Travelling Catalysts OR How to Listen to the Universe

What made me go from a longing to travel to actually making the decision to do so? I’ll tell you – it wasn’t just one thing. Unfortunately I feel if I would have paid attention to the world around me I wouldn’t have waited so long, but there was always an excuse or saying “that’ll be nice… some day”.


Seize the carp.

Debt was the biggest thing holding me back. Somewhere along the line I realized getting out of debt was sacrifice and hard work. My other half and I got into this mess, it was up to me to get out of it. As mentioned in a previous post I slashed every luxury and picked up every extra job. Very soon I was feeling nothing but stressed, overwhelmed and was/am generally a strung out workaholic. I told myself it was only temporary. This had to happen so I have a smooth ride later on. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” was my philosophy. One day that changed. I remembered the philosophy I held dear when I was younger. “I could die tomorrow” and “No regrets” – I know I know, it’s as cheesy as a Carpe Diem tattoo, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

I can’t live in this stark black and white world anymore, I need some grey. Travel can fit in as long as I don’t throw my plan and goals of being debt free out the window. It might take me longer but at least I’ll be happy while doing it and won’t regret putting it off for so long.

Once I finally warmed up to the idea and let go of the guilt of investing in myself, I didn’t do anything about it. I’m always the one taking action and making things happen and with this idea it just sat out there like a dead fish in the sun. Then one day I started noticing the signs. Maybe it was my subconscious highlighting the messages, maybe the universe just coincidentally lined things up just so. Whatever the driving force my brain started to take the fuzzy out of focus puzzle pieces and put them together into a clearer picture.

The first major wake-up call came from my boss funnily enough. She sent me an article she had read about breaks from work and the idea of “taking the summer off” now my organization had a habit of shutting down for 2 weeks at the end of August and 2 weeks at the end of December. This was a nice break but as we grew and took on more staff these shutdown periods soon ended blurring into regular work and now even scheduling owed vacation time can be difficult. What really set me off was the link I followed in the article to this video: 

By the end of that 17min video I had made up my mind. Not sure what the parameters were but that I was taking a break. I knew a year wouldn’t be feasible. It’s also not what I want. I like the life I built and want to enjoy it with my husband and my pets and my home. But other then short vacations away I’ve never had a change like that and I’ve never truly done anything alone.

After being inspired I started to second guess myself. People don’t really do that do they? I’ve always been taught that that kind of flexibility doesn’t exist in the workplace. Well why not? Whenever I catch myself blindly following what others tell me is impossible, I ask myself why. What are the barriers that are imposed? Are they real legitimate barriers or are they imposed by others and only existing in people’s minds and social constructs. I am both a weirdly traditional, yet untraditional person. If I wanted this to work I just have to go ahead and do it like I did everything else in life.


Think of the possibilities!

The clincher was this article which I read shortly after I watched the above video. It reminded me why I wanted to travel and the joy I get from new experiences, seeing new parts of the world and really stretching my existence on this planet while I’m here. All these signs worked together, I decided it and without fear told my boss my plans. One of the reasons I love my job/organization so much is that my coworkers were so happy for me and made sure I knew it wouldn’t effect my place there. So many parts of the world do this naturally whether it’s taken as a gap year, a professional sabbatical or just a break from life, I’m sad in Canada we don’t take our cues more from Europeans, British or Australians for whom this is a more common practice.

My trip will be 2 months long not a year  like many think when you hear the term sabbatical but I feel like this is the first step to setting a standard in my life that will help me put myself above my work and help me to flourish in the years ahead.

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Pinterst and Unrealistic Expectations

pinterest_icon_0Ohhh Pinterest, one of the largest time thieves of the internet. If you’re not familiar, Pinterest is a visual bookmark site where users can “pin” images to to virtual cork boards to keep track of your interests. You can also browse other users pins of similar topics to add and connect or follow other boards that interest you.

For the travel lover Pinterst can be quite a rabbit hole to fall down. Browsing gorgeous professional photos from some of the world’s most exotic locations feels dreamy. Who wouldn’t want to visit every one of the places in the photos?

Problem is staged photographs, like models in magazines, don’t reflect reality. Any location can be staged to be amazing but with the inconsistency of the weather, conditions, time of year and budget it sets up unrealistic expectations. Looking at photos of the Taj Mahal isn’t reflective of what it’s like to travel to India. Travel is grittier, more chaotic, more exhilarating and more rewarded then photographs could ever convey.

photo-collageThat said Pinterest can be a great tool for organizing a trip. Pinning hotels or hostels, excursions or adventure companies, monuments and sights allow for a central space to keep track of information and websites both visually and by location.

I’ve been using Pinterst to both plan my upcoming trip as well as dream big for the future.

Do you have/use Pinterest?
Post a link in the comments, I always love to follow fellow travellers!

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Time flies

It’s been a few months. As I’ve toiled away working mostly 6-7 day weeks for the last 6 months I’ve been dreaming and planning. Instead of reflecting on possibilities of what could be, I was making decisions and putting plans in motion.

I decided that the one month I planned on taking off wasn’t long enough. If I’m going to do this I’m going all out. Two months sounded better. I took into consideration slow periods at work, weather patterns in different locations, high/low season prices. Looked into flights, airlines, costs. I started with a huge wish list and began whittling it down bit by bit. Finally hit the point of budgeting where the price started to negatively affect the overall experience I wanted and stopped. Then I saved, took on even more work and socked it away until finally I just had to pull the trigger and book.


This one might not be big enough…

Initially my plan was to book it all. Flights, accommodation, overland travel, adventures. My over analytical and hyper logistic brain told me that that would be the best safety net. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t leave the house without a plan of where I am going and how even if it’s just downtown to meet friends. I’ve never been very spontaneous, I have issues with change and all of it comes back to my anxiety disorder. The concept of being in a noisy chaotic atmosphere all alone and getting lost and not speaking the language makes me cringe, the more I think about it I can feel my anxiety rising. When I talked to friends about my trip they couldn’t believe I was planning so much so far in advance. They actually looked at me like I was slightly crazy. I had to wait to 12 months before the flight date to book my flights. Airlines won’t book further in advance then that. I understand for most people that seems like such overkill. What I try to explain is that my brain works at top speed almost all the time. I am thinking of 10 things at once nearly every minute of the day (and I wonder why I’m so tired!). I need time for my brain to process every conceivable option, choice or scenario. If I can imagine it, and it happens I am mentally prepared. The concept of being caught-off guard and in a vulnerable position with no one there to bail me out is enough to give me a panic attack.


I would rock that cape!

Don’t be worried for me. I have spent the last 15 years coming to terms with and managing my anxiety. I’m in a pretty good place. No regular meds. As needed meds used sparsely these days but have them for back-up and I have skills to cope when things start to spiral. I’ll never shake this beast but boy if you could see me 10 years ago, I don’t know if I was really very functional. So preparation like I’m doing won’t completely eliminate travel anxiety but will allow me to be functional and have fun (fun is the key!)

All that to say I have booked and paid for my flight into Thailand in February and home from Bali in April. Despite having a plan (I have multiple mapped out itineraries, travel options and multiple accommodations options selected for each location) I finally feel safe enough to leave the rest up to chance. The benefits of deciding to stay in one place longer, change up my accommodations if I’m not happy or head out of town for a couple days on an adventure appeal to me now more than ever before.

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Why I like “Bucket Lists”

We all have things we want to accomplish in life and in our travels. I am a born administrator so of course when thinking of my goals my brain immediately says “how can I categorize/organize my goals” I find laying things out in a chart or a list very helpful. Timelines and to do lists are staples in my life. Why wouldn’t I apply that same logic to my fun as well as my work?

Ok re-reading that back it doesn’t sound like much fun. I don’t mean it in a pencil pushing, grey cubicle, fill out this paperwork, kind of way. I mean it in a day-dreamy, brain-stormy kind of way. Use your imagination to come up with all the things you’d like to do. Write them down and see which ones you can check off your list. There are lots of websites out there that can be a fun way of keeping track, my favourite? Day Zero Project (disclaimer I am not affiliated and they are not paying me) I started in back in 2010 with an initial goal of 101 goals in 1001 days. I started small. Rearrange my music library. Read 10 new books. I checked in with the list every few months to update my progress but it also motivated me to reach for those farther off experiences as well. After 1001 days I was able to accomplish 93 of the 101 goals I had set out for myself and my life was better for it.


It’s a nice idea right?

Honestly looking at that list now, that’s probably double what I would have done if I hadn’t written it down. So when that was done I stared a new list. Another 101 goals in 1001 days. Just like dreams, once you achieve them, you only get to dream bigger! So this time, I added my travel goals into the mix. Ride an elephant, visit with tigers, swim under a waterfall, eat Thai street food in Bangkok etc. Now I’m only 20% of the way through my current list and getting close to the half way mark but with so many of my goals tied to my trip I’m not worried. These goals are more like guidelines to remind me of what I hold important and what I want to achieve, not a report card to mark how well I’m completing my life.

Have you thought about some of the experiences you’d put on your bucket list? Maybe try writing them down, you never know what kinds of experience you can have if you don’t set your mind to it and put yourself out there.

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Travel as quality family time

3 years ago my parents made a decision. Enough spending money on a pile of Christmas presents of items that we could frankly live without. They made the decision to invest in quality time instead of a quantity of things. In lieu of gifts – a trip! An all inclusive week vacation for the whole family to someplace warm and sunny! I can’t say I wasn’t thrilled.

At a time when I was newly married and my sister had moved in with her boyfriend, my parents were mortgage free and no kids were at home the timing seemed perfect. Scheduling seemed the biggest hurdle trying to find a time around everyone’s jobs but we were all pretty motivated which made it easier.

Cuba, Jamaica and Mexico – 3 times! We’re been hiking through the jungle, snorkeling, boating, swimming, quad biking, sight seeing, climbing ruins, cave diving, lying on white sand beaches, swimming in turquoise waters and all the while eating and drink until we rolled ourselves into bed. That kind of time together that is harder and harder to come by these days and these are trips we’ll always remember.



Unfortunately, after a few years life moves on. As my parents look towards retirement and my sister is preparing for her wedding the disposable time and money to go away and our family trips are at an end.

We had our last family trip this winter. Bittersweet, I’ll probably savour it more then past years knowing it’s the last but am thankful we had the opportunity to do this as long as we have.

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Prioritizing Money

Money is probably the biggest factor when it comes to travelling. I know it is for me. After being in debt for the last decade enough is enough. I’ve spent the last 3 years working 4 jobs to fight for the life I want. I’m not there yet, I still have a couple of years until I’m in a comfortable financial position but that’s not stopping me.


Drowning in it.

When I finally hit my limit I was living not only pay cheque to pay cheque but living on the last $100 off a constantly maxed out credit card. I decided that I drastically needed to cut expenses and increase my income if I ever wanted to make a change and fulfill my travel dreams. I relied on my skills, hustled my butt, picked up a part-time job and started taking freelance work on the side. It’s a difficult pace working 6-7 days a week but I knew it wouldn’t be forever and I the found extra work doing jobs I liked and that didn’t cause me added stress. Freelance work as a designer is a great option because I can take on extra projects when I have the time and slow down a little when I’m feeling stressed.

The other side of the coin was cutting expenses. The good thing about taking on extra work means I had less time to spend what I was making! But it wasn’t enough, we sat down and mapped out 3 months of expenses. Figured out how much we needed to cut and started slashing. Cable tv? gone. Expensive internet provider? changed. Groceries? Started buying no name brands, cheaper cuts of meat, buying and cooking in bulk and going vegetarian a couple times a week. No more coffee every morning, no more nights out, definitely no eating out. It was hard and we struggled and failed sometimes but we kept at it. After the growing pains, finally facing that we were living beyond our means and waking up from the denial – things started to change.


Canadian money is pretty isn’t it?

The trap lies in the fact that just because you’re making more, doesn’t mean you can spend more. Treat the new income like out of sight, out of mind. Sock it away or have it automatically transferred out of your accounts before you can see it. Pay off those credit cards and pay down your student debt. Once you’re finished tackling your debt start saving! Keep socking it away at the same rate. Best rule of thumb is to have 3 months of living expenses saved in case of a life emergency. It’s temping to want to splurge but make sure you’re taken care of first!

Got all that done? Good – now you’re in the perfect place to travel! Let’s get real, not everyone is going to be able to pull that off before traveling. I know I won’t. Despite working extra jobs and cutting all my expenses to the bare minimum – life happens. My husband’s living in constant limbo of getting laid off. Being in debt that is a terrifying thought. I don’t know how it’s going to pan out. Am I cancelling my trip? Hell no. I’m going to continue working and hope for the best. Given that my trip is over a year away things may change. I haven’t booked anything concrete but I’m not going to adjust my trip timeline until I know for sure I can’t afford it. Until then I’m going to keep on trucking and planning my trip and as long as I’m working towards my goal and prioritizing money – I’m happy for now.

What are some of your best money saving tips when trying to budget for travel?

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Get over your fear

1000 excuses keep people form travelling when they desire to. So many of them based around fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of new, fear of different.

The sum of all your fears leads to one conclusion. Nothing you experience will be so overwhelmingly bad it ruins your whole trip (excluding any medical issues). Anything that pushes you outside your comfort zone will only make you stronger. Stuck in India with only an upset stomach and a public squat toilet? Got on the wrong overnight train in Belarus? Skinny dipping in Costa Rica and the locals steal your clothes? Every experience adds to your story – good or bad. (Just make sure you’re prepared with a safety net or plan B in advance) Why live a life where nothing remarkable happens when amazing things can be found everywhere. The farther from home you are and the more uncomfortable you get the deeper and more rich the trip becomes.

face your fears

Venn diagram for life.

I get comfortable in my daily routines. When travelling I miss that familiar sense of relief arriving home at the end of the day knowing I have an excited puppy waiting for me to get home, comfy pj’s and a stack of DVD’s to settle in and watch. But the temporary excitement of new experiences and an upheaval of routines is refreshing and invigorating. I look forward to the new perspective I gain and the bigger picture view of life it gives me.

Nothing’s worse then getting so caught up in the minute details of daily life – Oh did I remember to buy the laundry detergent that’s on sale? I need to make sure to mow the lawn on Saturday since it might rain Sunday, or maybe we should prepare the paperwork for our taxes early this year? So break out of it and face your fears of the unknown. You never know, the things you think you fear may be just the things that make life worth living.

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