Writings from a long term traveller

Find Your Inner ‘Slomo’

The NYTimes recently featured a short documentary about “Slomo“, a former neurologist  turned lover of life and all things roller skating.  It’s always fascinating to watch and learn about how and why people like Dr John Kitchin decide to make such radical departures from their “normal lives”. What’s better, after learning why and how, one is left with the immense feeling that their actions are the only rational ones. It’s easy to write such changes off as just another story about a midlife crisis gone extreme. But I like to think about it as being a logical rejection of society’s materialistic and hollow expectations. What will it take for you to find your inner “Slomo”? Would you have the courage to follow it if you...

When to visit can make just as big a difference as what you visit

A recent article in The Globe And Mail about visiting Venice during the new year celebration season is a good reminder that when you visit a place can make just as much of a difference as where you visit. We tend to travel off season as much as we can since it’s a great way to save money, avoid crowds and experience a location more as the locals would when the unblinking eye of the tourist spotlight is darkest. Also, what’s more, the time of day that one visits sights can significantly affect the experience. For example, Venice lends itself wonderfully to late night wanderings but is more difficult during the day as we found out.  Other sights are best visited early mornings such as the Taj Mahal before the summer sun sets in. We didn’t visit Venice over New Years but opted instead for mid May which even then was cutting it a little too close. It still offered us great savings like our 10 € per night accommodation just outside of Venice at the wonderful Camping Rialto. Sure the weather was a bit chilly at nights but a minor inconvenience and one I’d much rather have than a crowded Venetian alleyway any...

The Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving

If you feel like the holiday season has morphed into some outrageous and horrific capitalistic orgy instead of a time of reflection and human compassion, you aren’t alone. What’s more, that feeling goes back a long time. And apparently, at one point in time, we had enough courage to act upon it. As evidence, see the 1912 article on the “Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving”. So have we learned much since 1912? Perhaps not much as evidenced by the brawls that are breaking out at stores selling the new “Air Jordan” shoes. Seems like we might need to bring back the SPUG and revoke a little of the materialism that is so rampant in our society. Remember, as the pillow...

Remember the Spirit of Christmas

It took a stupid pillow at a book store to bring me back to my senses. My morning had been spent in frustration on the phone with two different representatives from Sears and I was getting nowhere. I had ordered a fun little Charlie Brown Christmas Tree a while back and noticed that it hadn’t arrived. The previous week I had called and had clarified with the rep on the phone that they had entered the wrong postal code.  I didn’t recognize the postal code but now know that there are 2 exact same addresses in the city of Toronto. One is mine and the other is uptown. Apparently they had shipped my parcel to the wrong address. They appollogized and said they would send a new one out. That was last week. After spending some time on the phone with the two new reps today, it was clear that there was no 2nd order made. There weren’t any notes except an instruction that contained my correct postal code. Without the miracle of Santa Clause, my tree wasn’t going to arrive any time soon. I was told that I could order a 2nd tree (and pay for it) while the 1st one got sorted out. I told the rep that I wouldn’t care to order another one given that they didn’t really know where the 1st one was and that I would like to just go ahead and cancel my order. Cancelling the order, I was told, was not possible since, despite not knowing exactly where the original package was, they were pretty sure it had shipped somewhere and...

It Is Always Now

If you have five minutes, then watch this video. In it, Sam Harris delivers a powerful message about the importance of the simple thought that “we are continually hoping to become happy in the future”.  But Thoreau reminds of us of the insanity of “spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it…”. Harris shows that most of us waste a lot of time “while life is normal” and that we focus our attention and energies on useless distractions and generally live our lives as if we had all of eternity for such things. The recognition of this point is just as important to the traveller that is sitting frustrated in an airport queue as it is to the office-bound wage slave pounding away at her computer; where you spend your attention matters. Don’t let it linger and waste on the useless or mundane. Take your time, wherever you are, to appreciate the now in your life. Do not sacrifice the Present to the Gods of Tomorrow. Let go of your precious plans, preconceptions and opinions and experience your time. Now. Because it is always...

I am the Keeper of your Dreams and Aspirations.

I am the keeper of your dreams and guardian of your ambitions. I store them in boxes and label them as “too expensive” or “maybe some day” in rooms that I fasten with locks of insecurity and comfort. When you ask me kindly, I will let you in, take you by the hand and walk you down the rows of neatly piled ideas and aspirations. “What’s in this one?” you ask. “Why here is that trip you were going to take!” I exclaim, unfolding the carton to reveal images of an incredible future. Images of lions and hilltops, of monuments and deserts will flow forth, spilling out of the box and pouring out onto the floor. “And this one?” you ask. “It’s your book” I explain, flipping the pages left unwritten. We wander the aisles, peeking and staring at the possible futures you dreamed of, images dancing across the walls like distant old movies before we return to the exit. “I have a new one for you” you say, handing me a new box. It’s heavy in my arms and feels like something you must have dreamed up for a long time. “What’s in it?” I ask. “I can’t tell you.” “I must know or how am I to file it?” I explain. “You must not know. No one must know.” “Then what shall I label for this one?” I ask. “Fear” you say, turning away. “Fear”. From beneath my cloak I pull a large pen made of bone and scribble across the side of the large box; FEAR. I place the box neatly atop the others before turning...

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.use...

75 years, nothing. Then everything.

There’s an Agave Americana plant in the Allen Gardens in Toronto that, after more than 50 years of pretty much doing nothing, has all of a sudden, decided to do everything. It’s begun to sprout and soon, it will blossom for the first time in its long existence. And then it will die. The Agave Americana plant, you see, saves up its energy in order to go out with a bang. It flowers only once, at the end of its life, using all of the energy it has saved up to that point and dies very soon after. Sound familiar? Probably does since most of us live our lives exactly the same, sad, way. We work for 40, 50 or more years of our lives. We save as much energy as we can. And the few lucky ones (the majority of Canadians will run out of retirement savings halfway into their retirement) that actually saved enough money to do what they want, likely won’t be in or stay in good health long enough to enjoy the money. The reason? Retirement, despite being held up as some grand and glorious destination, is actually bad for your health! As we have said a number of times on this blog, waiting until retirement to fulfill your dreams is a terrible idea. Don’t be an Agave Americana plant, storing up all of your energy only to burst like a firecracker only to know the joys of fulfilling your dreams at the last your days. Take hold today. Now. Here. And learn to live life for today. Not for...

What to read while traveling the world

As a world traveler, you are endowed with an abundance of that precious commodity that so much of modern society has wasted: free time. It’s literally everywhere you go. You can’t shake it. When you first start traveling, you’ll feel the burden of time pressing on you in some strange ways. You’ll feel this urgency to do something. Anything. You’ll feel like you are wasting time since, well, you aren’t working. You’ll feel guilty about every minute that passes you by in which you aren’t jumping out of airplanes while wearing scuba gear and playing cards with a water buffalo all at the same time. It’s the strangest feeling in the world; you are both relieved to have no responsibilities but also guilty for the same. Because you’ve never likely ever experienced the sensation of complete and utter freedom, it’s a foreign drug that needs to be felt to be fully understood. I felt the trap of my own protestant work ethic creeping into my mind on more than a few occasions. Lucky for me, I found the book How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson tucked in some popular backpacker book exchange in Chiang Mai, Thailand. To write an entire book about the art of being idle seems ludicrous at the outset. Surely there isn’t enough to be said about nothing to fill an entire book? But flipping through the pages, the author entertains, enlightens and reminds you about a wealth of ideas that are pure, reassuring sugar candy to the vagabonding soul. The book meanders through various aspects and tips to being idle from the obvious –...