Take The Time To Realign


I’m probably not the only one, or maybe I am, but sometimes I am in desperate need to take a minute to myself. To reconnect myself with nature and to bring a stillness to the chaos in my heart. If I’m being honest, I lose myself constantly in the daily grind. I forget to lift my head up to appreciate the summer skies, I forget to go easy on myself, and I forget to lead even my closest relationships with a tender heart. So I guess my advice to myself (and whoever is interested) is this; take the time to recharge and realign. Smile. Breathe. You deserve it. Stop to watch the sun-rays dance on water, take that time to hike into nature and smell this planets ancient soul and try to remain gentle and empathetic to not only those around you but especially to yourself. It’s okay, take a minute. 💙✌🏼💙 #inspired #inspirationalquotes #explorebc #explorecanada #pnw #whistler #travel

Party Away Those Post Travel Blues

Here are some tips on how to throw a party in honor of the awesome drinks and cuisine from that country you just visited! 

Bottoms up! We all have that old bottle of that Pisco or LaoLao you’re not brave enough to drink on your own. Look up authentic cocktails online and get those boring wine-o friends to try something new.

Shut up foodies! And try something really authentic. What was that meal you had at least six times on that week-long trip? Find the recipe and have it again! Ya, ya, deluxe mac and cheese balls are on every menu now, but who’s not gonna be impressed with a homemade Paella or a Palak Paneer?

Crank the tunes! We’ve all probably bought an overpriced CD off that ammaazzing wooden flute player in the streets of wherever you were…tonight, create some ambiance and finally you can sleep soundly knowing that $10 was well spent!

Kampai! What better way to speak and teach your friends another language (Ooh, you’re so cultured) than by it being your excuse to drink! For Spanish speaking countries, try: “Arriba, abajo, adentro, al centro!” (With your drink point “up”, “down”, “in the middle”, “inside” and shoot that shot!) Salute!

Talk Travel. We bitch about our jobs and sports teams enough. Zip it for a night and give your friends an opportunity to remember the good ol’ days. Everyone thinks their stories are the best anyway.

Examples: Where was the drunkest you ever got? What was your worst bathroom experience? What’s your funniest hostel dorm experience? What was the most trouble you got into abroad? Did you ever have a run in with a wild animal? What was the most trying long distance bus trip you’ve been on? Any awkward skinny-dipping tales?

See, way more fun to talk about!

Ah, to be young.

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This is a throwback from when I lived in Colombia. We took a weekend off from working in the hostel bar in Santa Marta to head east; to the most remote and dangerous desert in South America, La Guajira. Our jeep broke down and we were stranded, sleeping in hammocks for days, with nothing more than 26″ers of Colombian rum and Tequila to drink (we forgot to pack water). Once the jeep started again, we stopped off at this desolate beach where some local fisherman traded us their fresh catch of lobster and fish for liquor. After this photo was taken we continued to break down in to the night and had to sleep on the side of the desert highway in military camp where they offered us protection from the road bandits and rebels. I returned back to the hostel with severe flank pains from the dehydration and god knows what I did to my liver. Oh, and we had bought a pet piglet for $5 to come along for the ride. Ah, to be young.

For my thirtieth birthday, I take a Leap.

In the last few months I have started a non profit, FUNdamentals for Change (FFC), moved homes, helped my boyfriend start up his new bar, Milltown Bar & Grill, traveled to Jamaica for FFC to begin the plans to build a playground for the school built by Kingston’s garbage dump, quit my comfortable job the day I got back and am now working full time (albeit without pay) on the nonprofit. 

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So, I guess you can say there’s been a little bit of change in my life. People ask me, how are you? Like, really, how are you doing? And I keep referring to this feeling that describes all the change I’ve been choosing to go through, like that sensation one feels immediately after taking a running leap off a cliff in to a river, or lake, or ocean. You know that feeling? Your legs are still in a running, forward motion. Your arms are making huge, circular motions, as they try to maintain some balance. And it feels as though time as slowed down. Stomach is tight and pushing up in to your chest. You are so highly alert of the speed, sounds and wind on your skin. You are present in the moment. And I bet you have a smile on your face.

 

Canyon 2Most of us live our lives on the safe, flat edge of life’s cliffs. These cliffs represent our fears; our fears in ourselves. To jump you must have confidence in yourself, faith in the Universe and knowledge that you’re potential is greater than anything you’ve tried up until now. Sure, shit up there can still be scary. I’ve created many precarious situations where I feel like I’m sinking in to oblivion without really going anywhere. But for the most part, if we don’t chose to jump, life would mainly be a fine life. You will be safe. You will make enough money at your job. You will have friends and you would smile often. But what’s the point of just living a safe life?

 

Right now, as I am on the precipice of my thirtieth birthday, I feel like I’ve just taken that running leap. I’ve jumped away from what was safe in my life. I (finally) believe in my own strength to survive the change and I’m learning to release unnecessary control. I am at that moment where I’m weightless. My arms are making huge, slow, circular motions, as they try to maintain some balance but I know the truth that the speed and inevitability is also determined by an energy greater than my own. I don’t know what’s beyond the deep, emerald green, shimmering surface of the waters below, but I know I will be ok. In this weightless present, I am flying. I can do this. And I know, regardless of the outcome, it’ll be a good story. I have faith.

So, what are you waiting for? Take a leap.

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Myself with some lovely ladies of Riverton; a community built along the edges of Kingston’s landfill.

 

 

“Do you speak to me, the way you speak to God?”

“Do you speak to me, the way you speak to God?”

Um, shit, no, I probably don’t.

My sister recommended me to check out a song after hearing that I was having a ‘heavy-heart’ kind of day. The whole song definitely wiped away my early morning lethargy and reluctance to start my day with a smile or hope.  But the line that humbled me the most, was this one, “Do you speak to me the way you speak to God?”  Holy guilt trip. I’ll be honest. Sometimes, (like ten minutes prior of hearing the song) I don’t always talk to those around me with the same respect I give when speaking to the Universe. But this made me think, Why the hell not? We are all manifestations of the Universe (or God if you like that word better). Every one of us is utterly perfect; a sublime momentary miracle.

Who am I not to speak to everyone and anyone in a humble, loving way? If I can see God in a cloud, or am able to whisper to Him through a sunset, why do I lose sight of this awe in the every day? Or lose sight of it when I speak?

As Max Erhmann said, We are all children of the Universe, no less than the trees and the stars, we have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should.

I am grateful to have heard this song, and watched the incredibly scenic music video, today. I am sure I heard it so I could learn from it. The video was neat because I have traveled through almost all of the places where they shot the video, most of which being in Guatemala and in southern Mexico. I was reminded of the holy awe I had for the steep canyons, the turquoise waterfalls and silent Mayan ruins of that region. 

I just wrote, I will start speaking to everyone with a conscious respect. But stopped myself. I have recently stopped saying, “I will …” or “I should…” because if what I want is always out of reach in the future tense, I’ve never attain it…if that makes sense]

So instead I pledge:

I now speak to everyone the way I speak to God. I speak with love in my voice and gratitude in my heart. 

I am grateful for the present moment.

And I am thankful to have shared this moment with you.

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[Check out Aloha Ke Akua by Nahko Bear on YouTube]

 

 

Missing the Road

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Missing the Road

I’m currently going through a traveling dry spell. I’m hoping that rummaging through my old travel journal will help me through this drought. So far, it’s just making me crave the road even more. [Journal of my travel from 2009 – 2010: Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia]

Why My Favourite Place in the World is a Garbage Dump.

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I never thought I would feel at home in a garbage dump. But then again, I have never really felt at home, at home. And I’ve always seen beauty in the unordinary. And my heart has always yearned for something different.

 

I’ve read a lot of books that recommend you take heed to reoccurring situations or people you keep running in to or the omens we so often overlook. Everything comes in to your life for a reason, for a lesson. At the age of 29, I have now returned four times to Riverton, a community wrapped around the edges of the Kingston landfill. After my most recent trip, I am now taking heed to this place that the Universe continues to keep in my life. I am now realizing there is a deeper bond between this landfill and I, than just the few months of my life or a few piles of garbage. I believe this is my calling.  Supporting Riverton and its audacious residents is my Personal Legend.

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Riverton entered my life like a dream when I was only 16 years old. Ever since I was seven or eight, I had wanted to travel abroad and volunteer with other youth. Finally I found something that didn’t cost too much and that me, as a minor, could join up to. I found it on a shotty website made up by a retired Toronto high school teacher. Fintan Kilbride, God rest his soul. I joined up, but while we were down there, the elections were being called so civil unrest erupted, riots broke out, gun fights rang in the streets, cop cars with their officers in side burned, martial law was imposed. I, being 16, wasn’t given a choice by the Canadian consulate and was evacuated out of the country. Obviously the day after I was shoved off the plane in Toronto, the riots and violence stopped and all was back to normal in Jamaica. And I was stuck in Toronto. My parents, knowing my passion for fulfilling this trip and knowing the dangers that may still lurk in Jamaica, loaned me the money to send me back down there to complete what I had intended to do. I still remember the phone call with my father; me pleading my case on why I wanted to go back. When he conceded and said I could return, he said, in tears, I know that this is dear to your heart and God forbid anything to happen to you, but you would be doing what you loved and would die happy if any danger came to you. I think that was the blessing I needed to return safely and bond my connection with Riverton, Jamaica.

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I visited a lot of schools that trip and on the next. But none hugged tightly on to my heart like Riverton Early Education Centre did. Built for some of Kingston’s poorest children, it is a place that emits hope. What resonated the most with me were the smiles of the children in their sunny gold and burgundy uniforms and seeing their determination to concentrate even with the wafts of hot garbage or burning plastics in the air. Also, seeing the inspiring leadership from the principal, Junior Rowe, I knew this was a special place. I returned to Jamaica for a month of volunteering the following summer of 2001.

 

In 2006, plans for a bake sale at Langara College turned in to about $8,000 and another trip back down to Riverton. It turns out bake sales truly are for kids and if I wanted things done, I would have to host club nights and join the International Development Committee in the Langara Students Union.  I had to pitch my idea of donating students precious students fees towards other students in a distant country. A hurricane had just ripped through Jamaica, tearing off the roof of the school and damaging much of the community. Langara wanted to donate but didn’t feel comfortable just sending money down to this project they didn’t have any previous connection with. As fate would have it, I had a free ticket with American Airlines from the previous year…I suggested that I travel down with the funds, disperse them and document the projects.  Done. On the way to the airport, I picked up the $5000 cheque, placed in my name, and bundled it in to my other cash to donate. I remember one staff member asking, “Uh, you are registered in Langara next term right?” as it dawned on them that they were completely entrusting me with a fair sized hunk of dough.

 

For the next month, I slept within view of Kingston’s solid waste disposal site. I am grateful for Junior Rowe and his family being so hospitable and welcoming me in to their home. There’s only been a handful of foreigners that have, one, been allowed to enter this garrison and two, slept amongst the community as one of it’s members.  I felt blessed sharing a bed with their six-year old daughter, Janelle. Junior has been the Principal of the school by that time for 32 years. He basically holds the respect and prestige of a sort of mayor of the town. Since I was staying with his family, I was safe. He is so well respected; I felt no worries walking to school every day. There were no hard stares or cold eyes that lay upon me. I only heard calls of, “a pleasant good morning to you!” or “Wagwan!” or a courteous flick of the head, for those who lingered in the pockets of shade along the dirt streets. It was a fulfilling trip; being able to be a part of the decision making in allocating money towards projects, teaching classes (Canadian geography and portraits of myself), and getting to know the inner workings of what it takes to run a school like this. It takes a lot of fucking work.

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Between 2006-2013 I had to learn some life lessons the hard way, which made me lose touch with Jamaica. I let my own personal issues of substance abuse, lack of direction and self-confidence take precedent over helping others. I got out of an engagement, partied much too hard, and recklessly bumbled my way through Latin America for almost a year. I don’t regret anything, for it is said, “I may not have gone where I intended to go. But I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” I have emerged out of my darkest years, full of light. I am stronger and more focused than ever before.

 

A positive move I made in the right direct was my recent career change.  Moving away from the bar industry and in to the travel industry has opened some auspicious doors. Within six months of acquiring a job as a Travel Consultant at Flight Centre, Jamaica was thrust back in to my life. Our, usually locally held, Consultant Conference was changed last minute to be held at the Sandals and Beaches Resorts in Jamaica. Sometimes, I feel the Universe acts subtly and in whispers. The announcement of the conference was as though the Universe had just smacked me up the backside of the head. As if the Universe knew I was ready once again. As if the Universe was giving me yet another chance. I took it upon myself to start fundraising for Riverton. Within a month and a half I organized a very successful (and debaucherous) fundraiser. The Ja’mazin Race and Silent Auction. A photo scavenger hunt, hopping between bars, was a hoot. Check out #jamazinvancity on Instagram for pictures. Anyway, long story short, by the time I was getting on the plane to Jamaica this time, I was traveling again with just under $8,000 to be donated. My ever-supportive Flight Centre management also paid to extend my trip so I could personally hand over the funds and check in with the school for a few days.

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So, once again I was being welcomed back in the dusty neighborhood of Riverton like I was a family member who had just been away for a little while. No questions were asked or resentment held about my seven-year absence, just grateful blessings that I had come back. Children I had taught were now in high school, teenagers who I used to play soccer with in the gravel lot were now parents dropping off their own children at the centre, and amazingly, Junior Rowe and most of the previous teachers were still patiently running the programs. Janelle, my little darling of a roommate was now a distant 13 year old, busy with the pressures of homework and trying to identify herself as a young woman in this world where years of youth keeps getting shorter and shorter.

 

Working alongside Principal Junior Rowe moved and motivated me. He relentlessly and tirelessly fights for the education of all youth and the betterment of his community. And this ain’t no 9-5 job for him. From the moment we woke and as soon as we returned from school, until late in the evenings, he was being approached by all sorts of people in Riverton for assistance, “Teacher Rowe, do you have a band aid?”, “Mr. Rowe, can I have a bag water”, “Do you have a ruler I can borrow for my homework”, “Please Mr. Rowe, can you write me a reference”, “Teacher, my mum won’t buy the books for my school”…it went on and on. I mentioned to Junior that being the Principal of the school for 38 years is a long, long time…let’s be blunt, are you happy? He replied, “Ya mon, no doubt.  If God granted me another life to live, I would live it exactly the same, mon. I am blessed.” In our modern, ever consuming, ever desiring North American society we are never satisfied. Yet this man chooses to live in, probably, Jamaica’s poorest neighborhood and he would do it over again. Incredible. Humbling. Mind – blown.

 

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I saw a lot of things down there that touched me but I’ll just pick one more story to share. I wanted to do something special with the funds I had collected from businesses, friends and family back in Vancouver. I asked Junior if we could take some of the children on an outing, away from the stench of the burning garbage. He said we could take them in to New Kingston, to an ‘amusement park’, where the children could go on rides. Perfect! We pulled up in the posh part of town to an ordinary playground, in Canadian standards. The ‘rides’ were the slides. And most children had never even seen one, let alone, slide down one.  It was shocking and sad. I then looked at the bleak, gravel yard that surrounded the Riverton School. This made me realize that the school grounds could use more ‘fun’. What if we brought the playground to Riverton? What if we made this empty lot a place to develop their imaginations and social skills?

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I have made an agreement with myself that I am going to help Riverton in a more substantial and sustaining way. And my help is going to start by funding a playground. I am realizing that maybe my “skill” is that I can be the link between this one impoverished neighborhood and the world. Maybe my purpose is to assist in creating opportunities, support the development of their skills and link the ingenuity of those trapped within the structural restraints of poverty, to us in the north. I am serious about this shit. I am currently in the process of registering a business and applying for charity status. I’m not thinking about bake sales or one-off burger-and-beer fundraising shit anymore. I’m thinking big. And I’m thinking, with your help, we can do this.