Thursday, December 13, 2012

Surf n’ Turf in Choroni

(Trip date: December, 2011-January, 2012)

Through the winding road and over the cloud forest lies a small beach town called Choroni.  It’s a little town where Venezuelan locals like to visit for a nice weekend getaway and not a place where you’ll see many international tourists. A beach town where the main attractions are the beaches, known for crazy waves and rough waters, and the seafood…perhaps a little partying too!
The journey to Choroni is unique. It’s a bit hard to get to, but not because you have to cross rough waters or high altitudes, but because you have to venture high into the cloud forest. The road is VERY narrow and winding, and as you turn each corner you wonder how it’s possible that you did not hit the car coming around the corner and driving straight at you. This is why you trust the locals and hire a car to drive you through the maze of a forest - they do this drive several times a day and know each twist and turn off by heart. After about two hours of winding your way up and up into the lush mountains, through the clouds, and deep into the forest, Choroni is waiting on the other side. You feel like kissing the ground – or your driver – when you make it there alive! And try and forget the fact that you will have to do that drive again on your back in a few days...
There’s one main street full of restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops. During the day there are several beaches you can visit that are just a short bus ride away, or there is the local beach in Choroni. We stayed in a great little guest house a little off the main strip with a beautiful garden, great staff and two adorable dogs – Brownie and Tequila. One day we visited an island called Cepe, a beautiful strip of beach situated right into the lush mountains.
What was most memorable about visiting Cepe was not the beach itself, but the boat ride there - I have never been more scared for my life on a boat ride before! Getting onto the boat was the most challenging part, the waves were gigantic and the waters were very rough, with all the boats bopping up and down and bumping into each other. Once we were “safely” inside our boat, we then had to conquer the actual boat ride! I’ve been on many bumpy boat rides in my travels, but I’ve never been more terrified than on this one. The waters were so rough and choppy, I was pretty sure I was going to fall over and get swallowed up by the angry waters! And just like the drive into Choroni, once we made it safely to Cepe, all I could think about was the boat ride back! A cocktail (or two) helped me forget about that for a few hours and I was able to sit back and enjoy the beautiful sunny day on this secluded tropical beach.
Thankfully we survived the boat ride back to the mainland and decided to spend our next day at the local beach in Choroni - no boats necessary! It was also very beautiful, a short stretch of ocean nestled into the lush mountains. The waves were very large, giving Choroni its reputation as a surfer’s paradise. Us non-surfers just soaked up the sun and sipped our cheap beer as we watched the surfers conquer the angry waters.

The town of Choroni itself is small and cute. It was packed when we were there as many local Venezuelans were there for the weekend, I loved the vibe and energy as people hustled through the roads getting ready to go to the beach or return from a day of fun in the sun. We found a restaurant we loved and made sure to return several time during our stay – the pina coladas were fresh and delicious and I’m drooling just thinking about the massive pot of seafood paella we shared! It was amazing! After a couple days chilling on the beach, sipping on cheaper-than-water beers and filling up on seafood empanadas, it was finally time to venture back into the deep forest, up into the clouds, through the winding roads, and back to safe land.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Los Roques: There Really is a Heaven on Earth!

(Trip date: December, 2011-January, 2012)

We all picture it when we’re daydreaming of an escape…silky white sand, turquoise waters, the sounds of the lapping waves, the seashells under your feet and nothing but ocean as far as the eye can see.  In my travels, I’ve visited many beautiful beaches that fit the above description, but there is something so magnificent and different about Los Roques. Situated in the Caribbean, very close to other popular beach destinations like Aruba and Curacao, Los Roques is an archipelago not known to many as it belongs to Venezuela. I had seen many pictures of Los Roques before I went, but thought most of them must have been digitally enhanced as they didn’t look real at all, I didn’t believe a place like this really existed, and that I was going to visit this magical land myself!
I’ll never forget the journey there – firstly because our pilot was sick and throwing up at the airport so we had to wait three hours for a new pilot to drive across Caracas and take over. We all huddled into the tiny plane that sat about eight people and flew an hour over the ocean on our way to paradise. At one point our  plane went into a massive cloud and we were immersed into complete grayness, then suddenly we emerged from the cloud, as if we just went through a magical doorway, into a whole new world! The sun was shining and the ocean was bright blue, completely covered with tiny islands, sand banks and cays…each little island sparkled a different shade of turquoise, looking like precious gemstones glittering across the sea. The sight before my eyes looked like the fantasy photos I had seen and I couldn’t believe that I was going to be stepping foot on those exact islands!
There is one main island that has all the accommodations and restaurants, and every day a boat takes you to a different island to explore. What I loved most about Los Roques was its simplicity – the accommodations are pretty basic (there are fancier hotels, but not too many and they are quite pricey) and they are all family run. Our guest house was right on the beach and we ate breakfast and dinner at the same time as all the other guests that the family prepared fresh every day. There is a certain community feeling in Los Roques, as you walk around to the handful of shops, restaurants and bars, and run into the same people every day.
Los Roques is an almost untouched coral reef and the secluded beaches we visited each day were each as stunning as the next. Some were busier than others, but you could always take a walk and in five minutes you would be alone and by yourself in total tranquility – just you and the beauty of the ocean. Although Los Roques does have a tourist industry, it is still so unknown to the world that the beaches are still fairly quiet and untouched my man. On my walks along the beach I found many seashells without any cracks, as if they’ve coasted along the calm waters and landed on the quiet beach, never having been stepped on or touched by anybody…my friend even found a live starfish!  One of the beaches had a massive sand bank where you could literally walk along the ocean surface until you almost reached the next island.
At night we would visit the bar next to our guesthouse, which was not only a bar, but it also had a dance floor with no roof so you could literally ‘dance under the stars’.  If you didn’t feel like dancing, there was an outdoor sitting area right beside the ocean where you could plop yourself into a big, comfy bean bag chair and enjoy a cocktail after a hard day at the beach! One night a huge group of guys invaded the bar - they were on a trip from Caracas and this was their night out, and kindly took it upon themselves to be our dance teachers. They taught us all sorts of Latin dance moves including salsa and meringue as they whisked us across the dance floor, making us look like we actually knew what we were doing!
If you haven’t guessed by now, Los Roques is one of my favourite places I’ve ever been to, and by far at the top of my list of beaches in the world to visit. I never imaged a beach to be so beautiful and untouched, to be able to close my eyes and know that I have visited true paradise. Where the calm waters glitter in the sun and the silky sand is smooth at your feet, where the starfish live and turtles play, where you dance under the stars at night after a perfectly blissful day.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Food, Fireworks and Baseball in Maracaibo

I’ve been to Maracaibo three times as one of my best friends is from there and I always love visiting Maria’s family, they are so warm and inviting and welcome me into their home just like I am part of the family. Even though I don’t speak Spanish and most of her family doesn’t speak English, we always manage to communicate and have a great time! I’ve even brought some friends from home as well as a friend from Australia and they all received the same welcome I did. I also love visiting Maria’s family because her mother is such an amazing cook. Everyday she cooks fresh, home cooked meals, including fresh arepas, plantain, and other Venezuelan favourites. I could get used to freshly squeezed raspberry juice every morning!  

Maracaibo is known to Venezuelans as an oil city, a big city and a hot city! I especially like the hot part. It is hot and sunny and 30+ degrees for 365 days of the year and most of the locals are so sick of the heat and sun (really, I didn’t know that was possible!) that we get the weirdest looks from people when we willingly sit outside. Not only do I like being outside because of the heat, but also because every single indoor space has the air conditioner on so high it’s like walking into a meat freezer. I usually pack some winter clothes when I visit! 
My visits to Maracaibo are usually very chill and relaxing. We spend most of the time hanging out with Maria’s family, drinking sangria and playing dominos – one of Venezuela’s national sports! I always enjoy a day at the park, Vereda del Lago, and visiting the old part of downtown Maraciabo – one of my favourite parts of the city but unfortunately also one of the most dangerous. The old city is beautiful, with small winding roads lined with the famous Venezuelan coloured buildings and the cathedral, Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Chiquinquira, looming in the middle of the downtown square.

My visits to Maracaibo are always over new years and I love spending New Years Eve in my Venezuelan home. It’s very different from the regular New Years Eve I’m used to  – we spend the day watching Maria’s mom cook, then we get dressed up, drink sangria, and entertain family as they come and go throughout the night. As the clock strikes midnight, we all cheer and hug and kiss, then follow the tradition of making wishes on grapes before eating them. Then, champagne in hand, we all rush outside to watch the fireworks around us. The entire city is completely engulfed by the sounds of fireworks and car alarms (because the alarms are so sensitive), it’s a sound you hear ringing in your ears for days!  

Another memorable experience in Maracaibo was going to a baseball game. Now THIS is Venezuela’s true national sport! I never imagined a baseball game could be so fun and exciting! The fans are cheering and yelling like their lives depend on it and the spirit in the stadium is completely contagious. The game we went to was a very important game, if the Aguilas won they would move on to the finals. And lucky for me, they won! The energy in the stadium was overwhelmingly exciting! The crowds actually rushed on to the field, screaming and dancing...even the military who was there to monitor security could do nothing about it. Go Aguilas!!! 
I can’t forget to mention our trips to the “Ugly Beach”, actually called Zapara. Well, it’s not so ugly, but in comparison to other beaches we’ve been to, we just decided that it deserved that name. A short drive and then boat ride takes you to a sand island, where you walk across the sandy desert (or you can pay for a donkey ride), where there are actually sand dunes and cactuses, for about half an hour until you get to the beach on the other side. It’s a simple beach with absolutely no vendors, no restaurants, no shopping, no bathrooms (well, except for the ocean ;). With good company and lots of sangria, a day to the “Ugly Beach” is always a great day!

Another interesting thing to note about Venezuela are the old cars. Oddly I hadn’t noticed this until my third visit, when we ordered a taxi and an old, beat up, brown car with white patches and the blackest windows possible drove up to Maria’s door. I gave Maria a look of fear that said “seriously? We’re getting into THAT????” She looked at me and said “don’t worry, it’s totally safe.” Given the history of Venezuela and the safety situation of the country, Maria is very cautious and I totally trust her, so I shrugged my shoulders and un-frighteningly got into the frightening car. This new observation intrigued me and as we drove around I noticed that the streets were covered with other old, beat up cars and I also noticed that the car dealerships had no cars in them! I immediately did my research and learned that due to the political situation of the country, old cars are actually more valuable than new cars. It is the only place in the world where cars actually appreciate due to the demand for used cars, since new ones are not easy to come by. There are strict laws on importing foreign cars into the country and therefore, the wait to purchase a new car is years, which makes used cars more desirable. I quickly learned not to fear the old sketchy car with the dark black windows!  
While Maracaibo is also one of the more dangerous cities in the world, I get sad as I miss my Venezuelan family and the good times I always have when I’m there, especially on New Years Eve. With the warm welcoming I always receive, to Maria’s mom’s home cooked meals (did I mention she also makes homemade eggnog?!), to the heat and constant sun, I always love my trips to Maracaibo – my Venezuelan home!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Mix of City and Jungle in Santa Marta

(Trip date: December, 2011-January, 2012)

A short bus ride from Cartagena took us to Santa Marta, a city mostly known for its proximity to the famous Tayrona National Park. We chose to stay in the city of Santa Marta, however if I knew then what I know now, I would have chosen to stay in the actual park for a little more adventure. The city itself was nice, but mostly just a city. There’s the main street along the beach lined with restaurants and cafes, however during high season it can seem a bit over-crowded. The streets were lit up with beautiful Christmas decorations and the buildings a colourful display of colonial architecture known to Colombia.

Since we are total beach bums, we couldn’t resist a day at the beach! We took a local bus to Taganga, which is a small fishing village on the edge of Tayrona National Park. A quaint town bustling with tourists strolling along the main road, sipping cocktails on a patio and enjoying the sunshine at the beach. We took a short boat ride around the main strip of Taganga to small beach on the other side of the town where the beach was quieter. There were no shops or roads, just a small stretch of beach with a couple of restaurants and cafes. When it was time for lunch we asked a waitress for a menu, and to our surprise she brought out an entire tray of freshly caught fish for us to choose from! Definitely the most visual menu I’ve ever seen! Of course the fish was delicious and we had a perfect, chill day mixed with some tanning, kayaking and some cocktails of course!

After a day at the beach, it was time for our trek through Tayrona! The beautiful hike took us through winding trails and forests, up and down muddy paths, over large rocks and along majestic beaches and lush mountains. Walking through the quiet forest, we would suddenly emerge from the peaceful sounds of the jungle into the loud roaring of the ocean. We welcomed the long stretches of beach as we were sweating and covered in mosquito bites. Removing our sweaty shoes as quickly as possible, we walked along the cool, refreshing water as it soothed our bites and cooled us off. Though watch out for critters when walking barefoot in a jungle as I experienced my very first bee sting! We also encountered many beautiful butterflies, ant farms and other exotic birds and creatures unknown to us Canadians. Had we known that it was super easy to stay the night in the park itself as they had many little lodges and hammocks, we would have planned to do that - to hang out in the peaceful forest at night and wake up to the sound of the exotic birds and lapping waves of the ocean.  

Our stay in Santa Marta brought us to the end of our stay in Colombia, which was a truly wonderful and memorable experience - a country that is definitely at the top of my “must see” list! White sand, crystal clear water, lush mountains, fresh seafood, cheap beer, delicious coffee...the people, the energy, the beat of the's true what they say: "Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay!"

Monday, November 26, 2012

Behind the Old Walls of Cartagena

(Trip date: December, 2011-January, 2012)
From the moment we stepped out of the airport in Cartagena, I knew I was in love. Not only was it the waft of hot, humid air that hit me as I walked outdoors (for those who know me, I love heat and especially humidity), but I just had a feeling...and my instincts are rarely wrong!

There is a magical feeling you get as you step off the main road, through the doorway of the ancient city walls, and into a whole new world. The cobblestone streets winding through ancient colonial buildings, with the turn of each corner taking you through a narrow street full of bright, multicoloured homes decorated with an array of colourful flowers. There’s the hustle of people walking through the streets and relaxing outside at the many cafes and restaurants. There’s the clicking of the horse drawn carriages mixed in with the beat of the drums as the traditional Colombian dancers attract crowds with their inspiring performances. There are the rows of food vendors lining the streets, filling the air with aromatic scents that tempt your taste buds.
Our time in Cartagena was so wonderful that I continuously forget that the entire city had no running water for almost three full days! That meant some uncomfortable bathroom moments and learning to shower with a bucket of water – thanks to our amazing hotel, Hotel Patio de San Diego, who purchased water for us so we could bathe the sweat, sunscreen and mosquito spray off our bodies. We so easily forget what privileges we have back home and take advantage of so many little things, like running water. I’ll never forget the moment of joy I felt as we walked by a family’s kitchen and saw the stream of water coming out of the kitchen tap, indicating that the water was back on. I felt an overwhelming surge of happiness, a feeling I never thought I’d encounter at the sight of tap water! The sound of the first toilet flush that followed was like music to my ears! 

You can’t go to Cartagena and not visit El Totumo, the mud volcano. As you lower yourself into the pool of thick, bubbling mud, a strange man starts rubbing mud all over your body before you become completely immersed. He then pushes you across to the other side where another man gives you a massage. The mud is so thick and full of minerals that you can’t sink, in fact you can barely stand up! Once your massage is over, the masseuse slides you across to the ‘socializing’ area, where you sit VERY closely with other mud covered zombies and begin to make friends as you are half-naked and squished together in this intimate pot of mud. There might be some unintentional  leg caressing and body rubbing! Once your time is up in the mud, you pull yourself out of the pool into the cool air as another man aggressively rubs the mud off your body and then you proceed down the hill into the lake where a strange woman forcefully bathes you with a bucket of water. Beware, these women take their jobs very seriously and that often means your bathing suit being removed and the invasion of some personal body parts – but they are just trying to get all the mud off, don’t take this the wrong way! If you find this uncomfortable, just tell them you don’t want to remove your bathing suit, sometimes they listen ;)
Another must-do activity is the Party Bus! A large, open-air bus, called a “chiva” picks you up at night and takes you around the city…and you guessed it, you party on the bus! The experience includes a live performance of the traditional Colombian music, Vallenato, which consists of an accordion, a drum and a charrasca (a metal tube instrument that kind of looks like a cheese grater). All party-goers are given unlimited drinks of rum and coke (gotta love South America!) as well as some late night empanadas as the bus drives through the streets of Cartagena. There is an MC that keeps everybody entertained as you play games and after a few self-poured rum and cokes, there’s definitely some dancing involved! There are a couple of stops, including a stop outside the old city walls where crowds gather and dance in the street, and ends at a night club inside the old city. A unique experience for those who like to party!

If you’re a beach bum like myself, you can also visit the island called Playa Blanca for a nice escape from the city. The boat ride allows you to do a snorkeling stop as well – warning, they don’t tell you that you have to pay to snorkel until you are already stuck snorkeling (and there really wasn't much to see), as well as an option to stop at the aquarium. The waters can be VERY choppy and can make for some intense boat rides that can be considered fun once you've made back to land safely! The beach itself is nice, but make sure you head to either ends of the beach as the middle is very touristy and you will find yourself swarmed with vendors. Find a quiet spot and enjoy the calm, turquoise waters with some fresh coconut water in-hand!

I can’t forget to mention the food in Cartagena as I had some of my best meals in Colombia here. There are the amazingly delicious cheese arepas, which are pretty much just patties of cheese that are fried and then served hot and gooey – I couldn’t get enough of these! Then of course there is the seafood. Most of our meals included fresh fish straight from the ocean, lightly seasoned, grilled to perfection, and served with a side of coconut rice and fried plantain. Yum!

It was easy to fall in love with Cartagena, with the magical vibe of the city hidden behind the old walls and the amazing people who made my time even more special.  The food, the music, the energy…Cartagena has definitely become a highlight of my many travels and an experience I will always cherish!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bustling Bogota

(Trip date: December, 2011-January, 2012)

Arriving at 12am in Bogota, I didn’t know what to expect as I waited for another couple of hours for my travel buddy to arrive. Shocked at how busy the airport was so late at night, I made my way to a little corner outside, took a seat on my backpack (it always makes a handy chair) and watched the bustling airport full of joyous people reuniting with their family and friends.  Watching all the hugs, double-cheek kisses and smiles all around me, I couldn’t help but get excited to experience this wonderful culture I was about to explore.

Bogota did not fail me, the city was full of energy with people riding through the streets on bikes, chilling at the city’s many cafes and restaurants, and many just walking around admiring the quaint architecture. Although we stayed in what is known to be one of the most dangerous areas of the city, the Candelaria district is also one of the most touristy areas, being an old, historical neighbourhood of Bogota. A walking day tour took us through the winding streets of Candelaria, including the home of the president, where we tried to make the guards smile (didn’t work), as well as the famous Plaza Bolivar. The Plaza was beautiful, with its cobblestone streets, colonial buildings and a stunning display of Christmas lights and decorations. And one can’t help but be mesmerized by the magnificent cathedral , one of the biggest cathedrals in all of South America, with its ancient brick, delicate features, and a natural illuminating glow.

Another great thing about Bogota are the museums, there are so many museums around the city you can’t possibly get bored. And make sure you are there on a Sunday, because all the museums are free for just one day! We visited the funky Botero museum as well as the coin museum, thanks to the friendly security guard who’s smile we just couldn’t resist.  

One of the highlights of my trip to Colombia was a visit to a coffee plantation. Since we were not going all the way to Medellin, the area of Colombia known for coffee plantations, we managed to find a small, family-run plantation just a couple hours outside of Bogota (well four hours if you’re stuck in a traffic jam like we were). A local bus took us to the small town of Fusagasugá (try saying it, it was my favourite word of the trip!) where we walked from the bus station straight to Hacienda Coloma – an amazing experience, especially if you’re a coffee lover like myself! We stepped through a large red, iron door into a whole new world of tranquility...and coffee!
We had a private tour with a very knowledgeable guide and I developed a whole new appreciation for coffee after seeing the intense process that goes into each and every coffee bean, it was amazing! We sampled some delicious and fresh coffee as well as their homemade coffee liquor – yum! A truly unique and local experience away from the touristy coffee plantations, I highly recommend a trip to Hacienda Coloma for all coffee lovers traveling through Bogota.

Another unique experience is a visit to the Salt Cathedral, just a short drive out of Bogota, in the town of Zipaquirá - an entire underground world of salt mines turned into a cathedral. There are several tours available, the most common one being a tour of the first level of the cathedral built right into the salt mines. There are actually miners working while tourists walk through the mines, however they are far away and out of site. But for the very brave, you can sign up for a tour that actually puts you into mining gear and lets you detonate a part of the mine! Too bad I had a flight to catch and ran out of time, or I’d have a very worried mother ;)
Many people think Bogota is not a safe place to visit, but apart from a few paranoid moments – including one cab ride where we were sure we were being kidnapped as our cab driver detoured from our usual route up into the mountain and into the dark forest, we felt pretty safe. There is a huge military presence around the city, and the streets are pretty busy during the day. As long as you’re a careful traveler, it is a safe and definitely interesting place to visit. With its lush mountains, magnificent architecture and bustling city life, Bogota is a must-see for anybody visiting Colombia!

Monday, April 30, 2012

New York City: The Perfect Stopover

(Trip date: December, 2011-January, 2012)

We started our adventure in New York City – a perfectly planned day and a half stopover. It was right before Christmas so the city was lit up with coloured displays, festive decorations, and street-corner musicians playing holiday songs on every corner.  The streets were packed with people in high spirits for the holidays and there was a special feeling of energy and excitement in the air. To top it off, it was an unusually mild and perfectly sunny two days just for us!
Our New York City experience started off in a stereotypical New York way – we walked out of the airport and onto a local bus crowded with angry, yelling people who were NOT happy about the extra space our backpacks required (um, we’re coming from the airport, is it really surprising we have luggage?) We quickly realized we were not in Canada anymore! I also didn’t quite know what to say to the guy who asked me if I had a Canadian flag on my backpack so people wouldn’t think I was American, not sure what he thought I’d say considering I was on a bus full of Americans? I quickly responded that I was just very patriotic – which is the truth! 
After getting lost and ending up on the scenic route through Harlem, we finally made it to our hostel - Jazz on Amsterdam. Since New York City is a pretty expensive place to visit we decided to stay at a hostel to save money for the rest of our trip. It was simple and clean and our two-person bunk bed room was perfect for us (especially since the walls were painted bright pink, our favourite colour!)

We walked for hours and hours and visited all the regular tourist spots including Times Square, Rockefeller Centre, Central Park, F.A.O. Schwartz, 5th Ave, Brooklyn Bridge, Highline Park, the Meatpacking District and more. It was a whirlwind of a tour but we savoured every moment! From New York style pizza to (rather pricey) martinis in the Meatpacking district, we excitedly walked through the bustling streets of New York City knowing we still had a one-month adventure ahead of us, who wouldn’t be in the best of moods?

I can’t forget to mention the interesting people we encountered, like the two brothers we met at a bar – one being a professional boxer and the other being a diagnosed alcoholic who claimed to be part of the mob. Even our waitress returned to our table a little more than normal to make sure we were ok! They were definitely interesting – especially the story the boxer told us about how he got stabbed with a fork, and then continued to show us the fork scar - a unique addition to our New York experience! 

After our jam-packed day and a half in New York City, it was an early morning flight and an exhausting 24 hours of travel (that’s what you get when you travel on a budget) until we made it to our next destination: Bogota, Colombia!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Me, Myself & Travel

I fell in love with traveling at the age of 14 when my grandparents took me on my first trip to Europe. I was suddenly exposed to new sites and experiences that opened up my world forever. They first took me to England and Scotland and the following year we explored more of Europe. I will never forget taking a stroll along the lake in Lucerne, Switzerland and admiring the peaceful, stunning scenery around me.  It took me away from my crazy life at home (I know, how crazy can high school be, but it seemed crazy then!) and allowed me to escape to this wonderful world of beauty and tranquility. I suddenly realized that we have this huge world around us to wander and explore and enjoy!

That trip to Europe also took us to Hungary, where my mother’s side of my family is from. It was such an enlightening experience to step back into history and walk along the streets my mother and grandparents had walked. To hear my grandmother relive her tales of a happy family who walked along that bridge and enjoyed the cafes on that street, to being forced out of the country during a Revolution that left them no hope if they stayed. The experience took me back to my roots and reminded me of who I really am and where I really come from.

That trip made me decide that I wanted to travel the world. To see what was out there and how people lived in different parts of our planet. Once I started university, I worked my butt off to make sure I could travel more and successfully visited most of Europe during that stage of my life. Once university was over I decided I wanted to go farther next time. So I worked and saved and worked and saved and finally was able to take half a year off, and explore a new part of the world – Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. It was just me, my backpack, and a friend, and together we explored new cultures, made new friends, and formed a lifetime of memories (and photos!)

Once that trip was over I was worried I wouldn’t be able to travel very much since I was about to start my career.  But thankfully I was wrong! Not only have my jobs allowed me to travel around Canada and see the beauty and diversity this very country I live in has to offer, but I learned that with the right planning, my traveling life was far from over! Since I’ve started my career, I’ve visited many new places including Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and to date I have visited 42 countries in total.

I hadn’t considered blogging during most of my trips as it wasn’t very popular back then and travelers still resorted to updating friends and family over ‘group emails.’ But I love to write and share my experiences with pretty much anybody who will listen, so I’ve decided to start my blog and share my stories! 
Many people tell me they are jealous of how I manage to travel so much and ask me how I do it. Some people think I have an endless amount of vacation at work (I don’t) and some think I have won the lottery (I didn’t), and I always tell them – if you really want it, you can do it too! 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Live, Breathe, Travel

Travel…it’s my fuel…it’s like the air that I breathe…it sustains me. Fellow travelers will understand the high that you get when you board the plane en route to your next adventure destination. It’s a feeling of mystery, excitement and intrigue. You know exactly where you’re going, but you have no idea what you’re going to experience once you get there.

It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and experiencing the different cultures that exist on this one planet we all share. It’s to stop and take in the spectacular sights and scenery that the land and ocean have created. It’s to see how similar, yet how different, the human race can be.  It’s to taste, to feel and to understand. Traveling will open the mind and the door to your soul as you encounter different people from all different backgrounds. The people you meet and relationships you build will ignite your spirit and change you forever.

Our lives are a result of our experiences, and to travel is to experience. It’s to learn and grow and laugh and cry and form an endless list of memories that will last a lifetime. It’s to share your stories and inspire others to hop on that plane and experience the adventure of life themselves. For we were all given the gift of life, and it is up to us to get out there and live it.