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.

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.

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.

Stillness.

Stillness.

The silence that engulfs the air, making it thick with it. The pauses between words, that beautiful calm filled only with the beating of hearts.

I love the sound of silence, the stillness of a lazy morning or the setting of the sun. It feeds the energy in my soul, energizing and rejuvenating it. I come away from stillness feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world — literally.

When I lose sight of my intentions for this life of mine, I try to find that space of stillness. Life sweeps you away sometimes, the good and the bad of it tangle you up until you are tumbling around in it. That’s what travel feels like to me, constant motion. Every moment in a day is intensified with electricity. It’s an exhilarating chaos that I often try to keep up with.

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I can last a long time without that stillness, when everything is an adventure. I crave the adventure and the change that it brings. It’s only when I take a second to pause that I realize my soul, as much as it loves the rush, needs to be still. As much as it craves the excitement, it also craves the stillness. For a moment.

I’ve been developing the skill to be able to find stillness at any time, in any place or any moment. While I’ve not yet mastered it, I am able to find stillness within myself in the sound of the crashing waves of the ocean, in the fresh air of the mountains, in the feeling of a deep breath, the sequence of a sun salutation, or in the calm of a familiar cabin.

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Re-connecting with stillness brings me back. It reminds me of my purpose, it brings joy to my heart and fills my spirit with all of the inspiration and excitement about life that might begin to slip away in the tumbling of constant motion.