A World of Possibility

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Sorry for being such an inconsistent blogger lately! I find it difficult to write engaging posts for you when I’m home, spending most of my time working and saving for the next adventure (and it’s a big adventure). But being home and surrounded by family and friends brings with it a little bit of enlightenment, so I’ll likely be sharing some of that with you lately with more reflection posts rather than actual travel posts.

It’s a funny moment when you realize how differently you view the progression of your life compared to those around you. It’s exciting to think of all the different directions your life can take. It’s an overwhelming feeling when you realize that the whole world, in all its entirety, is just at the edge of your fingertips.

I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine who just could not understand how I could be content not knowing where my life would take me.

Don’t I worry about my future? She asked me.

What do you mean, you don’t know where you want to live? Don’t you want to be here, with the people you grew up with, where you were born?

Just last evening as I was discussing with my dad about why I was considering getting a third job – to simultaneously pay off student loans and save up for travel – he stopped, saying I made him think. About what? Oh, just about your future, he said. I’m not sure whether his thoughts were of worry or of excitement for me in all that I hope to accomplish with this life. Either way, he was uncertain.

All of these wonderful, supportive people in my life seem to worry silently about what I’m doing with my life and here I am, completely unperturbed. I used to worry, to stress over when I should start focusing on my career, when I would figure out where in the world I was meant to live but over the last year, that worry stopped. It was replaced with an absolute contentment and an insatiable excitement for my future.

I realized that many people make their life goals and decisions about career and home based on where they were born, where their family is, the profession that generations before them have been doing, the career that makes the big money. Here, we call it “the Alberta lifestyle” – big money from oil, big house close to family and friends, fancy car and big toys. It’s the Albertan dream and many of my friends and family desire that.

There’s nothing wrong with that desire, either. In fact, I envy them for their certainty, for their happiness in checking off the boxes: degree, career, house, family, money, 7-10 day vacation time each year. I started to explore that with myself even, to wonder whether I wanted that as well and just hadn’t stopped long enough to realize it. But the more I think about it and share my thoughts, the more I realize that that lifestyle couldn’t be farther away from what I want.

Traveling opens a whole new world of possibilities.

That one week vacation you can’t wait to take each year to that hot, tropical destination doesn’t have to be a once a year place. Who is telling us that that is all we deserve? Why can’t it be your norm? Why can’t you wake up to the sea at your toes every morning?

The answer is, it can. All of those things become more realistic the farther you get from the average.

What once seemed like nothing but a dream becomes a real option after experiencing it first hand.  A lifetime living on an island sounds like a fantasy to those who have never had the chance to try it out but it can be a clear reality to those who have been able to live that, even for just a few months.

It’s not all sunshine and daisies though, it takes hard work. It takes courage to explain to people that this lifestyle just isn’t what you want for yourself. It’s even harder when you have to be careful not to offend them because the lifestyle you don’t want is the lifestyle they have and will have for the rest of their life.

But when you take the chance to travel – if you haven’t already – you’ll catch a glimpse of what I’m talking about. You’ll notice your idea of reality begin to change and you will realize that the whole world and all of the possibilities that it brings is truly right at your fingertips.

You just need to grab it.

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Stop Apologizing For Laughing Too Much: 4 Ways Laughing More Leads To A Better Life

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There was a moment in my life when I did the unthinkable. I was sitting in the front row of my late uncle’s funeral service. Somebody was up at the podium, delivering a tear-stained speech, and I was sitting there, listening. But I was also thinking about a time I had spent with him, a hilarious moment where we had both gotten belly aches from laughing too hard.

So I did the unthinkable, one of the most horrific social taboos at a funeral: I laughed.

A bubbling giggle erupted from within, and I laughed in the middle of a very sad speech. I clapped my hands over my mouth, and was relieved when I realized only one person had noticed. This marked the beginning of my never-ending struggle with laughing “too much.” I can’t count the number of times somebody has commented on the fact I laugh too much.

Too much? Is there such a thing as laughing too much?

I made people feel like comedians because I laughed at nearly everything they said. I made people slightly uncomfortable when they noticed me laughing at inappropriate times. These comments used to make me embarrassed, and I would practice containing my laughter at every opportunity.

As a young woman who has come to learn who she is, what drives her forward and what she wants out of life, I no longer repress my laughter. I laugh at the best of times and even at the worst of times.

But I refuse to apologize for it. I would much rather spend my days bursting with laughter.

1. Laughter is good for your health.

Patty Wooten, RN, wrote about the many benefits of laughter in her article, “Humor An Antidote For Stress.”

Thanks to a natural decrease in stress hormones and an increase in blood flow, you will simultaneously be protecting your body from heart problems when you laugh.

You will also generally strengthen your body’s immune system. This will decrease your chances of infections and disease, and will keep your vitality strong.

The simple act of laughing releases endorphins into the brain, making you naturally feel good, and who doesn’t want to feel good? People go to great lengths to release these natural feel-good chemicals. But if you’re not the type of person to run for an hour, start laughing more, and you’ll begin to notice yourself having a happier, more content disposition in your daily life.

2. Laughter strengthens your relationships.

Don’t be the person radiating the negative energy that comes with stress. Instead, start focusing on radiating laughter and positivity, which are the two things that draw people in.

Incorporating more laughter into your life can increase and strengthen the quality of all your relationships, from romantic to professional. This, in turn, will increase the quality of your time in all aspects of your life.

3. Laughter shifts your perspective.

Being able to laugh about almost anything will ultimately begin to shift your perspective. Noticing things with a lighter view will help to keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the tasks you need to do. It will also stop you from taking minor setbacks so seriously.

Laughter broadens the mind and decreases the narrow-minded views that focus on the negativity of a situation, rather than the silver lining. Aren’t we all a little bit jealous of the people who can just go with the flow? Don’t we always wonder how those people can just take a pitfall and turn it into a positive?

Well, it has a lot to do with relaxation. A good, belly-aching laugh instantly relaxes the whole body and relieves built-up stress and tension. Having a relaxed body, mind and outlook will help you take on life with a brighter, more positive and relaxed perspective.

4. Laughter makes you more attractive.

Sociology backs me up on this one. People who smile and laugh often are more attractive than people who are unhappy or angry. Cut down your mirror time, skip the heavy face of makeup and start showing off your pearly whites.

Humor also has a tendency to ease the tension or awkwardness in a situation. So, if you’re on a first date, don’t be afraid to crack a joke. It’s all about people being drawn in to those who inspire, motivate and make them laugh.

 

Original post can be found here.

An Open Letter To The Man I Met Abroad

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It hits at the most unexpected times. It’s not written in stone and it can sneak up on you when you’re least expecting it. We all know the feeling: the undeniable tightening of the chest, the butterflies soaring in your stomach and the endless need to hear his voice, see his face. Love has a funny way of working and travel has a funny way of making itself a larger priority. Maybe it’s not really love if it doesn’t come first but it has gotten pretty close.

The first time I saw him he was singing in a café that my friends and I went to every Wednesday: a guitar slung from his shoulder and a harmonica dangling from his neck. Opportunity struck and before I knew it, he was picking me up the following evening. I sat in the balmy Caribbean heat, sipping on rum while he sang a song for me and afterwards, he spent the evening taking me out to his favorite spots before dropping me off at home.

We didn’t take it slow. The realization that I had only a short time left created a sense of urgency and we spent nearly every waking moment together. Our time was filled with evenings listening to him sing, dinners and drinks and nights at his place. We explored an abandoned house, kissed in the sea, and drove around the entire island. We talked about our futures, our families and our dreams. We laughed, fought, cried and ultimately kept each other close until it was time for me to go. There were promises of visits in the near future, of him visiting Canada and me returning to the island. There was assurances that we would talk on the phone, FaceTime every week; we were sure that we would stay in touch.

But as these things go, the phone calls faded and the FaceTime never even began.

I caught myself doing the most embarrassing things that we affectionately label as “crazy girl” behavior. But I wasn’t crazy, was I? I just missed him. I missed the idea of what could have developed and I was terrible at putting that idea to rest. Was it real love? I don’t know. Would it have continued if I hadn’t taken my flight home? I don’t know that either. But I do know that it wasn’t for nothing.

It was real, for me.

It might not have lasted and who knows if I will ever see or hear from him again. But during those months and in those moments, it was real. I let myself be open, raw and vulnerable. I loved being near him, holding his hand, and kissing his face. I loved waking up next to him, listening to the stresses of his day and debating our thoughts about the world. I loved when he pulled me tighter in his sleep and when we made up after a fight. I loved having that sense of being wanted and appreciated, even for that fleeting moment.

It will always coincide with my time abroad.

Whenever I look back on my time abroad and the incredible people I met, I will remember him. He’ll sneak into my thoughts whenever I think about the experiences that I had and the things that I loved. I’ll remember the moment that he said he wanted me to meet his parents and when I, terrified at the seriousness of that request, declined. I’ll remember the moment that he ran down the street towards me when he thought I was leaving without saying goodbye. He will always be there when I think about my time abroad, even when he wasn’t.

It made me believe that love can still exist.

Our time together wasn’t perfect. There were things about me that annoyed him and things about him that drove me crazy. There were times when our souls were intricately meshed and times when our personalities pushed against each other. But, all of the similarities and differences made me realize that I haven’t given up on love. It made me realize that I don’t want to settle for our hook up culture of Netflix and booty calls. I want debates, I want arguments, I want make up sex and morning sex and 3 o’clock in the afternoon sex.

I want movies in bed, homemade meals that involve dancing around the kitchen in our bare feet and, more importantly, I want that with someone whose soul wants my soul, whose soul inspires my soul. If that takes another five years to find, then I will wait because I deserve that type of all-consuming, honest, raw love. We all deserve that kind of love and we shouldn’t be afraid to wait for it.

Lessons Learned from Living on an Island

Before moving to the Caribbean island I had no idea what to expect. Warm weather, the sea and days relaxing on the beach, obviously, but I had no idea just how life changing it can be to immerse yourself in island living. It has shifted my perspective on reality and I am determined to incorporate the life lessons I’ve learned for the rest of my life.

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wave Island time is a real and inherent thing that you will come to love if you choose to study on an island. As you embrace this concept of time, the stress and anxiety begin to fade and you finally begin to take in the life that you’re living. Time will no longer be the dictator of your life. It will be replaced by human contact, relationship, and experiencing the beauty in each day.

wave To quote Karen Blixen, whose pen name was Isak Dinesen: “the cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.” This quote could not have more meaning than it does in Barbados. No matter where you are, the salty water of the Caribbean Sea is only a short walk away and it truly is a cure for anything. Breathing in the pure, clean air and letting your body be enveloped by the calm water makes you feel rejuvenated and alive. Not to mention – the sea is the perfect cure for a hangover after one too many rum punches.

wave Family is everything and the people living on the island know this. In Canada, we are growing farther and farther apart from our families. Parents work on holidays and Sundays are no longer a day of rest. One of the most beautiful things I noticed about Barbados was how family oriented everyone seemed to be. On a Sunday, when everything shuts down, you will find the beaches and parks packed with generations of families picnicking together. If you want to learn how to picnic, hang out with the Bajans.

wave Life is all about balance and this is something I truly came to learn and embrace while I was studying in Barbados. There is a time to work, a time to play, and a time to relax and we need all three of those to live our lives to the fullest. Life is not meant to work, sleep and repeat, and in our Western culture this is often what happens, with excuses of being tired, having no time, and not having enough money.  Money does not equal happiness and it is necessary to live a life that balances work, play and relaxation. Trust me, once you learn that all three are needed, you’ll understand that it is truly what will bring the most out of your life.

Whether we live on an island or as far away as the prairies of Alberta, we can still use these ideas about life to increase our own happiness and improve the way that we live our lives.

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It’s Time To Rephrase the Question.

I have grown up in a society blinded by the goal of having money. Money has always seemed to be the first priority and people around me work insane hours in order to make as much as they can. The result? We stop working to live and start living to work. I can’t count the number of times visiting with my friends revolved around a quick dinner and spending most of that time talking about our jobs – and don’t even get me started on the dating scene, where the first question is always what do you do for work? Every time someone asks me that question I want to bang my head on the table, gulp down my drink and get the hell out of there. I know it’s just how our culture is: we are represented by what we do, not by who or what we love, not by what makes us angry, not by what bring joy and excitement into our lives. I know it’s not easy to change the way you think but quite frankly, I’ve had enough.

As part of a human family, we should be wanting to know and engage with who a person is, not a person’s job. Our job does not define us and it should not be the most commonly discussed topic of conversation. Whether you love your job or just do it to pay the bills, you are more than your job description. Our job title makes up a very tiny part of our identity and yet it is often the focus.

The next time you sit down on a first date or meet someone for the first time in any situation, catch yourself. Stop using the standard, simple question to spark conversation. Start asking the complicated questions, the questions that trigger a story, an emotion, a glimpse into who a person really is. Ask the questions that will give you a unique response from every person, not a robotic line that has been practiced and recited at every dinner party.

Rephrase the question.

What do you do? What do you do with this life of yours that makes it worth while, special even. What do you do that makes you feel like the happiest person in the world? What topics are so unjust to you that it makes your anger move towards activism. What do you do when you’re not working? Not studying? What are the things that are most important to you, that makes your heart fill with love and joy.

And not only what but why. How many times have you told someone your line of work and have them ask you why? Better yet, do you have an answer that you’re proud of? You will be amazed at first by the unsure reactions of others when they say… what do you mean?  As if they’ve never really thought about it themselves. But trust me, the moment you do start thinking about it is the moment your life shifts for the better.

The moment we begin to rephrase this question, out loud and in our minds, we will begin to understand the delicate necessity of balance in our lives (and that doesn’t include work and then watching fictional people live their lives through Netflix, either). We can begin letting go of the notion that we don’t have time to do things, that we don’t have enough money to do things, etc. We can stop letting work dictate our lives and start running them ourselves.  When we begin to rephrase this question, we can stop understanding people on a superficial level and start truly engaging with the person that is in front of us.

Life is all about building true, deep relationships with like-minded people that inspire, motivate and bring joy into your life.  It’s time to begin focusing on the soul of the person you’re with and start rephrasing the question.