Are You Breathing Just a Little and Calling it a Life?

“Listen—are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?”
–Mary Oliver

If you live in any of the Western countries you will know all too well the typical route that a life is supposed to take. Graduate, go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, start a family… not necessarily in that order. But what happens when the idea of all of these things that equal a “successful” life fills you with dread and makes you want to run in the opposite direction? What happens when a university degree is not going to give you what you always wanted? What if marriage just isn’t in the cards for you? What if buying a house seems like the most absurd and impractical thing you have ever heard? Above all, what do you do if you’re okay with feeling this way and wanting a different life but nobody else quite understands it?

Hoi An, Vietnam

The decision to reject everything that society has been telling you to strive for can be difficult. Scary. Nerve-wracking. Overwhelming. Exciting. Liberating. But all of these feelings regarding your decision are normal. In fact, they are necessary. The combination of fear and happiness is what works to drive you forward, to begin those steps in pursuing the life that you always wanted. One thing that I have learned from making decisions and following through with them despite discouraging remarks is that you should always stand by your decisions and feel proud of them. For myself, if I hadn’t got on that plane alone at 18, my favorite memories would not exist. Friendships I have all around the world would not exist. My sense of self and purpose would not exist. The person that I am today would not exist.

Baker Beach, San Francisco

There is not much that I am certain of. The only thing that I am one hundred percent sure of, without a doubt, is that I want to see the world, and that is enough for me. There is an inherent feeling of wanderlust that I have and it emerges after mere months of being in one place for too long. I have been living in a brand new city for eight months now, and by the sixth month mark I felt it again. That pull towards something greater, something farther, something more fulfilling. I began to feel claustrophobic in a big city once again, bored, lacking motivation to continue my current commitment of university.

It is these moments that reaffirm my belief that I am meant to see as much of this world as I possibly can. Long-term travel has had to be put on hold in order to get my degree (something that I do believe is relevant in my life and will get me to where I want to be) but I know without a doubt that as soon as I’ve accomplished this goal, there will be nothing stopping me from doing the one thing I know I want to do with my life.

Paris

I saw the quote at the top of this post today and realized that right now I am just going through the motions and waiting until my life can really start up again. I also realize that there are probably hundreds of other people in the world that this quote will resonate with. People working at an unfulfilling job that they resent, bored with the progress of their life, dreaming of being able to do everything that they truly want to do but have put on hold because of society’s expectations of what a successful life means.

If that is you, then maybe now is the moment to change things. Now might just be the time to put all of those trips and ideas that you secretly have already planned out, saved in the files on your computer or your mind, into motion. The unease that you feel bubbling up through the excitement is okay, of course it is. You are leaving a comfort zone that has been built around friends, family, and a job you are familiar with. The world is a huge place filled with both beautiful and terrifying things, and if your dream is to explore it, then you should stick by those dreams, honor the person that you are and all that you want, and finally begin living the life that you want, not the one society has been telling you to have.

A Dip Into The Sorgeto Hot Springs

This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about Ischia. As mentioned in that previous post, Ischia was where I first had the opportunity to soak myself in a volcanic hot spring. Earlier that evening, seven of us crammed ourselves into a tiny mini van that managed to squeeze itself at a ridiculously fast pace in and out of the narrow alleys.

After a huge Italian meal with new friends, we all made our way to Sorgeto Bay at the suggestion of our hostel staff. To reach the beach itself, you need to walk down about 200 steep, stone steps. If you are coming with somebody who cannot make the trek up or down these steps, you can also reach the springs by water taxi during the day.

sorgetohotsprings (photo by traveldudes)

The Sorgeto Springs are comprised of a number of different thermal pools, each one fluctuating in water temperature due to the natural heating of Ischia’s volcanic activity. Once we had stripped down to our bathing suits, we tiptoed carefully into the water, the smooth stones of the hot spring floor slippery beneath our feet. Luckily for us, we had the entire springs to ourselves and, at 2AM, the water is still comfortingly warm, with the odd areas of cold and scorching hot. If you come during the day, be sure to note the signs warning you where not to venture because some areas of the spring are inaccessible due to the overwhelming temperatures. It’s been said that some people even bring eggs to boil in the hottest areas of the springs!

If you’re seeking a luxurious, spa-like activity, these thermal springs should be at the top of your list. Oh, but there’s one more little tidbit of information that will give you no excuse to miss out — access to the springs is free! So even if you are a penny-pinching backpacker, you can still take advantage of what the springs have to offer. If you ever find yourself on the island, I would highly recommend stopping in to the Sorgeto Hot Springs. I can’t say personally what it is like in the daytime, but I know very well the beauty and fun to be had in the late hours of the night (preferably with some wine!).

A Home Away From Home

When all of the commitments and repetition of ordinary life get just too much to bear, there has always been a place that I can go to escape. Imagine yourself in a yellow car, the blazing heat of summer beaming into the sunroof (you decided a sunroof was better than air-con, and quickly realized that was a mistake) as you drive past miles of prairie land. As you get nearer your destination, the radio signal cuts out and you end the drive with nothing but the soothing silence of nature.

home away from home

This is my “Home Away From Home”, a place that I grew up as a child and continue to return to as an adult. With nothing but a trailer and a shack on an allotted piece of land, I am back to the basics. There is no electricity here, no running water, and the outhouse is as old as I am. With no WiFi and finicky cell reception, I am finally able to disconnect from everyone and everything that is going on in the city. To someone else, it might look like little more than a disheveled shelter surrounded by trees. But with my eyes, it’s a piece of my family and a part of my history. Built by my father with his bare hands, my home away from home grew up from nothing and was transformed by the people who stayed here and the memories that run through my mind as I bring myself back here year after year.

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Over there is the spot where a huge swing set once rested between the trees. It’s where I sat and watched with disbelief when two full-grown bears walked into the property just feet away from me before coming to my senses and rushing inside. It’s where I first felt strong and “grown-up” when I was allowed to help cut down a tree that had grown too tall and too old. It’s where I fell, dozens of times, leading to stitches on one occasion and right off a roof in another. It’s where I took my dog on long walks through the forest. It’s where a big garage-looking shelter once stood, a spot where laughter-filled parties took place around a campfire on those cold or rainy nights. It’s where I made lasting friendships with people I otherwise would never have had the privilege to meet.

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The swing set and the garage-shelter are gone now. There are fewer trees, as some have come down with old age. But it is still my home away from home. This is still the place that I return whenever I need to recharge and escape the monotony of city life.  As an adult I now have the courage to come out here all on my own even when I know there won’t be a soul around to help me if I need it. As much fun as I have coming here with friends, where we spend our days in the lake water or quadding through the forest, I have enjoyed my time up there alone as well. It holds a different meaning when I am there on my own, when I practice yoga on the beach, or spend the entire day reading a book in the sun and then by the fire when the night’s grown dark.

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North Buck Lake in Alberta, Canada is my home away from home. It’s a safe, comforting, place that is filled with fun, laughter, and memories that are both strong and hazy. At the end of my time spent here, as my car pulls into the city, I am the happiest and most refreshed than I have ever felt.

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This post was written at the request of DogVacay.com as a part of their “Home Away From Home” project, where they turn to people to find out their home away from home and what that means to them. DogVacay works to find an insured dog sitter for your pet while you are away. They pride themselves on finding local, safe, happy, and comfortable environments for your furry friend.

Braving a Chilly Afternoon, Pt. 2: Devonian Gardens

Nestled up on the fourth floor of Calgary’s downtown shopping centre, The Core, is an indoor oasis filled with palm-trees, flowers, ponds and fountains. After spending our morning having brunch at The Coup, mom and I made our way to the mall, Starbucks in hand, and ventured on up to the fourth floor. Before we knew it we had crossed over from bustling shopping centre into a garden filled with the sounds of flowing water and the color green all around. It may have been in my mind, but instantly I even felt warmer, like it was summertime at last!

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These Devonian Gardens fill up an entire hectare of the fourth floor of the mall, allowing guests to walk along the paths and enjoy. There was quite a number of people in the gardens, doing whatever they pleased. Strolling around the garden, children playing in the playground, couples having a coffee date, students studying, homeless folks finding shelter from the cold, teenagers practicing their juggling skills, and people having their hand at the piano set up for public use.

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While there has long been an interest among people to throw coins into ponds, help keep the fish here safe by not doing so.

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After walking throughout the garden and snapping a few photos, we seated ourselves beneath the palm-trees and I imagined myself on a warm, sandy beach with the waves of the ocean crashing before me. I was just about to take a sip from my pina colada when the sound of my mom’s voice brought me back to the reality. Thankfully, there were actually some palm trees in reality.
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With a good three months of winter left to go here, I definitely think I will be finding myself here more and more, particularly when the time comes to study for university exams! The Devonian Gardens are open to all ages, is wheelchair accessible and is entirely free. If you need a mini-vacation away from the cold Canadian winter, take yourself here, sit under a palm tree and imagine the sound of the fountain is actually a waterfall in the tropics.

Braving a Chilly Afternoon, Pt. 1: The Coup and Meet.

As is typical for the middle of winter, this last week in Calgary has been bitterly cold with temperatures dropping below -30 C. A summer girl through and through, winter time makes me want to hibernate in my cozy home with the tea flowing, heat up, and a devilishly handsome cat to snuggle with beneath my pile of blankets. With my mom in town for a much needed mother-daughter visit this simply couldn’t happen and in our best efforts to make the most of our weekend together, we braved the cold. Only so long as to get from one building to the next, of course.

The Coup and Meet

After an evening of food, movies and wine, we woke up slowly and made our way over to a popular restaurant in the heart of the city: The Coup + Meet. The Coup offers menus (adjusted for each season) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that are all 100 % vegetarian and use as much local, organic products as possible. Not only are they an animal-friendly establishment, they’re environmentally conscious as well, composting all raw material, planting trees, recycling all that they can, and being entirely wind-powered. Definitely my kind of place.

The restaurant itself is small with uplifting blue walls and an always-lively chatter and energetic atmosphere. The waiting staff are more than welcoming, accommodating of dietary restrictions, and greet you with water served out of a tall, glass bottle.

Water.
I was infinitely more excited about the idea of this restaurant than my mom, who is definitely not a vegetarian and isn’t too keen to try vegetarian food. But even she lit up as we walked inside, sat ourselves down, and perused the menu. From the huge variety, choosing my tea was just as difficult as choosing my breakfast! In the end, we settled on green tea for mom and earl grey for myself, each served in it’s own piping hot mini teapot with a side of organic sugar.

tea

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For our mains, “the untraditional” for mom (2 scrambled eggs, muesli toast, rosemary hashbrowns, and smoked maple baked beans) :

the untraditional
… and “the iron board” for myself (gluten free waffles with coconut-banana-butter, cinnamon, banana, and a tequila shot of maple syrup)

the iron board

Without much of a wait at all, our breakfasts were delivered and delightfully devoured.

This was my first time at The Coup but it certainly won’t be the last. If you plan to give it a go, I’d recommend arriving right at opening time for lunch and dinner. Rumor has it that fans of the restaurant will line up before opening time, particularly in the summer, as it can be filled quickly due to it’s small size. However, if there is a wait when you arrive, it is definitely worth it and there is a nice little area for you to sit and relax while you’re waiting.

The Coup and Meet

For more information, you can click here for the hours of operation, here if you’d like to check out the menu before hand, and here if you wanted to take a look at some of their products for sale. They’ve got a cookbook available to purchase, which I am secretly trying to restrain myself from buying until payday.

What It Means To Be A Canadian Traveler: An Interview with Brooke Willard

This is a post in a series here at Whirlwind Travel. Every month will feature a new interview in
the “What It Means To Be A Canadian Traveler” series. If you are a Canadian traveler and would like
to be interviewed like Brooke, please head on over to the “Contribute” page to find out how to get in touch.

What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Brooke and I’m from Southern Ontario, Canada.

Do you have a blog? Tell me a bit about it.

Yes, I have a blog! It’s called Heroic Hearts. When I started it, I had no intention to use it as a travel blog. I’ve always been an avid writer and it felt like a good tool to get me writing more often. When I went on student exchange to Sweden, however, it came in handy! After posting about my different experiences and sharing my photos, I realized how much I had learned and how much I wanted to help people that were looking to do the same thing. It was tough to continue on a regular basis during school, but now that I’m graduated I feel like I’m only just getting started!

What does being a Canadian traveler mean to you?

As a Canadian traveller, my pride travels with me everywhere I go! Once I left our soil, it was like my patriotism skyrocketed and I proudly felt my duty was to well-represent this amazing country and our values. To be a Canadian traveller means to embrace every stranger and every culture as something new to appreciate, learn about and respect. I believe we as Canadians are raised to welcome differences and the unfamiliar with an open mind, a vital and transformative mindset to have beyond our borders.

Brooke biking through Vondelpark in Amsterdam

Brooke biking through Vondelpark in Amsterdam

What got you started in your traveling endeavors?

My love for travel had early beginnings and I have my amazing parents to thank for that. In high school I was lucky enough to travel Europe twice with my family. I was a bit young the first time but on the second trip I absolutely fell in love. There’s a certain link between the countries there, yet they are all so diverse and unique. It’s fascinating. I just wanted to see and experience it all, and I suppose that is what led me to study in Sweden a couple of years ago. Ever since, I’ve been hooked. I caught the bug. I’m actually moving to the UK for two years on a working holiday visa in two months! After that, I’m hoping to tackle Australia. It’s a never-ending addiction.

Do you think you are more likely to be helped or treated better because you are a Canadian?

Brooke on top of the Azure Window in Gozo, Malta

Brooke on top of the Azure Window in Gozo, Malta

I know, for a fact, that we definitely are. We maintain a rather honourable reputation around the world as being open-minded, friendly and very respectful. Americans do wear Canadian flags on their backpacks in order to be treated better and I even met some on the road (while their sewing skills were top notch, their accents were not and clearly from the South)! While at home we tend to feel overshadowed by our neighbours to the South, out in the world I’ve learnt that it pays to be from a country that welcomes everyone with open arms. It’s truly flattering.

What are the two most common stereotypes you have heard other travelers say about Canadians?

The one stereotype that encompasses all of them by a long shot is: Are you all like Robin Sherbotsky from How I Met Your Mother?!

In Sweden I did a presentation on “Canadian Culture” and we played a YouTube video mocking all our stereotypes made by a Canadian. My classmates found it hilarious! If I learnt anything about our stereotypes while abroad it’s that we really do embrace them and show our humility. Half the time, we do it on purpose just to laugh at ourselves, and that just isn’t the case with other cultures. That’s a stereotype, if you can call it one, that I’m more than happy to have.

Why do you think so many Canadians travel the world?

It’s crazy how many Canadians are out there! Which is to say, we’re just as common hanging around the hostel social area as Americans and especially Australians. I think having our history inextricably tied to other countries is a good reason to go explore your roots. We are such a young country that it often feels like richer history and culture precedes us elsewhere, making it feel so exciting to discover. We are also very isolated where we live so it’s a much bigger deal to travel. When it’s as monumental as it is to leave North America and browse through countries in less time than it takes to reach a different province, it’s exhilarating.

Brooke in the Alps near Innsbruck, Austria

Brooke in the Alps near Innsbruck, Austria

For travelers coming to Canada, what is your favorite spot?

I have yet to travel to the West coast of Canada, but I still say that the best is in the East! Though I love the entire coast, I think my favourite spot has to be Prince Edward Island. Its small, quaint and undeniably charming. Not to mention, absolutely gorgeous and full of natural wonders! I don’t know what it is about red dirt, but I do know it’s beautiful. I’ve always been fascinated by their slower pace of life, something I envy as an Ontarian. Friendly people, colourful character, breathtaking cliffs and coastal views… what’s not to love?

Do you have any tips or advice to other Canadians traveling abroad or for travellers coming here to Canada?

Canadians Abroad:

If you haven’t worn it in the last two weeks, you don’t need to bring it.
Keep an open mind. The unexpected and the unplanned are often the most worthwhile and memorable.
Do a little research about where you’re going. Knowing small customs, gestures and manners go a long way!
Just go, before you think twice about it. Odds are, you’ll regret what you don’t do rather than what you do.

Calton Hill at dusk in Edinburgh, Scotland

Calton Hill at dusk in Edinburgh, Scotland

Travellers in Canada:

Prepare for all seasons. Yes, we have real summer here!
Accept tap water. Don’t waste your money on expensive disposable water bottles.

Save lots of $$$. Transportation here isn’t cheap! And yes, we tax everything. On top of the price tag.
No, you may not pee or drink in the street. You will get a ticket (sorry).

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ABOUT BROOKE:

Brooke in Florence, Italy with the Ponte Vecchio Bridge in the background.

A recent university graduate, my student exchange to Karlstad, Sweden in 2012 opened my eyes up to the wonderful world of travel. Not yet ready to enter the career world, I’ve been waiting to pack my bags again ever since. My wanderlust has now led me to obtain a two-year working holiday visa for the UK, starting in April. I’m extremely interested in helping others embark on their own adventures by sharing my personal experiences abroad. You can read about what I’ve learnt on my blog Heroic Hearts. Happy travelling!

Sunday Snapshot: Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye

On the beautiful Isle of Skye is where this photo of Kilt Rock was taken. With these cliffs towering 55 meters above the sea, Kilt Rock and it’s cascading Mealt waterfall has become a popular tourist attraction on the island. I had the opportunity to visit the Isle of Skye with a wonderful tour group through Haggis Adventures. It was a Wednesday, and our theme for the day was magic, a fitting theme for this island. Have you been to the Isle of Skye? Visited the Kilt Rock?

Reliving My Childhood at The Harry Potter Exhibition

“There was a lot more to magic, as Harry quickly found out,
than waving your wand and saying a few funny words.

– J.K. Rowling

I read each of the books at least five times, growing up with The Boy Who Lived and all of his magical friends.
I waited eagerly outside of a packed theater on opening night of the movies.
I participated in a Harry Potter book club in the fifth grade, proudly dressing up as Hermione Granger.
I cried when Sirius, Dobby, Aragog, Dumbledore, Severus, and Fred died.

*spoiler alert: if you want to attend the exhibit yourself, read this after so you will still be surprised!*

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And just recently, I got to step into the world of Harry Potter at the exhibition.
Cued at the front of the line, my friend and I showed our ticket, grabbed a Gryffindor scarf and a wand, and got ready to duel. We dueled in front of Hogwarts, all lit up in the night, as well as in the grounds, and in the Great Hall.

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When we reached the Sorting Hat, we waited eagerly as some of our new “classmates” hopped up onto the stool, the Headmistress placing the hat atop their heads. With quiet excitement, the Sorting Hat spoke and placed them all in their respectable houses.

As we walked through the exhibition, we marveled at all of the props set out for us to see, remarking at all of the detail put into props that sometimes were only seen for a moment in one film. Some sections were dedicated to specific characters: Hermione, Harry, Ron, Luna Lovegood, Neville, Professor Snape, Gilderoy Lockhart, Professor Umbridge and Trelawney too. Each section presented life-size mannequins featuring some of the costumes worn by the actors in the films. Harry and Ron’s dormitory was recreated for us, Snape’s potions laboratory was bubbling with elixirs, and the Marauder’s Map was right there before our very eyes.

The Marauder's Map, Harry's Photo Album, etc.

Moving along, we treaded carefully through the Forbidden Forest, saying hello to Bane the Centaur and being careful to stay cheerful for fear that we would catch the attention of the Dementors lurking about. Stepping out of the forest, we came to the grounds surrounding Hagrid’s Hut and took a few moments bonding with Buckbeak.

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Entering Hagrid’s Hut, we watched as Norbert struggled to hatch from his egg on Hagrid’s kitchen table. A giant-sized depiction of Hagrid’s clothing was placed in the corner, and a giant-sized chair for you to take a quick rest. As we moved on, we realized we couldn’t come to the exhibit without trying our hand at a bit of Quidditch. Three goal posts were set up and we were able to grab a Quaffle and take our best shot. In the end, we earned 60 points for Gryffindor!

While it was certainly interesting to step in and take a look at what went into the creation of the beloved Harry Potter movie series, it left me with a small feeling of regret. Seeing everything in so much detail and reading about what went on behind-the-scenes ruined the mystery behind the films. Despite that, I will now eagerly accept any offers for someone to take me to the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. Any takers? I make a fun travel buddy, I promise.

Custom Travel Journals from DomesticPapers

I discovered these beautiful travel journals on Etsy just recently. Lee, the talented woman behind the shop and these journals, creates them and as soon as I found them, I was intrigued. Luckily for me, Lee was more than happy to answer a few questions for myself and you lovely readers.

Originally these beauties are filled with blank paper, perfect for a person who likes to sketch or who has straight hand writing. Sadly, I’m not one of those people. Not only do I prefer the aesthetic of lined paper, my writing goes completely off-center without them. Lee kindly agreed to fill my journal with lined pages and then we got on to discussing what the cover should be like — we were so caught up with the lined paper that we nearly forgot about the outside!

Every customer gets to choose what part of the world they would like their map to feature. My decision was easy, I left a piece of my heart in Thailand and knew that I had to have a map of Southeast Asia as the cover of my journal. You also get to choose what you would like to bind your journal; a globe or a plane? As you can see from this photo of my journal, I chose a plane.

Plane

Hello, it’s wonderful to meet you! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your Etsy shop?

My Etsy shop, Domestic Papers, combines my great love of All Things Paper with my lifelong fascination with antiques, tools, and paper ephemera. You’ll notice my books all have a “vintage vibe.” I love to mix old images with modern papers, throw in some centuries-old bookbinding techniques, and make something both timeless and useful.

What inspired you to create your custom made travel journals?

As a bookbinder and avid book collector, I’m always cruising the library discard sales for hidden treasures. I struck it rich with a box of ‘worthless’ encyclopedias from the 1920’s. The geography section of each book held a gorgeous color map bookplate. I experimented with reproducing these maps, since the original paper is practically ancient, and came up with an idea for a portable book for travelers that shows off how the world looked nearly 100 years ago.

My handmade journal!

What makes these journals the perfect companion for travelers?

I designed these to be not only beautiful but durable. The take-along size fits handily into a backpack, tote bag, or carry-on luggage. By using heavy-weight artist canvas and archival materials, I’ve created a cover that is sturdy, flexible, and somewhat water-resistant.

Inside, I’ve hand-sewn folded acid-free pages into a roomy spine that allows space for attaching maps, brochures, biz cards, and other mementos while still providing space to write travel notes. I always attach a little pocket to the center section that can hold small items… a bus pass, train ticket, hotel key, or such.

What is your favorite thing about making and using the journals?

I love how not only can I customize this travel journal, but the user can customize it too. Their design choices make creating each book a unique experience and that keeps it fresh and fun for me. When I’m searching for a map for a customer, I feel like I have the whole world at my fingertips! I love to travel but I’m still a ‘homebody’ at heart, hence the name Domestic Papers.

Another map in the middle of my journal

What custom options are available to those hoping to purchase one for themselves?

I start by asking my customer “Where in the world do you want on your book?” I look through my large collection of vintage maps, going back to 1883. I also search more modern atlases and National Geographic maps to find an image the right size and shape for our journal. Some countries are tiny and others are vertical when I want them to be horizontal- that’s geography for you!

I do my best to find wherever in the world my customer wants on the cover. Sometimes, I’ll add a map to the interior of the journal if I can’t quite fit where we want on the cover or if we want a detail map. Also, the customer can request extra pockets, additional pages, lined or unlined pages, a color range for the papers inside, and a style such as romantic, masculine, tropical, or vintage. Of course, to top it off, it’s their choice of brad closure on the front cover.

Choosing all of these elements together is like creating a unique recipe I then follow to make the perfect map travel journal to accompany you on your next adventure!

*A closing note from Lee: My grateful thanks to Michelle for the opportunity to share my map books with you!*

Journal.

I could not be happier with the finished product of this journal. I had mine done in the regular size, although Lee offers the option of having mini journals made for those that want to travel even lighter and have limited space. The regular sized journal is light-weight and the perfect size to bring with you. My only criticism is that I wish it was filled with more paper because I write a lot on my travels and am going to be able to fill this baby up pretty quickly. I wish that I had some upcoming travel plans because I want to write in it so badly! But I don’t, so I’ll have to be patient and wait for my next trip to fill it up with beautiful memories.

With the new year fast approaching comes opportunities to explore places we’ve never been before. These travel journals may just be the perfect companion for yourself on your next adventure or as a gift for someone who loves travel.

If these journals capture your interest, head on over to Lee’s Etsy shop Domestic Papers to browse her creations and contact her.

It’s About That Time…

…where people start to think about the next year ahead. New Year’s Resolutions are made, fought for and then often forgotten about. It’s the time of year where you can take another look at your bucket list and make plans to cross off a few things. It’s also a time where you can really stop and think about where you are in your life. The photo below asks us a question that can be intimidating, but life changing.

life questions

Are you really happy or just really comfortable? Is your 9-5 desk job really enriching your life, or are you just there because it pays the bills? Do you really not enjoy that activity that used to make you smile, or have you just forgotten the feeling that went along with it? Are the people in your life really contributing to it or do you find yourself in a crowd and still feel lonely? Are you happy to be in one place, with only a week vacation as your opportunity to travel, or are you longing to be on the move and explore several places over a longer period of time? Are you forcing that smile or that laugh when really, you just don’t give a fuck about whatever that person is talking to you about?

This is the perfect time to look at all of the big areas of your life — work, travel, friends, location, family, education, health — and figure out what’s missing and what’s going well. If you, like my brother, insist that your life is perfect the way it is right now, then good on you and I hope that you continue to do the things you love and that your life continues to be beautiful in 2014!

But, for some of us, there might be one area of your life where you wish there was just something… more. Whether in your professional life, academia, personal life, etc. Since this is a travel blog, you might be a traveler already or maybe you’ve never left the comforts of your home. Whether you take yearly trips or have simply been dreaming of taking the plunge and moving across the country, or backpacking through a new continent, this is your chance to expand on what you already do and to set your thoughts in motion. Leaving your family, friends, and the comforts of your hometown can be scary. You might cry on the plane for two hours (like I did). You might get lost or you might hate the new place you’ve ended up. But you might laugh, you might make new friendships, have great adventures and make memories that you’ll never forget. It might change your entire life, for the better. And if not, you can always come back to the comforts of home.

For myself, this year is all about being as happy and healthy as I can be. I want to be around people that make me smile, finish up my school year with a decent GPA, get to the ocean at least once, and go somewhere I’ve never been before. I hope that 2014 is a wonderful year for all of you and that you take the moment to re-evaluate what you want and what you have, and take the risk to make the changes so that you too can have a beautiful, happy year.