Saturday, February 25, 2017

A home. Or something like it

“I’m so fucking cold.” I turned to my Nurse Friend and the words came out of numb face as we made our way up the mountain on Stairway to Heaven chairlift. 

As the chair peaked at the top of the Kicking Horse ski hill, we both covered our faces to protect any exposed skin from the ruthless wind. She looked at me rather pathetically and slowly shook her head: “It’s, like, minus 6...”. Clearly I needed a bit more time to acclimatize back to these Canadian Winters.

I’m currently writing a post from Golden, BC sipping a latte and typing away with country music filling the comfortable silence. Hugo and I have once again comfortably taken the spare room at my Nurse Friend’s place for the last three nights. Oh how quickly I adjust to the lifestyle of local wine and boarding. We’ve hit up our favorite bookstore and coffee shops and had our regular lunch on top of the ski hill, poutine no less; it was a fabulous reintroduction to Canada.

With beer induced giggles, I was easily sent a few years back, when, despite my work life was hitting the fan, my personal life was flourishing with weekends spent cross country skiing, snowboarding with my two Nurse BFF’s and a hippy boy, whose memory still knocks the wind out of me. I’ve made a mental note to move back to this Transient Town, perhaps in a year or two. It’s the best part of being so Nomadic, the feeling of home really does become east to imitate regardless of the city, province or country.

I flew into Canada a little over a week ago, where I was greeted by my mom, with longer hair, who keenly showed up at the airport a little late, quite naturally. Shortly after a hug and a hi, I dropped my backpack in her ceramic tiled entrance way and vigorously pet and attempt a hug one very happy Hugo. For sometime like the fourth time in my adult life, I was once again making my mom’s house, my home.
I made the best out of my short week in Alberta where I was able to hit up the Italian market and visit two lovely friends and mentors who provided me with both lifestyle and career advice. I was also able to meet up with the Lovely Amber, who knows all too well on how Asia will change your life, as she traveled there just a few short years ago, and came back with a partner (and now fiancé). I left their apartment after promises of wedding attendance, which was really just me vocalizing my expected invitation. I also had the privileged to play with my two nieces, a less breakable Heidi and her sister, and mine too!

I saw the BC boarder only after my mom and I attended the Pechakucha event where I quite randomly got bellowed at from a few feet away by an old friend in Calgary who I quite adore and have very much looked up to. She’s promised me updates of her and her sisters adventure on hiking the camino de santiago that will take place in a few months (perhaps I can convince her to be a guest poster: Hint Hint). Although I could never live in Calgary again, a great part about visiting old stomping grounds is seeing all those friends who helped make you who you are today. And those friends I was fortunate enough to visit, despite multiple location and time changes on my behalf, or sporadically see on a whim, most certainly had an effect on my life.

Both my Nurse Friend and I have our laptops out on her kitchen table. She’s paying bills and I’m once again successfully avoiding Adulting, well, for a few more days. I’ll be headed up north tomorrow afternoon and I’m genuinely thrilled to see my lovely Northern girlfriends and family. After securing a car, a contract and a cabin, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be spending the next twelve months in the ‘hoof where I will be once again, calling that place home.


An Adult-er

My kitchen is for Dancing.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Lessons from Asia

It's Fly Day today. I was prepping for this day by diving into yoga and baked goods, but alas, over a plate of pad thai and streetlights, I kept telling my Adorable American Counterpart how I could not believe I was going home. I cannot believe it's been four months and I'm going back to the Western World. No more misquote nets and shared rooms. No more new cities and old beds, nor exciting international adventures and plundering mishaps; this girl's Canada bound.

For the last few months, I've acquired quite the lessons from Asia. There’s been some amazing connections, life lessons and realizations that have some from this Adventure.

First and foremost, solo backpacking has been fabulous. I’ve gotten to be completely selfish with my travel decisions. This works perfectly well for me, as my most recent mantra in life seems to be that if I can’t get exactly what I want in a partnership, I’d rather go it alone. On a side note, from a small, white-girl perspective, I’ve felt completely safe traveling solo. Sometimes it's hard, too. Sometimes traveling is hard especially backpacking alone. Planning the next city/country takes effort, and country hopping can be an exhausting blur. Homesickness is real. But it's so very worth it. The sunrises, giggles and those moments that you couldn't possibly invent if you tired, they're worth every obstacle. Try it, friend, if only once.

You really are only alone if you want to be and I’ve met so many amazing people on the way. I'm rather unsure about meeting an equal, my partner in crime or my soulmate, but all those girls (and a few boys) I've met while traveling, have they ever made an impact on my soul.  So many memories that cling to me haven’t really been the big moments, but rather the ridiculous little ones.  There was the excitement of laying on the roof of a Fast-Boat for two hours in Cambodia, listening to The Lumineers and then enduring the reality and fear of having to get into the cabin of the boat without toppling overboard while going really, really fast.

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and despite everything, I still hold true to that. But the Case of the Stolen Blue Backpack was pretty treacherous. It wasn’t just me being stressed out, I was scared. As a Canadian, I’ve been privileged with freedom, and for over two weeks I finally understood what it feels like to not have an identity in a developing, war torn country (heavily inflicted by Americans, which I am one). To not have the right to enter and exit a country on my own terms is a horrible feeling. I’ve always appreciated being Canadian, but this wasn’t something I truly valued until I got my White Temporary Passport. To live in Canada is a privilege, not a right.

In understanding that I wouldn’t be leaving Cambodia anytime soon, I crossed Vietnam and Australia (a sporadic continental desire and yet a quick change of heart) off my list. I was reunited with my Giant Red-Headed babe of a friend: I volunteered in the Peruvian Jungle with Red two years ago and she came and drastically improved my quality of life in Cambodia. Our days were spent seeking out ingredients in often questionable local market and make fresh Kumar food in the Hostel kitchen each night, while diving into Aussie wine and viewing a four dollar film at the movie theater.  I also found a [so very] Canadian, who provided travel envoy, butterflies and some roots to home. It was quite refreshing.

Asia was the continent where I learned about the financial impact I had on developing countries as a white, female, middle-class, traveler. I live in a cabin and Machelmore’s song Thriftshop is essentially one soundtrack to my life, but despite this, when compared to most locals in the countries that I’ve visited, I’m a rather wealthy girl. 

Tourism plays a huge role in exploiting and destroying cultures, so not all tourism is good tourism. There are elephants being mistreated and abused in Cambodian Circuses and elsewhere. Admittedly, I’ve made the mistake of purchasing jewelry made of scrap metal from explosives, which encourages locals to seek out old, and often active, bombs in Laos. Also, I have been warned that visiting Hill Tribes in Thailand made up of Burmese refugees who are left with no other financial option than being forced into playing their part. Essentially, this means that where I, as a traveler, choose to invest my hard earned savings leaves an imprint and impact on this part of the world.

Many people go to South East Asia knowing they economically better than the locals. So many westerns act as though they get a free pass at being a respectable human and are rather acting like a top notch jackass because they’ve got a few extra dollars in their pocket. I’ve witnessed some situations that have made me want to apologize for my fellow North Americans’ behaviors.

It's all about the Friends we Keep, and the connections you make while traveling is amazing.  You don't really have time for the small talk, so typically, once you get the "Where you from, where you headed, how you makin' it happen?" conversation out of the way, you're suddenly talking about your life ambitions what your current career is (and what it really should be), some life blunders and shameless secrets. Most people refer to my sisters by their first names, as they usually name dropped so often. They also know this is one of many adventures and not The Adventure. No rock is left unturned, no moment forgotten. And suddenly this strangers is your Travel Soul Mate, at least for the next twenty-eight hours, to eight days, time restrictions and desired destinations, dependent. It's ridiculous and fabulous and I'm going to miss this terribly.

My sisters and Mum have told me that they miss me and I always respond with "I wish you guys' were here". As the Lovely Amber has promised, Asia has made an impact on my soul. And it's time to go home, I know this, but there is sadness on Fly Day. Asia has been amazing, mind boggling, ridiculous, silly and I've cried some, too; It's been so different than I could have ever imagined, in every way possible.



I've left pieces of my heart everywhere I've gone.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Food for Thought: A Thai Foodie

Years ago. I remember making meatballs. They were infused with Parmesan cheese and herbs, including cilantro (coriander), that I picked, smelled and sampled from the grocery store. This was during a time where the labour of love outweighed the labour of domestic obligation. God, there were moments when I was both excellent and content with my pink-job duties. I carefully rolled out over two dozen of those meatballs ensuring their sizes were spot-on and then continued to fry them to a golden readiness on all six sides.  

If I’ve learned anything on my trip to Asia, it’s how close one gets to various people within only a few hours. Strangers become unforgettable friends so quickly. My newfound friend was lucky enough to spend six months in Northern Thailand, a town called Chiang Mai, while completing an internship. Chiang Mai had a certain vibe about it that I fell into love with, instantaneously. Between the coffee shops, jazz bars and killer yoga classes, I’ve made a promise to this Old Town that I’d be back soon; a return visit for a Yoga Teacher Training perhaps?  The Yoga Freedom CafĂ©, where the classes are about as dreamy as the tatted up, expat instructor, was calling out to me.

So, my newfound friend and I joined a group of five other people to attend a full day cooking course at the Smile Organic Farm an hour outside Chiang Mai, where we picked, smelled and sampled herbs, including cilantro (coriander) in their organic farm, before prepping and cooking seven Thai recipes. And  I was taken to an old memory when the smell of cilantro hit my nose. It was jolting.

When anyone asks me what I’m souvenir I brought back from Asia, I’m going to responds with 15lbs of muffin top. But seriously. My favorite Thai dish is the classic Pad Thai. I swear this food has ruined my taste buds. I also really appreciate how most meals can easily become a vegan dish and they’re still incredibly fabulous. I am now also able to make my own Green Curry, Spring Rolls and Mango Sticky Rice. For my favorite foodies and Bushbabes, I’ll whip us up an impeccable meal, but I'll be expecting wine in return.

As my four newfound friends and cooking classmates stood around me, I carefully and methodically stirred around rice bubbling in sweet coconut milk. I raised my hand to take charge of cooking the rice for the Mango Sticky Rice dessert, and there was no way I was going to fail my classmates. This was during a time where the labour of love felt no domestic obligation.

I remember my ex-partner, a few of his friends and I were sitting at the table and eating the meatballs infused with Parmesan cheese and herbs, including cilantro (coriander), that I picked, smelled and sampled from the grocery store. Quick complements of the meals murmured, I’m sure of it, but what I really remember was a buddy at the table asking my ex if we planned on having kids. His reflex response was a nod and a yes. And that’s how it started and inevitably we ended. It was the first time I realized that this life of mine and the direction it was headed was a choice. I'm in charge of my own life and I couldn't be happier with the decisions I've made and (quite literally and figuratively) where I am now.

My Thai teacher watched as the rice and liquid transitioned into a delicious sweet and sticky mess. She told me I was doing well and asked if I cooked regularly at home. I responded with a simple yes, but in fact I haven’t made a full meal in a very long time, I typically stick to beans, guac, hummus, yummy salads complemented by copious amounts of wine and Hawkins Cheesies to sustain me. Cooking practical, balanced meals seemed like another life ago.



Your choices will change Your world.