To Rome or not to Rome …

Over the last week or so I’ve started doing a little research for my own little adventure to Italy. I arrive in Venice on September 19th (OMG! That’s soon) and then do my Star Clippers sailing for seven days to Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia before returning to Venice to really begin my Italian Adventure.

I’m thrilled to have one of my best friends, Stephanie, traveling with me for the sailing portion of the trip and then she’s staying in Venice with me for a couple of days to explore as well. After that, I venture out on my own. I must admit, it is a bit of a soft launch into my solo adventures because she’ll be on the plane with me when I leave Halifax.

Since Cinque Terre is top priority for me in Italy, it is the place that I want to make sure that I visit. Everything else is secondary. Cinque Terre is an area in the North west of Italy with five quaint little villages, each with their own charm. It is a national park and pedestrian only within the communities which are delicately balanced on the edge of cliffs facing the ocean. These communities are what dreams are made of. I just know that I’m going to love them! I will book a villa / apartment there for 4 – 5 days and then I will try to spend one day in each community, as well as walking between a couple of them. They are known for the beautiful hiking trails and stunning vistas. My camera is begging me to take it there!

After Cinque Terre, my second priority is Tuscany. It is an area in North-Central Italy with beautiful rolling hills, known for harvest time and wines. You may remember the movie ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’? Yes … yes… yes … That’s what it’s all about. I’ll likely stay close to Florence, but take a couple of day trips or tours through the countryside and maybe even just hop off the train in an unknown community along the way just to see what I can see. Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca are all in the Tuscany Region. I’m sure I could use a week in the area, but I just simply don’t have that much time.

Which brings me to the Rome dilemma. Can I go all the way to Italy and not visit Rome? Rome, the historically amazing Italian Capital … home to Vatican City, a country within a country and unlimited amazing well known attractions such as the Spainsh steps, Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum and so much more!

How could I possibly not visit Rome? I feel like I’m cheating if I go to Italy and don’t visit this amazing city.

I posted on my Facebook page one day to see if others thought I was crazy for leaving Rome out and I’d say it was almost 50/50 from the people who responded.

I did some soul searching … To Rome or not to Rome …

And I’ve decided …

Generally speaking I’ve never been a fan of big cities when I travel. Although they each have their own interesting attractions and vibe, I’ve never said WOW I want to go back to that city!

Instead, I get the warm fuzzies when I think about my local living and home stay experiences, interacting with the locals, learning a bit of the language, helping prepare food or photographing people in their homes or at work.

I tend to like peace and quiet in life and that overflows into my travels. Hectic cities are fun to see, but I find them a little stressful. Do I really want to be stressed during this trip? Let’s go with No.

I am also far far far from being a history buff. In fact, although I find history interesting in the moment that I’m learning about it, I rarely recall any of the facts the next day. I’ve been to many museums, but very few that really impacted me. (The Holocaust museum in Berlin, the Agent Orange section of the War Remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh City and S21 in Cambodia are the exceptions).

I don’t find pleasure in exploring old art either. So, while I don’t mind browsing an ancient art gallery, I tend to only need an hour, not three and I know for sure that I won’t want a whole day of museums and galleries.

Although I’ll be in Italy in late September / early October, which is shoulder season, I still don’t want to spend half of my time waiting in line to see any of these big tourist attractions that I’m really not that interested in. Even with the ‘skip the line’ tickets, you still end up in a line, just a sizeably smaller one. Instead of waiting 2 – 6 hours to enter, you might only wait one hour.

I feel like I’m being really negative here, but in the end it’s actually all positive! In making the decision not to see Rome this time around, I have made extra room for Cinque Terre and Tuscany which I think are more my style and size. There is still a tonne of history as well as museums and galleries to be seen throughout these areas if I choose to, but I think instead I’ll spend my time people watching, cycling through the rolling hills, wandering local markets, hiking cliff-side paths between fishing communities and watching the sun set each night.

My point here is that every traveller is different. For some people history and art are the draw. For others, they want to see the tourist attractions that ‘everyone is talking about’. People travel for all sorts of different reasons, with different interests and purposes.

For me, it isn’t so much about what statues, buildings, monuments attract people to an area, but rather the natural beauty, the way of life and the local community. There will be another trip to Italy, I’m sure of it. And, who knows … maybe at that time I’ll be craving a big city or some ancient history. For now, I need a little bit more of a slow pace.

Forward I go, bypassing Rome on this trip, in order to stay true to myself and the things that inspire me to travel more.

The Wind in her sails

When a good opportunity presents itself, you should just take it … You’ve all heard that advice before, right?
Grab all of the good opportunities that you can and be whisked away by what might be the most amazing journey of your life. Sometimes that is in the form of a job opportunity, a un-planned, but much anticipated child, a broken-hearted stray that finds it’s way to your home …

All of the love, learning and happiness that can come from these opportunities abounds, just be open to it.

And, funny how when you are looking for opportunities and put them out to the universe, sometimes the universe lifts you up and takes you along like the wind in her sails …

Ah yes … I’ve literally been talking to the universe. Now that you think I’m officially crazy, that’s ok. Being ‘Normal’ is overrated anyway.

Everyone knows about the law of attraction and surrounding yourself with positive thoughts and positive people. Not everyone believes in it, but most people know about it. For me, I’ve been busy planning my upcoming travels. Several times I’ve said ‘oh I wish this …’ … Then I take a moment, stop and think about it and then just put it out there. I don’t know how or why it works but sometimes those wishes come true.

When I originally made the decision to go travel this fall, my loose plan was Central and South America. However, I called it the Unplan because I wanted my plans to be fluid and be able to change. I didn’t want to be tied into any commitments too far in advance because I knew that while planning for approximately eight months, my thoughts would change. And, they have.

A friend and fellow photographer from Norway who I traveled with in Burma, is now living in Vietnam. When I was in Vietnam on my photo tour in April, we went for coffee and got caught up. A couple of months after that, he put me in touch with his ex-boss, an Australian fellow who was living in Turkey. Through various discussions, this little Canadian girl gets invited on a tour of Turkey. Now, I wouldn’t say that Turkey is top of my list for places to travel, but certainly in the top 20 countries. The problem was that the tour would only be available in October which is when my Peru: Through the Lens Photo tour was scheduled for. Flying from Europe to South America with one or two days leeway before leading a photography tour was do-able, but not ideal. None the less, I took the opportunity that presented itself. Can you not see how the universe was working for me?

My Unplan for Central / South America then evolved to unexpectedly include Europe. Not many people from Nova Scotia travel all the way to Europe for just seven days and I wasn’t planning to either! Again, my unplan evolved into covering some of my other top-list countries. Namely, Croatia and a little bit of Greece since I was in the area anyway.

I spent hours researching and trying to put together options for dates and tours that would fit into the timelines that were set out. I had my loose schedule and tours decided on and my flights on hold and then two things happened.

1. With only a few people signed up for the Peru tour and only a few days before the deposit deadline, I made the difficult decision to post-pone the photo tour and look at dates in Spring of 2015. This would give me more time to sell the trip. After all, there was lots of interest in the tour, but many people weren’t able to go on short notice either due to vacation time or finances.

2. The day that I put all of my flights on hold, I received a late afternoon phone call that changed the Captain’s course. The rep from Star Clippers was on the phone, so excited she could barely contain herself. The exact trip that I had previously inquired about, was being offered to a select few agents who had shown interest in their products and she was calling to invite me to be one of her special guests.

I didn’t even know what to say! Of course I had to *think* about it, because I’m not overly impulsive … but honestly, what was I thinking about? When an opportunity presents itself, you take it.

I hesitated a bit because I get sea sick very easily. I’ve been horribly ill on several big ferries, mildly ill on many others and inconsolably ill on a ferry crossing from Miquelon to Saint Pierre and also when I did a Norwegian Cruise from Boston to Bermuda. In all fairness though, Boston to Bermuda is a rough crossing at the best of times and we were riding the tail end of a hurricane in September 2006.

I love the water though! I love the wind in my hair and the raising of the sails. I go out on the calm Halifax harbour a couple of times every summer and occasionally out with friends in their boats and I never get sick. I’ve been on lots of 1/2 day boat tours in various countries and I always seem to be ok, although sometimes a little nauseous.

The thought of sailing intrigues me. The opportunity to climb to the top of the crow’s nest and see the view from that high scares me, but I can’t wait to do it! Maybe I’ll learn to tie some knots and assist in hoisting the sails. It’s an open-deck policy on board, so I can’t wait to chat with the staff and hear about life on the water.

I love vacations where you unpack once, but get to do lots of exploring. Cruises, sailing and river boats are great for this. With a big long journey and lots of moving around ahead of me, the thought of being home-base on a boat even for just a week makes me happy.

I also can’t wait to share my first time sailing experience with all of you! I’m excited to take pictures and uncover stories to blog about.

Now back to this whole big universe of ours … in March 2013 I wrote my Adventure & Travel Bucket list – Subject to Change. This is from just over a year ago. Here’s what I had on my list (and notes as to what I’ve accomplished).

1. Me to We Volunteer Trip (Kenya or India) – It is at the top of my list as it is extremely important to me, yet I don’t expect to go on this adventure until 2014. UPDATE – Still very interested in this, but Africa is not on my 2014 list.

2. Vietnam – including Sapa, Mui Ne, Halong Bay, taking part in the Full Moon Festival, cycling in the countryside.
UPDATE: I’ve now been to Halong Bay and participated in the Full Moon Festival in Hoi An.

3. Burma / Myanmar – I really want to go before it becomes an in demand destination. Cycling is on my to do list here as well as lodge at a monastery (not a hotel). UPDATE: Amazing destination. I visited in August 2013. I got to cycle and visit monasteries, but did not stay in one.

4. Croatia – including Split & Dubrovnik UPDATE: Will be visiting Dubrovnik and Hvar in September 2014. Split will have to wait for me.

5. Spanish school (Guatemala / Belize / Honduras / Nicaragua) UPDATE: This is still on the tentative list for Winter / Spring 2015. Or, I might just continue Spanish school in the Dominican Republic as I’ll be there in December 2014 / January 2015.

6. Gorilla Trek (likely in Rwanda)

7. African Safari (South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania or Botswana)

8. Cape Town, South Africa – because of Nelson Mandela

9. Hot Air Balloon ride – over Cappadocia, Turkey or the Maasai Mara, Kenya UPDATE: I will be doing a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia, Turkey in October 2014. Super excited. Definitely one of highlights that I’m most looking forward to.

10. Bhutan – Because of the happiness factor

11. Celebrating New Year’s in another country UPDATE: I will be in Dominican Republic for New Year’s Eve 2014 & ringing in the new year!

12. Italy – Tuscany / Venice UPDATE: September 2014 I’ll be visiting Venice and Tuscany!

13. Greece – Cinque Terre UPDATE: Cinque Terre is not in Greece! Apparently a year ago I didn’t know that. It is five communities on the northwest coast of Italy. I had seen photos and want to see it in person. Apparently I just didn’t know where ‘there’ was! I’ll be visiting in September 2014.

14. Colombia UPDATE: I’ve decided not to go in 2014, but this is really high on my list and there is a good possibility I’ll be there in early 2015.

15. Morocco

So, a full year ago I was dreaming of these 15 places and now I’ve visited many of them and have many more of them on my fall travel schedule. This is not at all by chance though. I started looking at options, talking about wanting to go, asking questions, doing research and then things started coming together. I had decided that Turkey / Croatia and Greece would be my Europe travels for 2014, based on the opportunity in Turkey. Then that day when my rep from Star Clippers called, I added a couple more weeks and now my Italy travel dreams are coming true too! The universe is working in my favour. Let’s hope she’s kind on the sea-sickness front as well!

I feel like it is time for me to be the Captain of my ship and let the wind lift my sails.

Star Clippers – Royal Clipper
– The largest full-rigged sailing ship in the World.

PLANNED
Sep 18 – Depart Halifax (my flight is booked!!!)
Sep 19 – Arrive in Venice (9:05am)
Sep 19 – Explore Venice – activities TBD
Sep 20 – Embark on the Royal Clipper – My itinerary
Sep 21 – At Sea
Sep 22 – Kotor, Montenegro
Sep 23 – Dubrovnik, Croatia
Sep 24 – Hvar, Croatia
Sep 25 – Rovinij, Slovenia
Sep 26 – Piran, Slovenia
Sep 27 – Return to Venice
Sep 27 – 29 – Venice

UNCONFIRMED
Sep 29 – Oct 2 – Tuscany (Florence / Siena)
Oct 2 – 6 – Cinque Terre
Oct 6 – 7 – Rome

Feel free to leave comments with your favourite preventative tips for sea sickness. Believe me, I’m not going without taking something! I certainly don’t want to be ill and not able to enjoy this fabulous journey.

Starting to plan the Unplan

The Unplan has always been that I would get 100% debt free before making any decisions about where / when I would travel, with the ‘loose’ idea of Central / South America this coming fall / winter. As you can see, that’s not much of a plan at all, hence calling it the Unplan.

Now that I am officially debt free. (Can I get a whoop! whoop!?) It is really time for me to buckle down and start making some slightly more firm plans about my upcoming travels. So, here’s take one at my plans for the fall and how they came to be.

Before I went to Vietnam to lead the photo tour in April 2014 I found out about a FAM (familiarization) tour with Intrepid Travel for Chile and Argentina. These are trips sponsored by a supplier for travel agents only to experience a new destination and their products. This was a great fit for me. I was planning on heading to South America in the fall sometime, I’ve never travelled with Intrepid and I’ve never visited Chile and Argentina. BINGO!

I sent my application in to Intrepid, and sadly, was told that this particular trip was already full. boo. I was really disappointed, but I knew there would be more opportunities.

I went away to Asia for three weeks and lead my Vietnam: Through the Lens Photo Tour which was a great success. A few days after my return to work I noticed that Intrepid had posted on their internal Facebook group that there were still spots on the Chile & Argentina tour. I immediately wrote to our rep to ask if it was a mistake, or if someone had cancelled.

Sure enough, there had been one cancellation. My heart started racing and I got super excited. There was room for me and I was sure it was meant to be! So, I re-submitted my application, waited a couple of days and then received confirmation that I had been accepted on the trip.

Yipee! These were the only travel plans I was willing to commit to prior to the closing of my house. After all, it was a trip to Chile & Argentina for free (+ cost of flights). Even if something fell through with my house, I was pretty sure I could find the money I needed to cover my flights to get there. So very little risk in taking on this awesome opportunity.

So, Nov 16 – 23 I’ll be doing a tour similar to this one, with other Intrepid staff and travel agents.

That decision was made back in May (seems sooooo long ago) and since then, I’ve been flirting with all kinds of ideas around it.

Next up is my next Photo Tour. I decided as soon as I came back from Vietnam that is was time to do another PERU: Through the Lens trip. I immediately put plans in place, created an itinerary and got it off to marketing. Dates were decided for Oct 18 – 28th and I am currently looking for a minimum of eight people to take part, maximum 15. I already have a couple of spots sold on the trip and am looking forward to finding the last few that are required to guarantee it. Deposits are due by July 18th, so I’m down to about three weeks to find six more people. If you are interested in coming along for a great combination of photography and tourism, get in touch and book soon!

Now, with the photo tour up in the air (needing 8 people to guarantee departure), I can’t make any specific plans until after deposit date (July 18th). So, everything else at this time is tentative and I’ll do another update mid July to see what has changed.

Through connections, I have been introduced to a tour operator in Turkey. Through discussions, we’ve discovered that we have a lot in common. He is working on arts tours of Turkey; photography, painting, drawing, weaving, pottery etc. Of course, I’m interested in the photography section of it. So, he’s offered to host me for 7-9 days in Turkey this fall so that I can check out the products that he offers and see the great country. How could I possibly pass up that opportunity??

It definitely comes with a small hitch though … the only time he can host me is in October. And my Peru photo tour is also in October. What this means is that I will have to go to Turkey for a week and then almost immediately head to Lima, Peru for the beginning of my photo tour.

Yuck! I only say yuck because it is a 17 – 24 hour travel time from Europe to South America. I’m looking at a few other options though. And, with this whole fall travel thing I’ve been trying to make plans so that I have time to rest and continue my travel agency work. I don’t want to be on the go all the time or I’ll burn out. The last thing I want to do is burn out early on in the trip! I need some stamina to get through everything that I’m looking forward to.

I have decided that I will take the opportunity in Turkey. I can’t pass it up. It is just a matter of arranging carefully for travel so that I don’t have to rush or get too tired.

Having said that, who goes all the way to Turkey for one week? Not me! With a great opportunity in Turkey, all I can say is that since I have to pay for my flights there anyway, I might as well make it worth while. Which brings me to the next part of my plans.

With Turkey tentatively scheduled for the first two weeks of October, I’ve been thinking about heading to Europe in late September to take in some of the other countries that I want to see. Mainly, Croatia where I have been considering doing a photo tour. So, I’ve begun researching options for Croatia. Do I do it in a small group tour? By land? By sail boat? By small 7-8 person sail boat? By larger 100 person sail boat? Do I do JUST Croatia or do I tie it in to the Balkans including Croatia, Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia & Hertzagovina? And do I try to fit Greece in for a few days too seeing as it sits between Croatia and Turkey? Phew! How’s that for a lot of decisions to make?

I’m looking at the following tours for this section of my trip:

G Adventures
Western Balkans Adventure – Sept 19 – 30 – $2999 – Croatia / Bosnia / Montenegro

Sailing Croatia – Split to Dubrovnik – Sept 20 – 27 – $1499

Bamba
Croatia Ways – Zagreb to Dubrovnik – $494 USD – Hop on Hop off – This is a totally different experience than the others. It is transportation and a few activities included, but is independent travel and hotels are not included. Can start any day as long as my travel is complete by Sept 30th. And schedule is flexible so I can spend more time in some areas than others. Suggested 14 days.

Split to Athens – $989 USD – Suggested 18 days – Hop on Hop off

Dubrovnik to Athens – Podgorica Ways – $769 USD – Suggested 14 days – Hop on Hop Off

Croatia to Greece Road Trip - $925 USD – 6 day Adventure Trip – Departs Dubrovnik Saturdays only

Intrepid
Balkan Adventure – Sept 13 – 27 (1 spot left) – Bosnia & Herzegovina , Croatia , Hungary , Montenegro , Serbia – $2615

Dubrovnik to Santorini – Sept 13 – Oct 4 (1 spot left) – Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece from Dubrovnik to Santorini

Sail Trogir to Dubrovnik – Sept 20 – 27 – Croatia – $1478

Dubrovnik to Athens – Sept 13 – 27 – $3225 – Albania , Croatia , Greece , Macedonia , Montenegro

Star Clippers
Croatia & Montenegro (Venice to Venice) – Sept 20 – 27 -Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia. Sadly, I expect that this option is going to be too expensive for me to do on my own. If you want to be my travel partner … drop me a note!

Departing Halifax sometime between September 11 (at the earliest) and 19th ish – Seems kind of crazy. Don’t know I’m ready for that. It’s only 12 weeks away!

So here’s an overview of what I’m considering … tentatively ….

Sept 13 / 20 – October 1 – Croatia / The Balkans / Greece – undecided exactly where yet.

Oct 1 – 12 (ish) – Instanbul / Cappadocia, Turkey (possibly Gallipoli / Troy & the Mediterranean coast by Gulet boat)

Oct 12 / 13 – Fly from Istanbul to South America – possibly stopping back in Canada or US depending on flight routing.

Oct 14 – 17 – Relax in Lima, Peru prior to the start of the Peru: Through the Lens trip

Oct 18 – 28 – PERU: Through the Lens (Lima / Cuzco / Sacred Valley / Machu Picchu)

Oct 28 – Nov 15 – Not sure what to do in this time yet, but likely will be a combination of a few places that I haven’t seen in Peru + settling down for a week or more at an apartment somewhere new where I can relax, explore and concentrate a full week on working. I have to continue to sell travel while I’m away – that is my job. So, if you are planning to travel, you can support me by contacting me to book your travel. It will help me immensely!

Nov 15 – By this day, I need to be in Santiago, Chile where I will start my next tour on Nov 16th.

Nov 16 – 23 – Intrepid FAM (Santiago / Mendoza / Buenos Aires)

On Nov 23rd, I will end all of the organized portions of my trip and will be in Buenos Aires.

Nov 23 – Dec 15 (ish) – Undecided

Dec 15 (ish) – Jan 30 – Dominican Republic – In an apartment, not traveling around much, except that I want to get to Samana, as well as visiting friends in Punta Cana / Santo Domingo. Those are weekend trips though! And, if I find some friends to travel with, I might want to get to the lesser visited parks throughout the country. I’m photographing a friend’s wedding on Dec 28th near Cabarete in the Dominican. This is the same area where I studied Spanish for seven weeks in 2012 and I CANNOT wait to return!

Between Nov 23rd and approximately Dec 15 I have the following options (or combination of these):

Return home to Canada for a couple of weeks (although not sure where I would stay … parent’s in Fredericton? Maybe my sister’s?) And, flight wise, it is probably the most expensive option. South America to Dominican Republic should be much cheaper than South America to Halifax to Dominican Republic.
Settle down in Buenos Aires; many people have told me I will love it there.
Do a short trip to Iguazu Falls – on my bucket list.
Explore Patagonia (southern tip of Argentina & Chile) – this is the one I’m leaning toward.
Fly to Colombia and spend a few weeks exploring or studying Spanish, as it is an area I think I’d like to spend a longer period of time in.

Then, come the end of January I will have to decide if I want to stay longer in the Dominican or if I am ready to start moving around again. I love the Dominican and it feels like home to me, so staying is easy. It is a busy time of year for the travel industry so I will need to be somewhere with good internet and that I don’t feel the need to go out and explore every day. However, I am considering possibly heading to Nicaragua or Colombia for February and March.

Honestly … after traveling for four and a half months (mid-September to January), I don’t think there is any chance that I’m going to WANT to come back to Nova Scotia in the middle of winter. So, I might as well make the best of it and see a couple more places … Right?

Closing Day

Here it is, closing day (Wednesday, June 18, 2014). To me it seems like it has been a LONG LONG time coming, but yet in some ways it all came together too quickly. It is so hard to believe that I put this plan in place at the beginning of February and here it is June 18th and the planned part of my ‘Unplan’ has come together.

Now, things certainly didn’t just fall into place. Almost everything has been a challenge. Let’s not forget the pain of renovations, the frustrations of the kitchen cupboards being redone at least four times and having no livable space for weeks (felt like a year). Or, me doing last minute touch ups until midnight the night before I left for Asia for three weeks. And, don’t even get me started on the crazy week of packing, lifting things that were too heavy for me, 20+ trips to the storage unit and enough trips up and down stairs with heavy boxes that I should have a rock hard ass. (I don’t though … ha ha)

I had planned to have everything moved out and the place cleaned by Sunday. Wow! Did I ever mis-calculate the time needed to get everything done. The biggest challenge wasn’t physically packing items, but more so trying to figure out what to pack and what to throw away. Going through boxes / papers / CDs / clothing / kitchen supplies … You name it, I had to sort through it.

It is one thing when you are packing to move to a new house and take everything with you (unless it is broken). It is a whole new ball game when you are moving, considerably downsizing your life in an effort to simplify, travel and be happy.

Keep in mind I moved from a two bedroom condo – approximately 1100 sq ft to a 12 x 8 already furnished, bedroom. I downsized by about 1000 sq ft!

I hired Cheaper than the Rest movers (if you hire them, make sure you let me know & tell them I sent you – they have a referral bonus!). They were great and certainly gave me a good deal. They disassembled two beds and packed those up along with two dressers, a night stand, a bookcase, a tv, four SUV tires, photography backdrops some boxes and totes. They dropped one bed off at my sister’s house in Hammonds Plains and then everything else to the storage unit in Bayer’s Lake … All for about $175.

I have a storage unit that is 5 x 10 ft (about $100 per month) and if I hadn’t given my spare bed to my niece, I don’t think the unit would have been big enough. It is fine for now though and when I decide where / what I’m doing in the fall I may have to consider a larger unit in order to fit everything from my current room into storage.

Yesterday was a very difficult day for me. On top of underestimating the amount of time it would take me to pack and clean, I had a photo shoot scheduled for the evening and hadn’t even thought about the fact that leaving my condo for the last time, closing and locking the door would be very emotional. How did I miss that?

So, after packing and cleaning for a fourth day in a row, I finished up at around 3pm, dirty, exhausted and sore. I had everything out except for one bag of garbage and a vacuum that I simply couldn’t stuff into my SUV that was bursting with random items to go to friends, to storage, to my new ‘room’. I dropped stuff off at the storage unit (for the 2nd time that day), went home to clean up before my photo shoot and then at 8:30pm headed back to the condo for one last walk through to make sure there would be no hiccups with the final walk through.

I was getting close to the condo when it really hit me that I was going to leave my keys inside the condo, lock the door and never return again. By the time I unlocked the door to go in that one last time I was crying. It was completely overwhelming. I did it to myself, this was all part of the plan, but none-the-less, it was difficult to leave behind the first place that I had purchased on my own, the only place I’ve ever lived for more than two years. A place where I had many memories, many frustrations and really, a place that I loved. I sat down in the empty living room with my back against a wall and cried. Yup. I did.

Half way through 2014 I can easily say it has been one of the most chaotic years of my life.

From the beginning I’ve said that the first step of my whole Unplan was to get debt free. I refused to make any significant travel plans before making sure that I had full financial freedom so that I could move forward without any real commitments.

Today is that day everyone.

9am – the final walk-through of the condo by the buyers was complete.

9:07am – I had a message from my fantastic realtor, Richard Payne from Keller Williams telling me it is ‘time to celebrate’ as the buyers were happy and the documents were all signed and in the lawyers hands.

1:30pm – I received a call from my Mark Charles Law to let me know that the deal was fully complete and a cheque was waiting for me.

4:30pm – Funds were deposited in my bank account with no hold so I could start paying off debts right away.

Closing day was actually pretty calm for me in comparison to yesterday when I was still cleaning and packing. Today was just the cherry on top of all of the hard work.

Now comes the freedom part … that deserves a blog post all of it’s own (coming soon).

Bittersweet

It’s 11pm on June 11th and I’m sitting on a blanket on my bed writing this post. I’ve removed the sheets to wash them so that I can pack them first thing tomorrow morning before the movers come, bright and early, at 8am. The windows are open with fresh are drifting in an I hear the clunk-swish-hum of the washer and dryer going.

It’s a reflective time for me and in that reflection I have gone through pretty close to every emotion you can imagine … except maybe anger … I don’t have much to be angry about.

Sad – Although this was not my first home, it was the first one that I purchased and maintained by myself. Previously I had owned a house in Truro with my ex husband, but this is the first one that I’ve had on my own. I’ve had good times and bad in this house. A lot of squeals of excitement and a lot of tears of sadness, frustration and just simply ‘because’ tears. I’m sad that I had to part with my beautiful kitty, Morgan in order to make this all happen. I’m sad that this will be my last night sleeping here … forever.

Tired (is that an emotion?) – I am simply drained from this whirlwind that has been my life for the past six months. 2014 has been constant turmoil for me. Self-inflicted, but none them less tumultuous. From the decision to start renos, through the whole process of deciding who to hire, what needed to be done and how I was going to pay for it … to the nightmare of living in a dismantled condo for many weeks with no actual livable space. Rushing to get my condo on the market, still finishing final touch ups at midnight, only a few hours before leaving for Asia to lead a photo tour. Coming home to a condo that I barely recognized, all cleaned up and putting on it’s best for show and then having an accepted offer on the condo in less than one month from it hitting the market. Next came the choosing where to live, all of the organizing that goes along with moving and for the past week, the packing.

Relieved – All of this chaos is almost over. I can see the end. My body, mind and spirit are relieved that the end of this tunnel is near and soon I will have more time to relax and enjoy a life that I have just begun to design myself instead of just going along for the ride.

Thankful – I am thankful that through all of this I have had great friends to call on to help me with many things from renos to cleaning to shopping and most importantly just a shoulder to lean on when it was all a little too much.

Happy – I am happy that I’ve had a great five years in this home and that now it will be a great home for someone new, who will have many emotions of their own that only the walls of this condo will see.

Proud – I am proud that I’ve survived these six months with my sanity. Honestly, it would be a feat for anyone, but I know that I can be easily affected mentally by stress and turmoil. I am proud that I’ve grown over the past few years and have learned to better handle the crazy situations that I get myself into.

I am beyond proud that I’m so close to accomplishing what I set out to do which is become debt free, simplify my life and travel the world (a little bit at a time). Officially the money won’t be in my hands for one more week, but all is in order from the lawyer’s perspective and right on track. There are no issues anticipated.

Excited – Besides being proud that I’m about to accomplish this huge debt-free goal, I am excited. I could jump for joy and do a little happy dance (if my back didn’t hurt from lifting boxes lol). I have so much to look forward to, so much life to live, so many places to see, so much to give! I’ve accomplished some pretty amazing things in my life so far and I’m excited to see what the ‘over 35′ years have in store for me.

What really happens when you put all of those emotions together though? You have a girl shedding probably more than a few tears as she lays down for her last night in her own bed for who knows how long. Tears of happiness, of sadness, of excitement and pure exhaustion.

One thing I can tell you for sure is that no matter how difficult it has been, I’m happy to say that I’ve done it and I will live life with no regrets.

Now, do me a little favour … Know someone who needs a little boost of motivation or inspiration? Or maybe you know someone else who on a get debt free to travel path? Take a second and share this post with them directly, or post it to your Facebook or twitter. I’d appreciate the love, and you never know who might see this and start to believe that they can do it too!

The meaning of Bird Poop

I haven’t been sleeping particularly well lately, likely due to the stress of everything in my life in upheaval (again or still, I’m not sure which). It’s a choice though, so I really do try not to stress over it too much, rather I’m just trying to focus and get it done one step at a time.

I’ve been staying up too late, sleeping in too late, napping in the afternoons or evenings … all a vicious circle that ends up with me staying up too late and starting the cycle over again. The good news is, I DO sleep which I think is better than insomnia which would drive me completely insane!

So, over the weekend during one of my sleep-in mornings, I woke up and could actually remember a dream that I had. It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally it does. Let me paint the scene for you (of the bits I can remember).

I was driving around in a four door red car, probably speeding … I seemed to be in a bit of a hurry. I was heading to someone’s house to check on it. Whose house and what I was checking for, I have no idea. When I got to the house I didn’t drive in the driveway like a normal person, I drove through the neighbours driveway, around the back of the house on the grass and then parked in the driveway. The house was white with paint a bit tattered. I got out of the car and headed to the main door (on the side by the driveway). The door was to my right and to the left, along the driveway was a fairly large hedge. It was nearly perfectly manicured and just about my height (5’5″). In between the house and the hedge was a patch of grass and there were about 20 hens huddled around. Yes folks, hens. I never said my dream wasn’t weird! As I stop and look at the hens I remember noticing how beautiful the golden hour (near sunset) sun light was on them making their brownish red feathers shine rich with colour. Then, I felt bird’s feet on my head. A bird (not a hen) had stepped off the hedge and on to my head. I was startled, but completely calm.

And then … you guessed it …
He opened up and let it ALL go. Not just one little plop of a poop! I think he had been saving up for days (or had eaten something he wasn’t supposed to).

I was covered in shit. Still calm (and smelly), I walked to the door of the house with the bird on my head. When I got to the door, he stepped off my head and on to a beam near the door. I didn’t look up at him. I unlocked the door to the house that I was checking on and stepped into the house.

And that, is all I remember.

Now, I have had the unfortunate incident of being pooped on by a real bird before. Luckily it was one little plop and it hit my shorts, not my head. But I’ve never dreamed about being pooped on.

So, after two days of still being able to remember the dream so vividly, I decided to look up the meaning. I mean surely other people had been pooped on by birds in their dreams before, right?

HA HA HA this makes me laugh because it really is so ridiculous. However, it’s true. There is meaning behind this dream. And, what it means was so incredibly pertinent to my current life situation that I was floored and felt I needed to share it.

The below explanation is directly from http://www.gotohoroscope.com/txt/dream-dictionary-bird-poop.html

“To see birds at all in your dream symbolizes your goals and aspirations in life. Because birds have wings, we associate great things with them. We see them high in the sky and think that one day we would like to be up there too, or at least high on the scale of life. Because birds represent all of the different directions in life that we hope to go to, it is understandable that bird poop represents a certain taunting of that goal. When you really want to get to a certain area in life, it can often seem as if it is taunting you. You keep getting closer, but are never quite able to grasp it. In other words, dreaming of bird poop suggests that you feel you are just out of reach of some of the opportunities that will eventually lead you to where you ultimately want to go in life.

Sometimes to dream of bird poop suggests all of the trials and tribulations you will have to go through in order to achieve your goals. You are trying to reach all of these complex and large goals, but you are unable to because of certain things that keep cropping up and getting in your way. A good example of this might be a promotion you are trying to achieve by impressing your boss and working hard hours. However, you have family obligations that prevent you from being able to do all of the work necessary to achieve your promotion. In this case all of those other responsibilities that you have preventing you from achieving your goals are represented by the bird poop. Do you have a lot of different responsibilities that keep you from achieving your goals? Then this may be why you are dreaming of bird poop.

Another reason you could possibly be dreaming of bird poop is because you feel as if small annoyances in your life are taking away from you overall enjoyment of other things in life. There is nothing more annoying than birds pooping right on your windshield when you are driving down the road. And even though it does not stop you from being able to drive, it is still very annoying. And you may find it hard to really get the bird poop off of your mind until you get it cleaned. You are in the middle of striving for a larger goal but small annoyances keep cropping up and stopping you from being able to enjoy what you are doing. This is a very possible interpretation of bird poop as a dream symbol. A final reason that people dream of bird poop may have something to do with the whiteness of the poop. It symbolizes all of the bad that is contained within the good in your life. With all good there is a little bit of bad to go along with it.”

Interesting isn’t it?
Now, let’s just hope it doesn’t happen in real life. I don’t look forward to the clean up!

The Unplan – OMG What have I done?

OMG What have I done?

I’ve been planning the steps to get debt free officially for four months and unofficially tossing around the idea for 8 months to a year.

Here I am less than three weeks away from my debt-free plan coming to fruition and I think I’m losing my mind.

OMG – less than three weeks!!!!

Luckily, I think it is a normal freak out. If you were all of a sudden about to have no commitments, no debts … wouldn’t you freak out a little too?

I don’t have kids, but I liken this to being a mom or dad who has been planning for a couple of months for the grandparents to take the kids for a week … then that week approaches and panic sets in. ‘OMG what do I do without my kids?’

Well … that’s kind of the feeling I have right now … I am excited for financial freedom. Being debt free is something not too many people can lay claim to. However, I’m doing so by choice. I am excited to be able to design my life and choose where I want to go next. On the other hand, having no fixed address and an overwhelming number of options for what to do with my life leaves me sometimes nearly paralyzed with fear. I’ve learned when there are too many thoughts in my brain, a few things happen …

1. I get frustrated which can lead to me crying (yes, I’m a girl. And yes, I cry out of frustration – deal with it! I’ve learned to accept it)
2. I get sleepy (apparently if your brain is in overdrive, you use a lot of energy!)

My mind is racing with all of the things I have to do in order to move (purging & selling items, changing address, finding a post office box and a storage unit, physically moving, packing & unpacking, changing insurance policies, disconnecting power / internet etc). All the while, continuing to keep my photography and travel businesses running so that I can make money to live. After all, being debt free doesn’t mean being rich or having no bills. It simply means I will have no debts hanging over my head. It means living more simply with a goal in mind to keep me on track.

And, now that being debt free is within reach (week! I can’t believe I’m saying that!) I’ve started day dreaming about the possibilities for what my fall travel will look like. Of course, this is the fun part, but it can be totally overwhelming too.

Pssst … I’m not sure if you know this, but there is a whole world out there waiting for you to discover it!

Trying to decide where to start, what to see and what to leave out is kind of a big deal for me. And, trying to balance that with the fact that I do not want to be constantly on the move. I want to settle down for a few weeks in a couple of yet to be determined places so that I can really get a feel for that area, as well as being able to continue working as a travel agent remotely.

I know for the many of you out there who are living vicariously through me and those who are incredibly excited for this journey of mine, you read all of this and say ‘you go girl’ and ‘that’s so exciting’. You are right. All of this is very exciting, but please don’t forget that it is also incredibly overwhelming. At this point I go through daily moments where I think ‘OMG what have I done?’ Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t take any of it back, and in fact, if I wanted to, I could kibosh the entire traveling plan, but I’m not. The ‘what have I done?’ is just me being overwhelmed with all that I’ve accomplished and all the lies ahead of me. Not in a bad way, just in a way that most people don’t understand because they’ve never set a plan in place to get debt free and travel.

Sure, I am by far not the first person to do this! But, I bet for most of you I’m the first person you know who is doing this! And quite honestly, it often happens before starting your life and career or after your kids graduate and you retire. Of the small percentage of the people in the world who sell everything and go travel, I’m the even smaller percent who is doing it in the middle of my career, before I have children and long before I retire.

Brave? Yes.
Stupid? hmmm … I sure hope not.
Will I regret it? Not a chance.