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.

Caribbean Beach
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.

caribbean

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So You’ve Got a Reaaallly Long Flight… Now What?!

“When you get into an airplane by yourself and take off,
you find yourself in this lovely, three-dimensional world
where you can go in any direction. There is no
feeling any more exciting than that,”
– Gene Roddenberry

The harsh reality of travel (for some) is that it can quite literally take days to arrive at your destination, even by plane. For those on a budget, this is even more of a reality in which you end up having to take a plane, bus, and donkey just to get from one city to another in order to save a couple dollars. Even without all of the transportation switch-ups, it can take a 24 hour flight to get from, say, Canada to Australia. So you’ve decided where you want to go and that no amount of distance can stop you. Congratulations! You won’t regret it, but there are a few things you can do to make the travel time a little better.

1. Stay hydrated!
It can be easy to forget to drink when you’re on a flight because you’re not particularly exerting yourself. Take advantage of those little cups of water that come around every so often, but also try to bring a larger amount of water for yourself. We should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces every day and it makes all the difference. Once you land, your skin won’t appear so dull and tired as it might feel.

Also, carry facial wipes to wipe your face on the flight. This will remove excess dirt and oil from the day and it’s just better for your skin to breath without makeup blocking up your pores.

2. Dress for comfort.
I’m always one to dress for comfort on planes. Leggings, a comfy top, a sweater in case it gets chilly (and it always does!). A scarf makes for an excellent accessory to use as a cushion for your head or blanket to keep warm.

Wear clothes that allow your body to sit comfortably, to fall asleep in without snagging, squeezing, or being generally annoying.

Pick shoes that are easy to slip on and off. If you’re on a long flight, slipping off your shoes is wonderful.

If you can dress for comfort and style at the same time, then do it! It will help you look and feel a little more put together after sitting around for 10+ hours, in and out of sleep.

3. Move around.

Try not to stay seated the entire time. This can lead to sore muscles, stiff joints, and a numb butt. Stand up, walk around, do a few simple stretched to get your limbs loose and your blood flowing.

4. Entertainment

There is nothing worse than being stuck on a 10 hour flight with no form of entertainment. Not all aircrafts come with TVs on the seats (you may want to check for this when booking a flight). Other forms of entertainment include books, ipads/tablets, games on your phone, music, pen and paper if you like to draw or write, and of course the tried and true… CARDS! Pull out a deck of cards and be friendly, chat with the person sitting next to you (as long as they’re not trying to sleep).

5. Make your meal requests beforehand.

If you have specific dietary concerns (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, allergies, etc.), its important to mention this before the flight. Usually you are able to do this during the booking process and thankfully most airlines are accommodating when it comes to dietary restrictions or preferences.

6. Opt for food that is light and healthy prior to boarding.

You don’t want to be stuck in close proximity to a bunch of other passengers with your stomach feeling like it’s been loaded full of rocks.

7. Try to sleep.

If I will be arriving to my destination during the evening, then I usually do my best to stay awake for as much of the flight as I can. This helps me pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow at my accommodation.

If you’re arriving during the day, it’s important to try and sleep during your flight. Both of these suggestions help to reduce jet lag. To help get you to sleep, I highly recommend investing in an eye mask and some ear plugs. These are incredibly useful on the flight and if you are staying in shared accommodations like hostels.

What I wouldn’t suggest bringing is a blow up pillow that wraps around your neck. They really aren’t that great and it’s just an added thing to have to carry around with you afterwards.

Some travelers opt for sleeping pills to help them nod off. Melatonin is a more natural sleeping aide that has helped me in the past. I’ve also used Ambien on my flight home from Thailand, which was a little miracle. However, I probably wouldn’t take any type of sleeping aides on my first long-haul flight unless I knew how my body reacted to them already.

8. Handle Turbulence and Nausea.

Not only does turbulence make some folks jittery, it can also cause nausea. Again, refrain from eating fatty foods before the flight. Excess fat plus turbulence can lead to stomach troubles. Same goes for carbonated and alcoholic drinks.

Picking a seat in the middle of the plane, by the wing, will result in feeling less turbulence than sitting in the far back or front.

Ginger pills are a natural option for preventing nausea. Take them before take-off and landing.

Practicing some deep breathing exercises can also help clear your mind and calm your body.

9. Relax :)

You can’t change the circumstances of your flight. Accept this, sit back and relax. Don’t forget, there is bottle service for those who like to have an alcoholic beverage or two. Try not to drink too much though, as you can end up feeling even more exhausted after a flight thanks to the alcohol dehydrating your body. There is always a journey to be had before arriving to your destination so you might as well try and enjoy it.

Do you have any other helpful ways to make a long flight better?

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.

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.

Travel Inspiration: Torn.

torn

I’m loving this quote lately. It is such a good description of the feelings associated with wanderlust, or the urge to travel continuously, and it describes me perfectly. For me, the beauty and the connections that I have in my hometown and home province have never been quite enough. While there are times where I want to settle down and create my own roots, there is always this other part – a stronger part – that reminds me just how much of this world I have yet to see.