Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When Travel Goes Wrong


When you head out on new adventures around the world it’s inevitable that some things just won't go as planned. Occasionally, however, these unfortunate experiences at least make great travel stories. Remember when I told you about the time I got yelled and spit at in the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam or when I was at the beach in Panama and had all my things stolen from right out under me?  

Let’s put it this way: they were character building experiences. 

(We can always choose to look at the bright side, right?)

Today I’d like to introduce you to four travel bloggers who’ve had their fair share of horror stories on the road. These ladies have travelled all over the world and are here to share a few things they've learned along the way!

*****
"When Life Throws Eggs At You..."

Be prepared for a pretty dramatic tale of what can happen when travel goes wrong! Lost luggage, hotel mix ups, cockroaches, these things can be pretty frustrating. But what about when travel is just downright dangerous? Let me tell you, it can be – my sister was once shot at by guerrillas in Thailand!

Fortunately, I wasn’t shot at, but this wasn’t the safest situation I have ever been in.

In October 2011 I suffered the most awful break up so I decided to jet off to Rome to do some meditating, some eating, and some soul searching. Of course, I went alone!

All day long, I wandered around Rome drinking in the culture (and eating pizza) and sitting on walls gazing into space, considering life. Maybe it was no wonder, therefore, that certain information did not penetrate the bubble!

There were warning signs – there were police vans EVERYWHERE, the Colosseum was closed and one man handed me a leaflet with the word ‘riot’ written on it.

As I make my way home to my hotel, I had to pass the Colosseum one last time, but it was impossible because there was a huge crowd of protestors wearing V for Vendetta masks. There was a lovely feeling in the air of people joining for a common cause, so I sat on a wall and videoed these people for a while. 

Suddenly, the old man on his bicycle to my right began shouting ‘fascists’ at the crowd and suddenly I was being pelted with eggs and glass bottles!

I fought my way home and as I did so, I saw burnt out and overturned vehicles. Every single bin alight. Buildings burning. Youths sitting in the broken glass windows of the banks having a cigarette. Effigies ripped from walls and smashed on the street. Graffiti everywhere. 

I finally got back to the hotel, where the manager asked, "You didn't go out wearing that did you?!" I was wearing a t shirt with a United States flag on it.

"I am surprised you made it back alive," he said.

When Travel Goes Wrong: Burnt cars in the Rome Riots in 2011
Aftermath of the Rome Riots in 2011

*****
"That Time in Sweden..."

I’m sure every traveler has a horror story or ten and when I was tossing up ideas on mine, without batting an eye my friend said – "What about the time you had the runs in Finland?" First of all, it wasn’t Finland, it was Sweden and second of all – yeah, that’s a good one.

Monday, July 28, 2014

5 Tips for Backpacking Central America

5 Tips for Backpacking Central America

Today I'm so excited to guest post for Camila from The Things I Am Crazy For. Hop on over to Camila's blog to catch some dreamy beach photos and read about my five tips for backpacking Central America!

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dealing with Self-Doubt as a Freelancer

Sometimes I wonder if I’m scared of success. 

The obvious answer would be, “No, of course not! That’s crazy talk. Why would I not want to be successful?”

I honestly can’t tell you. All I know is that sometimes I feel like I could do so much more, and other times I tell myself I’m doing all I can and success takes time so why don’t I give myself a break. How many breaks are too many, though? What’s the point of networking and blogging for The Lifestyle Project when I could be pitching freelance leads all day every day? Yes I’m building up my online presence but am I doing so at the expense of my income?

On days when I’m harbouring a load of self-doubt, it’s too easy to compare myself to others and ask why I’m not as far along in my self-employment career as I’d like. Hearing about other freelancing stories is usually so inspiring to me, but on an ill-timed day, reading about how other bloggers are making it with alternative careers can lead me down a black hole. So much for taking my own advice, right? Comparison is the thief of joy.

I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way, but sometimes it’s almost like admitting defeat to voice my insecurities out loud. 

Motivational quote: Nothing holds you back more than your own insecurities

This summer has been an interesting one. Much better than last year (a thousand times better than last year). But in terms of making the amount of money I would've liked... not so much. My husband and I swing through saving and spending phases, and after our recent trip to Central America, we are definitely in recovery mode. I haven’t had the opportunity to travel around the United States as much as I would’ve liked because, to be completely candid, we just haven’t had the funds. There’ve also been some wrenches thrown in our military/life plan, but I’ll save those updates for another day. 

With all of that being said, I generally have good days more often than not. Honestly, what do I have to complain about in the grand scheme of life? Travelling to developing countries has always helped me to maintain a healthier perspective about viewing the world around me and how fortunate I am, and that mindset is one that I try to come back to when I’m in a pessimistic head space.

As for whether or not I really am scared of success, I don’t know… I think it’s more so a case of feeling like my goals are close enough to be within reach but far enough away to still be overwhelmed by all the work it’ll take to achieve them. The fact that I also tend to be paralyzed by perfectionism doesn’t help.

Whenever I get into funks like these, cheesy motivational quotes always seem to help. And alcohol. And funny videos. With that, I’m off to take one of those breaks I talked about earlier...

Chugging vodka gif

What do you do when you're struggling with success and self-doubt?

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's a Good Day When...

Daily positivity from The-Lifestyle-Project.com

It’s a good day when…

  • I find a new coffee shop with the perfect ambience and fast wifi
  • I have an airline ticket waiting in my inbox
  • I exercise without hating every minute of it
  • I don’t have to wake up to an alarm
  • I don’t have to wake up to an alarm to go to a job that I hate
  • I get to watch the World Cup and yell at the TV
  • I don’t bite or pick my nails for long enough to justify a fresh mani pedi :)
  • I get an email from somebody who’s planning to travel to Central America and they thank me for a helpful post that I wrote
  • My husband surprises me by cleaning the bathroom without me asking him to
  • I buy a new pair of shoes
  • I go out for brunch and Eggs Benedict is on the menu - my absolute favourite!
  • I get a new freelance client
  • I’m about to start my period and a jar of Nutella is waiting for me in the cupboard
  • I get to talk to my best friend and we giggle and say dumb shit and she just gets me
  • I check off every item on my to-do list.

What are the little things that make you more appreciative of a good day? Share them with me in the comments below!

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Five Favourites

Sloths in Costa Rica

Fave photo: I just finished going through some more photos from Central America. This cutie is from Costa Rica. Did you know that sloths spend 90% of their lives upside down? After spending so much of their time hanging from the trees, they get very disoriented right-side-up when they're on land, which is when they're most vulnerable to attacks. This sloth was attacked by dogs which is why he's now recovering at Jaguar Rescue Centre.

Fave snack: Have you tried Talenti’s gelato yet? It’s incredible. My absolute favourite ice-cream-frozen-yogurt-gelato-cold dessert out there. Sea salt caramel is worth its spoonful in gold, I swear it’s so good! 

Fave book: If I’m not travelling I’m usually reading about travelling. Getting Stoned with Savages is a light and funny read about the author’s expat years in the South Pacific. Fiji is totally on my wanderlist.

Fave recent purchase: As you might’ve seen me gushing on Instagram, I am in love with my new Kate Spade planner. It starts next month and I can’t wait for August to begin! Maybe if I actually follow through with all the things I write in my planner my days will become much more productive. A girl can hope, right? (Second favourite purchase goes to these pants from Old Navy.)

2014-2015 Kate Spade Planner

Fave recent blog post: If you read a lot of lifestyle-type blogs, you’ve probably noticed that the blogosphere is dominated by Mormons and other very religious folk. While I think it’s perfectly fine to blog about your religion, it’s generally something that I’m not interested in, so I tend to ex out immediately. This week, however, Nadine’s post about God caught my eye. While we don’t necessarily share the same spiritual beliefs, I’ve also walked away from organized religion. I think there's a whole lot more to being a good person than doing something because the Bible told you so.  

What are some of your favourite moments from the week?

Linking up with Allieology / Lauren Elizabeth / Style Elixir.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What I'm Wearing: Printed Pants

Printed pants outfit inspiration

My hair is in that in-between stage right now. You know the one where you're tempted by the idea of putting it in a ponytail but it turns out to be the most pathetic baby ponytail ever with too-short hairs sticking out all over the place so instead you add bobby pins to try and keep it off your neck in the summer heat but really that doesn't help at all? Yeah, that in-between stage. 

Anyway, let’s talk about how awesome these sunglasses are. I usually have such a hard time finding a size that fits my face. I picked these up at one of those random kiosks in the mall for only $10! I love the black and white contrast at the top of the frame.

Speaking of contrast, I was immediately drawn to the piping detailing on these printed pants when I saw them at Old Navy. I never realized how much I might like ankle cut trousers until I saw Fran rocking them as part of her med school wardrobe. I like how I’m able to wear them casually as well… and let’s just say this pair is so comfy I don’t even have to rip them off the minute I walk through the door (you know you do it too). 
  
Denim vest and white tshirt

Old Navy pants / Target tshirt /  Forever 21 distressed denim vest / Caribbean Joe sandals via Sears

How to wear printed pants

Old Navy printed pixie pants

Red lips summer makeup

Old Navy pants / Target tshirt /  Forever 21 distressed denim vest / Caribbean Joe sandals via Sears



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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

5 Tips for a Great Road Trip

5 Tips for a Great Road Trip from The-Lifestyle-Project.com

1. Get a USB charger and connecting cable for your phone or iPod. This tip is a no-brainer. Embrace a simple and inexpensive piece of technology that will make your road trip a whole lot easier, entertaining, and more convenient.

2. Try listening to audiobooks. When I lived in Ottawa, Canada and I had my library card (sidenote: don’t you think library cards are totally underrated?), I took full advantage of the audiobook section before going on a road trip. Nowadays I’m not really doing the library thing so instead I just download books straight to my iPod and play them through a USB cable. Audiobooks also make for great conversation starters if you’re travelling with a partner, especially if you’re on a long distance road trip as it gives you something new to talk about at every pit stop. 

Another sidenote: When you start listening to audiobooks, I admit it can be a little strange. I was actually taken aback the first time I listened to one, and it was hard to take the narrator seriously as his booming voice filled my car. Give it 15 minutes though and a good audiobook will usually be able to capture your attention by then.  

3. Make playlists ahead of time, especially if you’re road tripping by yourself. It’s annoying and dangerous, not to mention often illegal, to be fiddling with your phone and switching from song to song as you’re driving.

4. Wear layers. The temperature of our car on road trips has become such a point of contention between my husband and I that we literally have to plan our outfits together before we leave. He gets so hot when he drives, especially at night, and blasts the AC. I mean, I know he’s trying to stay alert and awake and all that, but it’s absolutely freezing and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have a little bit of balance. That's not being high maintenance, is it? :P We’ve learned that we each need guidelines when getting dressed for our longer road trips. 

For him: shorts, sneakers, tshirt with no undershirt, light zip-up sweater. For me: leggings/yoga pants, sandals or flats (never flip flops – restrooms on the road can be pretty gross), tank top or tshirt, cardigan, scarf, and a pair of thick socks in my purse. 


Marriage humor - how I put up with you - funny quotes & memes

5. Don’t rely solely on your GPS. Print out hard copies of maps or buy them in advance if you're travelling long distance. When was the last time you tried to find a map of a neighbouring state or province at the local gas station? They aren’t so common anymore. We’ve all heard those horror stories about GPS systems directing people into lakes and such, right? Obviously GPSs aren’t perfect, plus it’s always good to have a back up, so get yourself a good map.

Have you taken a lot of road trips before? What tips have you learned along the way?

Linking up with Unlocking Kiki & Snow in Tromso.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

The Weirdest Museum I've Ever Seen

Exploring the city of Leon, Nicaragua reminded me, along every corner and step of the way, that I was truly in the heart of Latin America. Leon has this energy and allure to it that’s hard to describe. Like Panama City, Leon is crumbly and colonial and filled with architectural beauty. Especially compared to my days in El Cuco, El Salvador, Leon was a stark contrast. The city has historically been a hotbed of political energy which is evidenced in Leon’s Museum of Myths & Legends. Hands down, it’s the weirdest and wackiest museum I’ve ever seen. This lovely figure greets you at the entrance:

The Weirdest Museum: Myths and Legends in Leon, Nicaragua

In fact, the museum is filled with las gigantonas, or giant puppets, that are made of papier-mache. Las Gigantonas have been a cultural tradition in Leon for hundreds of years since they were first created by the area’s indigenous people to make fun of their Spanish colonizers. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Hungry Monkey in Costa Rica

After a long weekend, I figure everyone could use an easy start into the week. If you're going through the motions and feeling rough incapable of reading on this Monday morning, check out this cute 30 second video I shot while observing monkeys in Costa Rica. What an amazing opportunity to get so close to wildlife!



Friday, July 04, 2014

What I'm Wearing: Patriotic

Happy 4th of July! I’ll keep this short and sweet but I felt like it was only fair to pop in after wishing all of my fellow Canucks Happy Canada Day earlier this week.

A “cold” front moved in last night and mercifully dropped the temperature by 30 degrees. I was all too happy to pull out these distressed jeans and pair them with my go-to patriotic shirt. We’re visiting friends in Nashville today and going out to catch the fireworks show. It’s gonna be a casual, low-key kind of holiday which suits this outfit perfectly. 

What are you doing to celebrate the 4th of July?

What to wear on Independence Day USA
 
Red white and blue outfit inspiration

Independence Day red white and blue outfit
Urban Outfitters t-shirt / Old Navy jeans / Caribbean Joe sandals via Sears / H&M tote bag

PS: Are you supposed to say Independence Day instead of 4th of July? I remember watching that movie with Will Smith when I was a kid (please tell me you loved it too) and everyone said Happy Independence Day. So much of my perception of America was moulded by what I saw on TV/movies so that’s what I thought you called the holiday here in the States. It seems like everyone around me says Happy 4th of July though. Does it make a difference? Am I a total foreigner for saying Happy Independence Day or is it entirely interchangeable?

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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Turtles and Tranquility in El Salvador

By the time I flung myself into bed the night before I knew I’d caught a cold. During summer in El Salvador no less. Do you even catch colds? Like, if your sick germs get all over me do I get your cold or do we catch colds from merely being cold? These were the type of deep and existential thoughts I had time to ponder while recovering at La Tortuga Verde in El Salvador. 

I’d stumbled upon this cool low-key turtle sanctuary when I was researching our backpacking route in Central America. I liked how it was hours away from the surfing hot spot of Playa El Tunco and touted as eco-conscious accommodations. I travelled with Gekko Trail Explorers leaving Antigua, Guatemala at 3am and arriving at La Tortuga Verde later that afternoon.

La Tortuga Verde property El Salvador

La Tortuga Verde beachfront El Cuco
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean
pet pelican la tortuga verde
Have you ever heard of a pet pelican?
Burying turtle eggs in El Salvador
Turtle egg
After a glorious nap in my crisp and clean private room ($25/night), I awoke in time to help bury turtle eggs, which are eaten as a delicacy in El Salvador. El Cuco beach is well known for turtle nesting; locals wait until the mothers have laid their eggs then dig them up and sell them for profit. The folks at La Tortuga Verde buy the eggs from the tortugadors (poachers) then re-bury them in their protected beachfront area so that the hatchlings are able to develop. I don’t like the fact that the poachers end up profiting from stealing the eggs in the first place, but I guess sometimes you’ve gotta play the game to win in the end. La Tortuga Verde outbids all of the other buyers in the area.

The egg reburial was short and not particularly exciting, but it was cool getting to hold turtle eggs in my hand. They weren’t delicate like chicken eggs but rather felt like semi-flexible ping pong balls. We were encouraged to drop the eggs into a four foot deep hole, simulating how their mother would’ve laid them, then covered everything up with sand. Then… that’s it! Turtle eggs take one to three months to hatch so unfortunately I wouldn’t be around for the adorably cute part of watching the little buggers waddle out to sea.

I only spent a few more days in El Salvador as I was trying to make it to the Corn Islands in Nicaragua to celebrate my 27th birthday, but the peace and tranquility that I found at La Tortuga Verde was a high point in my travels. There were hammocks galore (comfortable woven ones, not the cheap plastic type) and my favourite pastime was to lie under the shade of their beautiful coconut trees and listen to a novel (my e-reader sadly died on me). The beach stretched on for miles and miles, interrupted only by the friendly futbol games that would begin as the sun started to set, and made the perfect backdrop for envisioning the characters and scenery of my latest audiobook.

El Cuco Beach sunset

Sunset football El Cuco El Salvador

When I wasn’t listening to a story, I was trying to paddle board, taking long walks on the beach, searching for pupusas (El Salvador’s national food), and making new friends. As sad as it was to part ways with my husband, being on my own for a bit inspired confidence in myself and reminded me that I’m independent enough to travel on my own. It turned out that I made friends easily and we continued onto Leon, Nicaragua together. I love the sense of openness and connectedness that travellers can share on the road.

My last night in El Salvador was totally random and involved a fun mix of locals and foreigners, a fireshow, $1 beers, and skinny dipping. Let’s just say I skipped out early as my husband and I have a rule about that…

Have you ever been to El Salvador before or visited a turtle sanctuary? What was your experience like?

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

American v. Canadian Slang

American v. Canadian slang phrases words
photo credit: StarrGazr via photopin cc
First things first -- Happy Canada Day! Somebody please go to Timmy’s for me.

Considering today is Canada Day and American Independence Day is later this week, I thought I would honour two countries that are very close to my heart. The next time you find yourself chatting with a Canadian and are confused when they ask if you bought a twenty-sixer for the party later tonight or where their toque is, think back to this list and you’ll know exactly what they’re talking about (not aboot -- nobody actually says aboot)!

Canadian english

American v. Canadian slang

Canada Day outfit inspiration
Celebrating Canada Day in 2011
Of course I place the priority on booze-related slang! I can't tell you how many times I've had people stare quizzically at me when I ask if we should pick up a two-four or twenty-sixer at the liquor store. Have you heard any of these slang terms before?


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