Bandwagon Blogger says Follow Me on Instagram! Story time is just getting started…

I will admit it – I have been a bandwagon blogger. I started the blog when I had an abundance of free time on my hands. More than enough. Too much, if there is such a thing. I’m sure some reading that sentence might cringe, or disagree in some way. But I was adrift.

Today, I am happy to say, I don’t have that problem! Free time is once again something precious, to be hoarded, and treasured. I am a graduate student. So you see, it’s not that I have stopped writing.

To reinforce this lifestyle, my tried and tested Nikon D60 has finally gone caput after a lot of use, and from time to time, abuse, at my hands. My trigger finger is getting itchy: and so my love for Instagram has finally taken flight.

So Follow Me on Instagram! 

More travel photos from around the world, as well as a whole bunch from my home, Canada, as well. Photos from Home and Away! Food, travel, the great outdoors.

I’m hooked you guys. So I’m here to say that I haven’t given up on the blog, just put it on the back burner on a very gentle, slow cooking simmer. It makes me happy to see that people still come to the blog as it is through search engines and other external links! The most popular posts continue to be those that I had some sort of experience or story to share – factual or fictional.

There are a ton of travel bloggers out there to be sifted through online, but true storytellers among them seem few and far between. That is something I am trying to keep up with on Instagram by sharing my photographs. Instagram is like the Travel Years, just distilled and concentrated down. Check it out!

 

 

 

 

How a latte made me feel like I belong.

There are times when I don’t feel like I fit in as a member of our society. I’m sure that everyone feels this way once in a while. In a time when efficiency, convenience and cost-effectiveness are prized, I sometimes enjoy taking the road less traveled, or at least the longer road. I am coming to recognize this is a trait shared by all of the women In my family.

road less traveled

I don’t own a car, and choose to live in locations where walking, public transit and carpooling are all realistic options. While it is easy to live beyond our means using credit, payment plans and loans, I have always been a saver and prefer to steer clear. I prefer paper books over e-Readers, and I still prefer to do my shopping in a store.

Food is important to me. Creating meals from scratch using whole ingredients, is one of my favorite challenges every day. And much to my partner’s vexation, I am a relentless label checker when it comes to shopping at the grocery store. Slowly I am convincing him to shun the center aisles where the vast majority of processed foods reside. Homemade bread and butter? Yes please. Want McDonald’s? Only if I’m starving. Or searching for drunk food with limited options (because let’s be honest here).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

However, there is so much more to this feeling of ‘not belonging’ than a set of lifestyle choices!

As of Black Friday, Christmas preparations in the northwestern hemisphere are in full swing. For anyone not familiar with this event, Black Friday is the first Friday after American Thanksgiving when retailers open their doors early, run some major sales and get consumers into the Christmas spirit. For most people in this day and age, that means shopping. According to the Wikipedia page, this has been a thing since the early 2000’s.

whoville

Cyber Monday is now also a thing, following directly on the heels of Black Friday. Black Friday sales have been dropping as consumers decide to stay home and shop from their couches, so Cyber Monday attempts to take advantage of this information and catch those consumers too. Spend, my pretties! Spend!

Black Friday in America

Black Friday in America

In recent years, my family has become one of those that decide to stay home! And we skip Cyber Monday, too. Besides a major reduction in the amount of gifts we give every holiday season, we also try to make as many of our gifts home made as possible. Although more challenging, this has been a successful strategy for us. As a result the holiday season is less stressful for everyone involved, and we spend more time focused on family, friends, and food. The holiday trifecta!

For my tastes, Christmas today has become too intertwined with consumerism. I have always wondered how the advertisements that come out around the holiday season make less-privileged children feel. The one where Mom opens the closet, and is buried under a mountain of gifts (Canadian Tire) particularly sticks in my mind. This is not anywhere close to reality for the vast majority of people.

But last night, B. and I stepped out for a quick run to the giant box bookstore, Chapter’s. We stopped at Starbucks, I picked up a chestnut praline latte and we went our separate ways, absorbed book hunters. And so there I was. Standing in Chapter’s with my grande fancy-pants latte, hunting through the Black Friday stacks for a good deal, and humming Christmas music. And you know, I felt like I belonged. And I enjoyed it.

November 17th is Take a Hike Day!

Take a Hike Day November 17th

Today’s post is short and sweet, so you can get out there and enjoy your weekend before winter really sets in. Every heard of Take a Hike Day?

Read more about Take a Hike Day here!

Long story short, get out there and go for a walk on Monday! Strap on your pack and make it an extra-effective hike. Your body and your mind will thank you. While there may not be any fall colors left in your part of the world, there is still lots to see. This article posted on Parks Blogger Ontario has some great ideas of places to go hiking or snowshoeing during the winter season. Get inspired!

What do you need for a dream vacation to Hawaii? A Turo rental Jeep and a GPS.

I was excited to receive an email about the blog. It was Emma Powers, from Turo, wondering what my dream based US vacation looked like with a rental car in my possession! Turo is a peer-to-peer car rental service that connects renters with owners, and skips the car rental company.

As my regular readers will know, I am currently planning a backpacking trip to Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. I am especially excited about this because it is a chance to escape the frigid, blustery winters of central Ontario in January. And so it didn’t take long to decide that for me, a dream vacation in the United States would take place in beautiful, tropical Hawaii!

And since we’re dreaming, we might as well dream big people! Enjoy some of what would certainly be highlights for me on a trip to the Big Island.

Getting to Hawaii – the Aloha State

There are a number of options available when flying intoo Hawaii, but we are going to take the most common one. This involves

  • Flying into Honolulu International Airport
  • From there, we can catch a connecting flight to the smaller, Kona Airport – located on the western shore of the Big Island

First Up - Fly in

Who is we, you ask? That would be myself, and my partner. We both love travel, road trips and food so he would be my first choice! He is an excellent driver, while I am on the other hand am the superior navigator and DJ (aka: co-pilot).

The Big Island is an ideal destination for a first Hawaiian vacation because it is the biggest island of the state, is the only island with active volcanoes, and a circular highway system connecting us to the coast, and Hawaii’s best!

To get the most out of a trip to Hawaii, the easiest way has to be to rent a vehicle! Enter Turo, the peer-to-peer car rental service that connects travelers with car owners that want to rent. This is an interesting service because it skips the car rental companies, which are usually expensive. When I started to plan my dream trip to Hawaii, I went online and found this little beauty in the listings.

2014 Jeep Wrangler

This 2013 4×4 Jeep Wrangler would be the perfect vehicle for our Hawaiian road trip because

  • It has cargo space to store any camping equipment, diving gear and road trip supplies we may need
  • It as an all-terrain vehicle, so we won’t have to worry about rougher roads, rocks, mud, and so on
  • It has a convertible top, enough said!
  • Comes equipped with a GPS unit to help us navigate around the Big Island

The best part? We meet our sweet ride at the airport. You can also see where else Turo operates.

Road Trip! – Three weeks touring the shores of the Big Island

I have never been to Hawaii, and so I would want to take my time when exploring and really experience it. So instead of trying to island hop, we think a Big Island road trip is the way to go! There are good things to be said for managing your own time, and choosing your own destinations.

To keep the trip manageable yet exciting, plan for at least 3 weeks! Taking advantage of the Turo car rental service will mean ultimate flexibility when exploring the Big Island, and a more relaxed trip all in all. No need to rush when we are making our own timeline!

Loose Itinerary

Hawaii Island is a good place for a road trip because there is so much happening! It is the largest island in the state and has the only active volcanoes (ongoing eruptions). There are also a ton of things to see and do, depending on who you are and what you’re into. My partner and I? We like driving around, taking pictures of things, and exploring! Relaxing, water sports and learning new things. Eating! So, what can we get up on the Big Island for 3 weeks?

Week One: Exploring Kailua-Kona, and acclimatizing to life on the Island

After arriving in Hawaii and picking up the Jeep, a 30 minute drive south through Kailua-Kona will bring you to the Ka’awa Loa Plantation – a guesthouse and coffee plantation. After the hectic pace of day-to-day worries and traveling, it’s town for a little down time.

The plantation doubles as a small bed and breakfast removed from the hustle and bustle of Kona, yet without being too far away for it to be a mission. The bed and breakfast would be excellent because it would provide somewhere peaceful to relax and adjust to life on the island for a few days. And drink copious amounts of fresh, Island coffee!

  •  The plantation boasts a mini spa, hiking trails, kayaking, a tropical fruit plantation and mini spa… yes please. That sounds like just what I need. And a view of volcanoes.

Even though we are relaxing, the first couple of days are not completely idle!

  • Get in the first day of scuba diving with Big Island Diver’s – a nice and easy morning of diving off of the coast of Kona. Warm up for the Black Water dive, which makes use of lighting to draw rarely observed creatures from the deep.and unique rock structures
  • Pick up any road trip supplies such as a cooler, snacks and a roadmap while getting your bearings
  • Check out Splasher’s Bar and Grill. They offer free coffee (with the purchase of an entree) before 11am, are family-owned and operated, and have great reviews!

After a few days of being in one spot, it’s time to hit the open road in the Jeep and head towards Kilauea – just not too close right now, thanks. Getting onto Highway 11, we head south on the Hawaii Belt Road, or the Mamalahoa Highway. It is one part of three that makes up our circle route around the perimeter of the Big Island.

Destination: South Point (Ka Lae) and Papakolea Beach

An olive-green sand beach that was once a volcano.

An olive-green sand beach that was once a volcano.

This is the southernmost point in all of the United Statesm and I would like to stand on it. Other visitors also report amazing olive green, volcanic sand beaches that are well worth a days’ hike to find and do some beach combing on. Although excellent beaches in Hawaii go without saying, this one in particular seemed worth mentioning.

Continuing on the natural path of Highway 11 will take you to Naalehu, a close stop to spend the night.

  • There are plenty of options available, but we like to go off the beaten path at times. A small ‘ Elegant Pohaku House’ caught my eye as a place to stay for the night. No website, I found this spot through a third-party booking website.

Before leaving in the morning, plan to stop at either the Punalu’u Bake Shop or the Hana Hou Restaurant for coffee, sandwiches and other necessary road trip supplies before heading for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Week 2: The eastern shore of the Big Island

Destination: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

I have never seen a volcano close up, and I want to. Now is an excellent time to go, as Kilauea has been experiencing ongoing eruptions since 1983. Either way, seeing volcanoes is certainly a highlight of any trip to the Big Island.

  • The Park’s Visitor Center should be your first stop to get information on restricted areas, lava flows, possible routes and so on. That being said, a number of online resources point towards the Crater Rim Road Tour as an excellent place to start for views of the actively erupting Kilauea volcano.
Not a current shot - but still incredible.

Not a current shot – but still incredible.

Views are nice, but we also want to do a little bit of more active exploring on the Island, and make use of some that dream camping gear we have stored in the back of the Jeep. The park has many miles of trails and hikes to choose from, so 3 or 4 days of back country camping is on the table!

  • You will need a permit to camp. It’s best to make arrangements beforehand, and check all route and park advisories before setting out to ensure lava safety.
  • There are plenty of day hikes available if you would rather spend the night indoors

Destination: Hilo, a beach paradise

Photo courtesy of www.downtownhilo.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.downtownhilo.com

After a couple days of camping, relaxing on the beach in beautiful Hilo, on the eastern shores of Hawaii Island will be a nice change up. A stop at the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens on Highway 11 along the way would be wicked! Although I never have success in growing them.

In Hilo,

  • A wide variety of accommodations from hotel to hostel. We are choosing to investigate the Hilo Backpacker’s Hostel. Planning to do lots of exploring in Hilo, we are not in need a fancy hotel and would like the chance to meet other travelers.
  • Visit the Hilo Farmer’s Market in Downtown Hilo for an authentic Hawaiin market experience, and to stock up on road trip supplies and snacks

There is also time to get in a second day of diving, this time from shore with the well-reviewed Nautilus Dive CenterHopefully we would get to see sea turtles, coral, fish and some more unique lava formations.

We would also like to visit the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii! This is somewhere we would both be very excited to go! The observatory teaches visitors about Hawaiian culture and outer space through their exhibits, a native 4-level garden and a planetarium.

And to eat, check out

  • Sombat’s Fresh Thai CuisineWinner of the Hawaii Heralds ‘Best Thai Food’ category since 2007
  • Paul’s Place – a tiny breakfast/brunch café that specializes in benedict’s, waffles and other classes and has gotten rave reviews from customers

Week 3: Canopy Tours and Kicking Back

The beach paradise of Hilo has put is into relaxed pace, so it’s time for some adventure! Hoping into our Jeep and onto Highway 19 (still part of the Mamalohoa Highway), we head north-west along the coast. This is the scenic route.

Destination: Kamuela and Koloha

I often choose the scenic route because it provides so many opportunities for picture taking, beach combing and general exploring. Hopefully it’s a nice day and we have the soft top off of the Jeep. After a slow day of travel along the coast though, I think a big juicy burger from The Village Burger in Kamuela would taste just right.

  • These burgers boast organically and locally raised or obtained Big Island beef, pork and Ahi tuna
  • Vegetarian options available

After spending the night in Kamuela, a stop at the Waimea Coffee Company is a must for a killer breakfast and the Island’s voted ‘Best Cup of Coffee’. Take it for the road and head onwards to Koloha.

The Kohala Zipline company offers zip line and canopy tours, that can be combined with other activities such as hiking, swimming and island tours. All in all they offer 9 distinct zip lines! There’s a different way to see a country.

Since we are in Hawaii but haven’t checked out a strict seafood restaurant yet, I want to check out Monstera – a Japanese noodle and sushi bar that gets rave reviews!

Destination: The Fairmont Orchid luxury hotel

And now I am just teasing myself.

And now I am just teasing myself.

To finish off a truly spectacular and awe-inspiring dream vacation, we will be concluding our visit with a 3-day stay at the Fairmont Orchid luxury hotel on the western Kona-side coast of the Big Island. The hotel boasts excellent restaurants, top-notch accommodations, and a spa. Go kayaking or snorkeling, or try your hand at something distinctly Hawaiian like basket weaving or canoeing in an outrigger canoe. Be pampered and get relaxed before having to return to real life? YES PLEASE!

  • Even at the resort, having the Jeep still has its perks! There is just enough time to zip back to Kona for one last evening of diving – the much anticipated Black Water Night Dive where divers use lights to attract unique deep sea creatures

Sadly, a trip is always over too fast – even in just the planning stages.! Even in my vacation fantasy world, letting go of the Jeep is hard. Saying goodbye to beautiful, welcoming Hawaii is harder. Now I just have this great trip planned… someone’s going to have to take it.

 

 

Developing my travel blog – a journal, a magazine and a ‘get your hands dirty’ guide.

This past week I have been overwhelmed with the kindness of both ‘strangers’ and friends of family, in response to this post. I use the term strangers in quotes because I feel that I am beginning to develop a familiarity with some of these bloggers through their blogs each week. Thank you everyone.

Also taking place this week is the start of the Daily Post Blogging 201 Challenge. The Challenge combine with a positive response from the social networking community has influenced me to think in a more detailed manner about this blog and what direction I would like to take it in.

cropped-water-header1.jpg

So, briefly about the Theme…

1) I envision Year 24 as a travel diary/magazine that functions to relate, educate, inform, entertain and/or inspire anyone who is passionate about or interested in similar things as me! That is to say – photography, diving, food, writing, travel and the great outdoors (to name a few).

– A travel diary because my content is mostly personal, and coming from my own experiences. The blog doubles as a personal writing space and a developing writing portfolio. Year 24 is a working title, since it only applies for a limited time only.

2) Any future theme developments will find new and better ways to feature images and photography. Less white space.

– I enjoy a magazine-style feel with blogs that post a lot of images because they feature strong photos next to strong words – equal parts. Pictures can say a lot about a situation or a story.

3) The blog is intended as a way to develop and grow my personal brand, through connections and communications with others who share my passions.

– bloggers, photographers, writers, divers

– backpackers, first-time trippers and other travelers

– friends and family

So in light of these general blog ‘themes’, what are some basic goals?

1) A Regular Feature: I want to get into the habit of posting a regular feature. Just a simple, Sunday or Monday 3-photo post each week (example). This shouldn’t be a problem since I always have a camera out and about. The beauty of this being that the content kind of generates itself, as long as I’m not being lazy.

2) Traffic: I would like to see Year 24 getting 20+ visitors each day by the time I leave for Vietnam in January! I have a few ideas of how to achieve this, including the implementation of a regular weekly feature!

3) Portfolio Content: This doubles as a personal goal, but I want to add three more publications by departure time for Vietnam. Since we’re setting goals.


So wish me luck! This is the direction I had planned on taking Year 24 in since I finally decided on a name for the blog back in July. I’m glad these blogging challenges are here to give me the kick I need in the right direction.

Saying goodbye.

I haven’t posted all week because I said goodbye to my grandmother this past weekend. I wanted to write something, but she is all I can think about – so today I remember her.

My beautiful gram just after getting married.

My beautiful gram just after getting married.

One of the very last things she said to me before I said goodbye on our last visit was, “Well, you be careful but I’m still going to worry until your back.” She was talking about my overseas trip to Asia. I can see why she might have been worried. Hell, I have a few doubts myself. But my grandmother was born in 1933 – a very different time.

Kathleen Alice was born in March, specifically. A Pisces. In a small railroad town on the coast of Georgian Bay. Her family came from a heavily French background, with more than a little Native American blood in the mix. She was one of the oldest in a family of 14 children, and food was often scarce. To help feed her family, she dropped out of school after the 3rd grade.

While not uncommon, my grandmother’s upbringing made her tough as nails. She had a wicked sense of humour, always ‘called a spade a spade’, and had a raging sweet tooth. She loved us all fiercely, equally, and endlessly.

However, she had little tolerance for crying – funny now, but not always at the time. An upset phone call to grandma about who-knows-what was often met with the response, “Quit you’re bawling and call me when I can understand what you’re saying!” I can hear her raspy voice in my head saying exactly that, right now as I shed tears remembering these things about her.

There is a large hole in my heart from missing that cheeky, smart, practical woman.

On the first day after her passing, all I could think of her was what I remember of being a small child in her first apartment after she became a single woman again. Making homemade French fries, playing Tic-Tac-Toe or just watching cartoons. I learned that you can bake Play Dough in that apartment, and also just how worked up everyone gets when you don’t come straight home after kindergarten.

Since those early days, my grandmother had been living in a new location. It is in that apartment, overlooking the Bay, which I have spent the last three days with my closest family members. Anyone who has lost a close family member can tell you the truth of this, but there is a lot to think about, do and worry about after a loved one has passed. Through it all, I love her more and more each second.

The view from her apartment. Mine for the last three days.

The view from her apartment. Mine for the last three days.

Going through her things is hard. At first I didn’t know what to do. Our half-hearted attempts at sorting her things were pitiful, but trust me – when you’ve just lost someone one of the last things you want to do is give away or throw out their things! Suddenly, every bauble, tin, knick-knack and item had taken on a special meaning for me. And let me tell you… my grandmother had all of those things, in quantity. I think it’s because she grew up in a time and place where resources such as food and money were scarce.

Over the last three days, looking through every nook and cranny of her home, I have been powerfully reminded over and over again of just who my grandmother was. She was a fierce, beautiful and independent woman. She was a role model and a provider. She was incredibly creative, generous and supportive. Organized, and thorough. Funny, smart and sweet. My grandma, my friend and my confidante.

One of my favorites of her. I'm sorry the glass is a little scratched up! Have been carrying her in my pocket.

One of my favorites of her. I’m sorry the glass is a little scratched up! Have been carrying her in my pocket.

In the days, weeks and years that are to come, I am not worried about forgetting her. I can hear her voice, as clear as a song in my head. Thinking of what she would say to us all now, sorting through her things and missing her, is one of the most comforting thoughts. And although they are small things, I also have some mementos that are distinctly hers. A small tin of marbles, the cards we used to play with when I was a kid, and her charm bracelet are among them. Things to hold close to my heart and tight in my hands when the pain of missing her gets especially strong.

This has happened many times since Saturday. I already miss her so much and she has only been gone six days. It feels like an eternity. I’ve never been particularly religious, but the idea that she will be with me on my trip now makes me smile. At least she won’t have to worry about me while I am traveling, and I won’t have to worry about her worrying about me.

Miss you Gram. Xo.

I decided to take up writing – here is the link to my first published freelance work.

I am very excited to share this link! I have always enjoyed and spent time telling stories and choosing words for paper, it has always been for school or for personal reasons – until very recently. I am proud to have accomplished one of the goals I set out to accomplish this year – to try my hand at writing or selling photographs for pay.

Check out Into the French River Provincial Park,  a photo essay telling the story of a 4-day boating trip in the back-country. Two favorite hobbies are combined: photography and spending time on beautiful Georgian Bay. Published by Parks Blogger Ontario – an online travel style magazine featuring the very best that Ontario provincial parks have to offer, through the eyes of authors who have experienced and photographed them first hand.

Re-blogged: about leaving

I am re-blogging this post because the second paragraph hits the nail so exactly on the head – I think about a lot of this “stupid stuff” when thinking about leaving for SE Asia in January! What to do with money and how to access it, navigating transportation, and getting through the airport without major incident. Although I am still in the planning stage of our backpacking trip, these are the things I think about. This blog is cool because the author started the journey before departure, so we get the full spectrum of the travel experience. Awesome! 🙂

road to nowhere

imageIt was hard. To take that first step. To actually say goodbye to the ones I love the most. To walk through that door knowing that from here on out I’m on my own. That I’m going to have to take care of myself. That I’m going to be the only one I can rely on.

And it’s all the stupid stuff that I’m worried about. Like how will I know where to go. What bus to catch. How to access my money. How to manage it. Where I will sleep. Where will I eat. Will I make friends. How will I tell the good from the bad. How will I do all this on my own. But most of all, am i too young and stupid to be doing this?
I hope not. Because I’m here now, half way to the start of my adventure. And I’m so excited…

View original post 58 more words

What have I been reading to prepare for Vietnam and Indonesia? A lot of blogs.

Non-fiction. But mostly blogs. They have quickly become the best way I know to do research for our upcoming backpacking trip to South East Asia! I alluded to this in an earlier post, when I uploaded a couple of images of my current book stacks and discussed the void formal education has left in my life. As I said, I miss learning and school.

To remedy this, I have been soaking up books – natural histories, biographies, narratives, a variety of magazines, a number of outdoor guides and my PADI training manual. I will also confess to having a number of fiction and fantasy series “on the go”, but they are all currently on the back burner. But the form of media I have been really focusing on and devouring? BLOGS!

Since deciding to plan a trip in April of 2014, I have become more aware of the art that is blogging, and the online community blogging community that exists to support it.

All of these sites I have found myself returning to again and again. I have laughed, gasped and cried because of some of the things I have read on these blogs. Many have inspired me to believe that an alternative lifestyle centered on travel and adventure is not only highly desirable, but entirely possible.

Without further ado, here are some of the fantastic blogs I have been keeping up with since starting to consider international travel from a backpack. Some are directly related to the South East Asia trip planning, although the vast majority are not!

Please comment below with some of your favorite blogs and links – I want to know what you’re reading. Thanks!

Some snapshots of 2015 travel planning, including Vietnam, Indonesia and a Central America trip

Legal Nomads – check out this amazing post about Vietnamese street food by Jodi Ettenberg, a foodie traveler diagnosed with celiac disease. Complete with vibrant photos and a list of destinations to checkout. Then check out the rest of her informative and beautifully laid out site.

Nomadic Matt – I found Matt’s website when I first started doing some SEA trip research, and have kept coming back because he offers advice about a wide range of destinations. Ideal for beginner backpackers on budgets!

All Indonesia Travel Guide – as the name implies, this blog focuses exclusively on the wonders that Indonesia has to offer and is my first stop when thinking about the time we are going to spend there

The Panama Adventure – I stumbled upon Kris’ blog, and it immediately made me 1) want to visit Panama and 2) see more of her amazing volcano photography. Follow as they live and travel in Central America.

Sites that inspire you to get out there and dive…

Pink Tank Scuba – this blog tells the story of a diving obsessed, cancer survivor complete with an inspirational story and amazing photographs. She is also the first person to ever like my blog! J

Scuba Diver Life – tons of interesting and informative videos and blog posts concerning scuba diving today, the state of the oceans and other interesting diving facts. Very cool video below, which was originally re-posted by Scuba Diver Life before it came to me

Dive Zone – another diving blog, with more posts about popular diving destinations and sites. The draw for me is the steadily updating international diving job board hosted by the website.

Having a lifestyle built around travel is possible…

Alex in Wanderland – Alex’s blog was the first blog that made me truly believe a lifestyle built on travel, writing, diving and photography might actually be possible with enough determination and hard work. If that alone isn’t reason enough to check out her site, she covers a wide range of destinations with refreshingly honest and clear opinions about all of them.

Around the World in 80 Jobs – I have been asking myself how I can have a lifestyle that supports both travel and work, and Turner Barr’s website really helps answer that question. Anything from teaching English in China, WOOFing or volunteering with rescue dogs in Thailand.

Be My Travel Muse – lots of tips for me about writing, blogging and freelancing as well as a wide range of travel tips and resources

Globe Trotter Girls – plenty of inspiration and advice to be found here from Dani about a wide span of global destinations and activities. Her blog introduced me to the idea that you can pet/house sit in exchange for complimentary board around the world! With proper references and set up of course.

Amazing photography, with a little something special…

Through Open Lens – Besides the beautiful photographs, I like following this blogger because I learn from it. The artist posts their shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings which I am learning to manipulate better on my own camera.

Jim’s Pic of the Day – eye-catching photography and some amazing macro shots which I am trying to get better at. Inspiration!

Markovich Universe – beautiful images, that you can also purchase in postcard format! I am fascinated by Russia and enjoy looking at this blog on the daily.

Three more blogs you should be checking out…

Hannah Brencher – this a link to a humorous reading list on Hannah’s website with fantastic titles on it! I have found myself referring back to it a number of times, marking down a few of the books on it for reading at a later time

Hike Bike Travel – online travel blog/magazine with the lens focused on North America. Stunning photography, regularly updated and a talented author who gives the site a personal touch.

Parks Blogger Ontario – a magazine style travel blog that acts as a one-stop resource for hikers, campers, paddlers and other outdoors enthusiasts in Ontario. Contributions are made by a wide variety of writers.

As I said, please comment below and share your favorite links! I am new to the blogging community so I have lots of catching up to do.

Writing 101 – Day 4: filling the void with self-guided education

It finally hit me – the thing I have been feeling the loss of most is the presence of formal education in my life. For 19 years my itinerary has been driven by school. I came to this realization while deciding what to write about for the day 4 prompt of the Writing 101 challenge. I have been slacking a bit. At first I contemplated writing about how I shelved scuba diving for a while, but that seemed too easy. It’s also slightly untrue, as I have recently picked that hobby back up. The twist of today’s challenge was also to consider making the post part of a three part series, so maybe a topic that is especially important or relevant to me. I have already mentioned how badly I am missing Prince Edward Island, and again it seems like cheating. And then it hit me – what I have been missing and why I have been reading, writing and yearning to travel so much. I MISS SCHOOL!

2143_49566845487_1167_n

A photo from residence in first year. Photo credit to Jenny Andrew.

Formal education imposes structure on your life whether you want it or not. From an early age, going to school means going sleeping and rising at specified times, adhering to a bus, class, and eating schedule and strict time management. As we age and immerse ourselves further into the system, these demands only increase. University was definitely the epitome of this lifestyle for me. My class schedule was king, and after that work, homework, social life, reading time and sleeping were allowed to crowd in and take space where they could find. Somehow everything managed to get done, with what seemed like a Herculean effort at the time. Coffee was drank, tears were shed and much stress was had by all. So why would I miss that?

I’m not 100% sure but I do know that I miss school. Badly. Maybe I’m just conditioned this way after 19 years, but September means school! It means buckling down, reading more and getting productive after the long days and heat that is summer in Ontario. It means make-shift breakfasts on the go, the smell of burnt toast and way too much coffee. Late nights, too early mornings and never getting enough readings done. You’re always pushing a deadline, or four and the only break you’re going to get is after exams. Christmas can’t come fast enough. All of this is in the pursuit of learning, and I love it.

I always noticed that when I was on break from school, my reading consumption went way up. Not just fiction, but non-fiction too. History, biographies and travel memoirs. Now that I have been out of school for over a year, this habit is out of control. My living space is littered with stacks of books waiting to be read by yours truly. The public library and used bookstores have become close friends this summer, both located conveniently down the street and on my way to work every day. Thankfully I have also recently discovered WordPress and the seemingly bottomless well that is bloggers and travel writers. The social media has got me now! Reading the words and experiences of so many other bloggers, travelers and people like me has truly been what inspired me to start writing and put it out there for others to read.

A mix of what I am currently reading, and my to-read books. There is often overlap between these two categories.

A mix of what I am currently reading, and my to-read books. There is often overlap between these two categories.

20140918_223956

More accumulated reading material from the summer.

So despite passing up school in favor of backing in South East Asia (!!!) – I have managed to start filling the educational void in my life with writing, self-directed learning and eventually some serious travel! Looking at in this from this point of view makes me realize that breaking out of that mold and not returning to school right away might have been the best thing I could do. I am never going to have some of those experiences inside of a classroom. School is the comfort zone, and the point of this year is to push the envelope and try something new.