Thursday, March 12, 2015

Time Flies!

Wow!  Has it really been 2 1/2 years???  What have we done in that time?  hmmm ... Returned to work, bought a house, filled it with more "stuff",  supported our now 13 year old in her various sports endeavours (by being chauffeurs, spectators and financiers), had some adventures, visited a few new places, spent time with family and friends.

We certainly haven't stopped traveling, though we now fit it in between long stretches of work.  We have been back to New York 3 times to visit Madeleine, took a very long drive that took us from Vancouver to Newfoundland via Western Canada, Chicago, Washington, New York, Rhode Island and Nova Scotia, hiked half of the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island (Chloe is working on getting me to do the trail in its entirety this summer), enjoyed friends on Vancouver Island and the surrounding islands and hung out with family in Maui, Mexico and the cabin on the Sunshine Coast.  We have also had visitors from Wales, England and Sweden who helped us see our fair city from a tourists perspective.

So I guess we have done a few things since we've been home from our Round the World Trip.   It was such a whirlwind of a year and we experienced so many new things that being home most nights, going to the same place to work most days and seeing the same sights and people seems very slow in comparison, yet the time seems to have flown past.  

And speaking of time flying, Paul is turning 50 this year.   He was thinking that he wanted to see something new and different to mark the occasion so he booked us flights to Iceland!  We leave tomorrow.  

The other 2 intrepid travellers are tucked in their beds, resting up for a big travel day ahead.   Paul has reminded me on several occasions over the last few days that while he is driving to Seattle, Chloe and I can sleep whenever we like so I have little incentive to rush off to bed.  Although, a restful sleep in a comfortable bed before a night sleeping trying to sleep in an economy seat on an airplane does sound like a good idea.

I'm hopeful that I can convince my family to join me in writing a post or two about our trip over the next 10 days.  We will all just have to wait and see.   (Nance, this is for you!) 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What A Year!

How do I possibly sum it up in one post? Maybe I can start by answering the questions I am frequently asked,...

How was it? Amazing!! Definitely better than I had expected.

Was it hard traveling together for a year? There certainly were times when we got frustrated or tired of each other but for the most part we all got along pretty well and we definitely know each other better than we had ever imagined we could! Chloe probably had the hardest time,... Paul and I could (and did) get away on our own once in a while when we needed a break or if there was something that really interested us or was cost prohibitive for all of us to do. Chloe however was always with at least one of us. She frequently reminds us of the fact that she had exactly 7 hours away from us the whole year (the longest stretch being when she got to hang out with Madeline on the island of Koh Lanta in Thailand).

What was my favorite place? I have been finding that a very difficult question to answer. In fact, I think I've given a different answer every time I've answered. Galapagos Islands, South Africa, Kruger Park, Victoria Falls, Murcheson Falls, Cordoba, Spain, Peru and Peru's Challenge, Gili Air, Koh Lanta, Ankor Wat, Iguazu Falls, Valparaiso, Stockholm, Great Barrier Reef, Blue Lagoon in Bali, Cartagena, Goreme, Olympos, Venice, Wales, Chaing Mai, Dinan, St. Malo,... I could go on and on (guess I really have already!).

Are you happy to be home? Yes and No. Yes, it's great to see friends and family and it will soon be nice not to have to pack every few days. I'm happy to be reunited with Jessy. I appreciate having a comfortable bed to sleep on, a cushy pillow to rest my head on and reliable showers with good pressure and warm water. (thanks to Nancy and Scott!) I love the calm that overtakes me as I take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale. I enjoy looking at the North Shore Mountains and have been pleasantly surprised by and proud of the friendliness of my fellow Vancouverites.

On the other hand I miss having only 3 pairs of shoes, 7 shirts, 1 pair of pants, 2 shorts, 1skirt and 2 dresses. I miss not caring about wearing the same clothes for days on end. I miss setting our own schedule. I miss not having to consider who I might be offending by not attending an event or inadvertently missing someone on 'the list'. I miss discovering new places and being awed about what is looming ahead of me as I turn a corner. I miss the European outdoor restaurants and relaxed attitude about drinking wine at the beach or in a park. I miss chatting with people from all around the world and swapping stories in the hostels or apartments we stayed in. I miss walking straight into the warm ocean waters. I miss snorkeling, swimming alongside sea lions and sea turtles and looking at colorful fish and corals. I miss the food in India, the cobblestone streets of Europe, the sky that seems to be bigger in Africa, the giraffes crossing our path and elephants who appear to be hiding behind bushes in Kruger Park, the warm waters, friendly smiles and cheap accommodation of SE Asia, the sea lions, lizards and boobies that we walked amongst in Ecuador, the rocks of western Australia, the breathtaking beauty of the undersea world at the Great Barrier Reef, the incredible architecture of the Incas in Peru, the awesome waterfalls of Canada, Argentina and Africa,... I miss the friendly people we met, the relatives we got to know a little better and the lasting friendships we made along the way (you know who you are). Mostly, I miss spending time with Paul and Chloe.

Would you do it again? DEFINITELY!! We met a British couple in Australia who were on part 7 or 8 of their RTW tour. Like us, they had traveled with their young child for an extended period and have since been on several shorter trips to various areas of the world. Like them, we have decided that our trip is not done or over, it is just on hold. Our RTW tour will be continued,...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

It's Time

When I met my friend Todd in Avignon he challenged me to bring proper closure to the trip through the blog and to not just let it die of neglect once I got back to Vancouver.

Originally when I got back I thought of doing a "Best Of" blog that would allow me to reflect and recapture the feeling of being "out there." Well, I've been back in Vancouver now for a week. The "Best Of" blog just ain't happening. At least not yet anyway. Maybe once the photos get organized.

Now tomorrow marks the day I have tried to ignore the most - the dreaded "I have to go back to work day." I am certainly not dreading the chance to see many friends and colleagues and bore them with tales of world travel. It's the routine that work brings with it, and the threat of the "rut" that I have realized I can so easily fall back into and so dearly wish to avoid. I remember coming home 20 years ago from backpacking in the South Pacific and being so keen to see more. Then work and life happens and 20 years goes by before you even realize it. I am so thankful for the chance to be able to finally both see and do more. The way I look at a map is now irrevocably changed. The challenge is to remember the awesome feeling that accompanied seeing things both long-awaited and those discoveries that were unexpected. That way this "hiatus" will be a short one and we will once again be out there.

But that's for a later date. Now it's time to figure out what I should wear to work (ugh - socks) and to complete one last end of trip ritual. We started collecting friendship bracelets on the trip. One for every country that we visited. It was quite foreign to me, as I didn't really "do" jewelry of any kind, but I found I really got into it. But just as they once went on, now it is the time that they come off. At least all but one. I figure I'll keep one on as a little memento of my other life (along with the tattoos). It can ride solo until it is once again joined by others.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Getting Closer

The morning mist of Westhawk Lake
With the foreign portion of the trip now wrapped up I have been able to enjoy a gradual re-entry into Canadian life by enjoying the hospitality of my family both at Westhawk Lake in Manitoba and now in Calgary.

Westhawk Lake is about a 2-hour drive east of Winnipeg. Ever since I was a kid it has been a destination for family vacations, first at my Grandmother's trailer and now at my Uncle Cliff (my Dad's brother) and Aunt Eleanor's cottage.

After picking up Heather from the airport and watching her reunite with Jessy, we arrived at the lake and were enthusiastically welcomed by the vast number of family (13) who were hanging out at the lake. What followed was a great 4 days of hiking, eating, swimming, waterskiing, tubing, deer-sighting and storytelling as we recounted our adventures and heard about what was happening with everyone.

Heather and Jessy being reunited
The Westhawk Family Portrait
Kathy coming in for a landing
Heather getting a ski lesson from my cousin Sandra
Of course, like all moments of the past year this too came to a close and we had to depart for the airport so Heather could head west and Kathy could head east. That left Jessy and I to tackle the reportedly ominous prairie drive as we made our way to Calgary.

Now I have to say that for year's I have heard nothing but negativity about the experience of driving through Saskatchewan. Now having finally done it (on the way out last year we skipped it as we did a detour to Wyoming) I have to say I think it has got a bad rap. I would much rather do that drive and be able to look across the prairie landscape then do the Maine / Pennsylvania tree-lined highway.

Yep - Moose Jaw
The only cop I saw between Winnipeg and Calgary
The world's biggest teepee at Medicine Hat courtesy of the 1988 Winter Olympics
Arriving in Calgary meant that once again enjoy the wonderful hospitality of my Uncle Earl and Aunt Islay(my Dad's sister). After a family dinner Sunday with them and my cousin Dean and Mark and Mark's family where I once again bored everyone with travel tales I enjoyed a great day Monday where they treated me to a tour of Calgary, a great lunch and a trip to the movies to see The Bourne Legacy.

The Olympic Plaza from '88 where the medals were awarded
Islay and Earl enjoying a quiet morning while trying to ignore me blogging
When I speak about the trip I know people will be (hopefully) fascinated by the places we have been to and the things we have done. But for me, just as important as all that, were the treasured moments of surviving the Fox Valley Inn with my sister, of just chilling out at the lake, and of going to the movies with my Aunt and Uncle. The opportunity both last year and this to spend just a bit of quality time with family was really the unexpected gift of the trip.

But now it's time to head to British Columbia and a meet up with Heather and Chloe at Chez Glover in Peachland for one final bit of travel before crossing the finish line in Vancouver.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Road Pops

OK - I just realized that this is my last night in the USA as tomorrow we cross back over to Canada for a few r & r days with family at Westhawk Lake. Given that the last week (holy crap it has only been 7 days) has seen my sister, dog and me cross through 15 states and cover I don't want to know how many kilometers, there are a few things that have come up along the way:

Sorry Fenway, For the longest time you held the title, but Wrigley knocked you to the #2 slot on my favorite ballparks list. I loved the ivy, the fact that there was no replay screen (made me pay attention) and "Take me out to the Ballgame" is way better than "Sweet Caroline" (and I am a Neil fan btw). Loved how the buildings with a birds eye view had all put up bleacher seats on their roofs too. Even spotted a couple getting married on one rooftop.

OMG I am really here... 
First pitch
Jay Bruce of the Reds hit it.....
.....over this guy's head for a home run and the eventual winning run 
Me sitting close to Bartman territory
The rooftop seats
I wonder whose idea getting married like this was?
Now that a couple of days have gone by I can share this (sort of) BWF. I was walking in downtown Chicago Sunday morning like the geeky tourist I am when a short dude in sunglasses advised me I couldn't keep walking up the street, and would have to take the long way around. As I noticed he has a radio and mic concealed (along with who knows what else) I just said sure. When I went down the street a block over I could see the cross street cleared off and many cars with flashing lights a few hundred meters away. A woman beside me mentioned "Oh - is the President back again?" as we crossed the street so I decided to stop and take a picture with my iphone. Then from almost literally out of nowhere a woman got in front of me and exclaimed "You can't take photos here!" I politely smiled my best I'm from Canada smile and said I didn't know and quickly walked before she asked me to delete. So I don't know for sure who was in the 'hood, but assuming it was secret service I encountered I am going to let you make the educated guess. And no - I don't think it was Oprah.

Pretty boring pic for such drama
If you are ever in the vicinity of Chicago in the summer and need to get away, Warren Dunes State Park looks awesome. Sand, surf, and some cool dunes. We would have liked to just kick off our shoes and chill, but alas we had Jessy.

Collecting some Lake Michigan sand for Chloe's collection 
Wishing I had a sandboard
I have added two items to my list of indulgences I will have at home in the event I ever win the lottery.

Forget the bat mobile - I think I found my dream car

One of the things I love most about traveling is when you happen to luck into finding a notable fixture of the community you are visiting. Such was the case yesterday in Wisconsin, an area known for cheese. We stopped at Ehlenbach's Cheese Chalet, where they have over 160 types of cheese. In talking with a local guy he told us that this was the premier cheese store in Wisconsin, and after tasting the sampler pack that Kathy bought I have to agree.

And finally....We stopped in Alexandria Minnesota today to get gas, and I decided to get the impromptu haircut so I could look presentable for the family (and Heather) tomorrow. Talking with the stylist led to this exchange:

Her: "So what are you doing in Alexandria"?

Me: (pausing for effect cause I can't believe I am able to use this line in its most literal sense)

"Just passing through"

I love traveling.......

Not Finished Yet!!

One of the concerns we had about coming home is that after all of the new experiences and moving around we've done over this past year, being back home would feel too familiar and frankly, boring. Chloe and I have been back for just over a week and we can definitely say that so far we have not been bored.* Everything certainly feels familiar but that hasn't translated to boring!!

Chloe and I landed in Vancouver last week to a fantastic welcome! Even though we landed at midnight, the whole family showed up to the airport to meet us. We were very grateful!!

We have spent some time at the cabin on the Sunshine Coast swimming, kayaking, jumping off Hopkins pier, hiking up the knob and visiting with family and friends.

Chloe is currently on a road trip with her Auntie Patty, Uncle Rick, Quinn and Carys. They have made their way to Wyoming and are having a great time visiting with Cathrine, Dillon, Zara and Sam.

I have spent the last few days swimming, relaxing, walking the digs and swapping stories with my friends Deb and Joe at Cowichan Lake on Vancouver Island.

I will be flying to Winnipeg tomorrow to meet up with Paul and Kathy. We will head straight to West Hawk Lake to visit with family, swim, boat and relax.

I am beginning to realize that although our "big trip" may be behind us, the adventures and travels will never cease!

*I do realize that we are still on holiday and have not yet had to deal with going to work/school 5 days a week. That reality will come and we'll deal with it when we get there. Will keep you posted!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Road Trip: The Sequel Begins

It's time for the last lap of the trip. Heather and Chloe are now back in Vancouver getting acclimated to life at home. Somewhat ironically, both of them will shortly be leaving Vancouver for separate mini-trips (Heather to join me in Winnipeg, Chloe going with Aunts, Uncles, and cousins to Wyoming). I think we are all keenly aware that for the past year the longest we have been in one place is 10 days (Bali and Sydney) and that we all will have itchy feet.

While they re-connect with friends and family in Vancouver (and hopefully find a place for us to live since we sold our home prior to the trip), I am back on the road with my sister Kathy as copilot/navigator and my dog Jessy as the precious cargo.

Kathy and her family have done a wonderful job looking after Jessy while we were gone. I admit I did have visions of Jessy flipping me the dog equivalent of the "bird" as payback for being left behind a year ago. Thankfully Kathy was keen to come along for the ride for a couple of weeks so I was pretty sure Jessy would get into the car when it was time to leave Truro and not give me too much crap.

Kathy with Jessy (the white dog) and Taylor (the other dog)
One of the interesting things of coming back is rediscovering all the stuff that was left behind. It's kind of like Christmas. Aside from our car and our dog we also left our camping gear and even our ipad behind in Truro. After reclaiming the car and the ipad from my 16 year old nephew Zach (I had to dig the ipad out of his not very clean nor orderly room), it was time to pack up and hit the road.

Zach with the CRV
The initial leg of the trip was to head south to visit my sister Karen and her husband Craig in Newport Rhode Island. Newport was where we hid out a year ago when Hurricane Irene showed up. Thankfully this visit has had the luxury of way better weather and gave us a great opportunity to explore the island. Sadly for us, one of the things we realized from the 1,200km trip here was that the AC in my SUV seems to be toast and a quick trip to the car doctor informed us there was no quick fix.

So now after a couple of days of fine dining (pork tenderloin last night and....wait for it....LOBSTER tonight), yachting, exploration (we saw the rich 'hood and all the fancy mansions today) and Olympic watching (what will happen to commercial voiceovers when Morgan Freeman is no longer with us?) it is time to move on.

Me in front of the mansion used in the opening sequence of "True Lies"
My sisters Kathy and Karen chilling out
Captain Craig showing us how a pro steers a yacht
The next two days will have us on the highway to Chicago, where we will stop for deep dish pizza, outlet malls, and a trip to Wrigley Field to tick one more item off the bucket list.