5 Packing Tips for the Over-Packer

My first trip of the year is coming up in exactly one week so you can bet I’ve been itching to pack for the last month! Unfortunately, I think there is such a thing as packing too early and have had to practice restraint. I made it until this past Thursday and couldn’t take it anymore – in a heart-racing frenzy I pulled out my summer clothes and the packing began!

If you’ve ever gone on a long trip or even a one week holiday, you’ll understand me when I say that packing is a skill that is best when practiced to perfection. While there is a huge difference in packing for a vacation and a six month backpacking trip through various climates, the following packing tips I’m about to share with you will be beneficial for either one:

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1. It all starts with LUGGAGE. You can’t begin to pack until you’ve decided on your luggage of choice. Backpack or suitcase? Hard case or soft? Wheels or no wheels? Dark, neutral colors are popular as they hide wear and tear and your case looking dirty – but have you ever been standing at the carousel watching dozens of the same black suitcase go ’round and ’round? It’s not fun. One trick from the trade is to purchase a unique color or pattern – especially if you’re going with a suitcase. If you just can’t let go of that black beauty you love, attach something bright to help you identify it when you need to.

2. COORDINATE your clothing. I can’t stress this enough! I never used to think up outfits prior to leaving and would just throw in random tops and bottoms. Sure, it’s faster, but more often than not you will end up with a bunch of clothes that never leave your suitcase. You end up wasting space and being upset that you can’t wear your favorite top because you haven’t any bottoms to match. Before tossing clothes in your luggage, create your outfits for your trip. Try them on and try to pick basics that can be worn with more than one item.

3. Roll, Baby, Roll. Rolling your clothes is the best way to create more space and helps reduce wrinkles. Lay your pieces flat and then roll ’em up nice and tight before placing them in your bag.

4. Bring the Basics. When it comes to toiletries, bring the basics. Solid shampoos and conditioners save a ton of space and weight in your bag, coconut oil can be multi-purpose lotion, makeup remover, cooking oil, etc., and you really don’t need your entire eye shadow collection. Embrace the minimalist look and stick to the necessities.

5. Like with Like. This can go two ways: you can either keep each type of clothing together (bottoms with bottoms, tops with tops, dresses with dresses, you get the idea) or you can pack according to outfit, keeping each outfit packed together. You can do this by laying out all the pants in one part of your bag, tops in another, or just by laying out each piece of an outfit together, then another, etc. OR you can opt for clothing organizers that will keep your things separated and allow you to grab what you need without your entire bag exploding in a heap of clothes.

On Island Time: 8 Reasons Barbados Should Be Your Next Winter Vacay

 

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Recently dubbed the Caribbean Destination of the Year by Caribbean Journal, Barbados is, without a doubt, the next trip you need to book.

Like, yesterday.

Barbados is known for its white, sandy beaches and being the birthplace of Rihanna.

It’s the place where high-profile people such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Simon Cowell, Elton John and many others jet off to for their holidays in the sun.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking this destination is only for the well-to-do.

That’s far from the truth.

Barbados is the perfect getaway for travelers of any age and (most importantly) any budget.

The reasons for visiting go far beyond expensive resorts and pictures taken in front of Rihanna’s home on the west coast of the island.

1. For The Adventure

Despite being considered one of the “flattest” Caribbean islands, Barbados still has tons of adrenaline-spiking activities for the adventure seekers.

You can zip line through the trees, scuba dive through sunken ships, snorkel with turtles or go for a horseback ride across the sand.

You can swim in pools of water inside the Animal Flower Cave, hike the rugged coastline of St. Lucy or face your fears of the dark and claustrophobia in some of the underground caves and tunnels.


2. For The Ease Of Getting Around

For only $2 in Barbados (or $1 in American), you can hop on any public bus or ZR (vans that hold roughly 12 people, but can squish in upwards of 22) and get anywhere you need to go.

If you hire a car, it doesn’t take much longer than an hour to drive from one end of the island to the other.

Not only is getting around easy in Barbados, but it’s fun as well.

You’ll typically find loud reggae or soca music blasting on many of the buses and ZRs.

Many ZR drivers bling out the inside of their vans with lights, decoration and colors.


3. For The Friendly Nature

Bajans are pretty friendly folk, and they’re are always willing to lend you a hand in getting where you need to be.

They love recommending their favorite spots on the island or inviting you in for a heated game of dominoes.

They want you to enjoy your stay and feel welcome on the island, and they might even go out of their way to make that happen.


4. For the Mangos And The Coconuts

My version of paradise is anywhere you can buy milk jugs of fresh coconut water, cheap produce at the local markets and mangos by the dozen, which you’ll likely want to eat all in one day (0r one sitting).

Barbados has coconut vendors scattered all over the place, typically on the side of the road or near popular beaches.

Here, you can purchase a fresh coconut for the road or an entire jug of freshly poured coconut water.


5. For The Music

Nothing shocked me more than the musical talent on the island.

If you know where to go, you can find live music acts every night of the week.

I guarantee you will love them all.

From reggae to jazz, you’ll hear it all.

You’ll be blown away by the voices that come out of the artists.

It’s no wonder Rihanna got famous, but it is a wonder that many more haven’t been scooped up.


6. For The Nightlife

Barbados comes alive when the sun goes down, and it goes down early.

Whether you want a chill evening at one of the beachside bars or cafes, or you’re searching for the party atmosphere of St. Lawrence Gap, the Bajans know how to have a good time.

If you’re really in the party mood, try out your skills on the dance floor and see if you have what it takes to wine at the same level as the locals.

Jet on over to Barbados to take part in the Cropover celebration.

Different events are held throughout the month, all leading up to the main event: Grand Kadooment.

This parade shows off elaborate costumes, music and dancing through the streets.


7. For The Beaches

The beauty of the turquoise waters and white, sandy beaches of Barbados is undeniable.

The west and south coasts of the island are where you will find the calm waters of the Caribbean sea, which are perfect for water activities, swimming and sunbathing on the beach.

In stark contrast, the north and east coasts are where you will experience the natural beauty of the rugged coastline and the crashing waves of the Atlantic.

Some of the best beaches are, at the same time, the most popular.

These are Crane Beach, Accra and Sandy Lane.

But along the way, you can discover some hidden gems with far fewer people taking up your space.


8. For The Island Time

The number one reason for making Barbados a part of your 2016 is getting to experience what life is like on island time.

Barbados and its people will teach you a lesson or two about what’s truly important, what truly brings happiness into your life and what can create a shift in your perspective.

Time slows down, and so do you.

Your days no longer revolve around the strict North American schedule dictated by time and money.

Instead, they revolve around building friendships, talking to someone a little bit longer on the street and being able to dive into the sea at a moment’s notice.

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.

Tobago: The Postcard Perfect Island

I’ve got a bit of a long one for you today, so pour yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine, kick back and dive in.

The first thing I noticed about Tobago was the heat. The sun felt hotter and the air thicker. After the hustle and bustle of Trinidad, coming back to a small and slow-paced island was a breath of fresh air and we melted into it easily. Tobago exudes a relaxed atmosphere of island living; time moved slower, smiles were more common and everyone that passed us by were extremely friendly, always wishing us a great stay.

In true islander fashion, we spent a lot of our time baking in the sun at Pigeon Point. A $20TT admission fee, Pigeon Point is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. I say this a lot, about everything. Every day is the best day ever when I’m traveling and every beach is the most beautiful beach I’ve seen, but this one truly takes the cake. Having given our fee we began the walk towards the main beach, walking through more palm trees than I have ever seen in one place.

Everywhere you look in Tobago you see a landscape that should be on a postcard. Or a painting. The beauty of it all hardly seems real — until you’re brought back to reality when the water hits your toes. The beaches are filled with palm trees and the sand is white and so soft, perfect to settle down on with your beach towel, good company and fresh local fruits.

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Like any beach in the Caribbean, you’ll encounter the men hustling for jet ski rides, banana boats, glass bottom boat trips and excursions to buccoo reef, nylon pool and dolphin watching. If you’re interested, don’t settle for the first offer. Ask around and see where you can get the best price for your experience. When the sun became too hot to stand, we cooled off in the sea, lounging in the shallows.

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Amenities at Pigeon Point close at 5pm, but beach goers are more than welcome to stay as late as they want. If you’re a lover of sunsets be sure to stay until 6pm when the sun begins to slip behind the surface, turning the sky a brilliant shades of peach.

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If you tire of the lazy beach bum life, there are a lot of activities being offered that should definitely not be missed. My only regret is not doing more tours of different parts of the island and not having an underwater camera for this entire Caribbean trip. Rookie mistake. We opted for just one tour, of buccoo reef and the nylon pool. Aboard a glass bottom boat with a roof for sun worshiping, our guides took us out to sea to buccoo reef, an easily accessible 7 square kilometer coral reef that is bursting with color.

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On the glass bottom boat you have the option of admiring the various coral and fish from inside, peering through the glass beneath you, or you can strap on a snorkel and take the plunge — I don’t have to tell you which we chose. The only downside to this tour was that you were limited in where you can snorkel, having to stay within a certain range of the boat. As we think we’re mermaids as soon as our skin hits the water, we found our guides continuously calling us in closer when we strayed too far. Once everyone had seen their fill of the buccoo reef, we hopped aboard and continued on to the nylon pool.

In the middle of the sea is the nylon pool, an unusually shallow area made up of ground white coral where the vibrant water barely reaches past your knees. The ground coral bottom makes for an excellent natural exfoliant and rumour has it that the waters have healing and rejuvenating properties that will bless anyone who swims in it (and keep you ageless!) If you really want to test the myths of the nylon pool, be sure to kiss your loved one…beneath the water! They say that a kiss underwater in the nylon pool will guarantee a marriage that lasts forever. While I can’t guarantee either of these things publicly, go ahead and test it out for yourselves and let me know if you experience any of the magic.

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Sadly the clouds rolled in just as we were having our photo taken.

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And reappeared just before leaving to show us the true brilliance of the colors!

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The Mermaid Lagoon (… or Argyle Falls)

Our rental car was dropped off Thursday morning and like eager beavers, we hopped in ready to hit the road. Tobago can be difficult to get around within a car of your own and so for a modest fee of $300 TT per day, or roughly $60 Canadian, we opted to go on a road trip of the entire island. Narrow, windy roads featuring excessive honking, a few gasps of terror, and stunning coastal views took us from the south of the island all the way around it’s perimeter. Along the way we stopped at countless bays and beaches, walking barefoot through the sand and dipping our toes into the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

While it was all a joyous adventure, what I really wanted to share with you today was our visit to Argyle Falls. There’s something about a waterfall that reminds me of fairytales. They have a magical quality about them that I can’t explain and the second I reach one, all my worries instantly fade away. Friends and I carefully made our way down a steep and rocky path hidden in the bamboo, led by our encouraging guide for the day, to the bottom of the falls. Being sure of our footing, we took a step back and looked up at the fresh water pouring down.

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Like anyone would be, I was instantly transported to being in the mermaid lagoon from Peter Pan. With the big pool of water to swim in, the boulders to sunbathe on, and the waterfall flowing in the background, the three of us became mermaids of the falls. Balancing on bamboo, floating in the calm pools, and getting our massages from the waterfall spraying onto our backs, we lounged in this little bit of paradise.

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The falls are 54m in height, starting from the very top and going down a few different cascades to reach the bottom, where we chose to spend our time. It’s easy to access, just outside of Roxborough with signs that you can’t miss. When we went, a small group of people were there who soon left, leaving us to our very own private lagoon. The water is very cool but welcomed and refreshing on a hot day of 33 degrees and humidity! You could probably get away with going there on your own, but we enjoyed having a guide to help us get down to the bottom of the falls. He also made an excellent photographer while we splashed in the water.

Once we’d had our fill of the waterfall, we scrambled back up the path and hit the road towards Charlotteville… but that’s a story for another day!