SOL: Appreciation

For adoration, the creation of high
Standards and the brash insistence that I
Never settle for anything less than exactly what
I want, leading by example and demanding nothing but
Excellence in every endeavour, constantly pushing boundaries
Breaking molds and challenging barriers – assumptions
For pouring gasoline on misguided notions and then
Putting a lighter in my stocking for Christmas, my
Mischievous provider, I could not live a stale life even
If I wanted to, you have filled my expectations to the brim and
I lust for nothing less than pure
Magic and spontaneous adventure.

For support, the fostering of
Ideas and the encouragement to pursue risky ventures
Helping me off the ground after each fall and
Reminding me that like buds, I will spring forth again
Telling me that the torn skin on my knees is
Simply proof of a lesson, not a failure
Pushing me towards greatness, mentoring me after
Error, chastising me with a smirk when I came
Home in the early hours of morning with wild hair, laughing eyes and
A childish grin, and you still telling me
I look like a goddess.

For sacrifice, the perpetual struggle of
Knowing what you would lose and instead focusing on
What I would gain, selflessness personified
Offering me on blistered hands what you
Hustled for, struggled to obtain and dressing it up with the
Ribbons from each birthday party you threw and tossing
Flowers at each recital you never missed, the
Constant belief that I could be anything I wanted
Ensuring a safeguard for my future but recognizing
In my petulant face, so like yours
That I would carve my own path with
The tools you provided.

For candor, the brutal honesty of
Fiery words and tempers clashing, the gods themselves
Were forged within fires such as these
Hands pulled through hair with the realization you are
Arguing with a child less, a replica more
Pulling no punches as words are carved with eloquent mouths
It was you who first put a pen in my hand and
Told me to write, reminding me that
Each experience was a blessing, telling me to pile
The rocks and epithets hurled at me into a foundation
Upon which I would one day flourish
Arming me with the knowledge that we all choose our own fate and
Never letting me admit defeat.

For stability, the unwavering dedication to
The fostering of my dreams and the insistence
That I never accept no for an answer
The quiet pain of watching me grow and shrink with
Love and lack thereof, the fear I heard in your eyes but
Not in your voice when you put me on a plane
Praying the dark cloud over my head was not terminal
Questioning my moves but understanding my motives
You are the powerhouse, the unwavering driving force
The sun our souls revolve around, and so
I hope you never foolishly forget that I
Will always find my way home to you.

3AM Thoughts // AKA “Why I Love You – Happy Birthday Mom.”

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MIND: Snip Snip

We live in an age where we feel guilt whenever we have to cut someone off but the reality is that some relationships do need to die, some people do need to be unfollowed and defriended. We aren’t meant to be this tethered to the people in our past.

The Internet mandates that we don’t burn bridges and keep everyone around like relics but those expectations are unrealistic and unhealthy. Simply put, we don’t need to know what everyone else is up to. We’re allowed to be choosy about who we surround ourselves with online and in real life, even if it might hurt people’s feelings.

You Don’t Have To Be Friends With Everybody // Ryan O’Connell

SOL: Twenty-Four

B5

The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.

// Jean-Paul Sartre

It is bittersweet to acknowledge that I am already another year older. The past twelve months have flown by, yet each one held its own milestone. I am eternally grateful for the life I lead and for the people who enrich my life and support me throughout all my ridiculous endeavors.

While it brings me existential angst to reflect on the fact that another year has already passed, I am comforted by the knowledge that I am in a better place emotionally, physically and mentally. I’m constantly in the pursuit of growth, whether it be through new cultural experiences, challenging relationships or continuing education. While in my 23rd year I was internally focused on rebuilding my foundation, in my 24th year I will start living externally and bringing to fruition the goals I have internalized for years due to fear of failure. It has come to my attention that I have been choosing the “safe” options for far too long and I want to start taking risks and pursuing happiness on my own terms.

I am constantly astounded at how quickly we can alter our lives and at how rapidly our goals can change. Last year I was preaching ad nauseam that I was going to eschew all acceptable avenues of living and perpetually travel the globe as a nomadic yuppie hipster. Travel will remain one of the great loves of my life; in order to fully understand yourself and the world you live in it is imperative to experience new climates, cultures, and styles of living. However, I do believe that there comes a time when being rooted and establishing a home base of your own becomes less of a hindrance and more of a luxury.

If I am brutally honest, my travels last year were used as a coping mechanism; the adventurous equivalent of a jet-pack emergency release. Life had simply become too much for me to handle and leaving the country felt like the only way to re-calibrate and regain control. I didn’t realize how much more stable I had become until I began to prepare for this trip and realized that I did not need to leave this time around – I wanted to (albeit reluctantly at times). Even now, I can feel that my relationship with travel has changed and this will be my last extended trip abroad. The desire to flee is not omnipresent; my priorities have changed (for the time being) and I am more interested in building a future and investing my time with those who are important to me.

Leaving home this time around was bittersweet but settling in Spain has given me the kick in the ass that I needed. If I am going to willingly separate myself from the people I love, I want to be able to have something to show for it in the end. While last year I genuinely needed time to balance myself, I now have the tools I need to pursue my goals and make things happen. My youthful entitlement has evaporated and I want to push towards what I want – fear of rejection or failure be damned.

My goal for my 24th year is simple, straight-forward, and ultimately clichéd as hell; I aspire solely to create a life that fits my own ideals of health, wealth and happiness. I do not wish to be rich, mass success holds no appeal and I do not dream of fame. I simply want to be happy (inside and out) and as a result, bring happiness to other people’s lives.

As my birthday is rapidly coming to a close on this side of the globe, I want to once again thank my friends and family who thought of me today. Sending lots of love from Europe.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Post-Travel Blues & How to Say “No” to the Ordinary

A year ago I made a seemingly small but ultimately life-changing decision – I decided to subscribe to updates from a blog called Nomadic Matt. The founder grew up in Boston and traveled little, but after finishing his MBA he decided to take his first real trip abroad. After that he was hooked and he is now a life-long traveler committed to sharing his pearls of wisdom with others. It is through one of his e-mail updates that I first discovered Workaway and from there everything seemed to fall into place.

Now that I’m back in Canada I still read his blog and file away the useful tidbits of information as he doles them out. Last week I came across an article of his that articulated with absolute eloquence the feelings I’ve been experiencing since returning from my trip. In his post he discusses post travel depression and commiserates with everyone else who has returned from a trip only to feel suffocated on home soil.

It was as if home had remained frozen during my time away. I still loved my friends, family, and city, but I didn’t fit in anymore. I had outgrown living there. Home felt small and unrelatable – I had this fire in me that I couldn’t express to anyone and it frustrated me. It yearned to try new things, go new places, meet new people but whenever I tried to express that, words fell flat. That fire was a feeling only those who had traveled seemed to understand – a simple nod to convey understanding of this shared bond.” (Nomadic Matt, Sept 2014).

Coming home is difficult. I have stressed to my closest confidants that I feel like I’m reliving last winter all over again – the same jobs, the same experiences and the same people. I try my hardest not to offend anyone; it goes without saying that while I was abroad I missed my family and friends daily, but I knew I was on a path that was worthwhile. My little slice of emotional suffering was worth it. While I was abroad I grew up and grew into myself and as a result I feel different in my skin. I hold the most important stories from the five months of solo-travel deep in my belly and guard it with a voracious pride; I am the only one I can truly share those moments with.

One of my mom’s friends asked her if I had re-acclimatized myself to life in Canada. My mom replied succinctly, “She hasn’t yet and I don’t think she ever will.” She’s right; the minute I touched down I felt welcomed into familiar surroundings but I carried a new bud of enlightenment in me that made me feel like an outsider. “Home” is a fluid term for me now; I can make a home anywhere, and I would prefer to make my home everywhere.

I’ve already started planning my next journey. I’m already making packing lists in my head and looking at maps and reading about the different climates and which metro gets you to which cathedral the fastest. I’m researching bus costs and connecting flights with undisguised zeal. Until I figure out how to turn my passion into payment, I must simply accept that I now commute and work seven days a week. In the end, I know these next few months of work will pay-off. It will all be worth it.

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
Leonardo da Vinci

Safe travels,
AS

 

SOL: Travel Updates

“I Don’t Speak Freaky-Deaky Dutch.”

Unexpected travel surprise; upon accepting placement at a campsite in the south of France I assumed I would be forced to flex my française chops all the time. Erroneous on all counts! Turns out not only is there a massive influx of Dutch and English expats to the southern regions of France it’s also a popular vacation destination. As it is I have been hearing more Dutch than I ever expected to hear in my life over the past six weeks of high season. With my blonde hair and fair skin they automatically assume I am of Dutch descent which leaves me nodding frantically as they ramble on in their Netherlands tongue. Sadly, I have picked up zero Dutch language skills while here.

Packing Woes

A month or so before I embarked on this trip I posted a brief description of what I’d packed. I’ve since reread said post, and I would like to make one addendum: I AM A BONAFIDE IDIOT. All the items I painstakingly purchased and packed have been collecting dust in my suitcase. I’ve been wearing the same pair of flip-flips to work on the pool every morning; I hit up a few Vide Greniers (basically an open-air thrift store that circulates from village to village each weekend AKA my utopia) and grabbed tees and hippie digs for 50 centimes each. They have been my lifesavers while coping with the intense humidity of the region AND they carry the added bonus of being tossed without remorse at the end of my trip. I could have easily, and I cannot stress this enough, cut out at least half of what I brought with me, but if I’m being brutally honest with myself 3/4 of my precious packing could have been left behind. This travel rookie is slowly learning the ropes. When travel blogs tell you, “Take whatever you’ve packed and remove half,” they are not messing around. Oh, how the ignorant flounder.

Reaffirming My Faith in the Kindness of Strangers

I mentioned earlier that a lot of people voiced their concerns about me partaking on this long trip by myself. Admittedly I worried I was going to have a complete mental breakdown after months of solitude, but it never happened. By traveling alone, especially with the Workaway positions I have taken, you are welcomed into people’s homes and lives with open arms. I am forever in awe of the acceptance I have received while on this trip. It is a sweet reminder that beautiful souls reside all over the world. We are conditioned to live in a state of perpetual fear (have you seen the news lately?) but when you step outside your comfort zone and experience the world you realize how many truly spectacular people are on this planet. The people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during my trip have been so accommodating and gracious I cannot believe my good luck. I have had such an amazing first experience with Workaway I am already planning out another adventure!

In a few days time, I will leave my hosts in the Lot Valley and spent a few days visiting family near Dijon. Afterwards, I cap off my trip with a few foolish days in Amsterdam and then before I know it, I will be back on home turf.

Safe travels.

Namaste,
AS

SOL: Four Days Out

SOL: Four Days Out

Four days to departure.

It feels incredibly surreal to finally be on the cusp of the adventure I have been planning since last summer. I honestly don’t think it has fully hit me – it’s possible it won’t sink in until I’m there.

I don’t want to preach this trip as a “dream come true,” because as of yet I’m not sure if it is. But I can attest to the fact that this trip is one thing in my life that I have worked towards and have prepared for entirely by myself. In that sense, I am deriving a huge sense of pride already. I set numerous goals before leaving on this trip and I met each one. The sense of accomplishment in the simple act of leaving is indescribable.

I’m scared, of course. I’m bottling up my fear and trying to be brave. I’m desperately trying to tune out the voice in my head that is reminding me of what I have already lost, and what I may lose, and instead focusing on what I have to gain. I am hoping to create a character metamorphosis on this trip. I hope that I shake the nagging depression that has been clinging to me like a wet towel for years. I know it will be hard. I expect to break down. I fully intend on crumbling into heaps of rubble and wanting to blow away. I just need to know that I am capable of picking myself back up. I need to feel that rush of joie de vivre again. I want to stop focusing on finding love with people and falling in love with my life.

I’ve been creating packing lists and looking at maps since last July. I’ve been packing and re-packing for months. I’ve booked hotels through Hotwire, trains through Rail Europe, planes through IcelandAir and established a host through WWOOF France. I’ve been shopping like a maniac and purchased everything under the sun that I could possibly need. Yet I have not mentally and emotionally prepared myself to leave home for months.

There’s a funny thing about leaving. In the past few months there has been a mass purging of my relationships. I noticed that technology, and especially social media, has allowed me to keep unhealthy relationships in my life. I want to cut ties and rebuild. I want to allow myself to be selfish.

In a few weeks, I will be celebrating my 23rd birthday. Looking back on my 22nd year, I can see the changes that lead me to take this trip. I graduated from university and college. I ended a relationship and declined a proposal. I dated people I shouldn’t have and had my heart broken by people I didn’t expect to care about. I both started and left my first real job. I got into my first serious car accident and managed to walk away unscathed. I learned the ups and downs of casual relationships and serious relationships until I realized the only relationship I want to be in is the one with myself. I got my certification to teach English as a second language. I realized that you should always tell people how you feel about them when you have the chance (even if it hurts). I got blackout drunk and woke up hours later with a black eye and a “missing” wallet. I discovered that at the end of the day it’s you that has to live with your choices. I realized that accepting blame and responsibility for your actions is a shitty but necessary feeling.

In my 23rd year, I hope to evolve. I hope to stop wearing my skin like a suit of armor. I aspire to make a home out of my body – to live and love within it. I hope I start being more honest with myself about what I want. I pray I have the courage to walk away from anything or anyone that attempts to belittle me. I hope I can understand that I don’t need to have everything figured out. I hope I learn to stress less and enjoy more. I hope I wake up every day looking forward to my life. I hope I become more independent. I hope I write more and feel inspired. I hope to nourish my soul. I want a passionate year (& life) and I refuse to settle for anything less.

There will never be a trip like this one again in my life.
I promise myself I will make this trip as positive as I can.
I promise to write as often and as honestly as possible.
I promise to be safe and use common sense.
I promise to see and live and explore and thrive.

Safe travels,
AS