Six hundred and seventy-four

The Life of a Traveler
Life lesson #3:
Be prepared

Somewhere in England.

Somewhere in England.

I know in my previous two travel posts I talked about how much I’ve learned to take things in stride, enjoy the unexpected, and explore the path less-traveled.  I am totally for this, but I also hinted at the idea of being prepared and safe.  It’s important to do my research about the place I’m traveling to, learn a bit of the language, the customs, the Canadian Embassy’s phone number.  A friend of mine has a website called and she has a fantastic list of things to do before you leave, including: calling your credit card company and bank so they don’t freeze your account when they see them being used in a foreign country; photocopying your visa and passport;  packing so you don’t carry everything important in the same place; and bringing hand sanitizer (full list here).  I’m also a big believer in packing basic medical supplies and medication in case you get sick or hurt.

Being a woman and traveling also means I have to be very aware of my safety.  I don’t drink things given to me by strangers, I walk with confidence and avoid places I feel uncomfortable.  I leave an itinerary or keep my family informed of where I’m going to be just in case I go missing.  I also make sure I know what is appropriate clothing to wear in the country I am in.

I use these same skills at home.  Safety is important.  And my friends do always say I keep far too many things in my purse “just in case”. As much as I love to be spontaneous, I also want to stay alive and comfortable, so it’s important to be prepared.

I’m all packed and ready to go for my trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Melbourne, Australia.  I leave Friday and won’t be back for a month.  I will try to post something on the blog while I’m away.  If not, I will see you all at the end of February!

Six hundred and sixty-seven

The Life of a Traveler
Life lesson #2:
explore and talk to strangers

Off the beaten path somewhere on the east coast of Canada.

Off the beaten path somewhere on the east coast of Canada.

You can go on a great trip doing exactly what guide books say, staying in tourist destinations, talking to other tourists, eating at the restaurant in the hotel.  It will be safe, lovely, no surprises, in your comfort zone, and an absolutely great trip.  Or you can go off the beaten path, explore and experience something you never even dreamed existed.  You can go on a walk in the Australian rainforest, end up swimming by a waterfall with turtles, meet a random horse, and not encounter another person all day.  (This did happen to my “sister” and I, and yes, mom, we were safe and left where we were going with the bed and breakfast owners)  You can talk to locals and find out where they eat, drink, relax.  You can experience a tiny slice of their life.  You can go on an adventure.  (Of course as long as you’re safe, tell someone where you are going, and do your research for any dangers)

Some of my best memories traveling have been the days when I’ve ended up at a tiny jazz club in the back alleys of a city, or went on a hike on the less-traveled path, been invited over for dinner at a person’s home, or just sat on a patio with the locals taking it all in.  Actually in my day-to-day life, these are my favourite memories too.  It’s so important to listen to other people’s stories.  And although talking to strangers in my own city has never been a strong point of mine, I am much better at it when exploring a different country or city, and these encounters inspire me to be more open here in Toronto.  It’s also important to take chances.  I’m a big believer in stepping outside of your comfort zone.  It inspires and challenges you, makes you feel alive, changes the way you look at the world.  You never know what you’ll find – about the place you are in and about yourself.

On a related note, my “sister” and I (the one I’m going to Thailand and Cambodia with) are applying for The Amazing Race Canada!  Oh yes, we are.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we got in and you could follow us traveling (and of course winning) across Canada?  I have so many dreams…  I will write my favourite saying once again, which seems very appropriate at this moment: “leap and the net will appear”!

Next week I’ll talk about one more lesson I learned while traveling and then I’ll be off to Bangkok!

Six hundred and sixty-one

The Life of a Traveler
Life lesson #1:
learning to deal with the unexpected

(over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be posting a bit about what I’ve learned in my travels over the years, in preparation for my upcoming month-long trip to Southeast Asia!!!!)

One of my favourite photos of me running through some trees in Wilson's Promontory, in South Australia (with crazy long hair)

One of my favourite photos of me running through some trees in Wilson’s Promontory, in southern Australia (with crazy long hair)

Although my desire to be kind to our planet does make me feel guilty about all the airplane fuel being used, my curiosity about different cultures and other ways of life always seems to win out.  I fell in love with traveling after a whirlwind trip around Europe taken with my friend/sister (we’ve known each other since we were born – our parents are friends) after we graduated university.  Since then I’ve lived in England, Australia, traveled all over Europe, been to the north of Africa, Hong Kong, around the States and Canada.  I have loved it.  Every few months I feel the urge to explore.  And I do.  I’m coming up on a month-long trip to Thailand, Cambodia and visiting my friends in Melbourne, Oz.

One of the biggest life lessons I have learned through all my traveling is learning to take life in stride, realizing that no matter how many plans you make there will always be unforeseen circumstances that change your direction a little.  There is always a delayed flight, or lost luggage, or unexpected weather.  There are hostel or hotel rooms that don’t look at all like the photos on their website, or a gecko who lives in the bathroom and you have to shower beside (this actually did happen to the same “sister” and I during a trip up the east coast of Australia).  The best thing you can do is go with the flow, look at the positives, laugh a lot, and make the best of what you have.  Either way, it will be a great story to tell your friends and family when you get back.

This lesson has really helped me over the past few years, dealing with big things like changes in life or in my world views, and little things like when a recipe I’m cooking doesn’t work out and I’m having guests over for dinner or the internet goes down and I can’t post my blog (which happened yesterday, hence the Thursday post).  There’s always something you can’t plan for and the best thing to do is make the most of it and smile.  This philosophy has made all those little and big things much easier to deal with.

My “sister” (who is also going on this trip with me), is a planner and I am not, which is the best of both worlds.  I help her plan a little and she lets me take the reins when the unexpected happens.  We’ve both learned a little from each other and we rely on each other’s strengths to make our adventure the best it can be.  I’m looking forward to it, what surprises we’ll encounter this time, and what they will teach me!

Next week I’ll talk about another big life lesson I’ve learned while traveling.

Six hundred and fifty-three

Happy New Year!

Instant Infant

I can’t believe it’s 2013 already.  Is that a cliche thing to say?  I hope everyone had a fantastic holidays either celebrating Christmas, or just enjoying the break.  I spent a lot of my holidays talking about how much my mother wants me to have babies and whether I would consider having one on my own through insemination.  Yes, she really is that desperate to have grand babies.  I laughed at her and told her that she’ll just have to deal with whatever it is I choose, and NO, I am not getting artificially inseminated so I can raise a child by myself just for her!  I’m pretty sure my boyfriend would have a problem with this as well.  My aunt got me the “Instant Infant” you see above, so I kept joking that I’m now off the hook and mom should bug my brother and his girlfriend instead.  She was not impressed.

Christmas at the Schwietz household is a busy time of year, with all my aunts, uncles and cousins.  One year I think we had over thirty people for dinner.  This year dad organized a scavenger hunt around their big yard, which included a couple of “shot” stops, a beer, wine and cheese barn party, and scratching a lottery ticket in which I won $20 from!  We have so much fun, but it is a lot of work and energy that left me with a bit of an excitement hangover (literally and emotionally – probably letting my brother mix me a nightcap shot was not the best idea I’ve ever had…).  After the highs of the holidays, it’s easy to feel a little low, but grateful for my family and everything we have.

I don’t really do new year’s resolutions, because I figure we should be doing things we find challenging and living our life in the best way we can all the time, but I do plan to continue to do yoga and eat healthy.  My recuperating from my ups and downs was definitely helped by a little downward dog and cooking a yummy turkey soup.  And then of course my writing and a bit of painting I did with the new paints and easel I got for Christmas from my wonderful man.

I’m not really sure of my point for today’s post, if only to wish everyone a wonderful year.  I am grateful for every day I have and every thing in my life – the challenges and the triumphs.  Now I just have to get this book published so I can really celebrate 2013!

I’ve been on a bit of a photography kick recently, so here are a few I took over the holidays.  I hope you like them.

Bird house

Baby's First Christmas

Yes, this was mine from when I was a baby!

Camel on tree

Christmas Eve Cosmo

Christmas Eve Cosmo

Fireplace Angel family