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 thirty-nine

Road trip with mama and America’s capital

Over sixteen hours in a car with my mother and we managed not to kill each other!  Mom is probably reading this and making tsk-ing noises with her mouth, so I’d better set the record straight: we had a wonderful time on our road trip to Gettysburg, PA for my cousin’s wedding, to Reston, VA to visit with family, then finally to Washington, DC to be tourists for a couple of days.  The driving was beautiful, the wedding was fun, it was great to see my American relatives, and Washington DC is one of the prettiest big cities I’ve seen in the States.  Mom and I walked lots, had some fabulous meals, and wandered through some fantastic museums.  I took a lot of photos, but unfortunately the weather in the capital was very foggy the days we were there, so they didn’t turn out as nice as I’d hoped.  Here are a few of our trip that I thought were fun:

My seven year-old cousin's "bow" hair for the wedding

My seven year-old cousin’s “bow” hair for the wedding


Random bird on a bin


I just thought this would make an interesting photo.


FDR memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall

Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall


The Hope Diamond


Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial


The United States Capitol

Next week I won’t be blogging because of Christmas, so I hope everyone has a great holidays and see you in the new year!

Five hundred and ninety-seven

Annoying elevator music and top ten reasons I can’t survive without traveling!

Why is it that when you’re on hold, companies have to play the most annoying music ever?  You have to listen to it, because you’re waiting for the “next available agent”.  Even if you put it on speaker and you keep doing the things you need to, you still have to have the electronic flute with repetitive beat music in the background.  Arg!

I spent the day on the phone with my credit card company (and now my phone company, but that’s a different story), trying to book flights for my upcoming trip to… are you ready for this?… Thailand and Cambodia, with an added-on week in Melbourne to visit my old friends there!!!!!  Oh yes, I am going to Thailand in the new year with a girl friend of mine!  I have always wanted to go and I am so excited!  Can you tell?

I’m feeling silly today (and a little delirious after staring at my computer all day and listening to horrible elevator music on my phone), and in honour of my upcoming trip to Thailand (!!!!!!), I have decided to do a top-ten list of why I can’t live without traveling and seeing the world.  Without further ado:

The Top Tens Reasons I Can’t Live Without Traveling the World

#10 – Life experience was a great selling point on my online dating profile.

#9 – I can say “thank you” in nine languages.  That’s got to count for something, right?

#8 – How else am I going to spend my travel points from my credit card?

#7 – I swear my feet physically get itchy and I go through withdrawal if I don’t take a trip every couple of months – even if it’s just to a neighbouring city.

#6 –  I forget the smell of fresh air and what it feels like in my lungs when I’m stuck in Toronto for too long.

#5 – I love getting hugs and “I missed you!” when I come back.

#4 – I’d rather spend my money on a great experience, new foods, and meeting interesting people than a big screen television.

#3 – Everyone should be able to tell their grandchildren about their “European summer romance”.

#2 – Seeing the world has changed the way I view things, my acceptance of other cultures and understanding different ways of life, and allowed me to meet so many great friends.

And the number one reason I can’t live without traveling is…

#1 – My boring friends have to live vicariously through someone.