Thursday, September 09, 2010

A Moment

We only had two weeks in Thailand during our six month trek through Asia and Russia, which in hindsight was certainly not enough time but at least a put-together tourist place like these islands made it easy for us to relax.

Anyone who has been to Thailand will tell you of ‘must go’ places; specific islands that your trip will be lost without. But in reality, as with all destinations, each island has its own magic, similar to each other in the same fantastical ways and yet special and unique enough to help create a very personal experience.

We spent three nights on Koh Tao during our short trip, at the suggestion of a friend, who later revealed to me that this moment I shared with this man and his fishing rod, is one she was privileged to experience as well.

It’s easy to get caught up in the tourist flow of a place, especially Thailand. Everywhere you look, there is something for YOU. Scuba diving lessons, ENGLISH breakfast, cheap room rates, FREE Internet with purchase of coffee. It seems as though this little piece of paradise is one big tourist resort, without the matching staff uniforms and the front lobby.

But these places are peoples’ homes, where they live, where they grew up, where their culture developed and you’re actually being let into a space that is being so graciously shared.

Our view from our hut was out onto the water. If I fell off the balcony, I’d only have to bump off a few rocks to be swimming. Every early evening, we sat out on the balcony, watching the day turn into night and relaxing before heading out for dinner and drinks on the beach.

On the first evening, as I turned to my left, he was there. Doing what it appeared he did every day: trying his hand at some dusk fishing.

This window into his world is a moment that cannot be read in a history book or discussed in a world issues class. You won’t find this in a travel brochure or even on a guided tour.

These are the moments world explorers live for. A chance at connection. The opportunity of discovery.

This is what gets us back on the road again.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Everything IS bigger in Dallas

I spent the month of August in Dallas (potentially not the BEST month to visit Texas, however..) for work and did manage to learn a few things about the lovely, wonderful people of that grand state .. or at least the Dallas area.

1. You will be called Ma’am.

Street art

As a Canadian, I’m used to politeness but there is something significantly special about the way the people in Texas converse with each other and people they’ve just met. Their every word appears to just drip with southern kindness topped off with a lovely smile and “you have a nice day now you hear and come back real soon.”

2. You better enjoy meats. And large potatoes. And very large amounts of food.

The portion sizes are always a shock for us Canadians but I’ve got family in northern States and I’m not certain that I’ve ever seen as much food presented as a one-person meal as I’ve ever seen in my life. The BBQ’ed anything was to die for and the steaks were thicker than my head. Oh and did I mention the MEXICAN FOOD. I think I was so spoiled I’ll never be able to eat nachos north of the Texas border again.


Certainly all Texans would probably agree that August is not the most ideal month to visit their fine State. And I suppose if I’m honest, I probably would not have chosen to head down there on holiday during temperatures of 45 degrees Celcius but, I was lucky enough to get to see a new place while working and I’d never pass up the opportunity to explore a new part of the world. The upside? A/C is everywhere.

Sunrise view from my room

I never thought I’d get to Texas but after spending three weeks with the fine folks down there, I’m sure glad I did, thank you ma’am.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Making the most of it

Being somewhere means you have an opportunity to experience something.

That means, if you are on a beach in Mexico, you have as many margaritas as you can and eat as much tortilla as humanly possible. If you’re hiking the Mournes in Northern Ireland, you make sure to stop when the sun comes out to admire a rare view. And if you’re at home, where you live, where you work, where you don’t necessarily think of yourself on vacation, you find the things that make the place where you are incredibly special and you make sure you soak in all of those places.

I’ve heard it called a ‘staycation’, which I like, though I would go further than that and say this is more a state of mind. Sure, it’s easier to explore when you have multiple days off in a row but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience at least some form of discovery each day.

I am lucky that I do have the hours in my day to make this possible. I don’t commute as I have a home office and I don’t have children that need me. Both of these things make it easier but in no way make it exclusive to childless-home-working individuals. It’s a mind shift.

Whenever I have free time, I try to make sure I’m doing something that allows me to soak in the culture in which I inhabit. In Canada, this is obviously easier as I AM actually Canadian so I kinda know the drill but at the same time, the lifestyle In BC in completely different to my 20s-lifestyle in Toronto and also completely different to my growing-up lifestyle in small town Ontario. So, you see, it’s easy for me to feel like I’m part of a new culture because really, I am.

Me, after a 2nd time conquering the Grouse Grind

The summer has provided the perfect opportunity for me to channel my outside persona. I have spent hours on my bike, in a place that appears to be really made for cyclists. The weather has been perfect, between 25-30 degrees Celsius for the last three months. I could probably count on my hands the number of days that it rained or was cloudy.

And so off I went, exploring Richmond, chucking my bike on the Canada Line and wandering around Vancouver, picking up fresh fish at markets, stopping by beaches along the hot and sweaty bike routes, sunning and ocean dipping away frustrations. I had the perfect July filled with exploration. (I was in Texas in August for work: another post to follow)
Bike break on English Bay
View of Stanley Park from the Burrard Street bridge

After a relaxing swim on Third Beach

Steveston Harbour
D taking a break from studying to relax on Spanish Bay

View of Granville Island from the city side

And it got to the point, that even when my holidays (staycation) came at the end of August, I felt like I had already done a great deal of exploring and discovering already, that I had incorporated my love of travel into my every day.

Take in the moments of discovery in your everyday, and, in that way, you’re experiencing the thrill of travelling, without having to leave your own home.