Walking In a Winter Wonderland

Magic has arrived in Edmonton, where Hawrelak Park has been transformed into a scene straight out of Disney’s Frozen. Our very own ice castle has appeared, bringing even the most avid winter hibernators out into the wild. Icicles form an enchanting archway as you step into the castle, welcomed by the instrumental sounds of the Frozen theme song. People eagerly wait for their chance at sliding down the ice slide or to take a seat on the ice throne while the rest of us wander in and out of the paths, tall walls of ice on either side.

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Everywhere you look is another mind blowing display of artistry – hundreds upon hundreds of hand-crafted icicles put together to form the entire castle.

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Don’t forget to dress warm – it is an ice castle after all. Luckily, there’s a little spot for you to warm up your hands.

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… before exploring some more!

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I am SO happy that I turned around after walking out of the castle or else I might have missed this heart that had been carved into the ice.

If you’re in the area or ever have an opportunity to visit an ice castle, I highly recommend it! In the daytime, the ice, snow and winter sky creates a white on white on white appearance that is beautiful. But when darkness hits, the ice castle is flooded in beautiful lights – so a visit in the evening would be just as magical.

 

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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.

Sunday Snapshot: Moraine Lake

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“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile
and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
Wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir

And so we did. Break clear away, I mean. Spending a week in the mountains. We took the car from Jasper to Banff, making stops at some of the world’s most beautiful lakes along the way. This one here, Moraine Lake, boasts sparkling blue water surrounded by Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and canoe rentals to go take a paddle if you just can’t help but get closer.

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.

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.