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Friday, May 30, 2014

How Do You Feel About Guns in the Bedroom?

Growing up in an affluent Canadian suburban neighbourhood, guns were something I never gave much thought to. Neither my friends nor family were into hunting and I never saw any ranges in the area or even guns for sale in stores.

Firearms are not a part of the Canadian culture the same way they are in the States. The right to bear arms isn’t codified in our constitution. You certainly can’t just go into a WalMart and buy ammunition, let alone a rifle, the way you can here in Tennessee. Even owning a handgun in Canada requires you to pass two safety courses and apply for a different type of licence. (I’m sure you can illegally pick something up on the streets but I don’t want to go into that right now.) 

As you might expect, no one in my family owns a gun. Of course, my upbringing isn’t representative of all Canadians, but it’s a bit of background that coloured my perceptions and experience. I hadn’t even held a gun until I was 22 years old. When I started dating my husband he was a US Marine and made sure to remedy that situation right quick

My first time shooting guns

Since then I’ve shot rifles, shotguns, and pistols. And I must admit… they’re quite fun! As long as you treat them properly, I have no problem with guns. 

What I do have a problem with is keeping a loaded gun in the bedroom. I remember the first time I visited Tennessee and meeting M’s parents when we’d been dating for less than a year. As we were heading off to bed, M’s dad said, “Oh wait a second son, here you go, for the guest bedroom,” and handed him a four foot rifle that he was meant to prop up against the bed. 

“Uhh, sorry whaaat?” I stammered, standing awkwardly in the hallway. 

“You’re the first bedroom when you come into the house. In case anything happens,” he replied. 

“No fucking way,” I said to M as soon as he closed the bedroom door. He just laughed but knew not to push the issue. (The gun made its way into the closet that night and out of the bedroom for the rest of our visit.)

Now that we’re back in the States and temporarily living with M’s side of the family, we have access to a lot of firearms. Fast forward to the night I returned from Panama. M was back a month before me and had done a ton of work to fix up our new place. As he opened the door and proudly showed me to the bedroom, I couldn’t help but notice his pistol and attached scope just hanging out on the dresser.

“Yeah, I don’t know about this,” I said as I picked up the gun. “Let’s put that away for now,” and tucked it into one of the drawers. Obviously this was only meant to be a temporary solution given that it was one in the morning and I was exhausted from an entire day of travel. But you know what they say -- out of sight, out of mind -- and a few days passed before I even thought about it again. 

A couple days later M cleaned his rifle and his pistol and both of them somehow found their way into the bedroom yet again. This time he put them in a case in the opposite corner of the room, out of arm’s reach from the bed. And you know what? I’ve slept just fine every single night since I’ve been here. In fact, we recently had to move the entire gun cabinet into our garage apartment. Between my husband and father-in-law they have about 20 guns in their collection which are now sitting in the closet off my living room. 

And here I am, that Canadian girl who still barely knows anything about firearms, living with all these guns in the vicinity and I barely think twice about it. Granted, we don’t have to worry about any little ones getting into our stuff, which certainly makes it easier. 

Would I prefer that we not keep guns in our bedroom? Absolutely. Of course the obvious question is what if someone breaks into your house, what are you gonna do? “Um. Not shoot them and call 911?” I reply, which my husband teases me is a “very Canadian” answer. 

Gif New Girl

But I’m married now, so there are two of us, and some compromises must be made. Not that I will be shooting anyone anytime soon! Ha. But M has grown up around guns all his life and just because I’m uncomfortable with firearms doesn’t mean that my preference automatically outweighs his. 

I feel like this summer in Tennessee has warmed me up to the idea of keeping a gun in the bedroom, something I was dead set against a few years ago. I thought I would have a lot stronger of a reaction to be honest. If it were up to M, we’d probably have his pistol stashed under our bed or in the night table. That I don’t see happening. But as long as the gun is put up and out of reach, I seem to be fine with it.

I’m curious -- do you keep a gun in the house for personal protection? What do you think about keeping one in the bedroom? 

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

3 Things I Wish I Would've Packed for Central America

It's hard to believe that I've already been in the United States for over a month. My tan has faded, rice and beans aren't part of my daily diet, and I haven't heard any Spanish around me except for the personal injury commercials that come on TV (let’s not even talk about how messed up that is).

As I look back on my trip and wonder how in the world it's already behind me, I want to share a few lessons that I learned the hard way. For anyone who's thinking of backpacking through Central America, here are three things I wish I would've packed for my trip:

3 things I wish I would've packed for Central America

1. A protective DSLR pouch. I normally keep my Nikon camera, two lenses, and photography accessories in my TheIt camera bag. While I love this bag and think it's beautiful, I think we can all agree it's not feasible for backpacking. For three months through Central America, I decided to travel with my photography gear in a waterproof bag. In order to save space and use items I was already planning to pack, I wrapped my camera and extra lens in a scarf and sarong for some added protection. This was a very Macguyver'd option that I would not recommend. I didn't even realize that padded DSLR pouches existed until I saw another traveller whip hers out and thought, “Wow that's a whole lot smarter than what I managed to pull together.”

2. The highest concentration of deet insect repellent available. I will acknowledge upfront that there are lots of purported disadvantages to using the chemical deet. As someone who's known to have la sangre dulce (sweet blood in Spanish), my husband and I joke that I'm his bug repellent, because as long as we're together I'm the one who's getting bit. When I was covered in 30+ bites and getting ravaged every day, the very last thing on my mind were the potential long term negative side effects of having deet seep into my bloodstream. All-natural oils and family friendly bug spray didn't make the cut. They didn't even come close to making the cut. Give me the poison! Kill all the mosquitoes and sand fleas! Those bugs were out of control.

3. More US dolla bills. I don't necessarily mean saving more money before going travelling, rather, I mean having more cash stashed away in my bag. I'm not sure what happened on the road but as I travelled deeper into Central America I had more and more difficulty withdrawing money at ATMs. By the time I reached Costa Rica I was sweating because I was getting turned away from bank machines without being able to pull out any money from my Canadian account. I remember one day in particular when I got denied from five different banks. Here I was, by myself, with a machine telling me to contact my financial institution as the problem was on their end, and my bank saying there was no problem, why couldn't I pull out any cash? I came down to less than $40 too many times.

travel tip: hide your emergency money

I always have a secret stash of money on me when I travel. Have you seen this Chapstick trick? I also roll a bill or two into an empty pill bottle then tuck it into my hygiene bag like it's regular medication. In the past I've kept $50 in reserve, but after my most recent experience I'd increase that amount to $150 per person in hidden funds in the currency that takes you furthest – USD. It may seem like a lot of money to just carry around but if it's spread out amongst your things and not physically on your person I think it's worth the risk. It certainly beats arriving in a new country after dark without any cash and trying to find an ATM. Not that I've done that or anything.

So there you have it, the three items I wish I would've packed for Central America. What are some items you learned the hard way never to travel without?

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Morning Confess Sesh

The-Lifestyle-Project lifestyle travel blog

Sometimes Monday mornings call for random thoughts and bullet points, don't you think? In no particular order, I confess:
  • I need a lot of sleep. At least 9 hours a night is ideal. I don't know how people run on 5-6! That being said, as an adult I've noticed that I can go down to 7 hours more regularly (but I'll still need to binge after a while to make up for it)
  • I hate wearing pants
  • When I do wear pants, jeans specifically, I wear them a whole lotta times before washing them. In fact, I think a whole two month period went by without me washing my jean shorts while travelling. Gross? I dunno. But think about how often you really wash your jeans. And to that asshole who stole my clothes on the beach -- haha joke's on you. Hope you like my dirty laundry.
Puppy love german shepherd
Completely unrelated to this post but I think we can all agree these two are adorable
  • I really like when the toilet paper roll faces down. And the lid closed after use. Who needs to look into your toilet bowl? No one
  • While we're on the topic of bathrooms and such, I absolutely hate popping a squat. In Korea all the squatter toilets forced me to get over this, but 3+ years of comfortable living in Canada has me back to my old ways. Fortunately things were fairly decent throughout Central America but I did have an especially gross encounter in Guatemala involving neither toilet paper nor a toilet seat. TMI again? Sorry, moving on...
  • I'm not picky about which wine I drink. Red, white, zinfandel... As long as it's at least 10% I'm down. I say at least 10% because no Arbor Mist is not real wine
  • I don't understand why everyone's so into Greek yogurt. I much prefer probiotic yogurt. Greek yogurt by itself? Boring. I like to add a little bit of honey and berries to sweeten it up 
Healthy breakfast Greek yogurt and berries
  • If I can buy it, I don't DIY it
  • Earlier this month I talked about how I'm trying to focus less on makeup but now that I have access to more than my 8 travel makeup essentials, I am (sadly for my credit card) slipping back into my old ways. I've been looking for a light foundation that's super quick to apply and offers a bit more coverage than my usual nothing. I just spent way too much money on Tarte Amazonian mineral powder foundation but let me tell you -- I love it! It's a breeze to apply and blend, plus its buildable coverage is perfect for summer
  • This post from Jen on declaring bankruptcy describes exactly what I feel when I talked about starting freelance writing 
Streets of Antigua Guatemala
  • I really miss the ladies of Antigua, Guatemala who had the best (and cheapest!) selection of fresh cut fruit. Oh how I loved those sweet mangoes!
  • I woke up on Friday morning and decided to finally get my hair cut. An hour later, five inches of my brown locks were scattered around me on the floor. Whaaa? I didn't realize I had so much hair to spare until it was already cut. Check out my twitter page if you want to see a pic. I'm now the official wearer of an angled bob -- what do you think? You likey?
Hope your Monday morning is off to a good start. Have anything you want to get off your chest before the week begins? Tell me in the comments below!

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Friday, May 16, 2014

My Travel Makeup Essentials

Travel Makeup Essentials for Backpackers

For a low maintenance makeup routine in a hot and humid environment, only my tried and true makeup favourites would make it into my backpack for my trip to Central America. I slipped back into a low key routine quite easily, especially during the days as I sweat easily. I knew I wanted a natural look with a dewy finish, so what made the cut?

In order of application...
  • Smashbox illuminating primer >> great for variable skin tones and mattifying my skin; I love the glow I get from this primer!
  • Smashbox concealer in medium >> solid coverage from only a little bit of product. Fortunately my skin miraculously got better while I was on the road so primer and a little concealer under my eyes was all I needed cover-up-wise
  • Benefit tinted stain in cha cha tint >> buildable coverage for my cheeks and lips
  • Laura Mercier translucent powder >> sets my face makeup without adding coverage; leaves my skin breathable
  • Smashbox brow powder >> long lasting formula that stays put! Much better than Anastastia brow powder in my opinion
  • MAC black liquid liner >> a little goes a long way with this liquid eyeliner
  • Cover Girl last blast mascara >> the winner in my battle of the mascaras holds up great in the heat! The curl I get from this mascara is incredible
  • The Body Shop bronzer in apricot >> for nights when I want that extra special radiant glow that leaves people asking, "Hmm, you look all dewy, what did you just finish doing?" ;)
These makeup items give me a great range of products to work with if I have an extra 10-15 minutes to get ready. If it's too hot or too early, I skip makeup altogether and go au naturel. / Travel Makeup Essentials

What makeup do I regret bringing?
  • Revlon BB cream >> I naively brought my winter shade which was pretty much useless within a week (I tan very easily)
  • Red lipstick >> I brought it just in case I wanted to spice up my look, but I didn't reach for it once. My coral shade of Revlon lipstick was much better suited to the rest of my palette
  • MAC mascara >> I justified bringing an extra mascara because it was in a small sample container and it wasn't waterproof like my Cover Girl, but the formula didn't hold up in the humid weather
Have you tried any of these items? What's on your go-to list for travel makeup essentials?

Linking up with Style Elixir.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

3 Life Lessons I Learned From Scuba Diving

It feels exhilarating the first time. With one hand on my mask and one hand on my waist, clunking around quite awkwardly in my flippers as I shuffle to the edge of the boat, I count to three and take a giant step into the water. My vision is consumed by blue as I fall deeper into the ocean. I inhale and the air enters my lungs with a calming hiss. I am breathing underwater.

Scuba diving is an experience not quite like any other. After earning my open water certification in Utila earlier this year, I got a few dives under my belt in Central America and learned some life lessons along the way.

3 Life Lessons I Learned From Scuba Diving

1. It's okay to drop dead weight. Almost all scuba divers wear weight belts to help balance out buoyancy issues. If we're overloaded, we're told to drop weight to help bring us back to a position where we can float comfortably. That's applicable in real life too – sometimes it's necessary to drop the things that are bringing you down in order to focus on the true priorities that make a positive impact in your life.

2. Don't be in a rush. Rushing your diving ascent or descent is painful and dangerous as your body doesn't have enough time to adjust to the pressure. Similarly, constantly moving from A to B without taking a break to be present in the moment or reflect on the journey isn't good for anyone. Slow down! Take the time to be in tune with your body and have quiet moments with yourself. Think about what makes you happy and do it more often.

3. Just keep breathing. One of the most unsafe things you can do when beginning or ending your dive is to hold your breath. On my first afternoon diving I had a minor freak out underwater (a very small freak out unlike that time in Belize) when we were practicing our skills. I tried to clear water from my mask unsuccessfully. With my mask off my face and my eyes tightly closed, I was only 3 meters below but starting to panic. I wanted to ascend immediately until my instructor put her hand on my arm to remind me she was with me. I focused on the hiss of the regulator and drew in deep breaths. “I can still breathe, calm down. I can still breathe,” I told myself. No matter what is thrown your way, no matter how anxious or heartbroken or discouraged you may feel, just keep breathing. Life will continue. Just keep breathing because you're stronger than you know.  

Have you learned any unexpected life lessons from trying new activities? Share with me in the comments below!

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Friday, May 09, 2014

The Next Project

Don't let small minds convince you that your dreams are too big
Original photo source
When I think back to what I thought my life would be like when I first entered my 20s, oh my gosh was I wrong. I thought I would’ve had my shit way more together by now. I had everything mapped out and thought it would all go according to plan. Yeah right. But I’m sitting here on my bed (our actual bed from Ottawa! It’s a long story but the short version is that we now have our beloved queen sized bed with us here in TN), writing today’s post, and I am so happy. My bed is my place. It’s where I do my best work, where I have ideas zoom into my brain faster than I can write them down. It’s the place from which my next project is taking off.

I've thought about it for months, mentioned it a few times here and there in conversation just to see what it would sound like, I even use it in my descriptions on social media.

I'm a writer.

Well now I'll be saying something along the lines of, “I'm a professional freelance writer and editor” and to be honest that scares me a little bit. My line of thinking goes something like this -- “I'm ready to do this! I've done my background homework, let's go. Okay, I'm a freelancer now, which technically means that I'm self-employed, which means that I own my own business! OMG I'm a small business owner. Okay this is getting really serious now, I don't know if I can do this.”

I’m scared of rejection -- what if nobody likes my style? What if nobody thinks my services are worth paying for? What if it turns out that I’m terrible at working for myself?

Repeat after me: I can do it
Photo source
So instead I'm trying to keep everything in very small, very manageable chunks that distract me from those ever-persistent what ifs. I have some pitches lined up and a new website design is in the works. I’m giving myself the month of May to sort things out behind-the-scenes. It’s new and scary, as you can imagine, but I’m inspired and kind of giddily excited about it too. 

The life I’m living now, filled with travel and transitions, is entirely different than what I had imagined, but I’m entirely in love with it.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

What I Learned About Myself After Backpacking Central America

What I learned about myself after backpacking Central America

When I reflect on my three months in Central America, I remember thinking a lot about personal development and envisioning how I’d like to live my life going forward. I remember looking at beautiful scenery around me as we'd pass through an area and making a point to stop and appreciate the moment. I remember being hot pretty much all of the time. I remember friendships developing when I least expected them. I remember that feeling of accomplishment when I would participate in and understand a conversation in Spanish. I remember sharing new experiences with my family.

After being on the road for three months, though, I think backpacking lost a bit of its charm. I learned quite a bit about myself on this trip, one of those things being that in the future I'd prefer to travel for shorter periods of time in a more concentrated area. A trip around four to six weeks in one to two countries would be ideal.

I learned that I very much appreciate having a sense of home, a space where I can feel comfortable and call my own at the end of the day. I don't want to slip back into the grind of 9-5 like how it was in Canada, but I do enjoy a bit of routine and familiarity in my lifestyle. Being a long term traveller or digital nomad is not in my cards.

A part of me wants somewhere that's decidedly my own, somewhere I can sit on a porch and drink that third glass of wine that I probably don’t need (but who cares I'm home), a place where we can pick out paint colours and decor, a place where we can grow. Another part of me wants that new adventure and not being limited to travelling only once a year for vacation, wants the adventure of being somewhere different and the excitement of trying new foods and activities while I'm in the prime of my life.

Can both parts of me co-exist? Can I afford them? (I've also learned that travelling on a shoestring is overrated.) I want to make a conscious effort not to get caught up in the norms and vanities of Western culture but instead keep the lessons I’ve learned on the road close at heart.

Some things that I hope stick with me:

  • not as much of a focus on makeup – I don’t want to go back to feeling like I have to put on a face of makeup to go to the grocery store. “What if I see someone I work with? I’m not even wearing concealer,” I used to think. Instead I want to remember what it was like in Nicaragua to be barefaced and feeling beautiful as the sun warmed my skin (that being said, Ulta is my new favourite store and its proximity is proving to be quite challenging)
  • remixing clothes rather than always buying new items – it's easy to get wrapped up in having all the latest stuff and things but I'm learning to be content with a smaller amount of quality pieces that can be remixed together
  • remembering to trust my gut – oftentimes it's too easy to rationalize away my gut feeling about whether a situation just feels off. I hope I can remember to channel my instinctual feelings and stay in touch with my intuition
  • being active every day – I can really be a hermit when I want to be so I'm trying to make an effort to be active five days a week, even if that means just a half hour walk around the neighbourhood. It's not comparable to how much I was walking through cities and temples a few months ago, but it's better than nothing and, to be honest, walking is one of the only forms of exercise that I don't hate

I’m truly grateful that I visited Latin America and got to experience the culture and way of life in that part of the world. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go travelling like that again so it meant a lot to me to get out there and explore, even if I was a bit nervous about being on my own for part of it.

In the meantime, I’m devouring articles and blogs about Nashville and other close by areas. This year is turning out to be just what I needed. I feel happier and more in touch with myself than ever before. I think slowing down and taking a career break came at just the right time. No longer are Sunday evenings synonymous with soul-sucking anxiety as I dread the start of the next week. My heart, soul, and mind are content yet challenged these days and it feels good.

If you have any recommendations of places to go or sites I should see in the Tennessee area, please send them my way! We plan on doing lots of exploring over the next three months.

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Friday, May 02, 2014

A Rant About Recycling

Do you recycle?

Dear Recycling,

I used to happily do you. All the time. In Canada growing up, you were nice and easy. In Korea, I have to admit you were a bit annoying because so many things could (and were encouraged to) be recycled and I had to drag you into a smelly, sketchy alley. In America, though, in America we’ve gotta talk. 

You are surprisingly so incredibly difficult here in the States.

Maybe because I’m not in a “green” area per se, but it’s a good-sized city and there’s no residential pickup at all. Last week we drove more than 20 minutes out of town to drop you off, my dear recycling, at a self-serve dump. That was fun. I was expecting to toss and go, but alas, I had to sort you myself on the spot then throw you out anyway as I found out so many things aren’t even recyclable here! 

Yogurt cups? Microwave trays? Paper and magazines? Plastic wrappers? Denied. Only the basics are even recycled in the first place. 

I swing between feeling guilty and feeling lazy whenever it’s time to toss something out. Guilt is my only motivator for doing you now, to be honest, because I was raised that you’re a good thing, mother earth, blah blah, and I do drink my fair share of bottled water as I’m a bit of a tap water snob. But when I’m at the dump sorting through my garbage because I didn’t realize all these wrappers and containers were suddenly non-recyclable, well, that’s a whole lotta effort for me. I’m not so into the hands-on thing where you’re concerned. 

Is that bad for me to admit that I only do you when it’s easy? You pile up and take away my precious counter space and I’m so tempted just to throw you in the garbage these days. I had a blind eye to the situation in Central America but now… oh recycling. What are we going to do? I hope I can get back to doing you all the time but here in America I just don’t know. 

Love from your lazy Canadian friend,

Conan judging you gif jif

Do you recycle or are you judging me too? I'm curious to hear your take on it. Leave a comment below!

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