a place so interesting. Whether you plan to stay for just a day or even a whole week, one of the first things travelers plan to do is visit the ‘must see’ places located around the city. We’re not against visiting the Eiffel Tower or the views it offers over the city, neither are we against a visit to The Louvre to see Mona Lisa in all her beauty but we do recommend taking time to slow down during your trip to take in all that Paris has to offer, not just the touristy places.

Metro Ticket
To show what Paris has to offer to all travelers, we put together some tips that may be useful for anyone spending time in the city and the first tip is to purchase a metro ticket. Although we love to walk and think there’s no better way to explore a new city, it is well worth purchasing a metro ticket in Paris. A ‘carnet de dix’ is a set of ten metro tickets at a discounted price and can be used on buses as well. The metro can be quite difficult to get used to at first but it’s easy to get used to and it’s a great way to explore the city alongside the locals.

The Louvre & Eiffel Tower
Most travelers would think their time in Paris wouldn’t be complete without a visit to both the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower so we had to include a section just for them. The Louvre is particularly busy on weekends and if you are to visit the museum it is advised not to try to see every exhibit because you can become overloaded and disinterested which isn’t the goal of your trip at all!
The Eiffel Tower, Paris’ most famous monument is probably best climbed once its already dark; it will be slightly less crowded and seeing the city at night is a wonderful sight.

Culture
France is famous for its fine food and even better wine and we’re sure you can find your own favorite eating spots in the city. With your flexible metro ticket you are free to explore Paris at your own pace but there are some points of interest you should definitely visit. The famous Latin Quarter is now more tourist-oriented than it used to be but a wander through is definitely worth your time. Not far from the Latin Quarter is the Notre-Dame cathedral which is definitely worth the wait to see. Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement offers a lot to discover and from there you can head to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th which is one of the most beautiful in Paris offering great views of the city from atop the hill.

There are many more things to discover in Paris but this is just a glimpse of one of the world’s most loved destinations. At Nocturnal Backpacker we try to offer advice that goes beyond the must see advice you receive from fellow travelers and guides and we are firm believes that what you make of a place is how you discover it. That is, after all, what makes your visit unique.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Compiled a List of the Best of the Best and here is the final List of my Favorite Places

Lingan Wind Farm – In the mid-80’s, a large, unsightly and dirty power generating station was built along the shore of Lingan Bay. Today, that generating station is being phased out and replaced by cleaner energy, including windmills which have already been put up in the area. The Lingan Wind Farm is located along that same shore and a gravel road runs alongside those mills to create a very nice walking trail along the shoreline. I love to walk this trail right to the end where there are old barracks perched near the cliffs and the view is spectacular.
The Road that Passes Through Donkin and Port Morien – I love this drive and it is the one I probably do the most often on my daily coffee run. Shoreline, beaches, scenery, wildlife (I often see bald eagles, deer and foxes along this road), very little traffic and its not very far from where I live. What else could one ask for in a daily coffee run?

The Church in Cheticamp – I’m not religious but I often make a stop at this church on the main road in Cheticamp and its something my family has always done whenever we pass through the community. As a child, my mom always took my sisters and I in there to light a candle at the alter and it was said that if you made a wish on one of those candles, it would come true. I don’t know if it was pure coincidence but some of those wishes did come true. The church is old and beautiful inside and its almost haunting in how quiet it is and how every little sound echoes in the stillness within.

The Walking Track at 14 Yard – To many people, exercise sounds like work but for me, it is a necessity. I exercise everyday. It keeps me healthy and disciplined and reduces stress. My daily 5 kilometer walk ( or job depending on how I am feeling) around the track at 14 yard is my escape. It gets me out of the house and lets me escape for an hour into a world of just me and my music (I bring my ipod along with me). This hour allows me to not only do something healthy, but to think and reorganize my thoughts or just go off into another world with my favorite songs setting the backdrop.

The Canso Causeway – A landmark accomplishment on any road trip; on the way out of Cape Breton, it signifies two hours knocked off the journey and a traditional rest stop at the Big Stop gas station and restaurant. On the way home from any road trip, it signifies that I have reached home. Home is always on the Port Hawkesbury side of the causeway even though my house is actually two more hours of driving. On any particularly long trip, the causeway is a sign that I am on that last homestretch!

St. Ann’s Look-off – Near the top of Kelly’s Mountain on the right side heading west is a rest stop that doubles as a scenic look-off over St. Anne’s Bay. I stop here almost every time I pass through the area to eat lunch and enjoy my coffee while looking out over the scenic view that consists of rolling hills, a large bay and distant fields.

Fort Petrie- located only ten minutes from my home, I often go to Fort Petrie to watch the boats come and go in Sydney Harbour and the sun set over the vast horizon. I often see the Newfoundland ferries heading out to sea and wish I was onboard so I, too, could be headed to The Rock and my former home where many of my friends are still living.

Water St., St. John’s, NL – I love main streets in cities. They are so exciting and colorful. I’ve walked many colorful main streets in many cities around North America but none really compare to the main street in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Water St, is a fairly long and narrow street that runs through the downtown district of the city. With it’s colorful and old buildings, unique local shops, numerous cafes catering to every type of coffee drinker, every type of restaurant and live music venue you can think of, professional and amateur buskers displaying their talent to the masses and tons of little parks and benches to just sit and relax, there is no shortage of action on this street. I love to go down there early in the morning and sit on a bench with my coffee and a book. In the evening, I like to just walk the street listening to the music, people-watching and just enjoying the colorful sights and sounds around me.

Grand Narrows/Iona – For some reason, I don’t travel to this part of Cape Breton as much but it is still one of my favorite areas of the island. While I usually prefer to be near the ocean and mountains, it is nice to be lakeside and in “softer” surroundings once and a while. And besides, the Bras d’Or lakes are much like an ocean in size! I love how quiet this area of the island is and how there are less people wandering about. There are so many places to just sit and relax and not have to worry about there being crowds around. I love the little wharf area in Grand Narrows where there is also a little rocky beach and a dock. Sometimes there are even little country markets where you can buy some fresh produce and homemade sweets and listen to some fiddle music.

The Drive Across Newfoundland – Yes, I know, this is not really a place but it is a route that I often take when traveling from my home in Cape Breton to the city of St. John’s in Newfoundland and each and every trip across (and there have been dozens) has been memorable in one way or another. The drive starts in Port Aux Basques and heads along the Trans Canada heading east. Along the way, there are mountains, small towns and villages, scenic look-offs, valleys, rivers and strange places with interesting stories behind them. Take, for example, the Wreckhouse area. No one lives in this beautiful, barren valley surrounded by mountains and there is a reason for that; its too windy! When the winds in the Wreckhouse area are at their highest, traffic comes to a standstill and anyone brave enough to try and pass through may end up in some trouble. Large transport trucks have been known to be blown over by these winds. I usually take the DRL bus across the island and many interesting stories and memories have come out of those many trips. New friendships, bus breakdowns, broken heaters, lost luggage, drunken and rowdy passengers, off-the-wall conversations with complete strangers, near run-ins with moose and snowstorms are just a few of the interesting things I recall!

The Cabot Trail – Again, not a specific place but a scenic drive…one of the most scenic drives on the planet! And that’s not just my opinion, the trail has been voted as such by many travel publications numerous times over the years. A trip around the trail is one of my favorite things I look forward to in the warmer months. I get up early. Load up the car with lunch and beach supplies and go for the day or overnight depending on how much time I have to work with. I go around via Cheticamp, stopping in Inverness and Margaree along the way and spending some time in the village of Cheticamp. I than make my way over the mountains and through Pleasant Bay and Cape North towards Ingonish where I will, again spend some time at the beaches and hiking trails. The drive is peaceful even when there are many people around. Windy, narrow roads snaking over mountains and through valleys and along rugged coastline. It’s heaven on Earth!

And Finally…My car! – I don’t know what I would do without my 2009 black Sonata. The begin with, it’s everything I wanted in a car. When I went car shopping, I was looking for a spacious, black car with a sunroof and great-sounding stereo. The first car I eyed was the one I ended up buying. It had those things and more. Of course, I was smart about it and test drove some other cars around the city but I came back for this one. I took it on a long road trip the first weekend I had it and it met all my standards. Good handling, no weird noises, comfortable…Now it’s my sanctuary. It not only gets me to work and back every day, it gets me out of the house when I am tired of sitting around in one place, it takes me to all my favorite places and beyond and it is where I retreat to when I am having a bad day. I just get behind the wheel, crank the stereo with my favorite tunes and drive off into the unknown and that is my cure-all for any bad day!

GUEST POST - What To Expect On Your PhuketFit Holiday

At PhuketFit, you’ll find an oasis dedicated to providing you with a relaxing environment in which to begin your new healthy lifestyle. At PhuketFit, there is a team of professional wellness and fitness advocates who want to give you a refreshing start to a new life devoted to the total fitness of your mind and body. They do this through special training, nutrition education, and the promise of a great experience that promotes personal growth and wellness. PhuketFit wants you become the best you can be. Through encouragement and motivation, they will build you up, set specific goals, and get your body into the best shape of your life.

Types of Fitness Exercises
PhuketFit uses an array of fitness programs to give you a fresh start. Cleanses, workouts, yoga and healthy eating are all tools that are used to help you achieve your individual goals. Support is one of the most important tools used at PhuketFit. They know that while proper diet and exercise are important, you won’t get very far unless someone believes in you. Your PhuketFit team will cheer for you, be there when things get tough, and help you through your fitness journey every step of the way.

Personalized Weight Loss Plans
PhuketFit in Thailand understands that each and every person is unique and your weight loss program needs to be unique and designed for you. PhuketFit provides you with a fast, safe, and reliable way to lose weight. Try out the personalized weight loss program that has been scientifically proven to burn fat, cleanse the body, and give you a significant energy boost. PhuketFit believes that stress, excess fat, and being overweight are all the product of today’s modern lifestyle. When you come to Thailand to participate in the healthy lifestyle program, you’ll learn skills and get tools to reshape the way you live your life in today’s modern word.

Detoxing Your Mind and Body
If you ever feel weighed down, sluggish, and just plain tired, you may be in need of an effective cleanse for your mind and body. PhuketFit ascertains that today’s modern lifestyle induces stress and studies have shown that stress is the foundation of every diseases, illness, and psychological problem. When we’re weighed down by stress, it steals our ability to live a long and happy life. With PhuketFit’s detox patrons partake in a safe and gentle cleanse that includes juices, raw food, or full fasting. Yoga and fitness classes are used to stimulate circulation, strengthen you lymphatic systems, and boost your immune system which fights stress and diseases. Massages, trips to the sauna, meditation classes, and gym access are also used to detoxify both mind and body.

The Total Fitness Program
Achieving peak physical strength, fitness and wellness is possible when you participate in the Total Fitness Program in Phuket, Thailand. Burn fat, improve flexibility, and build strength with the fitness program that puts you through various exercises and classes that benefit the mind and body. Participate in 7 group fitness classes, 5 yoga classes, 1 morning beach boot camp, kickboxing classes, and suspension classes. You’ll also get a new healthy meal plan, a rejuvenating massage and fitness education with every class you participate in.

PhuketFit located in Phuket, Thailand is a beach paradise destination where one can get away from the stress of modern life and engage in a total fitness program that will detoxify your body, cleanse your mind, and get you in the best physical shape of your life.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Apparently I have a lot of Favorite Places...Here are some more of them!

North River Falls – I always wanted to hike to North River Falls, the tallest waterfalls in Nova Scotia, but the 20-kilometer return hike had me procrastinating for years. I finally decided to do that hike a couple of years ago and it was worth the hike. After dodging fallen trees, dilapidated foot bridges, washed out paths and numerous other obstacles, I finally made it to the falls and what a sight to behold! A raging, cascading waterfall falling into a crystal clear pool surrounded by nothing but forest and wilderness…and I had that all to myself because not many people are willing to do that long, hard hike!
That “spot” in the Grand Canyon that hardly Anyone gets to see – The Grand Canyon has always been close to the top of my bucket list and I finally had the chance to see it in the spring of 2009. Nothing prepared me for the surprise that awaited me during the guided tour I took to the Canyon. I usually hate guided tours but, since it was my first time traveling in the area, I thought it would be fitting to go with someone who knew their way around. The tour left early in the morning and made the typical stops at attractions along the way; the Hoover Dam, Joshua Tree National Park, Lake Mead. While at the Grand Canyon, I embarked on a helicopter ride to the bottom and a pontoon boat ride along the Colorado River. While these aspects of the tour were amazing, it was what came next that really made me happy I took that tour. When the group met back at the bus, our tour guide gave us two options to pick from; we could pay an extra 30 dollars and do the touristy skywalk or we could get back in the bus and go somewhere that only a few tour operators were allowed to go, a place that was gated off and in a secluded area of the park. Fortunately for me, because I had no interest in waiting in line to do the skywalk, everyone voted for the second option. Remote, quiet, wild, lonely, incredible, out-of –this-world…that is just some of the words that can be used to describe that place and that view.
The Drive Along the North Shore – Just knowing that I will going to Ingonish is enough to make me happy but I also look forward to the nice drive there, in particular the section of the route that passes along an area known as the North Shore which runs from the Englishtown Ferry to Cape Smokey Mountain. The windy and often deserted road passes through an area that is home to old farmhouses surrounded by forest, large fields, distant mountains and ocean. The drive takes about 40 minutes and along the way, I like to stop at the various resting places to admire the view, have lunch or just relax in the peaceful surroundings. I often see wildlife in the early morning or evening hours and the night sky is so visible on clear nights because there are no lights to obscure it.

Mira Gut Beach – As a child, my parents took me to this beach almost every weekend in the summer. We left early in the morning and stayed until the sun went down. We swam, we sunbathed, we had picnics and we had bonfires. We were even asked to be in a music video that was being filmed on the beach one day! There are two sections of the beach; a long sandy one with less crowds and a more crowded smaller area on the other side of the breakwater. A bridge separates the gut from the opening of the Mira River and on the other side of that bridge, there is a swimming area as well. We spent most of our days on the long, sandy beach area and migrated to the river bank at night to have a fire. When I got older, I spent a lot of time on the other side of the breakwater where, over the years due to people moving away for work, the crowds got smaller and a bald eagle perched on the edge of the breakwater every evening.

Freshwater Lake – Ingonish Beach is one of the most popular beaches on Cape Breton Island and one of the reasons it is so popular is because there is so much to do there. There is a long, sandy beach, a freshwater lake and a hiking trail to name a few things. Freshwater Lake, in particular, is one of my favorite places on the whole island. When I am staying in Ingonish, I wake up early, grab a coffee at the Bean Barn and drive to the lake area. I take my place in the sand or on a nearby picnic table and watch the sun come up over Cape Smokey Mountain. It is so quiet there first thing in the morning and the sounds of the ocean on one side and the deep woods on the other make for a great start to the day.

That Sandwich bar at Pearson International Airport – Almost every trip I take via plane includes a long layover at Pearson International and I hate that place with a passion. Long lineups, poor signage, rude employees who hate giving directions…and the list goes on and on. However, amidst the chaos that is Pearson, I once found a little sanctuary that I now retreat to every time I am there. It is a little sandwich bar (I can never seem to remember the name of it) with a quiet and relaxing ambiance and the best veggies sandwiches I have ever eaten!

My bike route along the shore – I have a bike and although I don’t really have the time these days to ride it much, I do, from time to time, go for a ride on warm summer mornings or afternoons on the weekends. And I always take the same route from my house in Lingan along the shore to the lighthouse in New Victoria. I love this route especially in the summer when the sounds of children playing and softball games at the field I drive by and the smell of barbecues fill the air. I try to stick to the roads that are close to the shoreline so I can watch the sea with all the ferries and fishing boats coming and going.
The Rocky Beach in the Little Village where my Mom Grew up – At the end of a road at the edge of Cheticamp in Northern Cape Breton is a long, rocky beach. I first went there as a child when my mom took me there every summer to spend time in the place where she grew up. She always told me stories about how she used to play on that beach as a child. Now that she is gone, that place means so much more to me. I feel like her spirit lingers in that area she cherished so much. Whenever I’m in Cheticamp, I take my coffee to the parking lot above the beach and sit for hours, just watching the waves roll in and imagining my mom there as a child. Sometimes I walk the beach and I am always the only person there which makes it even better.

The Lonely roads of Mira at night – One of my favorite places to drive at night is Mira. Those lonely, deserted, dark roads through dense forest areas and small villages are almost spooky at night. The stars are always brightest out there where there is no light pollution and the foxes, deer and raccoons are on the prowl. If it is nice enough, I stop at Mira Gut and sit on the beach and watch the night sky for a while before continuing on my way.

Squeaker’s Hole – At the far end of the parking lot at Black Beach near the village of Ingonish in the Cape Breton Highlands is the entrance to a short walking trail. This walking trail leads hikers to a place called Squeaker’s Hole and a place where I spent much of my time over the years. The trail snakes off into two directions at one point; one trail leads to the bottom of Sqeaker’s Hole and the other leads to the top. Some days I will hike to the bottom where I can swim out to a rock in the middle of the little cove and watch the rough seas churn around me. Other days, I will hike to the top where I can sit on the side of the cliffs and sunbathe, read a book or just relax to the sounds of the birds, the sea and the other natural sounds around me.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Some More of my Favorite Place Near and Far

Baddeck Boardwalk – It doesn’t matter where I’m going – around the Cabot Trail, to Halifax or just for a drive along the Trans-Canada Highway – I always stop in Baddeck, even if it is just for five minutes. One of the things I like to do when I stop in the little village is grab a coffee and drink it on the boardwalk that lines a part of the harbor. I can sit there and kick my feet in the water and watch all those luxurious yachts float by and wonder what famous person might be enjoying some time away from the limelight in the peace and tranquility of little Baddeck where no one realizes who they are or pays any attention to them.
The Driveway at Anamaya – I’ve only been there once and may never be there again but I will always remember going for my nightly strolls down the driveway to Anamaya Yoga Retreat in Montezuma, Costa Rica, a place I had the opportunity to stay at for a week last year. The reason I loved taking this stroll every evening before bed? The calm, warm, tropical air, the sights and sounds of exotic animals and insects going about their nocturnal business and the quiet and peaceful atmosphere that was only compromised by the distant sound of the waves crashing on the Pacific coast below.
The Drive over Cape Smokey Mountain – I spend most of my summer in Ingonish, Cape Breton so I’ve driven over Cape Smokey hundreds of times. I often hear stories of tourists hiring local drivers to take them over the mountain because they find the hairpin turns and high cliffs terrifyingly dangerous and I often take people over that mountain because I know that road like the back of my hand. I’ve driven it in the winter, in thick fog, in heavy rains, in thunder storms and on clear summer days. I’ve driven it in the morning and in the dead of night. Every trip is different and I never get sick of that view from the top, no matter which way I look!

The Skyline Trail – I drove past this hiking trail hundreds of times before I decided to hike it myself…and I am glad I finally did! Nature, scenery, wildlife – this trail has it all and the best part of it is the end where the sea meets the sky and a boardwalk spirals downward toward the rocky coastline where whales can be seen frolicking in the surf below. I can sit there until the sun goes down and what a sight it is to see a sunset from that place!

The St. John’s Battery – Right at the bottom of Signal Hill at the end of the trail and right before you enter the little village at The Battery are some old army barracks. The barracks cannot be entered but there is a little hill right beside it that leads to the top of the small building and a flat concrete surface. When I lived in the city, every morning before the sun came up, I started the walk around that trail and rested in that spot to watch the sun come up and the boats come and go through the narrows. Some evenings I went there to watch the sun go down or just admire the spectacular view of the city at night with its distant city sounds - so close but yet so far away.

The Joseph and Clara Smallwood ferry – This ferry is no longer in operation, I made the crossing between North Sydney to Argentia, Newfoundland at least a hundred times over the years. Although I may have sometimes dreaded impending trips across The Gulf, looking back, I have very fond memories of some of those eventful crossings. Impromptu bands made up of traveling musicians from all around the world getting together for jam sessions in the bar, last minute excursions across “just for something to do”, card games with new friends made in the cafeteria area, long talks with complete strangers on the outside deck and even life-long friendships made simply by being stuck on a ship together for all those hours and having nothing else to do! Sometimes the seas were rough and I would retreat to “my spot” on the seventh deck – a reclining chair in the Baccalieu lounge, way back in the corner away from everyone else and in view of the TV in case I wanted to watch whatever was on.
Corner of Bond and Prescott, St. John’s – I moved away from home for the first time when I was 19 and made my new home in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Although I had several apartments during the twelve years I lived in the city, the last one I lived in is the one I will always remember the most. With so many run-down, outdated and expensive apartments around, I was lucky to find this near-perfect gem at a decent price and in a good neighborhood that was close to everything. The apartment was located right downtown but far enough from the main roads to be surprisingly quiet. It was only a short walk from my work and all the other services I needed. It had been just renovated right before I moved in. It had wood floors (I hate carpet). It was high off the ground on the third floor of a house that was at the end of row of attached houses which meant I didn’t have to worry about floods or dampness. And it had a spectacular view of the downtown area and the harbor which allowed me to watch the sun come up over Signal Hill and the boats come and go.
Black Brook Beach – I visited this beach with friends many years ago and have been returning every summer since. It is one of my favorite beaches on all of Cape Breton Island. When I was younger, I loved the main part of the beach where the waves are quite large and all the young people tend to congregate. As I got older, I started to migrate to the lesser used side of the beach where the waves are smaller, the water is calmer and there are less people. This beach has everything; several hiking trails, some look-offs, picnic areas, a waterfall, freshwater swimming area and a beach with warm water, lots and sand and hardly any jellyfish!

Jasper National Park, Alberta – The Rocky Mountains were something to see for sure but it was Jasper National Park that won my heart in the end. In comparison to the other mountain towns in the Rockies, Jasper was more to my expectations in terms of ruggedness, untouched beauty, nature and wildlife. The lodge was exactly how I pictured a Rocky Mountain Lodge to be and that fresh, mountain air made me feel so alive and in touch with my surroundings.
Gampo Abbey Monastery – I heard this place existed but no one ever seemed to know where it was located. I found it one day quite by accident when I decided to drive down a road I had never been down before. I was driving through Pleasant Bay in Northern Cape Breton when I noticed a sign for Red River Road. It looked vaguely interesting and I had some time to kill so, out of curiosity, I turned down. I passed over a small bridge and continued on a windy, country road that soon turned into a gravel road that ran between some rolling hills and the ocean. I soon realized what the road led to when I happened upon a Buddhist shrine on the left-hand side of the road. Not much further passed that was a small parking lot. I parked the car and wandered around and found a little trail that went into a wooded area along a little brook. Little Buddha statues were scattered around the area and I soon happened upon the monastery itself; a simple facility right on the water. The area was so peaceful and immersed in nature that I could see why the area was picked for the sight of a Buddhist monastery.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My Favorite Travel Quotes of all Time

So, I’ve heard people love reading inspirational quotes. I do too but I particularly like the ones that inspire people to travel and see the world. I like these quotes so much that I compiled a list of my favorite ones to share with anyone who needs a little bit of travel inspiration…that can also be applied to daily living!

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“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” – John le Carre

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness" - Mark Twain

“‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless, it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.’” ~Louis C.K.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”. - Saint Augustine

“I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad”. - George Bernard Shaw

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries”. - Aldous Huxley

“If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears”. - Cesare Pavese

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not”. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls”. - Anais Nin

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow”. - Lin Yutang

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends”. - Maya Angelou

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move”.- Robert Louis Stevenson

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see”. - Gilbert K. Chesterton

“Not all those who wander are lost.” - J.R.R. Tolkien

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” - Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” - Lao Tzu

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” - Ernest Hemingway

“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.” - Isabelle Eberhardt

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” - David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you've never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.” - Judith Thurman

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustave Flaubert

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

“to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.” - Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life” - Jack Kerouac, On the Road

“because he had no place he could stay in without getting tired of it and because there was nowhere to go but everywhere, keep rolling under the stars...” - Jack Kerouac, On the Road

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” – Samuel Johnson

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” – Robert Frost

“There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – Charles Dudley Warner

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener

“The journey not the arrival matters.” – T. S. Eliot

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca
“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” – Freya Stark

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for” – John A. Shedd

“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.” – John Hope Franklin

“You lose sight of things… and when you travel, everything balances out.” – Daranna Gidel

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” – Rosalia de Castro

“I think that travel comes from some deep urge to see the world, like the urge that brings up a worm in an Irish bog to see the moon when it is full.” – Lord Dunsany

“The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes “sight-seeing.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” – Hilaire Belloc

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” – Susan Heller

“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. ” – Anatole France

“I am a passionate traveler, and from the time I was a child, travel formed me as much as my formal education.” – David Rockefeller

“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least

“To get away from one’s working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one’s self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change.” – Charles Horton Cooley

“Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.” – Ray Bradbury

“After a lifetime of world travel I’ve been fascinated that those in the third world don’t have the same perception of reality that we do.” – Jim Harrison

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” – Danny Kaye

“Travel makes a wise man better, and a fool worse.” – Thomas Fuller

“Too often. . .I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.” – Louis L’Amour

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” – Mohammed

“The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.” – Amelia E. Barr

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” — Peter Hoeg

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

“There is no happiness for the person who does not travel. For Indra is the friend of the traveler, therefore wander!” – Brähmann

“You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself.” – Ella Maillart

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” – Andre Gide

“People who don’t travel cannot have a global view, all they see is what’s in front of them. Those people cannot accept new things because all they know is where they live.” – Martin Yan

“A tourist is a fellow who drives thousands of miles so he can be photographed standing in front of his car.” – Emile Ganest

“Just to travel is rather boring, but to travel with a purpose is educational and exciting.” – Sargent Shriver

“To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.” – Philip Andrew Adams

“Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.” – Ralph Crawshaw

“A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not; but a man of superior talent will go to pieces if he remains forever in the same place….” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“I’d rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.” – Steve McQueen

“Travel is very subjective. What one person loves, another loathes.” – Robin Leach

“Adventure without risk is Disneyland.” – Doug Coupland

“An adventure may be worn as a muddy spot or it may be worn as a proud insignia. It is the woman wearing it who makes it the one thing or the other.” – Norma Shearer

“Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” – Irving Wallace

“Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.” – Charles Kuralt

“While armchair travelers dream of going places, traveling armchairs dream of staying put.” – Anne Tyler

“People don’t take trips . . . trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

“The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.” – Shirley MacLaine

“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” – Chief Seattle

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.” – St. Augustine

“There is one voyage, the first, the last, the only one.” – Thomas Wolfe

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends… The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy





Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Part 2 - Some more of my Favorite Places

A couple of weeks ago, I began writing a post about some of my favorite places on earth and realized that they would not all fit into that one blog post that I posted...so here the continuation of that list!

Mary Anne Falls – Two fairly large waterfalls, one on top of the other, located high up in the mountains of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and surrounded by trees, a crystal clear brook and pure, pristine nature. What is there not to like? During week days in the summer, when everyone is still at work and I know there will not be a lot of people around, I make that slow, steep drive up to the falls and spend the entire afternoon there. I relax on some rocks with the sound of the falls lulling me to semi-unconsciousness. I swim in the cold, deep waters of the pool below the falls. I hike to the look-off that overlooks the falls. I walk along the brook, deep into the forest and just enjoy the quiet and peaceful surroundings of this almost untouched area of the park…and it really is like heaven on earth!

Blacketts Lake – I don’t actually hang out at Blacketts Lake, I drive around it. It’s one of my favorite coffee routes when I am in the Sydney area and, although it is a fairly short drive, there is hardly ever any traffic, the area is scenic and, at night, there are hardly any lights which makes it a great little drive on a clear night when the stars are out or there is a full moon.

Lot 87 at Broad Cove Campground – My family has been camping at Broad Cove campground in Ingonish for many years. I discovered Lot 87 one of the first times I started camping on my own and it has become my home-away-from-home. The lot is close to everything I need at the campground in an area where there are usually other campers nearby so I am not completely alone. The lot has a picnic table and two trees spaced perfectly apart to allow me to rig a clothes line and the public fire pits are only a few yards away which means I can hear the happy sounds of people singing campfire songs and smell marshmallows roasting through the evening.
Playa Santa Fe – I love to get lost and this beach is one example why I love getting lost. Some of the best places I have found while traveling were found after I had lost my way, including Playa Santa Fe. I found this beach quite by accident when I took a wrong turn while walking around the Mayan Ruins in Tulum, Mexico. Giant sand dunes, palm trees, turquoise water and a long, stretch of soft, white sand that went on for what looked like miles. What else could I ask for? Seclusion? Yup, it had that too…I was the only person on the beach! And, oh yeah, there was a small hut hidden in between a couple of giant dunes with a friendly local serving chilled Cerveza.

Signal Hill – I didn’t know anyone when I first moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Fortunately, I had a car and was able to provide myself with some entertainment during those first lonely days in the city. I drove for hours, trying to learn my way around the city and, in the process, found a great place not far from my apartment to just hang out and get out of the house. Signal Hill is known as a popular meeting place for locals but for me, it was an escape. I went there to admire the spectacular view of the city from high atop that hill or to gaze out into the vast ocean on the other side. I could park there for hours just people-watching and listening to the distant sounds of the city below.
The Lone Sheiling – I first experienced The Lone Sheiling when I was a child but it was after I started exploring Cape Breton on my own that I really felt a connection to the place. The Lone Sheiling is more than just a little hut on the side of the highway. There is a short walking trail that winds down into a little valley where some of the tallest and most beautiful trees create an almost fairy-tale-like atmosphere. The very green and lush forest is alive with plant life and little critters scurrying around and a brook runs through the area and makes for the perfect place to relax with my feet in the water and not a soul around to bother me.

Death Valley National Park – Desolate, quiet, vast, sunny and insanely hot. Most people would probably think I’m crazy to have fallen in love with such an unforgiving landscape but there was just something about Death Valley that had me awestruck. Perhaps it is because it’s so vastly different from the landscape that I am used to back home in Canada or maybe it was that surreal feeling I got while driving along those lonely roads through an area of North America made famous in so many movies and so many real life events…some of them quite notorious.
The corner of Lingan Rd. and Lingan Beach Rd – My old house. I lived there from the time I was 5 until I was 20. I moved out and returned when I was 32 and lived there for another year and a half. I still drive passed it everyday but another family lives there now so I can’t actually go on the property and wander around like I once did. Now, I can only admire it from the road as I drive by or visit it in my dreams. I spent the best childhood any kid could ask for in that house and the surrounding property. There were woods, gardens, tree houses, a huge front and back yard and a hill in front that we used to sleigh down. The house itself is large but cozy and, although the new owners have no doubt changed the interior, I will always remember it the way it was.

Quidi Vidi Village – This tiny little village tucked away in a little corner of the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland was one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon when I lived there…and is still one of my favorite places to visit when I happen to be in town. Colorful little houses along the water, boats lining the small harbour and coming and going throughout the day, a walking trail that runs along the scenic coast and a little rocky beach that no one seems to know about where I can lay in the sun with a book and the sounds of the ocean. The best thing about Quidi Vidi Village is it seems like you are in the middle of nowhere when you are there. It looks like a typical outport town in rural Newfoundland except it is in the middle of a capital city!

Kidston Island – Or the “island within an island” as I like to call it, is located just a little ways offshore from the village of Baddeck in central Cape Breton. I liken this place to being shipwrecked on a deserted island. After the little shuttle ferry drops me off at the island, I am quite literally stranded (well, until the boat comes back a few hours later but it’s nice to pretend!) and I usually have the island to myself except for a few people on the little stretch of beach. I hike the trail that winds all around the island and relax on the benches that overlook Baddeck Bay where Bald Eagles are often spotted and beautiful yachts float around the harbour. I like to wonder who is in those yachts as, rumor has it, quite a few Hollywood celebrities travel to Baddeck to get away from their hectic lives in the spotlight.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The True Meaning of Pura Vida

I opened my inbox one day to find an email with a peculiar subject line. "Congratulations, you have won a trip to Anamaya Yoga Retreat in sunny Costa Rica". I promptly deleted it but a nagging feeling prompted me to retrieve that email and read it again to be sure it was, in fact, just another scam. Four months after I reread that email, I boarded a plane for San Jose, Costa Rica. A long drive through the countryside that led to a ferry that took me across the gulf of Nicoya and onto the small Pacific Coast village of Montezuma was the beginning of an unforgettable journey…one that taught me an important lesson in life and in living it to the fullest.

There wasn’t much going on at Anamaya Yoga Retreat on my 4th day in Montezuma, Costa Rica. I developed a routine of waking early, watching the sunset, reading in the hammock, taking a dip in the infinity pool and checking emails all before breakfast was even served. On this day, I decided to break the routine and do something a little different. I didn’t want to waste the day sitting by the pool so I strolled down the hill into the village and spent the day exploring the little streets and surf shops and enjoying the beach. The village had so much energetic ambiance. Smiling, energetic people of all walks of life, embracing the day and one another. I can still feel that ambiance now if I close my eyes and bring myself back there.
It was the hottest morning in Montezuma since I’d arrived and the walk down the hill was torture. I was only half way down the hill when a young man on a motorbike stopped. “Senorita, I take you to bottom of the hill if you like.” He was wearing a nice shirt and khaki shorts which gave him an air of coolness and confidence - like he often picked up strange women who were about to pass out while walking down that hill. I usually don’t take rides from strangers but I didn’t think I was going to make it any further without collapsing. I took him up on his offer and a few minutes later he dropped me off at the beach. With a wave and a friendly “Buenos dias”, he sped off.

I walked a few feet to the beach and plopped myself down in the sand in a shaded area and relaxed for a bit. A storm had passed near Montezuma the previous night and the water was extremely rough. I tried to go for a swim but the waves were too powerful and the undertow too dangerous. The smell of Cerviche and Empanadas in the restaurant a few meters away filled the air. The sounds of palm trees rustling in the gentle breeze and locals and tourists going about their daily business lulled me. A dog chased a stick nearby while some children egged him on. A stray cat sat near a food cart, waiting for a hand-out. The rhythmic sound of the waves coming ashore, like a lullaby, gently rocked me to sleep.

Shouting zapped me out of my trance to see people on the beach pointing to something in the water; some brave, fool-hardy surfers were attempting to surf dangerously rough waters close to some jagged rocks. It looked like the scene might end in tragedy but, fortunately, the surfers made it safely to shore. Welcome to Costa Rica – home of adventure seekers, lovers of life and daredevils!

By late-morning, the heat was really getting to me and I started to feel dehydrated. I was craving a refreshing fruit smoothie but didn’t want to pay the going rate of about 7 dollars for one at a tourist trap. So off I went, up and down those little streets, in search of a reasonably-priced smoothie. At the end of a side street, I noticed an interestingly-decorated, outdoor smoothie bar. The thatched-roof and colorful plants sprouting from the walls caught my eye. It looked like just my kind of place!

A free-spirited and friendly, young man was eager to take on the challenge of making me something that was refreshing but not-too-sweet. It took a long time for him to make it as he carefully thought out each ingredient and made sure it was mixed to perfection by allowing me to taste it at intervals. After some mixing and shaking and adding of various exotic fruit, some of which I never heard of, he placed his finished masterpiece before me. For the price of 3 dollars, I received a delicious, orange-colored smoothie in a massive glass.

I stayed at the bar and took a seat. “So, are you from around here?” I asked him. “Yes, born and raised in Costa Rica, just down the road a little bit.” He obviously loved his life in Montezuma and at one point, he asked if I knew what "Pura Vida" meant. To me "Pura Vida" meant The Pure Life and it was what I had witnessed over and over again while traveling through the country. Natural, untouched, simple and pure. He went on to explain it in more depth for me. “That is how most people interpret it. You see, 'Pura Vida' can be a greeting, a state of mind, a way of life. You meet someone walking down the street, you say 'Pura Vida'. You catch the perfect wave while surfing, you say 'Pura Vida'. You have a wonderful day, instead of saying goodnight, you say 'Pura Vida'. You find a great smoothie bar while walking the streets of Montezuma, you say 'this is Pura Vida'. It can mean anything but always something good. Anytime something good happens, “Pura Vida” is the appropriate thing to say.” Made sense to me. How can you not be living the “Pura Vida” in a country that is considered to be one of the happiest in the world according to the Happy Planet Index?

It was mid-afternoon when I started walking up that steep hill to Anamaya. I made it to the top without collapsing in the ditch. There was still enough daylight left to hike to Montezuma Falls. I had gone there the day before and chickened out of jumping off the falls into the pool below but now I was determined not to leave Costa Rica without taking that plunge.
The path to the falls was steep and rocky. I stopped to take a rest mid-way down the trail and that is when I became fully aware of my surroundings. The growling of nearby howler monkeys, the buzz of millions of tropical insects, the sound of the distant waves crashing onto the beach below, the trees rustling in the gentle breeze. The rainforest sounded so alive. It was like the forest itself was living and breathing.
I made it to the waterfalls and again, paused to take in the beautiful sight before me. Beautiful, cascading water falling into a crystal clear, blue pool beneath a canopy of thick rainforest. Before I could talk myself out of it again, I took the leap into the clear, refreshing water. If there is one thing I absolutely hate, it is missed opportunity. I take every chance that comes my way because, sometimes, you only get one chance to do something. And to think, if I had not listened to that little voice in my head telling me to read that email again, I would have missed out on the time of my life and would never know what it is like to live the Pura Vida.



Saturday, April 26, 2014

Memorable Places

I have been lucky in my life in that I’ve had the opportunity to see and experience so many wonderful places and so much of the beauty that this planet has to offer…So I decided to compile a list of those places to share with the world and to bring me back to the times I spent in those places. Many of them are located around my hometown. Others are located in the city I lived in for over ten years. Some are located in far-flung locations far away from my home. Some of these places encompass a very small area and are a simply places where I like to watch the sunset or gaze upon the ocean. Many of them are not really places at all; they are favorite stretches of highways, coastal drives or bus routes. Below are my some of my favorites but since it is such a long list, I will post them in a multi-part series:

PART 1

The Point – This is one of my all-time favorite places on the entire planet and I only have to drive for two hours to get there. Located in the heart of Ingonish in the Cape Breton Highlands, The Point is more than just a fishing wharf. It’s a meeting place, a central location in the town…and it’s where one can witness some of the best sunsets and moon rises around. Bonus: Majestic Cape Smokey Mountain looms in the background along with a spectacular vista consisting of mountains surrounding a beautiful bay that includes Ingonish Island. A breakwater juts out into the bay and I love to walk to the end of it and sit on the rocks and watch the sun disappear into the horizon and the moon climb high into the sky.
The bench Above Broad Cove Beach – Atop a cliff overlooking this rocky beach is a bench that I’ve spent many a summer evening just staring out at the ocean – watching whales, watching the sun set, watching the moon rise. On some nice summer days, I bring a book or a notepad and do some writing. On many a warm summer’s night, I cuddle up with a blanket and watch the waves roll in the beam of the moonlight while the smell of campfires and roasting marshmallows and hotdogs fill the air and coyotes howl in the distance. A few times, I even fell asleep on that bench to the relaxing sounds of those waves as they came ashore below me.

Lingan Wharves – I moved to Lingan when I was only five years old, moved away to another province at the age of twenty and moved back at age 31 but the wharves in Lingan have always been a favorite place for me whenever I found myself at home. I only have to walk for about two minutes to sit on a dock with my feet dangling over the water, relax on the picnic benches overlooking the beach or climb to the top of the cliffs above the beach to get a better view of the entire area. This place brings back so many good memories of my childhood and the fun us kids had skipping rocks at the beach, fishing off the docks, climbing the cliffs, jumping ice clampers in the bay (I do not advise anyone try this!) and building rafts out of salvaged wood we found on the beach to attempt to float out into the bay (I DEFINITELY do not recommend anyone try this). But, despite our adventurous and, sometimes dangerous endeavors, we survived…and we grew older and moved away but the wharves have not changed a bit!
The parking lot at the Keltic Lodge in Ingonish – Another great view in the scenic town of Ingonish. This parking lot faces the water overlooking the bay. During the day, it’s a great place to sit and watch the boats coming and going or imagine what it would be like to row out to that little island in the middle of it all. At night, it’s a great place to stargaze or watch the moon’s reflection shimmer over the water. On weekends, wedding receptions take place at the hall across the street and it can be quite entertaining to just sit and watch the drunken revelers come out into the parking lot slurring, singing and dancing without a care in the world. Over the years, this parking lot also became a bit of a safe have for me. I don’t like to sleep in my tent during lightning storms, so as soon as I hear a crack of thunder or flash of lightning nearby, I drive away from the storm and to that parking lot where I can watch the zigzagging streaks light up the sky over the water.

Dominion Beach – My family spent many summer days at this beach when I was a kid. It was one of the most popular beaches in Nova Scotia back than. A new boardwalk swept along the ocean, well-groomed paths led to the beach and a road led all the way to the end of the sand bar and cars would be parked all along it. Thousands of people congregated on that beach on an average day but over the years, many people moved out west to work, the beach fell to disrepair and people started frequenting other nearby beaches. Some work was done over the years to bring the beach back to its old self. People started to trickle back but nowhere near the numbers that once did. I continue to go there summer after summer for a number of reasons; It’s sandy, it’s long, it makes for the perfect morning walk or run, its almost always deserted, the sunsets are spectacular and there is a family of foxes that make their home near the boardwalk and come out to play at dusk. At night, I love to just sit in the sand and listen to the sounds of summer and watch the stars and the moon overhead.
Cemetery in ? – I discovered this place quite by accident one day while I was out for my daily coffee. Instead of just driving around town, I decided to go for a longer drive to a village further away. When it came time to turn around and head back home, I turned into a driveway that was actually a cemetery. I don’t want to say which cemetery it is because I discovered something there that I would like to keep a secret from as many people as possible. No offense, it’s just that what I discovered is something I don’t want to see disturbed. You see, when I looked up into the large trees in the middle of the graveyard, I noticed a large nest. There were two bald eagles nearby, obviously the owners of this large nest. There was no one else in the area at the time and I have no idea how many people know about the nest but, since it is occupied by two beautiful eagles who’ve carved a cozy and quiet home away from crowds, I would like to see it stay that way for their safety and well-being. I do return to that cemetery often to check on my feathered friends and every spring, there are new additions to the family! I’ve spent hours watching them in and around the nest with their young ones, hunting for food and bringing it back to the nest and pushing them to learn how to fly until finally, they set off to find their own territory, leaving the parents with, yet again, an empty nest.
The lifeguard chair at Ingonish Beach – Ingonish Beach is supervised during the day in the summer months but in the evenings, the lifeguard chair is empty. This chair is located at the main area of the beach just behind the parking lot and provides a spectacular view of the ocean, Cape Smokey Mountain, Middle Head Peninsula, The Keltic Lodge and the entire beach. Some evenings, I love to grab a coffee and drive to the beach just before sunset and if no one else raced me to it, I climb to the top of the chair and park myself there to watch the sun go down, the moon come up and the stars appear overhead. These visual delights, combined with the sounds of crickets in the nearby lake and the waves crashing ashore are something I can only describe as therapeutic!
Morrison Beach – Long, deserted, sandy, beautiful. Describes a typical beach one would see in the Caribbean…but wait, it’s not in the Caribbean at all, it’s on the south coast of Cape Breton Island in a remote area of the island that not many locals are even familiar with. I go to this beach for many reasons. One, I have been going there since I was a child and have very fond memories of it. Two, I am usually the only person there. Three, wildlife is plentiful and it is not out of the ordinary to see seals, deer, fox, bald eagles and coyotes all in one day. Four, the surf is wild and the sound of those large waves hitting shore is so relaxing.

Cheticamp Cemetery – I know a cemetery sounds like an odd place to just chill but this cemetery, in particular, has special meaning to me. My mom grew up in Cheticamp so many of my relatives have been laid to rest there, including my grandfather. I never met him. He passed away at a very young age when my mom was just a baby but I go to that cemetery every once and a while to find his headstone and repaint the wording on it because it fades over time. My mom recently passed away and this mini pilgrimage has taken on a whole new meaning as she once did this with her father’s gravestone too and now it’s been passed down to me. The view from the cemetery is also spectacular and the area is quiet and remote so I know no one will ever bother me there.
The Old Plot of Land in Framboise – Once upon a time, a little cabin rested on a small plot of land on a dirt road in a remote and isolated area of Cape Breton. Framboise was always my dad’s favorite place so, naturally, he purchased a little bungalow that became a little home-away-from home. That little home is no longer there but the plot of land is. It is overgrown with weeds and shrubs now but I can still find it because every time I drive down that road, waves of nostalgia come over me as I approach that place where I spent much of my childhood. Visions of the bats that used to fly out from behind the shutters when they were opened, the guitar pillow and other knick knacks that were left behind by the previous owner start flooding back. The sound of those old floors creaking echo in my head. Then I see that familiar little place where my sisters and I used to play and remember how much fun I had there as a child.

The Bean Barn – I always use to say I wanted to, one day, open a coffee shop in Ingonish. Well, someone else beat me to it! But, although it wasn’t me who opened The Bean Barn Cafe in the center of the town, I’m glad someone finally did because that was the one thing that was lacking in Ingonish. I spend a lot of time in that area. I love coffee and before The Bean Barn, I had to drive to Baddeck or Cheticamp for a half decent cup. I love coffee shops but hate the noise and informal atmosphere at large coffee chains so this place provides a quiet, relaxed atmosphere. And because I am a freelancer, I take my work with me when I travel and this coffee shop is the perfect place to spend a few hours writing from my laptop with a cup of coffee and a slice of homemade carrot cake!
The lighthouse in the Magdelan Islands – Although I’ve only been there once, my time there was unforgettable. I always wanted to travel to the Magdelan Islands and so did my mom so we took a trip there in 2009 and it ended up being the last, long road trip I took with Mom because she passed away not long after. The memory I have of that spectacular evening is made that more special by that fact. The lighthouse is located on the main island at the far, south end near a little ice cream truck. We traveled to that area of the island after supper one evening with the intention of getting some ice cream and heading back to our campground but the sight of that lighthouse perched over the water with the sun about to set was too much to pass up. We spent a few hours sitting on the rocks and watching the sun go down over the horizon…and that sunset was definitely in the top five sunsets I have ever watched!










Thursday, April 17, 2014

Next Up? An Epic Camping Adventure in Grand Canyon National Park

Last April, my mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. My world was turned upside down and I was in a state of shock. Amidst it all, my sisters and I were faced with the task of cleaning out her apartment and sorting through her belongings – a heartbreaking task that proved to be even more difficult than it sounds.

As I was going through some of her things, I came across a binder. This wasn’t strange in itself; mom loved to write and had tons of binders filled with notes, ideas and clippings. What was strange was the fact that it wasn’t a binder filled with her writing ideas, it was a binder filled with a dream she had had for years and wanted to fulfill that coming summer; the dream to take a camping trip to one of the most spectacular places on Earth.

Everything was there; she detailed how much money she would need to budget, what airport she would fly into, what hotels she would stay in when she wasn’t camping, a list of tour companies that offered guided camping trips, what items she would need to bring with her and what activities she would pursue while she was there. I knew this was something she always wanted to do but I was unaware that she had put those plans into action and planned to take that trip in just a few short months. I first felt guilt at not being able to help her fulfill this wish sooner. That switched to a feeling of extreme sadness at the thought that she would never realize that dream. Mom’s final wish was now in our hands and without saying a word at that moment, we three sisters came to the same conclusion; it was our duty to fulfill that dream for Mom with an epic trip to one of the world’s most iconic destinations; The Grand Canyon.

We tried to make plans to take this trip at the same time mom had planned to but with work obligations and conflicting schedules, we had to put it aside. I was laid off, fell into some financial woes, was rehired on at another job and will be laid off again in a couple of weeks. I will have the time and money to go this Spring, Summer or Fall but my sisters will not. Both of them were just hired on at new jobs and will not be able to take the time off until next winter and that is when I will be back at work. We have had to succumb to the reality that we will not be able to take this trip together but each of us will do our own version of Mom’s trip on our own time. I think, in some ways, it will be better that way. I can’t think of a better way for each of us to have that time alone to remember and honor Mom in such a extraordinary way.

I’ve already started planning. I visited the Grand Canyon five years ago but it was a quick, half-day tour of one little area and than it was done. However, just from that little trip, I saw enough to know I want to see more. I’ve done the research, I’ve bookmarked a number of companies I am interested in contacting, I have all my gear that I will need and I have the money put aside for the trip. It’s in the works but I want it to be just perfect and as similar as possible to the trip Mom wanted to take. I will fly to Las Vegas, join a guided camping tour and try to fit in as many activities as possible while I am in the area; mule rides, hikes, whitewater rafting…It will the best trip of my life, it will be epic. And since mom is always with me, she will be with me in the Canyon and will finally be able to see her dream come true!

As for other upcoming adventures in the future? My dream, since I was a kid flipping through my dad’s old World Encyclopedia’s and admiring the beautiful landscapes of faraway lands, is to visit New Zealand. It always was and always will be at the top of my bucket list…and hopefully gapyear.com can help make that dream a reality too!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I'm Afraid I May be Suffering from the Long Term Affects of Wanderlust

While many people complain about all the things that go wrong on their travels, I am always the first to say that the only thing I hate about any trip is coming home. Things go wrong while traveling. It’s inevitable. It’s unavoidable. And its always a learning experience and something to talk about (and maybe even laugh) later. Going home after a trip is something that often comes too soon but it is only at that moment when my bags are packed and I’m sitting at the airport waiting for my return flight that I really feel down. Most times, while I am waiting for that last flight, I am secretly hoping it will be delayed or cancelled or that I will end up stuck in transit due to a snowstorm or volcanic eruption so that my trip can be extended a little bit longer. To me, wandering around aimlessly in an airport beats going back to the cold weather and my day job in Atlantic Canada. And once I do get home, I experience travel withdrawal – better known as Wanderlust.

This state of impending Wanderlust usually starts the day before I am due to board my plane back home. That last day spent wandering around my destination and taking it all in one last time is also spent dreading the moment when I have to say goodbye to the beach, the café where I took my daily coffee and the resort or hostel that was my home away from home. I know it sounds insane when I say I hope for delays once I arrive at the airport but, to me, delays are an extended vacation. I actually enjoy wandering around airports. I like listening to the different languages, watching people rushing around trying to figure out where they should be going or racing to meet someone, browsing the boutique shops, getting lost and finding neat little cafes or hangouts and watching the planes take off to foreign lands. If my flight happens to be on time, I’m disappointed because that means I will be back home sooner than later and my trip will be over.
This state of Wanderlust remains for a long time I get home. In fact, I don’t think it every really goes away; it usually remains until I leave for my next trip. When I really think about it, I believe I was born with this affliction…I seem to have always been, and still always am in a state of perpetual Wanderlust. I blame my parents, even though they often complain about my constant state of unsettledness that sees me moving from place to place and job to job and my constant need to be always going somewhere, but never really settling anywhere…or with anyone for that matter. I’ve grown to be very independent and adventurous so working a 9-5 job at the same place year after year and staying home watching TV night after night is boring and uninspiring to me.

I’ve never been scared to try new things and I’ve never been scared to do anything on my own. I learned at any early age that if I sit around waiting for other people to do things with me, those things may never get done so I set out on my own. As a child, when the other kids were playing video games, I played outside alone. The day I got my first car at age 17, I drove two hours just to get a coffee. By the time I was 19, I was already taking weekly trips two hours out of town to my favorite national park to spend the weekend camping…alone. Back than, people thought I was crazy but they often told me they wished they could do the same. I find it strange when I hear someone saying they can’t do something because they are afraid or because they don’t want to go alone. These days, they think I am even more foolish than ever! My adventures, as of late, have taken me much further than two hours out of town; I’ve traveled all over the continent as a solo, female traveler. But traveling alone has never bothered me. In fact, I love traveling alone!

It’s been almost a year since I last went on a trip outside of Canada. Work obligations and a lack of funds have kept me closer to home as of late. However, my constant state of travel withdrawal and wanderlust will not have me in one place for long! I have plans…big plans. The problem is putting those plans into action. I have a bit of a head start on that. For starters, I am constantly thinking about travel and where I will travel next. Lately, with the awful winter we have had on Canada’s east coast, I’ve been dreaming of taking a trip down south. I had my eyes set on Barbados for Spring Break but, unfortunately, due to foul weather and work obligations, I was unable to go. This is the first winter since 2008 that I have not traveled to a warm climate to spend a week lying on the beach and enjoying some much needed sunshine that is quite rare this time of year in Canada. Now, I am gone into full-blown travel research mode even though I have no direct plans on going anywhere until at least the summer. I spend my days daydreaming of where to go next. So far, I have it narrowed down to The Grand Canyon and Las Vegas in June, Newfoundland in July and Europe in the late summer or fall…if all goes as planned – not that I ever make real laid-out plans. These plans could go out the window if I get called to work through the summer. So far, my summer is free but that could change any moment. But even with the possibility of work coming up, I have been racking my brain trying to come up with ideas on how to approach my superiors about taking time off (without pay, of course) to go on at least one of these trips. My nights are usually spent like this as well. Can’t sleep? Stare at the ceiling and think about where I will travel next!

When I am not daydreaming about travel, I am actually putting things into action. I have always loved travel so much that I became a freelance travel writer! I figured why not write about the thing I like to do most and combine my two passions; writing and traveling. When writer’s block sets in or I just don’t feel like doing any work, I start researching travel. I spend many hours searching for travel deals, doing research on the best destinations to travel to, learning more about destinations I am interested in traveling to, watching videos about travel destinations and reading just about anything I come across that has to do with travel. I even sign up for various travel newsletters so I don’t miss out on any new developments in the travel industry!

Other aspects of my life are taken up by travel as well. I love to read but it seems that every book I buy is related to travel in some way. Actually, even the books I receive as gifts from friends and family are travel related. I guess my constant ramblings about past trips and reminiscing about my days on the road tipped them off to the sort of books I would be most likely interested in reading. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are getting tired of me constantly rambling about my past and future travels. I read everything; books about epic road trips by other travelers, city guides, destination guides, travel industry news, travel tips…you name it. If it’s about travel, I will read it!

Another favorite pastime of mine (also travel related, of course!) is trying to find ways to get free or discounted trips and trying to find ways to make extra money to afford to go on more trips. I search for contests that offer trips to be won and bookmark the ones that can be entered daily so they are right there, ready to be filled out every morning! I already won a trip to Costa Rica last year! Because I am a freelance travel writer, I play that card to score free accommodations and other freebies related to travel. This may sound a bit sinister or even selfish on my part, but, trust me, various hotels and tour providers have gained from my services. For example, during that trip to Costa Rica, I offered my services as a travel blogger to a hotel, a resort and a tour company. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the trip and what these businesses had to offer so once I got home, I blogged and posted reviews and wrote articles to promote them and draw in more potential customers to their business. I got free hotel stays and tours and, in return, they got free promotion. I am an obsessive collector of frequent flyer miles and I avail of every opportunity and coupon I come across. In order to find out about deals, offers and new developments in the travel industry, I obsessively add anyone and anything that has to do with travel to my Facebook and Twitter accounts so I don’t miss out on anything.
I am not lazy by any means but I am not partial to the 9-5, wake up-eat-work-sleep-repeat routine. Fortunately, I long ago developed a skill that allows me to work seasonal jobs. For a few months of the year that I don’t have a “real” job, I live off the income I make from freelancing. This works out great for me; I can make money on the side of my real job, save up for travel and travel on the months I have off every year! In the past, I have a lot of odd jobs online. Market research, mystery shopping, book reviewing and selling items on Ebay were just some of the things I have done to make a few extra bucks to use towards my travels.

So I guess it’s safe to say that I am suffering from the long term effects of Wanderlust. It has, after all been over a year since I left the country and embarked on any sort of extended journey. I mean, I have taken a few short trips around home to try and satisfy my itchy feet and prevent myself from going completely stir crazy but I am way past due for another epic adventure far away from the comfort zone of home.


If you are a traveler who has recently found yourself stuck in one place for too long, you may now be wondering if you, as well, may be suffering from the effects of Wanderlust. Here are some of the signs that you have a bad case of this affliction. Are you exhibiting any of these signs?

1) You live and breath travel. Everything you do revolves around travel somehow.
2) You find yourself browsing Netflix for international flicks that are filmed in your favorite travel destinations or destinations you would like to travel to.
3) You watch foreign films in different languages other than your own…without subtitles.
4) You find yourself looking up common words and phrases in languages of the countries you would like to visit.
5) You interact, online, with people who are from the countries you would like visit. Sometimes you even add them to your Facebook or Twitter account.
6) You only search for jobs in the travel industry or jobs that require you to travel as part of your workload.
7) You research destinations just for the hell of it.
8) You are always on the look out for travel deals and promotions…even if you have no direct plans to travel.
9) You know every little tool and trick to get you through customs easier, to avoid being scammed by cabbies in foreign lands, to score a deal on a hotel, attraction or tour and how to get properly lost in a foreign city.
10) You know more about distant lands than you do about your own backyard.
11) You hang out at the coffee shop in your local airport and watch the travelers coming and going and airplanes taking off and landing…even though you have no plans on going anywhere yourself.
12) You always have someone lined up to look after your place and feed your pets if you have to leave at a moment’s notice.
13) Your cell phone contact list is loaded with important phone numbers you need while traveling – your insurance provider, various airlines, emergency contacts, various embassies, hotels you stay at frequently, credit card customer service numbers, etc
14) You have a suitcase already half packed with various travel items so it is almost ready to go at any moment.
15) You have your local airport shuttle service on speed dial…or you dial it so much, you know it by heart!
16) Under no circumstance will you EVER allow your passport to expire. That’s just plain stupid. You have a need to be at the ready at all times to just jump on a plane and fly away. You see your passport as your ticket to freedom.


Well, I can proudly (or sadly, depending on how you look at it) say that I have exhibited all of the above symptoms. You might say I am obsessed…I say there are worse things I could be obsessed with. Travel is a healthy obsession that I think everyone should indulge in! I always say “experiences are more important than material things” and I am living proof of that. I have sold or given away many of my material possessions and the things I remember most about my life thus far are not things at all, but the experiences that made it all worthwhile!



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