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.

 

Sunday Snapshot: The Icefields Parkway, Alberta

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This photo, taken along the Icefield Parkway between the Rocky Mountain towns of Jasper and Banff, AB is just one of the jaw-dropping views along this stretch of mountain highway. Looking up to the center of the photo, you can see one of the Rocky Mountain’s glaciers that supply all the surrounding lakes and rivers with pure glacier water. You can fill up your water bottle for a taste of some of the purest water in the world.

Sunday Snapshot: Barbados Sunset

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This photo was taken on one of my first nights on exchange, sitting on Paradise Beach with a group of new friends from around the world, excited about our new beginning on the island. Sitting on this beach watching the sunset with those friends is one of my most cherished memories from my time in Barbados. Plus, we were awarded with sunsets that look more like paintings.

The Richmond Vale Academy

Melissa and I arrived in St. Vincent five days ago, hoppingĀ  in a cab in the late afternoon that would take us on a journey through narrow, winding mountain roads to the leeward side of the island. The first thing we saw as we drove up was a fat, happy looking pig walking beside the road, free from any confines with as much room to roam as he liked.

Isolated in a corner of the island just next to La Soufriere volcano, the Richmond Vale Hiking and Nature Center.. or more commonly known as The Academy… is an environmentally conscious gem away from everything. As our driver pulled the car into the property, we were greeted by a young man in breezy tie-dye clothing. The fresh mountain air is an instant mood-changer and the calm atmosphere of the academy instantly makes you breath a sigh of relief.

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An academy, Richmond Vale runs two programs, one regarding environmental sustainability, awareness and education, etc. and another regarding poverty. These programs are open for anyone local or international to apply but if you’re not wanting to commit to furthering your education, guests are also welcome to stay. As guests, the academy was the perfect retreat to unwind after nearly five months of non-stop exploration and travel. The entire place reminded me of a hippie commune filled with like-minded activists passionate about the environment and poverty.

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Our time at the academy introduced us to a special little place with a unique lifestyle. Everyone living at the compound (apart from guests) work together to keep the place running smoothly, with students having a set schedule of daily chores and classes. As guests, our stay there was easy, calm and peaceful. We spent our mornings waking up slowly on hammocks, waiting for the blessed sound of the bell ringing to indicate that breakfast was served, which we then ate overlooking the Caribbean Sea below. With plenty of vegetarian options to be had, meals at the academy were healthy and locally grown, with an emphasis on providing GMO-free, organic produce straight from their organic garden.

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Though we only stayed for three nights our time at the academy had a rejuvenating effect that only being surrounded by nature can achieve. I would highly recommend staying there if you find yourself in St. Vincent. There is easy access to attractions such as the Falls of Baleine, La Soufriere volcano, the palm tree trail, Richmond Beach, Dark View Falls, Vermont Nature Trail, and more. Surrounded by raw, unspoilt nature, there are endless opportunities for the nature lover.

Permission To Do Nothing

I have a cup of tea beside me, a bowl of mangoes and am looking out over the waves from the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto the black sand beach at the bottom of the hill.

My only plan for today is to have a pot of tea being constantly refilled and perhaps taking a stroll down to the water. There’s no urgency to play tourist today, no desire to leave the house at all.

I know, it sounds blissful, doesn’t it? To be sitting up in a beautiful, open concept home for free thanks to an amazing offer on Couchsurfing.com, perched on a hill high above the sea in the Caribbean, with the freedom to do absolutely nothing but drink tea, nap on the beach and take a dip in the water if that’s what I so choose.

Why then is there a voice inside my head screaming at me to pack my day bag, pull on my sunglasses and go out into the world and do something?! Why can’t I give myself permission to take a day off from constant motion and sight-seeing?

As a traveler with an insatiable need to explore as much of the world as I can, to immerse myself into new cultures and push myself out of my comfort zone, I long ago made the decision to say YES to everything that came my way. But with that decision comes an inevitable result: exhaustion. It has been 143 days since I left home and I am exhausted.

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It has been nearly five months of having something to do every single day and nearly every night. My study abroad experience in Barbados was filled with activity, from the Monday-Friday work hours for my practicum to exploring every inch of the island and partaking in the nightlife.. sometimes five days a week. These last five months have been full of life, ending with the opportunity to explore four more islands in the Caribbean before heading home.

I will probably never make it back to this part of the world, to this exact spot on this beautiful island with temperatures that I can only dream of in the never-ending Canadian winters. I should be out, exploring! Seeing everything there is to see! Hiking every mountain and volcano, swimming in every waterfall, visiting every beach!

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Permission to do nothing is probably the hardest thing I can give myself, but also the most necessary. Constant motion, for me, leads to resentment. Of the heat, of getting lost, of language barriers. Resentment of the very things that make travel so beautiful. The beauty of being able to visit other countries for more than a day or two is that you can enjoy your time there however you damn well please.

And if that means laying in this bed, with the ocean as my view and my music, and some Netflix on in the background, then so be it. If that means making big, healthy breakfasts, sitting on the porch and catching up with blog posts and journal writing, then that’s what I will do. As of today, I give myself that permission and, if you need justification for yourself, then I give you permission as well.