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.

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‘Tis the Season!

There might not be snow on the ground yet but Canadians are already beginning to embrace the spirit of the Winter season. Churchill Square kicked off the beginning of a number of winter and Christmas-themed events that will be popping up all around the city for the next five months with their annual Holiday Light Up.

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In the hours leading to the light up the square was busy with performances by special guests, food vendors, stilt walkers, clowns and mascots but everything slowed down as the countdown for the light up began.

Bundled up in scarves, toques and mittens, hundreds of people gathered around around to watch the Mayor light up the tree as the sun set and darkness engulfed the square. At 74-ft. tall and adorned with 14 thousand LED lights and decorations, it was a spectacular moment that left everyone in awe.

With cheers and claps from the crowd, the event was topped off with a beautiful fireworks display that illuminated the sky.

If you missed the action, don’t worry! Churchill Square will be lit up (minus the fireworks) for rest of the season. Head out when the sun has gone down, bundle up in your coziest winter attire and take a stroll through the square to get a first-hand view of the beautiful lights on display.

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.

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.